Thursday, January 29, 2004

Was sorry to hear that Jack Paar the other evening. Over at MSNBC they have a nice obit, along with a video clip (which requires Windows Video Player). I remember my parents watching him and even sitting with them (on non-school nights) to see him interviewing some amazing people. Can you imagine Leno or Letterman traveling to Africa to interview Albert Schweitzer?

Happened to catch the beginning of REGIS & KELLY yesterday, since the university was closed due to snow. Pat Sajak was sitting in for Regis and had some nice stories about meeting Paar as a young man and actually corresponding with him since he was a teenager. I'd never noticed before, but Sajak really does sound like Paar and you can easily see Paar's influence on Sajak's delivery.
Last night Donna and I caught the final episode of BECKER. Several plot threads were wrapped up and every character had a chance at the spotlight. Sadly, CBS didn't help the show when they took it from it's original successful Monday night slot and then moved it to Sunday, then moving it again to Wednesday's certainly didn't help. Still we'll miss the show.

On the other hand, can anybody explain how the unfunny YES, DEAR remains on the air?

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Okay, let me see if I've got this straight. FRIENDS, FRAISER and BECKER are all ending which will free up ninety minutes of my week. On the other hand, ABC is bring back Reg and "Who Wants to be a Millionaire/super-millionaire" with a $10 million top prize, plus additional 'life lines'. The show will only be on for a week, but as a fan of that program I'll probably be watching at least half the episodes, which will take up that ninety minutes and probably add another ninety on top. Also, for next fall CBS is bringing in yet another CSI spin-off, this one taking place in New York. Between that show and the Law Order trio, plus THIRD WATCH I think my chances of accidentally being seen on television have gone up again once I move back to Brooklyn.

Oh, did anybody else catch the great new LASSIE commercial? I have absolutely no idea what it is trying to endorse (Donna couldn't remember either, but we think it has to do with security or safety, so might be a bank or financial institution), which probably says something bad about being too clever.

Lassie and 'nameless boy' go fishing and are confronted by a cougar. What happens next is unbelievable, so I won't give anything away, but you have to try and catch it if you can. I think it was either during the Golden Globes or just before and I'm hoping to see it again.
If I have done everything correctly I've planted the Muppets 'Terror Alert' level indicator over on the left. Have to be honest and report that I got it from Wil Wheaton's fabulous page (also linkable at left).

Monday, January 26, 2004

I don't know if the problem is here at the University or with Blogger (possibly both), but I wasn't able to post earlier. I'm going to try again and keep my fingers crossed.

I've had this review sitting for about a week and frankly forgot that I hadn't either posted it here, nor sent along to Joe Bob. As with everything I place here I really don't know who (if anybody) reads it but I certainly enjoy myself and get that old egoboo from thinking that somebody might be skimming the site.

To be honest, I can't ever recall reading Robert Ludlum before (and he didn't actually write this book anyway), but know folks who love his stuff. Anyway, here's my latest review, so enjoy or simply skip it and wait for me to ramble a bit about the Golden Globes later today. :-)

Robert Ludlum’s THE ALTMAN CODE: A Covert-One Novel
By Robert Ludlum & Gayle Lynds; reviewed by Steve Chaput
St. Martin’s Press: ISBN 0312289901

Like Tom Clancy, his fellow espionage/techno-thriller author, Ludlum has grown from being a single individual writer into something resembling a ‘cottage-industry’. No longer does he even have to write his own work, but he can simply come up with a plot (or concept) and let other writers take it from there. This is not to knock Ludlum, who has certainly proven with his dozens of international best sellers, that he can crank them out with the best of them. It’s just that by simply seeing his name on the cover millions of readers will take a chance on a book. Publishers and editors would be fools NOT to take advantage of this, witness the endless ‘series’ that Clancy & Co. are putting out almost on a weekly basis.

Also, like Clancy, Ludlum’s work is also being adapted into films, so it is probably only a matter of time until he has a few video games on the market as well (i.e. Tom Clancy’s SPLINTER CELL for Xbox).

Covert-One is one of those ‘top-secret’ groups put together by Presidents to circumvent silly things like Congressional oversight and budget review. The first time I encountered something like that was when I was in high school and was introduced to THE DESTROYER series, by my friend Gerry. It seems that just about every other thriller I read deals with some group or individual created to get around that pesky Constitution, and its separation of powers. In Ludlum’s world, of course, this is a good thing as President Castilla utilizes this organization of former intelligence agents and free-lancers to by-pass leaks and a possible traitor within the administration. I’m not quite clear how he goes about funding this group but that is probably covered somewhere in one of the earlier novels in the series. Things like that always seem to get in the way of the plot, anyway.

