Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Congratulations to all my t-sip buddies. I believe the technical term for what we just witnessed was "some game." Whew. The only thing keeping it from being an awesome game is the fact that the good guys lost.

But double overtime? That's just crazy. I'm exhausted just from watching it.

Now Playing: nothing

A most delicious sight

Stop the presses! Freebirds World Burrito is on the cusp of opening a new location in San Marcos! Can I get a "Hallelujah!" from the congregation?



This is excellent news which makes my taste buds very happy. It's going to be located in the San Marcos Plaza shopping center right off I-35, just a few doors down from Hastings. The space they're taking over has been vacant for the better part of a year--it was a deli or somesuch eatery previously. The drive through will be exceptionally convenient for those evenings when I'm picking up a bunch of Monster burritos to take home to the wife and kids. Yum--I can't wait!

Now Playing: Syd Barrett The Madcap Laughs

New Gilliam!?

Yes, it sucks that I haven't gotten to see Tideland yet (when's it coming out on DVD, anyway?) but the great news is that there's a new Terry Gilliam movie in the works. Maybe. Possibly. It's written by Gilliam in collaboration with writing buddy Charles McKeown, and has the beautifully Gilliamesque title of The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus. Doesn't that title make you want to see it now? It does me!
The script opens with a typically Gilliam juxtaposition of the banal and the wondrous, as 'four big horses' pull a 'hulking great wagon' - windowless and apparently driverless - down an urban terrace, then on past a couple snogging in a parked car and into a 'dingy backstreet'. This is where the wagon first astonishes us, opening 'like a dark menacing flower unfolding its petals', transforming into 'an old fashioned and very shabby travelling theatre' - the titular Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus.

We now meet the players of this eccentric show: Percy, the dwarf (yes, of course) ; Anton the clowning, sleight-of-hand expert; the beautiful young Valentina; and her father, Dr Parnassus. Their audience at this first engagement proves to be a rabble of drunks piling out of a nightclub to the rather unexpected sight of the Imaginarium and cast.

While Parnassus meditates atop a glass plinth - to give a cheap, cheesy illusion of levitation - Valentina, Percy and Anton play out a scene and make the audience an offer. As Anton puts it:

Ladies and Gentlemen... Step up! Step up!... I, Mercury, the messenger of the gods, invite you... tonight, for one night only... at this very venue... to enter the mind, the very great mind, of Doctor Parnassus!

The review gives some good detail on the plot and setup, and from the opening description above, I immediately thought "This reminds me a little bit of MirrorMask." Then the reviewers go on to compare the special effects sequences as being written to accomodate a MirrorMask-style green screen animation. Which instantly got me thinking about how cool it would be for Gilliam and Dave McKean to work together. The review also points out that Dr. Parnassus mines Gilliam's unproduced script for The Defective Detective somewhat heavily for themes and ideas, even if the scenes themselves are original interpretations. In a way that's sad, since it effectively closes the book on Defective Detective ever being filmed, but by the same token, at least we get something from that material, as the earlier script has been effectively dead for more than a decade.

To reiterate: New Gilliam! Yay!

Now Playing: Pink Floyd Meddle

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tuesdays with Karl

So Karl Rove, aka Bush's Brain, aka the Boy Genius, spoke on campus today. I, along with the other folks from my department, went along to deal with the media and be on top of any interesting things that developed, since protesters were expected. Sure enough, there were a couple dozen people picketing with signs in the free speech forum in front of the Fighting Mustangs statue, but overall it was a pretty sedate bunch.

The auditorium was close to capacity when Rove began his speech--I'd say about half were card-carrying Young Conservatives, a quarter indignant protesters, and the remainder curious third parties. One lone heckler stood up immediately and began shouting--incoherently for the most part--various queries about hanging Scooter Libby out to dry and general abuses of civil liberties. A group of students with him donned black hoods over their heads, in apparent reference to Guantanamo. Rove ignored him, although other people in the audience did not, and after some confused shouting for a few minutes the heckler just sort of petered out.

My boss said something I pretty much agreed with at this point: "I've never understood why some people feel that in order to exercise their First Amendment rights, they need to deny that right to others." Personally, I thought the heckler ended up looking pretty foolish, and was more than a little surprised the security present didn't escort him out.

As for the speech itself, Rove stayed surprisingly apolitical. It was a Communication Week event, after all, but still. To be frank, it was somewhat dull, a recitation of the history of media in the U.S. from 1776 to today. Your basic Journalism 101 introductory lecture. As Rove expounded on the patronage system prevalent in the early days of newspapers, where one would hook up with a particular politician and support them in favor of plum governmental contracts, I couldn't help but view this as some oblique justification for FOX News. But that's as close to controversy as he skirted, an affable, "Aw shucks" kind of speaker persona that belied the calculating Machiavellian soul that would just as soon slit your throat if it would further his cause.

The best line of the afternoon did come from a heckler, however. As Rove was talking about the rise of the Blogosphere and the 24-7 news cycle, he posed the hypothetical question of how a White House administration could deal with this voracious beast's insatiable appetite? "By outing a CIA operative!" came the punch line from the audience, with timing to make Jon Stewart proud. As laughter rolled through the auditorium, Rove paused, took a breath and acknowledged, "Good one."

Now Playing: Christopher Franke Babylon 5

You can't recall me! I'll... I'll... change the rules!

Pity poor I-Hate-That-Ken/That-Ken-I-Hate. The New Braunfels city councilman who is so smart he knows what's best even when his entire constituency is opposed has run into a bit of trouble. I posted the other week about some meanies in That-Ken-I-Hate's district who got into a tizzy because That-Ken-I-Hate wasn't actually representing them or their interests, so these meanies launched a recall petition drive. Well, after only a few days' worth of effort, the meanies collected more than 600 signatures--far above the 221 necessary to trigger a recall. What's a poor, set-upon That-Ken-I-Hate to do when faced with such unrest? Ban recall elections, of course!
On Friday, Valentine submitted an addendum to the council agenda proposing an ordinance to require that “prior to (city council) ordering a special election, shall determine by majority vote, whether the recall petition properly identifies and supports a ground, or grounds, for recall and removal.

