Friday, December 31, 2004

Happy New Year (for some of us)

It's hard to feel very excited about 2005, when we put 2004 to rest with 150,000 people dead and many more injured, orphaned, thrown into poverty, and starving. There are a lot of great organizations that get our donations right to the people they are intended for with very little "overhead." Send some money to one of them!

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

O Canada!

Keelin and I are up here in Vancouver, British Columbia on a short getaway...staying in our favourite hotel on Robson Street, the Pacific Palisades. A wonderful trip so far...easy border crossing, strolls along Robson Street, late lunch at Hon's, a massive and wonderful Chinese restaurant, and then more walks, stopping in at Virgin Records, swimming, hot tubbing, and even a moment for blogging while Keelin is at A Bikrim Yoga session. Then it's off to visit the critically-lauded Design show at the UBC museum down the street. It's nice to be away, when your biggest decision is where to eat!

Thank you Claire for (wo)manning the Brummet-Curran mansion in our absence. I know Colum and Del are being extremely cooperative!

It's easy to see why Claire loves living in Victoria so much. It's a great country for so many reasons. Now, I have to admit they don't make the best wine in the world, and at the record store, the Celine Dion racks dwarf the amount of shelf space dedicated to Miles Davis or The Beatles. But that's a small price to pay for such a great people, and for a city with such a great international vibe. Watching the news and reading the 'papers here is such an eye-opener after the U.S., where our navel gazing only rarely turns outward (60,000 dead and climbing!), and then only briefly before the next U.S. crisis (Janet Jackson's nipple exposed for three seconds!). More later. Jack Brummet on location in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Poem: Li Po In Disgrace

Four hundred and forty-thousand
Moons ago, Li Po sits
Drinking wine on a bluff.

The Sun fades into blue mountains.
On the other side of the ball,
The sun scales the horizon.

Crickets tune up
And the first bats
Sail from roost to roost.

I think about Li Po drunk again
In the mountains, waiting for word
And listening to the wind songs.

Lost and alone on so many levels,
He stares at the cup
And wonders when his pardon will come.

He holds a inkpot, scroll, and brush.
He listens to his skin fold
And his hair turn grey.

Between the mountains and stars,
A crow wheels over fogged red pines
Spiring in moonlight.

LiPo shakes wet peach blossoms
From his coat
And fills the cup.

Moonlight dances
On the golden wine
In the silver cup.

Who needs a clear head this night?

Jack Brummet

Monday, December 27, 2004

Jack Drawing: Faces No. 467

faces no. 467

Rumsfeld Says 9-11 plane 'shot down' in Pennsylvania

During his surprise Christmas Eve trip to Iraq, the defense secretary alluded to the fact that we shot down Flight 93 over Pennsylvania. This has always been one of the mysteries of 9/11, and despite the "let's roll" comments of Citizen Beamer on the plane, a lot of people have wondered if we did indeed shoot the plane down. This was the plane that could have conceivably gone to Washington and attacked the White House and other monuments.

Do we now have a policy about taking out commercial flights that are controlled by terrorists? Would this really be a national debate? Everyone on board is doomed in any case...

Click on the title for a link to the story... /jack

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Scrooge, by Lord Buckley

This is the text of Richard "Lord" Buckley's (1906-1960) masterful "Scrooge." Lord Buckley was an amazing Beat-era writer and performer who greatly influenced a lot ot later comedians and authors. This is transcribed from his performance (which is worth buying...a couple Buckley CDs are in print).

"Yes, me, I'm Scrooge and I got all Marley's barley, and I'm the baddest cat in all dis world. I been studyin' all my life how to Scrooge people, and I guarantee I done some fine work in dat direction.


"Yes, sir."

"You busy?"

"I shorely is, sir."

"See dat you keep busy. Don't want no danglin' wanglin' around here. Keep everybody tight. And tell dem two cats come in here want to get some money I ain't givin' no money away. Dey messin' wit Scrooge. I'm takin' it in. I ain't puttin' it out. Issat clear?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, keep it clear. People comin' around here wantin' my gold dat's all, tryin' to pry into my vault. Every time I turn around somebody's tryin' to snap... "

"Tell my nephew I don't want to have no dinner wid him an' if he never comes in here again dat'll be too soon."

"I'll tell de cat."

"See dat ya do.

"I don't understand dese people who are after my gold. I close up dis here place and den dey ... What, what? Yeah, let me tell you somethin else - You think that you gonna get off Christmas day?"

"Well I was hopin', sir, dat you'd let me knock off just a little while for Christmas Eve cause I want to go home and cool da goose."

"Well if you gonna get off Christmas Eve you gonna have to work aaalllll day Christmas. You hear me?"

"I hear ya, sir. I'm wid it."

"Well I guess I'll go on home here."

So Scrooge takes off and he cuts on down the street. And the snow's blowin' and da winds is wooooooooin', and Scrooge is goin' along in his loose soul and his loose clothes and his hard cash box and his big money mind goin' on in his wig and he ding ding ding up da stairs and he open his door and he gets inside and he puts a double lock on da door cause he a little bugged tonight. He bein' sayin' "Humbug" so long, "Humbug dis," an' "Humbug dat," he done give himself a natural Humbug. He's got da bug hummin' in him, see. So he double-lock da door.

And he sit dere and all of a sudden dere's an old bell layin' over dere in the corner and da bell goes, ding-ding-ding-ding" and Scrooge say, "Whassat?" Dang- dong. "Whassat?" Bell started ringin' "DING DONG DOONG DOONG" Pretty soon all da bells all over the house started ringin' "Ding Ding Dang Dang Dong Ring Dong Boom Boom, Ding dong, Boom boom"

And he hear somethin' like some chain cats are pullin' all da chains from the chains of time up the hill 'a strife ringing' and dinglin' wid his whole head ringin' and dingin' wid dem chains. And bloooop! In come a cat, da wildest lookin' cat ya ever see in his life. Real gone cat.

And Scrooge does a real wild take "I know who dat stud is - dat's Marley! I know dat's Marley! What's he doin' here? Say, Marley?"

"Yes, it's me."

"Man, you sure chained up dere, man, you got chainsville all over you dere!"

"Well, I put em on myself, dat's da way I lived it. I chained myself. I hung myself up wid all dese chains, you know, bein' parsimonious, ya understand what I mean? I can't get 'em off now. I been luggin' dese chains all over da country for the past seven years."

"Dat's a long time. What's you want wit me dere, Marley Marley? cause I got your barley."

"I don't mess wid no barley no more. I wish I'd given it all away when I had it and I'm gonna tell you somethin' else, too, I'm a spook, you know dat."

"You tellin' me. I know dat. You a spook, man, an' I wanna get straight."

"I'm gonna tell you somethin else, too, Mr. Scroogie Scrooge, Dere gonna be three more gas lightin' spooks comin' in to see you."

