iPhone? iCanwait

UPDATE and Correction (See below):

Unless you've been living in a cave, you probably have seen the Apple hype machine running full-bore trying to seduce you into buying one of the new iPhones, which come out today. However, if you're reading this instead of sitting in line with the rest of the techno-geeks, you probably won't get one today. Sorry. Them's the breaks. Limited supply, yadda yadda yadda.

When I saw the lines of the aforementioned techies on television, camped out in front of the Apple store overnight, it reminded me of the Star Wars geeks (many in costume) camping out for days in front of Grumman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles awaiting the final installment of the Star Wars movie series... And we all remember how suckily that turned out.

I think that the techies will be a little more satisfied after forking over their $500 or $600 for their new gadget. However, I looked over the specs and noticed one glaring omission. It's a cell phone; it's an iPod; it's a web browser. All well and good. But where's the camera? Right now, many new cell phones have a media player built in or a camera built in, but not both. The real, true Holy Grail All-In-One device should have a cell phone, a web browser, a media player AND a camera. The iPhone may be a nifty little device, but it's not the Holy Grail. It's just a fancy gilded chalice. I'll wait until they come out with an iPhone that has a camera built in, and then I'll be lusting after getting one.

And the $600 one only has 8 GB of storage on it? Hey, that's the same size as my iPod Nano, which really only has 7.45 GB after you subtract out the operating system. The iPhone may be able to play videos, but it won't have a whole lot of space to store them, and they take up a lot of space. And how much of that memory will be taken up by the operating system for the cell phone and the web browsing software? Nope, I think I want more space than that. I know full well how quickly you can fill up 7.45 GB of storage!

So, Apple, give me a call when you come up with an iPhone with a camera and 16 GB of storage. Then we can talk...

UPDATE: 06/20/2007 22:15: It appears that I was wrong about one thing: The iPhone DOES have a 2.0 megapixel camera. So maybe it is the Holy Grail after all. However, I stand by my opinion about 8 GB of storage not being enough when video is involved. The limitations are due to the fact that, like the iPod Nano, the iPhone uses Flash memory for storage. Regular iPods that have 30 or 60 GB of storage have actual hard drives, as opposed to Flash memory, which has no moving parts and is less vulnerable to things going wrong. Anyway, if you are thinking about getting an iPhone, don't even think about getting the 4 GB model. If you can fork over $500 for an iPhone, you can afford to shell out another hundred bucks and more than double your storage space. Remember, the size of the operating system is the same whether you have 4 GB or 8 GB of storage.


And We Thought American Courts Were Nuts!

From the wacky foreign verdicts file, we have this gem: Sweden OKs prison porn for rape convicts
STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Convicted sex offenders are free to read pornography in their cells, a Swedish court ruled, saying the country's prison system had no right to deny an imprisoned rapist access to his porn magazines.

Officials with the Swedish Prison and Probation Service had argued that reading porn would interfere with the man's rehabilitation program. They also said the magazines posed a security problem for staff and other inmates because they could increase the risk of the man relapsing into criminal behavior.

But the Supreme Administrative Court in Stockholm, whose ruling last week cannot be appealed, said the prison service failed to prove that the magazines could "jeopardize the security of the institution."
Yumpin' Yiminy! If you ever have to go to prison, it's pretty obvious that Sweden is the place to go. I wonder if poor Scooter Libby could get some kind of foreign exchange program, assuming that Bush doesn't pardon him, which he should. At least he'd have access to spank material in his cell.

America: Cruel and unusual punishment is an execution where the convicted murderer might feel a little pain when the needle goes in his arm for the lethal injection. Sweden: Cruel and unusual punishment is no porn magazines for rapists. Because, you know, prisons aren't supposed to actually punish people! That's not what they're for... Is it?



If you can remember when the only thing that M&Ms candies could say was "m", then you're officially old. Back in the day, there were just two varieties of M&Ms, Plain and Peanut. Your color choices were the ones that came in the package -- brown, yellow, green, orange, red and tan.

