November 25, 2016

Aaaaaand, that's a wrap

Well folks, it's with a ton of regret that I have to inform you that, after eleven years, The Colossus of Rhodey is shutting up shop. You've likely noticed that posting has been quite minimal of late; that's because my writing duties elsewhere have been required.

For any future pontifications regarding comics, movies, politics, etc. you can now find me at Douglas Ernst's place.

Thank you for reading, and for all your support over the last decade-plus. All the best.

-- Hube

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September 22, 2015

Autism and public spaces

For the uninitiated reader(s), I have a son with severe autism. He is non-verbal, low functioning and "high behavior" as they say. "High behavior" is code for "breaks things and hits people".

He usually breaks things because he's not using them as intended (like toys) or because his OCD is acting up and he feel compelled to slam the door until it breaks. (For reference, he banged on our dining room window yesterday until it broke)

So there's story in the news about a family being "driven out of their home" because the neighbors want their autistic son declared a "public nuisance."

Some highlights:

"Neighbors said he had pulled other children's hair, slapped a baby, purposely cycled into people and sat on a cat"

"Nurse Sue Alford, 61, lives on the street and said: 'It was painful. We all met with them and talked to them about their son, but they didn't see our point of view. We wanted the street to be a safe place for other children.'"

My son usually keeps his hands to himself with strangers but not always. For that reason alone, we are very careful about taking him to public places. The idea that we would let him roam the neighborhood unattended is just absurd.

In this dispute, I side with the neighbors. There is simply no excuse for this kid to be hurting other people and animals. The idea that this is going to lead to wholesale evictions based on nothing is just not likely.

This kid needs constant supervision and I sympathize with the parents. I know, first hand, how exhausting that is but that's their job. They have to keep other children safe and their own under control. If they cannot, then they should be seeking residential placement or other support services in their home.

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August 14, 2015

Monsters are real and they walk among us

Monsters are real. I mean that in a literal sense. What other word fits?

Sick? Yes but it's not enough. Sick is too passive. It passes the blame elsewhere. Sick people cannot be blamed for their actions. It's not their fault. There is a word for this. Evil. What this man did was evil.

You want to know the worst part? I knew this guy. His kid and mine were friends. My son went to his birthday party at their house. What do they always say? "He seemed like a nice guy, kinda quiet." That's exactly what I would say. He was originally from Staten Island. My family is originally from there. In fact, most of them still live there. Once when I was picking the kids up from school, I introduced my mom to this monster and they talked about Staten Island. Think of all the Delaware Questions you get when you first meet someone from here. What neighborhood? What High School? Did you know this family or that? That whole thing.

Neither of us, nor my wife ever, ever had the slightest inkling that this guy was evil. I always assumed I'd get that creepy, "somethings wrong here but I can't quite put my finger on it" thing. I didn't. Not once.

This bastard forced me to ask my son all kinds of things I didn't want to ask him. He has shattered my trust in my own judgement and now I'm suspicious of anyone who comes anywhere near any of my kids. Any idea what it's like to have a non-verbal child you have to entrust to the care of others? Now imagine what that's like after this story.

If this story has any glimmer of a silver lining it's that this fucker is 71 years old and will be in prison for no less than 15 years. Not too many people make it to 86 in prison. I hope the judge gives him at least the recommended 25 years. Either way I hope he dies cold and alone. He doesn't even deserve that and his victim should be able to take some comfort however miniscule in knowing she will never see him again and he will never hurt her or anyone else ever again.

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August 04, 2014

Why Schools of Education Are a Waste of Time

I had to slightly shake my head and let out a brief chuckle when I read Joanne Jacobs' post on college schools of education. Titled "Learning to reflect, but not teach," it refers to Boston middle school teacher Peter Sipe's piece in the Boston Herald, and it perfectly encapsulates much of my own experience, both as an undergrad and graduate student.

. . . a professor would speak for a bit on some theoretical matter, then we’d break into small groups to discuss it for an extravagantly long time, then we’d get back into a big group and share our opinions some more. I remember a class one evening in which you could not speak unless you had been tossed an inflatable ball. My wife’s classes did not go like this.

Sipes' wife was in medical school.

Two of the courses I had to take as an undergrad were "Historical Foundations of Education" and "Psychological Foundations of Education." Both were completely useless for what those planning to go into teaching actually need. The former was basically a history course about education in the United States. To be completely honest, watching paint dry would have been more exciting ... not to mention at least as useful.

As an undergrad I also took a course called "Educational Psychology" and later as a graduate a class titled "Psychology of Teaching." Maybe there was a substantive difference between the two, but I certainly don't remember any. I do know that not very much from these courses was actually handy in the classroom.

The absolute worst education-related class I took was "Language Development in the Classroom." To this day I haven't the slightest notion of what this (graduate) class was supposed to be about. Every time we met the prof (a sixty or seventy-something year-old woman who was certainly nice enough) would pretty much ramble about what was on her mind at the time, and then we'd get into groups to discuss ... something.

One time, in one of my grad classes, I sort of attempted to call our professor's bluff. She had asked the class for one-word, yes, reflections about an article we were supposed to have read the previous evening. This wasn't checking our knowledge of the material, you see, but more the prowess of our vocabulary. Many of the terms offered up by my classmates were ridiculously repetitive ("Thoughtful." "Provoking." "Engaging."), but nevertheless the prof excitedly wrote each one down on the chalkboard.

Having had enough, I turned to a teaching colleague of mine who was also a student in the class, and whispered, "Watch this." I then raised my hand. When called upon, I offered the term "good." That's right, just the generically vanilla word "good." The prof repeated "Good!" and enthusiastically put it on the chalkboard.

My colleague couldn't contain her laughter and had to leave the room for a few minutes.

This sort of nonsense is what way too many ed courses include, unfortunately, just as Mr. Sipe notes in his article. And I'd bet good money that most teachers would concur, to a very large degree.

I'd be remiss if I did not mention the courses that were beneficial for educators. The curriculum planning course prior to student teaching was incredibly practical for constructing units, lessons, and activities. (I believe this course was so because the professor was what you might call "old school"). "Measurement Applications in Education," a grad course, taught teachers how to properly create assessments -- even down to how exam questions appeared on the paper.

Once I became an employed educator, the vast majority of what I learned -- and used -- in the classroom was garnered from other, mostly veteran, teachers. If education schools want to be truly practical, keep the courses like those I noted, and cut (or make optional), classes like "Historical Foundations." Expand the time undergrads actually spend in schools observing and teaching with an experienced instructor. (I've learned that in recent years my alma mater has implemented much of that last recommendation; student teachers' time and duties in their placement schools have expanded quite a bit.)

"Learning by doing," the saying goes, right?

(Cross-posted at The College Fix.)

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July 10, 2014

Thoughts from our nation's capital

I'm currently in DC for a conference later today. So, because I slept like crap last evening and I've already seen all the DC sights several times in the last twenty years or so, here are a few musings (as usual, because no one demanded it):

-- Getting to DC reminded me of how much I absolutely DETEST driving in big cities.

-- The valet/bellboy and gal at the hotel front desk were incredibly friendly and helpful. Thus, I tipped very well. Good, cheerful service is hard to come by, these days.

-- I spent a good deal of time this morning with CNN on the tube. I wonder why I chose to torture myself so. But it's certainly no wonder why the network's ratings are in the crapper. Virtually the entire three-plus hours featured the hosts parroting Boss Obama/White House talking points and pressing GOP/conservative guests with them.

In addition, their coverage of the current border crisis was abysmal. They featured a story implying the town of Murrieta is racist for their protests against the arrival of illegal immigrant-filled buses: A graphic was shown detailing the town's demographics (70% white, below 10% poverty level) and then compared it to a town closer to the border which is 80% Latino and over 25% poverty level. An interview with the latter's mayor (whose town was more "accepting" of the illegals) showed he believed Murrieta had a racial angle to their protests. The CNN reporter then relayed that to the mayor of Murrieta, asking along the lines of "But can you understand the compassion concern?"

I wonder how quickly the CNN reporters would be willing to accept these buses into their communities.

Shortly thereafter, another talking head pounded Texas Governor Rick Perry about the border situation ... again, with Boss Obama talking points. Make no mistake -- there's certainly nothing wrong with tough questions. But when they all come from one side, not to mention when liberal/Democrat guests just sit there on the split screen nodding their heads in agreement with the host ...

Just now, the two 11am hosts featured a detailed story about the "harrowing" journey these immigrants have to make from a small hamlet in Guatemala. They note how they have to travel the entire length of Mexico to get to the US. Not included: Why Mexico does little-to-nothing about it. Cut back to the hosts who tell us Guatemalans "are great people," and they're "just looking for a better life." I've no doubt about either. But there's a process by which this should occur. And, again, I doubt anyone of these CNN pundits would gleefully welcome these new arrivals into their town, let alone their homes. (CNN is interviewing a foster mom right now who's hosting some "undocumented" kids.)

