December 2003 Archives

Auld Lang Syne

See you all next year!

The Empathetic Can

Well that took bloody forever.

Pretty much all of the odd "empathetic"s have been changed back into "can"s. I may have missed a few, and I may have changed a couple that I shouldn't have. Also, there may now be a few random errors, but overall, it is better than it was.

Time for bed.


While checking out a suspicious comment in the archives, I discovered that for some reason, every instance of "can" in this weblog, from 10/23/03 back, had been replaced by "empathetic". That includes "I can", "American", and "candy". That's a lot of cans, folks. I'd run a replace all, but I may run over an actual empathetic. So, I'm going through and replacing them one at a time. In the meantime, if you are reading something and come across an "empathetic" that doesn't quite fit...well, have patience.

Say What?

UPS, the UPS brandmark and the color brown are registered trademarks of United Parcel Service of America, Inc. All rights reserved."

They've trademarked the color brown? All of it? Huh?


Today I picked up Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean's Wolves in the Walls. Finding it was an adventure. I went to Borders and headed directly to the children's section, looking high and low in the picture books section. Books were shleved by author, but I couldn't find it in the G's or the M's.

I availed myself of the bookstore computer to see if they even carried the title, and discovered that it was actually kept in the Graphic Novel section. I toddled on across the store to the GN shelves, but even after I established that these were shelved by title, rather than author, I made no progress towards finding the book. Eventually I grabbed a Borders employee, who marched right over to the section that I had been looking at and...lo and behold...couldn't find it either.

As it turned out, all of the copies of WITW were in "overstock" on a high shelf that could only be reached by ladder. He brought them down, gave me one, and carried the rest back to the GN shelf. I suggested that since it is supposed to be a children's book, he may want to put a couple copies on the shelves in the children's section. Last I saw of him, he was heading in that direction, so I presume that it was done.

I've now read through the book several times. Delicious and dark, with and amazing amount of sense amid the surreality. McKean's art is rich a full of surprises, while Gaiman's text speaks to children without talking down to them. I am looking forward to the opportunity to read it to one of my grade school classes sometime.

I also have another author/illustrator to add to my pantheon of heroes...Kevin Henkes.

Maybe one of these days I'll get my sh*t together and try following my dream of writing and illustrating children's books. It will take time, though.

On monsters

I spent part of this past evenig re-reading The Hobbit, and a thought occurred to me. In the LOTR movies, there are Orcs and Trolls and Uruk-hai and Wargs. There were Nasgul and many other varieties of nasty evil thing, and yet...not a single goblin. I don't remember enough about the books to say for certain that there were goblins in The Lord of the Rings, but there were goblins aplenty in The Hobbit. Given the extreme variety of creatures, and even the variations of look within the Orcs, I'm surprised that there was nary a goblin or even a whisper of a goblin in the movies.

It isn't a big deal, but it is still puzzling.

UPDATE: OK, so the orc/goblin thing has been explained to me, and I've re-watched the movies and re-read the books. I take it back, though I still like the word "goblin" better than "orc".

In Those Days...

"Daddy," she murmured, "tell me a story of Christmas."

I, too, can see the words as though they were written in front of me. I should, after all I had to memorize and recite them year after year, along with many other chunks of the NIV, the old blue hymnal, and quite a few other choir songs. It's funny to realize just how much gets stuck in your noggin, especially when you consider how much falls out of it every day.

Continuing Return of the King


I've now had more time to absorb the movie, and I've also had a chance to re-watch Two Towers. The biggest plus is that I am no longer doped up on cold medicine.

The movie may have been long, but it carried me through from start to denouement without much in the way of restlessness or exhaustion. Yes, some things from the book were altered or eliminated in the movie, but that is an inevitiblity when adapting a book for the screen. Many have complained that the Scouring of the Shire is left out of the movie entirely (it won't even be in the extended version), yet few complained about the loss of Tom Bombadil. it is important to remember that Peter Jackson had two challenges: to present a faithful account of Tolkien's story and to present an excellent film. It is quite often the case that what works quite well in a book is actually quite awkward when literally interpreted on the screen. Choices must be made, and I respect the choices that Jackson has made.