Well, it's a new day out there, and the candy that could only say "m" (or "w" or "E" or "3" if you turned it a different direction and had a bit of imagination) now speaks in words or short sentences. They now come in 22 colors, 17 of which can be customized with your own message of up to eight letters on each of two lines. To show just how versatile their crunchy little chocolates can be, M&M/Mars candy company had a contest to choose a couple to take a vow of silence and communicate for a month exclusively with customized MY M&Ms candies (and non-verbal communication). Ryan Donlon and Jennifer Farina of Philadelphia will be paid $1000 per day that they manage to do it.

Saying it with customized MY M&Ms isn't cheap: They cost $11.99 per 7 oz. bag, with a minimum order of four bags.

Upside: If you say something you regret with MY M&Ms, it's much tastier to eat your words.


Hot On the iPod

I got Liz Phair's self-titled CD from 2003 recently, and it's been getting a lot of play on my iPod. Liz Phair was a radical departure from her earlier indie rock albums Exile in Guyville and Whip-Smart, both in terms of vocal style and musical style as well.

The earlier albums from 1993 and 1994 were of a piece, featuring lo-fi garage arrangements and flat deadpan vocals. The songs were angsty and not particularly radio-friendly: They didn't follow standard songwriting formulae, and there were all of those sexually explicit lyrics...

Flash forward to 2003. Liz was 36 years old instead of 26, and the songs were less unhappy, more formulaic and more pop-oriented and radio-friendly. The flat vocals are gone, and she actually has a melodic voice. Well, there is still some of that sexually explicit stuff, especially on the song "H.W.C." in which she praises a "secret beauty routine," but most of the rest of the CD could make it on the airwaves.

The record company had her collaborate with the hit-making team The Matrix on four of the tracks. The critical reaction was mixed: Some called it Exile in Avril Lavigneville, because of the pop style, but as I read in another review, you can't expect people to stand still; time passes and people change. It is what it is, which is a pretty darned good pop album. I especially liked "Extraordinary" and "Why Can't I?" which were two of the tracks with The Matrix. Another good, if quirky song, is "Favorite," in which she compares her comfortable relationship to her lover with her favorite underwear. And "H.W.C.," while it would work well on an adult film soundtrack, is also a very catchy song, if the lyrics don't put you off.

Here's the video for "Why Can't I?" (which is on the enhanced CD) off YouTube:

And that controversial "H.W.C." song? Here's an unofficial music video of the song with a photo montage of Liz Phair:

(Don't say I didn't warn you!)

(If you watched it, you have to admit that it's a catchy tune)


Weekend Leftovers

A bit of this and that from the weekend.

Ever have a vivid dream where you are doing something that you know (in your waking mind) that you've never done and don't even know how to do? That happened to me the other night. I dreamed that I was in an unfamiliar city, in an area with low-rise buildings. It was lunch time and I ended up in a convenience store looking through microwaveable frozen dinners. I didn't find what I wanted, so I went back out in the street, dropped my skateboard to the pavement and started scooting down the road. Of course, I've never ridden a skateboard in my life, but in the dream, I knew how to ride one and even had a good balanced feel on it. It was very strange.

I watched an episode of the Explorer show on the National Geographic channel, in which the narrator (an Asian-American woman) went to North Korea with a Nepali eye doctor to document him performing some 1000 eye operations on North Koreans as a humanitarian gesture. The show was eye-opening not just for the blind patients who had their sight restored, but to the viewer as well. North Korea has to be one of the most hellish places to live on Earth. Anyone who steps out of line in any way will be sent to the forced labor camps, along with everyone in their extended family. This kind of terror, along with a cult of personality of Kim Jong Il that would have made Stalin blush, makes for an almost insane surrealism. At the end of the show, when the bandages come off and the patients can see for the first time in years, they don't thank the doctor; no, they bow to pictures of Kim Il Sung (founder of the North Korean state) and Kim Jong Il and declare their loyalty in the most fervent of terms. Everyone in the crowd applauds the dictator, and you get the feeling that just like in Stalin's Soviet Union, the person who stops clapping first runs the risk of being sent to the camps. After watching the show, I was even more grateful than usual to be an American.