Does anyone still wonder why Fox News dominates cable news? It's not that they're fairer in their coverage (they are), it's simply that they give the other side (usually the conservative/Republican) a hearing ... and a fair shake.

-- Spider-Man writer Dan Slott responded to this tweet of mine yesterday. Which is funny since he blocked me long ago for daring to challenge some of his more ridiculous tweets. The dude actually actively searches out hashtag mentions??

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June 24, 2014

Why (some) teachers complain so much

Late last week I happened upon this article in The Federalist by Daniel Payne. He simply asks, "Why Do Teachers Complain So Much?" What struck me, in particular, was how even-handed Payne is. Many analysts of (public) education usually go all-out one way or the other -- either public education and its teachers are evil incarnate, or they're noble institutions and individuals, one step below deity status.

The object of Payne's interest is a teacher resignation letter published in the Huffington Post. Why, he wonders, do so many teachers feel the need to let the world know why they're bowing out? "Was the post office in Colorado Springs closed that day?" he asks. "Did she attempt to send the letter to her superiors and accidentally sent it to the editor of the website instead?"

Obviously not. Payne is right: Way too many educators travel to their jobs on a high horse. Too many think they're overworked and underpaid, and that somehow their situation is so different from that of other Americans in other professions. Early in my career at a school referendum meeting (my state requires that the public vote on raising taxes for increased school funding), a colleague stood up and, sounding all exasperated, exclaimed "Listen -- I got up at 5:30 this morning. I did not get home until 6pm. I was on my feet all day ..." The groans from the audience were quite audible. And my own was among them.

Nobody wants to hear that sort of whining, especially at a gathering where a community tax increase is on the table -- a tax that, in part, pays teachers. You think the guy who drives a delivery truck for ten hours across 150 miles of territory wants to hear such grousing? How about the woman who works retail at the mall and just spent nine hours on her feet, dealing with pushy patrons all day? You don't think they'd like a pay raise? Better hours? Improved working conditions?

The irony is, many of these teachers need to realize that they exist in a (teaching) world largely of their own making. By this, I mean their political and cultural philosophies. You're part of one of the most powerful unions in the country, so when you go on strike demanding salary increases and gold label health benefits - when you're already well compensated - it doesn't go over well with the Average Joe who works just as hard but does not enjoy such perks.

Granted, the strength of teachers' unions varies from state to state, as do the salaries and benefits. But keep in mind (and I know this will anger many teachers) the length of the typical school day, and the school year. Winter and spring breaks. Every holiday off. Half of June, all of July, and most of August ... off. Yes, yes, I know teachers will clamor that their day doesn't end after seven and a half hours, and that the numerous breaks and summer are filled with grading, book-keeping and professional development. Trust me, I know. I've put in many a ten-to-twelve hour day, and worked for weeks during breaks and the summer on lesson planning and curriculum.

But so what? Again, how is this so different from what any other person does in any other job? And, generally, what teachers won't tell you is how many in the profession don't do these things. Which makes the salaries and bennies even better, right?

And what about the teachers who have gone on to administration, both school-based and at the central office? Classroom teachers are renowned for their objections to inservice content (inservices are "workshops" that are supposed to enhance one's teaching abilities) but who do you think develops them? Former teachers. Or, at the least (worst?), those who have degrees in education and/or have worked in the field all their lives.

In 1979, President Carter and a Democratic Congress passed the Department of Education Organization Act, which established the federal Department of Education. Many (mostly Republicans and conservatives) thought the move was a Democrat payoff to liberals and the National Education Association (NEA), the largest union of any kind in the country. But even progressive-friendly media acknowledge that Carter had promised the NEA the new cabinet role.

What have we seen, in particular, over the last decade and a half from the NEA and others? Endless grumbling about educational federal mandates. It was easy enough when George W. Bush assumed office in 2000; he was a Republican. That Republican largely co-opted the typical liberal/Democrat tradition of intertwining the feds and education policy with No Child Left Behind (NCLB). The big difference here was that instead of largely throwing money at schools, Mr. Bush actually wanted something in return. The unions, and teachers in general, screamed and hollered about "unfunded mandates," "unrealistic goals," etc.

But in 2008 when Barack Obama came to Washington, his Race to the Top (RTTT) initiative was often referred to as "NCLB on steroids." The union and teacher complaints persist, although they were (are) less personal (Obama is a progressive Democrat, after all). With RTTT, not only was NCLB-based standardized testing continued with all the usual demographic components broken down and dissected as before, but selected states could now use federal monies to develop new teacher evaluation tools, and establish entities like "professional learning communities" (PLCs).

It's easy enough to understand the current kvetching. These new evaluation methods were too often hastily assembled and bring little to the table in terms of judging teacher effectiveness. I've personally seen outstanding teachers receive "ineffective" labels, and lemon instructors get "satisfactory" ratings based on the new assessment. Funding was provided for "data coaches" who are supposed to provide information to teachers on student progress. The problem, which no one could ever seem to answer, was when teachers would get this information and, more importantly, what to do with it.

To coin a cliché, haste really does make waste.

As someone who's been involved in public education for a quarter century I sympathize with many of my fellow educators' -- and union's -- complaints. The decline in student respect and discipline, to name one, remains a "bipartisan" issue, so to speak. But, as I noted previously, on whom can we blame a significant portion of that decline? And, even though left-of-center union complainers get most of the ink in the media, the general pubic should keep in mind that a large percentage of the NEA is comprised of moderates and conservatives, and many do not agree with the Association on national political matters.

The unions and statist educators may not have gotten what they wished for when the feds became a player in education thirty-five years ago. It was naïve to ever believe Washington would continue to throw money at schools ... and never demand anything in return. Grousing about that which you've been largely responsible, and doing so in wide-reaching public mediums, is unlikely to amass much general sympathy.

(Cross-posted at The College Fix.)

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December 15, 2013

The 70 Most Iconic Panels In Marvel History

Via CBR, they were voted on by the [comicbook]-reading public and include all of Marvel's history from all the way back to 1939. (70 panels for 70 years, natch -- 1939-2009.) Here's some of my personal faves:

#66 from Avengers #93:

This is Neal Adams art at its pinnacle during the spectacular "Kree-Skrull War" saga from the early 1970s. Ant Man has to journey inside the Vision to find out what ails him in this homage to Fantastic Voyage.

#64 from Captain America #175:

The conclusion of the Steve Englehart Watergate-analogy "Secret Empire" saga.

#44 from Alpha Flight (Vol. 1) #12:

The leader of Alpha Flight -- Guardian -- is incinerated before his wife's eyes after taking a brutal beating by the robot Box. Of course, this was sort of retconned much later whereby the energy discharge of the explosion sent Mac (Guardian) back through time to the Jupiter moon Ganymede. There, he waited in suspended animation until the present day to make his return to Earth.

#43 from Amazing Spider-Man #122:

The conclusion of the epic battle between Spidey and the original Green Goblin (Norman Osborn) following the death of Gwen Stacy. Naturally, all of this was retconned years later.

#33 from Giant-Size X-Men #1:

The splash-page that started it all. After languishing in reprints for years, Len Wein and Dave Cockrum restarted the mutant team book and it quickly became one of the most popular titles for the company.

#22 from Silver Surfer (Vol. 1) #1:

For me, Big John Buscema's Surfer is unbeatable. This panel from his origin tale is iconic.

#14 from Avengers (Vol. 1) #58:

Did I mention John Buscema? This is his best-ever panel in my not-so humble opinion. I'm biased, natch, because the Vision is my favorite character this side of Iron Man, and this reaction by the android to being accepted as a member of the Avengers is ... simply phenomenal.

#12 from Amazing Spider-Man #121:

See #43 from above. The original Green Goblin knocked Gwen Stacy from off the top of Geo. Washington Bridge (or Brooklyn Bridge, depending), and it remains a matter of debate as to whether that actually killed her, or the snapping of her neck by Spidey's webbing rescue shot.

#4 from X-Men #132:

Artist John Byrne shows off his favorite character in all his glory during the X-Men's scuffle with the Hellfire Club.

Posted by Hube at 11:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 01, 2013

Ten years. Whoa.

Today marks a decade of blogging for yours truly. Ten freakin' years. Here's what our very first post looked like.

The old place was dubbed "Hube's Cube" and was initially written using Microsoft's FrontPage program. After a few months I got a tech pal to make use of the Movable Type platform and continued with this for about a year. Then some things came up which necessitated the shut down of the "Cube" in early 2005; however, some folks who dug the Cube began Colossus a few months later, and invited me to join in to write when I could. Which I did. But then, as is the case with a lot of bloggers, these guys eventually gave it up (save one), just as I was getting back into blogging full force ...

And the rest, as they say ...

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November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

As I approach ten years of blogging (ten!) I am thankful for many, many things. Topping that list are my daughter and my fiancé, followed closely by my family and friends.