"Three more gas lightin' spooks. Say, one spook's enough. Can't I have 'em all at one time?"

"No. Dey comin' one at a time. First one be eleven, next one be twelve, next one'll be one."

"Man, if I had known this..."

"Tell you what. You dig, Scrooge, it's what you puttin' down. You been a real sorry cat all dis time. You gonna be gassed now by dese spooks."

"Well, dey say if I gotta be gassed.. Ain't gonna cost me no money, is it?"

"Cost you more 'n dat, Scrooge."

"Dey ain't no more den money!"

"You find out."

Brrrrt. And Marley split.

And old Scrooge is sittin' dere sweatin' and dinglin' danglin'. And all of a sudden, man, he hears some crazy wild kind of a thing goin' on. He don't know just what it is and all of a sudden . . .


Here comes a great big fat spook, look like takes a hundred and seventy wings lift him off over da house top and he's got de old beat up cat and spandly legs, and strangly arms and pedicured eyes, and a whole out of his skull wiggin' up a storm and he looks at old Scrooge and he says...

Scrooge is standin' dere in the corner he feel like a disrupted small disregarded and unclaimed white mice midget-style, he's sittin' over dere.

And dis spook say, "Come wid me 'cause I is The Ghost of da Christmas Past!"

And Scrooge say, "Do I hafta?"

Say, "You certainly do!"

And he got on the ghost's wing and - brrt - they took off.

And he's flyin' old Scrooge over da top of da mountain da wind is blowin', da wind is partin' his way, and he's lookin' down, and seein' all dese crazy scenes goin' on.


He goes over a few more miles Takes him down to a sun-lit pasture. And da sun-lit pasture's full of children, and de're singin' and dancin' and lovin' and goin' and swingin' and Scrooge say, "Look, look, look! Dat's me down dere!"

"Yeah, dat's you, dat's you."

"I look pretty good"

"Yeah but ya don't look good now,"

He say, "I wanna hip you gotta get yourself ?


He takes him over to another place and he shows him a pretty little chick got dimples, three dimples on each chin, and she got three little dimpled children, and the next little dimple on da way, and dere's a real swingin' cat around there, and it's a happy time, looks like seventeen carnivals takin' off. An' Scrooge look at dis chick and say, "I remember dat chick. I could 'a married her once."

"Yeah, you coulda if you wasn't so tight wid your purse. You all was thinkin' about yourself, dat's what happened." Say, "Let me hip you further, Mister Scrooge, Let me tell you one thing: you better get everything straight that you wanna and you better straighten up."

"An' take me home."

"Yeah, I will."

Brrrrm Boom

And he's home again.

"So man, that was a shaker. This whole thing, this whole thing is shakin' me up pretty bad." He say, "I want to tell you right now . . . "


Here comes another big spook. Ooooohhhh He's a wild lookin' spook. He's a crazy lookin' spook. He's a far-out spook, he's a gas-light spook. He's got a gas light right on the top of his wig goin' around like one of them pilot lights in a light house and he's there gassin' up the whole scene.

He say "Come with me. I'm The Ghost of Christmas Present"

And Scrooge look around and sees the joint is loaded with apples and bananas and oranges and, and credalies and acralonchs and ripalips all kinds of crazy wild grapes and crazy Chistmas scenes and nuts and candy.

And he say, "Come wid me."

Brrrrrttt. Done took off again.

He said "I am The Ghost of Christmas Present." He say, "I'm gonna show you what's goin' on in dis world and how to dig Christmas and how to all enjoy."

And he took him up to a little old outcast. And there sittin on a small beat-up rock was two studs chompin' up on a can 'a beans singin', "Merry Christmas widch you, Merry Christmas widch you. Merry Christmas to the whole world" And so on and so forth.

And he showin' him the people jumpin' for joy, see how the cats that ain't got nothin' got somethin' anyway, and they're all jumpin' for joy singin' "Merry Christmas," and da bells is ringin'. Now you get yourself straight and see how things is ....

So they fly over da Cratchit's place, there little old Tiny Tim, He's sittin' over in the corner crochetin' a little crazy scene, fiddlin' around, ya know what I mean? An carryin' on, see, and they are all talkin' about this here goose, and dey look down here and this little goose about the size of a beat up retarded sparrow, and everybody's ooohin' and aahhhin' all over dis goose, and day sayin' when are we gonna spread it, and Tiny Tim say, "God bless everyone, and even up to and including Scroogy Scrooge. God bless everyone!" That's what Tiny Tim say.

And old Scrooge got red-eyed.

Brrrrt .

Took 'im back again. Sound like the whole side 'a the buildin' open up and in come a long angular spook seventeen gas lights and stove pipes hung together with jingle jangle bells all over Scrooge takes a look at this cat, Says, "Do I have to go with you?"

He says, "You certainly do, 'cause I'm The Ghost of Christmas Future."

He say, "Come wid me."

Say, "Where we goin'?"

"None 'o your business!"

He takes old Scrooge they cut off flyin' around the moonlight is shinin' down. Booom!

They're in the grave-yard. Oooh a wild OOOOoooohhhh crazy spooky graveyard and Scrooge is walkin' around and finally something stepped out at him like he was struck with the force of his eye lids, some sort of an electronic pitchfork, and he reads on one of them billboards in that grave-yard, it say, "Dis is Scrooge, the baddest cat that ever lived. He don't have nothin' he ain't got nothin' and he ain't got nothin now."


And Scrooge looked at it and . . . They're going to another place, and there's a cat say "You goin' to the funeral?" and he say, "Not me, man, I wouldn't go near that cat, dead or alive. They couldn't pay me to get near that cat." Say, "What cat is that?" And suddenly Scrooge is takin' in the coffin factory and seeing all these coffins layin' around, and see one coffin, all the rest of 'em got flowers around 'n 'dis poor little coffin got nothin on it but just some pinewood boards an' old Scrooge look up and over and he's lookin' at this and that and look all away 'cause he knows who is in dat coffin.


He's swings on back again and the ghost puts him down and old Scrooge is shakin' and shiverin' and he finally falls into a real wild, crazy miser's coma. And he falls out for how long he don't know when and he wakes up and Mornin'!

Aaaaahh, the sun was shinin' on the glorious snow and old Scrooge is feelin' so groovey 'n so wired and he tip tip tip tip tip toes over to the window. He open the window, see a little cat, he say, "Hey, boy."

"Yes, sir."

"You know that great big giant king-size bird down in Doodley's window?"

"You mean the prize bird?"

"No," he say, "I mean that great big king-size bird." "Go get that bird. Here's a twenty."

He knocks a twenty on him. "Go get dat bird. And here's ten more for a cab, an here's five dollar for your sister, and here's twenty-two-fifty for your uncle's new bicycle. Tell anyone who wants anything, 'See Scrooge.' I'm flyin' this here Christmas. I want to see Cratchit swing out with a great big swingin' happy dinner. I'm wid it all da way!"

