Thursday, July 31, 2003

Well, G.W. finally admits that he is to blame for the 'sixteen word' comments re: Iraq and African uranium in the State of the Union. He also admits that his tax cuts may be responsible for "25%" of the looming deficit. Let's all put that behind us and move forward, can we?

Oh, and he also mentioned in passing that that administration lawyers were working to ensure that the term "marriage" would cover only unions between men and women. Well, now I feel so much better about the prospects for America's future. Don't you?

Let's not bother about those U.S. troops still be killed and wounded in Iraq; don't wonder about the fact that Afghanistan is basically being run by a group of warlords and it's not really safe anywhere outside the capital (and even there..well, you know how these things are!); sure the jobless rate is bad, but just give the man another four year term (and be sure to actually vote for him this time, since the Supreme Court really doesn't want to have to help out this time around). The important thing is that his Administration is going to make sure that those pesky gays (and aren't we all 'sinners' after all?) don't do anything like getting married. It really does put a cramp in our family values. Hell, just ask the Pope!

Sleep well, America! George W. Bush is in charge.

Oh, and don't bother him for the next month or so, okay? He wants to relax down at the ranch. There's really nothing going on that won't keep until he feels like coming back. Is there?

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

You never know what you’ll find when you channel surf! Sometimes there will be absolutely nothing and then suddenly you’ll find something amazing. Last night was one of those occasions.

Now Donna and I tend not to watch the so-called “reality” shows on the major networks. I mean, face it, they are about as far from real as you can get. It’s really a false reality and the producers never play fair with either the audience or the players. Hell, you have a better chance at winning the jackpot in Vegas or Atlantic City than winning whatever the ultimate prize is on any of those programs.

We did get hooked, or rather I did and kind of dragged Donna into it, back in 2001 with Fox’s MURDER IN SMALL TOWN X. I loved the show and was even taking part in the online message board. Of course, being a big mystery fan it was a no brainer, but still fun.

Anyway, as I was searching for something interesting last night, I happened up what looked like the opening of any other show like BACHELOR or BACHELORETTE. About two-dozen male model looking types standing around a pool with one female. I was just about to click away when the announcer came on, along with the show’s title. BOY MEETS BOY! No way….

Yes indeed folks, the first (as far as I know) gay reality series, where one lucky guy gets to choose from fifteen hunky fellows. The one gal is apparently the man guy’s friend (we refuse to use the FH designation around here) who helps him narrow down the field, by acting as confidant as well as talking to the other players. Also, as is typical in this type of thing there is something unknown by anybody except the show’s producers. They have put a couple of ringers in the field. At least two of the contestants are actually straight men, pretending to be gay. The straight guys are in the ‘closet’ for this competition, trying to get the bachelor to fall in love with them. To be honest, I really didn’t care for this part of the game, and I certainly hope we don’t get one of those Jenny Jones situations where somebody freaks and violence breaks out.

If you get a chance check out BOY MEETS BOY on Bravo, which is on Tuesday night at 9:00 here in the East.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Damn! That was pretty quick, huh? The Pentagon stepped back and cancelled the idea for that 'future market' in assassination and terrorism. Think ol' Donald lost any side bets?

For folks who care this is my latest review for Joe Bob. I'm loosing count but I think it is either the fifth or sixth one, with not a single one actually getting posted on the website. *sigh*

LONG FOR THIS WORLD by Michael Byers; Reviewed by Steve Chaput
Published by Houghton Mifflin; ISBN 039589171X
Dr. Henry Moss is a physician, a researcher and a family man. In the course of this novel (the first by Byers) all of these facets of his life and more come into play. Plagued by self-doubts and the feeling that he is letting his family down, Moss nonetheless continues his research into the aging process. Working with two young patients, stricken with Hickman’s Syndrome, a serious disease which causes rapid aging in its victims, Moss discovers something that might not only help victims of this ailment, but could also unlock the aging process itself. Not only could the doctor help thousands of otherwise doomed people, but he could also become quite wealthy. It is this dilemma, which forms the central theme of this novel.
Moss is a good man, but like many parents he wants to leave something for his children. He desires to give them a future without want or worry. The financial security that his discovery could bring him, and in turn them, is something which makes Moss reconsider the medical ethics he has always believed. Does he possibly risk the life of one of his young patients and at the same time his medical license, or does he take the chance that he can both save a child and ensure his own well being?
Set in late-1990s Seattle, Moss sees those around him becoming rich in the midst of the ‘’ boom of that era. He understands too well the sacrifices that he and his wife have made to give even a comfortable lifestyle to their two children. His daughter Sandra, a star on her high school basketball team may or may not be good enough to get a scholarship. Darren, his 14-year-old son, is typical of every boy of his age, but his father knows that he has the potential to be so much more.
Byers brings all of these characters, along with Moss’ wife Ilse (also a doctor), into focus and makes us care about them. He also introduces a wide-range of others, some only briefly, but all realistic enough so that we feel for what they are going through. We wouldn’t care about any of this, if he weren’t able to bring these people to life. They suffer, surmount personal and physical obstacles and sometimes succumb to temptation. Still we recognize in them people we encounter in our own lives, so we understand why they do what they do.
I have to admit that when I read the cover blurb the idea of ‘loosing’ this review copy entered my mind. It certainly was not my idea of a ‘thriller’ and that is what I am supposed to review. I’m glad now that I decided to stick with it, since it was one of the most ‘human’ novels I’ve read in a while. This is owing to Byers’ creating more than a framework that he places around his theme of ‘medical and moral ethics’. He is a talented and creative writer and I hope that he’s not one of those ‘one hit wonders’ who can never again achieve that single moment of greatness.
Three stars.

Boy, kind of a serious novel for a change. Anyway, I'm half way into the next book and I'm pretty much enjoying this one, which is more of your classic thriller (even though it too looks at a serious issue).