With regards to my blogging family, I am thankful for those who got me started here at Colossus (Rhodey, Philip and Felix), the guy who got us set up at mu.nu (Greg at Rhymes With Right), my current co-bloggers (Duffy, Paul Smith and Felix), and my favorite commenters/like-minded bloggers/Delawareans: Carl, Doug Ernst, Avi Green, Fred Gregory, Dana, Hitch, Hoagie, Steve Newton, Arthur, Jeff the Baptist, Kilroy, Nate Winchester, my blog "godfather" John Rosenberg, Mike Matthews, Dana Garrett, John Young, Vic, the wonderful folks at the Watcher's Council, the folks at Newsbusters, Al Mascitti ... and many more.

All the very best to you.

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August 03, 2013

What comic touched you the most?

It's a rare thing, especially in the contemporary era, but there are the occasional issue (or issues) that simply emotional affect you. Because they're freakin' so well done, done by great writers. Here's three of mine:

IRON MAN (vol. 1) #78 -- "Long Time Gone." This was actually a "filler" issue, if you can believe it, back at a time when Marvel actually fulfilled its monthly publication obligations even if the next story wasn't yet ready. Writer Bill Mantlo has Tony Stark reminiscing about a particular adventure in Vietnam. He had Iron Man on site to check out how one of Stark's new weapons worked on the battlefield. Along the way, Stark is witness to the utter brutality of war, and eventually encounters a young -- and blind -- Viet Cong guerrilla. His hitches the young lad to his back and they both trek to safety. If you have dry eyes at the end you must have been an extra in Equilibrium.

MARVELS (Trade Paperback). Specifically, the chapter dealing primarily with the X-Men and the "Mutant Scare," which is supposed to coincide with the mutant team's first encounter with the robot Sentinels. If you don't already know, Marvels is a huge retrospective of key moments in Marvel history written by the modern master of continuity, Kurt Busiek (with painted art by Alex Ross). Told from the perspective of a Daily Bugle photographer, Phil Sheldon, the heart-wrenching moment comes about when Sheldon returns home from work one day to discover his daughters have befriended a homeless mutant girl. The girl, Maggie, was abandoned by her parents most probably because of her horribly misshapen facial features. Maggie is taken in by the Sheldons, but after the climactic night of the Mutant Scare where the Sentinels patrolled New York, Phil rushes home to make sure his family is OK -- knowing they're harboring a mutant. His girls greet him with tears running down their faces; Maggie had run away ... because she didn't want to put the welfare of the Sheldons in jeopardy (according to her cute handwritten note -- see below). The conclusion is a tear-jerker, with Sheldon's oldest daughter tearfully asking him if Maggie will be OK. All he can respond is "I hope so."

SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY. This, in contrast to the two above, is a feel-good story that should leave you with a big smile on your face at story's conclusion. Also written by Kurt Busiek, it's about an alternate universe Superman who only wants to help out humanity and live in peace with his family -- a wife and twin daughters. But, the US government keeps harassing him. Eventually Supes works out an agreement with a government agent which enables him to protect his family. Like with the Marvels chapter above, if you have a family, the ending of Identity should have you closing the book and sighing in complete satisfaction.

What are some of yours?

Posted by Hube at 11:31 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 05, 2013

Another year comes to a close

School year, that is. Actually, it's not completely over yet; the next four days are dedicated to final exams. But all that remains is grading them, then entering them, and then year 22 comes to a close. I saw this morning a few tweets by comics guy Jimmy Palmiotti which definitely made me feel good:


Now, before you plotz, I am not advocating what Palmiotti said -- that you should tip your kid's teachers -- but the sentiment is surely a good one. Besides, many teachers get little gifts from students as a token of their appreciation at the end of the year and during the holidays (I got my first one yesterday -- a $15 gift card to Olive Garden!). At any rate, my point, such that it is, isn't to complain about how hard teachers have it or what a terrific job we all do. No, it's merely to point out that, despite the many cultural, societal and political changes over the years which have placed more and more onus on teachers for just about anything you can think of, there are a heck of a lot of great kids out there ... and parents, too. Too often, that gets overlooked by many in our profession at this time of the year.

And, to me, there's rarely anything more special than getting a little something -- like a small, handwritten "thank you" note -- from that nice, quiet, academically average student in the back row who never really said that much all year. To coin a cliché, "That makes it all worthwhile." Really.

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May 25, 2013

Profs

As my daughter finishes up her freshman year at college, I must admit I've taken yet another look at how bad many college professors are ... in terms of delivering their material. Looking at it from a lower ed. teacher's perspective, it is more than apparent that if I -- or any (in particular) middle or high school teacher -- taught the way college profs teach, there would be 1) utter chaos in the classroom, and 2) little learning going on. Not to mention, when the instructor's first language is something other than English (a situation my offspring encountered in her fall semester to her dismay), and the conveyance of his/her second language is quite a bit less-than-optimal, not only is this ridiculous considering what parents are paying for college, but it's totally unfair for learning.

I never really had an issue with a professor who couldn't speak English; IIRC only my sophomore year physical science prof had a really bad accent. TAs were a different story. One TA in particular was virtually unintelligible at what was supposed to be a study session, and I ended up feeling bad for him when students began throwing up their hands and then walking out. But ... what were they supposed to do?

My first two years of college featured profs who mostly stood there and lectured. Bo-ring. Two notable exceptions were a sociology prof who taught a course on collective behavior, and a microeconomics prof (both sophomore year). Both delivered their lessons like a good lower ed teacher, engaging their classes and requiring a lot of student input. (Most upperclassman classes aren't like the common freshman and sophomore class because they're smaller and more intimate.) One of the worst profs I had was a professor of Russian history who just stood at a lectern and read his notes. Then, virtually none of the material was on his exams. You could tell he didn't like Americans much (he was Russian himself), and one student in the class led the prof to showcase some classic disparaging humor during exam days. This student forgot to bring a blue book to a test, whereupon he asked the prof if he had one. The prof sighed loudly, then asked the class (in his typical, but very understandable, Russian accent) "Does anybody have an extra blue book for this student with NO MIND??" Then, during the exam, this dude asked the prof how much time was left in class. The prof's retort? "Instead of buying those frisbees you throw around all the time, why don't you use some money to buy a watch?"

And anyone who attended University of Delaware: Did you ever have physics professor Harry Shipman? He was easily the best prof I had while at UD, and I only took two of his "non-major" science classes. He taught like one of the best high school teachers you ever had. The one thing I'll always recall is when he wore a t-shirt that was blue in front, and red in back ... and ran around the room. Why? To illustrate the Doppler Effect -- things moving towards you are blue-shifted in the color spectrum, and things moving away from you are red-shifted. Great stuff.

Posted by Hube at 08:16 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

This sort of happened to me

A Spanish teacher in the Bronx claims she was axed because she -- wait for it -- used the word "negro" in class:

A Bronx teacher says her language lesson was lost in translation when she was fired for calling a student “Negro” — though she claims she was simply using the Spanish word for the color “black” at the time, according to a new lawsuit.

The non-tenured junior high instructor, Petrona Smith, 65, was booted from the bilingual PS 211 in March 2012 after a seventh-grader reported the alleged insult.

Smith, who is black and a native of the West Indies, has been unemployed since her ouster.

“They haven’t even accounted for how absurd it is for someone who’s black to be using a racial slur to a student,” said Shaun Reid, Smith’s attorney. “Talk about context! There’s a lot of things wrong here.”

The instructor took a hiatus from teaching special education in 2005 to learn Spanish in South America, because she was passionate about learning the language in a cultural context, Reid said.

She denied calling the student a “Negro,” and explained to investigators that she was teaching a lesson about how to say different colors in Spanish and said the word “negro,” which is Spanish for the color black. She told her students that it was not a derogatory term and that the Spanish word for a black person was “moreno.”

That last paragraph is what I more or less am referring to in the title. Some time ago when I taught the subject, I too was covering the colors in Spanish, and in my case a student -- an African-American for what it's worth whose last name happened to be Black -- asked me if his last name would then translate to "Negro." (And by the way -- the Spanish word is pronounced "nay-gro," not "nee-gro.") I responded that technically that was accurate, but that proper names don't necessarily translate.

To my surprise, the next day I had a voice-mail from a parent of a different kid from that class, concerned about me using the word "negro." When I spoke with her, she said her child said I called the boy who asked about his last name "negro." Despite my [perfectly logical and common sense] explanation, the mom sounded quite skeptical. Nevertheless, though I awaited an eventual follow-up from an administrator (because of my belief that my explanation to the parent "wasn't sufficient"), it never came. I was so certain it would, too, that I typed up an almost two-page report of the whole deal just in case.

Though the teacher in this story was accused of calling a student "negro" (again, she denies it), this would in no way be considered offensive in any Latin American country. But while it obviously makes sense to convey this fact to American students, a teacher with just a bit of common sense has to recognize the history of that word in our own country, and be sensitive -- and cautious -- about the lesson approach.

