Friday, March 31, 2006

Finally, a solution to dog pee?

Clover lawns? Now, that's a thought. From their website:

Clover is a better lawn than grass is. It requires less water, requires less mowing, and it requires no fertilization; ever. It fixes nitrogen in the soil and is beautiful. It also aerates and enriches heavy soils. It will not urine scald when dogs urinate on it.

Yes! This could be a solution to the problem I posted about below.

Got this from Signal vs. Noise (they also link to Less Lawn, which could really work for the front yard, too).

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Why the Democrats Never Win ...

This is, pathetically, embarrasingly, two weeks late, but I can’t go without posting this. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t .

Besides, it may just still be news for those few stragglers who actually read my blog (Technorati rank: 864,492. Woo-HOO!) and who also missed this particular Daily Show segment (from March 14 or thereabouts, I gather), as I did:

Paul Hackett on the Daily Show

Paul Hackett Doesn't Fit the Matrix

Remember Paul Hackett? He is a former marine and veteran of the War in Iraq who ran last year in a special election in heavily Republican district in the Cincinatti area. Although he lost to the Republican candidate, 48% to 52%, this by itself was gigantic: according to his Wikipedia article, his showing was the best for a Democrat for more than thirty years: since 1974, in the wake of the Watergate scandals, and which Bush carried in the 2004 election by 64%.

According to this clip, Democratic Party Leaders actually asked Paul Hackett not to run in the midterm elections this year against "vulnerable Republican Senator Mike DeWine" in Ohio, where the Democrats hope to pick up a seat.

The Daily Show interviews a Democratic operative: "There's a matrix for electability ... follow some instructions from your consultants ..." Oh, yeah. The Democrats' consultants' have done such a great job over the past 30 years. He even goes on to mention focus groups. "Take the language that people use in Focus groups and 'patter it back.' That's what it's all about" <rant tendentiousness="nauseating">Ah, yes. Focus Groups. Isn't it Focus Groups that tell the networks which Pilots will make winning shows every season? And they're always on the money, right? The TV fall lineup is never a steaming bowl of loose stools, right? It's just all part of the desperate human need to believe that they can control things. The way corporate executives and MBAs convince themselves that if their business succeeds, it's because of things they did and the way they did them (it's never due to luck, say, and god forbid it's ever their fault if it fails). It's the engine that churns endless stands of trees into the latest Business-related books on "Management" and "Leadership" and how to pat your back that as a corporate executive you're not just a parasite on society but are actually driving the economy and "making" weath. The same inane hope that convinces people that their mutual fund managers actually earn their money or that industry analysts actually have the slightest idea what goes on inside the companies they cover (other than the soulless time-sink of pointless meetings which is the prime activity of the Corporate Employee).</rant>

This … explains … a lot. Sort of makes you want to make all your contributions directly to the candidates and not to the party. As one should expect from Jon Stewart, this segment roll-on-the-floor funny ("Al Gore's 837 easy steps to Campaign Victory"), but it’s also cry-your-eyes-out-for-the-future-of-this-country(-not-to-mention-the-rest-of-the-world) sad, and it’ll make you really, really, angry.

Courtesy of Onegoodmove. Your one-stop shopping blog for Daily Show segments you didn’t watch on TV.

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Back Yard Blogging

My heartfelt thanks to whoever it was that invented Wi-Fi.

Most transcendently beautiful day of the year so far.  Sunny, blue skies, few whisps of cloud, 70ish, breezy.  Ahhhhhh.

And now I can use Bluetooth with my lovely new(ish) Nokia 6256i (phonescoop) with its mediocre but serviceable camera to upload some pix of my ugly, ugly back yard that looks as though the Roman Legions have been through here and sown the ground with salt: 

Sky from the Back PorchHouses from the Back PorchCirce and Prospero and lifeless soilBrick Grill and Dogs and Laptop from the Back PorchBack porch, laptop, Circe and ProsperoBack Yard Circe Ears

Of course, all of this while I should be working.  I’m a ba-a-a-ad widdoo boy.  It’s ok, it’s ok, I can work from the back porch too!