I just saw that the Consumer Confidence Index was down and Wall Street was surprised. Who do those guys talk to anyway, besides each other? I don't know a soul who thinks the economy is doing better. Then again, I tend to hang out with Democrats, so what do we know? :-)
So let me get this straight. The Pentagon (the folks doing their darndest to keep this country from harm) are setting up an online betting..uh, marketing site where folks can, invest on the possibility/probability of assassinations, and terrorist acts. Yeah, buddy! Where do I sign up?

Oh, can only bet on these events in OTHER countries and if you mention the possibility that some current elected official may come to harm the FBI, Secret Service or Homeland Security agent could be knocking on your door. Oh! Well, that's very different.

If this was the scenario of of a movie, every reviewer would be ranting about the believablity of the script. Hell, it sounds to me like one of those internet rumors that will eventually be shown to be B.S.

There seem to be some folks in Congress who don't appreciate a little initiative on the part of our Military Establishment to make a few bucks and 'secure possible intelligence'. Right! Stay tuned!
If you have a chance to catch SEABISCUIT, you really should. It has to be one of the best films that Donna and I have seen in the last year or so. The theatre was almost filled for a Sunday matinee at 12:30, with another screening at 1:00pm.

Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges and Chris Cooper are ALL absolutely fantastic. Bridges and Cooper age over twenty years in the film, and the movie allows us to see these guys years before they ever met. Unlike many films, it takes almost the first half hour to set things up, introduce each character and show their backgrounds. It isn't all backstory, where the character has to tell in monologue how they got to be where they were. Man, when they name the Oscar nominees this film is going to have dozens on that list!

William H. Macey steals every scene he's in as "Tick Tock McGlaughlin, a radio 'race' reporter who should have been real, if he wasn't! The races, even when you know what happened, are exciting and in those sections that were not widely known (unless you read the book, which I didn't) catch you totally off-guard.

I don't consider it a 'movie of substance', but rather a solid movie that entertains and touches you. I thought it did a fantastic job of using archival footage, actual radio broadcasts and re-enactments to create a feeling of what it must have been like in another era. David McCullough's narration (both Donna and I thought it was John Cancellor :-) also added to the feel, using at is did actual passages from the book. Bravo!

Great cast all around, even for small roles. Gary Stevens is really good as another jockey. He is initially Maguire's chief rival and later his good friend. I'd never heard of him before, but he certainly delivers.

Oh, it's also funny to see Elizabeth Banks (who plays Betty Brant in the Spider-Man films), as Jeff Bridge's wife. She and Tobey Maguire are certainly getting to know each other.

As I told a guy waiting to see the next showing, it is the most up-lifting movie I've seen in years. It just makes you feel good when you walk out of the theatre.

I've heard that the film wasn't the top box-office winner this past weekend, but I think that this is one of those films 'with legs' as they say. When many of the other movies have been pulled this one will still be getting folks into the theatre.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Last Friday I had the afternoon free so I watched another western from the GREAT AMERICAN WESTERN collection I mentioned previously.
KANSAS PACIFIc (1953) is a dramatization of the construction of the railroad through Kansas just prior to the Civil War. The area was divided between those who favored the Union and those 'state rights' and pro-slavery advocates who supported the Confederacy. Seeing the difficulties being thrown at the railroad the Union Army "unofficially' sends in a construction engineer (played by Sterling Hayden) to assist. Naturally, as these things go events rapidly build from destruction of property to the murder of railroad personnel. Eventually the Army must send in troops.

Hayden stars with Barton MacLane as the railroad's cheif engineer, and Eve Miller as his daughter (and as the only female in the cast) the love interest for Hayden. One of the villain's henchmen is played by Myron Healey, who you may recall was in RAGE AT DAWN, with Randolph Scott as one of the Reno brothers. That fella was all over the place and proof that Hollywood loved a 'good' badguy. :-)

I didn't recognize him in pencil-thin moustace and minus the mask at first, but Clayton Moore has such a distinctive voice that I couldn't help but realize that he was playing a bad guy. You have to remember that at this point Moore was having contractual problems with the folks producting the LONE RANGER TV show and was temporarily replaced in the role for which he will always be remembered. Guy still had to pay the rent!

Not a classic, by any means, but like many other 'B' westerns of the time well-acted and well produced. Director Ray Navarro was very busy in the 1940s - '50s cranking out dozens of westerns for a number of studios. His last project was in 1964 when he directed "When Strangers Meet" (also released as "Dog Eats Dog") with Jayne Mansfield and Cameron Mitchell. Now there's a legacy!
Condolences to the family of Bob Hope, who passed away at the age of 100 yrs. Inspite of Hope's rather conservative politics I never had any problems with the comedian. I never saw hope, during my service years, but spoke to some other vets who did see his shows. It was more the fact that the man traveled to see them and brought along others, rather than the show itself that many recalled.

I'm sure that the networks are working overtime to update the specials they showed only a few months ago in celebration of his birthday. Also, get ready for any actor/entertainer over the age of 60 to have a microphone shoved in their face for 'reaction' (no matter rather they personally knew or worked with the man).
"GUILTY, GUILTY, GUILTY" Megaphone Mark from Doonesbury back in the '70s.

Jeb Stuart Magruder, the deputy director of Nixon's 1972 campaign, revealed in a PBS documentary to air on Wednesday that Nixon personally ordered the bungled break-in at the luxury Watergate Hotel complex. According to Reuters, today!

I saw Magruder interviewed yesterday and nearly leaped from my chair. We all knew it and it's fantastic to finally hear it admitted.

Now, all in favor of digging that sonovabitch up and kicking the corpse, raise your hand! :-)

Friday, July 25, 2003

As I explained yesterday, I have always been a fan of westerns. Some of my earliest television memories are of getting up early on a Saturday morning to watch the old Hopalong Cassidy movies. I have a photo of myself at around the age of four dressed in complete cowboy apparel, Stetson, six-guns and all. In fact, the broken nose I have was the product of taking a header down the stairs as I tried to descend wearing that very same holster. I don’t ever recall seeing Roy or Gene have that problem. :-)

Anyway, last weekend I picked up a 2 DVD collection of western films. This was Vol. 1 & 4 of a fourteen (last time I checked on called THE GREAT AMERICAN WESTERN. There were eight movies on the two disks, and they make for perfect viewing on those Thursday’s when I don’t have to be in to work until 3:00pm.