Posted by Hube at 08:03 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 15, 2013

Hube's Best S.N.L. Skits of All-Time

As usual, because no one demanded it, it's time to take a peek into what cracks Hube up. And the following Saturday Night Live sketches do just that. First, Hube's Top Six, followed by some Honorable Mentions. In no particular order:

MORE COWBELL. Possibly Will Ferrell's funniest skit during his SNL tenure, he cracks up virtually all his companions, especially Jimmy Fallon. Christopher Walken is classic yet again as producer Bruce Dickinson (yes, the Bruce Dickinson):

More Cowbell from Fair Oaks Videos on Vimeo.

JAMES BROWN CELEBRITY HOT TUB. Eddie Murphy had a gazillion funny sketches while a part of SNL; there is none funnier than this one. Whoever thought up this idea is my kind'a writer. So hilarious, Murphy even cracks himself up:

ARSENIO BECKMAN. Host Rob Lowe's best-ever sketch, here he mocks former late-night host Arsenio Hall. Note the finger extensions on Lowe's hands, and especially the audience as the skit progresses:

DICK IN A BOX. Cast member Andy Samberg's and host Justin Timberlake's "SNL Short" classic about the perfect gift for anytime, anywhere:

Dick in a Box (uncensored) - watch more funny videos

THE RESTAURANT ENTERPRISE. One of the best offerings from the early Phil Hartman and Dana Carvey era, host William Shatner becomes the proprietor of the now-drydocked USS Enterprise ... which has been converted into a restaurant. Carvey as villain Khan absolutely steals the show:

STEVIE WONDER & FRANK SINATRA. Eddie Murphy and Joe Piscopo do up a gut-busting bit with an "alternate" version of "Ebony and Ivory":


Parodie Eddie Murphy & Joe Piscopo by PeteRock

SEE BELOW THE FOLD FOR SOME HONORABLE MENTIONS ... !!

MR. NO DEPTH PERCEPTION. Kevin Nealon was never my favorite cast member, but this may be his best bit:

GERMANY'S MOST DISTURBING HOME VIDEOS. I loved just about every "Sprockets" offering; this one is my fave. This is my favorite Mike Myers character by far, and this is a rip on "America's Funniest Home Videos," natch:


sprockets germany's most disturbing videos by pentakatharidis

DEBBIE DOWNER. Rachel Dratch's character had a few follow-ups, but none tops this debut. All the cast members cannot keep a straight face:

SPACE THE INFINITE UNIVERSE. Will Ferrell (as Harry Carey) perplexes host Jeff Goldblum with his constant -- and hilarious -- ad libbing:

THE McLAUGHLIN GROUP. Only political junkies will find this funny, and as I am -- and as a fan of this show -- I threw up a lung the first time I saw this. Dana Carvey's show host John McLaughlin is so spot-on it's scary, and each of the guests nail their real-life counterpart as well:

SAMURAI DELICATESSEN. The only entry I have from the original SNL cast, this John Belushi-helmed skit always kills me. There are several other "Samurai" skits; this, however, is the best:

JIZZ IN MY PANTS. Coming off the success of "Dick in a Box," Samberg, Timberlake and crew at the very least equaled their success with this raucous video short:

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May 06, 2013

Michelinie/Layton nab top 3 Iron Man stories of all-time

Comic Book Resources has the Top 25 Greatest Iron Man Stories Ever up, and thank goodness the fans showed some plain 'ol good common sense. Well, for the most part, that is. As the post title notes, Iron God-Men David Michelinie and Bob Layton claim the top three spots with "Demon in a Bottle" (#1), "Armor Wars" (#2) and "Doomquest" (#3). Admittedly I haven't read any of the recent entries (approx. 2005-present) so I cannot make an informed judgment. I have heard a good amount of praise for writer Matt Fraction's run on the title, and he has a few spots on the list.

But here's some that had me shaking my head a lot (or a little):

  • "Armor Wars 2" (#13). While not a bad story, Bob Layton was actually supposed to write the script (John Byrne ended up doing it). Creative issues with Marvel screwed up the Layton idea, so what we got was some dude named DeWitt unleashing a plan to "hijack" Tony Stark's body. Recall that quite a few issues back, Stark had an artificial nervous system put in his body. DeWitt makes use of this, programming the nervous system to do his bidding!

    But LOOK! Layton's (and Michelinie's) "AW2" has now seen print!! (I'd get it, but Layton filled me in on the entire plot many years ago ...!)

  • "The Mask in the Iron Man” (#11). I've consistently opined that this story is way overrated, probably because then-Marvel head guy Joe Quesada wrote it. In my view, only the art of Sean Chen saves it (the issues that he actually draws, including the climax), and Quesada used this yarn for even sillier spin-offs, including the ridiculous Sons of Yinsen crap. In this story, the Iron Man armor becomes sentient, and that doesn't bode well for Tony.

  • "Iron Monger" (#4). The narrative says this is issues #190-200; however, aside from #192 where Tony Stark returns to the armor -- briefly -- to take on pal Jim Rhodes (who's been filling the role of IM while Stark was busy being a drunk), #190-199 suck. #200 could occupy this #4 spot all alone as it's one of the best single issues in title history. In it, Stark finally takes Obadiah Stane on head-to-head -- in a spectacular all-new armor, the Silver Centurion. All-out action with cool new armor weapons and defenses, this ish has it all.

  • "Ghost in the Machine" (#16). A decent Michelinie/Layton story which intros a pretty cool villain -- the Ghost -- this ranks too high, IMHO. There's nothing especially noteworthy in these issues other than some corporate intrigue and a baddie who gives Shellhead a hard time.

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April 18, 2013

One of the best, indeed

I've given Kurt Busiek a hard time about some of his political statements -- rightly, of course ;-) -- but now, on this, the 75th anniversary of Superman, it's again time to give the creator his due. Earlier today, Kurt Tweeted:


One of the best comicbook stories I've ever read -- not just Superman-related -- is Busiek's Superman: Secret Identity. The action is fairly sparse, but it is an incredibly well-written (and well-paced) story. Any tale that has me smiling and just generally feeling good at the end is top notch stuff. And Secret Identity is that, and more.

Thanks (again), Kurt.

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March 27, 2013

Here's a real look at the [early] Guardians of the Galaxy

In anticipation of their coming silver screen debut, Comics Alliance's Andrew Wheeler takes a ... well, "look" at a history of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. But he tries so damn hard to be "cute" you won't get the real picture. So, I'm here to give you the lowdown on the original crew (because after that, with few exceptions, they pretty much sucked IMHO).

As Wheeler notes, the team's first appearance was in Marvel Super-Heroes #18 written by Arnold Drake and drawn the master Gene Colan. The first GoG were highly appealing to me because of their hard science fiction feel. Their first appearance is about all Wheeler makes plain, though. He says the team was composed of "four men from different worlds who banded forces to fight the Badoon," but doesn't say that these worlds ('cept one) are all planets in our own solar system. Nor does he mention that two of the team from worlds not Earth are actually genetically engineered humans.

  • Charlie-27 "was permanently stuck in the wrong aspect ratio" (writes Wheeler) because he was genetically engineered to survive in Jupiter's gravity. Hence his prodigious strength, natch.

  • Martinex (who Wheeler does mention was genetically engineered, but forgets "human") was "made out of hard candy" because he was constructed to live on Pluto.

  • Vance Astro is the lone Earthman on the squad, a man out of time from the 20th century. He took off from Earth in 1988 heading for Alpha Centauri, and during his 1,000 year journey humans developed faster-than-light travel. Astro landed on Centauri-IV to find Earthmen waiting for him. His body was preserved by a combination of a special copper-alloy suit and preservative in his blood, and by spending the vast majority of his journey in suspended animation. During his long sleep, his inherent psychic powers manifested themselves. It was on Centauri-IV that Astro encountered ...

  • Yondu. The only alien member of the Guardians, he was an archer who possessed arrows made of the miraculous "yaka" metal, a sound-sensitive alloy. When the aforementioned reptilian Badoon attacked Centauri-IV, Yondu escaped with Astro en route to Earth, but were captured. They eventually escaped, and teamed up with the only survivors of the Badoon's attacks on Jupiter and Pluto -- Charlie-27 and Martinex, natch.

This original incarnation of the Guardians had many cool adventures throughout the 1970s, most of which included time travel. (Of course! How else could they interact with the Age of Marvels?) An excellent chronological history of this team can be seen in Defenders #26, when they journey back to the 20th century and acquire the aid of Dr. Strange and the "strangest NON-team of all" in their [future] battle with the Badoon. In addition, Captain America and the Thing also ventured forward in time to help out the GoG as seen in Marvel Two-In-One #5. Speaking of Marvel Two-In-One, it was in #69 that the 1,000 year old Vance Astro encounters his younger version. (Which, if you read the above-mentioned Defenders #26, you realize Vance can't be that young here as he'll be jetting off to the stars in a mere eight years from the time of this ish.) Old Vance tries to convince his younger self not to get on that rocket ... but the old adage about no two things can simultaneously occupy the same space (or something) begins to wreak havoc on the planet!

In the late 70s, Jim Shooter had the GoG travel back in time to help the Avengers battle Korvac, aka Michael. If you want to read an all-out battlefest issue, as well as some heart-wrenching Shooter dialogue, get a hold of Avengers (vol. 1) #177.