Well, they found the body of Jessie Davis, the murdered pregnant woman in Ohio. Show of hands: Who was shocked, shocked! to find out that the "baby-daddy" confessed to being involved in her disappearance? It's a sad state of affairs, but like the Natalie Holloway disappearance a couple of years ago, there's a morality play and a cautionary tale here: In this case, it goes to show that it's a Bad Idea to hook up with a married playa and get knocked up by him, twice. Just as Natalie Holloway was partying with the wrong crowd and it caught up with her, so too did Jessie Davis get involved with someone she shouldn't have (a married man with an alleged history of philandering and some accusations of domestic violence in his past), and she came to a bad end. Bad decisions have consequences.


#1 Rock Song on iTunes

Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'"... No, I'm not kidding. Never underestimate the power of media placement!


ESA: Help Wanted

Help Wanted: Healthy, psychologically stable, "highly motivated" European individuals, age 25-50, under 185 cm in height, with nothing on their calendars for 17 months. Need a working knowledge of both English and Russian. Pays 120 euros ($158) per day. On-site room and board. No smokers or drug/alcohol dependent need apply. Inquire with European Space Agency.

That's the gist of the BBC article I read about the ESA's planned experiment in Moscow, where a crew of six volunteers will undergo complete isolation while they simulate a round trip to Mars over about 17 months. Nobody will be coming in or going out, barring a life-threatening emergency. The only communications outside of the crew's small isolation complex will be via a radio link with a simulated delay to equal the amount of time that a radio signal would take to get from their "ship" to Earth and back. The experiment won't have weightlessness or the dangers of interplanetary radiation, but other than that, they plan to make it as realistic as possible, in order to determine the psychological effects of a long period of isolation on a small group of people. So far, they have about 250 applications, only 19 of which are from women.

The first question would be, do you want a same-sex, assumedly heterosexual crew that would be celibate for almost a year and half, or do you want a sexually balanced crew of three men and three women and the assumption that there likely would be heterosexual activity taking place?

Any workplace that has a mix of the sexes almost inevitably will have some sexual activity occurring, even in workplaces where the people go home at the end of the day. The case of the NASA love triangle involving former astronaut Lisa Nowak is a perfect example of this. And in the case of this experiment, nobody will be leaving at the end of the day; they're going to be stuck with each other for 17 months, with all that entails if romantic relationships go awry but the ex is constantly present. Best bet: Three stable married couples.

Another possible complication: What if there are women in the crew and one of them becomes pregnant? At that point, she's going to have to come out for medical treatment, and the whole experiment is compromised.

Finally, the biggest problem I see with an experiment like this is that the volunteers will know that it isn't real, but only a simulation. And while the volunteers may be "highly motivated," it can't match the motivation that the first real Mars mission crew will feel, knowing that they will be the first people to go to another planet. I might be willing to give up 17 months of my life to really go to Mars, but not just to live in a cramped simulated space environment in Russia, no matter what they were paying me. That's 17 months that the volunteers will never get back, time when they will be away from home and hearth, family and friends.

And I wonder how difficult it will be to find non-smokers in Europe, especially that are proficient in Russian? Last I heard, a goodly proportion of the European population smokes, even more in eastern Europe. And of course, they also love their vodka in that part of the world. Add in the needed skills to simulate a space mission crew (including most definitely at least one doctor), and the ESA will have their work cut out for them in filling out their crew roster.


Let's Go to the Fair

I was watching the History Channel and at the end of the program, they had a short newsreel-type feature titled Come to the Fair, which was about the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. It was interesting, but truth to tell, I'd have rather have seen something about the 1939 New York World's Fair which was held at the same site in Flushing Meadows a quarter-century earlier. I read a fascinating book about that fair by David Gelernter a few years ago, and it evoked nostalgia for a bygone age, one that was already threatened by the gathering storm clouds of war. The Germans boycotted both seasons of the fair, although all of the other major nations of the world had their own pavilions. It was all about the World of Tomorrow, but that new world rising was not the optimistic place they thought it would be.

You might like to take a photo tour of the 1939 New York World's Fair. Be sure to visit the iconic Trylon and Perisphere, if nothing else.

