28 December 2009

January 2010 Movies

Ah, a new year. Not much on my radar for the coming months, and all sequels: Iron Man 2 (7 May), Toy Story 3 (18 June), Harry Potter 7 (19 Nov), and Tron 2 (17 Dec). Hopefully something else will pique my interest (Hot Tub Time Machine?), or this could be a year of catching up on Dexter, Weeds, Wire in the Blood, and Deadwood. I've also been meaning to watch The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles from start-to-finish now that it's on DVD.

November and December were good to me from a movie perspective. I managed to catch Night at the Museum 2 (ridiculous, but better than I thought it would be), District 9 (amazing), Watchmen Director's Cut(disappointing), Lovely by Surprise (wtf?), Angels & Demons (meh + distracted by Ewan's vanished mole), Extract (didn't laugh once), Zombieland (overrated), Year One (awful), Fanboys (outstanding), A Perfect Getaway (kind of stupid), and Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (love Clancy Brown as Lex Luthor), and Persepolis (not as interesting as I'd envisioned).

As usual, here's my top 10 or so movies in theaters or on DVD to see, with movies in my collection starred:

1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
2. The Invention of Lying
3. Sherlock Holmes
4. Avatar 3D
5. Moon
6. The Fall*
7. The Departed*
8. The Brothers Bloom
9. Public Enemies
10. Pan's Labyrinth*

18 December 2009

Top 10 Movies of the '00s

I saw a lot of movies over the last 10 years. That number has declined considerably since my son was born, but I still manage to see most things worth seeing (although there are a few inexplicable outliers like The Departed that have slipped through the cracks).

After several weeks of careful consideration, these are the top 10 movies of the Aughts:

1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
2. Cidade de Deus (City of God) (2003)
3. WALL·E (2008)
4. The Incredibles (2004)
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
7. Hot Fuzz (2007)
8. Nueve Reinas (Nine Queens) (2002)
9. The Dish (2000)
10. Two Family House (2000)

Honorable Mention: District 9 (2009) completely blew me away, but it'll take a few years before I know whether or not the mark is indelible.

Top 10 Albums of the '00s

I know you've all been waiting for this, so I'm not going to keep you in suspense any longer. After an exhaustive review of my music collection from the last 9 years and 50 weeks, these are the top 10 albums released during the Aughts:

1. Dandy Warhols - thirteen tales from urban bohemia (2000)
2. Wilco - Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002)
3. Lily Allen - Alright, Still (2006)
4. Jimmy Eat World - Bleed American (2002)
5. Fountains of Wayne - Welcome Interstate Managers (2003)
6. Franz Ferdinand - You Could Have It So Much Better (2005)
7. Robbie Williams - Sing When You're Winning (2000)
8. Jude - King of Yesterday (2001)
9. Jon Brion - Meaningless (2001)
10. Ben Kweller - Sha Sha (2002)

Honorable Mention: Sufjan Stevens - Illinois (2005) is a weird and wonderful album that I could listen to over and over, but it's not exactly BOTA material.

Next up: The Top 10 Movies of the '00s!

02 October 2009

October 2009 Movies

Two months pass; two movies off my list. Inglorious Basterds was a fine film, if not in the league of Tarantino's best (Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown). I imagine a director's cut DVD will reveal the fates of the Basterds who seemingly just disappeared (Samm Levine, etc.). The Hangover suffered from overhype, and it was more ridiculous than funny. It's possible that I've run out of time to see Harry Potter 6 on IMAX, which is a shame, but I'll survive. I'm betting Night at the Museum 2 will be at the Smithsonian just short of forever. So here's my top 10, with movies on DVD in my collection starred as always:

1. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince IMAX
2. The Fall*
3. The Invention of Lying (the Gervais can do no wrong)
4. Night at the Museum 2 IMAX
5. Moon
6. Where the Wild Things Are IMAX
7. Coraline*
8. Zombieland
9. Sherlock Holmes
10. Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut (a bit pricey...I may rent first)
11. Avatar (this looks like it'll suck, but I'll trust Cameron)
12. The Informant!