Yesterday, I decided to watch two of the four Randolph Scott films included in first volume DVD.

THE FIGHTING WESTERNER (1935) was originally released as ROCKY MOUNTAIN MYSTERY, based on the Zane Grey novel “Golden Dreams”. Scott plays a mining engineer who seeks to discover what happened to his cousin, the previous engineer at a radium mine. It’s easy to see that this film was made when some actors were still trying to change from the ‘silent movie’ style of acting to a more realistic style suitable for sound. The camera still closes in for long reaction shots of the actors frozen in position with their eyes wide, as if waiting for the dialogue cards to show up. Even then Scott seemed a natural for this type of role, with his rugged good looks and easy manner of talking. A young Ann Sheridan plays his romantic interest, and the film has enough action to for a film twice its hour length. Basically a mystery, I was actually surprised at the ending, which to me comes out of nowhere, but was still entertaining.

The second film, RAGE AT DAWN (1955) can also be found on video as SEVEN BAD MEN. This was written by Frank Gruber, a well-known writer of the pulps and later western novels, besides being a screenwriter for dozens of features and television series (including 77 SUNSET STRIP). Scott is showing his age, with his sandy brown hair showing more than a little gray. He’s still quite believable in the action scenes, although a bit slower in the fights. This film supposedly based on the real life activities of the Reno brothers, a family of outlaws who led the way for the later James and Dalton gangs. Some film buffs have said that the opening scenes, showing the Reno’s escaping from a bungled bank robbery and ambush by towns people, may have inspired a similar scene in Sam Peckinpah’s classic THE WILD BUNCH. Forest Tucker, Edward Buchanan and Denver Pyle also star in this film, which features Scott as an undercover detective sent to infiltrate and capture the Reno gang. Of course, as can be expected in this type of film, things can’t be simple and Scott finds himself falling in love with the Reno’s young sister, played by Mala Powers. Some folks may remember Powers from the classic ‘50s sci-fi film “The Colossus of New York”. Actually a solid bit of entertainment, with a nice scene where Scott is helpless to stop the lynching of the three surviving Reno brothers in a jail.

I’ll be reviewing more westerns as I get a chance and I also want plug Cowboy Pal a great website for anyone interested in the western films of the 1930s thru 1950s. This site has photos, posters, audio and video clips as well as links to dozens of "official" and unofficial webpages for many of the major western stars. I loved checking out some of the comicbook covers, featuring Gene, Roy, Hoppy and many others. I have spent hours at this site and I doubt I've seen a third of what's available. "Pecos" Steve says check it out!

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Having grown up in the 1950s & '60s it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that some of my first idols were cowboys. Way back then your typical young boy didn't really consider that the image might be idealized. Nor that many of the 'heroes' we saw on both the TV and big screen were fictionalized versions of men who robbed, gambled, murdered and were not the kind of guy you'd really want to know too well. The real Wyatt Earp wasn't much different from some of the men that he jailed, except that for a number of years he wore a badge.

Back then, even if we had known, I doubt it would have dampened our enjoyment of the TV shows and movies we saw. As most people realize, the westerns (pre-WILD BUNCH) were pretty basic morality plays for the most part. There were the good guys (most, if not all in white hats) and bad guys (who might not wear black hats, but often needed a shave, while our hero always found time to whip out a razor and clean himself up each day). The 'indians' were could be either bad or good, depending on the series or the plot of any given episode.

The women, Annie Oakley and Dale Evans aside, were generally there to be captured, flirted with by the comical sidekick or revealed as deceitful, saloon hall dancers who were secretly working for the villain. (This last female, would almost inevitably fall in love with the good guy and when she tried to betray or escape the bad guy she was usually killed, only to die in the hero's arms.) Not that any of this mattered, since they were generally never seen again anyway. Besides in our pre-puberty years the females only seemed to get in the way of the 'real' action, so it was better when they weren't around. (Okay, I admit that "Miss Kitty" was kind of strange, since she seemed able to fend for herself most of the time and it was usually the Marshal who went looking for her. Of course, GUNSMOKE was an 'adult' western and aimed at an older audience, so you had to just accept it.)

I just realized that what had been intended as a short introduction to my talking about a couple of movies I saw today, has turned a bit long-winded. My apologies!

Since I have to take care of a few other things right now, I'll try to get back to my original topic later. I'll be talking about Randolph Scott (RANDOLPH SCOTT!! Stetsons over your hearts, gentlemen. If you please!).

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Well, personally I doubt the death of Saddam's sons and one of his grandchildren, will do much to change things in Iraq. While the Administration may get some mileage out of 200 plus soldiers with helicopters taking out 6 guys, I have to think that it's pretty much a big shrug to most Iraqi civilians.

Those who followed Saddam will consider the three martyrs and try to avenge their deaths. It won't be long before we see posters of the sons being marched throughout the Mid-East during protests. For those who are happy to see any members of the former ruling faction dead or imprisoned it will quickly become evident that this will not change anything of importance.

Don't get me wrong. I shed no tears over their deaths, no more than I would for any other human being who looses their life needlessly. I just don't think that the Administration should see this as a milestone. How many of Bin Laden's sons, cousins, etc. did we read of who were killed or captured and he's still running around somewhere?

American troops are still being killed and this will not makea them safe.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Just want to cover some of the comics I picked up last Friday. Some I've mentioned before and there were also a couple of 'first issues' that I want to comment on.