Attorney Bill Nerveless, who attended the meeting at Valentine’s request, and Interim City Attorney Paul Isham both agreed that the council should vote against the ordinance.

“Vote against the ordinance because it doesn’t have to do with the law,” Norvelle said. “If you do vote for this, it will wind up in court and each council person will wind up in court and each of you will be named as a defendant.”

“In my opinion, the proposed ordinance is improper, unenforceable and invalid,” he said.

Poor, poor guy. If he can't get the rules changed so that his little cabal can pick and choose whether the bourgeois is allowed to exercise its democratic rights, then what's a petty tyrant to do? Get his cronies to whine in his defense, of course:
District 3 Councilwoman Beth Sokolyk said the way the charter reads now, there was no way for Valentine to defend himself.

“There’s no ‘due process’,” she said.

Of course, the meanies orchestrating the petition, as well as City Attorney Isham have this crazy notion that an election constitutes "due process" for popularly elected officials in a democracy. Where do they get these wacky ideas?
Before the vote, the instigator of the recall petition drive Kevin Webb chided the council for considering the proposed ordinance.

“I didn’t believe these people (the council) would have the audacity to go into executive session and come out here — after knowing the objections of the city attorney — and force this on these people.”

Personally, I'm shocked because That-Ken-I-Hate's personal cheerleading squad of Beth Sokolyk, Kathleen Krueger and Pat Wiggins didn't kowtow to That-Ken-I-Hate's personal power grab for once, and pass the ordinance. I wonder why? Coule it be, perhaps, that Sokolyk is locked in a tough reelection campaign with Jay Patrick and worried that if she continues to, oh, disregard the wishes of her district's citizenry she could be voted out? Maybe? Do you think? As for Krueger and Wiggins, might they suddenly be realizing that without Sokolyk and That-Ken-I-Hate, they'd no longer be in the "cool kids" clique? That recall petitions could just as easily send them packing? How humiliating would that be for a first-termer like Krueger?

All is not lost, however. When faced with the prospect of his carefully-constructed empire collapsing around him, and his base scattering like rats from leaking tube (they can't go to the second tube floating the ice chest, since recent ordinances only allow one per person on the river, and ice chests are now microscopic, anyway) That-Ken-I-Hate falls back on a tried and true strategem employed by all the great petty tyrants of history: Claim you're the victim!
"I think I'm going to come out of this smelling like a rose," he said. "I really feel I am being bullied.

Give 'em hell, That-Ken-I-Hate. Future generations will mention your name alongside the likes of famous victims like D.B. Cooper, Brittney Spears and William Randolph Hearst. Truly, you are on the side of the angels!

Now Playing: Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra Dvorák: Symphony No. 2; Legends 6-10

Monday, February 26, 2007

Battlestar Galactica: Norma Rae in space

Last week's Battlestar episode was fairly decent, with Chief and Callie trapped in a damaged airlock with their oxygen quickly leaking into space. It wasn't the best of the series by any means, but it really focused on the characters while making use of continuity and preexisting scenarios. Plus, there was none of that damn annoying Apollo and Starbuck mooning over each other. I was encouraged.

Maybe I shouldn't have been. Last night's episode was Norma Rae in space. Geeze, are the series' writers really that bankrupt for ideas? Granted, the core concept of the crew on the only surviving tylium refinery ship revolting because abhorrent working conditions isn't bad at all. But the ham-fisted "Thud and Blunder" of Anne Cofell's script undermines the effectiveness of it, even though she doesn't resort to introducing a disposable bad guy, as did Michael Angeli in "The Woman King." But she commits other sins. Firstly, she commits the Idiot Plot by having Adama and Roslin dismiss the complaints and unrest of the ore ship's crew, then resort to bullying by having their leaders arrested with little provocation. Chief Tyrol is thrust into the middle of the tense situation, then once again, as with "The Woman King," the people in charge immediately begin dismissing and disregarding their representative's warnings of trouble brewing. Granted, there are some token concessions made by President Roslin, but nothing significant enough to ward off the impending clash. After said clash, in which weapons have been drawn and summary executions threatened and the status quo triumphant, Roslin--the same woman who precipitated the clash by ordering indiscriminate arrests as a show of strength--suddenly gets all warm and cuddly, opening discussions and waxing poetic about the need for workers to have a voice. Again, had she just exercised such common sense at the beginning of the episode, well, there wouldn't have been an episode. The change in view could have worked, but the fatal flaw here is that the viewer never sees Roslin come to the realization that she over-played her hand, that she's created a situation by her imperious actions that threaten to blow up and consume the entire fleet. That It's Her Fault. She never owns up to the mistake, so in the end there's no character growth for her. She's just "nice" at the end. Bah.

For all you old-school SF fans, there's a token Red Shirt that is drafted to work in the ore ship, a fresh-faced architect-wannabe who wouldn't be deader meat if he was hanging in a cooler with Rocky Balboa pounding on him. That's sloppy writing, and the viewer knew exactly what was in the cards for him from moment one. That's not suspense, people, it's called cliche. And when writers rely on cliche as the pivotal moment in the narrative, you've got some real problems.

And folks, I'm sorry, but there is no way in hell that Baltar, who collaborated with the Cylons and has to be kept in the Galactica's brig to protect him from lynch mobs is going to suddenly become this interstellar Karl Marx by writing a few chapters of a class-baiting memoir. Callie wouldn't have read it, nor would the Chief, even if it were given to them by Adama himself. Baltar's the guy who signed Callie's death warrant fer cryin' out loud. Are they adding stupid pills to the fleet's rations? If so, then I hope the Cylons do catch them and blow them up real good (or at least the writers).

So in summary: Good idea, terrible execution.

Now Playing: Various artists The Best of Dvorák

Friday, February 23, 2007

Post no. 1,086: In which pandering pays off

Some of you regulars may remember a certain story of mine entitled "The Whale Below" that consumed my writerly efforts back in the late summer. A story which, casting all shame aside, I workshopped at Turkey City in October. A story which caught the attention of guest Turkey Citizen Jeff VanderMeer, who just so happened to be editing a pirate-themed anthology.

Coincidence? I think not.

