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Thursday, November 30, 2006

Respectfully clarifying

Lipscomb University theologian Lee Camp has clarified his remarks that were cited in yesterday's Tennessean article, which apparently were taken out of context. I stand by what I said yesterday that respect, honesty and humility need to go hand-in-hand in any dialogue between people with different or opposing viewpoints. Professor Camp appears to agree, and I appreciate what he had to say. I would like to see more Christians share his opinion on loving neighbors, even ones half a world away:

"The dialogue prior to my lecture had been most encouraging and refreshing: Numerous speakers had insisted that Jews, Muslims and Christians must not pretend that our differences are insignificant. Moreover, we can acknowledge the seriousness of the differences, while honoring one another...

I believe and profess "Jesus is Lord," and am compelled by Jesus' Lordship to share this Good News world-wide. But if such sharing treats others in a way contrary to the teachings of Jesus, I have thereby denied my profession. I choose not only to proclaim that "Jesus is Lord," but to live Jesus as Lord, among all — believer or unbeliever, Catholic or Protestant, Muslim or Jew."
The Tennessean has posted a follow-up story this morning. The paper appeared to represent a summary of the evening's discussion as Camp's personal views in yesterday's edition, and I'm glad they responded to Camp's efforts to clarify his position.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Respectfully speaking

I am impressed that the words below were spoken by two Lipscomb University professors and that an interfaith gathering recently took place on campus:

To live peacefully with Muslims and Jews, Christians must put aside the notion that their faith requires the creation of a Christian kingdom on Earth, a Lipscomb University theologian told an interfaith gathering at the university.

"We are not going to get very far in our relationship with Jews or Muslims if we do not let go of this idea," Lipscomb professor Lee Camp said at Tuesday's conference.

As I've said before, I don't expect someone to forfeit their beliefs in the name of tolerance, but I do hope that we can all find a way to be respectful when sharing our viewpoints by acknowledging that other legitimate perspectives exist.

I'm a Lipscomb high school alumnus, and I've had my share of frustrations with the institution over the years. That said, there are many kind-hearted, well-intentioned people who attend, work for or otherwise contribute to life on that campus. I don't think that this kind of event or the words above would have generated anything but outrage when I was a student. This kind of forum is major progress.

What would you do?

This is heavy handed, but I agree with it. I think this ought to apply to all of us, even beyond those of us who are Christians. I don't think there's anything wrong with entertainment or wanting to enjoy leisure time, whether it's taking in a movie or doing something else. (Not that the Passion of the Christ is really anything people "enjoy" inasmuch as it depicts a very painful series of events.) No one person among us can save the world, but we can all give of our time and our money to make the world a little bit more hospitable for people who are in need.

Even though this cartoon is dead-on accurate in my opinion, maybe Christians are an easy target because the Bible calls us to such a high standard in trying to emulate Christ. There's a paradox in seeking that goal because it's unattainable for us as fallible beings, and yet it is noble and admirable to want to live humbly and be of service to other people. Christians can't possibly live up to the standard Christ established, but it often doesn't help that many of us, myself included, don't seem to take that goal very seriously in how we live our lives. (It doesn't help, either, that a lot of us think that we have God all figured out and in our hip pocket, but that's a topic for another post.)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Just answer the freaking question

NBC News has chosen to call the situation in Iraq a civil war as of this week. Many other news outlets are doing the same. Here's how President Bush responded when asked that question today:

"No question it's tough, no question about it. There's a lot of sectarian violence taking place, fomented in my opinion because of the attacks by al Qaeda causing people to seek reprisal."
My point here, though I did not vote for Bush in 2004 and objected to the war in Iraq prior to its onset, has nothing directly to do with which side of the aisle the president or anyone else is on. This kind of non-answer to a reporter's question, once lauded as an effective media relations tactic, is not only hurting public discourse in our country, if you ask me, it is damaging public opinion of anyone who uses it consistently. Democrats do it just as much as Republicans, and I think it's hurting America.

The Bush administration spent six years refusing to answer questions, even ones that it was silly to refuse to consider. Now that the balance of power has shifted in Congress, the administration is finally beginning to address its critics humbly and openly, relatively speaking, despite what Bush did or did not say today. If the administration had learned how to do that even six months ago, it might not be dealing with a loss of seats in both sides of Congress today.

I think it's fine to have talking points to get across in any interview, but it isn't fine to just parrot them back incessantly as if the question were never asked. It's really a moot point by now any way because the media is so accustomed to public figures doing this. CBS went ahead and did what Bush was trying to avoid by clarifying the president's position: "President Bush said Tuesday that the sectarian violence rocking Iraq is not civil war but part of an al Qaeda plot to use violence to goad Iraqi factions into repeatedly attacking each other."

Just say "yes" or "no," and then tell us why. We'll all be a whole lot better off, if you ask me.

One pant leg at a time

I saw U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper walking to his office on Church Street downtown this morning as I made my own way to work. Congressman Cooper was juggling (OK, not literally) a couple of packages while flinging the door open.

Representative Cooper wasn't breaking any laws as far as I could tell, and he didn't appear to be cursing about the door. I know there are 430-odd members of the House, but I just found it refreshing to see one of them lugging his lunch pail to the office just like the rest of us, so I thought I'd share.

Happy birthday, Jon Stewart

Happy birthday, Jon Stewart! By “Jon Stewart,” I mean the host of the Daily Show, not the:

What Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz (Stewart’s given name) may lack in anti-Semitism, it gains in recognizance. Still, Jon, kick back and enjoy your 44th knowing that among Jon Stewarts, you currently have monopolized name recognition big time compared with your counterparts above. Take that, John Stewart, 2nd Earl of Buchan!

Thanks to DVR technology, I have been a pretty regular Daily Show viewer for about two years now. I love Stewart’s sense of humor because it is somehow even drier than my own. (Some of my friends, and possibly my wife, would dispute that. Water, anyone?) Here’s hoping for many more years of fake news and occasional cameos by Steve Carell.

The easy way out?

Has sports replaced religion in our society? I think maybe it has. It's hard to argue that point looking at the sports page in the newspaper or looking at football stadiums on weekends.

The more curious question, for me, is why. Are we looking for an escape? Are we looking for meaning? How many of us who are sports fans can honestly say that we are as invigorated on Sunday mornings as we are on Sunday afternoons? For those who aren't sports fans, how often are you more excited about a worship service than you are about your favorite television show? How many of us care more about what takes place on a screen in our living room than what takes place across the street?

Now that survival is generally no longer a challenge for us, are we desperate to escape the malaise of our everyday lives to be a part of something larger and more exciting? Are we looking for a gift for ourselves when we already have "everything?" Are we choosing the easy way out by escaping into entertainment and comfort instead of looking to connect with the people around us and finding ways to change our worlds for the better?

I think we are, and I think it's because it's easier to choose that path. Most of us in the U.S. don't have to work especially hard to eat, sleep and survive each day. The tribes and battles that would have engaged us centuries ago are gone or at least irrelevant for most of us, or they are half a world away where they are easily forgotten. For many people, questions of faith and reason are much murkier than they were for prior generations, and religion isn't the simple answer it once was (not that it can't still ultimately be a solution). Perhaps we are struggling to hold on to any meaning we can, even if it is as fleeting as wins and losses and jerseys and goalposts.

Don't get me wrong. I love sports, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. I just wonder why it can become so important, sometimes excessively important, at the expense of more important things.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Safe bet

It's a safe bet that this story about a South Carolina fan killing a Clemson fan makes it into an upcoming edition of News of the Weird. Regardless, it is a terrible and sad (and weird) story.