01 September 2009

2009 - The Year of Graphic Novels - Update #3: Batman

I didn't appreciate how much more Ed Brubaker I had in store for me during my plunge into Batman. Not that I minded, as between Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Chuck Dixon, I had a veritable bevy of all-star writers spinning the tales of the Dark Knight. That reminds me to be sure to get to Rucka's Whiteout series before TYoGN comes to an end. I also need to score Volume 4 of Queen and Country for the library.

31. Bruce Wayne - Murderer? by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka
32. Bruce Wayne - Fugitive V1 by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka, and Chuck Dixon
33. Bruce Wayne - Fugitive V2 by Greg Rucka and Devin Grayson
34. Bruce Wayne - Fugitive V3 by Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka
35. Batman - War Drums by Bill Willingham et al.
36. Batman - War Games 1 - Outbreakby Ed Brubaker et al.
37. Batman - War Games 2 - Tidesby Ed Brubaker et al.
38. Batman - War Games 3 - Endgameby Ed Brubaker et al.
39. Batman - War Crimes by Bill Willingham et al.

Despite the unrelatedness of these maxi-series, I've grouped them together because they kind of blur together in a haze of multiple good guys, multiple bad guys, and brooding Bruce Wayne/Batman. I'm not saying I want a campy Batman, but I prefer storylines that are more World's Greatest Detective vs. 1 Bad Dude (and possibly a few henchmen). These megatales are the popcorn of the Batman universe; I guess I was hoping for a nice ribeye.

40. Batman: Detective by Paul Dini

I'm glad I didn't pay for this book, because outside of the cover, it's a waste. Weak, disconnected stories. Small wonder it's already out of print.

41. Batman and Son by Grant Morrison

I don't want to hate on GM, but this was not his best effort.

42. Batman - Dangerous Dames and Demons by Paul Dini

One of my great regrets is not being a regular watcher of Dini's Batman Adventures cartoon and its descendants. Every episode I've seen has been wonderful and works a great balance between the Dark Knight and kid's sensibilities. Dini's collection here is meta to the max as it's a comic based on a TV show based on a comic, and it shines. The two Harley Quinn stories, including the heralded Mad Love, are worth the price of admission alone.

43. The Batman Adventures by Kelley Puckett and Martin Pasko

More adventures based on the TV show art.

44. Joker/Mask by Henry Gilroy

This little mini series put the Mask on the Joker to see what happens. It's an interesting take on what a supervillian becomes when he is too powerful. Fun stuff.

45. Batman - Digital Justice by Pepe Moreno

I suppose the artwork in this volume was cutting-edge when it came out in the early 90s, but as it says in its own forward, it's pretty dated by today's standards. Overall, though, it was a pretty good William Gibson-inspired tale, and a good value for $0.25 from a closing used-book store in Wheaton.

46. Batman Black and White by Various Writers

A nice codicil to my surfeit of Batman (am I mixing my metaphors?). This is a simply wonderful collection of short stories of the Dark Knight, all, unsurprisingly, in black and white, or at least in shades of grey. This and Dangerous Dames and Demons are probably the only two of the Batman books listed here that I'd recommend for purchase. So go out and buy them!

I think I'm done with TDK for awhile. Up next: the Bone nonology.

13 August 2009

August 2009 Movies

Progress! Managed to actually see 2 movies on my list last month: Quantum of Solace and Children of Men. QoS was ridiculous. I still couldn't tell you what the hell happened in that movie. I watched Goldfinger on the flight back from LA last week. Now that was a Bond movie. I loved the new Casino Royale despite the switch from baccarat to poker, but QoS was an awful misfire. CoM was very good, but I think it had been built up a bit much as the next Blade Runner (or equivalent Sci-Fi cult flick). Still a fine movie, but not much repeat viewing value. So here's my top 10 or so to watch. As always, the starred ones I've got on DVD or Blu Ray yet still haven't found the time to watch.

1. Inglorious Basterds
2. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince IMAX
3. The Fall*
4. Night at the Museum 2 IMAX
5. Moon
6. The Brothers Bloom
7. Coraline
8. Terminator: Salvation
9. Public Enemies
10. The Hangover
11. Watchmen: The Ultimate Collector's Edition

13 July 2009

Lookit what my PS3 can do!

First, I'm under no illusions that virtually anyone who knows me will care the slightest bit about this, but I'm putting in this blog entry for my own records as much as to inform.

