Friday, August 31, 2007

The stars at night are big and bri... usually obscured by light pollution

Chicago’s a big place. About 10 million people. If you lived in Chicago and met 250 of its residents every day for your entire life—and you lived to be 100—you’d still wind up with a few strangers in your life. On the other hand, think how many cards you’d get on your 99th birthday. (note: My math skills are suspect. But I used a calculator to arrive at these figures.)

The point is, given the wealth of humanity in the Chicago metro area, it would seem tough notice two or three leaving. But as a couple of my good friends hit the road on Wednesday, I noticed. They’re heading to Austin after spending the last few years here in one of the Windy City’s hippest neighborhoods.

There’s something comforting and good about having friends nearby, even if you don’t see them every day. And there’s something equally displacing about watching friends leave, even if there’s no question that you’re going to stay in touch. Personally, I have a much easier time moving from Point A to Point B and saying goodbye to my homies in Point A than I do watching the aforementioned homies heading off to Point C.

Maybe it has something to do with the excitement and anticipation of finding one’s self, i.e. me, in a new locale. And I know my friends are excited about their move and exploring a city that is known for being a pretty fun place.

So that, I think, is what I’ll focus on. For them, safe travels and new adventures.

For me, having a place to crash during South by Southwest.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Sing a song of sci-fi

I don’t know how I managed this. I spend enough time bumbling around on the Internet that, really, I should have noticed it earlier. And what about my friends? Why didn’t they share this news with me? Were they afraid of how I might react?

Because, honestly, it’s pretty damn cool that the final season of “Battlestar Galactica” is going to kick off with a two-hour movie.

As has been established in this blog and elsewhere (by “elsewhere,” I mean “my life”), I enjoy good science fiction. If you think that makes me a dork, stop reading, because it’s only going to get dorkier.

“Galactica” is a great show, not because there are neat-looking spaceships shooting at each other or because the female leads are pretty hot, but because it’s full of great stories. Like the best fiction in any genre, the stories and characters transcend the settings. The overstory is about a search for home—a subconscious aspect of all of our lives, at least in my wholly inexpert opinion. The subplots are about everyday life: Love, death, longing, chasing dreams. And also neat-looking spaceships.

But what I think makes my enjoyment of the show about as dorky as it gets is how much I like the main theme song. It’s… haunting. Probably because it’s a hymn from the Reg Veda (parts of which I had to read in high school—thanks, Bettye Tracy!). Doesn’t get much more haunting than a spiritual cry for redemption. Especially if there are neat-looking spaceships involved. Observe:

Translation: “O God, Thou art the giver of life, the remover of pain and sorrow, the bestower of happiness; O Creator of the Universe, may we receive Thy supreme, sin-destroying light; may Thou guide our intellect in the right direction. Grace Park is smokin'. Amen.”

As far as science fiction-related songs, it doesn’t get much better than that. Although Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom” is a close second, if only because he’s a German synth-pop specialist who wrote a song in German, later translated to English, in homage to a David Bowie song ostensibly about the American space program. Which has neat-looking spaceships.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

It's coming for you like a giant foam ball rolling down a padded maze

Is there anything cooler than watching everyday Americans get pummeled by oversized athletes weilding giant padded Q-tips?*

NBC is bringing back American Gladiator, a childhood favorite of millions of people who were children when I was. So I guess that would make it an adulthood or adolescent-hood favorite of other people. But that’s not the point.

The point is that once again, viewers will get the privilege of experiencing bulging muscles, pointless obstacle courses and gargantuan mullets on the small screen. The only way they could do it better this time around is by including American Idol washouts.

*The correct answer is "No," by the way.

Friday, August 24, 2007


It’s the kind of news you’d hope to never see in any media outlet: Weekly World News, purveyor of fact-free reporting and extreme Photoshoppery, is folding.

Vicious vampire child struck without mercy.

Yeah. I know. You wouldn’t think that a paper with fact-checking and research budget of zero could run out of money, but it looks like it happened anyway. Strange, but true, like Hillary Clinton adopting an alien child.