People often say in the South that college football is a religion. I love football (and hockey), and I'm as guilty as the next guy of taking sports too seriously. But how does this get this far? Yes, this story falls into the common NOTW category "People different from us," but I think we all get carried away frequently by stuff that just doesn't matter. Why is that? Is it because it's safer than focusing on things with real substance, such as our friends and families, our mortality and the contributions we hope to make while we're here?

I've had some awful, awful arguments in my lifetime, I've done some really stupid things and I've at times consumed a high volume of alcohol. A few times those things have even overlapped. I still never thought it made sense to collect on a bet with a firearm, not that I own one. Maybe that's a good thing.

I hope I can remember the next time that I'm really upset about something to ask whether whatever it is is really all that important. Odds are, the answer may be no. Did I mention that one of my coworkers owes me a six-pack for a recent bet? It's true, but I think I'll wait awhile before I ask whether he is going to fulfill his end of the bargain.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Better days?

It's conventional wisdom (or at least common nostalgia) that the past was a simpler, kinder and gentler time. I'm as guilty of buying into this notion as the next guy, but this MSNBC article is a good reminder that it likely isn't true. Here's a sample:

"Perhaps such mercy [in punishing lasciviousness] was a nod to human nature. After all, according to [University of Virginia anthropologist Lisa M.] Lauria’s estimates, up to 50 percent of Plymouth colonists had premarital sex, despite the laws. Some were gay or bisexual. There were bad marriages, cheating wives, teenagers flooded with hormones. Life was complicated."
I think as a society, we tend to assume that morality is an admirable yet old-fashioned concept that is falling out of favor. That may well be true, but articles like this one (and there are many) suggest that we've been pretty equally good or evil, depending on your perspective, for awhile now. Granted, we have access to more innovative and advanced ways to lie to each other, steal things and explore beastiality (assuming on that last one, I am...) than ever before, but it appears that there was plenty of wrongdoing going on way back when in the snowdens of yesteryear, too.

Does this all come down to a control issue? Is it mainly about us as individuals beginning to accept our own mortality and the surety that we will eventually be left behind by time? Are we reminiscing for what is long gone and most familiar about our individual childhoods or adolescences? Or do we tend to focus on what was good about the past and overlook what was not so good? Maybe it is that the past is a known and (relatively) fixed thing, while the future is unknown and possibly frightening. When we can look back and "know" that things were better "then," at least we have something. The future is a promise we may never see.

One thing I know for sure is that I'm not going to answer this question tonight or anytime soon. But I do find it fun to wonder, since we don't often stop to explore the reasons why we do the things we do. Maybe the reasons aren't as simple as we think.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Joel Hunter's resignation

I had never heard of Joel Hunter, who resigned from the presidency of the Christian Coalition, until earlier today. I'm not sure yet whether I think his decision to resign before he even officially took office is a good or a bad thing.

Even though Reverend Hunter and I disagree on abortion and same-sex marriage, he stated publicly when announcing his resignation that easing poverty and protecting the environment are" issues that Jesus would want us to care about." Hunter resigned, reportedly, because he could not get other coalition leaders to put genuine weight behind these issues. According to this Orlando Sentinel story, coalition leadership considered these issues to be "fine" but "not our base" and "not our issues."

These remarks reinforce my perception that the coalition is much more interested in retaining and increasing its political power and influence than it is in making a difference in the lives of individual people and making a difference in this country. How much more influence could the coalition have if it would stop worrying about power and politics and start helping people in need?

I'd like to see the coalition stop intentionally driving division in our country and begin focusing on compassion and mercy. Even though I don't side with coalition on its two core social issues, I could still respect it as an organization if it would stop wielding those positions as a weapon. Why can't acknowledge these positions respectfully and focus on helping others where there is more agreement? It will have far more relevance and more more meaningfulness if it can find a way to do that, I think.

Reverend Hunter has written a book called Right Wing, Wrong Bird. I haven't read this book, but descriptions of it on make me think that Hunter is exactly the kind of leader the coalition needs right now. Here are a couple:

"Finally, a book for those committed to biblical political engagement, but embarrassed by the antics of the religious right. Hunter effectively combines historical reflection with biblical exegesis, calling the church to live out its cultural mandate by both contributing to society and confronting injustice."

"Can Christians learn to approach political issues constructively rather than negatively, learning to serve rather than yell? Pastor and author Dr. Joel C. Hunter says it's not only possible, it's necessary! Dr. Hunter offers a manifesto for fellow conservatives who feel "left out" by the Religious Right."
It sounds to me like the coalition is taking a step in the wrong direction with Hunter's resignation, but perhaps his principled departure will mean that the coalition begins rethinking its impact and its purpose. Let's hope so.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Black Friday

I survived a visit to Wal-Mart today. I wasn't brave enough to line up or even show up at 4 a.m., like hundreds of local shoppers did (including those above). Our DVD player decided to self-destruct around 1:00 today, so I took a trip to consumerland to replace it.

It really wasn't that bad by the time I got there. It was full, but not much more full than most of the other times I go. The cashier I spoke to said that he had been there since before the store opened at 5 a.m. and that he couldn't wait to go home in 20 minutes. (I couldn't blame him.) He told me that it was a madhouse when the doors first opened today. He said that one woman ultimately had to be escorted out of the store after she cut to the head of a line and tried to buy a television. She became argumentative and loud and refused to leave until the police walked her out of the building.

It's a cliche at this point to decry consumerism and Black Friday. I guess I am on the fence somewhere on this one. On the one hand, I think it is sad that people flock to retail stores before dawn and (especially sad) that they often trample each other and get in fights over merchandise. Yes, life is very short, and it shouldn't come down to what items or gadgets we have or don't have.

The reality is that life very often comes down to haves and have nots, even though I agree that it should not. I don't personally want to "keep up with the Joneses" or gorge myself on material purchases, but I also have to acknowledge that I am a consumer, too. As a consumer, I frequently make impulsive and unwise purchases, but I hope I am becoming wiser about my consumption as I grow older. Regardless, something bothers me about the annual practice of forming mobs to purchase as much as they possibly can and also about the recurring habit of covering this activity in the media. Each year, the point seems to be to point out in coverage that people are even more greedy and obsessed than in prior years. Is the fact that lots of people shop compulsively the day after Thanksgiving really news? It reminds me of the tendency of media outlets to routinely cover sweltering heat in July, as if this were unexpected.

I believe that the media generally reflects our interests and attentions as a society, so I can't pass the blame solely to reporters. I think we all either participate in the Black Friday masses or like to hear about it in order to feel superior for not having participated in it. This post, I'm realizing, has been a long attempt to say this: I wish all of us didn't focus on our possessions and our appetites quite so much.

That's all ... feel free to resume shopping, and thanks for stopping by. :)

Thursday, November 23, 2006


For once, I'm not too full at the end of a Thanksgiving day. I managed to anticipate the point of fullness without continuing to eat well past it. I'm not one to gorge on food on a regular basis, but I do tend to overeat on Thanksgiving and Christmas just because there is so much food on the table. Sometimes I've felt like I ate six elephants or nine Hummer H2s. Not this time, thank goodness.

Wherever you are tonight, I hope you stopped at three or four elephants and that you've had a good Thanksgiving.