So it turns out that while the marketing folks at Sony have left something to be desired with regard to their flagship gaming console, their hardware folks have created a virtually peerless system which continues to be regularly updated with new functional content. One of the more geek-friendly features that the PS3 possesses is the ability to create a dedicated partition on the hard drive for an "other OS" installation, which for all intents and purposes means Linux.

When I saw this, I knew I had to try it.

A backup, repartition, and system restore gets the PS3 ready. Unplug all peripherals, remove all flash cards, and plug in a USB mouse and keyboard. The good folks at Fixstars have released, for free, regular PS3-friendly installs of Yellow Dog Linux. So all one has to do is download the installer ISO and burn it to a blank DVD, pop it in the PS3, and select Install Other OS from the PS3 XMB. Install at 720P unless you like squinting. You'll be creating a root username and password during the initial install and a user username and password the first time you boot up YDL. Going forward, I'll use "user" to refer to the username you selected.

Once you login, you'll need to access a USB drive with the .rpm files we'll discuss below already on it. To do that, login as the root with "su -l" followed by the root password, plug in the drive and type "fdisk -l" in a terminal window. You'll see a list of disks, one of which will quite obviously be the USB drive and will be in the format /dev/XXX#. Change to the mount subdirectory (cd /mnt). Create a directory (mkdir whatever) and mount the usb drive to the directory (mount /dev/XXX# /mnt/whatever). Now use the GUI to navigate to /mnt/whatever to access the USB drive. It'll appear on your desktop. Anytime you install something below, it'll just consist of double-clicking on the appropropriate .rpm file and entering the root user password.

Now, start following efaustus9's guide, which I'll abridge here to cover only what I did. Much of the same information is also in BillB's Installing Software on YDL (The Easy Way).

First, follow exactly the instructions in Section IV Expand Repositories For Avaliable Software. Now you can install other programs without problems.

Second, follow exactly the instructions in Section XI Bluetooth Controller. Now you can use the PS3 controller to play games with. (Note: See Update #1 below)

Now your system is ready to install other programs already prepared for the Yellow Dog installation on the PS3. You can find them in the PS3Bodega.

Now the whole point of this process was to play one of my old favorite DOS games, One Must Fall 2097, on my PS3. Fortunately, OMF:2097 is now freeware, and you can download it here. Unzip the files to a folder on your USB drive called OMF2097. Drag OMF2097 into a directory called DOS on your YDL desktop.

Then you download and install DosBox from the PS3Bodega. Install the .rpm and type dosbox from a terminal window. In the DosBox window, type "MOUNT C /home/user/Desktop/DOS". Now go to drive C, enter the OMF2097 directory, and install the program. Once you run it, you can configure the joystick and enjoy!

The same process follows for any of the other programs in the PS3Bodega, although you may want to refer to efaustus9's guide to see if there are any necessary tweaks to make things run more smoothly.

Update #1: Apparently Bluetooth is broken in the new YDL 6.2 release. I upgraded anyway because I was having password issues, but as of now (14 Aug 09), my BT controller doesn't work.

Update #2: I got this
Logitech USB keyboard to use with YDL, and it works smashingly well! I got the USB one (vs. the bluetooth equivalent) so I didn't have to worry about the problems in Update #1.

Update #3: I recommend not using YDL 6.2. 6.1 works great and all of the help out there is 6.1-based. The bluetooth issue is still unresolved as of 14 October, although there is an unofficial workaround that I didn't want to bother with.

01 July 2009

July 2009 Movies

Finally caught In Bruges and Up, so figured I'd update my list. Here's my top 10 or so movies I want to see right now, some still unreleased, some increasingly ancient. The starred ones I've got on DVD or Blu Ray yet still haven't found the time to watch. A few movies have dropped of the list from last time just because I don't much care about them anymore.

1. Inglorious Basterds
2. Moon
3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince IMAX
4. The Fall*
5. Quantum of Solace*
6. Children of Men*
7. Night at the Museum 2 IMAX
8. The Brothers Bloom
9. Coraline
10. Terminator: Salvation
11. Public Enemies
12. Funny People

09 June 2009

New Homebrew TTR Map - Africa

It's kind of a pain to check out this new homemade Ticket To Ride map of Africa (well, new is relative, since it's a year old, but I just came across it today), but it's snazzy as all get-out. I'll have to play-test it to be sure, but it'll likely make it into my TTR rotation with France and Asia, which I reviewed on BoardGameGeek awhile back.