Thursday, March 30, 2006

Why Homer Simpson is My Hero, Reason #12

Homer about to clap

"Bring me beer and your deepest chamber-pot. Chop-chop!"

<claps twice>

Also deeply satisfying: the way Marge is slowly shaking her head. And the look of utter shock on Lenny’s face.

As for me, I love to say “chop chop” and clap when demanding something. But it usually gets me whacked. I wish I could order Lisa about that way without ending up rubbing a bruise afterwards … The same thing happens if I jiggle my glass so the ice clatters when I need a refill! I’m a battered man. Ah, for the days when you could sell your help to the silver mines when they got too uppity. *sigh*

Actually, this Simpsons episode (Sunday, March 26, 2006) was the first in a very long time that had laughs all the way through. The show’s been running on fumes for a few years now, sadly, but this one was pretty good.

They also used the wonderful live-action Simpsons intro that came out of the UK and has been on Youtube for a while, to replace their usual couch gag. Sadly, Fox has a tendency to run their first-run Simpsons episodes long, so if I don’t remember to adjust my TiVo, it cuts off the end. So I didn’t get to see the credits: I was curious how they were going to credit the makers of that short.

Ah, well. I guess I’m going to have to get my own glass refilled tonight.

(No, I don't have 11 other reasons; I don't even know how many there are. I was even tempted to make up a number in the hundreds, but 12 seems more realistic.)

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Stephen McCauley at Porter Square Books

Porter Square Books just keeps getting cooler and cooler. I attending a reading tonight by the author Stephen McCauley, who lives here in Cambridge, for his new book,

Buy me at!

Alternatives to Sex

We arrived about an hour early since we knew it was going to be crowded. And it was. At least half the people who showed up had to stand through his reading, which was well worth it. I bought my copy of the book before it got crowded (so I would have it ready for him to sign without having to stand in an ungodly line), and had started reading it before he arrived. It’s hilarious. He has a great style. Very witty, very funny, very rude. I kept bursting out laughing as I read, as more and more people showed up, as we waited for the author.

And his reading was phenomenal. One of the audience-members after the reading pleaded with him to do his own books on tape, since he has such a great delivery. (He prevaricated, saying he’s never been offered the opportunity, but I get the feeling it’s not his cup of tea.)

He actually read selections stitched together from the first several chapters, including several passages I had just read. I found it interesting that he had made subtle changes - changing an adjective here, adding a detail there - most of which seemed to improve the text, at least in the context of a live reading. During question-time I asked him why his text differed from the published copy - was this from an earlier draft, perhaps, or does he just improvise a little as he's reading and substitute things that he thinks will sound better "in the moment"? I'm not sure he got the question since his response focused on how this wasn't a straight reading from any single section of the book but was stitched together from several of the early chapters; my question was actually for those parts of the prose that I recognized (having only just read them a handful of minutes earlier), though. I actually got quite a few shocked looks from other audience-members at my use of the word "improvise". I didn't think it was an insult; I thought it was a fascinating glimpse into an author's creative process at work. He did provide the little tidbit that this particular reading was put together for PEN's "Eros Night", so he deliberately gathered up parts that focused on the sex for this reading. Very, very, funny parts about sex.

McCauley is of course the author of :

Object of My Affection

which was, as you must know, made into a movie: See this movie's record at the Internet Movie Database with Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd, and Nigel Hawthorne, and one of my favourite actors, who we just don't get to see often enough, Tim Daly (aka Joe Hackett of Wings - they're finally releasing the DVD!).

McCauley said he’s going to be giving another reading this Saturday, April 1, at the Cambridge Borders store in the Galleria Mall. He’s well worth listening to.

And I got my copy signed!