Anyway, after several months of hints and giggles, Jeff finally broke down and formally accepted the piece today. Yay!

Now Playing: The Kinks Sleepwalker

Friday Night Videos

I first saw Peter Schilling's "Major Tom (Coming Home)" on Showtime back around '83 or so. At the time I hadn't even heard of David Bowie, much less "A Space Oddity." Needless to say, I didn't get "Major Tom (Coming Home)" at all, but hey, with all that NASA footage in the video, who cared what the song was about?

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Confederate Railroad.

Now Playing: The Kinks The Kink Kontroversy

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

HEROES: Unexpected

I meant to write about last week's episode, but I was so annoyed by it that I never bothered. An absolute waste of time. A filler episode, introducing distractions to keep the characters from pursuing the main story line. It was very Lost-like in its frustration levels and refusal to actually get on with it, which I do not count as a good thing where Heroes is concerned.

Thankfully, with the episode "Unexpected" the writers get back to actually moving the narrative along. The super-powered chickens come home to roost for Mr. Bennet, as Cheerleader Claire calls him out after her mother falls into a coma after all the mental whammies she's taken over the years. To top it off, the Alias Mind Reader, Fallout Boy and a new "Wireless" chick descend on the Bennet household looking for answers. Finally! People being proactive!

I'm starting to wonder if Mohinder Suresh is the stupidest person on the planet. Maybe that's his superpower--extreme density. Here we have ultra-creepy Sylar following the same M.O. that led to Mohinder's father's untimely demise, and Mohinder isn't batting an eye. Idiot plot alert.

Ando gets shot so Hiro breaks up the team, sending his non-powered buddy back to Tokyo, out of harm's way. Yet it's obvious to all the viewers that Hiro still has his powers--that he's mentally creating obstacles impeding their use. Oh well, at least he gets to ride the bus with Stan Lee.

The one person who doesn't seem to have trouble using Hiro's powers is Nathan Petrelli, who stops time in order to rescue the Invisible Man from a Bennet ambush. But Invisible ditches him, so in anger he goes to have it out with Future Junkie, and non-powered Simone ends up shot full of holes. Oops. Can't say that was entirely unexpected (her untimely demise, that is) but the staging of the lead-up to her shooting was deftly handled. I like that the characters are finally back to taking action, and that their actions have consequences.

Definitely looking forward to Bennet's "Secret Origin" story next week.

Now Playing: ZZ Top ZZ Top's First Album

Friday, February 16, 2007

Chickens come home to swim

Remember my good buddy Ken Valentine, aka I-Hate-That-Ken/That-Ken-I-Hate? He's the city councilman who dismissed overwhelming community opposition to his proposed river ordinance changes to ram through his personal agenda. He's the one who decided to ignore his constituents and pander to his personal cabal. Well, it looks like some folks in city council district 1 have noticed That-Ken-I-Hate's antics, and have launched a recall petition against him:
Webb, who lives in Valentine’s district, said the recall petition is necessary because Valentine is representing only a select number of the people who live in District 6.

While he was a member of the river committee, Webb said he wanted to come up with reasonable solutions that everyone could live with, but said what he saw was one-sided representation by a “certain segment of our community.”

“This goes way back,” he said. “We have a trust here. We make rules like this that affect the state of Texas and he (Valentine) represents a small group that lives right around him and doesn’t listen to the rest of his constituency. ... I regret spending any time on the River Activities Committee.”

Webb said he also was disappointed with the lack of respect New Braunfels residents were shown by Valentine at Monday night’s council meeting when they spoke — primarily against the river ordinances.

That-Ken-I-Hate is, of course, boo-hooing and saying people are being mean to him. Quite amusing, his arrogance is, especially when you understand that he lost his last general election, and only retained his seat because the winner withdrew because of family problems. Not only do I expect the recall petition to garner the necessary signatures, I expect That-Ken-I-Hate to be voted out by an overwhelming margin. People in town are pissed about this, big time. I also expect Jay Patrick, a newcomer running for the district 2 position, to easily oust Beth Sokolyk, another of That-Ken-I-Hate's lackeys. The only reason I don't expect Kathleen Krueger to get booted in district 5 is because her term doesn't expire until 2008. But you know, we can always hope the good people of district 5 launch a recall of their own.

I'll volunteer to go door-to-door collecting names.

Now Playing: Lynrd Skynrd Skynrd's Innyrds

Friday Night Videos

I grew up on country music, and while I normally prefer to listen to the Kinks or Pink Floyd these days, there's still a lot of C&W that I appreciate. Unfortunately, when it comes to videos there are still a whole lot of folks out of Nashville that Just Don't Get It. Confederate Railroad, however, is one of the acts that does get it. Couple that with an over-the-top cover of Jerry Jeff Walker's "Trashy Women," and you've got yourself a real keeper:

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Emerson, Lake and Palmer.

Now Playing: Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra Mussorgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Galactica season 4 a go?

According to TV Guide, Battlestar Galactica has gotten a 13-episode order for season 4:
No official confirmation from Sci Fi, but the Los Angeles Times says a formal announcement is expected later today. The Times also is confirming that a major character will be unmasked as a Cylon before the end of the season. And if my BSG mole is to be believed, it's not Starbuck.

I have somewhat mixed feelings on this. While I'm happy a quality show like this is getting a life extension, it still chafes that Farscape had a significantly smaller ratings dropoff when SciFi canceled its order for season 5. And it goes without saying that even an abbreviated season 4 will be for naught if Ron Moore and his crew don't do a major course correction and get Galactica out of this morose soap opera rut they've fallen into.

As for the Cylon mole, this runor has been floating around for a while now. Apparently, Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck) is leaving the series (at least temporarily) around the season finale, so folks are saying she'll be revealed as a Cylon. Which really doesn't make a whole lot of logical sense. Sure, there's a "hint" she's Cylon back in season 1, when she flies that damaged raider back to the fleet. But that was more of a remake of the Starbuck episode from Galactica 1980 than anything else. If she were really a Cylon, then why would she be imprisoned and forced to "fall in love" with another Cylon on New Caprica? Sure, you could explain it away by saying the Cylons didn't know she was one of them, but that's simply stupid storytelling. This whole idea of Cylons not knowing all the models seems to have taken root late in season 2, if not early in season 3. That making it up as they go along is leaving room for some significant continuity gaffes.