This looks like fun

What is it? According to CNET News, it's a boat designed to move like a dolphin. Innespace Productions, the manufacturer, describes the craft as the only submersible that does not take in water to keep itself below the surface. They claim the experience of riding in the boat is akin to "underwater flight" and that the unique design allows for incredibly dynamic motion. Whatever it does, the FAQ has more details, and it sure sounds cool, even if you can't buy one.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Good advices

A coworker recently sent me twelve points of advice from Al Golin, the chairman of GolinHarris International and a pioneer in the public relations industry. Mr. Golin's list makes for thought-provoking reading for anyone who goes to work each day, not just for people in the media and communications world. Here are a pair of quotes Golin selected that I really enjoyed along with my thoughts on his list. Be sure to check out the whole article for all the details.

  • President John F. Kennedy: "The time to fix a roof is when the sun is shining."
  • British author G.K. Chesterton: "I've searched all the parks in all the cities and never saw a statue of a committee."
I feel like these quotes represent a lot of what Golin wanted to share. Taking personal responsibility and continuing to make a sincere and diligent effort to face challenges are rewarding and effective choices to make on a consistent basis. Golin's list seems to boil down to the following: Keep moving and keep trying. Be honest and earn trust. Don't boast."

I think that's great advice, so I thought I'd share it. My title above alludes to a favorite R.E.M. song of mine, Good Advices, from Fables of the Reconstruction.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Staying alive

I ran across two how-to lists this morning: How to survive a plane crash and how to survive a long fall. The former list is actually fairly practical. The latter one is interesting and possibly useful, but under an even more challenging scenario. Here's what I gleaned from both articles:

Surviving a plane crash:

  • Wear tennis shoes and long pants.
  • Sit on an aisle over the wing.
  • Pay attention to the preflight safety speech.
  • Tighten my seat belt.
  • Brace for the impact.
  • Keep calm as much as you can.
  • Use a cloth to protect yourself from smoke.
  • Get as far away from the plane as possible after the crash.
Surviving a long fall:
  • Bend your knees.
  • Land feet-first, preferably on the balls of your feet.
  • Relax as much as possible.
  • Cover your head.
I found other facts in these articles interesting, too. For instance, the odds of dying in a commercial plane crash are 11 million to one. As many as 90 percent of crashes have survivors. People have survived falls from several thousand feet, but falls from even 20 to 30 feet are frequently fatal. I'm not sure how much of this information would have helped the survivors of Oceanic Flight 815, but it does make for an interesting read.

License to kill

Note: Minor spoilers if you have not seen Casino Royale, but no major details.

Did you know that British secret agents really do have licenses to kill? As I think many of us Bond fans have long suspected, though, it doesn't quite work the way it does in the films. Here's a little more detail on the statute:

"The secretary of state can authorize persons to commit acts abroad for which they may not be held liable under British law. By implication, that includes all criminal law relating to the use of lethal force. Only two constraints are listed. It must be the case that the acts are 'necessary for the proper discharge of a function of the Intelligence Service' and that their 'likely consequences will be reasonable' with respect to their purpose."
I didn't tally an official body count when watching Casino Royale last weekend, but I can say with some confidence that there are several killings committed by Bond that would have a tough time passing credulity for both of these categories. The very first one in the film, though, would pass muster, I think, because it's specifically ordered by M, 007's boss. The killing Bond commits on the runway also would safely qualify, I think.

In the films, Bond's license to kill generally seems to be ongoing, but in real life, this kind of exemption from legal liability is only granted in six-month periods. Agents are not given any reprieve from the laws of other countries, though, so they're in hot water if they commit a crime and get arrested outside the U.K.

The law in question officially granting authority for criminal activity to secret agents was passed in 1994, but this practice was commonplace and clandestine prior to its becoming law. The article seems to indicate that MI6, 007's branch of the service, wasn't even officially recognized as an agency of the government until fairly recent times.
"Prior to 1994, agents acting outside the British Islands would officially have been exposed to ordinary U.K. law. However, the Intelligence Services Act codified what had essentially been de facto internal policy regarding covert action abroad. No MI6 officer has ever publicly admitted to (or been charged with) killing an enemy of the state, but a few assassinations are believed to have taken place during World War II and the early Cold War. Officially, SIS banned the internal origination and approval of assassinations in the 1960s. In any case, contrary to popular imagination, paramilitary action has long been carried out almost wholly by British Special Forces or foreign third parties, not by MI6."
In Fleming's novels, Bond uses his license to kill 38 or 39 times. (Apparently there is some uncertainty regarding one of the killings.) Daniel Craig's Bond, on the other hand, easily takes out more than half of that total during Royale alone.

Monday, November 20, 2006

No more Jack?

Would Lost really kill off Jack? One of the reasons I love this show is it's willingness to do almost anything, but I wonder whether the producers would willingly go that far. (Granted, if Matthew Fox bolts to do more movies, there really isn't much they could do to prevent it.)

As I've previously mentioned, my wife and I have an "untouchables" theory regarding Jack, Kate, Sawyer and Locke, meaning that the show will never get rid of these characters. That theory can't cover when stars decide to get out while the show is in its prime, though, so we'll have to wait and see.

Maybe all of this is one reason why the producers awkwardly introduced two new cast members at the beginning of this season by pretending that they had been part of the crash survivors all along. Note to the producers: If Fox or anyone else leaves, please do kill them off or somehow explain their absences. Don't recast the roles. (I don't really think they're that foolish, but it has crossed my mind.)

VHS: 1976-2006

No additional VHS videocassettes will be produced, ever. The Video Home System, long obsolete in the DVD era, is gone.

I personally can't remember the last time I purchased a VHS-format movie, and apparently I'm not alone. As Variety magazine indicates in this obituary to the format, VHS ultimately died of "loneliness:"

"After its youthful Betamax battles, the longer-playing VHS tapes eventually became the format of choice for millions of consumers. VHS enjoyed a lucrative career, transforming the way people watched movies and changing the economics of the film biz. VHS hit its peak with "The Lion King," which sold more than 30 million vidcassettes Stateside."
I can't say I'm shocked that videocassettes have fallen out of fashion or that they will no longer be produced. How long will DVDs last as the successor to VHS? Here's a bigger question: How long will it be before there isn't a container at all for our entertainment? The technology is already there, minus the bandwidth needed for wide acceptance of movie and TV downloading, and society has already been struggling to deal with what it means when you can't confine entertainment to a box. Until these questions are answered, DVD, you are on the clock...

Galactica Recap: Hero

Note: Spoilers below if you have not seen this episode.

Battlestar Galactica continues to produce excellent episodes week in and week out. This week's installment, Hero, led the series in an unexpected direction: backward.

Guess who helped start the Cylon ambush on the 12 colonies? That's right: Admiral Adama. We've been allowed to believe for two-plus years that the Cylons' return and resulting annihilation of the colonies were completely unexpected. Apparently not, as this episode reveals that the military leadership for the colonies, known as the Admiralty, suspected that the Cylons might be regrouping prior to their attack.

I had two reactions to this discovery. The first was, "Wow, that makes me look at so much of the story differently." The second was a feeling that this revelation was a little clumsy. I'm willing to forgive a lot on this series because it is so excellent nearly all the time, but I couldn't completely shake the feeling that this was a recent addition to Adama's past, not something that the writers have hidden from us all along. Lt. Novacek's arrival seems a little too perfectly timed to me, even knowing that the Cylons let him escape.

I still generally like this plot development, but I wish it could have been introduced more gradually. Wouldn't one of Adama's first responses after the attack have been to feel remorse at not doing more before the Cylons arrived to destroy civilization? Still, this new piece of knowledge makes Adama's miniseries speech that much more powerful: “The time comes when you can't run from the things you've done.”

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Education is stalking you

You've been warned.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Casino Royale reviewed

I'm going to risk overhyping Casino Royale in sharing my thoughts now that I've seen it. I went in with high expectations based on the great reviews I'd seen, and those expectations were exceeded. That is a rare event for me when seeing a much anticipated movie.

