I am the President of the United States. Some of my little friends say that a missile defense system is unfeasible. Papa says, "If you see it on the yeti, it's so." Please tell me the truth.
- In a fit of nostalgia I tracked down and listened some Kris Kross songs yesterday. DO NOT DO THIS!!!! Specifically, do not listen to this mp3 of "Jump". That song is evil infectious -- and I don't mean "infectious" in a good way, like laughter, I mean "infectious" in a bad way, like Pink Eye. You know how your cat, when he senses you're going to take him to the vet, slinks under the couch, and when you try and fish him out he keeps moving to different, remote, unreachable spots, and then, when you finally move the whole sofa away from the wall and grab him by the nape and try and pull him out, he digs his claws into the carpet so the entire extraction process is accompanied by a loud ripping noise? That is what "Jump" will do to your head. I have been singing the chorus non-stop for two days now, inserting every element of my mundane life into it as I go.The Queen: Don't forget to send your grandmother a Christmas card.Me: Grandma'll make ya: Jump! Jump!The Queen: Why are you doing that?Me: Kris Kross'll drive ya: Nuts! Nuts!The Queen: You'd better knock that off.Me: My wife is gonna: Punch! Punch!Also! DO NOT SEE WINDTALKERS!! I had the misfortune of viewing this alleged "movie" over the weekend and, lemmie tell ya, it's terrible. It's worse than terrible. It's whatever comes after terrible. It's petable. The credits said that it took two people to write the screenplay. Presumably one person sat in front of his TV watching every cheesy war movie ever made, while a second guy sat at a typewriter, and occasionally Guy One would shout to Guy Two: "Okay, here's a scene that's been in the last dozen films; write this down." I mean, this had them all: The Placid Scene Just Before The Soldiers Meet Their Doom Where They All Casually Discuss What They Are Going To Do When They "Get Out," The Scene Where The One Racist In The Platoon Who Constantly Belittles The One Minority In The Platoon Is Saved By The One Minority In The Platoon And Changes His Ways, The Scene Where Some Guy Gets Shot (actually, Windtalkers contained this particular scene approximately one infinity times). It really did a good job of conveying the horrors of war, though, as I am now under the impression that combat is the most boring activity imaginable.Also! If you read some great idea here on the yeti, and then you later discover a news article about some joker who used that same idea to make a bajillion dollars, DO NOT TELL ME!!! (I'm talking to you, Jonathan Harris). I prefer to believe (a) I am the only one who comes up with these schemes, and (b) the reason I am not a millionaire is because I am a Pisces, and certainly not due to any lack of initiative on my part. I have worked for years to hone and maintain my current state of blissful ignorance, and I don't need you screwing it up with reality.December 17, 2002
Can't Buy Me Love
Overheard in the elevator: "I love him. Of course I do. But, you know, it's not like I four-hundred-dollar-DVD-player love him."
Books: Carter Beats the Devil
Prior to our Thanksgiving Extravaganza, The Queen announced that she was in need of a book. I immediately went out and procured a copy of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, the best thing I read in 2002. Then, wishing I could read K&C again for the first time, I looked it up on Amazon and noted the "People Who Bought This Also Bought" section; number one amogst the titles listed was (at the time) Carter Beats The Devil. And since I see no reason to doubt the judgement of a bunch of amalgamated consumer data, I picked up a copy of Glen David Gold's first novel for myself.
It's easy to see why fans of K&C would also enjoy Carter, because both books are aimed squarely at the Houdini-phile. Set in the 1920's, the story traces the career of Carter the Great, a professional prestidigator in the Golden Era of Magic. Carter begins as a second-rate act in a third-rate circus, but soon claws his way to the top, making lifelong friends (and enemies) along the way. As Carter grows in popularity, he finds himself grappling with love, rival magicians, the FBI, and even a band of pirates. And, at some point, Carter the Great finds himself in the middle of an war for the biggest technological advance of the age.
The detail that Gold uses in describing the mechanics and execution of the protagonist's illusions are a real treat, making the reader feel like he is sitting in the theater and watching a master of the conjuring trade at work. In a few cases the author reveals how certain tricks are done, but he's usually content to simply report what a viewer would see, allowing you to be another bedazzled member of the audience. The whole tale is infused with the excitement and wonder that magic itself generated at the time, before TV showed up and turned us into a nation of jaded bores.
Although I enjoyed Carter Beats the Devil, my impression, two-thirds of the way through, was that Glen David Gold had read Kavalier and Clay, exclaimed "I want to write that book!," and then took a stab at doing so. As Carter was published only one month after K&C this could hardly be the case, but that didn't stop me from thinking that this was a Solaris to Michael Chebon's 2001. Although it evoked the same general atmosphere as K&C, it seemed somewhat thinner and less authentic. By page 400 my main complaint was that, while the plot was engaging, the world and people were a bit two-dimensional.