Baltar's not a Cylon. Making him a Cylon would destroy the beauty and complexity of his character. Admiral Adama's not a Cylon. If he were, the series should've ended five minutes into the miniseries. And he's had children--Zac and Apollo. Likewise, Apollo can't be a Cylon, because Cylons aren't milquetoast crybabies. I can't fathom Tigh being a Cylon, simply because, like Adama, were he a Cylon the series should've ended with the miniseries, or even when Adama was shot and Tigh put in command. It can't be Chief or Callie, since they've had a baby--a big issue with Cylons, you'll remember. Starbuck's guerrilla husband? Maybe, but he doesn't strike me as a major enough character for this to be a great shock (although eliminating him and Starbuck at the same time would have a nifty kind of symmetry). And it can't be Helo, again, because of the whole Cylon/human baby issue. President Roslyn? I thought Cylons didn't get cancer? Strike her from the list.

So that leaves one likely choice, as far as I'm concerned: Dee, Apollo's wife and Galactica bridge officer. She's cute, quiet and somewhat timid for an officer, but has shown she's made of sterner stuff underneath. She's been a regular since the start of the series, so revealing her as a Cylon would reverberate as a major betrayal. And since she's a series regular, it constitutes a status quo shakeup without a simultaneous cast shakeup. At least, that's my thinking. Too bad they've never shown a tawdry love scene between her and Apollo--a glowing spine would pretty much settle the question once and for all, wouldn't it?

Now Playing: Emerson, Lake and Palmer The Return of the Manticore

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

High and dry 2

I wish I could say I was surprised, but I'm not. Despite the overwhelming turnout of New Braunfels residents in opposition to the proposed river restrictions, the New Braunfels city council went ahead and passed them anyway. To add insult to injury, council member Ken Valentine and his personal pep squad Kathleen Krueger actually amended one of the ordinances to make it more restrictive than the version already opposed by the populace:
Before the cooler vote, District 6 Councilman Ken Valentine made a motion to amend the ordinance to change the size of the small coolers

“I make motion to approve the ordinance with adjustments to amend and change dimensions of the six-can cooler to 8" x 6- x 7-inches for the Comal River and change the dimension on the Guadalupe to 11- x 8- x-7- inches,” Valentine said.

That further reduced the cooler size from the original dimensions — 9- x 6- x 9- inches for the Comal and 11- x 9- x 10-inches for the Guadalupe — passed three weeks ago when the cooler ordinance first went before the council.

Valentine said he had heard that the original six-can cooler dimension actually would allow nine cans to fit in a cooler and the originally proposed 12-can cooler possibly could fit up to 18 cans.

District 5 Councilwoman Kathleen Krueger said she was “in total support” of the ordinance and seconded Valentine’s motion.

These folks have acknowledged that their ordinances have little popular support in the community. The mail and phone calls they've gotten have been overwhelmingly in opposition, yet they simply don't care. Ken Valentine (or, to paraphrase Junie B. Jones, "I hate that Ken/That Ken I hate") has got to be the single most arrogant elected official I've ever had the displeasure of meeting. And Krueger... boy oh boy. To think I was initially happy with her election. The other two plotters in this little power-hungry cabal are Beth Sokolyk and Pat Wiggins. My only regret is that these two are not in my district, which means I'll never have the pleasure of voting either of these yahoos out of office.

However, I do want to applaud the efforts of council members Gayle Pospisil and Sonia Munoz-Gill, who along with Mayor Bruce Boyer, voted against the most egregious of the ordinances in an effort to protect the citizens of New Braunfels from the overbearing zealots on the council. My own council rep, Munoz-Gill, has in fact impressed me greatly by her excellent communication and availability to discuss the issues. She voted in favor of the fence and improvements to the park--which I think can be a real asset to the area--but also voted against the draconian cooler ordinance, and also attempted to make the ban on open containers in the city's riverfront parks seasonal. By restricting open containers and alcohol during the summer months, it targets mainly the rowdy vacationing crowd. During the fall and winter months, locals having family barbecues and and fishing excursions are unaffected. Not a perfect solution, to be sure, but at least she made the effort to respect the local citizenry's access and use of the parks--something "That Ken I Hate," Krueger, Wiggins and Sokolyk obviously have no concerns about.

Now Playing: Emerson, Lake and Palmer The Return of the Manticore

Monday, February 12, 2007

High and dry

I went to the New Braunfels city council meeting tonight, to speak against some of the ordinances they're considering which put restrictions on people floating the Comal and Guadalupe rivers inside the city limits. Imagine my dismay when I arrived early to learn they didn't have a sign-up for speakers, nor did they have time blocked out at the beginning of the meeting for public comment as the Comal ISD school board does. Instead, public debate opens as each item is brought up. And the river ordinances were pretty far down the list. To top it off, there were five or so ordinance--if you rose to speak about one, you couldn't include the others in your commentary. You had to literally get up and speak five times if you wanted to talk about all five.

This presented me with a problem, since I had to pick up my daughters from CCD class at church at 7:30 p.m. So I waited. And waited. Until Mayor Bruce Boyer mercifully moved the ordinances in question up to the front of the docket, much to the approval of the standing room only crowd who'd gathered to address the issue.

A consulting/architectural firm hired to study the issue of fencing Hinman Island Park gave a PowerPoint presentation about the options the city had, since the fencing issue was the first of the ordinances up for consideration. I was opposed to the concept initially, but have to admit I was almost completely won over by the pragmatic and proactive approach they took for the project. Instead of fostering a bunker mentality, the real possibility exists that the fencing and other improvements would be a boon for the park, which hasn't had any infrastructure upgrades in more than 20 years. The city Parks Board also delivered a statement in support of the plan, with the caveat that there was great concern 1) funding from the project must not come from already-strained parks budgets, 2) the fencing could create the temptation to charge admission and 3) the fencing could be used to deny New Braunfels residents use of the park, which is their right as taxpayers. Then they opened the floor to public comment.