Royale is an exceptional and spectacular film, and it is easily one of the best Bond movies ever made. I'm going to allow some time to pass before I reflect on exactly where it stands against the previous films, mainly because I suspect it may be better than all of them.

This is a beautiful and brutal movie. The cinematography is elegant, the action sequences are extraordinarily well produced and the dialogue and character interactions are refreshing and vivid. Even as a longtime Bond fan, I will confess that these are attributes that have been missing from the series for a long, long time. If I knocked anything about Royale, it would be that it opens a little clumsily up until the end of the title sequence. It is top notch the rest of the way.

Once you see the movie, I think you will know what I mean when I say that comparing Daniel Craig to anyone except Sean Connery would be comparing apples to oranges. He brings elements to the character and person of Bond that have never been on screen before. Especially during the first hour of the film, he is a physical force and a man possessed. I was stunned by how he moves and by how consumed he appears with succeeding in his mission. Never does Craig seem along for the ride from one one liner (or sexual conquest) to the next: He is immersed, toe to scalp, in being a young, arrogant and powerful secret agent. It works. Boy, does it work. Craig has quickly made the character of Bond his own in a way that no one other than Connery has, and he may well surpass even Connery if given the time, the films and the solid writing needed to do so.

If you are willing to see some minor spoilers, keep reading. If not, stop here.

The last several Bond films have seemed to me to be insistent on contributing signature elements and trademarks to add to the canon of 007 excitement. They have largely failed, and those attempts have come off as mere tribute and even parody, at times, of the earlier movies.

This is not the case with Royale. The torture scene that has generated a lot of discussion prior to the film's release is original, creative and realistic, and it is intense in a way that Bond films rarely are. It is a modern answer to the laser aimed at Connery's crotch in Goldfinger, but it isn't derivative. It may even become more iconic with time. I found myself wincing and entralled simultaneously in watching it.

Also akin to Goldfinger is a brief chase scene midway through the film. While it echoes the manner in which Connery wrecks his Aston Martin by being decieved by one of Goldfinger's clever traps (a mirror that reflects his own vehicle's headlights), leaving the lovely and strong-willed Eva Green strapped to the asphalt in the middle of the night for Craig to nearly run over is a stroke of creative brillance. I never saw that coming, and I felt myself gasp when it happened. Royale is full of these kinds of new thrills, not with poor imitations of earlier movies.

Not long after Craig signed on as Bond, I began wondering if the Bond series was nearing its end. Die Another Day was a loud and overdone movie, in my opinion, and the move to hire Craig and reboot the franchise smacked of desperation to me. No longer. I left the theatre last night feeling like the story of Bond is nowhere near a conclusion, but only beginning. I cannot wait to see where the series heads next, because it will clearly be fresh and uncharted territory.

Friday, November 17, 2006

More Royale, Craig props

Casino Royale may be in danger of excessive hype, but I'll weigh in with my thoughts tomorrow. Here's another rave review, entitled "Jackpot," from the Boston Globe:

  • "In Daniel Craig, the Bond franchise has finally found a 007 whose cruel charisma rivals that of Sean Connery."
  • "The new James Bond is quick and muscular, and there is nothing remotely camp about him."
  • "No slight to Connery, Timothy Dalton, or Pierce Brosnan, but there’s something to be said for casting an actor of depth and creative daring as Bond. Craig hardly overplays the role, but he gives us proof of the young 007’s arrogance and immaturity, shows him tempered by mistakes, and even lets him fall in love with believable reluctance followed by commitment."

Galactica: Hero

What would it be like to spend decades in captivity by a ruthless enemy? We may get a glimpse tonight, as Battlestar Galactica introduces a character from Admiral Adama’s past: Lt. Novacek (above) was apparently presumed dead following a secret mission, but it turns out that he’s been in the Cylons’ clutches since the original war nearly 40 years earlier.

Gaius Baltar was irrational long before arriving aboard a base ship, and his sabbatical has only made him worse. Who knows if Baltar was reasonably sane prior to encountering Number Six on Caprica prior to the holocaust, but we can safely assume that decades of imprisonment and isolation have left their mark on Lt. Novacek.

It appears that tonight’s episode will explore a common theme on the show, one that Adama mentioned during the show’s miniseries: “The time comes when you can't run from the things you've done.” Did Adama miscalculate in sending Novacek to his fate, or did he err in assuming that Novacek was dead?

Glowing reviews for Casino Royale

The reviews are flowing in now for Casino Royale, and they are very favorable. Here are a few highlights courtesy of Yahoo! Movies:

  • "The best Bond since Sean Connery."
  • "Eleven years ago director Campbell made GoldenEye, the first of the Brosnan Bond pictures. Casino Royale trumps it every which way."
  • "...Craig, speckled with facial cuts, plays Bond with an almost bruised virility..."
  • "...should help newcomers and older viewers rediscover what made Sean Connery's early Bond movies the best of the series"
  • "Casino Royale doesn¿t play as dirty as the Bourne films, but the whole thing moves far lower to the ground than any of the newer Bond flicks."
  • "There's one whopper of a reason why Casino Royale is the hippest, highest-octane Bond film in ages, and his name is Daniel Craig."
  • "...flat-out one of the best Bonds ever."
This is a better reception than I can recall most Bond films getting, but there's always a danger of hyperbole when it comes to new 007 movies. In my opinion, this is welcome news for a beloved film franchise that had, to say the least, shown its age in recent memory and, at worst, appeared very tired and worn out. Long live 007!

007: Top to Bottom

In honor of the release of Casino Royale, I've compiled my personal ranking of Bond films from best to worst. How does my list compare with yours?

  • From Russia With Love (1963)
  • Goldfinger (1964)
  • Thunderball (1965)
  • For Your Eyes Only (1981)
  • Dr. No (1962)
  • GoldenEye (1995)
  • On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
  • You Only Live Twice (1967)
  • The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)
  • The Living Daylights (1987)
  • Octopussy (1983)
  • The World is Not Enough (1999)
  • Live and Let Die (1973)
  • Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
  • The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
  • Die Another Day (2002)
  • A View to a Kill (1985)
  • Diamonds Are Forever (1971)
  • Moonraker (1979)
  • Licence to Kill (1989)

A Better Bond Than Connery??

Will Daniel Craig be the best Bond since Sean Connery? I think maybe he will, and I'm not alone. Some in the media have even gone as far as saying Craig is the best Bond ever now that the film has opened. I think that's bold, and I'm not about to make that claim without having even seen Casino Royale myself. I do like what I have seen of the film via previews, but it will take one heck of a performance to eclipse Connery's long shadow in the franchise.

Can he ever top Connery? That may be the challenge, as this story pointed out:

[N]o matter how good Craig might prove to be in the role, he may never be able to surpass Connery’s defining performance in many fans’ eyes. 'From all the reviews, I think [Craig] will be the best Bond since Connery,' [said one fan.] 'But Craig is interpreting a character that was formed by Connery. All the others have had to follow that template, and whoever follows Craig will have to as well.”

Nonetheless, I am thrilled that Casino Royale's debut is finally here. Will anyone dare say it is the “Best Bond Since Goldfinger,” the Bond against which all Bond films are compared? (I personally prefer Thunderball and From Russia With Love.) Some have already said, as expected, that Royale is the best since Goldeneye, but tracing back all the way to 1964 for what many consider the signature 007 movie is a longer distance to travel. We'll see soon. I'll post my personal review on Saturday.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Best Bond Since: Moore?