Check out the goodness in these very-reduced samples:

If you want to get the cards, click here.
For the standard map in A0 size, click here.
For the snazzy sepia-toned map in A0 size, click here.

02 June 2009

2009 - The Year of Graphic Novels - Update #2: Catwoman

I'm not exactly blazing through these novels lately, but I'm doing my best. I finished up Ed Brubaker's Catwoman run the other day while battling the flu, and I'll give credit where credit is due...the dude can write noir comics with the best of 'em. He might well be the best of them, to be honest. The best of people in his books are morally ambiguous, and the worst are downright sadistic sociopaths. Good stuff.

26. Catwoman Vol. 1: The Dark End of the Street by Ed Brubaker and Darwyn Cooke
27. Catwoman Vol. 2: Crooked Little Town by Ed Brubaker
28. Catwoman Vol. 3: Relentless by Ed Brubaker
29. Catwoman Vol. 4: Wild Ride by Ed Brubaker
30. Catwoman: Selina's Big Score by Darwyn Cooke

Darwyn Cooke does a similarly accomplished job in Selina's Big Score, which slides nicely into the events of The Dark End of the Street, which he did the art for.

Well I'm at 30/104, less than 33% accomplished with 5 months in the can. Guess I'll have to step things up a bit. Up next: all of the Batman I've been letting languish on my shelves, including the Bruce Wayne: Murderer trilogy and the Black Mask quintology.

15 May 2009

R.I.P. Scrubs

Finally watched the Scrubs series finale on the DVR -- a fine end for a show whose claim to fame was a phenomenally talented gallery of minor characters handling the comedy while the top-billed cast steered the show's considerable dramatic aspect. This season's addition of the Brain Trust (primary membership: The Janitor, The Todd, Ted, and Doug) was particularly inspired comedy. Nice work, folks, and thanks for the memories, especially the three amazing episodes with Brendan Fraser. As a corollary, after spending a week in LA, I'm kind of bummed about missing The Blanks at Largo tomorrow night.

The end of Scrubs, The Shield, and Battlestar Galactica, coupled with my not so-recent abandonment of The Office and Heroes, has left me down to my shortest list of must-see TV in years, and I'm pretty happy about that, as I've got a backlog of TV on DVD to get through (Deadwood, The Wire, Carnivale, Arrested Development, Weeds, Wire in the Blood, Entourage, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Dexter, etc).

My current watch list:

This is actually a pretty telling list, for those TV execs who happen to swing by my blog. (For their info, I'm in their favorite 18-49 year old male demographic.)

Trends of note:
  • Only one show (House) is a standard 22-episode series (which is WAY too long to maintain quality).
  • Only one sitcom (Always Sunny).
  • Only two shows are on major broadcast networks.
  • Four shows (the USA ones) are basically the same sort of whodunit or howcatchem.
I don't watch a single one of these shows live. All on DVR, skipping all commercials save movie/tv previews.

As an addendum, Doctor Who and Torchwood are on quasi-hiatus (and are anagrams), and I don't know if SciFi will air this year's BBC specials in the US. I'm also looking forward to Warehouse 13 and Caprica on SciFi, but I've got no idea if they'll be any good.

06 May 2009

May 2009 Movies

How about that? I finally saw a damned movie! Star Trek on the IMAX in Century City, which, to be honest, is an IMAX in technology only, not scale. Frankly, if the screen isn't 5 stories tall, it shouldn't be able to call itself a true IMAX. Anyone know of a list of IMAXes with truly giant screens?

By the way, Star Trek was awesome.

It's been awhile since I last posted my list of movies on my list to see. Thought I'd give it a whirl.

Here's my top 15 or so movies to see right now, some still unreleased, some increasingly ancient. The starred ones I've got on DVD or Blu Ray yet still haven't found the time to watch. A few movies have dropped of the list from last time just because I don't much care about them anymore.