It was 7:20 by this time, so I seized my only chance. I apologized for my rush, but explained that I had to pick up my daughters. I then explained that I no longer qualified as a "young whippersnapper" and my concerns weren't prompted by any MySpace mobilization--references to some disparaging comments made by a councilmember regarding the negative reactions the ordinances have generated. To my relief, these got good chuckles from the room. I then, in more or less clumsy verbiage, explained that while I wasn't opposed to all ordinances governing river use, I did have a significant problem with those that adversely impacted residents and their use of the river through misguided efforts to control the actions of a rowdy minority. I said I didn't want my family's good behavior punished to get at the bad behavior of others--and that's what the more controversial ordinances do, punish everyone equally, regardless of guilt or innocence. I also reiterated that while some of these might look good to council members on paper, the ordinances smack of being written by people with little or no firsthand experience of actually floating the rivers--if they had, then they'd understand why something as seemingly innocuous as ice chest restrictions are generating so much opposition as being onerous and burdensome (and in all honesty, I didn't even know coolers were made as small as a six-pack size until the ordinances brought up the issue). I ended by asking the council to strongly reconsider their support for any ordinance that oversteps and impinges on the rights of New Braunfels residents in a misguided effort to crack down on rowdy elements. Of course, I didn't say it as clearly or concisely as that--I think much better when I write than when I speak--but I was surprisingly rewarded with a wave of applause from the gathered crowd as I left.

As of this writing, I can't tell if any of the controversial ordinances have passed or not. Only one, the preliminary approval to move ahead with fence preparations, had come up for a vote (it passed, which is fine by me) and made it onto the news sites. I'll have to wait to read it in the morning's paper like everyone else, I suppose. But I believe at least two of the council members were uncomfortable with the scope of the ordinances, and I hope my words helped to persuade them as much--if not more--than all the college students who'd shown up lugging ice chests to make their point later on.

Fingers are crossed.

Now Playing: Crowded House Crowded House

Another project

My wife's got an iMac DV, one of those ruby-colored CRT G3 computers Apple sold the heck out of back before they shifted over to the oddly lifeless flat-screen incarnation of the same. I bought it for her as a present the Christmas of 2000, and it's proved itself to be a durable little computer. When we moved from Temple, though, it pretty much lost its place in the hierarchy of the household, and while I set it up in our bedroom, it was never connected to the internet and Lisa started doing most of her work on my PC downstairs.

That's about to change. With my upgrade to DSL back before Christmas, I invested in a WiFi base as well. I did some checking up, and I'm more impressed than ever with the G3 iMacs. They're designed to work with WiFi networks, and although they're smaller and slower than the modern Macs, that only really impacts high-end utilities and projects. For surfing the net or working spreadsheets and word processors, it's still just as good a machine as it ever was.

So I've begun a reclamation project. First up, getting a new operating system disc. Our old OS 9.0.4 disc disappeared somewhere along the line, and a backup was a priority. Enter eBay, where not only did I get that OS 9.0.4 disc, but I got a diagnostic disc and a system restore disc as well for $5. Not bad. Now we're in a position to upgrade the OS, maybe even jumping to OS X someday. I also picked up a 256MB memory card which is something I should've done ages ago--as it was, the little thing only had a 64MB card, which meant you couldn't effectively run more than one program at a time. There are 512MB cards available for it as well, and someday I hope to pick up two to boost the available memory to 1024MB--that'd be more than enough to run pretty much anything Lisa needs.

The most problematic addition, however, was the Airport card. This is the iMac's wireless receiver, and although they're advertised as "Airport ready" in fact you need an adapter card in order to use one with the old G3s. Only Apple stopped producing them a few years back, and the current Airport Extreme cards aren't backward-compatible. A quick check of eBay showed many of the original Airport cards going for $70-plus, which is crazy when you realize there are G3 iMacs identical to my wife's that can be bought for that same amount. And I've seen the adapter cards go for $20. Sheesh. After much trial and error (and getting outbid more than I care to admit) I finally won a card for $55, and an adapter for $5. The secret, apparently, is to find one at auction that will end in the wee hours either Sunday or Monday morning. I figure everyone was either asleep, out partying or playing World of Warcraft and too busy to bother bidding at the last minute.

So now all the additional components have arrived, save the Airport card. It's been a drawn-out process, but I'm pretty pleased with the end result. The Ruby iMac's been easy to work with, and durable as heck. In fact, I'm seriously thinking that in a few years, when Calista and Keela need/want computers for their own, with which to do homework and various internet surfing on, I'll get them G3 iMacs as well. The price is right, and for their needs and use, I can't see dropping the kind of money a PC would demand, and dealing with all the security headaches Windows brings with it.

Besides, Calista's already informed me she wants a green one.

Now Playing: Melissa Etheridge Yes I Am

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Worst Galactica ever

I don't know what it is about Battlestar Galactica, but the series really seems to have gotten off its game since the whole "New Caprica" story arc. I've always been somewhat uncomfortable with the series and story decisions because of chronic inattention to details, so maybe that's why I haven't soured on it as much as others have in season three. Still, if they have many more stinkers like tonight's "Woman King," I'm outta here.

What was so bad about it? I missed the first minute or so, but apparently one of the ships of the fleet carrying refugees from the Saggitaron colony broke down, and the Galactica had to take them on. The Saggitarons, conveniently enough, are religious types who disavow modern medicine, so naturally they come down with a contageous and deadly disease. The civilian doctor assigned to treat them secretly hates Saggitarons, and begins covertly killing them. Helo, assigned to manage the refugees, figures this out early on, but none of his superiors believe him.

Geeze. Where to begin? This episode fails on several fundamental levels. Battlestar Galactica, at its best, succeeds for the same reasons the original Star Trek holds up so well today--it functions as an effective allegory of complex moral issues facing contemporary society. The moral quandaries set up often have no "good" resolution, merely outcomes of varying degrees of lesser evil. When it became clear the overcrowded refugees were being killed by the doctor, I perked up. It looked, however briefly, that the show was going to tackle the hopeless situation that developed in the hospitals of New Orleans a year ago during Hurricane Katrina. Several doctors and nurses--apparently believing help wasn't coming (it wasn't) and that many of their patients were terminal and suffering (deep moral conundrum there) began administering lethal doses of medication. Other physicians knew this was happening and refused to participate--but at the same time didn't intervene to stop it.