Will Daniel Craig be a better James Bond than Roger Moore? This is a question that will likely take the passage of some time to answer fully. It isn’t fair to compare the two actors when Craig’s debut film has not even launched yet and Moore has seven contributions to the franchise.

That said, I don’t think the media will be likely to make the “Best Bond Since Moore” claim because Pierce Brosnan has been so widely loved in the role. I do think he may ultimately be a better Bond than Moore, though. Why? He’s young enough and rugged enough to look the part. Moore really wasn’t even with Live and Let Die in 1973, and it didn’t get any better as he grew older. I think Craig has the opportunity to operate in Sean Connery’s determined, sophisticated and clever shoes while still incorporating some of Brosnan’s not-as-goofy-as-Moore-but-still-clever wit.

Will any critics claim that Casino Royale is the Best Bond Since For Your Eyes Only? That’s not likely, even though I would argue that it is Moore’s best film by far, because FYEO is 25 years old at this point. Regardless, it may very well be true. Looking objectively at the series in recent decades, I think the best films, in chronological order, are: FYEO, The Living Daylights, Goldeneye and The World Is Not Enough. Octopussy might perhaps merit an honorable mention, but it pales in my mind with the rest of this class. So does Tomorrow Never Dies, even though it is a respectable entry. I fully suspect that Royale will be better, based on what I have seen, than Daylights and TWINE. It is likely to outclass Goldeneye, if you ask me, but that is a taller order.

I would have to say that FYEO and Goldeneye are the highlights of the James Bond film series since 1981. Royale should be safely in good company among those films and possibly even higher. We’ll see very soon.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Best Bond Since: Dalton?

I said earlier this week that Timothy Dalton (right), a talented actor with ample stage and film experience, might have been the right Bond at the wrong time. That's probably true to an extent. Is history about to repeat itself with Daniel Craig? I personally don't think so, but here are my thoughts on why the comparison might be apt.

Dalton replaced Roger Moore, who arguably stayed a little too long in the role and certainly took James Bond in a campier direction than his predecessors. Perhaps as a reaction to Moore and an intention to turn the series toward a more serious direction, the producers tapped Dalton for 1987's The Living Daylights, which I consider a reasonably solid contribution to the franchise and a vast improvement over A View to a Kill, Moore's swan song. I think where Dalton's faults ultimately lay were in his approach to the role: He was too serious where Moore was not serious enough. Dalton was a believable secret agent, but he lacked for the sophistication and playfulness that are trademarks of the Bond film series. In my opinion, he was a Boy Scout turned ruthless secret agent who offered plenty of grit but not enough cool. Bond needs a good bit of both.

Is Craig walking into the same situation? Not exactly, but it is fair to say that each actor who has replaced a "legend" as James Bond has struggled to fill 007's shoes. George Lazenby replaced Sean Connery and failed so miserably that Connery returned for one last film. Dalton's demise was not completely related to his performance, but he too did not escape Moore's shadow for long. I certainly consider Pierce Brosnan as a legend in the role, and for my money he is second only to Connery as Bond. At the same time, Brosnan is passing the torch to Craig at a time when the film series has strayed to far toward Moore territory again. Die Another Day did not showcase space stations and laser rifles, but it did display Brosnan windsurfing and driving an invisible car.

Here's where the difference lies for me: Craig just isn't Dalton. Both are talented actors, but from what I've seen so far, Craig exudes a level of cool and sophistication that Dalton never possessed. Some have called his arrival the introduction of Steve McQueen to the character of James Bond, and I think that's a fantastic move for the series. I think Craig will have a shot to have a lengthy run as Bond, but the proof will be in the pudding beginning this weekend.

Will Casino Royale be better than The Living Daylights? Well, I don't think any media will be likely to make the comparison because 19 years after its release, Daylights doesn't command a major presence in the franchise's canon. I imagine Royale will be a better film because of the efforts that have been made to reboot and improve the franchise itself, but don't overlook Daylights on the whole if you are looking to catch up on Bond films you've missed.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Best Bond Since: Brosnan?

Obviously, Daniel Craig (left) won the title of Best Bond since Brosnan as soon as he landed the role (since he's the only one since Brosnan at this point), but how will he compare? My guess is that the media will spend most of their time describing how different Craig is in the role compared to Brosnan, not whether he is better or worse.

This may be an unfair analogy, but perhaps Brosnan's portrayal can be seen as a more serious version of Roger Moore's Bond, who brought more than his share of campiness to the role. Brosnan's films are full of double entendres and quick quips throughout, but he never approached some of Moore's silly shenanigans. (Have you watched Moonraker or A View to a Kill recently? I hope not.) Brosnan also brought a ruggedness and credibility to the character of Bond that Moore rarely exhibited.

If it's true that Brosnan is a more serious take on Moore, perhaps Craig will emerge as a more realistic (but not necessarily more serious) take on Connery. Connery is my favorite Bond, now that I'm farther removed from the Moore movies of my youth, and to see Craig follow this route would be most welcome, in my opinion. Connery was plenty serious until his last film, Diamonds Are Forever (yes, I'm disregarding Never Say Never Again), and that served him well. He exhibited a well-timed sense of humor while focusing on getting his job done on behalf of the Queen, and he was sophisticated and credible throughout his original run in the series. That said, no one is still buying that megavillains have hidden launchpads and space ships capable of capturing astronauts in flight. In other words, perhaps Craig will bring a level of realism to the role that will actually be real: a story that is compelling and could actually happen in the real world.

Where does that leave Casino Royale in relation to Goldeneye, Brosnan's first movie? I think it is all but assured to earn the title of the Best Bond Since that 1995 film, but will it be better? My guess is yes, but we'll have to wait until this weekend to know for sure. More to come...

Steer clear

The sign on the right says "new stick driver." Consider yourselves warned. ;)

Monday, November 13, 2006

A little perspective

I plugged my annual salary into this wealth calculator today. Try it out and see where you fall. According to the list, I rank in the top 0.9 percent of the world in terms of income. Granted, I'm only the 54,214,557th wealthiest individual worldwide, but that's out of 6,000,000,000 people. Six billion people.

I'm not pointing this out to boast. Why would I, when there are so many people who outrank me? There are plenty of people I know who make more money than I do, much less the 54 million I don't. What struck me today is just how much I personally take for granted and how much I focus primarily on my own circumstances. (I'm not being humble as an act of self-flagellation--I know lots of us fall into this category, but this raw number really illustrated the point for me.)

My wife and I were talking over the weekend about how much we all tend to focus on what we know, on the things right in front of us. Our immediate field of vision, literally and figuratively, is what concerns us. What does it matter that places such as Darfur (Wikipedia entry) exist when we have tangible distractions that are so much closer to home?

It should mean everything that places like this exist and that we are ignoring the squalor and suffering taking place elsewhere. It's awfully easy to tune out when the pain and anguish in the world is one remote control click away.

I realize I'm pontificating a bit, and some of that is a result of my own guilt at living in the comfort I do when others would be happy with far less. Is it my place to singlehandedly change all of this? Undoubtedly, no, but it is my place, I think, to think about how I could live my life a little differently. What would my life and our country look like if we kept the rest of the world in mind while we went about our business each day?

Casino Royale: The Best Bond Since?

I'm excited about the debut of Casino Royale, the latest installment of the James Bond film franchise set to open this Friday.

As I've mentioned previously, this reboot of the 007 storyline initially had me concerned, but no longer. From the preview advertisements I've seen, Daniel Craig looks to be a convincing and realistic secret agent, and the movie appears to be light on CGI and heavy on characterization and drama. (Well, as heavy as Bond movies get, but the presence of both is saying something).