1. Inglorious Basterds
2. Up
3. Moon
4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince IMAX
5. The Fall*
6. Quantum of Solace*
7. Children of Men
8. In Bruges
9. Night at the Museum 2 IMAX
10. The Brothers Bloom
11. Coraline
12. Terminator: Salvation
13. Public Enemies
14. Funny People

22 April 2009

2009 - The Year of Graphic Novels - Update #1: The Authority

As I noted earlier, I'm attempting to burn through 104 of my unread graphic novels this year. I started with Warren Ellis' Planetary and Stormwatch series, and now I've plowed through The Authority, also started by Warren Ellis.

11. The Authority Vol. 1: Relentless by Warren Ellis
12. The Authority Vol. 2: Under New Management by Warren Ellis

This first incarnation of The Authority was pretty brilliant, with great writing and artwork supporting a fairly smooth transition from the shatterered Stormwatch to the Authority. There's a pretty astonishing amount of death and destruction, but it's all within the storyline of superhumans tasking themselves with dealing with global threats. Can Warren Ellis do any wrong? Not really. I even follow him on Twitter.

13. The Authority Vol. 3: Earth Inferno and Other Stories by Mark Millar
14. The Monarchy: Bullets over Bablyon by Doselle Young
15. The Authority Vol. 4: Transfer of Power by Mark Millar

Mark Millar's takeover of the series was less inspired than Ellis', but still a good time was had by all. Doselle Young's interlude was forgettable.

16. The Authority Vol. 5: Harsh Realities by Robbie Morrison
17. The Authority Vol. 6: Fractured Worlds by Robbie Morrison
18. Coup d'état by Various Artists

I'm not sure what happened here, but all of a sudden, the Authority went into virulent anti-American, populist mode. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, it was just very strange seeing America portrayed as a corporate-run plutocracy (some would argue that is, in fact, an accurate portrayal, but I prefer to cling to the idea that we're a representative republic, not a true democracy, however, as most believe). Overall, however, the world in the comics is quite different from the real one, so I didn't take the sort of knee-jerk offense that some others may have.

19. The Authority Vol. 7: Revolution 1 by Ed Brubaker
20. The Authority Vol. 8: Revolution 2 by Ed Brubaker

Without throwing down any spoilers, I'll say that Ed Brubaker's run on The Authority wasn't really his best work (he's best at the noir genre vs. supers), but it was nice getting some closure on an open storyline back from the Stormwatch days.

21. The Authority: Kev by Garth Ennis
22. The Authority: The Magnificent Kevin by Garth Ennis

Garth Ennis never disappoints, but he also, in this case, respected the source material, which I appreciated. He weaves a tale of Kev, a British spy who gets mixed up, repeatedly, with The Authority. Lots of violence, nudity, vulgarity, and humor. Good stuff. No idea why I don't have The Authority: A Man Called Kev in my collection, but I'll rectify that shortly.

23. Lobo/Authority: Holiday Hell by Keith Giffen and Alan Grant
24. Jenny Sparks - The Secret History of the Authority by Mark Millar
25. The Authority: Human on the Inside by John Ridley

Three one shots here (although the Lobo title is really a 3-in-one), that were all worth the price of admission. I expected to loathe the Lobo and love the other two, but the Lobo crossover was surprisingly solid.

Next up: Ed Brubaker's Catwoman run.

24 March 2009

An open letter to The Sci Fi Network President Dave Howe

Dear Mr Howe:

I find it difficult to express in words how ridiculous your decision to go from The Sci Fi Network to "SyFy" is, but I'm going to try.

First of all, let's start with brand recognition. You know what you're getting when you see the Sci Fi network. Sci Fi is a long-established abbreviation for the genre of Science Fiction, and despite your inexplicable decision to air wrestling from time to time, you generally deliver the goods. You've got excellent original series like Eureka, Dresden Files, and Battlestar. You make your own B-grade movies. You've done some innovative miniseries like The Lost Room and Tin Man. It's all good stuff, and it's all science fiction. Personally, I'm really looking forward to Warehouse 13, Caprica, and some more Eureka.

The Cartoon Network airs cartoons. The Comedy Channel shows comedy. The Food Network...well, you get the idea. You're a niche network catering to Sci Fi fans. I imagine it's pretty lucrative given the prominent 18-49-year old male demographic. If you don't want to embrace it, I don't know why they installed you as CEO.

Now let's explore why SyFy not only is laughable, but why it seemingly seeks to abrogate, invalidate, and otherwise obviate the relationship you have with your viewers.