But the advantage to using slightly abstracted characters is that you can put them in larger-than-life situations and still pull it off. This is what allows Gold to give his novel what both Solaris and K&C lacked: a rollicking, action-packed finale. The final 150 pages of Carter were spectacular, and so cinematic that, while reading it, I was already eagerly anticipating the movie which will inevitably be based on this work. [Google says ... well, nothing on IMDB.com, yet, but I did find this.]
If you've never read either Carter Beats the Devil or The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, the latter gets the nod. And if you've read K&C recently you might want to wait a spell before digging into this one -- they are similar enough in tone that you would be plagued by literary deja vu. But if you enjoyed Kavalier and Clay when it first came out and are looking for something in a similar vein, Carter Beats the Devil is as fine a read as you're likely to find.December 16, 2002
Monday Morning Yada Yada Yada
One of my favorite lunchtime eateries is a nearby deli called Honeyhole Sandwiches. They have great food, but I think we'll all agree that "Honeyhole" is the dirtiest sounding name of all time. I'm even embarrassed to tell my coworkers I'm going there. "Hey boss, I'll be in the Honeyhole for an hour ..." -- yeah, not likely. The worst thing about the joint is that it puts me in this mode where everything sounds dirty. I was there last Friday and, looking over the menu, phrases like "Skirt Steak Sandwich" and "French Dip" were making me blush. After lunch I stopped at the pet store an picked up a "Sparkle Tickler" for my cats. For an hour after my return I had to sit at my desk and meditate before I could concentrate on work again.
Speaking of work, our break room suddenly contains "Butterfinger Hot Cocoa Mix." "Chocolatey!" the box boasts. "Peanut-Buttery!" Yes, this is what America needs: an even easier way to injest candy. Now you don't even have to expend calories to chew.
I saw an A.P. Headline over the weekend: Rumsfeld Says No Doubt, Iraq Has Banned Weapons. Oh my dear God! It's bad enough Hussein has weapons of mass destruction, but now Gwen Stefani has them as well?!
I have fallen way behind in book reviews, making this Super Magic defective yeti Book Review Week ... of Terror! So brace yourself for that.December 13, 2002
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 02 16:22:34 GMT
From: Evan Armstrong <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Wish you had lager Breasts?"Lager breasts"? If that's the upper-torso equivalent of the beer belly then, no, I'll pass.
The Holiday Survival Guide for Slackers
Credit Where It's Due:
- Goopymart suggested the Mr. T. Chia Head and the Hyperspace Resonator (i.e., "Time Machine").
- I first saw The Book (penultimate gift on the list) over at Miel's "Hot Juicy Breathless Bla Bla". Miel says she swiped it from "I, Asshole". And I believe her. I'm a trusting sort of guy.*
- I first proposed the Lonely Planet Guide to Antarctica as a stupid item that couldn't possibly exist. Then Rory came along and pointed out that it did.
Oh sure, you could argue that I stole the whole "gift guide of stupid things" concept from him in the first place. And you could point out that his guide appeared nearly two weeks before mine. And you could suspect that I, Asshole first heard of The Book via Dave Barry's column, so, in a convoluted sense, I ripped him off. Yes. Yes, you could do that. OR YOU COULD GO START YOUR OWN FREAKIN' WEBLOG YOU BACKSTABBING BASTARD!! You're either with me or against me.December 12, 2002
Poll: 7/5 of Americans Don't Bother To Do The Math
A new poll shows that seven out of every five of Americans don't bother to do the math. "When asked, 53% percent said that, when reading or hearing anything that involves two or more numbers, they don't even try to do the math," said lead pollster Bradley Noel. "Another 49% said they will often think about doing the math but ultimately decide against it. Only 19% said they will actually add things up to see if the report makes sense." The results were greeted with elation from the 47 Republicans and 38 Democrats in the 100-member Senate. "This is great news," said Senate Majority Leader Pam Crader(D). "When discussing budgets or taxes, we can pretty much make stuff up: millions, trillions, deficits, surpluses -- it's all the same to them." Advertisers were equally enthusiastic. "This will allow us to offer consumers 1500 free hours of service during their first month of membership," said AOL marketer Ted Rawlins. Only the Department of Education has expressed misgivings about the findings. "Mathematical apathy is one of the top three educational problems this nation faces," DOE Chairman David Kahn warned. "The other one is illiteracy."
The Trent Lott Controversy Must Go!
It's not often that I disagree with Joshua Micah Marshall, but this whole "Trent Lott has got to go!" thing is a total crock.