Taking as a starting point a real-life incident (the U.S. Navy following the Chinese cargo ship Yin He, in 1993, due to ‘intelligence’ which stated the ship was carrying illegal weapons) Ludlum’s novel has President Castilla ordering a naval frigate to dog another Chinese ship, reportedly taking chemicals (which can be used to manufacture WMD) to Iraq. In order to prevent another embarrassing incident the President orders the operatives of Cover-One to locate a copy of the ship’s manifest to prove the American case before things get out of hand.

Meanwhile, a power struggle is going on within the higher circles in Beijing, with a split between those who favor a ‘human rights’ agreement between the two major powers and those who would like to turn back the clock to a stricter adhesion to Communist doctrine. Stirring things up behind the scenes, in both capitols, is an international conglomerate ready to do whatever it can to ensure its bottom line and higher profits. It falls upon the shoulders of Cover-One agent Lieutenant Jon Smith to retrieve the ship’s manifest in time.
As if this wasn’t enough plot, Ludlum and co-writer Gayle Lynds (herself a noted author of espionage novels), toss in another complication. It seems that President Castilla’s biological father, whom was thought captured and killed decades before by the Communist Chinese government, is actually alive and being detained in a minimum security camp (for reasons never really explained). Realizing that the Chinese government probably wouldn’t want this fact known, Castilla and Cover-One head-honcho Fred Klein figure that the old man will possibly be executed or sent off to another location where he’ll be forgotten until he passes away from natural causes. In other words, it is decided that Covert-One and Smith’s second priority will be to free the President’s father and get him back to the U.S. alive.

The action is fast and shifts from Shanghai to Hong Kong, to Baghdad and back. with stops in Beijing, Washington and several other places along the way. Having never read one of the Cover-One novels before I can’t say for sure who is appearing or reappearing again. It seems obvious that Smith and CIA operative Randi Russell (a woman whose makeup and impersonation abilities should win her a spot on the Mission: Impossible team) are going to have their hands full getting out of this situation.

Lynds amazingly is able to juggle all of this plot and all of these characters, with only a few missteps. There are a few too many coincidents and an escape or two that would have you rolling your eyes in disbelieve if you saw them up on the screen. Still she brings enough humanity and depth to most of the characters that you actually care about what happens to them. Smith is no James Bond and Lynds allows him to show both sensitivity and a sense of humor, despite the dangers he faces. Lynds’ President Castilla and Fred Klein actually standout as the characters with the most depth and the book left me wanting to check in with them again. Three and a half stars (the book loses a half point for the almost cartoonish villain, Feng Dun)

Friday, January 23, 2004

CNN has an article on their America Votes 2004 site on how blogs are shaping (and being shaped) by the current political campaign season. Note is made of Joshua Marshall's "Talking Points Memo", in particular.

Wow, seems we were "all aflutter"yesterday over the Howard Dean 'dance' video. How did I miss that one?
Better late than never, I've added a link to Wil Wheaton's blog over on the left. Elayne and others have had links to Wheaton's site for a while now, but I'd never actually gotten around to it until I decided to vote in the 2004 Bloggies. I've got to be honest here (otherwise, what's the point of doing this thing?) and say that besides Elayne and Mark Evanier, I don't read many blogs on a regular basis. Only when Elayne or Mark link to something in particular do I ever roam into the blogverse. Maybe it's time that I started down that path. There were certainly some interesting places over there on the Bloggie page!
I remember reading more than once that Bob Keeshan's Clarabelle makeup was created (or at least tweeked) by the well known Barnum & Bailey star, Emmett Kelly. Mark Evanier doesn't mention it and I haven't seen that in several other obits I've gone through, so I wonder if it is one of those 'showbiz myths' that get passed around. As I heard it, Keeshan (working as a go-fer and kid rangler for the Peanut Gallery) had on a clown outfit of some kind, but no makeup. One day Kelly was a guest on Howdy Doody and spying Keeshan was upset that he had no makeup whatsoever, so taking Keeshan aside he 'created' what we came to know as Clarabelle. Anybody know for sure?
I never met the man nor, sadly did I ever write him to tell him how much he had influenced me as a child. Bob Keeshan, who was known to generations as Captain Kangaroo has passed away. I just heard the news on the radio and will probably take a few minutes to do some 'net scanning to see what information I can discover. You can read something of his life over at here. Plus, the fact that he was the original Clarabell the Clown on HOWDY DOODY can be found at this site.