The initial buzz appears to be very positive and heavy on hyperbole. New Bonds typically receive a similar welcome to newly elected presidents: They get largely warm praise at first, and only in hindsight does the picture become clearer.

Timothy Dalton, perhaps the right Bond at the wrong time, earned a good reception with The Living Daylights in 1987 that soon cooled. Pierce Brosnan was greeted with enthusiastic acclaim that survived his four-film run as Bond despite increasingly weaker scripts. (Sean Connery and Roger Moore obviously were well received in their debuts while George Lazenby was not, but I only saw their debut films in hindsight, not in the theater.)

That leads me to two questions I intend to ponder this week. What film will critics hail Casino Royale as "The Best Bond Since ..."? Which actor will Craig be compared to as "The Best Bond Since"? The answer to the latter may be more compelling than the former, but we'll see. More to come.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Preds bounce back

You know things are good for the Preds when earning a split against the Wings and Avs has me wanting more. After being shut out 3-0 by Detroit Friday night, Nashville responded with a hard-fought 1-0 shutout win of its own over Colorado.

Scoring a total of one goal in a two-game stretch is a concern to me, but I'm hoping it's a symptom of the six-day layover between games prior to Friday. Still, it's great to earn two points with only a single goal.

The Preds took a lot of penalties this weekend, and it cost them against the Wings. They survived it against the Avalanche, but only because Chris Mason stood on his head making saves. The Preds take the road again this week to face Columbus on Wednesday, and here's hoping for fewer penalties and more offense. Go Preds!!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Galactica recap: A Measure of Salvation

I think Battlestar Galactica is getting better by the week right now, and last night was no exception. This has been a strong season so far, but this episode may be my favorite so far. It was eerie watching the Colonial crew take their first look inside a Basestar, especially one decimated by a mysterious illness.

I am searching for an explanation about one apparent discrepancy, though: Why are the basestar interiors we've seen this season radically different from the ones we saw in Kobol's Last Gleaming during season one? I think the practical answer is that Galactica's budget has been increased or adjusted since that season, but discrepancies such as these bug me without an explanation that justifies the storyline. Perhaps there are two classes of basestars that serve different purposes, maybe the first season basestar was an older ship or maybe we've just seen different levels of the same ship design in season one and season three, respectively.

I liked the explanation for the virus, but is this really something that the Cylons could not quickly overcome? They may not diagnose human diseases frequently, but they've created synthetic people that are visibly indistinguishable from the real thing. That technical expertise makes me think that their civilization would easily be able to deal with this kind of virus. On the other hand, perhaps time (possibly as much as 3,000 years) and something about the beacon where the virus was found allowed the virus to mutate in an especially lethal form.

It was interesting to me to see the deliberations about whether the Colonials would use the virus as a weapon. Even in a holocaust situation, I think there would have to be some consideration for the ethical issues genocide would represent, but I think I would have sided with Apollo and Laura Roslin in electing to use the virus against the Cylons. It would be a horrible and difficult choice, but one made in an almost impossible crisis of survival. I disagreed with Helo, but I could also understand his reasoning. I do think Adama let him off too easily by doing nothing in response to his sabotage, an action that likely caused casualties and/or fatalities and put Galactica in major jeopardy. I hope there will be some consequences for him in the future, even though I like his character.

Regarding the torture scenes with Baltar and D'Anna, anticipation was, for me, worse than the reality. James Callis was convincing in his agony, but the Cylon methods were more vague and centered ambiguously more on pain than I imagined. D'Anna operated more out of necessity than wrath, which is a logical assumption given her need for more information, but I had expected (and feared, honestly) the latter leading into the episode. Baltar is in a more precarious position than anyone, except possibly Colonel Tigh, and I am curious to see what his options are as the story continues.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Wings shut Preds down, out

The Red Wings were the better team on the ice last night in Detroit, period. They defeated the Preds 3-0 and effectively answered the bell in this first matchup of the young 2006-07 season.

Detroit came out flying in the first period while Nashville looked a half-step behind. The Wings carried the play for much of the period, and the Preds took too many penalties. Robert Lang tallied on the power play to give Detroit the only score it would need. Nashville gave up an unnerving 20 shots in the opening frame, too. The Wings also heavily outperformed the Preds in winning faceoffs, which never helps.

Niklas Lidstrom added a score early in the third that gave the Wings an extra cushion. Though the Preds never tallied, they did sustain increased pressure during the period before allowing an empty-net goal late.

Here are a few isolated observations I had during the game, too:

  • Martin Erat continues to play extremely well. He is as physical as ever, and his stickhandling is spectacular at times.
  • Josef Vasicek had his first ice time in a few weeks returning from injury. I didn't notice him in the first period, but he was aggressive in the second. It's good to see him healthy again.
  • Henrik Zetterberg is blazing fast. He blazed past Paul Kariya in one stretch, and that's a tough thing to do.
The Preds finally return home tonight with a chance to bounce back against the Colorado Avalanche. Nashville's overall and road winning streaks had to end eventually, and here's hoping that the team can get back on the right track quickly after this setback in Detroit.

Galactica: A Measure of Salvation

What's in store on Battlestar Galactica tonight? As usual, I've done my best to avoid anything more than the teaser description, but I'm looking forward to tonight's episode. I'm happy to have the Colonials off of New Caprica and back out in space, and I am enjoying seeing the new storyline gradually unveil.

I hesitated before posting the photo (above) from because it makes me uncomfortable. I consider James Callis (Baltar, seated and wailing in the photo) to be an excellent actor, and his performance in the episode preview following last week's show really wigged me out. He is very evocative, and my imagination ran wild imagining what the Cylons must be doing to him to make him respond that way when being tortured. I never particularly enjoyed (or watched) Xena: Warrior Princess, but I think Lucy Lawless has made a great addition to the cast. She doesn't physically or emotionally resemble the character of Xena at all. I think that's a good thing because I can't see a Xena-type character working very well on Galactica.

I'm especially curious where the writers are ultimately going with the series and with the search for Earth. Normally, I'd think this search and its eventual conclusion would run the high risk of being cliched and overdone, but not on this show. What surprises do they have in store for us?

Several sources on the internet this week have assumed that the foreign device the Cylons found last week originated from Earth. I may need to watch that episode again because I didn't really see evidence of that other than it being an unknown object (which wouldn't necessarily point to Earth). I guess we'll see.

Preds, Wings say hello

The Preds (9-3-1) and Red Wings (10-4-1) meet up at Joe Louis Arena tonight for what promises to be a great early-season matchup. Both teams are red hot and among the heavyweights in the NHL's Western Conference, but for maybe the first time, they are truly equals. Statswise, they look awfully balanced, and their rosters are much more comparable than at anytime in the pre-salary cap era. Tonight should be the first in what will likely be eight exhilarating games that will help decide the Central Division.

I'm wondering how the Preds will come out after a long six-day break. They were playing extremely well through Saturday's road win in Minnesota, and I hope the time off will not change their momentum. The Wings have arguably the two purest scorers who will take the ice tonight in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, but the Preds are a balanced offensive force these days playing a much more physical game. This is another measuring-stick game for the young Preds, even though the players will likely deny that. Go Preds!!

Newspaper of the future?

CNET News is reporting that this may be the newspaper, or e-paper, of the future and that the future may arrive as soon as 2008. The photos above are of a roll-up laptop screen that can stream digital news content.

My first questions are how much will these cost and how long will it take for them to become affordable, but the technology is spectacular at first glance. The 2001 film Minority Report featured a similar, though more advanced type of newspaper, even though it is set decades from now.