Only that's not what Galactica did tonight. No, the physician was killing them because he was racist, and other, "better" Colonists deserved the medicines and resources these Saggitarons were consuming. This is a message which is both puerile and nonsensical. "Ooh! Racism bad!" is as inane and ham-fisted as any message can be in this day and age, but the cardinal sin here is that they weren't even dealing with racism. It was clearly shown--several times, in fact--that the Saggitarons are a multiracial people, with black and white members of their society, and presumably others. What binds them together and gives them social identity isn't race, but rather cultural beliefs. "Culturism" itself could've been a very interesting avenue to pursue, but the writers chose not to explore that aspect of the scenario.

Not that it mattered, since the framework of the plot fell into a timeworn web of Hollywood cliches. Cast Helo as the lone, outcast scientist in any disaster movie and you see where I'm going with this. The officer placed in charge comes up with serious concerns, and suddenly everyone from Colonel Tigh and Admiral Adama to the janitor are questioning his competence and defending this civilian doctor. A civilian doctor the viewers have never seen before, but we're assured time again that he's "a stand-up guy" who "patched up Tigh's eye" on New Caprica. In short, he's a borderline "Mary Sue" character, cut from whole cloth and thrust upon the viewer. The story only functions as it does because it is an idiot plot, in that the narrative would cease as soon as Adama, Tigh or any other authority figure would stop acting like idiots and simply check the facts. In fact, the episode would end almost as soon as it began if the idiot Saggitaron refugees would explain why they fear this particular doctor, rather than scurry off muttering "I've said too much already."

And really, people. Enough with the cigarettes already. If the Galactica's struggling so hard just to produce enough food for the people in the fleet, scarce resources aren't going to be allocated grow tobacco. I don't care how prevalent of a black market you have, what little tobacco someone manages to sprout under illicit grow-lights in an unused broom closet on hangar deck B is going to be a mighty rare and expensive thing. No more smoke-wreathed card games and bars, please!

Now Playing: Queen Greatest Hits

Friday, February 09, 2007

Friday Night Videos

The video may not be the most original to grace the airwaves, but Emerson, Lake and Powell's lone hit from 1986, "Touch and Go," is a keeper. It's long forgotten, mostly because Cozy Powell died and Palmer rejoined the band before the alternate lineup ever did anything else, but still, if you're only going to produce one memorable song, this one's a pretty good one to settle for.

Incidentally, "Touch and Go" is included in the "Return of the Manticore" boxed set, but it's a re-recording with Palmer on drums. It's re-orchestrated to a degree as well, and while listenable, it doesn't quite measure up to the original.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Sly Fox.

Now Playing: Supertramp Classics

Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Good Doctor is gone

Well, shit.
Shelby Metcalf, whose self-effacing humor and flair for upsets shaped the image of Texas A&M basketball for nearly three decades, died Thursday night, school officials confirmed. Metcalf was 76 and had battled cancer in recent years.

In his 27 seasons as A&M's head coach, Metcalf won 428 games, more than any other coach in Southwest Conference history. His teams won SWC championships six times, including his debut season in 1964.

Metcalf was the winningest coach in SWC history, and had quite a list of accomplishments on his resume. I met Metcalf several times in passing when I was a student at A&M. He was always friendly and funny, never taking himself too seriously. There was a general feeling at the time among the students that the game had passed him by, but that's not what did him in. For some reason, John David Crow--who was the assistant AD under Jackie Sherrill and later the AD when Sherrill left--hated Shelby with a passion, and undermined the basketball program at every opportunity to try and force him out. Crow went so far as to block the original plans to build a 14,000 seat version of what would eventually become Reed Arena because he refused to let Metcalf coach in a new arena. After Crow fired Metcalf, there was an ugly lawsuit which was eventually settled, and in the summer of 1991 when I sports editor at the Battalion, I assigned one of my reporters to do a "Where is he now?" feature on Metcalf. Ever the wit, Metcalf somehow got around to talking about "The two stupidest people I ever met--one's dead, and the other I can't talk about until Aug. 31, 1994" or something along those lines. The jab, of course, was directed at Crow and the gag order on the settlement.

I'd heard several times that Metcalf planned to write a book about his SWC exploits. It'd have been funny as all get-out, I'm sure. Sad now that it will never grace my book shelves.

Update: There are some all-time classic Shelby quotes over at Great stuff.

Now Playing: nothing

Perils of eBay

Not too long ago we bought a new sofa for the living room. This resulted in some rearranging, since the new one had a different footprint than the former. A floor lamp we had in the corner no longer fit there, and since we really did need a light in that corner, Lisa decided a swag lamp would be the best way to go. Only swag lamps aren't too common at Lowe's and Home Depot these days, except for some truly ugly retro-70s things that are trying to make a comeback. No problem--eBay is the solution to all problems of this sort.

Big mistake, or brilliant choice, depending on how you view it. Right away, Lisa stumbled across something heretofore unknown to us--grape swag lamps. Back in the 60s and 70s, a company called Eames Era produced lamps made from Lucite balls clustered together to resemble a grape bunch. Some lamps are small, some are huge. Some are hideous (green and blue grapes, some even a kaleidoscope of colors). Others, namely the red, purple, amber and white grapes, look pretty nifty. So we started bidding on a few. And losing. We quickly found out that the ones we liked were in high demand-- these lamps haven't been produced in years, and some went for more than our budget could handle. After Christmas, the pickings got pretty slim--most of the lamps up for bid were blue and green, which we didn't want. Then, a little over a month ago, a red lamp showed up. We were pretty determined to jump on it. It came with no greenery, but we could replace that with a quick trip to Hobby Lobby. The description indicated the lamp was the largest of its type, and in "nice condition." I checked the seller's feedback--he had 50 or so positive responses, with one neutral that only complained of delayed shipping. Looked good. So we bid. And we won.