An' old Scrooge get dressed and he's walkin' down the street, and Ding Dong, Ding Dong Ding, the bells is ringin'. Scrooge got a big smile on his face, and people he's seen for twenty years never said hello,sayin' "Good morning, Mr. Scrooge."

"What you say, Baby?"

An' he carryin' on, carryin' on, happy as the day is long.

And he finally fell into old Bob Cratchit's place and he's got Christmas toys and Christmas joys and Christmas presents for everybody. And they'd just opened the goose, and then little Tiny Tim see him comin', he say, "God bless Mr. Scrooge. He done did the turn about. He's the Lord's boy today."

And that's the story of Scrooge. You can get wid it if you want to. There's only one way straight to the Road of Love.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Buck Up Democrats! - We Have Mid-terms In '06

Doctors Use Video Games to Hone Skills

The director of the Advanced Medical Technologies Institute at Beth Israel Medical Center Dr. James Rosser, Jr., uses video games to train surgeons.

"Surgeons who play video games three hours a week have 37 percent fewer errors and accomplish tasks 27 percent faster, he says, basing his observation on results of tests using the video game Super Monkey Ball[1].

Another group--the U.S. Army--is using and further developing a simulation game for medics that "lets them bandage wounds, apply tourniquets, administer intravenous fluids, inject medications and make all of the other assessments they would be required to do in an actual battlefield. " They have a ways to go. TATRC's J. Harvey Magee said "it doesn't respond like a really cool video game yet."

Click on the title for a link to this Reuters article. /jack

[1] Great choice, Doctor! SMB/SMB2 is one of my five favorite video games of all time.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004


"To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target."
- Ashleigh Brilliant

Monday, December 20, 2004

Hucking Eggs in Kent, Washington

For a couple of years, one of our favorite pastimes was hucking eggs at cars. Not that we were particularly destructive, but we were boys, and destruction was part of our makeup...whether it was instilled by nature, or nurture. Eggs were the perfect vehicle--a dozen cost fifty-three cents, they wouldn't kill anyone, didn't dent sheet metal, and did no real damage to the finish of those 50's and 60's behemoths with leaded, toxic, permanent paint.

Eggs were peripheral to the fun; they were the catalyst. Eggs triggered behaviors in drivers that tapped into our fight or flight response. The egged driver had one of three responses:

  • They drove on obliviously, or tapped their brakes and kept moving.
  • They stopped and maybe got out, checked the egged fender, and drove off.
  • They went completely ballistic; crazy as a s**those rat; or went for their shotgun.
We aimed for Response Number 3. It was about the adrenaline. Ours and theirs.

Those most likely to respond were also the most likely to inflict serious damage if they actually caught you. They were big and they were dumb. The men who gave chase were brain-damaged palookas who fly off the handle, berating clerks and starting fights in taverns; the dolts who bullied anyone that bisected their arc. These knuckleheads were chronically pissed-off guys with quarter-inch fuses and were always ready for-- and, indeed, welcomed--a fight. After all, we weren't exactly innocent bystanders. This would be a righteous stomping of The Guilty.

We could have saved a lot of eggs if we had figured out a way to profile these guys. Any of the victims could be turned, or converted into a Number 3 if they departed the relative safety of their car. As they walked around the car, inspecting the egg on the windshield or fender, a second fusillade of eggs flew from the bushes. If you hucked five or six eggs at a stationary target at least a few would make the target...perhaps splattering on their coat, or hitting the car and doing peripheral damage when they splattered. If they actually stopped or slowed down, we always launched a second volley. A driver who was willing to turn the other cheek was suddenly pushed to the brink.

It was all about the chase, and the resultant adrenaline rush. When you hit the the right guy's car, he came after you. The best ones slammed on their brakes and immediately began driving around in circles, revving their V8s, screeching around corners, trying to find the perpetrators. It added an aural element to the rush.

We always had proximate hiding spots and a loose escape plan. There was always a vacant garage, a boxcar, an abandoned car, or a hedge to hide behind. Once in a while, 'though, we'd be walking along the street, and someone--usually Lonnie Edwards--would attack a house or car as we were walking around. With no plan, and no cover, there was chaos as we scrambled for shelter anywhere. It was almost more scary to hit a house, because you were out in the open, and you never knew when someone would open the door, jacking shells into a ten gauge shotgun. Back in the 60's, not a lot of people were packing heat in their cars. These days egg hucking could very well be fatal.

Some victims would comb the neighborhood relentlessly for half an hour, racing up and down the streets. Sometimes we would would end up exposed. As the car rushed up and slammed on its brakes, we played innocent. They hadn't actually seen us, after all. "We did see four, five guys were running right over there..."

The Police would frequently be called of course, and we'd give them a blast of eggs too. Answering a complaint, or after having an egg tossed at their prowl car, they would drive around the neighborood too, sometimes cruising with their lights off, hoping we would show our faces. If they'd pursued us on foot, they might have found us, but on foot just wasn't real big in 1965. After the police showed, we would, naturally, switch locations.

One night, we stumbled on a fresh delivery of eggs, sitting on the loading dock of Westland Hatchery [1]. Each case contained a gross (a dozen dozen), or 144 eggs. We spirited away several boxes, and suddenly had 600 eggs to toss. Our first attack came as we hid to the side of the hatchery in overgrown bushes. The first hundred eggs were fired as cars passed the hatchery, as if the hatchery itself were waging war on the berr-fogged drivers. Central Avenue was littered with hundreds of eggshells before the night was over.

We lobbed all 600 eggs that night and the beast was sated. We took the sport as far as it could go. We never hucked eggs again, and retired at the top of our game, just barely unbeaten and unarrested.


Mark Twain On Politics

"Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it."

Go Leftward, Our Republican Brothers And Sisters!

"BERLIN (AP) 12-20-2004— California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger suggested in a German newspaper interview published Saturday that the Republican Party should move 'a little to the left,' a shift that he said would allow it to pick up new voters. "

Bad move, Republicans. Leave the left to the Democrats. You got where you are today by chucking the "liberal" policies of Richard Nixon and making the rabid right seem almost centrist. You will bring nothing to the party by going liberal. In fact, I doubt if Arnold could have been elected in any other state as a Republican. He is far too centrist, tending to slightly left-of-center to be wholly embraced by the GOP in general. Most Republicans seem slightly uncomfortable with him.

Click on the title for a link to the article. /jack

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Three By Ronald Reagan

Three great quotes from Ronald "Dutch" Reagan, POTUS 40. My friend Dan has noted that I like Republican Presidents once they are out of office for a while. That is true, certainly, of Richard Nixon, and less of Pres. Reagan. I'm not sure I'll ever be similarly so favorably disposed to the current president or his father (who I never really disliked, other than his policies and politics). Unlike Presidents Bush (POTUS Numbers 41 and 43), Ronald Reagan had a real sense of humor. And, as you'll note below, great writers. President Reagan died earlier this year.