I think you have to have been born at a certain point in the 1950s - 1960s to have a real appreciation for what Keeshan represented to so millions of kids. He was someone who you could look up to, yet wasn't above being the target of practical jokes by an odd assortment of characters who called the "Treasure House" home. Bunny Rabbit, Mr. Moose, Grandfather Clock, Dancing Bear and, of course, Mister Greenjeans (played by Hugh Brannum, who passed away in '87).

Goodnight, Captain!
Well, I for one am completely devastated over the breakup of Ben and Jen. What on earth will the entertainment shows do now, between segments on Michael Jackson and whichever awards show is coming up? Pardon me while I go and try to recover.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

A tip o' the hat to Slate's "Today's Papers" for pointing to this article in USA Today which points out some of the inaccuracies, and truth shading in the State of the Union. As TP suggests, all papers should do this type of thing with speeches made by any and all, especially those in power.
I didn't watch the State of the Union speech last night and haven't really read much about it. Do find it fascinating that according to the radio GW felt it important enough to mention that steroids and 'performance enhancing drugs' should be kept out of sports. Did he feel this way when he owned the Rangers?


Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Realized that I didn't explain what it was about MY BIG FAT OBNOXIOUS FIANCE that I liked so much. Frankly, the gal, Randi reminds me of several people I've known in my life, none of which I particularly cared for. I know that she's a teacher, but nothing she said seemed to indicate why she went into that profession or how she feels about it. I know at least one person who teaches because she doesn't have to work weekends, nights (except for occasional parent/teacher conferences) and gets the summer off. I went to library school with two or three folks who became school librarians for the same reason. None of them really liked kids all that much!

You also have to wonder about somebody who thinks pulling a stunt like this on their entire family, even for $250, 000 is fair or excusable. How would/will the family react when the scam is revealed? It's not some simple April Fool gag after all,when you realize people will probably fly in or travel distances, buy gifts, etc. She also demonstrated how shallow she was in the first five minutes of the show when she has to choose three possible fiances from among ten guys. Naturally, she weeds out any Hispanic or Black prospects, going for the most handsome white guys she could, showing who/what she felt her family would automatically accept as 'believable' mates. Of course, her reaction when she first meets Steve (I got a great charge of that, as you can imagine!) was priceless. She is so obviously repulsed by him, even before he starts 'acting' the obnoxious role makes things even easier for him, since just being around somebody who looks like your average comics geek makes her uncomfortable.

Yeah, not the most brilliant thing ever devised, but you know that things will get even better in the shows to come. Also, what type of person would describe her parents as 'scary'? You know America is cheering for this gal to get her comeuppance.

On a political note, I was mildly surprised to hear that Kerry came out ahead of Dean in Iowa, but not as shocked as most news folks seem to have been. I could vote for Dean, Kerry, Edwards or even Clark, with no problem. It will be interesting to see if our junior Senator, Joe Lieberman remains in the race long enough for the Connecticut primary in March. As I've said before in this blog, I've no problem with Lieberman as a Senator and would gladly vote for him again, I just don't think that he would make a good President.
Okay, it's time to fess up to an embarrassing admission. I sometimes watch 'reality shows' on television. Generally, I can't be bothered and Donna has an even lower threshold for crap then I do, so we usually move up the dial and check out Animal Planet, Food Network or one of the Discovery channels. Every so often though, especially when our usual faves are in reruns we'll surf around and end up watching at least a few minutes of this phenomena.

While we had no interest in SURVIVOR, we found ourselves turning in each week for installments of ANIMAL PLANET's' "King of the Jungle", where twelve animal specialists (zoo keepers, vetrinarians, etc.) competed in physical challenges, dealing with various types of wild life and attempting to demonstrate some ability to appear 'on camera' without freezing or making fools of themselves. The winner of this competion (judged by several folks who already have regular shows on Animal Planet and the like) got to film a one hour special for the network in Africa. AP is showing the show pretty regularly in repeats, so you might want to check it out.

Another guilty pleasure, which we watch when we can, aren't really 'reality shows' as they have become known, but are shows dealing with 'real life' situations. ANIMAL PLANET has three versions of the series ANIMAL COPS each covering a different city (Miami, Detroit & Houston), plus ANIMAL PRECINCT (filmed in the five boroughs of New York City) the original show. Like COPS, the film crew travels with members of the Humane Society while they go about their day-to-day investigation of animal cruelty complaints. In New York, the A.S.P.C.A. actually has uniformed members of the NYPD attached to the unit with the full powers of the police. (Btw, yeah, Donna and I also love COPS itself, as well as John Walsh's AMERICA'S MOST WANTED.)