For now, I would just settle for having full Tennessean PDFs downloadable to subscribers each morning, but the idea that this innovation may eventually replace the newspaper is pretty intriguing. It might save the newspaper industry at some point, if these devices become ubiquitous.

Sammy Hagar moves to Forest Hills

I can't actually confirm that, but it looks like the Red Rocker may have taken up residence in one of Davidson County's most affluent suburbs. Or perhaps someone is filming a Cannonball Run sequel. I took one of these photos at the intersection of Granny White Pike and Tyne Boulevard last night.

Never forget: If you want love, you've got to give a little.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Lost review: I Do

If you haven't seen this episode, spoilers await below.

I thought last night's episode of Lost was fine. Really, that's about it. As with most of this season's episodes, I enjoyed this installment, but it was not riveting for me the way that previous episodes have generally been. Here are a few of the highlights, according to me:

  • Jack to Ben, after refusing to perform surgery to save Ben's life: "At least you won't have to be disappointed [that I refused] very long."
  • The assessment of Kate's fiancee about his future bride, who thinks her name is Monica: "That's what I love about you. What you see is what you get." Boy, did she have him fooled.
  • Eko's posthumous guidance to Locke, via the carving on his staff ("Lift your eyes and look to the north"). Hopefully we'll see where that leads before too long.
  • "I love you" and "I love you, too" by Kate and Sawyer.
My favorite element of the episode was Jack's eventual decision to perform Ben's surgery and his bold move to threaten to let Ben die in the midst of the procedure. I loved this retaliation by Jack, and his initial refusal to perform the surgery perfectly concealed his motives from the Others. I do have one gripe, though, with the cliffhanger setup. If I were Ben, I would have had Pickett hold Kate in the observation room with a gun to her head throughout the procedure to ensure Jack's cooperation. It seems perfectly logical for Ben to use this kind of insurance policy, and he has no real reason to trust Jack. It seems like a plot flaw to me that Ben doesn't do this. A simple solution would have been to have Kate and Sawyer escape prior to the beginning of the surgery, so they couldn't have been used as leverage.

I'll keep watching in February to see where all of this leads, but I'm not desperate for more the way I have been previously with Lost. The recent episodes have been adequate, but they are not delivering on the prior seasons' intrigue and excitement in the same way. Success is a tough act to follow, and will see in a few months whether Lost can regain its previous energy and suspense.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Encouragement from abroad

The New York Times has an insightful article this evening on international response to yesterday's election results. I found this story encouraging because it indicates to me that other nations may be willing to embrace an America that is not so insistent on calling all the shots. It may yet be possible to restore some of the global goodwill that our nation had once possessed. Here are a few abridged selections from the story:

As word of the American midterm election results and, later, the resignation of Donald Rumsfeld spread across the globe, criticism of the United States turned less shrill, less gloating, more textured than in the past.

It was not, of course, a presidential vote — though some thought it should have been. But the tone of criticism seemed more conciliatory than on previous occasions when President Bush has stumbled, in part because his power is now seen as waning irrevocably.

For Europe, it’s good news, because America will be forced to be less of a solitary aggressor.

As the Italian foreign minister, Massimo d’Alema, put it: “One cycle is over — the cycle of preventative war, of unilateralism, has ended in great failure. That’s the truth, and that’s how it is perceived by the American public opinion.”

“Europeans have tended to look at the U.S. as being synonymous with Bush,” said Karsten D. Voigt, the coordinator of German-American relations in the foreign ministry. “This shows that the reality is far more diverse and multi-faceted. I hope it will lead to a diminution of anti-American prejudice.”
I hope so, too. As the story makes clear, there are pitfalls to and obstacles in this new moment in American politics, but I still can't help but feel that we have made at least one step in the right direction by acknowledging that America is a nation of many voices and (indirectly) that the world is bigger than America's view of it.

(By the way, it's free all-access week at the New York Times, so you can see the full story without registering.)

Lost: I Do

I don't know what to expect from tonight's Lost mid-season finale episode, "I Do." I love this show, period, but I also really hope that there are some tantalizing revelations this evening. I don't want everything spelled out. I do love the mystery, but I'd like for it to be a progressively evolving mystery, one where some questions are answered and others are raised. That hasn't felt like the case lately.

I have a feeling that we'll be left wondering until February (when Lost returns) whether Sawyer is alive. ABC's teaser brief suggests that Pickett, the member of the Others that Sawyer keeps sparring with, may try to kill him. I hope not because as much as I often loathe Sawyer, I also find myself liking him and his contributions to the show.

My wife and I have discussed Lost at length (our friends may need Losticil to keep up with us), and one thing we love is how well the writers catch us by surprise on a regular basis. Almost anything is fair game (sometimes to a fault), but tonight's episode may test our untouchables hypothesis: Our theory is that Jack, Kate, Locke and Sawyer are exempt from the possibility of being killed off because they are too integral to the show. Many shows have these characters, but Lost has displayed more willingness to dispense with important characters than most, so it's an important distinction that this "core four" may never leave the show. We'll see the latest test to that theory tonight, but I'm not expecting it to be proved false.

The ABC teaser also indicates that Jack will decide about helping Ben by performing surgery to treat his spinal injury. I'm curious to see what he does and to see how much we find out about the consequences of his choice tonight. I can't decide whether Juliet was sincere about her clandestine communications with Jack during last week's episode or whether she was merely testing to see if he could be trusted to perform the surgery.

As an aside, I sure hope someone gives the castaways on the beach something to do. They've been especially dull so far this season.

A lesson in humility

I rarely allow someone to put words in my mouth, but associated press reporter Paul Haven just put my thoughts on paper even better than I could have in his story today on international response to yesterday's election:

"From Paris to Pakistan, politicians, analysts and ordinary citizens said they hoped the Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives would force President Bush to adopt a more conciliatory approach to global crises, and teach a president many see as a "cowboy" a lesson in humility."

I agree, and this is a big reason why I have gradually shifted from being a moderate Republican in 2000 to a progressive independent by 2004 (and beyond). Are we the strongest nation in the world? Yes. Does that mean that we can be the bully in the global schoolyard? No. Regardless of our strength, we need to work with other nations to build consensus about how to solve the issues we face and then go tackle them--rather than trying to tackle them on our own and then trying to convince the world that we know best.

That said, I sincerely don't want to spend the next several weeks arrogantly basking in the Republicans' losses last night. We all, including myself, could stand to have a little humility and to make an authentic attempt to try to face the problems that confront us and make this country a better place to live and to make it once again a respected presence on the world stage.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Today's forecast

I may be the last person on the Internet to come across this photo, but it cracked me up today. Yes, I have a very dry sense of humor. Judging from the weather outside, Gary's stone would be quite wet if he had placed it in Middle Tennessee sometime yesterday. Here's hoping Gary's stone dries out by tomorrow.

Lost Action Figures

OK, I'll admit it: These Lost action figures look like fun. My inner five year-old just got giddy. Yes, that's the Hatch in the second photo.

By any other name

Changing the name of Dickerson Road, if you ask me, is putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. I would like to see this much-maligned strip of crime, debauchery and violence improved, but renaming the street isn't going to do that. It will just take awhile before "Skyline Boulevard" becomes synonymous with prostitution, drug dealing and other crimes. You can't cure the flu by renaming it bronchitis.

In the book The Tipping Point (a great read, by the way), Malcolm Gladwell discusses the "broken window effect" and crime on the New York City subways in the 80s. NYC reduced crime on the subways by enforcing the law, especially instances of people hopping turnstiles, vandalizing property and robbing passengers. The result is that NYC subways are now much safer to use than they were 20 years ago.

