boon-dog-gle: (noun) work of little or no value done merely to keep or look busy.
free: (adjective) provided without, or not subject to, a charge or payment.

11/30/05

Surprise random link of the week...

Here's this week's link: Have fun!

11/23/05

Surprise random link of the week...

Here's this week's link: Have fun!

11/19/05

I Walk the Line: a Night for Johnny Cash - a review...

For a couple of months, I've been looking forward to the release of the Johnny Cash biopic "Walk the Line", which is this weekend. I'm hoping that it will approach the brilliance of last year's musical-legend-biopic "Ray", though that will be a tough order. As a tie-in with the new release, CBS aired a tribute concert on Wednesday in which various contemporary and past music stars sang a few of Cash's best-loved songs. I say "a few" because the show only aired for an hour and when you subtract time for commercials, the movie clips they previewed, and celebrities reading telepromptors, there was only time for seven or eight songs. I didn't actually count, but there weren't many.

O.k., I guess that's understandable. Network airtime is very valuable and CBS needs to sell time to advertisers and the movie studio and have goofy stars on stage so people will tune in to see what they're wearing. (By the way, I don't know what the heck Dennis Quaid was thinking. He had on a sport jacket that looked dirty, like he had just pulled it out of a dumpster in the back alley.) Overall, though, the show was a big disappointment for a few reasons.

First, the location was a poor choice. I'm not actually sure where it was staged, but it was in a large theater hall like the Oscars are held in and so the audience was a bunch of rich old people in suits sitting in seats. There was absolutely zero energy in the place--at least none that translated through the television. Sure, there was a pretty good cheer when Jerry Lee Lewis was onstage, but that's it, a pretty good cheer. The worst was when they cut away to a separate location for U2 to perform a Cash song at their concert, it totally killed a sense of flow to the concert set. (Ten years ago, I would have said that U2 was one of the 2 or 3 best bands in the world, maybe ever, but lately I get the impression from their music and performances that they know entirely too well how cool it is that they are U2. Know what I mean?) It didn't help anything that the show was pre-recorded and edited for television. The whole thing seemed very overproduced and polished, which didn't mesh well with Cash's very natural and gritty music.

Most importantly, the performances were uniformly subpar. Most of the singers/groups projected attitudes that ranged from bored to bothered that they had to be there. It started off on a bad note when some clean cut, fresh faced country music doofus sang "Folsom Prison Blues" with a goofy grin on his face. It wasn't the grin that Cash sometimes had that said "I'm a little more experienced with the dark themes in my songs than you can imagine"; it was more of a grin that said "I'm singing a song on national t.v.". Probably the worst was when Jerry Lee Lewis (he of the "pretty good cheer") and Kid Rock sang a duet version of "I Walk the Line". It was really awkward to see this old guy and young guy sing what is essentially a love song to each other (yes, they were looking at each other through most of the song)--especially since they both have terrible voices and were completely out of tune. I'd guess the idea was that both singers were/are rebels in their time, like Cash was. The idea didn't work.

The one who came closest to a decent performance was Sheryl Crow. She seemed to attempt to make the song she sang her own. And that was the key. Didn't Cash's music mean anything to the people who were part of this event? I'm sure it did, but you'd never know it. This all played out in stark contrast to the way Cash himself could take the music or song of someone else and so personalize it that he gave it life and meaning the original artist may never have been aware was possible. You can hear this in the "American" music series that Cash produced in the last year's before his death. The prime example being his version of "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails. He changed that song from a decent one dealing with drug addiction, to an amazing reflection on and illustration of the despair one can experience in this fallen world when he doesn't know what lasting value his life had produced. I don't know that Trent Reznor considered the question of Jesus "For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?" (Mark 8:36) when he wrote the song, but that is what comes to my mind when I hear Cash sing it.

Poorly done, CBS. Anyway, I hope (and expect) the movie tribute is better than the t.v. one.

11/16/05

Surprise random link of the week...

Here's this week's link: Have fun!

11/13/05

new look...

If you've visited my blog before, you'll notice some rather drastic changes to the look. I don't know if I'm satisfied yet, but it's fun playing around. Actually, I'm rather proud of myself. When I started using Firefox as my main browser a few weeks ago, I noticed that the template was displayed improperly. My friend Steve told me that he thought there was something funky with my CSS code. I didn't know what that meant at the time, but I've been messing with it ever since. Finally, I figured out earlier tonight what I needed to do. Once the ball was rolling, however, Newton's law took effect and I just kept going (obviously). So, I might keep fiddling with it, but at least if the site looks stupid we'll all know it's my fault and not just some mysterious technical glich.

11/9/05

Surprise random link of the week...

Here's this week's link: Have fun!

11/7/05

CSI...

If you know me, or if you've perused this blog a few times, you know that my favorite t.v. show right now is CSI. It's about a team of forensic scientists who are part of the Las Vegas crime lab. You probably already know that, since it has been the most watched show for the last several years and has spawned two spinoffs. I'm not really much of a scientist. I don't have the interest, acumen, or temperament for the scientific field. Yet, you don't need to be a science-nerd to groove with the show. It is consistently the best-directed television show, it has good acting, cool musical accompaniment, always interesting (often bizarre) storylines, and you usually gain the satisfaction at the end of an episode of having a crime solved and a "bad guy (or gal)" on the way to jail. But, I love the show mainly because I like the characters and the way they interact.