The reason that I'm admitting to this now is to mention that we actually watched and enjoyed Fox's newest addition to this genre, namely the perfectly titled 'MY BIG FAT OBNOXIOUS FIANCE', which premiered last night. We'd been seeing commercials for the show and we caught ourselves looking at each other, as if to see if the other appeared interested. We figured that it wouldn't hurt to check out at least the first show, and while I'm not sure that we'll plan our Monday night viewing around it, it did have enough going for it that we'll probably catch most segments.

If you haven't seen the numerous commercials for the show you can check out this article from Reuters on the show. Nicely sums it up and gives you the thinking behind it. If you need even more info you can go right over to, then click on the "Obnoxioux Fat..." link and check things out. Oh, and just in case you're wondering, we did tune in to AMERICAN IDOL to catch the last fifteen minutes and discovered that the show was forty-five minutes last night. We also found ourselves enjoying it despite ourselves.

You can almost feel your IQ dropping a few points along the way, but it's easy to understand why so many people are tuning in and away from the dramas and sitcoms, which seem to be less interesting each and every season.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

I belong to several mailing lists, including one dedicated to the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. AGENTS characters. Besides the usual bitching and moaning about the lack of new material from DC (currently licensed to use the characters), the members will occasionally bring to our attention other things which might be of interest. Earlier today one of the posters sent along a link a website dedicated to (of all things) a Philippine female super-hero, DARNA.

Checking out the page I was amazed that this character, whom I had never heard of before, had such a history both on the comics page and in a series of motion pictures (live and animated). You can see from the hundreds of illustrations and photos that the character has gone through a number of costume changes, but like her American counter-part Mary Marvel she is still easily recognizable.

Back in 1947 the late Mars Ravelo and Philippine illustrator Nestor Redondo (probably known to many American comics fans for his work on various DC and Warren comics back in the 1970s) created a female comics character, similar in many ways to Mary Marvel. The idea was to create a character who embodied the best of the Philippine spirit at a time when the island nation was just recovering from the trauma of WWII. This flying avenger, originally called Varga, was created for Bulaklak comics / magazine.

A year or so later, Ravelo and the comics’ editor had a disagreement, so he packed up and took his creation along with him. In April 1950, Mars Ravelo and Nestor Redondo re-launched their heroine now called "Darna" The mighty warrior from planet Marte, named after the mythological Adarna bird (a Philippine fairytale, of a magical bird which could restore health to the sick). Darna comes to life when a young girl, Narda places magic stone in her mouth (the art seems to imply that she swallows the stone, but how she reverts back and retrieves the stone I haven't figured out yet :-) and calls out Darna’s name. Darna's adventures were first serialized in the pages of Pilipino comics (Ravelo’s new publisher) and she quickly became one of the most popular comic characters at the time. Despite changing tastes in comics and the emergence of numerous other characters DARNA continues to appear in comics to this day

Within a year Darna found her way onto the silver screen, where she has continued to appear (played by several actresses over the years) from the first in 1951 (simply titled, DARNA) until the 1994 feature DARNA ANG PAGBABALIK (Darna the Return).

All this information is from the 'official' DARNA site created by fans of the comic, with the assistance and cooperation of Ravelo's family.

I was so fascinated by this that I just had to share!

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Just a quick post to promote Darwin Day this Feb. 12th. As they say on the website:

"On this date, and throughout the month, people from all over the world are honoring the life, work and influence of Charles Darwin with events and activities which celebrate science and our shared humanity."

The site has a nice collection of links to further information on science, medicine and educational material for all ages.

Friday, January 09, 2004

It's not that I don't have any sympathy for the women who were attacked by the mountain lion in California, but now authorites there are saying they have killed a lion who was near the location. They don't even now at this time if it is in fact the same lion. Let's just hunt them all down, okay? :-(
Over in this week's New Haven Advocate there's a pretty funny article by Daniel Oppenheimer on attending a Lord of the Rings marathon . Having survived a similar thing years ago, when ex Elayne and I went to a showing of the original STAR WARS trilogy, I can certainly sympathize with all that the writer encountered.

Personally, I re-watched the final hour or so of TWO TOWERS on DVD in the morning, before driving to catch THR RETURN OF THE KING at an 11:30am matinee. Once all three films are released on DVD I'll probably kick Donna out of the house and submit myself to an entire day of Tolkien watching.