Let me preface all this by pointing out that I rank Trent Lott right up there with athlete's foot on the list of admirable organisms. And no one would be happier than I to see him resign in disgrace. But what's this donnybrook about, anyway? It's about a single sentence, muttered at a birthday party, filtered through the reinterpretation engine of the nation's pundits.
For the record, here's exactly what Lott said. He observed that, when Strom Thurman ran for president in 1948, Lott's home state, Mississippi, voted for him. "We're proud of it," Lott continued. "And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years."
God alone know what he meant by "these problems," but note that there no mention of race. Pundits, though, have been quick to point out that Thurmond ran on a platform of segregation. Some have therefore concluded that Lott's remarks were tantamount to an endorsement of the segregationist policies of the 40's.
That's quite a stretch, if you ask me. What's much more likely is that Lott was engaging in a little bit of birthday hyperbole, stating that Thurmond is a good guy and therefore he would have made a good president. You and I and the American constituency of 1948 all agree that Thurmond would have been a terrible president, but lionizing a birthday boy is hardly unusual for any of us. Apparently Lott made a statement almost identical to this ("if we had elected this man 30 years ago, we wouldn't be in the mess we are today.") at a 1980 Thurmond rally. Some have seized on this a proof that Lott meant what he said this time. I'd argue just the opposite. I'd say it proves that he was just pulling stock phrases out of a hat and tossing them at the Senator willy-nilly.
But, okay, for the sake of argument, let's say that Lott does support segregation, and chose to reveal this in a cryptic, off-the-cuff remark made at a birthday party. Where does that leave you? Does the revelation that Lott is a Good Ol' Boy shock anyone? Are there people saying "Jeeze, up until last week I though Trent Lott was a tireless crusader for racial equality and civil rights, but this utterance has completely turned me around!" No, of course not. Democrats aren't seizing on this because it changes their opinion of Lott one iota, but simply because they can.
And that's exactly what happened to Clinton, you'll recall. I bunch of people disliked him, they caught him making ambiguous statements, and they raked him over the coals. Remember, Clinton wasn't impeached because he had sex with that woman, but because he lied about it. There, as here, the issue wasn't what he'd done, or what he believed, but simply what he had said.
Few people are criticing Lott for actually embracing segregation policies; they are instead criticing him for saying something that could be construed as approbation for segregation. "Any suggestion that a segregated past was acceptable or positive is offensive and it is wrong," Bush said today. That's right: Lott's suggestion is wrong, but no comment on whether it would be wrong for Lott to actually believe that a segregated past was acceptable. The same goes for the Democrats. Lieberman said "Senator Lott's recent comments about Strom Thurmond's 1948 presidential campaign were hurtful, divisive, and fundamentally un-American." The comments, the comments.
At what point did we all become more concerned about what people accidentally say than what they actually believe or do? Lott says something stupid and folks want to run him out on a rail; meanwhile, not a single person in the government has lost their job over the intelligence failures which culminated in the WTC attacks, despite the fact that 9/11 was a very real event (as opposed to mere words) and that some people are clearly culpable, of negligence if nothing more.
Besides, if Lott supports segregation, I'd rather he tell us outright that keep it secret. Furthermore, we have no shortage of idiots in office, and they are as free to express their opinions, no matter how asinine, as the rest of us are. It's odd how liberals drop their stalwart defense of the first amendment whenever race becomes a factor.
The Republican National Committee and George Bush have every right to can Lott if they feel that he has become a political liability. But the rest of us can't just demand he be unseated because of a jumble of words that may or may not express some view we find reprehensible. If you believe in democracy -- and I do -- then you have to face the fact that sometimes people you don't like wind up in office, and it's not your place to overturn the will of the voters, no matter how wrongheaded you think those voters might be.December 11, 2002
Children Should Be Neither Seen Nor Heard
As The Queen and I watched Solaris, we couldn't help but notice that the teenage couple sitting behind us was in dire need of a garroting. The girl yammered through pretty much the entire thing. Occasionally someone would glare at her and she'd say "oops, sorry!" and then remain silent for the shortest possible length of human-perceptable time before launching into a verbatium account of the great AIM session she'd enjoyed that afternoon.