FALLEN ANGEL #1(DC) Peter David introduces another mysterious character into the DC universe. Time will no doubt tell who she is, or may have been, but the story was interesting enough to bring me back for at least another issue or two. Peter also gives us a half dozen other characters, all of whom probably have equally mysterious backgrounds. He successfully gives us a hint of things to come, shows us some of the characters and locals he'll be playing with, plus actually presents a 'done in one' story. Many writers would have dragged this plot over several issues, but PAD uses it simply as a way to show us some of the themes he'll no doubt be expanding upon. It may be too early to tell, but I'd recommend FA to any Peter David fans. Personally, I'm hoping that neither PAD nor the Powers That Be at DC feel it's necessary to have a 'guest appearance' by some major DCU character in the next couple of issues. Give FA a chance to find itself and then bring in the guest stars.

PAD was once my favorite mainstream comics writer, but I have to admit that I really have not been following most of his books for the past couple of years. The notable exception being the always fun and unpredictable, SPYBOY for Dark Horse. The current SPYBOY: The M.A.N.G.A. Affair continues the string of wonderful issues, with this one centering on SB's Japanese counterpart SPYGIRL. You just have to love it!

ARROWSMITH #1 is written by another writer who has moved up and down my Top Ten creator list over the past few years. Like David, Kurt Busiek seems to be able to create in his sleep. The range of characters he has introduced is amazing. From the ASTRO CITY heroes and the normal citizens of that city to the revamped and rebooted second-string heroes & villians of THUNDERBOLTS, Busiek never fails to bring something interesting to his stories. With ARROWSMITH, he creates yet another world where trolls and dragons exist alongside everyday folks. In an alternate world/universe the use of magic (and creatures of myth) are almost everyday occurances, but there are still areas where they are special. In one such town, young Fletcher Arrowsmith is not interested in growing up working with his father, but rather wants to go off in search of adventure and the chance to fly. While the young men of our world wanted to join the aviators of WWI as they battled the Hun, Fletcher wants the chance to learn magic and fly with the aid of small, dragons in a war that may one day involve his homeland. Busiek shows us a world where the turn of the 20th century industrial age brushes up against the astounding wonders of a never was. Carlos Pacheco and Jésus Meriño produce some wonderful art, which helps bring Kurt's world to life. Highly recommended!

GOTHAM KNIGHTS #43 - I know I said that I would probably drop this title, but seeing the original Batgirl on the cover changed my mind. In flashback, we see Barbara Gordon's introduction to the young Jason Todd. We also see the beginning of events which would lead both of these caped crusaders to their inevitable fates at the hands of Batman's greatest foe. On the strength of this issue, I'm going to keep GK on my pull list at least for a month or so. I'll keep you updated.

That does it for now. I'll try to have some more comic reviews tomorrow.
It was a pretty uneventful weekend at Chez Chaput. Donna and I did some shopping (I needed a couple of new pairs of dress shoes, for upcoming weddings and the Caribbean cruise in September.) on Saturday. Then we spent the rest of the day catching up on laundry, which is made somewhat easier now that we have a small portable washer in the apartment. I still have to go down to the basement to use the dryer, but even then many items we can just hang up.

Sunday we didn't even leave the house, but used the relatively nice weather to give the apartment a nice airing out and do some long neglected housekeeping. I can generally keep up with the cat hair and other things, by weekly vacuuming, but I have to admit that dusting has never been a favorite leisure activity. I think the last major cleaning was around X-mas, priior to putting up the decorations and tree.

We'll see if the kids (namely step-daughter Kristina and her partner, Devin) even notice. :-)

Oh, I did get a chance to hit Clockwork Comics last Friday and pick up a couple of weeks worth of stuff. I hope to have some reviews later this afternoon and tomorrow. On Saturday, i also picked up a 2 DVD collection of 'westerns', including four with Randolph Scott and the infamous THE OUTLAW (supposedly directed by Howard Hughes and featuring the full-figured Jane Russell). Hey, eight movies for over 11 hours of western fun & games! I'll have reviews of some of them as I watch them, plus some more comments about my love of westerns in general.
Was just reading an interesting item in the World Press Review today. Seems that some US troops are contracting a 'mysterious ailment' and at least three have been flown back to the states, after local medical personnel could not treat them. The military has placed a news "blackout" on the story and it's unlikely that any American media will be reporting it. The WPR story, with links to a Mid-Eastern new source, says there is speculation that this illness may be caused by troops coming into contact with the left-over radioactive material the US military is using in tank shells. has the article which is filed from Baghdad and sites unnamed NATO sources.

It will be interesting to see if anything comes of this or if we begin to hear more details.

Friday, July 18, 2003

One of my favorite sections over on is the 'International Papers" column. It's sometimes fascinating and often eye-opening to see how events happening around the world and even in the US are perceived AND reported to others. Sadly, Slate doesn't offer a newletter updating the reader as to what issues are being covered at IP, although "Today's Papers" (which I receive daily) will sometimes mention it in passing.

One nice alternative is WORLD PRESS REVIEW, which I subscribed to at one time, years ago. Fortunately, it is now available on line and even has an e-mail update. If you are at all interested in what the international press is discussing (and some things you'll never hear about on any of the cable news channels) click on the link over there and see for yourself. In this day and age, it really does pay to be informed.

Oh, and have a nice weekend. Our big plan is to trick our cat, Babie, into her carrier and then bring her to the vet. I sometimes feel like Jim on the old WILD KINGDOM. :-(
The local 'alternative' weekly, THE NEW HAVEN ADVOCATE almost always has something of interest. Even if the local and state government isn't up to something you can at least enjoy the TOM TOMORROW & TED RALL cartoons in the print edition. (They do offer a link to the TT website, so you can at least see what he's up to that way.)

This week they have an interesting piece by John Dean on how a case can be easliy made to impeach the current resident in the White House. I mean if Bill Clinton was done in by a BJ in the Oval Office, sending thousands of American troops over to Iraq on (to be honest) questionable intelligence (if not out right lies) should at least place George under investigation. I really doubt the Dems have the balls and you can bet the GOP would never allow it, but still it is something we can dream about.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

The U.S.'s new commander for the Mideast, Gen. John Abizaid, was asked about recent criticism by active duty soldiers of the Secretary of Defense. He reminded GIs, "None of us that wear this uniform are free to say anything disparaging about the secretary of defense or the president of the United States. It's our professional code." This according to
the New York Times. Boy, as a Navy vet I certainly recall that our 'Freedoms of Speech' were certainly limited when in uniform, but this really puts the kabosh on any supposed ability to speak one's mind.

