Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Explosive Decompression

On the radio this morning (KVI, conservative talk radio [now defunct]), Andrew Napolitano was filling in for Tony Snow.  And he was (almost) arguing in favor of allowing guns on planes.

Actually, what he said was this (not an exact quote, but damn close):
If the passengers on those planes had had… had been able to exercise their Second Amendment Rights, then September 11 would never have happened.
(Note that almost said “had had guns” or something similar, and then backtracked to the PC and gun-absent phrase about the Second Amendment.  He said this same phrase at least twice during the broadcast, which tells me that it was a very intentional phrasing, not an “Oops, almost said something on air that I shouldn’t” accident.  It gives him plausible deniability: he didn’t actually advocate for guns on planes, and he can’t help it if people mistakenly think he said that he did.)

You’ve got to be kidding me.  Anyone out there actually want other passengers to be able to bring handguns on airplanes?  Picture the scene: unruly passenger has had one too many — maybe even before getting on board — and the flight attendant won’t serve him, so he pulls out a gun and demands another little bottle of vodka.  Or a little bit of “air rage”: one passenger takes the last overhead space, so the next guy’s bag will have to be checked, so he gets angry and shoots the guy.  Or a kid pulls out his mother’s gun in the middle of the flight to play with it, and it goes off… and blows a hole in the side of the plane, 30,000 feet over Wichita.

To be sure, there are cases where our freedoms have been impinged or taken away by overly aggressive laws and politicians unwilling to defend them.  But this ain’t one.  No way do I want anyone — perhaps including an undercover Air Marshall — having a gun on a flight that I’m on.  Boxcutters be damned: if someone had had a gun on one of those 9/11 flights, and had used it, it might well have ripped through the cockpit door and hit the pilot, crashing the plane in the process.  (And then where would be be?  With an airliner crashed into a skyscraper, that’s where.)

Updated on October 5, 2011

Friday, March 11, 2005

God Bless Chris LeDoux


Crap.  Crap.  Crap.  Crap.  Crap.

Chris LeDoux, one of my favorite country-western singers, died on Wednesday.

I just bought his final album, Horsepower.  It arrived in the mail — you guessed it — on Wednesday.  I haven’t even opened it yet.  (Sorry, Loretta, but you’re getting the boot from iTunes right now.)
Now there’s one less tornado in Texas
And a saddle that’s empty tonight
There’s one hell of a cowboy in heaven
At that big rodeo in the sky
At that big rodeo in the sky

— “One Less Tornado”, from the album Horsepower
(by Aaron Barker and John Rich; sung by Chris LeDoux)
Guess I’ll be making a special request at the Timberline tonight.

Updated on October 6, 2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

College Bowl for Kids, and the Triumph of Comics

My partner, Rusty, has an 11-year old adopted son from his second marriage.  Josh spends about every second weekend at our house.

Today, he and some of his schoolmates competed in “Battle of the Books” (or something like that).  The kids had six months to read a set of sixteen books, and then they competed to answer questions based on what they had read.

According to Rusty, Josh’s team won, beating out nine other teams, and they will advance to a regional competition.  Further, Josh was the only one of the kids who had read all the books.  (I’m not sure if this was just on his team or amongst all the kids.)  Further, until Josh started coming to our house, he didn’t read much at all.

The cause?  Comic books.  Since I’ve been reading them for 25 years, I’ve got a lot of them around, with an increasing number of collected volumes which are on bookshelves, easy to access.  I buy a few titles specifically for Josh every month (but I read them, too) — Teen Titans, Teen Titans Go!, Justice League Unlimited, and the now-cancelled Hardy Boys series — and he reads my copies of a few other books every time he is at the house, especially Usagi Yojimbo and most recently, Adam Strange.  Josh has also read the likes of Impulse and Scion, and he really liked the new Bone color volume and can’t wait for the next one.

(In contrast, Rusty’s daughter Sarah almost never reads — and certainly not for pleasure — saying that she has no imagination.  Personally, I think her imagination has been muted by TV and movies and loud music; who needs to work your own imagination when stuff is pre-imagined for you?  But even then, we got her to read Mystic, and she pulled Blankets off the shelf of her own accord.)

If it gets kids to read at all, comics are a good thing.  Even more so if gets them to read stuff other than comics!