At this point, I have not seen any of the extended DVD versions. I would very much like to get ahold of FOTR and TTsoon, and look forward to when ROTK comes out as the extended DVD. My curiousity has been peaked in regards to the extra sceens. In the meantime, I am going to head to the theater again for another screening of ROTK. The first time around was quite fun, but now I can watch it with specific things in mind.


Merry Christmas

Well, it isn't a white Christmas, and I'm pretty okay with that. What we have is a gorgeously sunny day. At this time of year, I will take all of those I can get.

My plan to go to church this morning fell through, as the cold medicine I took before bed to keep me from coughing all night also kept me soundly asleep until the phone rang at 10:10 AM. As church started at 10, and I was still very groggy, I decided to just move into the sunny spot in the living room and slowly wake up that way.

Now that I'm awake, I've opened my presents from "Santa", that is to say, an out of town friend and a neighbor. Thank you very much to Vicki, Kjersti, and Nathan.

This morning, I've also been able to add two more songs to my seasonal pop favorites.

Jingle Bell Jamboree by Keb Mo

A Christmas/Kwanzaa/Solstice/Chanukah/
Ramadan/Boxing Day Song
by Christine Lavin and the Mistletones

Outside the Box

Pears Before Swine has gone seriously meta this week. Not a first for Stephen Pastis (last month, Pig was wandering through abandoned Peanuts landmarks. I find it amusing. I wonder how many people hate it.

Tis the Night Before Christmas

Three cheers for not being as sick as I was this weekend. Being sick is no fun, doubley so when it is on a singing holiday.

I'm currently on orange alert...because my landlord left me with about a bushel of oranges and grapefruit as a Christmas gift. One thing is for sure, I won't be getting scurvy this winter.

I've had a good day. I finally did a small bit of holiday baking, in order to give cookies to my three building-neighbors. Then dinner with some family, a couple of gifts exchanged, and church.

Now I can drink some tea and listen to Christmas songs while basking in the light of my tree.

Excellent seasonal (pop) tunes:

The Christians and the Pagans by Dar Williams

The Rebel Jesus by Jackson Brown

River by Joni Mitchell

Christmas Song by The Dave Matthews Band

2000 Miles by the Pretenders

Light It Up by Peter Himmelman and David Broza

O Tannenbaum by They Might Be Giants

Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth by Bing Crosby and David Bowie


For some reason, that I can't quite identify, I keep prefacing sentences with "Dude". It's staring to get on my nerves.

Poll Time

The American Family Association, "America's Pro-Family Online Activism Organization", is conducting a poll: Gay marriage: yay, nay, or civil union? I'm pretty sure they'd like the results to be soundly "nay", because those ho-mo-seck-soo-alls are anti-family, and nothing will ruin America like promoting monogamy...or whatever. However, at the moment the "yay" is in the lead. Rock on. Stop by, vote, and pass it on...

Update: TChemgrrl has an interesting take on the poll. One that hadn't even occured to me. (No permalink, look for 12/19/03.)

An excerpt:

Problem 2: The basic setup of the poll. Option A is a straightforward "No, I don't like this in any form". Option B is an equally straightforward "I du support this". Option C says "I support this, if linguistic gymnastics are employed."

When I was able to get to the results this morning, it was something like 47% opposed to gay unions in any form, 46% for gay marriage, and 7% for a "civil union" just like marriage but with a different name. Cool, less than half the voters oppose gay marriage, right?

Not so fast. The group has built in a mechanism to do this data massaging, and I'll say what they're going to say right now, exactly as they'll say it to Congress if they get the chance:
"93% of Americans do not support homosexual civil unions".
Go ahead and read it twice--if you're one of those kooks that watches CSPAN, listen for it and let me know if you do hear it.

So, your response: "Say what?" It's understandable. Only 47% of the people that voted oppose the right of gay and lesbian couples to unite the same way as straight couples, with all the accompaning advantages.

Excellent point. And a scary thought.