Now I haven't read a copy of the Uniform Code of Military, Justice in years, but I don't recall that being one of the areas covered. It was enforced that you could NOT take part in political events (unless authorized) while in uniform and you also had to emphasize that any statements you might make were your own and did not necessarily reflect 'official Navy policy', etc. When I was working for the McGovern campaign (he was a Democratic candidate for President, for you young folks who may not have learned that in school yet ;-) I had to be very careful in never wearing my uniform or identifying myself as a member of the Navy when talking to potential voters.

Of course, this never seemed stop some officers from putting up Nixon election stickers on their stateroom doors or for more portraits of our Commander in Chief at the time from showing up in almost every corridor and ship's office.

It is well known that for years the members of the military have voted and registered overwhelmingly Republican, still it is scary that a field commander would make such a statement. Remember, we're fighting for democracy for Iraqis, just don't expect any for our men & women in uniform.

Sorry! Had to get that off my chest.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Since things are going so well at the moment for the Bush-league Administration I figured I'd get a headstart on the upcoming political season. If you look over to the left (oddly enough) you'll see that I've added both Spinsanity and the Democratic Underground to my links.

Spinsanity, for those of you who don't know, keeps track of what politicians and the media are saying and writing. If they lie, fictionalize or just display stupidity Spinsanity will point it out. They are also fair, since no side of any issue is free from being shown as full of it. Naturally, I prefer my bashing to be aimed at the Right, but I certainly know that there are just as many fools who sit on the Democratic side of the aisle.

Democratic Underground is gearing up for the coming election season with some great "Anybody But Bush" merchandise and plenty of Republican bashing. As I've said before, some of my best friends are members of the GOP, and we've agreed to disagree on so many things. Personally, much of it is all in fun, but it's great to see G.W. starting to sweat.
So okay, first things first! YEAAHHHHHH! AMERICAN LEAGUE!!! HooYah!!!!

Anyway, after ranting for the last couple of days I have to admit that the broadcast by Fox last night was not as bad as I had feared. Still, what's with the stupid 'catcher cam'? You could barely figure out what was going on in some shots. It was as unnecessary as that overhead cam that NBC used for the short-lived XFL games.

Also, I don't know who the chick singer was who sang the National Athem, but wouldn't you try to put on an outfit that not only fit, but was half way attractive? I guess if you want that chubby, fourteen year old look, it worked. :-(
As for Amy Grant, I actually do like her, but think that she was the WRONG choice to sing GOD BLESS AMERICA. I'm not saying that everyone should sound like Kate Smith (whose version is THE best), but Grant does not have the chops to deliver the song properly. It may strike some folks as a silly song, but it certainly is not a romantic ballad and that's how Grant sang it.

I really was surprised that Fox didn't pack the front rows of the event with celebs, as NBC and CBS have done previously. Points for that anyway, and for only pushing one new show. Although ORANGE COUNTY looks like third-generation BEVERLY HILL 90210. Doesn't the WB have a hold on that market now?

Two final things having to do with promoting films during the broadcast.

Could Fox have chosen anyone less suited to push "America's pasttime" then the Scottish Sean Connery? I have a feeling that it sounded like a good idea before the film debutted to less then overwhelming boxoffice. I still want to see the movie and, of course, love Alan Moore's series, but the promo was just lame!

Finally, I find it interesting that the new trailers (at least the TV ones) for BAD BOY II really don't appear to show the movies as a light-hearted 'buddy' movie, but as an action film. Add to that the fact that the other movie being pushed is a big-budget remake of the TV show S.W.A.T. With the rapid cutting it was nearly impossible to tell which film was being promoted unless you were really paying attention. At least SEABISCUIT doesn't appear to have things blowing up, real good! :-)

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Kathy Eder is a high school teacher in California. I don't know her, but she certainly has guts. First check out this article over on CNN.COM on her set of playing cards which are her answer to those printed by the DOD. Then click on this link to buy a set before John Ashcroft hears about it and shuts it down.

Bravo, Ms. Eder! I hope you and your cards are around for a while. :-)
Later tonight, after Donna and I attend our weekly WW meeting (followed by dinner at one of our favorite places) I'm going to plop myself down and watch the All-Star Game. I have to admit that I'm really a half-way fan of baseball and probably couldn't name more than a dozen current MLB players, but I still enjoy watching the All-Star game and generally the World Series (if only to cheer for anyone playing against the Yankees).

Over at Alan Barra has a nice column looking at the rather mediocre (to say the least) team that is being presented. I have to admit that I did my part and actually voted this year (as I did for the last few), mostly by voting for any Boston Red Sox player for the American League team and just about anybody I had heard good things about for any other position.

While I'm sure that I'll enjoy the game, unless it's one of those blowouts or a 'slap in the face' like last year. If interested in how things have changed read This Is an All-Star Team? I couldn't agree more!
Since the political season seems to be gearing up, I'm going to begin adding links over there on the side that may be of interest. Naturally, given my personal political leanings you can safely assume that most will be left-leaning. I sometimes think I'm one of the last folks who still thinks of himself as "Liberal" and isn't afraid to admit it.

The addition of the links that I'll be putting around should not prevent you from checking periodically (even daily if you have a chance) on Elayne's blog, where she has many more links then I would ever consider putting here. She was always the more political, even back in our dating days, so she remains more knowledgable.

I also want to recommend that you check out Mark Evanier's site, where he points out articles by folks on all sides of many issues. Mark is certainly more fair and balanced about linking than I could ever claim to be and that's why I try and check out his page daily.

My first link is to Joshua Micah Marshall's "Talking Points Memo" site where he is generally right on top of (if not leading the way) on major political issues. His recent articles and links to the Texas redistricting scandal, the "Niger/Iraq" uranium non-event and his great coverage of events leading up to the war have been eye-opening. I have to thank Mark Evanier for his repeated links to Josh which finally led to me bookmarking his site.