I'm not going to post an entire review of RotK, but I did love the film and think that Peter Jackson & Company have created one of the most remarkable cinematic ventures ever. These films are going to be around for a very long time and will probably become mandatory viewing in film classes in the near future, if they are not already. I keep my fingers crossed that the legal problems that seem to have cropped up are fixed and Jackson is allowed to begin working on THE HOBBIT in the new few years. Maybe then I won't hear this little voice singing "The greatest adventure ....." in my head!

Damn you, Rankin & Bass! Damn you to Hell!!
For those interested in the Rowland scandal you might want to check out this article in today's New Haven Register , which discusses the legislatures actions yesterday. If you check out the Register's front page you'll also find a link to another article on four additional companies which have been handed subpoenas on their dealings with the Governor. Got to love it, don't you?
Not much to report on here, but had a few thoughts that I wanted to put out there.

Here in Connecticut, the big story is Governor John Rowland being investigated for taking 'gifts' from companies and individuals who do work for the state. Apparently, the Gov had his cottage fixed up and, after initially saying that he paid for it himself, had to admit that others actually picked up the tab. This isn't the first time in since he took office that Rowland has had questions come up and several of his former aids and friends have actually been indicted. Now even members of his own Republican Party are publicly saying that he might consider stepping down (which he has said he will not do) and the Democratic members of the legislature are considering beginning impeachment hearings.

Yeah, I know it's all politics, but it will be interesting for the next few months.

With the national deficit increasing and threatening to do so for the next decade, Bush decides that he wants to appeal to the Trekie vote and send astronauts to Mars. Hell, we only landed one robot there successfully since 1997! Also, even John Glenn thinks we should concentrate on completing the International Space Station, before doing anything else, so I can't understand where this suddenly comes from (except that his father initially wanted to do something similar and then we discovered that we had better things to do with our money). If you had asked me even five years ago, I probably would have been in favor of such an endeavor, but now I simply think that there are more important things to do (jobs, healthcare and education, to name a few) that would be better served by an infusion of cash.

My father disliked Pete Rose and thought he was a jerk. Discovering that he was betting on baseball certainly didn't do anything to improve my Dad's opinion of "Charlie Hussle" (a nickname he hated almost as much as he did Rose). If he was alive today I'm sure he'd be enjoying seeing Rose taken to task for finally admitting what we've all known. While the Red Sox still haven't won the World Series, the old man would at least be happy over this turn of events. :-)

While I don't get a chance to watch it as much as I used to (I'm lucky if I can stay awake until 11:00pm most nights) when I do have a chance Comedy Central's THE DAILY SHOW continues to be one of the highlights in satire and political humor. Also, been catching David Letterman recently and think that he is back in the swing of things. Last night's introduction of a new bit "Unfairly Edited" was fantastic, and easily as good as some of the stuff that Jon Stewart & Co. put together.

Frankly, I can't bring myself to watch Leno anymore, even though Donna and I used to enjoy his show. Everytime we happen to catch it while channel surfing he is doing either some form of "Jay-Walking" or his "Jeopardy" take-off which he stole from SNL to begin with.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Was doing some 'net browsing and found this. Seems the Toronto Star asked some regular Canadians how they felt about the whole Britney thing. Appears that folks in the Great White North feel pretty much the same as we do down here.
Just had to take a couple of minutes to post a few thoughts on the holiday past.

Seemed like the only story on CNN, Fox and MSNBC were the various airline delays, caused by security problems. It seems that most folks, at least here in the U.S., have gotten over the 9/11 jitters and are back traveling by air. Also, the U.S. has begun taking the fingerprints and photographs of foreign travelers, entering the country. Personally, I can’t get that worked up about it and fully expect other nations to begin doing the same to American passengers.

Starting this past weekend, the two top stories, locally and nationally, were the Pete Rose autobiography (wherein “Charlie Hustle” finally admits what we’ve all known for the past fourteen years, the fact that he bet not only on baseball, but his own team). The other is the pointless tale of Britney Spears wedding and then dumping her childhood friend (sometimes identified as her ‘high school sweetheart’), while partying in Las Vegas. Personally, I can’t begin to tell you of the number of times that I’ve been bored and decided to marry somebody I was hanging out with.

Re: the whole Britney thing, is it really possible that if these two have been friends for so long that they didn’t know each others ‘likes or dislikes’ or rather Britney wanted children? Sounds more like Mother Spears stepping in upon finding the bank account might have to be split more than she liked.

I’ll probably have more to add later, but that sums up things for now.