The guy was quiet throughout most of the movie, except during the three or four scenes which prominently featured George Clooney's ass. The kid apparently had some sort of logorrheic post-hypnotic suggestion that the sight of Clooney's ass would trigger.[Scene prominently featuring George Clooney's ass begins] Uh, whoa, uh, hah hah, man, this is a long movie. I know it's long because I, uh, I am looking at my watch right now, and notice what a long movie this is. I mean long as in uninteresting. There's a lot of stuff in this, uh, movie that I'm not interested in, like, uh, the dialog, and George Clooney's ass, and other things that I'm totally not interested in looking at, like George Clooney's ass, which I don't even know is in this movie because I am looking at my watch at the moment, but I'm just giving that as an example as something which may or may not be in this movie that I, personally, would have no interest in looking at. Have you ever been to SeaWorld? My favorite part of SeaWorld is [Scene prominently featuring George Clooney's ass ends] the, uh ... hah hah, uh, hmmmm, penguins, hm.December 10, 2002
I was quite the Sci-Fi buff in high school. Not to the point of learning Klingon or memorizing the serial number on the Star Wars trash compactor (3263827), but I would rent any video that had anything remotely futuristic or astronomical on i's box. It was this lack of discrimination that led me to one day rent the original Solaris, a film hailed by critics as "Russia's answer to 2001" and hailed by me as "unbelievably boring". No lasers, no acid-blooded aliens, no Carrie Fisher in a bikini -- what's to like?
Now, as an adult, 2001: A Space Odyssey is my favorite movie of all time. So I was eager to give the film another chance, especially since this new version was by one of my favorite directors (Steven Soderbergh) and starring one of my favorite actors (George Clooney). And what's the verdict? Solaris is a beautiful film, full of interesting characters, engaging ideas, and philosophical quandaries around every turn. And it's a little boring.
As the film opens, it's unclear when the film is set -- it certainly doesn't look like the far future. But just as the viewer gets comfortable watching Clooney live his early-21st-century life, a couple of guys show up and ask him to go visit a space station. Something screwy is going on up yonder, and Dr. Chris Kelvin, as a profession psychologist, has been chosen to go straighten things out.
So the next thing you know, Clooney is in a space suit, tramping around space station Prometheus, and discovering things to be in complete disarray. One guy has committed suicide, another was killed by security; the remaining crewmen are loopy, paranoid, and unwilling to explain what's going on; there's even a kid running around the ship, a kid who shouldn't be there at all. It becomes immediately clear that whatever is causing the mayhem is as much physical as it is psychological. Worse still, Clooney becomes another victim of the -- whatever -- even before his first day is through.
Solaris is a ponderous film: every event and speech is pregnant with meaning, and Soderbergh gives you plenty of long, quiet pauses to mull things over. It's also, thankfully, a movie devoid of Good Guys and easy solutions: Clooney, for example, rapidly becomes as screwed up as everyone else on board, and even ups the ante a bit. This isn't one of those stories where the characters know what's going on but the audience doesn't, or vice versa; everyone seems to be stumbling around in the same fog. At no point does a scientist in a white lab coat announce "we've figured out the source of the problem, and I shall now explain it in layman's terms". If you like your films cryptic -- and I do -- Solaris is a must-see.
And Clooney is terrific, of course. Can we all just agree that he's a fine, fine actor? Yes, I know all about E.R. and that godawful Batman movie, but look at Three Kings, look at Out of Sight, look at Thin Red Line. And if you remain unconvinced, look at this film, which he (and along with co-star Natascha McElhone) pretty much carries. When Clooney acts confused and terrified in Solaris, the entire audience feels confused and terrified.
Solaris is a riveting film, mostly. I must admit that the final fourth of the film (that's secret code for "The Ending") left me cold, although I can't put my finger on why. Perhaps simply because the director had to provide resolution to a story that was so aggressively open-ended. As Soderbergh chose some threads to tie up and left others dangling, it was if I could hear the grinding as he tried to downshift the movie to the point where he could put it in park. But even so, this is one of the finest science-fiction flicks to come down the pike in a while, and I recommend it to anyone in the mood for goregous special effects and some deep, deep thoughts.December 09, 2002
Tis The Season For Insomnia
The lobby of my work building contains a small cafe, and for several hours yesterday a barbershop quartet stood outside its entrance and belted out holiday tunes. People entering the lobby reacted to the singers as they would to a cloud of chlorine gas.
This morning I ducked into the cafe to get coffee, and couldn't help but notice that the young lady behind the till looked exhausted. I'm not one to make small talk with strangers, but this woman looked so wretched that my sympathy was aroused. "Jeeze, " I remarked, "Rough night?"
"Couldn't sleep," she mumbled. "Nightmares. Christmas carols."
December 06, 2002
Friday Afternoon Scratchpad
Thing That I am Sure Exists Even Before I Conduct a Google Search To Try and Find It
Freeway Karaoke Machine: A microphone / headphones / headset device that you can plug into your car radio and sing into while you drive. It strips the vocal track out of songs and puts your own voice in it's place.
Google says ...?
Still searching ...
Holy shit, that's a million dollar idea! I thought of it first!
A brief history of Hoax Photographs.