Oh, and in case anybody is wondering, I'm seriously looking at Howard Dean. I realize that Gary Trudeau is making fun of Dean and his followers, but the guy is making some points. Hell, even Ralph Nader has implied that he will refrain from running should Dean become a serious Democratic nominee. I'm not totally in his camp yet, but have seen few other Democratic candidates who I could strongly support.

Monday, July 14, 2003

Donna and I had a nice time in Mystic, CT this past weekend. She had won contest at last year which included a free room at the Mystic Marriot and tickets to both the Mystic Seaport Museum and the Mystic Aquarium. We ended up not using either ticket, but since they don't expire until the end of the year we still have time. We did get to spend the evening with my best (and oldest) friend Gerry and his wife Pam.

Looks like the numerous Democratic candidates are using the current confusion on Iraq buying uranium from Africa to at least get some airtime. If you didn't read the news each day you would probably never know that anyone was even seeking the opportunity to run against G.W. next year. Hell, elections are messy and expensive things anyway, so maybe Tom Ridge and John Ashcroft can find some Constitutional loophole to abolish them. They could also do away with anything but the Republican Party (not that the ineffectual major Dems are doing anything of interest anyway) and just make things easier all around. According to the folks at Fox we should all be lining up behind the Prez anyway, so with only a single party we wouldn't have to go through the charade next November.

Yeah, I didn't get much sleep last night. How can you tell? :-)

On top of that it's that time of year again. The Head Librarian (or University Librarian, depending on which brochure or directory you check) is doing annual evaluations and as part of that has requested the usual 'self-evaluation'. I think this year, just to keep things interesting, I may say that I'd consider firing myself for lack of interest. It would at least make things more interesting than the usual ten minute meeting where I smile and nod at everything she says. *sigh*

To be honest the only thing interesting me right now is the up-coming All-Star game. Can't believe Fox was able to twist arms and get the MLB honchos and owners to allow the winning League 'homefield' advantage in the World Series. "This time it counts". Hardly seems fair to allow a single game to overturn the traditional way, but then that's why I'm working for living and Fox executives don't have to. much air time do you think new FOX fall promos will get? I'm also sure that there will be "surprisingly" a whole slew of Fox 'stars' sitting front and center and generally looking bored. I wonder if these folks get paid for filling a seat for a couple of hours, along with free tickets, airfare and hotel accomadations? I'd also be curiious if they actually stay for an entire game, or if they are shuttled back to the hotel after their alloted camera moment. I think I have way too much time on my hands, if I'm actually wondering about things like this. :-)

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Picked up the latest issues of a couple of the BATMAN titles last weekend. My reaction to them was quite different and I think I've made a decision to drop one of them.

DETECTIVE COMICS #784 was a solid mystery story, the first of a multi-part arc by Brubaker featuring the other protector of Gotham City, Alan Scott. When a dead body is discovered by former Commissioner Jim Gordon, Batman finds that a serial killer (thought gone and forgotten decades before) may very well have returned. Or is this the work of a 'copycat'? It's not long before the Dark Knight learns that both cases may involve the original Green Lantern. I've always been fond of Alan Scott and it's great to see him outside his usual JSA surroundings. I can't wait for the next issue and find out if the 'killer' is who it seems to be. :-)

This issue is filled out by the last of the Josie Mac stories and acts as a lead in for the 'psychic' police detective's next appearance in GOTHAM CENTRAL #9. I have been reading that title, but I've come to enjoy the Josie Mac stories enough so that I may very well pick up that issue.

BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS on the other hand is a ham-fisted 'touching' tale of Alfred Pennyworth's "fight for life". With only a few nice scenes the story really does little but set up some future storylines and try to make Bruce a bit more human. The story ends with the appearance of some character, who I don't know if I'm supposed to recognize or not. Frankly, I'm not going to be around to find out one way or the other.

The usual BATMAN B&W tale wraps things up with a hard to follow story about an photographc exhibit of Gotham gargoyles. There is some plot dealing with Batman's tracking of a group of kidnappers, who apparently travel around dressed in gargoyle masks for no apparent reason. I think it might be time for DC to drop these back up stories unless they have something worth presenting in this format. Some stories look like they were drawn to be printed in color, but were dropped into this spot just so they could fill up 8-10 pages in the book. B:GK has been crossed off my pull list!

All I could think when I was halfway through JLA #82, was why am I wasting my time even finishing this? After a break, I picked it up again, finished it and wondered again. Basically the previous couple of issued lead up to about five pages of fighting and an all but impossible to follow 'wrap up', which hardly explained what had gone on and certainly not to my satisfaction. Also, it's one of those stories where EVERYBODY gets away in the end and ALL of them vow to return. Not on my dime! (So okay, comics haven't been that cheap since way back when I was reading LITTLE LULU and all those Harvey titles, but you get my point!) Maybe when the promised John Byrne/Chris Claremont storyline begins, but until then I'm not wasting any more time OR money on this book. Pheww!

JSA: All-Stars #3 has another nice tale a JSA member, both in their current incarnation and an shorter tale of an earlier one. This time around it is Hector Hall, the current embodiment of DOCTOR FATE. Not only a nice story of a 'possible future' but also a natural lead in to the good Doctor's forthcoming mini-series. A short tale of the GA version of the Doctor fills out the issue and actually reads like one of those old comic stories. Nice job by Darwyn Cooke as both writer & illustrater of that tale. I continue to be surprised by how much I am enjoying the series and if we never see the 'villain' Legacy (or whatever his name was) again, that's fine by me.