One of the neat things I'll always recall as a teen was in the GoG's [brief] regular appearance in Marvel Presents, specifically #3, where new teammate Starhawk lectures the GoG and humans in general that “Harsh though it may sound, your race’s period of oppression cannot be permitted to excuse whatever excesses it may commit.” The human race had just overcome near extinction at the hands of the Badoon, and were pretty damn bloodthirsty as a result. Starhawk warned the Guardians that, having possession of FTL travel, humanity must not carry this negative emotion to the stars. This was written as pages of text, not word balloons.

Years later, Starhawk appeared as one of the "Cosmic" Avengers alongside Thor, Commander America (descendant of you-know-who), Jhen the Gammazon (She-Hulk's successor), Tachyon Torch (Human Torch's descendant) and Irondroid (employee of Stark Interplanetary) in volume 2 What If? #19.

Most recently (according to the "Hube Calendar," which incorporates cessation of new comics purchases effective around 2004), the Centaurian Yondu's race was featured in the opening sequence of the spectacular Avengers Forever. The "Galactic Avengers Batallion" led by Earth Emperor kin Jonz Rickard (descendant of perpetual sidekick Rick Jones) swarms Centauri-IV and annihilates a substantial portion of the populace in retribution for planning an uprising against the Terran Empire.

Amazon has several editions of the Guardians of the Galaxy stories noted above in trade paperback format.

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January 19, 2013

Best entire album ever

Ace has a post up where his gazillion fans chimed in on the "Greatest Whole Album Ever." Many of the submissions are obvious (and with which I agree) like Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, Led Zeppelin IV, The Cars, and Van Halen; but, of course, this wouldn't be a Hube post if I didn't chime in with my personal taste choices for the category:

  • The New Sound of the Venezuelan Gozadera by Los Amigos Invisibles
  • Standing in the Light by Level 42
  • The Pretenders by The Pretenders
  • Música y Comfort Para Volar by Soda Stereo
  • Sueño Stereo by Soda Stereo
  • Doble Vida by Soda Stereo
  • The Venezuelan Zinga Son Vol. 1 by Los Amigos Invisibles
  • The Pretenders II by The Pretenders
  • The Yes Album by Yes
  • 90125 by Yes
  • All 'n All by Earth, Wind and Fire
  • I Am by Earth Wind and Fire
  • A Typical & Autoctonal Venezuelan Dance Band by Los Amigos Invisibles
  • by Julieta Venegas

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January 12, 2013

Hube's Divisional Round Playoff Picks

After going 4 for 4 last week (that's right, 4 for 4), I'm jonesin' to keep the streak goin'. So here we go:

Saturday:
Broncos over Ravens.
Packers over Niners.

Sunday:
Falcons over Seahawks.
Pats over Texans.

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December 31, 2012

Happy 2013

Here at Colossus 2013 will mark our eighth year of blogging ... and tenth for yours truly.

Be safe everyone, and Happy 2013.

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December 26, 2012

Merry day after

Hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas (unless you're a certain guy named Perry, or everyone at the LGOMB). Santa was very good to me -- a new iPod with dock and a very nice St. Louis Rams hoodie being a couple of the highlights. But the joy never ends watching my now-college attending daughter open her gifts. Her face when she opened her new Beats headphones was priceless.

But that's the "commercial" aspect. Being with my family (and my GF's family) is what truly makes this season all worthwhile.


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November 15, 2012

Pit bulls

In today's News Journal's Wilmington Watch section, Andrew Staub writes about the efforts to have Wilmington (the "most dangerous city in America") sideline its breed specific laws surrounding pit bulls:

Mayor James M. Baker’s proposed legislation eliminating most of the breed-specific dog laws in Wilmington didn’t land on Thursday’s council agenda after making it out of committee last week. John Rago, Baker’s deputy chief of staff, had the legislation held after sensing he didn’t have the votes to get it passed, he said.

Baker’s proposal eliminates the majority of extra requirements pit bull owners face. That includes a registration process beyond normal dog licensing, a requirement pit bulls be muzzled in public places and another provision that, in most cases, bars anyone under 21 years old from walking a pit bull without the registered owner present.

It also increased licensing fees and penalties for dog owners who violated the city’s animal control laws. The intention was to create more responsible dog owners citywide, Rago said.

OK, look -- I am THE biggest animal lover on the planet. Ask anyone -- my relatives, girlfriend, students. People who know me best call me "Dr. Doolittle," for heaven's sake. However, because as Councilman Kevin F. Kelley Sr. says in the article -- "Some people in the city still keep the dogs for the wrong reasons or as a status symbol" -- and given pit bulls inherent nature, I fail to see how most of these rules are out of line.

I have met and known pit bulls who are extremely friendly and playful. Their owners were responsible and were just plain, good people. Unfortunately, a lot of PB owners are idiots. Take my current next-door neighbors. They used to have two PBs. About a year ago, one of them got loose and went after a young teen. The teen managed to get into a car, but the dog managed to get halfway inside as well. I'm not certain if the kid was injured; however, I do know the cops and animal control came, and the dog was taken away and euthanized. It seems the next-door neighbors didn't learn anything from that experience. The parents (or whatever status the adults in the house have) constantly have one of the two kids walk their remaining PB. With the [older] boy, it isn't too much of a problem because he doesn't seem to have much difficulty handling the dog. But sometimes the younger sister comes out with the dog in tow, and then it always seems the dog is one step away from breaking loose from her. And if this happens, it won't be pretty. This PB is one nasty MFer. The other night, my girlfriend and I walked out the front door with her dog (a cockapoo) to head to the veteranarian. Simultaneously, out comes the young girl with the pit bull -- who immediately began growling and barking and snapping his jaws at us. We hustled into the car, and the girl appeared to be on the verge of losing control of the damn dog ant any moment.

Now, we don't live in the city so Wilmington's laws wouldn't affect us. But as close as we to our idiot neighbors, neighborhoods in town are even closer together. Requiring a muzzle when being out and about and requiring at least a 21 year old to handle the animal are more-than quite reasonable regulations. I'd ask PB owners: Would you rather be sued out of existence if your dog attacks someone, or use a muzzle and make sure an adult handles the dog? Because my neighbors don't do the latter ... and as a result they're in definite danger of facing the former.


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November 13, 2012

The Hube Skyfall inevitable review

Because, y'know, no one demanded it.

First off, Skyfall does not -- NOT! -- top Daniel Craig's debut in Casino Royale. In fact, it really isn't even close. But it certainly is [much] better than Quantum of Solace if that's any consolation.

SPOILERS BELOW THE FOLD!


The title comes from the name of Bond's childhood home, which plays a pivotal role in the film towards the end. More on that in a bit. The film opens in Turkey where Bond and a female operative (who'll be revealed later) are after a stolen hard drive that contains the names of MI6 agents the world-over. As 007 is battling the remaining bad guy atop a train, M (Judi Dench) orders the female operative to "take the shot" -- despite the fact that Bond will likely get hit and perish as well. The operative nails Bond, but the bad guy escapes -- with the valuable hard drive. Oops.

Of course we know that Bond survives the shot and subsequent fall (into a river). However, the hard drive leads to the infiltration of MI6 by cyber-genius (and former MI6 agent) Raoul Silva. Javier Bardem is absolutely masterful as the villain -- deliciously devious and incredibly slyly insane. His machinations lead to a massive explosion at MI6 headquarters, resulting in half a dozen deaths and the agency moving to low-tech digs in old WWII era (and earlier) underground bunkers and tunnels.

007, who has been taking it easy, so to speak, somewhere, sees the news about the MI6 on the tube at a bar and decides he has to go back. This is where the film takes a wrong turn, in my view. Taking a page from the not-officially sanctioned Never Say Never Again, Bond hence has to prove himself ready, physically and mentally, to rejoin the British Secret Service. He actually fails to do so, but M green lights him anyway. If you're a big fan of Craig's first two outings as Bond (as I am), this whole "Bond is getting old" schtick doesn't seem to fit as Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace demonstrated that this was a new era for Bond -- a tougher, grittier and more fit 007. Indeed, Ralph Fiennes plays Mallory, the chairman of the government's Intelligence and Security Committee, who continually hassles Bond about his age and fitness (physical and mental). C'man. But then again ... maybe ...

At any rate, the newly reactivated Bond journeys to Shanghai on a lead based on shrapnel taken from a wound from his initial scuffle with the bad guy in Turkey. After dispatching of said bad guy, he then encounters the beautiful Sévérine (played by Bérénice Lim Marlohe) who agrees to take him to Silva. It is here, at a secluded and deserted island, that Bardem really shines as Silva. This sort of role has been played before -- the vengeful secret operative out to get his former employers -- but Bardem takes it to whole other level. He attempts to convince 007 of his "righteousness," even trying to get Bond to join him. It is more than hinted at that Silva is a homosexual, and Bond even hints that he's had a gay tryst (or two) in the course of his many past missions! Whoa! Nevertheless, Bond has been carrying a radio transmitter given to him by the new Q (Ben Whishaw, at right), and the MI6 suddenly appears via several helicopters to take Silva into custody.