(We have always been at war with Oceania.)

Playing Catch-up

The combination of being sick and having two weeks off have suddenly allowed to get to my New Yorker reading. I'm still way behind, but just today I've plowed through two episodes. I've made it to the beginning of November, and I'm feeling quite proud of myself.

Now, if only I had the lung power to get some exercise in, this would be perfect.

Return of the King

First of all, I'd like to mention how hard I am trying to hold back all the jokes about Elvish and "the King". Also, unlike The Hobbit which I have read several times, I only read The Lord of the RIngs once, and it was almost ten years ago. Hence, my memories of the story are a little on the vague side. Other than the changes to the very beginning of the Fellowship (like the circumstances of the hobbits' departure and the lack of Tom Bombadil) I was not among the people who could say, "Hey! That's not how it happened in the book." So, unlike some, I can only review it on its strengths and weaknesses as a movie, rather than its faithfulness to Tolkien.

I saw it as a midnight movie, sans caffiene, so I take it as a point in favor of the movie that I didn't feel tired or sleepy until after the movie. Other points:

-Too much Arwen. Every single time Liv Tyler was onscreen in all three movies was too much. Double minus point for anytime she talked.

+Sam, Merry, and Pippin kickin' ass and takin' names. Go shortstuff!

-Frodo. Elijah Wood has annoyed me in all three movies. I think it is the lamer-than-lame accent he has been using.

+The battle scenes. Very well choreographed. Also, Theodan's speech to the Rohirrim before they charged at Minas Tirith had me ready to take up a sword.

+The makeup, as usual. In particular, I was happy with the super gross look of Frodo when Sam pulled the spider web off his face.

Ugh, I was going to say more, but the NyQuil I've taken for my brand new cold has started to kick in, and my powers of rational thought are slipping. Best stop while I'm ahead, and say more some other time.


Coming Soon

I'm going to get you my review of Return of the King soon. In the meantime, let me just say....Woah.

Also, next time I go to a midnight movie, I'm wearing my pajammas.


Well, the halls have been decked. There is a very classic (read: not carefully groomed into shape), very prickly Christmas tree in my living room. The air smells like pine, and I am typing by the warm glow of the lights.

In the kitchen, there is the smell of yeast as my buttermilk potato bread rises, along with a faint with of cinnamon from the rice pudding I made earlier.

The presents are looking quite dandy under the tree. There are Christmas carols playing on the radio...until I get sick f them and pt on some rock and roll.

Needless to say, I'm in a great mood.

Hustle and Bustle

I did my very modest Christmas shopping today. As of now all my presents are wrapped and all of my Christmas cards are ready to be stamped and mailed. I even listened to some cheesy (and not-so-cheesy) Christmas tunes. I don't have a tree up yet, nor have I done any baking, but I still have a week and a half before the big day.

Let's see, what else?

I've heard the snow crunch and seen the kids bunch. My only Santa sighting has been the Santa that was driving a pony carriage around the parking lot of the grocery store last Sunday...which is odd considering that I've been in the mall several times.

I did see The Nutcracker on Friday. It was great. To begin with, not only did I see it from a great seatfor free, but I saw it while getting paid. That is to say, the third grade class that I subbed for on Thursday and Friday went to see the youth matinee before opening night. Since I was the teacher I went with, and since they were well-behaved kids I got to watch the show rather than troublemakers. It was beautiful. I'd seen the Madison Nutcracker once before, in 1998, and hadn't been very impressed. I remember that there seemed to be an excessive number of "cute" dance numbers by kids. If I recall correctly, that was around the time that JoJean Retrum was being kicked out of leadership of what was then called the Wisconsin Dance Ensemble. It looks like the Madison Ballet had really gotten it together since then. I was enthralled. (Partly by te dance and spectacle, and partly by my desire to play the percussion parts.)

It really feels like the season has arrived.


Secret Stories

Words can not describe how much I love these tales, nor how sad I am about the desolate lives of the children who know them. Read them and you will wonder. And you will cry.