Well, the title FORMERLY KNOWN AS THE JUSTICE LEAGUE pretty well tells you all you need to know about this six issue title. If you were NOT a fan of the 1980s version of the team put together by Maxwell Lord (or rather one of those who read it and then later claimed you hadn't liked it when it became popular to bash the comic and its creators) then this is not going to change your mind. I have never stepped back from admitting that I absolutely loved that several year run and couldn't be happier to see BLUE BEETLE, BOOSTER GOLD, CAPTAIN ATOM, FIRE and ELONGATED MAN (with the lovely Sue Dibney) back together again. This time out when CAPTAIN MARVEL declines the invite Billy's sister is more than happy to have MARY MARVEL sign up. If you have any fond memories of the title under the guiding hands of Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis, you owe it to yourself to at least flip through this first issue. I rate it as one of my Top Five for this week.

I still have a few more titles to rant about, but I'll try to get to those tomorrow. G'night!
If I have a chance later, I'm going to have a few more quickie comics reviews. I find it easier to do a few at a time, when the books are fresh in my memory rather than trying to do a dozen or so titles at once. First I want to mention a couple of movies Donna and I saw on DVD last weekend.

THE HOURS - Was quite good and certainly deserving of the nominations and high praise it received. It really was all but impossible to recognise Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf. She was fascinating, although how close to the actual writer I don't know, since I admit to never really reading much on Woolf back in the days when I had to read some of her work for various English classes.

For me, Julianne Moore stole the film as "Laura Brown", both in the section of the film taking place in the Fifties and those scenes with Meryl Streep. Moore reminded me of several of my mother's friends, back when I was growing up during the same period. Several of them ended up leaving their husbands as the era ended and idea of divorce didn't have near the social stigma it had earlier. Those with whom my mom remained friendly with all but turned into different women all together. Only when I grew older did I realize how miserable they must have been when I first knew them.

Streep was good, but she really didn't do anything 'special' in her role. Comparing this with her turn in ADAPTATION, it is evident that she brought more to the later role. She remains one of our best actresses, but it was as if she was standing back to allow Ed Harris to steal every scene and never really brought her character to three-dimensional life.

It certainly was a remarkable film all told, but I'd recommend it with reservations. Do NOT see this film if you are easily depressed.

On the other hand, GANGS OF NEW YORK was spectacle over substance, but MAN what spectacle! Daniel Day Lewis was absolutely amazing as Bill "The Butcher". You could not take your eyes off him, even in those scenes where he wasn't the focus. Leonardo DiCaprio was surprisingly much better than I would have expected, when I first heard that he was starring in this film. I personally thought he was laughable in TITANIC (actually rewinding the video several times to watch him sink beneath the surface over and over :-). It was his performance, opposite Tom Hanks and Christopher Walken in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN that actually convinced me that he could act.

Sadly, as much as I usually like Cameron Diaz, she really lent little to her role as Jenny. The part could have been recast with half a dozen other young actresses (and to be honest I think a young actress might have been more believable in the role) and probably done better. Diaz actually looked uncomfortable in some early scenes and I have to wonder who else Scorsese might have had in mind before casting Diaz.

Speaking of Scorsese, I really would have loved to see him receive Best Director last year, and feel he was cheated out of it by some kind of 'statement' that handed the statue to Polanski. But, then again, I'm not knowledgable enough about these things to be non-biased.

The film is a 'must see', but just know that it is going to take up a few hours of your time.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Here's my latest Joe Bob review. As always, this is my final draft and hasn't had any editorial changes, which may be made prior to posting. I have to admit to be getting antsy, as this is my fifth review and the first has yet to appear. I've been told they are being forwarded, so I can only hope that I eventually see something. *sigh*

The Second Time Around - By Mary Higgins Clark
Published by Simon and Schuster: ISBN 0-7432-0606-1
Reviewed by Steve Chaput

I guess you might call Mary Higgins Clark the American equivalent of Agatha Christie. While she hasn't come up with instantly recognizable characters like Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple, Clark has certainly cranked out a vast number of best-selling mysteries. Some of them later adapted into TV movies and even a couple of films (WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN & A STRANGER IS WATCHING). When I used to work for a public library in Brooklyn, it seemed that you couldn't have enough copies of her latest novels. They would almost immediately disappear the first day they were placed on the shelves.

This time Clark introduces us to Marcia "Carley" DeCarlo, newly hired writer for the Wall Street Weekly, and a syndicated financial columnist. Carley is also the stepsister of Lynn Spencer, whose husband Nicholas has 'mysteriously' disappeared along with several millions of dollars belonging to Gen-stone, the medical research company he founded. While not exactly fond of Lynn, Carley agrees to help her 'clear her name', while at the same time trying to research an article for her employer on Nicholas' disappearance.

At first it seems a clear case of a con game finally falling apart and the con man (in this case Nicholas) trying to fake his death and get away with his ill-gotten funds. Even Carley, who was impressed by Nicholas enough to invest her own savings with him, believes this is the story until things begin to happen. Things, which can be, interpreted quite differently from how both the police and most of Spencer's investors believe they happened.

Nicholas Spencer, whose supposed death in a plane crash set these events in motion, was the son of a doctor and medical researcher who was working on a radical vaccine which might well prove to be a prevention, or possibly a cure, for not only cancer, but for a number of birth defects. Well liked and respected by just about everyone who met him, a volunteer at a hospice, Spencer seemed on the brink of making a major medical breakthrough until for some unknown reason things began to go terribly wrong.

As Carley looks deeper, both into Spencer's disappearance and the events which led up to it, a number of 'accidents' and disappearances occur which could show that Spencer may not be the conman that most have come to believe he was. In fact, Carley herself is in more danger than she knows, not only from those working behind the scenes at Gen-stone, but from a man driven over the edge by the death of his wife, which he blames on Spencer, and those around him. As Lynn's chosen spokes person, Carley certainly falls into that group and soon finds herself on a killer's 'to do' list.

Clark is a skilled writer and it's easy to see how her ability to create believable characters (both likable and not so) has made her books so successful. The story moves rapidly from the small Connecticut town, where Spencer spent his boyhood, to the fashionable apartments of Manhattan and the boardrooms of major corporations. As we learn more about Spencer, Clark also allows us to learn more about Carley and in the end both of these characters prove to be more than they seem. Three stars.