Back at the "new" MI6 HQ, as Silva wallows in detention, Q attempts to access Silva's computer. He unwittingly allows the computer to infiltrate MI6's systems (again) thus enabling the villain to escape. Bond pursues Silva through the London subway ("Tube") system, but he escapes (after an incredible Silva-induced subway crash scene). Silva and a few henchmen head for the hearing room where M is testifying before a panel who're miffed at her (and MI6's) intel failures (i.e. allowing that hard drive to be captured). Silva and his cohorts arrive and begin shooting up the place, but M is unharmed. Mallory (Fiennes) surprisingly(?) demonstrates bravery, preventing a few deaths and taking a bullet in the shoulder.

Shortly thereafter, Bond whisks M away from the mess and tells her that they've "been going about this all wrong." Silva has managed to stay one step ahead of the MI6 the whole time because they've "been playing his game." Bond suggests changing the rules, so to speak, and takes M out to the desolate countryside of Scotland ... to Bond's childhood home. To get "away" from technology and go "old school." There we meet the house's keeper, Kincaid, and along with Bond and M he gets the house ready for Silva's inevitable assault.

Silva and a gang eventually arrive and blow Bond's house to shreds in their attempt to kill M (and Bond), but Kincaid has escaped with M through a hidden tunnel while Bond remains in the [shredded] house to continue to do battle. After 007 sets off two huge propane tanks that destroys the rest of the house, the wreckage that goes flying destroys Silva's helicopter, preventing his departure. Only Silva and two bad guys remain now, and they give chase to M and Kincaid. Bond sets off in pursuit, but he's stopped by Silva and co. A last ditch effort by Bond kills the henchmen, but Silva corners M and Kincaid in a nearby chapel. Alas, 007 arrives in the proverbial nick, lancing a knife into Silva's back. But -- M was injured in the attack on the house, and soon after dies in Bond's arms! Thus ends the Judi Dench era as M, begun in 1995 in Pierce Brosnan's Bond debut in Goldeneye.

In the epilogue, it is revealed that the "female operative" (Naomie Harris, at left) who had assisted Bond in the prologue and again in Shanghai is none other than [the new] Eve Moneypenny. She's given up field work and will now work directly with M and the double-Os in the main office. Did I just mention M? Indeed, who takes Judi Dench's place? It's none other than Mallory (Ralph Fiennes), who now welcomes James Bond into his office with a new vigor, perspective, and ... respect. He informs 007 that "there's a lot of work to do" and asks "are you ready?" To which Bond enthusiastically responds, "Yes sir, M -- with pleasure."

Skyfall is a terrific entry to the James Bond mythos. However, as noted at the top, it still doesn't eclipse Casino Royale for sheer awesomeness despite all its critical acclaim and hype. In my view, this is due to Casino's better combination of action sequences to "down time," not to mention its much more diverse locales. In Casino we began in eastern Europe, then to Madagascar, to the Bahamas, Miami, and then to Montenegro. The vast majority of Skyfall occurs in dreary London and Scotland. Skyfall shines, though, with its [re]introduction of classic characters Moneypenny and Q, its homage to what has gone before (the classic Bond theme and music, and the Aston Martin from Goldfinger), and its consistency with keeping Craig's Bond realistic and gritty. I mean, who'da thought that with Q coming back all we'd see him provide 007 with was a palm gun and cheesy radio distress transmitter? Speaking of which, Whishaw's Q is delightfully arrogant and childlike, a perfect specimen for the current generation of cocky technophiles.

Skyfall can easily be placed in the top ten of all-time Bond films, and Bardem's Silva is a top five villain.

Hube's rating: Four out of five stars.

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October 29, 2012

The eye of the storm

Yep, we're in Hurricane Sandy's direct path. I mean direct. We'll keep blogging as long as there's power!


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July 22, 2012

Vacay

I'm currently on a mini-vacation in the Bluegrass State and -- it figures -- my friend's modem gets fried in a lightning storm the day before my arrival! But, her new Android tablet comes to the (semi) rescue. Not exactly easy to blog using my right index finger.

At any rate, aside from the ridiculous idiots at ABC News, it was refreshing to see many of the usual suspects refrain from reflexively pointing their fingers at conservative groups as being responsible for the tragedy in Aurora. Even the mega-cretins at the Local Gaggle of Moonbat Bloggers have remarkably behaved themselves. Small miracles do happen, it seems. The latest reports reveal that the DKR shooter is "middle of the road," politically. Hear that, Brian Ross, you pathetic POS??


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July 17, 2012

Famous first jobs

Fox News's John Stossel has a cool vid up asking some of the network's pundits about their first job(s). Many of them, not surprisingly, had [first] jobs that I had.

In more-or-less chronological order, here are some of my first jobs:

  • Paperboy (age 11-12)
  • Dishwasher (age 15)
  • Outdoor maintenance gopher at a local country club (age 16)
  • Busboy at same country club (age 16-18)
  • Waiter at same country club (age 18-23)
  • Grounds maintenance at a cemetary (age 21)
  • Bartender at same country club (age 21-22)
  • Waiter at Irish restaurant near Philly airport (age 23)
  • Pack-out guy for soft drink co. (age 24)
  • Sales rep. for soft drink co. (age 24)

What were some of your first jobs?


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July 02, 2012

Hube's James Bond Bests (and Worsts)

After watching several Bond flicks this weekend (Casino Royale, Tomorrow Never Dies, For Your Eyes Only) my creative "list" juices got flowing. I absolutely love James Bond films; I rarely will change the channel when one is on. And so -- because nobody demanded it -- here's Hube's list of Bond Best (and Worsts)!

HUBE'S FIVE HOTTEST BOND BABES.
Of course, the list could be much longer, but we got a lot to cover here, natch. Hube's judgment doesn't include just physical hotness, mind you, but an overall combination of beauty, sexiness, strength, and brains.

#5. Michelle Yeoh as Wai Lin (Tomorrow Never Dies, 1997). Admit it -- you craved seeing Yeoh in something skimpier than that silver sequined dress at Elliot Carver's big celebration. But what makes Yeoh so damn attractive is that she can kick Bond's ass, let alone just about any other dude she comes across!

#4. Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore (Goldfinger, 1964). I wasn't aware that she preceded another Bond girl, Diana Rigg, as the female lead in Britain's "The Avengers" TV series. Blackman is tough, smart, and sexy as all hell (her husky voice can melt a dude in mere seconds). Oh, and she's a pilot, too.

#3. Claudine Auger as Domino Derval (Thunderball, 1965). It was quite a step down when the unauthorized 1983 remake of this flick -- Never Say Never Again featuring the "comeback" of Sean Connery -- assigned Kim Basinger as the female lead. Auger's beauty is virtually unsurpassed -- my God just look at those eyes! -- and she made an otherwise so-so flick oh-so watchable.

#2. Carole Bouquet as Melina Havelock (For Your Eyes Only, 1981). Absolutely the greatest natural beauty of any Bond girl, she was also tough as nails: She came from money, but that didn't stop her from going after some of the baddest asses in the underworld for the murder of her parents. She also saved 007's ass, too, by the way.

#1. Carey Lowell as Pam Bouvier (Licence to Kill, 1989). I know I'm gonna get grief for this pick, but only Lowell rivals Bouquet for the top spot in natural beauty. But Lowell possesses that rough-edged American charm ... not to mention she's a CIA operative. After she cuts her hair in Licence and puts on that shiny silver gown ... whoa. Not to mention, check out the outfit she has on when Wayne Newton's character tries to make the moves on her!

DEADLIEST BOND VILLAIN PLOT.
Without a doubt it's Hugo Drax's brainchild of eradicating all humans on Earth and replacing them with his hand-picked genetically perfect specimens. (Moonraker, 1979.) Drax, before being offed by 007, managed to launch a trio of poison-carrying modules, each capable of killing 100 million people. But Bond's marksmanship saves the day, natch.

MOST RIDICULOUS BOND VILLAIN PLOT.
Without a doubt it's Hugo Drax's brainchild of eradicating all humans on Earth and replacing them with his hand-picked genetically perfect specimens. (Moonraker, 1979.) I mean, really -- how would Drax manage to employ hundreds -- thousands -- of workers, most of whom would have to be aware, even marginally, of his nefarious plot? C'mon -- building a massive, radar-proof space station? Building a space shuttle launch base ... in the Amazon River Basin?? And hey, if Jaws could figure out that he'd have no place in Drax's new world order, why the hell didn't all the other genetically imperfect employees inhabiting the space station?

BEST CHASE SCENE.
Without a doubt, it's Casino Royale's (2006) romp through the Madagascar construction site. And it's "merely" a foot chase. In case you're wondering, the dude Bond pursues is named Mollaka, and his skill is called "parkour running." What Bond lacks of this skill he more than makes up for in brains -- he analyzes every situation instantly during the chase and uses it to his advantage. (Need to descend quickly? No worries -- just hop on the hydraulic scaffold and hack off the hydraulic tubing!) Not to mention Mollaka can't come close to 007's fighting prowess, natch.