Shortly after our auction closed, three negatives showed up on his feedback. Then a couple of neutrals, all complaining about poor communication, slow shipping (or not shipping items at all) and items arriving broken. Uh oh. The guy didn't respond to our emails. We started to get concerned. Finally, after almost a month, we got a terse email apologizing for the delay and promising our lamp was on its way. And sure enough, the lamp arrived a couple of days later.

It had been shipped with a sheet of bubble wrap simply tossed over it--it's a miracle the lamp didn't break in transit. Shoddy packaging indeed. And it stank. The box reeked of cigarette smoke, and the lamp itself--it just smelled wrong. It had something of a greasy film over the entire thing, like it'd been hung in a fry kitchen for the past 30 years. It was grimy. And it wasn't the largest of its type--which takes a single, standard bulb inserted in a conical hollow amidst the grapes. Instead, it took three mini bulbs--think night light or chandelier--that were wedged deeply in the midst of the Lucite grapes and difficult to get to. But the cord and swag chain... hoo boy. The chain was grimy and almost rusted through all along its length. The cord consisted of two different electrical cords spliced together with electrician's tape, and when Lisa tried to plug the thing in, sparks shot out and the circuit breaker tripped. Needless to say, it was not as advertised in our opinion, and the jerk got negative feedback from us.

But in for a penny, in for a pound. I went to Home Depot and bought a swag kit, plus some chandelier lamp sockets, low wattage bulbs and such. A trip to Hobby Lobby landed us some very nice faux grape vine/leaf bunches (50 percent off sale!). I spent several hours stripping the wiring out of the grape bunch (it was built to never come out) then ran the whole thing through the dishwasher for a good degreasing. I removed the branch of "driftwood" anchored at the top of the lamp and cleaned it separately to remove the cigarette stench. Then I spent several more hours rewiring the whole thing, essentially building a new lamp with four sockets hidden within. Here's the result:


Despite my initial misgivings due to the awful condition it arrived in, the refurbished lamp looks pretty darn good. The kitsch factor is mitigated by the fact that to the right of the lamp is a suspended wine rack that spans the length of the kitchen/living room, and we've already got artificial grapes and vines hanging from that (if you want to designate that kitsch, so be it), so this works nicely as an extension of the theme. Even with four lights, it doesn't put out as much light as we were hoping, and I'm not comfortable putting higher wattage bulbs (both for heat generated and energy consumption reasons). Ideally, we'd like one of the large lamps with space inside for a single, large florescent bulb, but I suspect it'll be a while before we venture back to eBay for one.

Now Playing: John Cougar Mellencamp The Lonesome Jubilee

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

HEROES: Distractions

A bit tardy in my thoughts on this week's HEROES, aren't I? Well, at least they're truthful in their advertising: "Distractions" neatly summed up what was, for the most part, a filler episode. Yeah, there were some interesting developments. Peter Petrelli learning he could access other heroes' powers without them being around was the biggie, obviously. His near-meltdown, however, wasn't the danger it was played up to be, simply because he hasn't absorbed Fallout Boy's powers yet. The other "shocker" wasn't so much of one--that politician Nathan Petrelli is actually Cheerleader Claire's birth father. This would actually work a lot better if round-faced Claire, oh, maybe didn't look so utterly dissimilar from either of her birth parents. Example: Claire has a very soft, round face, whereas Nathan and the trailer park torch both have longer, leaner faces. And this is really starting to muddle the timeline as to when who's powers started to maifest--especially with the Invisible Man's contention that his showed up 15 years previous.

Pretty much everything else in the episode returned things to status quo. Hiro's confrontation with his father, an awesomely cast George Takei, was mere filler. It had nothing to do with the overall storyline, came out of the blue, and by the end of the hour was wrapped up tighter than an episode of Leave It to Beaver. A real waste of good actors and character background (and really, what is it with Hiro insisting his powers have gone and can't be used without gaining the sword? He frellin' used his powers to steal the fake sword just a few hours earlier, didn't he? That's just sloppy writing). Jekyll-and-Hyde Niki unleashed her beatdown on her prison shrink and was released from confinement by the unseen Linderman's intervention. So she's back on the street, back to the status quo we had earlier. Even the escape of Sylar was anti-climactic, with him escaping the Haitian after threatening the Paper Man's wife while waiting for Claire to come home. All of the playing pieces are pretty much back in place, the only difference being the characters have a little bit more knowledge than they did earlier on. This insistence on reversing plot developments in order to return things to status quo is one thing that bugs the crap out of me in comics, and it turns out it bugs the crap out of me in comic book TV shows as well. Here's hoping next week's episode has significantly less filler and more substance.

Now Playing: Dire Straits On the Night

American Idol

I'd fallen away from American Idol the last few years, mainly because I've been too busy with other things to watch. So I missed out on the whole "Soul Patrol" and "McPhever" hype last year. But yesterday I tuned in, because the bad singer tour was wrapping up in San Antonio, and the girls always like watching people who sing so awful it's funny.

The highlight of the night was the final singer, though. Jimmy McNeal told the judges he was going to sing Sam Cooke's "Cupid," but started belting out Cooke's "Another Saturday Night." I was thinking "What the...?" and wondering if he couldn't tell the difference between Cooke's songs. I didn't care, though, because I love "Another Saturday Night" and McNeal was nailing it up one side and down the other. Then he finishes the chorus and brilliantly segues into the promised "Cupid." Amazing. McNeal was easily the best of the night, and should at least reach the final eight in the show, unless he stumbles badly somewhere along the line.

To top it off, he's a student here at Texas State. I knew there was one supposed to be on the show, but kept looking for a San Marcos hometown listing, whereas McNeal was listed as Waxahachie. I strongly suspect I'll be watching a lot more American Idol this season...

Now Playing: Peter Gabriel US

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I will not make fun of my t-sip friends reading this blog

I'm too big a person for that. Instead, I'll let the Houston Chronicle's Richard Justice do the dirty work:
The University of Texas takes a backseat to no one. Well, except for Texas A&M. Thank you, sir, may I have another? The Longhorns suddenly have a new daddy. That's right, it's the Aggies.

Whoo. Mr. Everything Kevin Durant scores 28 point and records yet another double-double, two A&M starters foul out with eight minutes to go, and Aggie star Acie Law is dragged off the court with a hurt leg and the Ags still whip the sips by 18? We've entered Bizarro world, indeed.