The Queen announced yesterday that I am getting "old man eyebrows." Oh great -- more hallmarks of my own mortality, that's what I need. Like I wasn't already freaked out about the fact that I now know the words to each and every song played over my local grocery store's "Shopping Music Network".
Actually, I can kinda shrug this one off. If you ask me, this sounds like one of those things that companies make up and then insist you have and then try and sell you a cure for, like halitosis and panty lines and cholera.
Guy: What's wrong, Other Guy?
Other Guy: I didn't get that promotion -- again! And my wife is having an affair with you.
Guy: It must be your O.M.E.
Other Guy: My what?
Guy: Your Old Man Eyebrows, Chet. Why aren't you using The Brow Plow?
Please stop making cars in colors that don't exist. They are driving (ha!) me crazy. I am specifically referring to that new ECHO in the shade of goldish silvery blueish brownish yellow. I'm pretty sure that color isn't even on the spectrum. It's like somewhere between ultraviolet and Channel 7. It's like some intelligent color from an H. P. Lovecraft story that slowly takes over your mind until your main hobbies become chanting and being eldritch. I wouldn't mind so much, but trying to figure out why someone would buy a car in this alleged "color" makes my head hurt. Haven't they noticed that their vehicle is covered in paint from Dimension G? It like those days in college when you would get really stoned and start wondering how you could know for sure that what you saw as "red" is also what everyone else saw as "red". I am like that all the time now.
Three Cliches That Never Really Caught On
December 05, 2002
- Making mountains out of mashed potatoes.
- I'm so hungry I could eat a sandwich.
- Cutting off Michael Jackson's nose to spite his face.
FBI: Further Rob Schneider Films May Be Imminent
The FBI issued a strongly worded bulletin today, warning Americans that one or more Rob Schneider films could be released in the next few weeks. "We're seeing a significant uptick in Rob Schneider 'chatter' similar to what we saw just prior to June 3," FBI Coordinator Jean McCloskey said, referring to the date in 2001 when "The Animal" was released. "We'retherefore asking all citizens to be extra vigilent." Earlier this morning the White House raised the Rob Schneider Alert System to Code Orange -- the second highest threat level possible -- and tightened security around theaters nationwide. The Justice Department, meanwhile, announced that they would be freezing the assets of "Touchstone Pictures" and other organizations suspected of funding Rob Schneider-related operations. Touchstone is believed to be behind the series of video spots recently broadcast on network television that ominously promise that a new Rob Schneider film will soon open "everywhere".December 04, 2002
Science GrooveA few weeks ago I went to see my coworker's band Science Groove. Founder Do Peterson had a background in music, so decided to put his PhD Dissertation in verse and take his show on the road. As the topic of his studies (and music) is the distribution theory for the sibling recurrence risk ratio, this makes for an interesting and remarkably erudite show.Science Groove is just one of a number of bands who, following in the footsteps of Schoolhouse Rock, blend music and education into a seamless web of, um, edumusication, or something.(Jeezum crow, lookit all these links. What is this, MemePool? I mean: "MemePool?")The concert was great fun. Everyone who wore a lab coat got in free, and the opening act sang a bunch of original and parody songs about muscle development (such as a tune entitled "Microfibrils" sung to the music of "My Sharona"). And Science Groove proved themselves to be more than just a gimmick -- the songs were well written and rockin'. Listen to the first two tracks, Performance and Title Slide (both mp3 links), or check out the entire show here.I was so inspired by the concert that I went home that evening and wrote this.Dead and Alive(Primer on Schrodinger's Cat)(Primer on Bon Jovi's Dead or Alive)Erwin Schrodinger In 1926 Published several papers On wave mechanics
The theories he proposed
Turned science on its head
When asked about his findings
This is what he said:
There's a chamber
With a kitty inside
And the cat's both
Dead and alive
In the subatomic world
The particles you'll find
Can be in many states
All at a single time
It doesn't make much sense
To folks like you and me
And that's why Schrodinger
Used this analogy:
There's a chamber
With a kitty inside
And the cat's both
Dead and alive
Lock a kitten in a box
With a vial of cyanide
Until you let it out again
You don't know if it survived.
Now at a quantum level
The cat's completely free from harm
At exactly the same time
It's already bought the farm.