How does this apply to Dickerson Road? There are a ton of broken windows, absolutely. Rather than applying a band-aid, though, let's figure out a way to deal with the roots of the problem, not its symptoms. Let's eliminate the incentives to commit crime and to abandon this street first, and then rename it when the environment is improving. Otherwise, in 20 years, someone will be asking to rename Skyline Boulevard.

Put down that paper

Slate's Jack Slater is on to something, I think: Don't read the paper this morning, at least the election coverage.

"Save yourself some pain and cash and don't buy the Tuesday newspaper. If you subscribe, do yourself a favor—tear out the first half of the A section and discard it. If you can purge your paper of its editorial section without looking at it, do so, and go directly to the sports section, which unlike the style, metro, and business sections, will make no attempt to talk politics."

I should have followed this advice for the past two months. I care about my home state, my country and the world at large, but have I learned much of anything constructive about political candidates since summer? Not really. What have I learned? Mark Foley has issues, both Bob and Harold are conservative and want you to think the other is not, a non-issue (gay marriage, when state law already defines marriage as between a man and a woman) is commanding attention that would be better focused elsewhere and political parties will do just about anything to keep or acquire power.

I've already early voted, for what it's worth, but I would still like to trade the past several weeks of attack ads and lofty rhetoric for honest, constructive discussion. Here's hoping that, despite the nonsense, we're generally becoming more informed and reasonable as a nation and, hopefully, willing to work together. I doubt anything in today's paper or on the air will confirm this hope, but I can still dream.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Galactica: Torn

Season three of Battlestar Galactica is getting better as it continues, if you ask me. The current episode, Torn, is my favorite so far this season. I'll be honest that I prefer Galactica when it's out in space, though I appreciate the creativity and audacity of the New Caprica storyline. Here's what stood out to me in Torn:

  • Sometimes timing on Galactica is a bit too perfect. To think that the Cylons and the Colonials came upon the same nebula that points toward Earth near the same time is probably a stretch, but I still like where the episode headed. My larger grief with this kind of coincidence still lies with season two, when Starbuck conveniently returns to Kobol from Caprica during the same time that Colonials happen to be present to pick her up.
  • I love the glimpses we're seeing of the Basestar. They're not showing it all at once, and they're teasing us just enough to make us want to see more. Even though the sets have a sci-fi look to them, I still found a freshness in them that didn't seem too cliched. The bridge, in particular, was intriguing. One question, though: Why does this Basestar seem to look so different from the one in Kobol's Last Gleaming in season one? Are we seeing a different level aboard the ship?
  • Bravo to Adama for calling out Starbuck and Tigh. They've been through a lot, but I guess I just don't understand blaming your liberators for your pain. It was good to see Kara seek out redemption later in the episode. I love Michael Hogan's portrayal of Tigh, and I hope his spiral continues only because Hogan makes it so ugly (in a good way).
  • I'm very curious to see where Baltar is headed, literally and figuratively. He better not be a Cylon. That would spoil a lot of the appeal of his conflicted character for me. It would also make his semi-witting collaboration with Six in the miniseries less dramatic.

Crackberry: word of the year

The World College Dictionary's word of the year is crackberry, which describes addiction to Blackberry devices. This seems a little late to me because I remember hearing this phrase in 2003 or 2004 at the least, but I guess this means that crackberry has officially entered our societal consciousness (or at least that, on average, this word doesn't have to be defined at least somewhat often when used in conversation because people know it already).

It's interesting to me when a word transcends its original meaning over time. How often do you picture the fruit (above) before you picture the phone when you hear this in conversation? The first time I've thought of the real berry before the smartphone berry in a long time was this past weekend, and that was because I was in a winery that featured blackberry wine. (It wasn't very good, if you ask me.)

Is there a word for Treo addiction, because that's my particular strain of this ailment. Treoitis, perhaps?

Blog Math

Technorati released its latest "State of the Blogosphere" report this morning. What strikes me about the report is how much blogging is not happening. Look at these numbers:

  • Technorati is tracking about 57 million blogs right now.
  • Half (55 percent) are considered active, but "active" means they have been updated one time within the past three months. That does not seem active to me.
  • That figure means that 25.6 million blogs are outdated and not being used. (I think that is a conservative estimate.)
  • Technorati tracks 1.3 million blog posts per day. That seems to indicate that only a small fraction of the 57 million blogs update even once per week (at best it would be 9 million blogs).
  • Of late, the number of blogs tracked doubles every 236 days.
  • At least 100,000 blogs are created each day, more than one per second. Using the numbers above, that means that roughly 45,000 blogs are being created every day that will ultimately be abandoned and just sit dormant out there on the Web.
I want to examine this in a subsequent post in more detail, but this report supports a notion I've held for a long time: The Web is only an effective communication tool when you commit to consistently using it to communicate. If you don't, you're just filling (and wasting) space.

Thanks to Micro Persuasion for alerting me to this report's release. (This is a solid communications blog, if you are in the need for one.)

Sunday, November 05, 2006


There are a lot of really great treats at the Kitchen, but this can't possibly taste good. To be fair, I didn't try it, but yuck.

Taffy time

The Kitchen's taffy machine is right out front for customers to watch it at work. It's pretty hypnotic if you watch it turn for awhile.

Must ... have ... taffy ...

Candy nirvana

Candy nirvana
Originally uploaded by rrob13.

The Smoky Mountain Candy Kitchen does its best to channel Willy Wonka, Gatlinburg style. There are no Oompa Loompas, but there's plenty of homemade candy. The Kitchen's signature item is its taffy, and it sells more varieties of chocolate candies with assorted fillings than Russell Stover. If you can't find something you like in here, you have some serious issues with candy.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Crime doesn't pay

Crime doesn't pay
Originally uploaded by rrob13.

According to this sign I spotted today, though, it does have its benefits. I decided not to test the policy.

Baby billboards

I spotted this window display of baby T-shirts while walking around in Gatlinburg today.

I know these shirts are intended to be cute and lighthearted, but they struck me as just too much. I respect anyone's freedom to hold their own beliefs, but making a religious billboard out of a baby rubs me the wrong way. Isn't the choice of whether to believe--or advertise--ultimately up to the child (or shouldn't it be eventually?)?

Plus, is there nothing about Christianity that can't be bought or sold in America? I guess I'm not truly offended by this, but it sure seems tacky.

Oh yeah, I'm in Gatlinburg.

Life Is Good...

Life Is Good...
Originally uploaded by rrob13.

This is our cabin's deck, complete with lovely view and excellent hot tub. This has been a very fun and relaxing trip so far.

Friday, November 03, 2006


The wife and I are headed to Gatlinburg this weekend. We'll be arriving there shortly.

Driving though Pigeon Forge (OK, riding), I'm pondering this question:

If Panama City is the Redneck Riviera, is Gatlinburg the Redneck Rockies? Hillbilly Himalayas? Kuntry Kilimanjaro? Clearly I have overextended the metaphor.

Strange shelf-fellows

Look closely at this photo I took recently at Walgreen's. Who decided where their inventory is stocked, and what was their motive? Dental hygiene products, including toothpaste, toothbrushes, floss and dentures, are located right next to the colossal rows of candy.

Have dentists quietly assumed control of Walgreen's to try to shame people out of eating candy? Is this a public service announcement by Walgreen's to remind you to clean off all of that sugar when you're done, or is it a diabolical attempt by the candy lobby to sabotage well-intentioned plans for good dental habits by seducing customers with their best treats?

The answer is likely none of the above, but this product placement still intrigued me. Ah, life and its mysteries.