My Signed Copy

I also picked up a copy of The Great Transformation, by Karen Armstrong, author of apparently hot off the presses. It appears to be her narrative of the Axial Age. But I'll definitely be reading Alternatives to Sex first.

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Monday, March 27, 2006

It's all about the Media

Well, isn’t that just TYPICAL. JUST as I finally start to get the hang of this whole blogging thing (STARTING to, I said! I know I still have the Lamest! Blog! Ever!), I find out that the COOL bloggers have already moved on to something much more interesting.

I mean, who wants WORDS when they can watch pretty pictures? Nowadays, it’s all about the movie clips. A blog with nothing but acres of verbiage smattered with links and peppered with a few images just doesn’t cut it any more, OH no. That’s old hat. You’ve got to either include a fragment of some show you enjoyed (“fair use”???) or you actually have to produce something original of your own to share. And people are doing so. In spades.

I think I first started catching on to this when I came across a link to the hilarious and clever Brokeback to the Future trailer at that made the rounds a few weeks ago (there are actually literally dozens of Brokeback See this movie's record at the Internet Movie Database -spoof-trailers, though most of the others I looked at range a little more towards the mean-spirited or even simply plain spiteful).

You can find a little bit of ANYTHING at YouTube. You can spend hours in a slack-jawed fog, eyes-glazed-over stupour, as you discover that people are willing to record themselves doing anything. And it isn’t even necessarily all porn! Some of it is mind-bogglingly stupid, some of it extremely clever, and a lot of it is very funny. Youtube is of course where I found that fantastic live-action intro for the Simpsons that I posted about earlier (and which Fox actually used this last Sunday as the intro to a real Simpson’s episode!!).

This is a pretty natural outgrowth of the online audio streaming that’s been going on and getting increasingly popular over the past couple of years, with “podcasts” and shows available on iTunes, etc., but it’s just taking it to the next level (if you have the bandwidth and hardware for it).

In FACT, I've been meaning to write about this topic for several weeks now: but now I know I'm really lame if it's being going on so long that even the newspapers have already caught wind of it. The Globe actually scooped me on this one (“Clip and Play”, March 26) this last Sunday before I had a chance to blog about this new trend. In addition to YouTube, they mention,, and, none of which I had heard of, in my lame, brain-dead way.

The Globe article isn’t as interested in the dissemination of videos on the web as in what to them is this development: the appearance of these videos on “real media” like TV. Something which was news to me, actually:

''South Park," aspiring animators know, had its origins as an online Christmas cartoon. The 21-year-old creator of the short film ''MySpace: The Movie," a massive YouTube hit, recently got a development deal from mtvU. Last year, ''Saturday Night Live" hired a trio of roommate-filmmakers -- Channel 101 veterans -- who posted their work on their website, Now, they're largely responsible for SNL's infectious ''digital shorts," such as ''Lazy Sunday," a rap starring Chris Parnell and Andy Samberg on a trip to see ''The Chronicles of Narnia," or this month's ''Natalie Rap," with Natalie Portman in gangsta mode.

Yeah, I guess that’s kinda interesting.

But I’m still more interested in the proliferation of online videos on the web itself, something which seems to be accelerating. In addition to YouTube, two sites I have stumbled across recently are:

  • OneGoodMove: a progressive political blog that provides a regular digest of clips from shows like The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Bill Maher. Now, if I miss these shows, I can just go to this blog to see what I missed. Very useful!! (The Daily Show, by the way, is available on iTunes, according to this blog.) This is a great blog!
  • The Malcontent: Video: producers of little clips they call “Malcovision”. This is a gay-themed site that I discovered when I was googling Brokeback in the days after I had seen it. I was particularly interested in finding out what was behind all the buzz about Heath Ledger being accused of “homophobia” for the way he introduced Brokeback at the SAG awards. You can find the “malcovision” version of Heath’s performance here. (Sorry, I just don’t buy it that he was “playing gay” there. He just looks a little drunk and — as he has said in interviews — completely unprepared to do the introduction. No homophobia here, as far as I can tell.) There’s also clips from a hilarious Oprah show with Heath, Jake, and Anne Hathaway here: well worth watching just for the way Anne gets embarrassed out of her skin. It’s adorable. Don’t remember if it’s in one of the shorter clips or in the whole video that they have a link to there. (You have to be old enough to recognize the theme music for the beginning credits of these “malcovision” shorts. Funny.)