It's hard when you're up to your armpits in alligators to remember you came here to drain the swamp.
Ronald Reagan February 10, 1982

The government's view of the economy can be summed up in a few short phrases. It if moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.
Ronald Reagan,White House Conference on Small Business, August 15, 1986

Government is like a baby. It is an alimentary canal with an appetite at one end and a no sense of responsibility at the other.
Remarks before Joint Session of the Canadian Parliament, Ottawa, March11, 1981

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Poem: The Clock

The fast hand sloughs seconds
Onto the clock dial, tugging
The hours and minutes along
As time burnishes the mask of our faces.

A paring of grey moonshell
Hovers over our shoulders,
Waltzing the sea surge
Over the ocean floor.

Under a red sun, night retracts its stars
And starfish lounge on rocks.
The sun in Japan sinks
In water at sight's end.

Domed flares of light appear
On the opposing hemisphere
And earth surrenders its heat,
Trading degrees with the shifting winds.
(c) 2004 Jack Brummet

Friday, December 17, 2004

Larry Bird

"There is a thin line between genius and insanity, and in Larry's (Bird) case it was sometimes so thin you could see him drifting back and forth."

- Leo Durocher


Thursday, December 16, 2004

Darth Vader And The Thief On The Cross

I heard an interesting semi-theological discussion about going to heaven on the radio this morning. I grew up as a baptized-in-the-river-Baptist, and was taught that if you believed, you were saved. No matter what came before.

The people on the talk show were discussing whether one guy's uncle would go to heaven, after accepting Jesus on his deathbed. He lived a pretty sordid life that left a lot of scorched earth behind him. Someone called in and said that, absolutely, if you accepted Jesus as your savior, it was a ticket to heaven. Someone mentioned Hitler. Would he get into heaven if he had accepted Jesus at the last minute in the bunker?

I know the Bible talks about good works and living a good life. So what about The Thief On The Cross next to Jesus? He was saved. Sure, he has an edge on the rest of us, being two feet away from The Savior. But whether or not you agree that baptism is essential to salvation, we know the thief on the cross was saved. Of course, he may have already been baptized. But I digress...he was saved at the last minute, despite living a wicked life.

How do the various Christian religions deal with this? Having recently seen Star Wars (Episodes 4,5, and 6 now), I think about Darth Vader's redemption. He overthrows the emperor and he is saved (we see him later happily hanging out with Spirit Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi). After a life of senseless killing, he is redeemed by one act. Is it the same with the mainstream Christian belief system? Can you be saved at the bell, or must you live a life of good works? /jack

Rudy Backs Off

When The NY Daily News broke the stories about Kerik, Giuliani told reporters he "had confidence in Bernie." [1] That confidence has led to some very strained relations between Rudy and The White House.

What a difference a few new revelations make. Now the former mayor says Bernard Kerik has a "fair amount of explaining to do." "I told him directly, 'There are are some significant mistakes you made here, even granted that only some of this is true,'" Giuliani said.

Even if only some of this is true!

Click on the headline of this entry for a link to the Daily News Article titled "Giuliani Spanks Bernie. "

[1] Remember when George McGovern backed his VP Candidate Thomas Eagleton "1001%"? Eagleton resigned a couple days later...


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A Poem: Love Song

Take the worst that could happen
And add two zeros.

Our replicas of people and things
Disintegrate in the firestorms.

High fidelity clouds gather overhead.
Their verisimilitude overwhelms the cheap sets.

We are cleared to lift off,
And sort our way between the shrapnel.

The ground rolls away behind us.
You and I.

jack brummet

Some 2004 Patents - List No. 11

Some of the more interesting patents granted during 2004:

6,749,862 Woodpecker Disruption System
6,749,433 Newborn-size Crash Test Dummy
6,764,363 Water Walking Device
6,749,106 Lockable Pizza Box
6,749,919 Nonstaining Ink Fingerprinting Method
6,749,541 Foot Straightener For Pigeon- or Penguin-Toed Feet
6,749,349 Motorized Picnic Table
6,749,199 Diceless Craps Game
6,749,052 Slot Machine Ant-cheating Device
6,749,536 Network That Allows Exercise-Machine Users To Compete Via Video Screen
6,749,882 Nicotine Tablet That Dissolves In Coffee
6,708, 443 Mosquito-Killing Birdbath
6,748,852 Rice Polisher
6,748,955 Cigarette Burn-rate Reducer
6,749,992 Pet-Barring Furniture Protector
6,748,854 Melon Scooper And Basket
6,748,955 Cigarette Burn-rate Reducer
6,749,859 Anti-radiation Hand Protection
6,748,941 Foam Fireplace
6,810,350 Expiration Date Detector
6,749,239 Chopstick Manipulator
6,749,522 Golf-ball Retriever
6,749,474 Inflatable Pool Raft With Removable Canopy
6,497,431 Baby Bottle With Built-in Thermometer
6,749,323 Falling Snowflake Simulator
6,749, 918 Shoe-disinfecting Doormat
6,748,764 Ring Size Reducer
6,749,568 Glaucoma-sensing Contact Lens
6,640,379 Attachable Eyeglass Wipers
6,749,136 Paint Bucket In An Apron
6,749,163 Windowsill Extension Kit
6,749,039 Modular Go-kart Assembly
6,749,841 Firecracker Bang Sound Producer
6,749,557 Self-lubricating Sex Toys
6,704,116 Simplified Arabic Alphabet
6,752,146 Gas-mask Baseball Cap Hybrid
6,748,991 Foam Fireplace
6,749,316 Self Defense Baton With Flashlight And Camera
6,810,206 Drain-plug Heater
6,702,193 Wine-tasting Straw
6,786,221 Tobacco-toxin Removal System
6,749,082 Cupholder With Built-in Napkin

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

The Dogfight In Washington

I love procedural dogfights. Election 2000 was a mainline hit for political junkies. Election 1972, and particularly the Democratic Convention, was a textbook in procedural manipulation. The McGovern forces masterfully challenged delegations, and defended other factions. They had to lose some critical votes, and betray trusted allies in order to mount the challenges that would push them over the top. In the end, they won, and we (The Dems) were slaughtered: we won Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. , and Richard Nixon went on to finish part of his term before resigning.

Cloture and filibusters in the Senate give power to the minority party. The Senate's rules are an endlessly fascinating and Byzantine procedural thicket of brambles. But I digress.

We have a real procedural and legal battle in Washington State right now, focused on King County (Seattle and environs). Following two previous machine recounts, we are now in hand recount mode. Yesterday, King County election officials admitted a major error tallying votes in the governor's race. Counting these votes may reverse the results and allow Christine Gregoire to "triumph" over Dino Rossi. the winner in the hand recount now under way. 561 votes were improperly disqualified. This looks totally legit.