Outsourcing Another Job Americans Just Won't Do

You've probably seen the clever Hillary Clinton campaign ad on television, the one that parodies the ending of The Sopranos. If not, take a look around; it's out there. I have to give the Senator her props: The ad was funny and well-done. The subject is the final choice for the official song that his been chosen for her campaign, and just as in the ending of The Sopranos, it fades to black at the end, but in this case, it sends you to her campaign web site to find out the winning song.

And the winner is? "You and I" by Celine Dion. Yes, Hillary is outsourcing her campaign song to a Canadian! I guess this is just another one of those jobs that Americans just won't do.


French Postcards Redux

At work last night, I spotted a postcard sent from France, from the town of Rocamadour. It was a very picturesque scene, and you can see it by clicking here and scrolling down to the little guidebook to Rocamadour. That is the exact picture that was on the postcard. Unfortunately, the picture is very tiny, so you can't see much detail.

As you can see, the town was built on the side of a steep cliff, most likely for defensive reasons. I certainly wouldn't want to be at the bottom of the cliff when it rains! I suspect that the property values get higher the closer to the top of the cliff one goes. Highlight: The churches with paintings and inscriptions of pilgrimages and what is claimed to be a fragment of Durendal, the sword of Roland.

I sometimes wonder what it would be like to live in a place like that, a living museum. The closest I've come to that was in Germany, when I lived in Augsburg, which was founded by the Romans in 15 B.C., and of course, in Berlin (actually West Berlin at the time), which was founded in 1237 but almost completely destroyed at the end of World War II. Augsburg had a lot of history, and was an important city during the Middle Ages, although it had become less influential in more recent centuries. Augsburg's old town, with its cobblestone streets, felt old, but the area of town where I lived had modern roads and the buildings were of more recent construction as well.


Rust Never Sleeps

A mystery fifty years in the making has been solved: What would the 1957 Plymouth Belvedere buried underground in Tulsa, Oklahoma, look like when it was disinterred on the 100th anniversary of Oklahoma statehood in 2007? The answer, alas, was that the car was a rusty, inoperable "mess":

Rusty 1957 Plymouth unearthed in Okla.
TULSA, Okla. - A concrete vault encasing a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere buried a half-century ago may have been built to withstand a nuclear attack but it couldn't beat back the natural onslaught of moisture.

At a Friday ceremony complete with a couple of drum rolls, crews removed a multilayered protective wrapping caked with red mud, revealing a vintage vehicle that was covered in rust and wouldn't crank.

There were a few bright spots, literally: shiny chrome was still visible around the doors and front fender, and workers were able to put air in the tires.

But the unveiling in front of thousands of people at the Tulsa Convention Center confirmed fears that the past 50 years had not been the kindest to Miss Belvedere.

"I'll tell you what, she's a mess. Look at her," said legendary hot rod builder Boyd Coddington, who was unable to start the thing up as planned.
According to an earlier article:
Buried with the car were 10 gallons of gasoline — in case internal combustion engines became obsolete by 2007 — a case of beer, and the contents of a typical woman's handbag placed in the glove compartment: 14 bobby pins, a bottle of tranquilizers, a lipstick, a pack of gum, tissues, a pack of cigarettes, matches and $2.43.
But when they looked in the glove compartment, all they found was what appeared to be "a lump of rotted leather."

Well, we still use gasoline and we still drink beer. But did the "typical" woman from 1957 really walk around with tranquilizers in her purse? Is that why June Cleaver had her supernatural aura of calmness?

Anyway, back to the car: There had to be a bad feeling about what was to come when they had to pump water out of the crypt. It was designed to withstand a nuclear attack, supposedly, but it wasn't watertight. Let this be a lesson to the good people of Tulsa in case they decide to bury a 2007 Plymouth to be dug up in 2057: Rust never sleeps.


Just When You Think...

That they've reached the pinnacle of Mount Stupidity, they find a higher peak.

Oh yeah, they did. Believe it.


That Took Some Cheek!

My friend Barbara tipped me off to this news story from Iowa, where a woman named Suzanne Marie Butts is charged with stealing toilet paper from the county courthouse. No, really! I'm not kidding!

Toilet paper bandit could face three years in prison

The newspaper article notes that normally it would be a misdemeanor, but in this case, Ms. Butts has prior convictions on theft charges. One wonders whether they involved Preparation H?