Well, as long as I continue to use Blogger I don’t think I’ll be posting too many videos. Besides, I still have a lot of catching up to do before this blog becomes worth reading anyhow!

Update March 30, 2006: I didn't quite put two-and-two together yesterday when I finished up this post (which has been in draft mode for over a week), but what I touched on here is merely the tip of the iceberg in a creative revolution that's been going on for a while now: just google terms like "social media" and "open source filmmaking". In fact, this dovetails with another post I've had in draft mode for a couple of weeks now, inspired by my encounter with the King Kong Production Diaries (plus the post-production diaries on the movie DVD: ) and by this post (and this follow-up) at gapingvoid, and the new blog from the filmmakers of Hallam Foe. More on this later! Categories: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, March 26, 2006

And while I'm on the topic of Flickr ...

... and films. Through Withnail_eye, I discovered this addictive photo pool:

Name That Film!

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Northern European Passtimes ...

It's good to know that the country of Pushkin and Lermontov, Chekhov and Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Chaikovsky, is still churning out individuals of truly amazing skills:. This is a video you don't want to watch if you're suffering from a hangover.

This is from a blog that I just stumbled across: Days that End in Y, which apparently provides readers with a continuous hosepipe of "Today's Reasons to Drink". An earlier post introduced me to the Danish word Olfrygt, defined as "fear arising from a lack of beer". Tells you a lot about the linguistic priorities in Scandinavia

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Cooler flickr pool hath no one ...

... than Withnail and I over at flickr. I was recently added to the contact list of withnail_eye — I don't know why; I don't know what I did to deserve it, but it was a treat, because he (he? she? probably he) has taken some great photos of Penrith, Cumbria, the real-life setting of the on-location shots of one of my absolute favourite films of all time, one of the best films ever made, and often referred to as a "cult" film, Withnail & ISee this movie's record at the Internet Movie Database, the film that introduced me to my favourite member of the McGann clan, Paul, (there are three others, including Mark McGann, of The Grand, Series 2See this movie's record at the Internet Movie Database), to Richard E. Grant (How to Get Ahead In AdvertisingSee this movie's record at the Internet Movie Database, L.A. StorySee this movie's record at the Internet Movie Database, Gosford ParkSee this movie's record at the Internet Movie Database, Bright Young ThingsSee this movie's record at the Internet Movie Database),and to Richard Griffiths, whose current claim to fame is as Harry Potter's evil Uncle Vernon (See this movie's record at the Internet Movie DatabaseSee this movie's record at the Internet Movie DatabaseSee this movie's record at the Internet Movie Database).

Paul McGann is one of those talented British character actors who pop up all over the place (he's got 54 roles listed at his IMDB page) and are sure to have a place in The League of Obscure British Actors (which is really hard to find now: a Google Search including McGann turns up this site, so when it was indexed it had him on it, but that site will now quickly redirect you to this livejournal page, where it is hard, if possible at all, to find the actors that were once listed; and nobody has written about the League on wiki ...). He was also the very short-lived 8th Doctor (how could they waste his regenerations like that?!) — his IMDB trivia page gives the quote "I don't want to be remembered as the George Lazenby of Doctor Who." Oddly, enough, though I know of only one appearance: this made-for-tv movie, which I can't find for sale anywhere, this page suggests that he was also in four episodes, which is news to me.