There are court challenges coming from both sides, as well as the Secretary of State (the only Republican I voted for in 2004. The Supreme Court just struck down one Demo challenge. Court challenges aside, it looks like the election may hinge on these uncounted, and legitimate ballots that were discovered when an elected official (Larry Phillips, Metro Council Chairman) found his vote had been disqualified.

It will be fascinating to see where this all leads. The Republicans claim if the shoe was on the other foot, they would concede. Right. They say this with a straight face as they themselves prepare to file more lawsuits.

In one of the Seattle papers recently, an editorial mentioned that in any race as close as this (or, say, Gore v. Bush), you might as well do a coin flip. In every election, there are thousands of errors, undercounts, disqualified ballots, and clerical errrors. The plurality in most elections negate these problems. The Dems and GOP are slugging it out for every vote.

Whoever wins will have a taint, no question. POTUS was able to overcome that and still govern (alebeit not well).

Maybe this will all be settled before the swearing in, scheduled for Jan. 12, 2005. In the meantime, political junkies watch in endless fascination.



Monday, December 13, 2004

Bernard Kerik--The Rest Of The Story.

When the White House announced last Friday that the Homeland Security cabinet nominee Bernard Kerik was withdrawing, they said it was due to the old familiar "nanny problems," ala Lani Guinier and Linda Chavez. As it turns out there was a little more--he has accepted thousands of dollars in gifts, for one, and had been running a hot sheet apartment on the East Side, where he conducted simultaneous affairs with an NYC correction officer, and with the lovely Judith Regan--a publisher, among other things.

Boo hoo! So now, his mentor, Rudy Giuliani has egg on his face, and the POTUS staff got caught with their pants down. If Kerik lied to get the gig, he is dumb as a board, and not the guy we want running Homeland Security. If he really thought he could sweep all this under the rug, he is not even bright enough to run the cotton candy concession in the travelling circus. . . /jack

Poem: Bad Timing

He buys a coffee,
Using his last seven words.
He slyly eyes
His last pair of stunning buttocks.
He has zero orgasms, songs and movies,
Two red lights, six blocks,
13 minutes and 993 heartbeats left.
Every millisecond adds up:
Every variable conspires
To remove him from the census.
He steps in front of the car
Three seconds early,
Or two seconds late.

jack brummet

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Frank Zappa's Rebuttal Of The Urban Legend He Ate S**t Onstage

"[1] I ate s**t on stage.
[2] I had a `grossout contest' (what the f**k is a `grossout contest'?) with Captain Beefheart and we both ate s**t on stage, etc.
[3] I had a `grossout contest' with Alice Cooper and he stepped on baby chickens and then I ate s**t on stage, etc.

I was in a London club called the Speak Easy in 1967 or '68. A member of a group called the Flock, recording for Columbia at the time, came over to me and said: "You're fantastic. When I heard about you eating that s**t on stage, I thought, `That guy is way, way out there.'" I said, "I never ate s**t on stage." He looked really depressed like I had just broken his heart.

For the records, folks: I never took a s** t on stage, and the closest I ever came to eating s**t anywhere was at a Holiday Inn buffet in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 1973."

Frank Zappa

Saturday, December 11, 2004

The Monkey And The Engineer

The Grateful Dead covered this great song by Jesse Fuller, the folk and bluesman who died in 1976. Great lyrics. The Dead also covered his wonderful "Beat In On Down The Line." This is one smart monkey.

Once upon a time there was an engineer.
Drove a locomotive both far and near.
Accompanied by a monkey that would sit on a stool
Watching everything the engineer would do.

One day the engineer wanted a bite to eat,
He left the monkey sitting on the driver's seat,
The monkey pulled the throttle, the locomotive jumped the gun
And did 80 miles an hour down the mainline run.

[chorus] Big locomotive right on time, big locomotive coming down the line.
Big locomotive no. 99, left the engineer with a worried mind.

The engineer called up the dispatcher on the phone,
To tell him all about his locomotive was gone.
Dispatcher got on the wire, switch operator to the right,
Cause the monkey's got the main line sewed up tight.

The switch operator got the message on time,
Said there's a northbound livin' on the same main line,
Open up the switch I'm gonna let him through the hole,
Cause the monkey's got the locomotive under control.


Friday, December 10, 2004

Would You Put An Anti-gun Bumper Sticker On Your Car?

Writing about repealing the second amendment seemed to bring out the passions in folk. I got a bunch of comments, and a bunch of direct emails about that piece. Virtually all were against gun control, and very against repealing the second amendment. Several people said--and some were clearly bright & not nut cases--that the more guns people carry, the safer we are.

Over the years, I have had a lot of strange bumper stickers. I've never had the nerve to put a Repeal The Second Amendment bumper sticker on, 'though. Is that just me being paranoid? I don't actually think someone would take a shot. Well, maybe a little. On the other hand, whether they had a gun or not, when we're on the road, we're behind the wheel of the deadliest weapon that exists. . .at least according to the fatalities. . .

The FBI's Crime in the United States Report estimated that 67% of the 16,503 murders in 2003 were committed with firearms, or, over 10,000 murders. /jack

Game Boy Advance Is Therapeutic??

Click the title for a link to the article on CNN... /jack

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Poem: The Killer

Some nights he tried to jettison
What was left of his soul
Back into the void.
It dogpaddled back.

He's been it
Too many turns.

jack brummet

Five Dead And Counting - Repeal The Second Amendment

Five dead and counting - Last night's brutal shooting of "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott of the band Damageplan at a nightclub in Columbus was not the last straw; the last straw happened years ago. The killer murdered three other people, and seriously injured others. A cop arrived and was able to stop the killer before he shot again.
Like a bad dream, the National Rifle Association returns periodically to remind us that "guns don't kill; people do." After assassinations, after Columbine, after every senseless, insane killing, and as they inevitably will after last night's tragedy, the NRA will dissemble, rationalize, backpeddle and flat out lie. Unrepentant despite Columbine and the thousands of lesser known gun outrages in America, the NRA will actually try to tell us that shootings like this are why we need to have guns.

The second amendment probably outlived its usefulness sometime around the turn of the 20th century. Let's get rid of it.

John Lennon was assassinated exactly 24 years ago last night by another sick biscuit with a gun. How many more? /jack

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Stopping By Richard Nixon's

One of my favorite activities in New York City was to visit Former President Richard M. Nixon's house. He lived in a sweet little townhouse on the Upper East Side (142 East 65th Street). We probably stopped by ten times while I lived there. I would drag friends there in a taxi, or car, if someone had one. The President never actually came out to greet us.

A few years after he resigned, he returned east from his California exile. This is the President who wanted to send me to Vietnam, so I had mixed feelings, indeed, about this man. He kept the Great Society funded, even as he lied and weaseled his way to disgrace. What could you think of the ex red-baiter who went to China and opened diplomatic relations? He was a two-edged sword, which made him endlessly fascinating. And I frequently went there to pay homage to both Good King Richard and Evil Dick.