There's a chamber
With a kitty inside
And the cat's both
Dead and alive
There's a chamber
With a kitty inside
And Schrodinger's cat
Is dead and aliveAccording to the Science Groove calendar page, their next concert is on February 22nd in Seattle.December 03, 2002
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
I recently saw the live action Scooby Doo movie on DVD. And although I generally don't write about DVDs here on the yeti, this is how I would review it:I didn't have high hopes for this movie, and it lived down to my expectations. The hero and his friends have a mystery to solve, and do so by tracking down a series of clues scattered throughout an exotic location. Unfortunately, the films is entirely too linear -- the gang simply waltz from one adventure to the next until they crack the case and reach the Big Finale. The director apparently assumed you are already so familiar with the characters that further development is unnecessary. But the real problem with the film is that it can't decide if it's for adults of for kids, and its attempts to please folks of all ages make it a mess of contradictions. And the occasionally great CGI effects do little to prevent the picture from becoming a crashing bore. I have no doubt that another film in the series is already in the works, but, as of now, I have little interest in seeing this franchise continue.And hey look: I just reviewed Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as well!At least Scooby Doo had the good sense to keep its running time below an hour and a half -- at 161 minutes Chamber of Secrets is too long by an hour. This is mostly due to the fact that, like the first Potter picture, Chamber of Secrets isn't so much a movie as it is a book-on-film. In other words, rather than taking the essence of the novel and making a movie out of it (as Peter Jackson did so masterfully with The Fellowship Of The Ring), writer Steven Kloves seemingly loaded the book up in Microsoft Word and then selected "Save As [Screenplay]".No doubt the reason they opted to preserve nearly every paragraph of the book is because kids would howl if any major scene was omitted, even those irrelevant to the overall story (as many are). But this is essentially my beef with both the Potter films and books: they can't decide if they are for kids or adults. J.K. Rowling fills her stories with tons of backstory and exposition to lend credibility to the narrative, but then resorts to cartoon logic at seemingly random moments. (In one scene, Harry and his friends encounter a seemingly bottomless pit and gamely leap into it without a second thought.) Now, I have no objection to "cartoon logic" movies -- heck, Iron Giant is one of my favorite flicks -- but inconsistency drives me crazy. Rowling oscillates between the historical style of J.R.R. Tolkien and and logic-free style of Lewis Carroll.Also! (I'm on a roll, now.) At one point I swear Harry Potter said "I only know one spell!". And Ron Weasley goes through the entire year with a wand that doesn't function. I thought American schools had gotten lax, but apparently in England you can be in your second year of a Witchcraft and Wizardy School and still not know your ass from a leaky cauldron.(Okay, I think I'm done ranting now.)(Nope, apparently not.)And another thing! What the hell kind of middle name is 'Marvolo'?!! Funny how we never heard it until Rowling needed to do some ridiculous anagram mumbo-gumbo!(I'm done.)Many critics have said that Chamber of Secrets is "Better than the first film". That's true, but also damning with faint praise. I liked the first Potter movie, but that was largely because it was the first film -- like Star Wars: A New Hope, The Sorcerer's Stone is not great, but at least it's new. But Chamber of Secrets ain't no Empire Strikes Back, that's for sure.The third Potter book is my favorite, so perhaps there's hope for this series yet. But Prisoner of Azkaban has 435 pages, so if they film #3 as they have #1 and #2 (i.e., using the novel as the screenplay) the film is going to be seven weeks long. Frankly I doubt I'll see it and find out, since I found this film to be such a yawner. Chamber of Secrets isn't terrible, but it's about as far from spellbinding as a movie about magic can be.
What I Learned On My Thanksgiving Vacation
- When visiting with relatives, I use alcohol less as a crutch and more as an entire vehicle.
- The maximum number of "buffet-style" restaurants you can enjoyably patronize in a single 24-hour period is one.
- Californians drive like they are currently on fire and are headed to a swimming pool.
- My grandmother adores my wife for a multitude of reasons, one of which, she announced, is that The Queen "turned me around". (I had no idea what she meant by this declaration and was afraid to ask for clarification.)
- Caddyshack is not even remotely as funny as I remember.
- You can socialize with family for three days and be happy, and you can forego exercise for three days and be happy, but you cannot both socialize with family and forego exercise for three days and be happy
- The sense of pride you get after using the word "axiom" in a Scrabble game is not sufficient to overcome the sense of shame you'll experience when you ultimately come in last place.
- I had always wondered how my family came to have an inexhaustible supply of humiliating stories about things I did when I was a youngster, but it finally -- finally! -- dawned on me that, when telling amusing stories about things your younger blood relations did when they were four, you can totally just make shit up. They don't remember! And other family members, afraid to reveal that they now have a memory like a slotted spoon, will back you up like they recall whatever fictional yarn you spin.
Me: Have you heard about the time when Eric was six? And dropped the Thanksgiving pie on his foot?
Girlfriend of younger blood relation: Yeah, I think you told me about that.
Me: And the other time, when he was seven? And hid all those bananas in the glove compartment?
Girlfriend: Uh-huh. I heard that one too.
Me: And the time he was five? At the Christmas parade? When he fellated the mayor?
Uncle: Hmm? Uh, oh yeah! Tell 'er that one.