McGann most recently (for me) played an enjoyable villain in Kidnapped, which recently played on Masterpiece Theatre — Kidnapped, by the way, provided one of the latest of Lisa's and my favourite quotes: as soon as I saw the Highland Witch woman say "Not everybody's as friendly as I am" I looked at Lisa knowingly and laughed and she looked at me annoyed and crabby, since she knew I was implying that this would be the end-result of her ever-increasing curmudgeonly, misanthropic ways. Nonetheless she has embraced this quote as her own and we say it often. He was also (barely) in Queen of the DamnedSee this movie's record at the Internet Movie Database, though his part as David Talbot was cut to the bone, as was the case with all the other minor characters, since they were combining two novels. And it looks like he's going to be in another Geraldine McEwan Marple: I can't wait! (Yes, I said it before, and I'm saying it again: I don't care what the Marple afficionados say about it; I don't care if Joan Hickson is more accurate or faithful to the original — this is one place where my pedantry and addiction to purism is taking a back seat to actually enjoying what I watch. Hickon is unbearably, narcolepsy-inducingly dull and extremely unplesasant to watch. If this is accurate, then Christie's Marple in the books much also be a remarkably unpleasant character. McEwan is simply a delight. It's the difference between drinking a cold cup of tea and a bottle of champagne.)

But I digress. (I always do.)

For me, Griffiths will always be Uncle Monty, Grant will always be Withnail, and McGann will always be & I (my pedantry does not go so far as for me to want to call him "Marwood" though my pretentiousness will always go so far as for me to be sure everybody knows he's called Marwood ). This movie was probably one of the first "indies" I saw or at least that I noticed was an "indie" when I first saw it (I saw it on the big screen when it first came out in Boston in 1987), and I have always loved the name of the production company, Handmade Films, George Harrison's baby.

I have watched it several times since, and I still gasp every time & I first wakes up in the morning after they arrive at Penrith and sees the view over the lake. This film is one of the things that cemented my relationship with Lisa, since it was one of her favourite films already before she moved to Boston in 1990 and when I brought home a rented VHS copy she was thrilled that I loved it too. As mentioned in a link below, it is also an inexhaustible source of memorable quotes. I have generally gravitated to Withnails' - since even when I first saw the movie I felt that the things he said were rather a lot like things that used to come out of my mouth at the time. Things like "I feel ... unusual" and "I demand to have some food booze !" [I'm so mortified that I got that quote wrong; I guess it shows how my priorities have changed over the years... you can see lots more quotes here and the whole script here] I've always identified more with Withnail than & I, in fact, though I'm much more boring and have far, far fewer vices, sadly.

You can find out more about the film, including some wonderful real-life autobiographical background, on the web. A couple of years ago I scoured up these links:
  • From here: ""Withnail was based on Bruce Robinson's best friend from drama school Vivien MacMillan (I think that's his surname). This larger-than-life hedonistic thespian died of throat cancer in his early 40s. Robinson was quoted as saying "I could never believe that the biggest coward I'd ever met could become the bravest man I have ever seen in so short a space of time. They ripped his voice out." and "Apparently, when Vivian Mackerrall had had his throat removed because of the cancer, he had to be fed through a tube which ran directly into his stomach. Towards the end, he was pouring brandy into it by way of a funnel."
  • A site on Bruce Robinson
  • From here, "The Withnail and I script contains a virtually non-stop array of one-liners from all the characters... making it one of the most quotable films ever made." [emphasis mine]
  • The Criterion Collection's blurb on the DVD is here.
  • This: Withnail & I is a book about the film
  • A Withnail forum
  • An interview with Richard E. Grant
  • Bruce Robinson on IMDB

Plus you can find more links at the Withnail pool. Speaking of which: I had never really got off my fat butt to find out whether the Penrith of the film really existed, but it does, and these great photos prove it. I wonder if you can go on a "Withnail tour" (if there is, a google search doesn't turn one up) like the Pride and Prejudice tour (from the good versionSee this movie's record at the Internet Movie Database) I know you used to be able to do, or if these photos are just spontaneous.