Now Playing: nothing

Monday, February 05, 2007

February Madness

Less than 48 hours after the biggest road win in program history, the Texas A&M basketball team turns around to play the no. 23-ranked t-sips tonight in another nationally televised game on ESPN. As much as I'd love to heap derision in the direction of Austin, I can't, because freshman phenom Kevin Durant is probably the best player A&M will face this year--is probably the single best player in all of college basketball. Blink, and you'll miss him, because next year he'll be starring on an NBA squad somewhere. The Ags did manage to shut down Oklahoma State's star Mario Boggan earlier in the season, though, so we'll see if they can work that magic again tonight.

This whole "basketball power" thing is still messing with my worldview. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. But the idea of thousands of students turning out at 2 a.m. to greet the basketball team is something that was once unheard of at A&M.

Now Playing: John Cougar Mellencamp Big Daddy

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Staggering across the finish line

This weekend was devoted to doing my income tax return. Granted, not the entire weekend. I set aside a block of three hours or so on Saturday for the Aggie game (I just checked again--yep, they did beat the Jayhawks at Allen Fieldhouse. It wasn't a dream...) since a man must have his priorities in order. I also watched parts to the Superbowl this evening, but it didn't hold my interest much. A sloppy mess in the rain. My man Billy Joel did a decent job with the National Anthem, and by golly, Prince really gave an inspired halftime performance. But the game itself? Meh. Didn't really help that I don't really care one way or the other for either team.

But yeah, my taxes are done. And the news is good--there's a nice little bit coming back this direction once all is said and done. Yay! Of course, it's already earmarked for paying off credit card bills and the like, but all things considered, it's better than a sharp stick in the eye. Now I get to rest easy until this time next year...

Now Playing: Alanis Morissette Jagged Little Pill

Saturday, February 03, 2007

12th time's a charm

I don't know about you, but life's pretty good for me right now.
It was the first victory over Kansas in 12 tries for the Aggies, who became the first Big 12 South Division team to win in the Jayhawks' hallowed Allen Fieldhouse since the conference was formed in 1996.

For a "football school" who's basketball glory days consist of a single season back in 1981, where infighting and politics ensured losing seasons my entire four years at A&M, well, this whole renaissance under Billy Gillispie is pretty darn sweet. Excuse me while I go bask in the glow...

Now Playing: Queen Greatest Hits

Of geese, golden eggs and water on the brain

Long before I moved to New Braunfels, I heard an oft-repeated story told about the community: Folks in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio would visit the town in the summer for a weekend getaway, having great fun floating either the Comal or Guadalupe Rivers. They'd do this for years until they retired or earned the means to live where they wanted, so remembering the great times they'd had in New Braunfels, would buy a home close to the rivers. The first thing they'd do after moving in was start to complain about all the tubers messing up "their" river.


A bunch of these "we love the rivers as long as nobody's actually enjoying them" have gotten on to the New Braunfels city council. They've been pushing through a set of new ordinances that, on the face of it, seemed designed solely to drive tubers away from the river, with little regard as to whether they're a local resident or rowdy out-of-towner. As a parent, I agree that requiring life jackets for children younger than 8 is a good idea. Most of the rest, however... I dunno. The only thing these rules accomplish is spelling out once and for all that the city council never actually goes tubing. Below is the letter I emailed to the mayor and council members this evening.
Dear Honorable Mayor and Council Members,

For the record, I am not a "young kid." I'm 37 with a wife and three children aged 8, 6 and 1. In years past, we have taken great pleasure in floating the Comal River (with the obvious exception of the youngest). With the exception of casual profanity from some of the college aged tubers, our experiences have been quite pleasant--I've yet to witness the ongoing apocalypse so breathlessly decried in the media.

I'm not against a safe, regulated environment, and supported the noise ordinance and restrictions on Jello-shots put in place last season. However, this latest series of ordinances troubles me greatly, and leads me to believe that none of you, our representatives in city government, ever actually partake in this "community treasure" you claim so vocally to defend. If this were not the case, you would already realize that most of the new proposals are onerous not just for the teenaged interlopers from foreign parts, but for the very residents of this community whose interests you are supposed to represent. While requiring life jackets for young children is laudable and common sense, and tougher open container laws in the parks and exit points on the river may be effective in reducing drunken behavior, the other proposals such as limiting one tube per person and restricting the size of coolers to a size few manufacturers bother to market is hostile towards *all* patrons of the river, be they rowdy or respectful. I believe the entire effort is ill-considered and overboard, akin to using a daisy-cutter to silence an annoying mosquito.

I've lived in several different Texas cities, but New Braunfels is the first one where I've been proud to be a member of the community. The rivers we are blessed with certainly contribute to that feeling. It's be a shame if I had to start driving my family up to San Marcos to enjoy a summertime float.


Jayme Lynn Blaschke

Not that I'm expecting it to do any good, mind you. Council member Ken Valentine, who would vote against a sunny day if everyone else were in favor of it, has been leading a crusade to shut the river down for years. Coincidentally, he owns riverfront property. I wonder if he originally lived in Dallas or Houston?

Now Playing: Rush Chronicles

Friday, February 02, 2007

Friday Night Videos

Ah, the glories of parachute pants, another relic of the bygone 80s. I never owned a pair, not being hip enough, but obviously the guys from Sly Fox were hip enough. Their song, "Let's Go All the Way," was one of the coolest hits from my high school years--and interestingly enough, it wasn't initially a hit in the U.S. As I understand it, the single was released in 1986, but sank without a trace until DJs at KKBQ in Houston (which was a top 40 station back in those days) took a liking to it and began playing the extended version heavily. Gradually, it's popularity spread and it became a top 10 hit in early 1987 (again, my recollections may be off, but the gist is there). Pretty cool. Something sorta similar happened with the Synch song "Where Are You Now?", which got very heavy airplay from KKBQ upon its original release in 1985 and never really fell off the playlist until it resurfaced as a top 10 hit in 1989.

Previously on Friday Night Videos... Everclear.

Now Playing: The Smithereens 11