This is the secret story shelter children will tell only in hushed voices, for it reveals Bloody Mary's mystery: God's final days before his disappearance were a waking dream. There were so many crises on Earth that he never slept. Angels reported rumors of Bloody Mary's pact with Satan: She had killed her own child and had made a secret vow to kill all human children. All night God listened as frantic prayers bombarded him. Images of earthly lives flowed across his palace wall like shadows while he heard gunfire, music, laughing, crying from all over Earth. And then one night Bloody Mary roared over the walls of Heaven with an army from Hell. God didn't just flee from the demons, he went crazy with grief over who led them....

Heed the Call!

The best radio commercial I've heard in a long time is not for a company that I have any need to partonize. I'm not in the market for excersize equipment. Yet I actually look forward to hearing it, and know most of the lines [some bits are a little hazy].

Crazy voice elephant prince! The tortoise has written that [when the seven circles aline (??)] I will take the throne from my father, the scorpion. You! Will you join me?

Woman: Get lost.

Crazy man: I am the only way to the prairie, where all mankind can run free. You! Will you take up the shovel [of truth (??)]?

Irritated man: I don't have a shovel. I don't have any change.

Crazy man: You, sir! [Will you take your place] at the Great Picnic?

Man #2: Sure. (pause) Do you know anything about treadmills?

Voice Over: If you're not talking to the people at The Fitness Experience, you may as well be talking to anyone. Blah blah blah....

Crazy Man: Heed the call...of...the Elephant Prince!!

Man #2: Seriously. What should I do about this stomach?


Cracks me the hell up every time. It's even better when you can hear the actual vocal inflections. Priceless.

Side by Side

In the past week I watched both Eat, Drink, Man, Woman and Tortilla Soup. They are basically the exact same movie, EDMW being the original by Ang Lee. EDMW is set in Taiwan with a Taiwanese family. Tortilla Soup was based on Ang Lee's screenplay, but set in Los Angeles with a Mexican-American family. I did like EDMW better, though both films were quite good. Tortilla Soup was more "Americany" with more talk about feeeeeeeelings and finding oneself. Still a strong picture, but it missed some of the intensity of the original.

It was interesting to see them so close together.

Urban Decay

The Fabulous Ruins of Detroit. Wow. If I could, I would grab my camera and a whole lotta film and head to Detroit right now. That is totally the sort of thing I am drawn to photograph. When I was done, I'd head over to St. Louis and get some of those ruins. All I need is a grant and a bodyguard .


Substitute Teacher Totally Freaks

Oh dear. I should probably get that laminated, and take it with me.

Holiday Shopping

I've been hearing a lot of commercials along the lines of, "We may be a pharmacy/hardware store/healthfood store/bowling alley... but you can get all of your holiday shopping done right here!" Even McDonald's has been pushing gift certificates. Now there's a way to show you care. "Merry Christmas, honey! Have some saturated fat!"

So, I'm starting to ponder taking them at their word. Maybe I should buy all of my presents for friends and family at the grocery store. I mean, who wouldn't want a dozen eggs nicely wrapped under the tree? Or a pound of butter? Nothing says I love you like a family sized jar of peanut butter.

I think the only tricky part would be in getting everything wrapped. You need to make sure that the jar of pickles of Aunt Clarice doesn't get broken, and that the frozen peas for Cousin Timmy don't thaw. Plus, not only do you have to keep the gallon of milk for Gramma Sue from spoiling, how do you wrap it without the shape giving it away?

This is going to be the best Christmas ever!!

Interview with a Non-vampire

Here is a very nice little interview with Neil Gaiman. I love it when an interviewer knows how to do it right. He has enough knowledge of his subject to not ask any dumbass questions, yet he also avoids coming off as a total fanboy.

It also reminded me how much fun I had when Neil came and spoke at Union South a few years ago, when he was touring for Stardust. I hope I'll get the opportunity to hear him speak again soon.

Humming along with the radio.

The more I hear of Jason Mraz, the more I like him. I think I know who I'll be voting for as "favorite new artist" in those year-end surveys.