BEST INTRO.
Definitely Casino Royale. Chris Cornell's powerful vocals in the song "You Know My Name" alongside way-cool playing card-style graphics of 007 fighting bad guys can't be beat. And you know the babes were swooning at the conclusion -- the slow approach of the new Bond, Daniel Craig, vacillating between all-black and vivid color.

BEST BOND "GADGET."
One of the first is still the coolest: The Aston Martin DB5 from Goldfinger. What wasn't to love about such a car in the mid-1960s? Machine gun fog lights? Check. Oil slick? Check. Passenger ejector seat? Oh yes.

BEST OPENING SEQUENCE.
Casino Royale's for several reasons. One, it's the only James Bond opening sequence done in black and white. The cinematography is perfect. Two, it details the very beginnings of James Bond as a double-oh. Third, the action is brutal and incredibly realistic. And lastly, the sequence's conclusion leads into the best song/intro in Bond history (see above).

HUBE'S TOP FIVE BOND VILLAINS.
#5. Hugo Drax (Moonraker, 1979). Masterfully portrayed by French actor Michael Lonsdale in an otherwise cheeky film, Drax had the most ambitious bad guy scheme ever: the death of every person on the planet (see above). Drax coolly dispatched of anyone who f***ed him over (like calmly snapping his fingers to release a pair of dobermans to tear apart a former female aide who had assisted Bond) and never lost his cool until the film's climax, when he merely raised his voice to reprimand fellow bad guy Jaws in his orbiting space station.

#4. Jaws (The Spy Who Loved Me, 1977; Moonraker, 1979). The giant with the cobalt choppers was essentially turned into comic relief in his second outing, but you know he freaked you out back in those halcyon days of the late 70s!

#3. Auric Goldfinger (Goldfinger, 1964.) "No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to DIE!" 'Nuff said. He employed babes (Pussy Galore, see above) and bad-ass enforcers (the razor-edged hat throwing Oddjob, who just missed this list), and devised far-out nefarious schemes (robbing Fort Knox). Oh, and he "neatly compacted" two agents inside their car. And almost lasered off Bond's private parts.

#2. Franz Sanchez (Licence to Kill, 1989). Sanchez didn't mastermind any diabolical conquering schemes; he was "just" a drug kingpin whom Bond's CIA cohort, Felix Leiter, happened to royally piss off. So, Sanchez kills Felix's new bride, and feeds Felix to a shark. Bond resigns from the service to get vengeance, and through a wacky twist of fate, lands in the drug lord's confidence. Masterfully portrayed by Robert Davi, he perfectly embodies Scarface-ish sociopathy and fierce loyalty.

#1. Le Chiffre (Casino Royale, 2006). Mads Mikkelson is creepily sensational as the terrorist who makes millions in the stock market by having underlings commit assorted acts of terror. He's also a mathematical genius, smoking opponents in high stakes card games. But if you start to get the better of him, he'll have your drink poisoned ... or even better, he'll tie you to a chair with the bottom cut out, and then smash your balls to jello.

HUBE'S TOP FIVE "OH, COME ON!" BOND MOMENTS.
#5. Jaws surviving everything. He lives through a cable car smashing through a massive concrete building. He survives falling into a circus without a parachute from thousands of feet in the air. And, most head-shakingly, he and his new girlfriend survive their descent from orbit in a busted piece of Drax's obliterated space station (all in Moonraker, 1979).

#4. Bond survives Gustav Graves' heat beam by wind-surfing on a tidal wave (Die Another Day, 2002). Aside from the fact that the heat beam still should've crisped Bond despite him hanging aloft on the side of the cliff, his escape via surfing atop the collapsing cliff's-caused tidal wave defies more belief than when 007 surfed into North Korea in the film's opening.

#3. Hugo Drax constructs space shuttle launch facilities in the Amazon jungle (Moonraker, 1979). I already mentioned this major head-scratcher, but it bears repeating: How in the hell does a major corporate figure manage to build such a base in the middle of the densest jungle on the planet ... with no one noticing? After such a massive intel failure, the CIA and MI6 should've been completely dismantled ... and then rebuilt from scratch!

#2. Casting Lynn-Holly Johnson in For Your Eyes Only. It's bad enough her movie name was "Bibi Dahl," but what were the writers thinking -- M would have to spring Bond from jail for statutory rape?? Johnson's "acting," such that it is, may be the worst ever witnessed in a Bond film, and her mere inclusion in the FYEO was ridiculously gratuitous.

#1. The "Bondola" in Moonraker. Cracked.com nails this one perfectly:

Sure, the Bondola looks like a Venetian gondola, but there’s one crucial difference: the Bondola is embarrassingly stupid. Okay, two crucial differences: with the flip of a switch, Bond (Roger Moore) converts the craft from mundane gondola into high-speed turbo Bondola to escape an assassination attempt. An enemy motor boat pursues the Bondola through the canals of Venice. At one point—this is hilarious—the bad guy boat slices a regular non-turbo gondola neatly in two. The two lovers on one half of the bisected gondola are so busy kissing they don’t even notice, while the gondolier in the other half keeps rowing.

The Bondola has yet another trick up its figurative sleeve. Bond presses a button labeled “LAME” and the turbo gondola turns into a hovercraft gondola. He drives that bad boy up on to dry land and across St. Mark’s Square, blowing everyone’s mind. A waiter spills wine on a patron, another fella decides to quit drinking on the spot, and a pigeon does a double-take. Yes, a pigeon does a double-take. The Bondola freaks that pigeon’s shit out! That is comedy Moonraker-style.

Maybe Bond skipped the class on keeping a low profile in Secret Agent School.

That's it for now, folks, but stay tuned for more still more Bond-related lists!


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May 27, 2012

The continuity geek's favorite epic

I recently pulled out another long box from the basement and snagged a certain dozen issues -- twelve of my favorite issues of all time: Avengers Forever #s 1-12. I've previously discussed AF here at Colossus (best trade paperbacks ever), and with good reason: It's simply a beautiful thing.

That is, if you like continuity.

For the uninitiated, [comics] continuity is essentially the maintenance of a character's (or group's) tapestry of history. In other words, something that was established in a character's past cannot just be arbitrarily ignored by a future writer. There must be some explanation for any change. Marvel used to be known for its fairly strict adherence to its universe's continuity; this, however, has changed quite a bit in the last decade. Writers and editors felt that continuity "strangled" the ability to tell good (new) stories. While this is true to a degree, fans of a character certainly do not want a good story to ignore basic foundations of that character.

At any rate, former ultimate comics fan-turned writer extraordinaire Kurt Busiek, back when continuity still actually mattered, scripted AF, a continuity geek's dream come true. And he does it all with such pinache and kick-ass action that you may not even notice. The more casual Avengers fan may not find AF his/her cup of tea, however, precisely due to the constant connections to the team's history and minutiae, so be forewarned. But at least give it a couple issues to see!

The plot, in a nutshell, is that Earth's Mightiest have been deemed a threat to the future of the very universe itself, with Rick Jones as the key focal point. Indeed, the series opens up with a scene from (one possible) future where the Terran Empire rules supreme, with a descendant of Jones leading the Galactic Avengers Battalion against some rebels from a nearby planet. (The planet just happens to be Yondu's, one of the original Guardians of the Galaxy, as the continuity geek will recognize immediately.) Longtime Avengers foe and sometimes ally Immortus is charged with preventing such futures, and decides that offing Rick Jones is the best bet.

But hold everything! Immortus' other self, Kang the Conqueror, puts the kibosh on that idea -- with not just a little help from the Kree Intelligence Supreme and Jones himself. Indeed, one of the major plot points is the "latent power" -- now dubbed the "Destiny Force" -- within all humans that Jones first manifested way back in the Kree-Skrull War. Jones now uses this power to bring forth several Avengers from the past, present and future to assist in thwarting Immortus' machinations.

Busiek masterfully ties together loose threads and likewise explains head-scratching plot ideas which were never answered/resolved. For instance, John Byrne went a bit ape-sh** "disrupting" continuity when he had the reins of The West Coast Avengers in the late 80s. He had popular Avenger the Vision completely dismantled and then rebuilt sans emotions, and "undid" his origin as being the Original Human Torch rebuilt. Not a problem for Busiek. Then there was the universally-loathed "The Crossing" from the mid-90s where Iron Man was apparently brainwashed by Kang and made his pawn. Eventually, IM was killed and replaced by a teenage Tony Stark. There were a ton other unanswered questions from that arc, but again -- not a problem for Busiek.

Every few Avengers Forever issues (on the back cover) Busiek provides meticulous footnotes for all his continuity references! It's unreal. Kurt also did this in his also-magnificent Marvels published a little while after AF.