It’s too bad, because although there’s a Moab-like drought of fun in the newspaper biz these days, the staffers at Weekly World News really seemed to enjoy their jobs. And who can blame them? If all reporters were given a computer, a phone and a license to invent as many UFOs as they could fit into a 10-inch story, the world would be a happier place in general. The Washington Post has an interesting history of the paper, tracing it from its early days as the Enquirer’s trashier cousin to its demise as a "comedy" rag that forgot to be funny.

At any rate, the next time you make an impulse purchase while waiting for the person in front of you at the grocery story to HURRY UP ALREADY AND JUST PAY WITH A CREDIT CARD, WHILE WE’RE YOUNG, whisper a prayer of lament toward the empty tabloid rack next to the gum. Weekly World News has gone to heaven (which the Hubble Space Telescope took pictures of. True story).

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rangers' D holds Orioles to field goal

OK, now, look people--this just isn't right. Or maybe it makes perfect sense. I dunno.

The Rangers are standard-bearers for the most insufferable of states, Texas. Texas is well-known for its obsession with football, to the exclusion of other activities like basketball, baseball and smart government.

Perhaps that's why on Wednesday night, the Rangers, a baseball team, went and scored three touchdowns (with extra point!) and three field goals against the Orioles in a double-header. Their bend-but-don't-break nine-man front gave up only an early field goal.

The resulting carnage equaled the most runs scored in 110 years. That's before even Jerry Jones was invented.

Friday, August 17, 2007

From the "Mental Jukebox Stuck on Repeat" Department:

This band, Shiny Toy Guns, is tangentially connected to me by one of my good friends. Which is just a fancy way of saying that I hadn't heard of them until he brought them up, I went to find some of their music to listen to, and now one of their songs is stuck in my head.

Now it can be stuck in your head, too. Thank me later.

Proof that domestic spying can get a little tedious

We all love Wikipedia, don't we? An organic, peer-edited and -created encyclopedia of everything you could ever care about, and a lot of things you don't. Not only is it useful to lazy college students, but when some big news item happens, its value as a source of entertainment pokes through the stratosphere.

One of my favorite Wikipedia moments--now lost in the e-mists of e-time--was when Bob Huggins, former K-State basketball coach, left that job to be the coach at West Virginia. Within nanoseconds, his biographical entry on Wikipedia suddenly included some odd bullet points about his great love of bestiality, homosexuality and terrorism.

You would think that only a K-State basketball fan, maddened by grief and emboldened by grimy glass jugs of moonshine, could embark on such a destructive mission.

But no. Turns out our government agencies are pretty good at it, too:

On the profile of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the tool indicates that a worker on the CIA network reportedly added the exclamation "Wahhhhhh!" before a section on the leader's plans for his presidency.

... snip ...

The site also indicates that a computer owned by the US Democratic Party was used to make changes to the site of right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

The changes brand Mr Limbaugh as "idiotic," a "racist," and a "bigot." An entry about his audience now reads: "Most of them are legally retarded."

And that, dear readers, is what you call burying the lede. You expected to read something about Wikipedia, then, what the hell, K-State athletics? Moonshine? And finally governmental (and, to be fair, journalistic) Internet hijinks.

I think we've all learned something here today.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Insert "run-and-shoot offense" joke here:

The dogfighting allegations tied to Michael Vick are heinous enough.

But now a federal lawsuit is saying he did the unthinkable. That’s right. He sold two pit bull mixes on eBay and, after pledging allegiance to Al Queda, he used the money to purchase missiles from Iran. There’s your story, liberal media. Stop sweeping the truth under the rug. It’s all right here in U.S. District Court, Richmond Division:

Fortunately, the freedom-loving former owner of the aforementioned pit bulls is suing Vick for $63 billion billion. (yeah, sure, there’s probably some mathy word for that number, but I stopped taking math in high school)

Did I mention the plaintiff is in prison? Not that it matters. Anyway, read what evenhanded non-sensationalist news outlet Fox News has to say about it here.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

At least it's the color you'd expect it to be....

Historic combinations: Steak and baked potatoes. Rum and cola. Kid 'n' Play.

Now, in A.D. 2007, comes Pepsi and cucumber.