Hot On the iPod

I have a tendency to run hot and cold on music. When something catches my fancy, I play it to death. Then it's on to the next thing. For the last couple of weeks, it was Dwight Yoakam, but for the last couple of work nights, it's been Liz Phair. I ripped Exile In Guyville from 1993, and Whip-Smart from 1994. She's the kind of singer that you'll either really like or really hate. Her lyrics are not for the faint of heart or the prudish, and she earns her Explicit Lyrics warning on the label. There's quite a bit to like on Exile In Guyville, especially songs like "Help Me Mary," "Divorce Song," the scandalously salacious "Flower" and of course, "F*** and Run."

Latest rip to the iPod: Ramones Mania by the Ramones, a 30-track collection of their greatest hits. I pointed out to a friend at work that a lot of the songs apply to what most people would like to do to Paris Hilton: "Teenage Lobotomy," "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment," "Psycho Therapy," and "Beat On the Brat." Favorite Ramones song? Probably "Blitzkrieg Bop."


Never Thought It Would Happen

After watching the media feeding frenzy around the whole Paris Hilton circus yesterday, they did something I didn't think was possible: They made me start feeling sorry for Paris Hilton, and I sort of hate them for doing that.

They made me agree with people like Geraldo Rivera and Ann Coulter who said that she was being treated worse than the average person would have been in the same circumstances, given a much more severe sentence than anyone else would have, simply because the judge didn't like her and because he felt (accurately) that she was a spoiled, snotty celebrity. And then, with some members of the media and people like Al Sharpton gloating about Paris being sent back to jail...

Well, being envied and hated by a large portion of the American population shouldn't be a crime or an aggravating factor in sentencing for a comparatively minor crime. The judge clearly abused his sentencing authority to "make an example" out of Paris Hilton. And the whole unseemly spectacle of paparazzi throwing themselves in front of the police car taking Paris off to jail, the gleeful reaction of some of the legal analysts on Fox News, all just served to reinforce the feeling that justice was not being served.

Paris Hilton is being crucified for your sins.


Haec olim meminisse iuvabit

Last night was disastrous at work. If it had been a movie, there would have been an ocean liner and a great big iceberg. Or perhaps a zeppelin bursting into flames. Yeah, that bad.

And to top off all of the bad things happening, we were given a new sheet of paper on which to log all of the pertinent information on the various runs on our machine: Pieces fed, out of sequence pieces, full stackers and jams. Now, management can get all of this information from their own computers without hassling us, but it's being done "for our own good." Needless to say, it received a less than friendly reception.

On my machine, we decided to be noncompliantly compliant (or perhaps compliantly noncompliant, depending on your point of view). We gave them all of the numbers they asked for, from all fifteen of the runs we ran today... In Roman numerals. After all, they never specified what kind of numerals they wanted, so we decided that since our society uses Roman numerals for things that are pompous, pretentious and self-important (like Super Bowls and Olympiads), they were appropriate for the situation. We used them for every number on the sheet, including the date: VIII JUN MMVII.

Infinitus est numerus stultorum.

If you're wondering what the Latin phrases mean, go here.



Almost every workplace has them. You probably know some of them. They're weasels. And unfortunately, they're not in season, so shooting them is not an option.

Case in point: A while back, someone stole the scotch tape dispenser from my machine. A couple of days later, a different tape dispenser appeared, but it was out of tape. I found a replacement roll for it and everything was fine...

Until last night, when I found that some weasel (probably the same damned one) had stolen our tape dispenser (with almost a full roll of tape) and replaced it with our original stolen tape dispenser -- with no tape. The slothful slug was too lazy to find another roll of tape and replace it, so he stole ours and left the empty tape dispenser on my machine so that I would have to replace the tape. This is the very definition of weaselry.

It's too bad that they let all of the Haitian casuals go a while back. If we still had them, I could see if one of them would be able to put a voodoo curse on the tape-thieving weasel. Maybe something to make his testicles shrivel to the size of raisins or something like that.


What Not To Do

First, an update on yesterday's post: The King is gone. "Pharaoh" the mummified lizard was gone when I got to work last night. Good job, cleaning crew!