First, phonetically, SyFy is a disaster. If you pronounce it using standard English pronounciation rules, it's Siffie.

Second, spellingwise, it's an abomination. You're a major cable network, not Kwik-E-Mart. Why intentionally mispell an abbreviation so long-established it's practically acceptable in Scrabble?

Third, you've got a great tagline with "Imagine," and your little vignettes are top-notch. What the heck does "Imagine Greater" even mean? At least "Imagine More" would be meaningful. "Imagine Greater" is a disaster. Greater than what?

In essence, you're saying, "We don't like Sci Fi." I don't care what your admen and advisors and whatnot telling you to change for change's sake are telling you, but simply by going from SciFi to SyFy, you're saying Sci Fi isn't any good, we can do better.

Well I like Sci Fi. I read the books. I watch the TV shows. I buy the Blu Ray discs. I'm a 35 year old professional with a professional wife and a son who will be force-fed a steady diet of Star Wars (by me) and Star Trek (by the wife) until he's totally indoctrinated. He deserves to grow up watching either classic programming or new and exciting programming on your network.

If you really want to spend some money, don't waste it on a poorly concieved and ultimately futile rebranding campaign. Trust me, you will change it back, or your successor will. Go out and get the rights to Babylon 5, Firefly, Farscape, Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, MST3K, Hercules, Xena, and the old Doctor Who, and start airing them in order, in HD. Extend your relationship with the BBC beyond Doctor Who and Torchwood (both excellent shows) and bring over some of the best SciFi the Brits have to offer. Make sure the new Star Trek series is on your network -- whatever it costs -- the ratings will be insane for cable TV. Start filming the works of RA Heinlein and PK Dick and A Bester into premiere mini series instead of shlock Bird Flu movies. Put Bruce Campbell on retainer and do whatever he tells you to do.

Not all of it will turn into ratings gold, but some will work out quite nicely. I guarantee your odds are better than they will be with a name change.

That is, of course, unless you really don't want to cater to Science Fiction fans. Then by all means go forth with your rebranding, and good luck to you.

You'll need it.

12 March 2009

Gervais + Elmo = Hilarity on 'Sesame Street'

Talk about entertainment for me and Alex....well, me mostly.

10 March 2009

Illinois Legislature Restores Pluto's Planetary Status

Well, I'm glad that's been settled. After the IAU's demotion of Pluto a few years back, I've been waiting for this. The floodgates of formal opposition have opened. The dam has burst.

First up was the trailblazing New Mexico Legislature, back in 2007, which passed the following:
WHEREAS, the state of New Mexico is a global center for astronomy, astrophysics and planetary science; and
WHEREAS, New Mexico is home to world class astronomical observing facilities, such as the Apache Point observatory, the very large array, the Magdalena Ridge observatory and the national solar observatory; and
WHEREAS, Apache Point observatory, operated by New Mexico State University, houses the astrophysical research consortium's three-and-one-half meter telescope, as well as the unique two-and-one-half meter diameter Sloan digital sky survey telescope; and
WHEREAS, New Mexico state university has the state's only independent, doctorate-granting astronomy department; and
WHEREAS, New Mexico state university and Dona Ana county were the longtime home of Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of Pluto; and
WHEREAS, Pluto has been recognized as a planet for seventy-five years; and
WHEREAS, Pluto's average orbit is three billion six hundred ninety-five million nine hundred fifty thousand miles from the sun, and its diameter is approximately one thousand four hundred twenty-one miles; and
WHEREAS, Pluto has three moons known as Charon, Nix and Hydra; and
WHEREAS, a spacecraft called New Horizons was launched in January 2006 to explore Pluto in the year 2015;
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO that, as Pluto passes overhead through New Mexico's excellent night skies, it be declared a planet and that March 13, 2007 be declared "Pluto Planet Day" at the legislature.
Second up, the Illinois General Assembly, which has enacted the following text into law:

WHEREAS, Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of the planet Pluto, was born on a farm near the Illinois community of Streator; and
WHEREAS, Dr. Tombaugh served as a researcher at the prestigious Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona; and
WHEREAS, Dr. Tombaugh first detected the presence of Pluto in 1930; and
WHEREAS, Dr. Tombaugh is so far the only Illinoisan and only American to
ever discover a planet; and
WHEREAS, For more than 75 years, Pluto was considered the ninth planet of the Solar System; and
WHEREAS, A spacecraft called New Horizons was launched in January 2006 to explore Pluto in the year 2015; and
WHEREAS, Pluto has three moons: Charon, Nix and Hydra; and
WHEREAS, Pluto's average orbit is more than three billion miles from the sun; and
WHEREAS, Pluto was unfairly downgraded to a "dwarf" planet in a vote in which only 4 percent of the International Astronomical Union's 10,000 scientists participated; and
WHEREAS, Many respected astronomers believe Pluto's full planetary status should be restored; therefore, be it
RESOLVED, BY THE SENATE OF THE NINETY-SIXTH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, that as Pluto passes overhead through Illinois' night skies, that it be reestablished with full planetary status, and that March 13, 2009 be declared "Pluto Day" in the State of Illinois in honor of the date its discovery was announced in 1930.
Personally, I'm a fan of the hydrostatic equilibrium (i.e. spheroidal) definition which results in 13 planets currently and likely more than 100 eventually, since any other definition which includes Jupiter and Mercury (not to mention Earth), is flawed in some way. That said, simply using hydrostatic equlibrium would not exclude any spheroidal moons. There was a fun debate on this at Mike Brown's blog last September.

In the end, I think the unsaid part of the planetary controversy is the desire for Earth to be a capital-p Planet, and not a "minor" or other adjectively-modified flavor. As long as there's big gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn out there, that'll make things difficult.

27 February 2009

2009: The Year of Graphic Novels

I've been collecting graphic novels for the better part of two decades now, and, for the first 10 years or so, I managed to read them at roughly the pace I was acquiring them. However, over the 2000s thus far, they've been stacking up, unread, at a fairly brisk pace. It doesn't help that my wife the librarian has biannual conferences where I usually get a stack of 15-20 of them gratis (or for a nominal fee).

This ends this year. I'm planning on getting through roughly 2 a week in 2009, and, hopefully, by year's end, I'll have (mostly) caught up. I'll be documenting my efforts here on the ol' blog for no one to read.

Admittedly, it's 27 February, and this is the first I've mentioned it here, but I've already been hard at work getting through 10 tomes, so, of course, I'm behind schedule.

Books tackled thus far:

1. Planetary Vol. 1: All Over the World and Other Stories by Warren Ellis
2. Planetary Vol. 2: The Fourth Man by Warren Ellis
3. Planetary Vol. 3: Leaving the 20th Century by Warren Ellis
4. Planetary: Crossing Worlds by Warren Ellis

I first got into Warren Ellis via his excellent Transmetropolitan series. I've since read lots of his shorter collections, including Orbiter, Ministry of Space, Ocean and a few other items, including his online series FreakAngels. The dude is twisted, literate, and endlessly entertaining. Planetary is all of those things. It's weird as hell, and I would probably benefit from re-reading it (as it is, I had to re-read several stories referred to in later ones just to figure out what was going on). Great stuff, but weird. In a good way. I'm looking forward to the fourth volume, coming out later this year.

5. Stormwatch - Force of Nature by Warren Ellis
6. Stormwatch - Lightning Strikes by Warren Ellis
7. Stormwatch - Change or Die by Warren Ellis
8. Stormwatch - A Finer World by Warren Ellis
9. Stormwatch - Final Orbit by Warren Ellis

Noticing an author trend here? Well, Planetary sort of flows into The Authority, which is preceded by Stormwatch, so there it is. Stormwatch was started by Wildstorm Comics in the mid-90s, and was "rebooted" by Ellis, who took things into what I assume was an entirely new direction. It's more of a standard superhero comic with excellent writing and plotting, and it flows very nicely to a fairly gruesome conclusion.

And, lastly:

10. Borgia - Blood for the Pope by Alejandro Jodorowsky

I first heard of Alejandro Jodorowsky when the wife got a free copy of Metabarons: Othons and Honorata, which was wonderful, even translated from the original French (I thought about tackling it in its source language, but my linguistic skill is pretty pathetic these days). Jodorwsky's got lots of Big Ideas and usually teams with some exceptional artists. Borgia's not really in that vein. It was published by Heavy Metal press, so it's more blood and Bacchanalia than driving prose and dialogue. Still, 'twas fun.