At the same time, there is one aspect of the show that drives me crazy, and it's related to character interaction. Now, it doesn't really bother me in a substantial way. It's more like the way a good friend might have an idiosyncracy that annoys you but you wouldn't really want them to quit it because it would change who they are. Anyway, the thing is that the makers of the show know that most of the people who watch on a regular basis aren't professional forensic scientists. In fact, I'd venture to say that the average Thursday evening television viewer (including me) is fairly scientifically ignorant. So, in order to help us goobers understand what these scientists are doing and talking about while solving crimes, the characters are forced to have these absolutely inane conversations about scientific facts and processes. I don't know if you've noticed it; I didn't at first. But now that I have, it sticks out like a sore thumb. No real people, especially knowledgable scientists, would have conversations like these. Basically, they explain to each other things like laws of physics, properties of thermodynamics, or how DNA comparisons work. Usually these conversations involve each character finishing the thoughts of the other, thus showing us that both are knowledgable about the topic. In real life, though, these people would just assume that the other one possesses the requisite knowledge to do their job and they'd get on with their life.

I don't know if I've explained what I'm talking about in a comprehensible manner. So, I'm including (below) an excerpt of a transcript from an episode where a particularly bad occurrence of this phenomenon takes place. By the way, I found the transcript at this site, which is pretty cool if you like that sort of thing (as I do). [FYI: "Grissom" is the lead character of the show and supervisor of the team; "Neil Jansen" is a bit-character, apparently portrayed as an "expert" on fingerprints.]



[INT. CSI - LAB -- DAY]

(Grissom walks into the lab.)

GRISSOM: Neil, you got a minute?

NEIL JANSEN: I don't think I have any work pending for you.

GRISSOM: I need your expertise.

NEIL JANSEN: Matchbook print. Everybody's talking about it.

GRISSOM: Well, good. Scientific discoveries arise through discourse. Now ...
ninhydrin works by reacting to one end of a protein chain to form ruhemann's
purple ...

NEIL JANSEN: Which makes fingerprints visible.

GRISSOM: Protein chains are made up of a series of amino acids, sometimes a
hundred units long. But only one end of the chain has the h-n-H ...

NEIL JANSEN: The n-terminus.

(Quick flash of: the end of the protein chain. Resume to present.)

NEIL JANSEN: It's the only part of the protein molecule that interacts with
ninhydrin.

GRISSOM: But fingerprints are subjected to bacterial degradation, which causes
the proteins to break down into smaller amino acids.

NEIL JANSEN: Upping the number of n-termini.

GRISSOM: And making the fingerprint more visible. But because new fingerprints
are sometimes composed of fully intact proteins, you could spray ninhydrin, and
not see a result for months, yes?

NEIL JANSEN: Or in rare cases, years -- depending on the rate of degradation.

GRISSOM: My matchbook print was inside a plastic evidence bag. That could
affect the rate.

NEIL JANSEN: Let's see ... plastic ... plastic traps in heat and humidity.

(Quick flash to: Extreme close-up of the protein chain and various reactions.)

NEIL JANSEN: (v.o.) Bacteria would continue to break down over time.

(End of flash. Resume to present.)

GRISSOM: So theoretically, the bag was acting as a humidifying chamber.

NEIL JANSEN: I'd say you were processing a print in slow motion.

GRISSOM: Thank you, Neil.


Did Neil and Grissom really need to have a discussion about how proteins work to form fingerprints? No. But the show has to prove how smart it is and they have to create a way to cut away to cool computer graphics of protein chains and chemical reactions. So, I'll continue to be annoyed by these awkward patronizing conversations. But, I'll keep watching too.

11/4/05

Firefox users please stop and comment...

I just started using the Firefox browser instead of Explorer. I think I like it so far, except when I visit my own blog. The background template shows up all weird. So, my question is: does this happen to all of you who are using Firefox? Or, is it just my computer acting funky? Even if you are not a normal visitor to this site, please post a comment so I can know if I need to change the whole template of this blog for those who use the Fx browser. Thanks for your help.

sisters...


The redhead is a crotchety old lady who grumbles at the most minor inconvenience. Ari is timid about everything--especially things new and electronic. You can see she's pretty worried about having her picture taken. Will the camera stretch out and whallop her, or worse, steal her soul? Probably. She's ready to run in case the worst should threaten. It's not all her fault, though. She had a rough start to life. Abused and eventually abandoned; she was all fur and bones when she came to live with us. Now, in spite of her grumbles, she's loyal and loveable. She's always ready to snuggle up between your legs while watching t.v. on the couch. And when you're trying to take a nap, she'll try to steal some of your pillow. Even though her breath stinks, I appreciate the gesture.

Her younger (but bigger) sister, looking nothing like her in black and white, is nothing like her in personality. Soda is stupidly enthusiastic about every circumstance in life. She bounds after a tennis ball and a rabbit with the same eagerness. And she thinks the camera before her might just be the greatest new toy she'll ever receive. Whatever it is, she wants it before her sister has a chance. She wants the attention and the limelight; she wants the treats and the belly-rubs. Spoiled with affection since birth, she is completely without discipline. But her limitless optimism and excitement are refreshing (if sometimes annoying) in this world where we too often allow disappointment to overpower joy.

11/2/05

Surprise random link of the week...

For this week's link, click on my bald head.

G.K. Chesterton...

"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."