These visits would almost always occur around closing time (did I even need to mention that?). I seem to recall often having a bottle or go cup in hand, as we stood outside the townhouse for ten or fifteen minutes. I always secretly hoped he might spy us and come out (like the time he visited the students at the Lincoln Memorial). I'd like to think he maybe heard us once or twice!

Interestingly, in all of those visits, the Secret Service never came near us. We saw them a few times, but no matter how loud and raucous we got, they never approached. I guess that makes sense. There were 20 million people living within an easy car drive of 142 East 65th Street. I was probably not the only knucklehead among the 20 million to stop by--or worse. Eventually, in the mid-eighties, Richard Nixon and I both moved from Manhattan. He moved to Saddle River, New Jersey and wrote a lot of books, as well as advising every President in some capacity. He died ten years ago, in New York. /jack

The Real Big Bird?

This is a fascinating article. I grew up a couple blocks from the shores of the Green River. I learned today that tiny, 18 pound horses, hippopotamuses (or hippopotami), and this Big Bird, Diatryma, lived there before me. "When John Patterson stumbled across what could be one of the biggest fossil finds in the Northwest, a fairy-tale ending seemed assured. The three-toed track he found near the Green River in 1992 was a near-perfect fit for Diatryma, a flightless bird that stood as tall as Shaquille O'Neal and weighed 350 pounds or more. " Cool, eh? /jack

Disgruntled Troops Complain to Rumsfeld - Pound Sand, He Tells Them

12-8-2004 Middle East - AP

By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
CAMP BUEHRING, Kuwait - Disgruntled U.S. soldiers complained to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Wednesday about the lack of armor for their vehicles and long deployments, drawing a blunt retort from the Pentagon (news - web sites) chief.

Army Spc. Thomas Wilson, for example, of the 278th Regimental Combat Team that is comprised mainly of citizen soldiers of the Tennessee Army National Guard, asked Rumsfeld in a question-and-answer session why vehicle armor is still in short supply, nearly two years after the start of the war that ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

"Why do we soldiers have to dig through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass to uparmor our vehicles?" Wilson asked. A big cheer arose from the approximately 2,300 soldiers in the cavernous hangar who assembled to see and hear the secretary of defense.

"You go to war with the Army you have," he said in a rare public airing of rank-and-file concerns among the troops.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

My Favorite Phobias (List Number 10)

There are, of course, many hundreds of phobias (for example there is a phobia associated with each color). Here are some of the weirdest, and therefore some of my favorites... /jack

ablutophobia: fear of washing or bathing
agrizoophobia: fear of wild animals
alektorophobia: fear of chickens
alliumphobia: fear of garlic
allodoxaphobia: fear of opinions
anthophobia: fear of flowers
anthrophobia: fear of people
aphenphosmphobia: fear of being touched
arachibutyrophobia: fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of the mouth (I double checked this in three's really true!!)
astrophobia: fear of stars and celestial space
ataxophobia: fear of disorder or untidiness
atelophobia: fear of imperfection
autodysomophobia: fear of one that has a vile odor
autophobia: fear of being alone
blennophobia: fear of slime
bogyphobia: fear of the bogeyman
cacophobia: fear of ugliness
caligynephobia: fear of beautiful women
catagelophobia: fear of being ridiculed
cyberphobia: fear of computers or working on a computer
dextrophobia: fear of objects at the right side of the body
ecclesiophobia: fear of church
eremophobia: fear of being oneself
eremophobia: fear of being alone
ergophobia: fear of work
erythrophobia: fear of the color red
germanophobia: fear of Germany, German culture
glossophobia: fear of speaking in public
graphophobia: fear of writing
gymnophobia: fear of nudity
gynophobia: fear of women
hadephobia: fear of hell
hagiophobia: fear of saints or holy things
hedonophobia: fear of feeling pleasure
hierophobia: fear of priests
hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia: fear of long words (had to triple check that: it's legit)
hobophobia: fear of bums or beggars
homichlophobia: fear of fog
homilophobia: fear of sermons
kakorraphiaphobia: fear of failure
lachanophobia: fear of vegetables
lyssophobia: fear of becoming mad
macrophobia: fear of long waits
mageirocophobia: fear of cooking
onomatophobia: fear of hearing a certain word
ophthalmophobia: fear of being stared at
phronemophobia: fear of thinking (or, Curly Joe Syndrome)
pteronophobia: fear of being tickled by feathers
pupaphobia: fear of puppets
rhytiphobia: fear of getting wrinkles
soceraphobia: fear of parents-in-law
taphephobia: fear of being buried alive
topophobia: fear of performing (stage fright)
uranophobia: fear of heaven
xylophobia: fear of wooden objects

Future Past

"Strangely enough, this is the past that somebody in the future is longing to go back to."

- Ashleigh Brilliant

Monday, December 06, 2004

The Day I Went Bald

It started one day--or, rather, I noticed it one day--right after I received a really bad know, a haircut so bad that you fix it yourself with whatever crude scissors are around. So, I left the barbershop, went home and looked in the mirror. Most of my left eyebrow was gone! Just a few scraggly hairs remained. . .up to then, I had thick eyebrows. All of a sudden---pffffft! I was really steamed at that barber, but there was no way I was going to let him touch up my hair, and the eyebrow would just have to grow back. How did he butcher my eyebrow?

A week or so later, Keelin said "Turn around, Johnnie. What's that on the back of your head?" I turned around and she pulled aside some tendrils of hair. Gleaming there was a GIGANTIC bald spot!! It was about the size of a softball. And it happened literally overnight! I was going bald!!!!! I spent about five hours a day looking at that spot in the mirror. I could feel the wind on it. It always felt cold. And I was sure everyone was always staring at it. It wasn't in the center, but off to the left side. It just flat looked weird. Naturally, I obssessed about it night and day. I found out from some fellow sufferers that I was experiencing Alopecia Areata [1].

It could stay like this. Alopecia! The bald spots usually happened in twos and threes! Two more could sprout up! It could all grow back. It could also cause every single hair on my body, including my eyelashes and nose cilia, to disappear. I would look like a Grey! No one really knows much about Alopecia and there aren't any real treatments. My doctor said it was no big deal. She could refer me to someone. . .but they didn't really have any way to treat it. I wondered if she would have been so cavalier if I had been a woman?

I ranted and raved. My entire being was now focused on those few inches of bald real estate on the back of my head. I checked the spot dozens of times a day, My bald friends were fascinated and highly amused. A couple of months later, I was performing my obsessive scalp observations, and discovered it had now sprouted peach fuzz! Woohoo! All hail the mighty stem cell [see footnote 1]. Within a month, my skull had reforested itself. The eyebrow came back too; not so bushy as it once was. The hair coming back in my eyebrow was white! I dyed it a couple of times. And then my second growth eyebrow slowly darkened, and matched my other eyebrow.