I'm not really a big Clark fan, but have read and listened on audiobook to several of her previous novels. My mom loved Clark, so I'd like to dedicate this one to her. Enjoy, mom! I miss you.
My long time pal, the lovely Dorian Tenore-Bartilucci, forwarded a link to the library oriented strip UNSHELVED. I immediately discovered that I could indentify with the staff of this fictional public library. I spent close to fifteen years working for a number of small branches in the Brooklyn Public Library system and many of the incidents involving patrons and co-workers ring all too true.

Fellow Blogger (and the gal who introduced me to Dorian and so many other wonderful folks) Elayne Riggs also sent me a library oriented link, but this will also be a delight for all you cat lovers. A great page which actually allows you to see the 'library cats' who roan the stacks of libraries all over the country. Believe it or not some libraries do actually allow felines to take up residence among the books. Check them out at theLibrary Cats Map I think you'll be spending a while. :-)

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

I picked up my bi-weekly batch of comics over the weekend. While I haven't had a chance to read them all I did want to make a few comments on those I have before they are 'old news.'

THE AUTHORITY #3 which seems to be finishing off the "Reality Inc." storyline, and none too soon. Sadly, the Jenny suddenly revealing her true power thing is already old! One more issue and I'm done. Which I actually feel bad about, but Morrison seems to be doing NOTHING new.

ASTRO CITY:Local Hero #3 was excellent. Apparently, this was the story originally scheduled to run in the original series, but was pulled. Nice story about an AC girl learning things about life outside the Big City. Some folks were actually complaining, in the letter column (which I'm glad to see some folks continuing), that Kurt & Co. aren't focusing on the heroes, but rather 'normal folks'. Hell, that's one of the things that makes (and has always made) AC stand out! :-) Actually, I enjoy these stand alone issues as a nice change. Of course, I also look forward to a return to some of the major heroes in the upcoming arc. :-)

USAGI YOJIMBO #67 is the second part of a storyline featuring an artist who can bring to life whatever he draws. He needs the blood of children to make his ink, and naturally Usagi isn't too thrilled with that idea. Stan also gets to 'tip his hat' to the giant monsters we all love. So far he has done riffs on MOTHRA, GIDHRA & GAMMERA, you don't see the creature at the end of the book, but I think that we will see his take on GOJIRA in the next issue. Creepy stuff, but also fun! UY is definetly in my Top Five and some months my #1 read.

TERRA OBSCURA #1 has shades of WATCHMEN, naturally, but I'm really looking forward to see what Moore does with these old GA heroes. When he re-introduced them back in TOM STRONG, I was hoping that we'd see them again. Recommended!

I plan on having more comments on comics in the next few days, and I also had a chance to see a couple of recent DVD releases with Donna that I want to talk about later.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Hope you folks had as nice a Fourth of July weekend as I did. Donna and I got to spend a couple of days with her daughter Kristina and her partner Devin. They stayed with us from Thursday until Saturday morning, when they had to get back to Brooklyn. The four of us went to my eldest sister Pam's house for a cook-out on Friday. It wasn't difficult to stick to our WW points plan, since we took along a veggie platter to munch on.

I also had my first venison in I don't know how many years. Probably a good 30 or so, back when my Grandmother would take me along to the annual Sprague Rod & Gun Club benefit. My Uncle Junius was a member, and also a cook for these feasts. Venison was always on the menu, along with various wild fowl and I recall at least once that they moose on the menu.

Sorry, if this bothers some folks, but while I would never hunt myself I certainly don't automatically condemn those who do.

Later, with more stuff!

Thursday, July 03, 2003

Well, I was finally able to figure out how to place the 'comment' section. I also decided to try a different look for the page. Unfortunately, I didn't realize it would delete the links I had placed before, so I'm going to have to put them up again.

My apologies to those folks with Blogs and sites I have dropped. I'll have to spend some time in the next week or so putting them back.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I have everything set up properly to include comments. I know the Haloscan link is over on the side, so I know I did that part right.

Anyway, this is JUST A TEST!!!!!!

For those of you keeping track, you might be interested to know that the lesion on my tongue, was indeed self-inflicted. Apparently caused by my biting/chewing the edge in my sleep. The oral surgeon recommends I get fitted for a 'soft' mouth guard. I'll be going in next week to talk to my regular dentist and see how much that will set me back.

Thanks to fellow Blogger Elayne Riggs (Hey, sweetie!) I'm going to try and set up a way for you fine folks to comment. If nothing else it will let me know if there's anybody out there, or if I'm talking to myself. :-)

If I don't have a chance later, I just want to wish everybody a Happy and safe Independence Day. Enjoy yourself and if around firecrackers be careful. I know from personal experience, when I was a kid, that it's pretty easy to get burned or set something on fire.

Hell, ask Elayne if she remembers the kids next door setting fire to the apartment across the street from us, back in Brooklyn. :-)

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Pretty damn brave of our one time AWOL reservist President, huh? Telling the Iraqi resistance to "bring it on" while safely seperated by a few thousand miles of ocean and a small army of Secret Service folks.

Reminds you of the rock star who talks big when his bodyguards are all around him, so they can pile on should anybody dare say anything back.
Things are going smoothly here, with the Grad students completing their Finals. When the library staff comes back after the weekend (we're closed Friday thru Sunday) we'll be on "summer hours". We full-time staff have only a half-hour lunch break, but get to split at 1:30pm on Friday and have no weekends until late August. Makes it possible to have some relaxing weekends without using up vacation time. :-)

Donna and I both hit 'milestones' at Weight Watcers last night. We have both lost some weight each week and feel good that we are doing so well. We just have to get into the habit of using the excercise bike every night.

Meant to mention Buddy Hackett yesterday, but got involved with other stuff at work. I always liked Hackett, having seen him on so many Ed Sullivan and other shows as I grew up. My father, in particular, liked him.

Of course, you can't forget him in the great IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD. I keep meaning to pick it up on DVD, one of these days.