(By the way: somebody should buy me this Doctor Who Mega Collection for $589.95, at least until they come out with a more complete set. I've been a fan of the Doctor since I was 5 years old, when I was brought back to the UK for the first time after our emigration for my grandmother's funeral, when the show was on its 2nd or 3rd season, still in Black and White, and I was given a great Dalek toy that would roll around on the kitchen floor and change directions whenever it bumped into a wall: who knew 1966 technology was so cutting-edge?!)

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Sleaze Appeal

No I'm not talking about Republicans today. I'm still on my film kick.

And speaking of Aaron Eckhart, I was reminded by Lisa today of this amusing little article on him in this last Friday's Boston Globe, which I risk the wrath of the copyright gods by reproducing in full:


Author(s): WESLEY MORRIS Date: March 24, 2006 Page: D1 Section: Arts

Born with an entitled demeanor and a jaw line that should be studied in geometry classes, Aaron Eckhart risks seeming like a lout even when he's on his best behavior. But the man has sleaze appeal.
As a tobacco lobbyist in "Thank You for Smoking," he rates a Jack Abramoff-y 9 out of 10 on the Sleaze-o-Meter. Here's how his other roles score: "In the Company of Men" (1997) : Neil LaBute's debut started it all. Eckhart played a white-collar creep who made misogyny a sport. After playing a thoroughly convincing creep, he spent subsequent LaBute films ("Your Friends and Neighbors," say) playing gradually less despicable men.

"Paycheck" (2004):
After taking a few years off from unapologetic villainy, Eckhart came roaring back as a corporate meanie who deceives and bullies Ben Affleck. With his Brylcreemed hair and white-collar hauteur, Eckhart was such a picture of nutty executive privilege, he could have been starring in a documentary.

"Erin Brockovich" (2000): Seeing Eckhart as Julia Roberts's lovable, Harley-riding boyfriend was suspenseful. We spent the whole movie waiting for him to turn into a bastard. He never did. Still, when she asked him, "Are you gonna be something else I have to survive?" you got the sense that she'd seen "Company of Men."

"Possession" (2002): This unconvincing LaBute collaboration cast Eckhart as a sleuthing grad student who's up to his chin in turtlenecks and Gwyneth Paltrow. He beds her and still helps her finish her research when they're done. Wow.

"The Core" (2003): Eckhart plays a geophysicist who saves the world, which has stopped spinning. That's right. He's the hero, and, in another movie, his prize would have been a jaw lock with Hilary Swank. Instead, he just sets off a nuclear bomb.

© Copyright 2003 New York Times Company

They didn't mention Nurse BettySee this movie's record at the Internet Movie Database!! Where you get Eckhart literally oozing oiliness in his sleazy finest — this time though as an exceptionally pathetic, white-trashy kind of sleaze — but where the punishment-for-sleaze action is particularly cutting. Can't imagine why they would have left that one out.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Dayom! TV I didn't know about edition ...

There's an Ab Fab with Nathan Lane in it? When did that happen? Apparently, according to epguides, in Dec. 2004: Titles & Air Dates Guide, near the bottom, episode White Box.

Looks like it's not from season 5, which explains why I haven't seen it. It's one of three specials that I guess aren't on DVD yet.

Oh, well. You can still buy the rest of the series here and generate a microscopic commission for me:

Cover image for Absolutely Fabulous - Complete Series 1-3Absolutely Fabulous - Complete Series 1-3

$47.99 (%20)
Cover image for Absolutely Fabulous - Complete Series 4Absolutely Fabulous - Complete Series 4

$26.99 (%10)
Cover image for Absolutely Fabulous: Complete Series 5Absolutely Fabulous: Complete Series 5

$21.99 (%27)
Cover image for Absolutely Fabulous - Absolutely Special (The Last Shout/In New York)

Absolutely Fabulous - Absolutely Special (The Last Shout/In New York)

$21.99 (%12)

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