There is nothing that says it won't come back with a vengeance. In fact, Keelin told me yesterday I was tempting fate by just writing about it.

Several years later, there have been no further rogue white blood cell attacks. Excelsior!

[1] In alopecia areata, your immune system/white blood cells attack the growing cells in the hair follicles. They start thinking your hair is some sort of infection! The affected follicles become small and drastically slow down production. Thank the Lord that the stem cells that continually supply the follicle with new cells do not seem to be targeted and the follicles COULD regrow. But the hair may also fall out again. No one really knows how or why. Some people lose just a few patches of hair, then the hair regrows, and the condition never recurs. Other people continue to lose and regrow hair for many years. A few lose all the hair on their head; some lose all the hair on their head, face, and body.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

I'm My Own Grandpa

I first heard this hilarious song on a Grand Ole Opry compilation, performed by Lonzo and Oscar. Many others have performed it over the years, including Jerry Garcia and David Grisman. It was composed by Moe Jaffee and Dwight Latham[1] , based on an anecdote told by Mark Twain (who outlined the basic premise). On the 'net, I saw these lyrics used as an assignment in a genealogy class: detail the pedigree of the person in this song...

I'm My Own Grandpa

It sounds funny, I know,
But it really is so,
Oh, I'm my own grandpa.
I'm my own grandpa.

Now many, many years ago, when I was twenty-three,
I was married to a widow who was pretty as could be.
This widow had a grown-up daughter who had hair of red.
My father fell in love with her, and soon they, too, were wed.

This made my dad my son-in-law and changed my very life,
My daughter was my mother, cause she was my father's wife.
To complicate the matter, even though it brought me joy,
I soon became the father of a bouncing baby boy.

My little baby then became a brother-in-law to Dad,
And so became my uncle, though it made me very sad.
For if he was my uncle, then that also made him brother
Of the widow's grown-up daughter, who, of course, was my stepmother.

Father's wife then had a son who kept him on the run,
And he became my grandchild, for he was my daughter's son.
My wife is now my mother's mother, and it makes me blue,
Because, although she is my wife, she's my grandmother, too.

Now if my wife is my grandmother, then I'm her grandchild,
And everytime I think of it, it nearly drives me wild,
For now I have become the strangest case you ever saw
As husband of my grandmother, I am my own grandpa.

[1] Copyright Moe Jaffe and Dwight Latham, 1947.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Poem: The Absence of Footprints

We're not trilliums or daffodils
That spring back up
After a nap in the dirt.

You told me you wanted
To make the crossing
Over to Cold Island
And I could never believe you.

It wasn't the karmic stain
That bothered me,
But the unfathomable fact
You didn't want to be here;
That all this wasn't enough.

All this is that.
And it wasn't enough.

You stare into the ditch
You spent years unloading.

You are afraid to climb in
And stop,

To take something
That isn't working,
and make it not work forever.


jack brummet


"A friend is someone who will help you move; a GOOD friend is someone who will help you move a body." - unknown

Friday, December 03, 2004

Daniel Kurtzman reporting Dan Rather's Resignation

"Not sure whether to wind a watch or bark at the moon, Dan Rather announced his resignation after 24 years as CBS anchor. With his credibility as thin as turnip soup, his legacy shakier than cafeteria Jell-O, and his fingernails beginning to sweat, Rather reached the point where he had his back to the wall, his shirttails on fire, and the bill collector at the door. "

"After being consistently beaten like a rented mule in the ratings, CBS execs apparently decided they'd rather walk through a furnace in a gasoline suit than keep him in the anchor chair. In announcing his departure, Rather insisted his grasp of reality was still spandex tight. But if you believe that, you'll believe rocks can grow. "

Daniel Kurtzman,

Cry Me A River: "Post Election Selection Trauma"

I thought this P.E.S.T. thing came from the pages of The Onion. No, it is real:

Democrats flock to encounter groups, support groups, and counseling. They are undergoing hypnosis. Someone even committed suicide over the results. "...feelings of extreme anger, despair, hopelessness, powerlessness, a failure to function behaviorally, a sense of disillusionment, of not wanting to vote anymore – that sort of thing. We’re talking about a deep, unhealthy personal suffering that can best be remedied by intensive short-term therapy."

I'm a P.O.'d, but not despairing Yellow Dog Democrat [1]. I didn't like the election results either. So quit boohooing, and let's even up the score. Quit sending out all the angry red-blue maps marked "Dumbf***istan" and "Jesusland." Stop calling the fiftynine million voters retarded religious wackos. They're your neighbors. And we're going to be asking for their votes very soon!

Wrap up your short-term therapy. Let's win the midterms 23 months from now and bulldoze our way back into The White House in '08.

[1] The term, Yellow Dog Democrat, blossomed during all of the Hoopla which surrounded the 1928 elections, when Al Smith ran for President against Herbert Hoover. During that campaign, Senator Tom Heflin, of Alabama, declined to back his fellow Democrat, Al Smith the Governor of NY. In fact it was much worse than that, Senator Heflin decided to back Herbert Hoover, who would then go on to become President- a Republican President no less. Heflin's controversial actions were considered heresy, especially in the South. As you can imagine, quite a large number of Alabamans vehemently disagreed with Senator Heflin's decision to cross his "Party Lines". Hence, the popular saying, "I'd vote for a yellow dog if he ran on the Democratic ticket" was born! - from William Safire's Safire's New Political Dictionary, (c) 1993

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Escalating The War / Remembering LBJ, Tet, and 60,000 Dead

The Pentagon's announcement yesterday that we're shipping 12,000 more troops to Iraq (for a total of 150,000) is troubling. Many of those troops are having their tours extended. It seems that those Iraqi troops we were supposed to train can't do the job -- as John Kerry mentioned several times in the Presidential debates. If you remember, POTUS specifically scoffed at that suggestion in the debates. What a difference five weeks makes.

I don't know if there are real parallels or not, but I have been reading two books on LBJ, Merle Miller's oral history and one of his taped white house conversations (Reaching for Glory: The Secret Lyndon Johnson Tapes, 1964-1965. Michael Beschloss).

You see LBJ get sucked into that war even as he has great misgivings about the whole enterprise. At the end of that book, we are rapidly escalating the troop presence...up to 200,000 by December. Johnson is distressed that we have lost 400 troops. . . a third of the number that have already died in Iraq. We would end up with over 540,000 troops in 'Nam, 60,000 dead American boys and hundreds of thousands injured. Before the end of the war, our helicopters had brought over 400,000 boys to hospitals in Vietnam.

Tet in '68 is when America turned against the war. It was shocking! We were "winning." We won the battles of The Tet Offensive. Technically. We killed half of the Vietcong army, and many tens of thousands of North Vietnamese soldiers. But we lost 6,000 troops in a few days, and 14,000 boys that year. And that was winning! The Vietcong launched a suicide mission hoping to end the war in one sweep. They took heavy, heavy losses, and to Americans it appeared they could do it again and again. Yes, America won Tet, but then General Westmoreland (or Wastenomoreland) asked for 200,000 more troops to be sent over.