Now, here's an updated version of a story I read in yesterday's newspaper, from the State & Local section, about a woman in Broward County who displayed a fatal lack of common sense:

Man Detained After Woman Dragged to Death Following Florida Traffic Collision

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A man was being detained in New York for the death of a woman who was dragged for several miles under a minivan after trying to stop the driver from fleeing a collision, officials said Monday.

Abdelaziz Bilal Hamze, 24, was detained on Delta flight 132 bound for Athens, Greece, Broward County Sheriff's spokesman Elliot Cohen said. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detained him while the plane was pulling away from the gate at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Cohen said.

Broward sheriff's deputies were en route to New York to interview Hamze, who is a U.S. citizen born in Lebanon, Cohen said. He will be charged with first degree murder, Cohen said.

"This was a brutal, senseless road-rage killing," said Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne told Local10.com. "Hamze's complete disregard for human life should outrage anyone in this community. His capture will ensure that he will pay for his brutality."

Hamze has been accused in the dragging death of 44-year-old Sandra Hall, of Fort Lauderdale. She was in a Cadillac struck by the minivan Sunday night, Broward County sheriff's officials said.

Local10.com reported that the accident occurred around 10 p.m. Sunday as Hall returned home from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, Fla., with her fiance Michael Williams.

The minivan fled the crash scene, with the Cadillac in pursuit, authorities said. Hall stood in front of the minivan when both vehicles were stopped in traffic.

The station reported that when the minivan inched forward, Hall "jumped on the hood and I ran after the truck," Williams said.

"I tried to snatch her off the hood, but she said she's not letting him go nowhere," Williams told Local10.com.

The minivan's driver sped off after hitting Hall and tossing her onto the hood, authorities said. As the vehicle continued driving, Hall fell off the hood and became lodged underneath the minivan, officials said.

Hall was dragged for several miles before she fell from the undercarriage, authorities said. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Rule Number One: Do Not Tangle With Motor Vehicles. In any collision between an unarmored person and a motor vehicle, the person comes off second-best. When a driver has shown a reckless disregard for your property, it is foolish in the extreme to stand in front of his vehicle and assume that he won't show a reckless disregard for YOU. I'm sure her thought was, "He wouldn't DARE hit me!" She was wrong. Dead wrong.

I'm just glad that they caught the "alleged" murderer before he could escape justice, and I hope he gets the full measure of justice that he deserves.



This is not to cast aspersions on the quality of work done by our fine cleaning crew at work. However...

There is a rubber mat that runs the length of my machine. Last night, I happened to notice that at a point where the edge of the mat meets the floor, there was a flattened, mummified anole lizard. There's no telling how long he's been there, although he is mummified. He's about a couple of inches long. We've named him "Pharaoh," and we'll see how long he is there before the cleaning crew sweeps him up.


An Animated Discussion

My dad and I saw Shrek the Third on Saturday afternoon. From a technical standpoint, the CGI animation and effects were superb, as expected. When you have a team of 150 talented people put a million man-hours into the project, that's no surprise. And the movie did have its moments, but I think it may have suffered from having too many secondary characters trying to do too many things and diluting the emphasis from the main characters. The first movie was mainly focused on Shrek, Fiona and Donkey. The second movie expanded the number of main characters by adding in Puss-In-Boots, as well as the Fairy Godmother and Prince Charming as the new villains. This one adds more new characters but there's only 90 minutes of screen time. More time for the new characters means less time for Shrek, Fiona and Donkey, and less character development and depth. Other than that minor quibble, though, I enjoyed the movie.

You could tell that the demographic being targeted by the previews was children and teens. We saw previews for no less than four upcoming animated features:
  1. A new Penguins movie where the birds go surfing
  2. A feature-length The Simpsons movie (looked funny)
  3. Ratatouille, about a rat in a Paris restaurant who wants to be a chef (I laughed out loud when one of the female chef characters said, "I don't like to be rude, but we're French!"; I was probably the only one in the theater who laughed at the line, but most of the crowd must have been either kids or Francophiles)
  4. Bee Movie, with Jerry Seinfeld as the voice of a worker bee who escapes the hive and ends up lost in the big city
There were also previews for the new Nancy Drew movie, with the teen sleuth going to Los Angeles, and the cartoony live action Transformers movie. Now, a car or truck that turns into a fighting robot is a great concept for a toy for 8-year-old boys, but as a hook for a movie plot, it's thinner than Nicole Ritchie after a week of Slim-Fast. My poor old dad seemed kind of freaked out by the freneticness of the latter preview, with its noise and explosions.