- The cuter the child in the airport, the louder she will howl when she's seated in the row behind you.
- When making small talk with relatives of another generation, t'is best to avoid topics such as politics, economics, music, sex, technology, entertainment, the weather, life, death, or any other topic of conversation which would necessitate the use of nouns and verbs.December 02, 2002
Three cheers to Ariel for pointing out this hilarious (and enraging) tale of social injustice.
Update: A little backtracking seems to indicate that miel at noodniksanonymous was the grandmommy of pointer-outters on this Katie Magic Wand thing. So seven and a third cheers for her as well.
Last week, when a top aide to Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien resigned after referring to George Bush as a 'moron' in a private conversation, I made this CNN.com front page mockup for FilePile.
Good Gift Games 2002
Hey kids and/or adults that I am facetiously referring to as "kids"! Know what time it is? Yes, it's time for Matthew Baldwin's Annual Good Gift Games Guide, where I assemble a list of those games that, in my opinion, make swell presents for the holiday season. It is assumed that the gift recipients are not hardcore game players, so the games selected (with a few exceptions) are those with few rules and a focus on fun. I also try and emphasize inexpensive games, although some games are too good to omit despite their higher price tag.
2002 was considered by many (myself included) to be kind of an off-year, game-wise -- with the exception of Puerto Rico (and, to a lesser extent, Trans America) there were no "must buys" released. Still, the diamonds in the rough are listed below, followed by selections from previous G3s. (If you wish to browse the previous G3s, you can do so here: G3s 2000, G3s 2001.)
This is not intended to be an exhaustive list, just those that came to mind as I was writing this. If there's another game you want an opinion on, drop me a line at email@example.com -- my knowledge in these matters is frighteningly encyclopedic.
Without further ado, here are the 2002 G3s.
New (to me) Games
Not all of these games are "new" in the sense of having been released in the last year, but here's a sampling of the best I've purchased in the previous 12 months.
Royal Turf: If you've attended one of my personal gamenights recently, you've played Royal Turf, the biggest hit since Time's Up. Over three rounds players bet on and root for the seven stallions running in a good ol' fashioned horse race. Simple rules and a touch of bluffing makes this an idea game for families or for play over pints at the local pub. [Reviews: mine | BGG]
Trans America: It's so simple it's just barely a game, but it's lots of fun nonetheless. Players are randomly assigned five cities on a stylized map of the United States. On every turn players build railroad track in an effort to connect all their burgs. But because no one "owns" any given stretch of track, you can link into your opponent's network and use it to further your own goals. A typical game takes half an hour and can be played by persons of all ages and game-aptitude. [Reviews: BGG
Vom Kap bis Kairo: And speaking of train games ... Players strive to build railroad across eight African landscapes and be the first to complete a line "From The Cape To Cairo". Cards are auctioned off every round, and each features not only a landscape but a number of railroad tracks. The landscapes show how difficult it will be to traverse that particular region -- savanna is a snap, while mountains are difficult -- and the tracks shown can be applied towards your goal. If you don't have enough track to complete a terrain you can buy extra track segments, but be careful: you also need that money for the auctions. A clever family game with an engaging theme. [Reviews: BGG]
Puerto Rico: Easily my favorite game of 2002 Build up your Puerto Rico community by planting farms and constructing buildings. Ship corn, indigo, sugar and coffee to the Old World in the role of Settler, Mayor, Craftsman and even Gold Prospector. Puerto Rico is a gamer's game -- it has no shortage of pieces or rules -- but if you want something meatier than the regular fare, it's the best game to come down the pike in years. [Reviews: mine | BGG]
BANG! Who will rule the old west: the Sheriff or the outlaws? Players are randomly assigned to one side or the other, but all identities begin a secret. The best way to find out who is on your team is to shoot first and ask question later. BANG! is a clever little game for larger groups -- it plays best with six or seven -- and is one of the flat-out fun-est game's I've picked up in a spell. [Reviews: BGG]
Pueblo: I do not like abstract games. So what is it about Pueblo that makes me want to play it again and again? Every turn you plonk a piece on the board as you collaborate with your opponents to build a New Mexican village. The trick is to do so in such a way that none of your pieces are visible from the outside. As much puzzle as it is game, Pueblo is perfect for both the spatial reasoner and the casual game player. [Reviews: BGG]