Iraq is not Vietnam and The Domino Theory does not apply. One thing I think we do know: The President of the United States intends to finish the war. No matter what the cost. /jack

Lies & Damned Lies

One of the more interesting books I've read in the last few years is Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage (Revised and Updated Edition) by Dr. Paul Ekman. There is a lot of great information on how to learn to detect lies. Unfortunately, the Dr. is not a great writer...he gets a little murky at times. However, the material is worth working around that.

These quotes on lies are not from the book, but ones I've collected around and about...

All political parties die at last of swallowing their own lies.
- John Arbuthnot

The great masses of the people... will more easily fall victims to a big lie than to a small one.
- Adolph Hitler

I have been thinking that I would make a proposition to my Republican friends...that if they will stop telling lies about the Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them."
- Adlai Stevenson (Democratic Presidential Candidate in 1952 and 1956)

Only enemies speak the truth; friends and lovers lie endlessly, caught in the web of duty.
- Stephen King (from"The Last Gunslinger")

Never lie when the truth is more profitable.
- Stanislaw J. Lec

In order to preserve your self-respect, it is sometimes necessary to lie and cheat.
- Robert Byrne

Oh, what lies there are in kisses!
- Heinrich Heine (1797 - 1856)

How is the world ruled and how do wars start? Diplomats tell lies to journalists and then believe what they read.
- Karl Kraus

History is a set of lies agreed upon.
- Napoleon Bonaparte (1769 - 1821)

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
- Benjamin Disaraeli, British Prime Minister and novelist

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

I Was A Star Wars Virgin, Part 2

I just finished all three of the original Star Wars movies (now called Episodes 4, 5, and 6). I was going to write a review. . .but why bother? These movies have more relentlessly obsessive fans than any art created in our time. Anything I would add would just be noise, and has already been covered by people with more scholarly insight than I could ever bring to bear. Let me just say I liked the movies very much. Much more than I thought I would. And now, we can lay to rest talk of my cultural dwarfism (at least in the geek world). I'm making progress: I even read Lord of the Rings last year! That's another geek staple. Like Star Wars, it has genuine mainstream appeal. . .appeal I doubted because of the geek linkage...

Some random notes in lieu of a review: the movies were both more sublime and silly than I had suspected. They clearly have roots in B Movies, and the characters and situations are often stock characters and plot devices we have seen many times before. I like the movies, but this is not Shakespeare, by any stretch.

The cultural penetration of these films is total: there were few characters I hadn't seen before, and I even knew the names of most of them.

I thought The Empire Strikes Back held together the best as a single film. The third movie, Return of the Jedi was the weirdest, with all the over the top animal/furry confabulations. Putting Carrie Fischer in a bathing suit chained to Jabba The Hut seemed gratuitous and bizarre (that being said, I didn't mind it). I could go on, but I won't. The only real surprise for me in all three movies was at the very end, with the [partial?]redemption of Annikin/Darth Vader, and his reconciliation with his son Luke.

Jabba the Hut was a great piece of business, as was R2D2 and C3PO. Someone told me that this, being pre-CGI, that there was always a person huddled in R2D2. He saved the day many times, and somehow, without language they were able to infuse him with charm. Chewbacca was always interesting, tender and fierce. I really liked the piece of the last movie with the Ewoks. From what I've heard, they were not popular with the hard corse fans. That must explain why I liked them. There was something enjoyable about these teddy bear-like creatures fiercely battling the Imperial Army. But, yeah, I know I don't have a lot of credibility discussing Star Wars, since I waited thirty years to see them!

Looking back at this paragraph, I see that I called out all the major non-humans as my favorite characters. But I guess it's that kind of movie. The human characters were almost so flat/stock that only the inhuman characters were really infused with unique charm. We expect a little more from actual humans.

So, yeah, I give it a big thumbs up. But I probably won't sleep in a tent at The Coliseum theatre for a week to get into the first showing of "Episode 3"! Excelsior! /jack

Game Off: JFK Reloaded

There is a strange new "game" out (no, not Katamari Damacy!). JFK Reloaded has been hammered with a barrage of harsh criticism, and publicity; I'm sure they love it. The Scottish publisher Traffic says the game is designed to test theories about the 1963 assassination of President Jack Kennedy by providing "a realistic environment for users to test the lone gunman theory." You get to be Lee Harvey Oswald in the tower at Dealey Plaza. They released the game on November 22, the 41st anniversary of the death of JFK.

I played the demo of the game. You see the tip of the rifle, first person shooter-style, and aim at the motorcade. Unlike typical FPSs, however, no one is firing back. You empty your carbine at the limo and then see a slo-mo replay and a ballistics and trajectory analysis of where and who the bullets hit.

Senator Ted Kennedy was, naturally, outraged. Senator Joe Lieberman spoke out against it, too. He "was sickened by the game," according to his spokesman. But Lieberman is probably sickened by some things I consider wholesome I discount that a little bit. I wasn't really sickened. . .just depressed.

Halo 2 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas also shipped recently. I'm not a big fan, but I can live with them. There's something about this one that really fries me.

My review of the demo itself: it crashed the first time I ran it (not usually a promising sign); the character models were weak; the motion and physics of the cars seemed fair; the environment and sky cube were pretty low-res (especially considering they trumpeted a robust level of detail system). As far as gameplay: this is really just barely even a game. It's difficult to envision any real game from the demo, which is the shortest demo I have ever seen. Either there's not much there, or the game itself is so creepy they don't want to tip their hand before you part with your $$$.

The publisher says their intention is to debunk the myriad conspiracy theories floating around by verifying the Warren Commission's conclusion (that Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots, acting alone). One bullet missed entirely, one hit The President in the neck, and the third went into JFK's head. Traffic will be giving away "up to $100,000 in February" to the person who most closely matches Oswald's shooting. What a cynical piece of dogs**t! I'm not saying let's stop this game from being distributed. I like the first amendment, but let's not encourage these imbeciles. Vote with your wallet. /jack

Keeping Things Balanced

Shelby Metcalf, a basketball coach at Texas A&M, recounts what he told a player who received four F's and one D:

"Son, looks to me like you're spending too much time on one subject."

Poem: Growing Up

The 1950s were all about
Giving ourselves The American Jitters:
The Day The Earth Stood Still
Huntley Brinkley
The Thing
Ed Murrow
The Blob
Senator Joe McCaerthy

Wild-eyed Nikita pounded his loafers on TV.
He promised to bury us.
The Cold War ignited on Ike's watch
As alarms shrieked duck and cover.
Dad was in the basement
Sandbagging the jam closet
And caching beans and gasoline.

We scared ourselves for good
and grew up to fear nothing
but nothing itself.

jack brummet