Yesterday, I was channel-surfing and found an interesting animated series on Nicktoons called Avatar: The Last Airbender. They were showing a seven-hour marathon of shows from the first season, and I came in about halfway through. The target demographic is 6-11 year olds, but it's actually a fairly intelligent show that is watchable by all ages. The animation quality is better than most kid shows, and unlike most Japanese anime, the characters don't look like freaks or dress provocatively. Best of all, there actually is plot and character development, and the characters (and the young viewers) pick up good, wholesome moral lessons. The show was created in-house in America by Nickelodeon and animated in South Korea. It's head-and-shoulders above most of the stuff out there for kids, and the reviews on Amazon.com are almost routinely excellent, with many parents writing about how they enjoy watching the show with their children.

So, what's it all about? Here's Amazon's Plot Synopsis:
When the hostile Fire Nation threatens to enslave the Water, Earth, and Air Nations, a reluctant and irresponsible boy must face his destiny as the Avatar, the Chosen One who can restore the world order. This new animated series centers on twelve-year-old Aang, who must forgo his selfish wandering to learn to master his latent powers over the four elements. Only then can he conquer the Firebenders, the evil magi who threaten the world.
If you'd like to know more, read the review at the link.


Oh, Barry Me Not...

Now we know why I'm not a meteorologist. Of course, yesterday morning, my trusted local television meteorologist said that there wouldn't be anything more than a tropical depression. And yesterday evening, I'm reading about Tropical Storm Barry. We are just catching the edge of it, getting a nice soaking rain all day yesterday and some light winds. The rainfall is very welcome.

I'd been thinking about writing about a Barry, but not this tropical storm; rather, about baseball player Barry Bonds and his chase for Hank Aaron's career home run record of 755. Bonds is currently ten home runs away from breaking the record. One of these days, when he gets a little closer, I may write the definitive post about it, but today is not that day.

Enjoy your weekend. I'm going to lunch with my dad and then out to the theater to see Shrek the Third. Should be fun...


New Month, Same Stuff

It's now officially Hurricane Season. This doesn't mean that we are all suddenly threatened by spiraling storms, but it does mean increased vigilance. We have some tropical moisture coming our way today, which should bring some much-needed rain, but is unlikely to develop into anything stronger than a tropical depression.

It was country music night on the iPod last night at work. First, I listened to all 32 tracks on the digitally remastered Dwight Yoakam CD set I wrote about yesterday, then all 26 tracks on HAG: Merle Haggard's Greatest Hits, followed by Kelly Willis' Easy.

I had listened to the entire Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. while my computer ripped it to my iTunes folder yesterday, but I was even more impressed with it the second time through, especially the demo tracks from 1981. My main thought after listening to them was "What were the record people in Nashville thinking, that it took Yoakam over four years to get a recording contract when those demos had HIT! written all over them?" Indeed, once Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. was released in 1986, it went to #1 for two weeks and stayed on the Country Album chart for three years. Yeah, that's a hit, alright.

It was interesting to see how the demos evolved into the studio album over that four year period. It's hard to second-guess any of the changes, but the demos show an amazing amount of polish. One excellent choice was the duet with Maria McKee on the studio version of "Bury Me." The addition of her voice and the powered-up fiddle turned a good song into a great one.

My favorites off the Merle Haggard CD? About what you'd expect: "Walking On the Fighting Side of Me," "Okie From Muskogee," "Mama Tried," "The Bottle Let Me Down." There's also a nice duet with the late Johnny Cash, "I'm Leaving Now." It brought a smile to my face. One song, "I Take A Lot of Pride In What I Am," had a real Glen Campbell "Gentle On My Mind" kind of vibe to it. And then there was one song that was just perfect for me: "Honky Tonk Night Time Man." Yup, that's me for sure.