Added links on October 7, 2011

Sunday, February 20, 2005

What Were They Thinking?
    — You Put Your Right Foot In…

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

This FootSmart ad came from a January 2005 Skymall catalog, the ones you get in the seat pocket on airplanes.  The company sends you a fold-out box containing clay or foam or some similar substance, which you step in to give an imprint of your feet, and then they make a special shoe insert perfectly formed to your own feet.

Look closely at the labels on the box that the foot model has stepped in.  She put her left foot in the side marked “RIGHT FOOT” and vice-versa.  (Maybe her legs were crossed because
she had to pee really bad?)  Those may be some painful shoe inserts she gets back.

Updated on March 15, 2005
I’ve since seen one of these ads in another catalog — Hammacher-Schlemmer, I think — which fortunately used a different, correct picture.
Updated on October 11, 2011

Stupid, Stupid Ads!
    — Will Work for Whiteout

“Stupid, Stupid Ads!” dissects ads that try to do something underhanded or just plain stupid.

And less than one in five can use proper grammar, it appears.  (Er, make that “fewer than one in five” — don’t want to get got with my grammar pants down!)

This is from a United Way bus shelter ad out around Christmas 2004, maybe a couple weeks later.

Remedial English Lesson

In this sentence, the subject is “One in five homeless people” and the predicate is “are employed”.  The subject is composed of a pronoun, “One” (standing in for “A homeless person”), and a prepositional phrase, “in five homeless people.”  The plurality of the subject’s noun and the predicate’s verb must match; this sentence is incorrect because “One” is singular while “are” is plural.  (The prepositional phrase is excess gravy.  It modifies and describes the noun/pronoun, but it does not affect the plurality of the subject.  That is controlled solely by the noun or pronoun.)  Ergo, the correct sentence should read “One in five homeless people is employed.”

I might forgive a homeless person who used bad grammar on his sign, but I certainly won’t forgive the United Way for producing a poorly designed ad.  Bad charity, no donation.

Updated on October 10, 2011

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


I signed us up for Netflix about a month ago.  (In case you live under a rock and don’t know what that is, Netflix charges you $20 or so a month and maintains a list of movies you plan to see, sending you the top three initially and then sending a new one when you mail back one you have out.)

I swear, this is the best thing since sliced bread.

It completely changes the way I look at video stores.  When we go to the video store — especially when Rusty’s son Josh is with us — we automatically gravitate to the New Releases wall (which is actually everything from the last year or so; it’s like half the store these days), and we pay little if any attention to the large number of other films out there in the other racks.  I’m sure that’s what most people do.  And as such, we especially get drawn to the big films among the New Releases, the stuff that they have shelves full of, not the ones with 3 copies.

How much do we miss among the New Releases, only seeing the big items?  Even more, how much have we missed in years past and never look for now?  Or how much might we like to see again, but never think of?

Netflix largely bypasses this for me.  Without a never-ending wall of just “New Releases”, I’m encouraged to pull out the things I’ve heard of and always wanted to see.  The stuff that I saw in college (twenty years ago) and want to revisit.  The B-movies.  The sequels that you could tell were made just for
a buck from the trailer.

We just sent back Amélie and American Beauty.  Coming up in our queue are Akira Kurosawa’s Ran, Ghostbusters II, Road to Perdition, the Notorious C.H.O. comedy concert, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Terminator 2: Judgement Day and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Steel Magnolias, Memento, all three Harry Potter films, a God help us all, Showgirls!  Never in my life would I be apt to go to Blockbuster and rent more than a couple of these, but on Netflix, I just sit back and wait for them to surprise me in the mail every few days.

The other thing that’s great about Netflix is that there’s no time limit.  Sure, you can’t get the next movie until you send a current one back, but if you want to listen to all five director and actor commentary tracks, you can.  If you go away for a long weekend just after a batch of movies arrive, they can sit there and you can watch them when you get back.

In particular, I’ve purchased season one of Six Feet Under and the first two season of the American version of Queer as Folk, each with 20 or so hours of shows spread across 4-6 disks.  I don’t want to sit down and watch a marathon of a single show, just to churn through a disk.  I prefer to stretch these boxed sets out, watching one episode every day or three, taking a week or maybe two to go through each disk.  That’s expensive to do when renting from the video store at $5 for 5 days (or whatever), but it’s no problem with Netflix.

Updated on October 5, 2011
Well, it was the best thing since sliced bread.  The bread has gotten a bit stale and moldy of late.

I’m surprised at how little I remember of any of those films listed above, now six-plus years later.  That says something about the impacts that movies make on us these days, when there are too many to keep up with.