Adel Verpflichtet: Bluff, guess, and second-guess your opponents as you strive to assemble the best collection of kooky antiques. And if you find yourself lacking in either money or goods, why, just steal some from your fellow players! Adel Verpflichtet is only available in German, but there's some cheat sheets you can print out that make the game perfectly fine for we Yankees. [Reviews: mine | BGG]
Barbarossa: First you make little sculptures out of clay, then you try and guess what everyone else has made. And don't fret if you're artistically-inept: the better your sculpture looks, the more likely you are to lose (because people will guess it right away). Closer to a party game than a board game, Barbarossa generates a lot of laughter. [Reviews: mine | BGG]
Babel: In this two-player game, you and an opponent strive to build the largest temples. Your workers come from five ancient civilizations, (Assyrians, Sumerians, etc.), and when you get three or more of the same tribe together you are able to break one of the game's rules. Babel falls just on the border between the "puzzle games" (Ricochet Robot, Pueblo) and strategy games (Lost Cities and Citadelles). [Reviews: BGG]
Lord of the Rings: The Confrontation: Another two-player contest, LotR: The Confrontation is a nice update of the classic Stratego formula. "The Confrontation" pits Sauron (who is stronger) against the Fellowship (which is more resourceful) , and every character on the board has his own special power. Furthermore, each side has a different goal: Frodo and Sam want to bring the ring to Mount Doom, while the forces of darkness want to slay the hobbits before they can complete their journey. A typical game of The Confrontation will last approximately half and hour. [Reviews: BGG]
From Previous Years
There is no excuse for not owning games marked with a *
- Settlers of Catan*: Oh fer Pete's sake, would'ja just buy it already?! Sheesh! [Reviews: BGG]
- Carcassonne: I've always been a fair-weather fan of Carcassonne, but many folks love it, and the two expansions (called "The Expansion," crazily enough, and "Hunters and Gathers") add a lot of spice, or so I'm told. [Reviews: mine | BGG]
- Web of Power: My favorite new game of 2000 sat on the shelf for most of 2001 because I played it until I was sick of it. But I recently played it again and remembered exactly why I so loved this game: it's easy to learn and can be played in less than an hour. [Reviews: mine | BGG]
- Princes of Florence: Second only to Puerto Rico as my favorite game in recent years. [Reviews: BGG]
- Lord of the Rings: What sets LotR apart is that it is cooperative rather than competitive: players work as a team instead of against each other. A unique and exciting game. [Reviews: mine | BGG]
- Bohnanza*: A game in which you plant and harvest beans. No, I am not kidding. [Reviews: mine | BGG]
- 6 Nimmt!*(A.k.a. "Take 6"): As addictive as it is agonizing. [Reviews: mine | BGG]
- Citadelles*: A gamenight favorite of bluff and intrigue. [Reviews: mine | BGG]
- Pig Pile: I haven't the slightest idea why I like this game. Aside from the fact that it comes with a bunch of small, pink, rubber pigs, I mean. [Reviews: BGG]
- Wyatt Earp: Rummy in the old west. [Reviews: mine | BGG]
- Lost Cities*: A really great, easy-to-learn, two player card game similar to rummy. [Reviews: mine | BGG]
- flowerpower: A very placid tile-laying game -- not too deep, but not as shallow as it looks, either. [Reviews: BGG]
- Hera and Zeus: More complicated that Lost Cities and flowerpower, but worth the "learning curve". Stratego meets Magic: The Gathering. [Reviews: mine | BGG]
- En Garde: It costs nine bucks, it plays in 15 minutes, and the rules could fit onto a business card. Plus: fun! [Reviews: mine | BGG]
- Battle Cry: Expensive, but worth it for anyone who likes games where you get to fire artillery at you opponent. [Reviews: BGG]
- Time's Up*: The best party game in existence. Seriously. [Reviews: BGG]
- Call My Bluff*: The ultimate dice game: all luck and bluffing, no pesky rules. [Reviews: mine | BGG]
- 25 Words or Less: A thinking-person's Taboo. My first copy was played until it fell apart, whereupon I promptly bought another. [Reviews: mine | BGG]
- Apples to Apples*: The game we played so much at Gamenight that I came to hate it. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't own it. And you should. [Reviews: mine | BGG]
- Werewolf: Actually, this one is completely free. Just print out the rules from here.
What, you don't trust me? Well, here's some other "best of" lists for your consideration.
- The GAMES Magazine 2003 Games 100:
- The 2002 German Game of the Year award:
- Funagain.com's Top rated games.
- Funagain.com's Bestselling games.
Places to Buy Games Online
- Funagain.com: This is where I buy all my games: they carry just about everything, the have a great website, their prices are low and they are located in Ashland, OR (so shipments reach me in 2-3 days).
- Boulder Games: I've heard great things about this online store too, but they are on the East Coast so I stick with Funagain. Still, if you are in, say, New York, these guys would probably get it there quicker.
- Amazon.com: Amazon carries a few titles, notably those in the Mayfair (Settlers of Catan, Manhattan) and Avalon Hill (Acquire, Cosmic Encounter) lines. But they never seem to be in stock.