I suddenly really need to go bowling. I think it is time to start wrangling my friends into an outing. As a matter of fact, I'd be up for a game of pool, too.

Making a list

To my family:

Generally, I'm not one for wish lists. I the last time I was in the habit, I was a one digit age and going through the Christmas catalogue toy sections with a marker. I'm not comfortable with asking for presents--it feels greedy. However, this is the time of year that everyone starts scratching their heads and trying to figure out what to get everyone. In order to make the Katherine-related head scratching a little less vigorous, here are a few gift ideas. Feel free to get any or none of these things; I'm really pretty good, stuff-wise.

*winter scarves--I like them long and soft. Good colors are black, red, white/cream, blue and green, although stripes might be fun. Gloves to go with them would be ok, too.

*hot water bottles--preferabley the kind with some sort of fuzzy outer wrapping.

*Endless Nights, Wolves in the Walls, or The Day I Traded My Dad for Two Goldfish by Neil Gaiman--actually, he has a lot of stuff that I'd like. I have Neverwhere the book (but not the DVD), American Gods, Smoke and Mirrors, Dreamhunters, The Book of Dreams, and most of the comics already if you want to avoid duplication, but NG is a safe bet.

*Firefly, Pirates of the Caribbean, or Bend it Like Beckham, Spirited Away, Angel seasons 1, 2, or 3, or Buffy seasons 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 on DVD.

*Badger backetball (ladies or mens) tickets--weekend games are best

*Chocolate-hazelnut seashells

*Digital camera

*Double bed bedding--quilts, blankets, sheets, whatever.

*a nice bottle of Reisling

*cool stationary--I trust you guys to have at least some idea as to what I'd consider "cool" by now

*a certain candle snuffer--some of you will know exactly what I'm talking about. If you don't then never mind.

There you go. All of these are things that I wouldn't mind having, but most of them are things that I could also easily live without. A few of them are the equivalent of asking for a pony, and I think we all know that. When it comes right down to it, the best gifts come from the heart and it isn't about "getting stuff". Have fun this month, and don't stress out.


On the Television

I love Joan of Arcadia. I've never seen a single episode, but the recaps rock.

Attention Guys!


Yes, it's December and gift giving time is upon us. Those of you with wives or girlfriends need to listen up:

What are you getting her? Oh really? A handy-dandy useful piece of technology that you know she needs? Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens? A fabulous clock-radio and a waffle iron?

No. Sorry that was the wrong answer. Yes you may get her those things if she wants and needs them, but expect a funny little smile with the thank you. These are things she could get for herself. These are things she could get from her grandmother or a co-worker. These are things you could get as a "just because" surprise on some random day.

"Gifty" holidays like Christmas, Valentine's Day (that's right around the corner, too), birthdays, and anniversaries require a gift that is more romantic.

So, what are you getting her? Lingerie? A sexy little teddy? A see-through negligee?

No. Sorry, the question was "What are you getting her?" As nice as sexy silken things are, stop and think about who will reap the benefits of that little bit of cloth? Yes, bucko, you are. Don't fool yourself into thinking that it's a present for her, because it is for you. Things like ski trips or cruises, while fun and appreciated, are also something that *you* will be using, too. These are nice things, but get her something for *her* to go with it.

So what should you get? I'm not going to shill for DeBeers here, since I'm not a big fan of diamonds. Also, every woman will have a slightly different idea of what is romantic. However, here are a few good tips:

1. It is for *her* (not you).

2. It is from you. This won't be a gift she could get from just any old somebody.

3. It is not something that she would get herself. (People tend to buy their own bedroom slippers, but not their own funky little doodabs.)

4. It is from the heart and says "I was thinking of you." (Sorry, gift certificates and "I'll take you shopping" are cop outs.)

Keep these four thigs in mind and you'll have a much better chance of not seeing that strained, "Oh, honey" face while she tries to be nice (best case scenario) or tears (worst case scenario). I can guarnatee 100% positive results, because everyone is different, but at least your odds will be better.

True Quote of the Week

"The mall smells like vanilla poop."


Really. It does.

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