Next up: The Authority Volume 1: Relentless by (you guessed it) Warren Ellis.

04 February 2009

Apparently the President's Assistant thinks that electrical outlets are powered by pixies and fairy dust.

When I saw that the White House had a new blog/RSS feed, I signed up to see what little tidbits the Obama administration would be touting. Imagine my surprise when Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, indicated that she really thinks wall-socket power is emission free. In discussing the benefits of electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt, she says:
Because nearly 80% of Americans commute 40 miles or less a day, this car could potentially provide 80% of Americans with a zero-emissions option for their commute.
Now unless 100% of the power in the US is now nuclear-, wind-, water-, and solar-generated (something I've not been informed of), most of the power coming to our houses is generated by fossil fuels. The last I checked, gas, oil, and coal were not zero-emission. I will certainly posit that generating electrical power writ large and sending it over transmission lines is almost certainly more efficient and cleaner than generating it car-by-car, but no one can claim a Chevy Volt is zero-emission just because it doesn't generate carbon monoxide when it's moving.

12 January 2009

Why does the NFL hate its most ardent fans?

It's no secret to friends and family that I strongly believe that, after 1 November, there should be no outdoor NFL games north of Tennessee that start after 1pm local time. It's cold enough for the fans with the sun up in northern climes later in the season.

So next Sunday, Eagles-Cardinals will be played indoors, in Phoenix, at 3pm Eastern time, while Ravens-Steelers is outdoors at 6:30pm Eastern time.

Mean temperature for Pittsburgh on 18 January: 28ºF
Mean temperature for Phoenix on 18 January: 56ºF
Temperature in the University of Phoenix Stadium (dome closed): 70ºF

That is probably the most egregious example of the NFL saying "fuck you, fans willing to shell out the big bucks to watch the games in person, we only care about TV ratings," that I've ever seen.

Frickin' Hilarious! Go EAGLES!

My dad was livid when McNabb picked up the phone. I thought it was hysterical. It was almost as funny as when he mock-ran back Tarvaris Jackson's last pass (which landed in his arms) last week.

I wish more players played with the joy that McNabb does. There's plenty of over-the-top intense players like Brian Dawkins and Ray Lewis. McNabb, except when he's playing poorly, is always smiling on the sideline like he knows how blessed his life is. While I've vacillated on Andy Reid from time to time, I have always wanted McNabb to play his entire career with the Eagles, and if he has a couple more years like this one, he'll find himself in a yellow HOF blazer someday.

05 January 2009

Bad Science and AIDS

I've been a regular Ben Goldacre reader for years. His regular Guardian column on the pitfalls, pratfalls, and outright dangers of bad scientists, crony scientists, pseudoscientists, and nonscientists is not-to-be-missed.

His piece last Saturday, though, just made me sad. A pregnant, HIV-positive woman was told by an idiot scientist that anti-retroviral drugs and breastfeeding were bad for her and her child. They are now both dead. The scientist is a professor at Berkeley (a public, tax-payer-funded university) who served on the South African Advisory Panel on HIV and AIDS, which effectively murdered several hundred thousand South Africans.

I understand the desire for healthy debate and contrary ideas at educational institutions. I also understand that, in this day and age, stupid people have a sufficient medium (the internet) to become horrifyingly dangerous.

If you aren't outraged, you're not paying close enough attention. California is in a budget crunch. I can think of an easy way for the state to save around $100K. Every little bit helps.

02 January 2009

Best of 2008

Best Movie: Wall-E
Honorable Mention: The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
Best Album (that I heard for the first time in 2008): Lily Allen, "Alright, Still"
Honorable Mention: Lyle Lovett, "The Road to Ensenada"
Best Book (that I read in 2008): I read 26 non-board books this year, and none really blew me away. I really enjoyed the Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, though, so I'll give that the nod.
Honorable Mention: Walter Mosley, "Blonde Faith," of just for a last mystery with Easy Rawlins.
Best TV Show: The Shield (what a finale!)
Honorable Mention: Doctor Who (what a first-half of a finale!)
Best Board Game: Ticket to Ride Nordic Countries
Best Video Game: Grand Theft Auto IV (100% complete, baby!)
Best Meal: 4th Anniversary dinner, Morels at the Palazzo Casino, Las Vegas
Best Day: The Ides of March, also known as Alex's birthday