Put down the phone--your local grocery store doesn't have it. It's only available in Japan, where the cucumber is a much-loved symbol of refreshment and carbonation. Or something. Fortunately, thanks to Al Gore, we can witness first-hand the reaction to a consumer's first taste of this beverage.

Behold Random Guy on YouTube Living in Japan:

That's correct, kids. He said "green-flavored." And also "Satan in my mouth."

So, given Pepsi's great track record with experimental soft drinks, expect to see this on American shelves by Christmas.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Distractions while… wait, what were we talking about?

Few of us are fortunate enough to be able to support ourselves by writing fiction. Even those of us with “day jobs” that we love daydream about being able to spend all our time thinking, writing and appearing on Oprah to promote our best-seller.

The problem is, even when your only writing concern is whether Mingus or Modest Mouse provides a better soundtrack for your typing (or teeth-gnashing), other stuff can get in the way. Like, say, the rest of your life. If you’re worried, stressed-out, depressed, anxious or any of a million other words that worm their way into your vocabulary when you’re grappling with something difficult or painful, writing seems like a pointless distraction at best.

So how do you let your mind wander off into a story if it’s busy trying to figure out the way back to Happyland?

One time-honored method is to drink. The upside is that it definitely helps you relax and, by extension, allows your mind to skip off in any direction it wants to. The downside is, of course, alcoholism, public nudity and embarrassing phone calls. So scratch that one.

You can also treat it like writer’s block: Power through it by staring at the screen until something good trickles out through your fingertips. That can work too, but your mileage may vary.

Or you can ignore writing altogether, but the pitfall here is that your ideas may shrivel up inside your head and when you DO finally feel ready to write, you discover that sometimes inspiration has an expiration date.

The best way to deal with this, in my experience, is to write like you read. Everyone can get sucked into a good book, right? Allow it to carry you away from your couch (or, if you’re me, your semi-padded Brown Line bench seat) and off into some other, more exciting place. That’s what you need to do with your story—just start throwing ideas out there, follow them around, poke them, prod them and try to let yourself get carried away. Except without consciously trying. It’s Zen, people.

And in the end, if all goes well, you wind up with a manuscript. Getting the Oprah appearance will be covered in a future blog entry.

Anyone out there playing the home version of Read Ink have any experiences in this vein? Want to share?

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Running of the Blades

Brilliant cinematography, brutal futurism, superlative actorating, mind-numbing special-effectorialization.

I made up some of those words, but I think they all describe one of my favorite movies in the history of me: "Blade Runner." So imagine my enthusiasm at hearing that Ridley Scott is going to release a "final cut" version at the Venice Film Festival. Except... wait. Haven't there already been two or three or 25 cuts already released?

Let's see. There's the original, where DON'T READ IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIE Dekker and his android hottie girlfriend ride off into the sunset using borrowed footage from "The Shining." Then there's the director's cut, with no voiceover and a much darker ending. Supposedly this "final" version will clean up a lot of the effects and remaster the sound, which is cool, but what scenes does Scott want to alter that he hasn't already tinkered with?

Will the Replicants always shoot first now? Will Dekker calmly ask Rachel out for coffee as their first date? Will it ever stop raining in L.A.? Here's what the new trailer looks like:

But come on, I'm gonna go see it anyway. Dystopia, fighting robots, flying cars and Darryl Hannah doing backflips... tell me, someone, what's not to love?

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The man who would not be king

Royals manager Buddy Bell today decided to join the long and occasionally distinguished list of once-optimistic souls who thought they could manage the disappointin’-est team in major league baseball. He wants to spend more time with his family after this season, and, frankly, I can’t blame him. Even cleaning ice cream off a 2-year-old would be more fun than watching alleged professional ballplayers such as "Jason Smith" and "Jason LaRue" try to hit fast-moving baseballs.

But let’s not focus on the Jasons.

Let’s focus on the future! And by "future" I mean "who’s going to turn this ship around." Joe Girardi, an alleged Academic All-American at Northwestern (a long time ago), is a front runner. Buck Showalter? Frank White? Roy Hobbs?

These are all rhetorical questions, by the way. I don’t have the first clue who’s going to be in charge. But he better like barbecue. For me, that would equate to a specialty of my beloved R’s: a moral victory.