While I absolutely love Busiek's love of comics and appreciation of fans and character history, you might recall I have an issue with his personal politics. Well, not so much his actual politics, but his outspokenness about such and how he responds to criticism of it. As I wrote in the link above,

If you're in the entertainment business, you run the risk of alienating a certain portion of your fanbase if you insist upon making controversial statements or taking up controversial positions on issues. This in no way means you have to shut up; however, you need to be aware that freedom of speech does NOT mean there's freedom from criticism -- or freedom from consequences.

At least Busiek doesn't infuse his stories with less-than-clandestine political posturing like too many of his contemporaries do ... I certainly gotta give him that. And, despite how I feel about how he personally handles political issues, I certainly would not refuse to purchase a good future Busiek-penned story. (He's done quite a few thoroughly awesome ones; I highly recommend the previously mentioned Marvels, especially the X-Men segment, and Superman: Secret Identity.)

This page has all the covers to Avengers Forever, as well as its own synopsis and commentary. (Interestingly, the cover to my issue #4 is different from this site's. I suppose there were variants.) And since I neglected to mention it already, the artwork in AF is simply dazzling. Carlos Pacheco's pencils and Jesús Merino's inks are at the top of their game. Their attention to every detail is jaw-dropping.

UPDATE: Busiek graciously has linked to this post via his official Facebook page. Thank you, Kurt!


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May 09, 2012

Screen Rant's best films of all-time

My buddy Vic Holtreman's site, Screen Rant, details the results of a recent Internet poll compiling the greatest films of all time. Here's those results:

1. Citizen Kane (73 points)
2. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (61)
3. The Godfather (57)
4. Raiders of the Lost Ark (53)
5. Casablanca (48)
6. 8½ (44)
7. Back to the Future (44)
8. 2001: A Space Odyssey (43)
9. Bicycle Thieves (41)
10. Vertigo (40)

Vic and SR editor Ben Kendrick offer up their own choices, too.

I don't know if I could actually put my faves/greatest in order, but I certainly can name ten:

  • Star Wars (Episode IV)
  • The Godfather Part 2
  • Goodfellas
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Alien
  • The Lives of Others
  • El Norte
  • Iron Man
  • Casino
  • Gladiator

Always subject to change, natch.


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April 29, 2012

Civilization continues to crumble

This is what contemporary teachers have to deal with:

Caught copying another student’s homework, a California sophomore was kicked out of honors English. His parents admit he cheated, violating the Academic Honesty Pledge he’d signed at the start of the year. But the cheater’s parents are suing, claiming the teen’s due process rights were violated, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The boy’s father, Jack Berghouse, said the punishment is too severe and could make it harder for his son to get into a top college.

The school offered to let the boy enter the International Baccalaureate program in 11th and 12th grade with others in the honors track and to keep the cheating incident off his transcript. But that wasn’t enough for the parents.

Teachers who primarily teach low SES (socioeconomic status) students have to deal with constant unpreparedness, apathy, and disconnected parents. Teachers who teach high SES students have to deal with constant unpreparedness, apathy ... and parents like these. Both types of students have shocking degrees of sense of entitlement, for [obviously] different reasons.

And the public then often wonders about school discipline, values, and standards?

But, there is hope, to be sure. I recently caught two [very nice and smart] students copying off one another. School policy dictates a "zero" be given in such an instance. However, given that the students admitted to their error (without attitude, too), are historically excellent students, and were quite apologetic about it all, I merely gave them a sizable point deduction on the assignment. When the mom of one of the kids got my e-mail about the incident, she 1) thanked me for the note and for my generosity, 2) said she gave a stern reprimand to her son, and 3) told me she wouldn't have been as generous as I in that situation!

I still always try to live by a motto of the principal who first hired me, lo those many years ago: Have rules with a human face.


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March 27, 2012

If you like Hunger Games, seek out The Running Man

The recently released Hunger Games is a big hit in the theatre, taking after its popular book of the same name. I haven't read Games nor seen the film (yet); however, based on having read its plot I was immediately reminded of the only book I ever read straight through without so much as budging from the couch -- The Running Man.

The Running Man is by Stephen King under his pseudonym Richard Bachman. Do not confuse this awesome novel with the cheesy Arnold Schwarzenegger film from 1988 -- they're nothing alike, really. In a dystopian future, we find Ben Richards, an unemployed father of a sick daughter who decides to try his hand at one of the games featured on the "Games Network." He's good enough to be chosen for the ultimate game, "The Running Man," where contestants are literally hunted down across the entire planet if need be. Survivors are rewarded handsomely (although not many know no contestant has ever "won"). It reads like one big car chase scene, and remains one of my favorite all-time scifi novels. If you're big into Hunger Games, I highly recommend Running Man.


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February 22, 2012

Get out the credit card! Not!

Our illustrious Wilmington News Journal (Delaware Online) is going to have a pay wall very soon. It currently is keeping track of your visits -- you get five freebies before you'll have to purchase a package!

Yeesh. I haven't met anyone yet who's gonna put out the $15 a month to read the Journal. I wouldn't do it for a paper like the NY Times or the Philly Inquirer; why in the world would I do it for the WNJ?

Any Delawareans gonna shell out that cash for the online version?


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February 16, 2012

Hube's Best Comicbook Graphic Novels/Trade Paperbacks

Insty had a link up yesterday to Amazon's top "comics and graphic novels." In the top 25 are The Walking Dead (numerous volumes), Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke. The latter two are Batman tales, and they're definitely superb. Also later in the list are quite a few Dark Knight yarns, yet the line between "graphic novel" and "trade paperback" is blurred. A graphic novel, as I understand it, is supposed to be a stand-alone story collected in a large volume. A trade paperback is a volume of collected separate individual comic issues. For example, The X-Men story "God Loves, Man Kills" is a graphic novel. Watchmen first hit the stands as twelve individual issues, thus its collection into one volume makes it a trade paperback.

Whatever the case, it's now time -- because, as usual, no one demanded it -- for Hube's own definitive list of great graphic novels and TPBs. Included in that list would be those listed above. In no particular order:

MARVELS. This delightful Kurt Busiek-written offering highlights some of Marvel Comics' greatest moments in its history through the eyes of a Daily Bugle photographer. Beautifully painted by artist extraordinaire Alex Ross, it's a must for any long-time Marvel fan. The chapter on the X-Men may actually invoke some tears, too. FYI.

KINGDOM COME. Although I am not a big DC fan, this Alex Ross-painted "Elseworlds" tale is extraordinary. It deals with a hypothetical future world where Superman and other classic heroes have "retired," and the chaos that comes about as a result.

SUPERMAN: RED SON. Another "Elseworlds" tale this time by Mark Millar which hypothesizes the Man of Steel as a Soviet superhero. The art isn't all that great, but the story sure is, and the ending should catch you off-guard.

THE KREE-SKRULL WAR. See here. 'Nuff said.

AVENGERS FOREVER. I think only a true-blue Earth's Mightiest aficionado can truly appreciate this Kurt Busiek masterpiece (being that Kurt is THE master of comics continuity). The spectacular art by Carlos Pacheco sure helps, too. It features Avengers from past, present, and hypothetical futures.

IRON MAN: THE ARMOR WARS. Probably creators David Michelinie and Bob Layton's greatest Iron Man story, it details what happens when IM's technology is stolen and what happens when Tony Stark goes after it. Former Marvel head man Jim Shooter had a big hand in coming up with the idea.

DAREDEVIL: BORN AGAIN. Frank Miller wrote it and David Mazzucchelli drew it, and man-o-man does it rock. The dreaded Kingpin learns Daredevil's secret ID and sets in motion events that will slowly destroy the hero. But ... keep in mind the story's title!

X-MEN: THE DARK PHOENIX SAGA. Creators Chris Claremont and John Byrne's mutant masterpiece, it follows Jean Grey's descent into super-powered madness and how her teammates have to stop her. Loosely told in the third X-Men film, "The Last Stand."

SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY. Possibly the best superhero tale ever told, this Kurt Busiek story features little action yet is stupefyingly awesome. In a world without superheroes, a young lad named Clark Kent suddenly realizes he has superpowers. If you don't have a big smile on your face at the end of the book, you're an unfeeling excuse for a human being!

GIVE ME LIBERTY. A highly underrated Frank Miller story, it features unlikely hero Martha Washington as she makes her way out of the prison-like housing projects to the top of the American military's ranks. At times way over the top, you can't help but root for Martha throughout.

SQUADRON SUPREME. Writer Mark Gruenwald's opus of the Justice League analogues of Earth-S fighting to save their world from anarchy and chaos following the takeover attempt of an ultra-powerful alien. Many consider this the basis for similar tales like the aforementioned Kingdom Come.

THE AUTHORITY: RELENTLESS. Way over the top radical leftism in its approach, this Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch tale has a team of mega-powered heroes not only saving the Earth from insanely powerful menaces, it proactively goes about [attempting] to make the planet "better."

BATMAN: YEAR ONE. Another masterpiece by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, it deals with just what it says -- the first year of the Dark Knight's activities in Gotham.


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February 11, 2012

Hube's movie sequels that are better than the original

There ain't that many out there, but they exist -- follow-ups that outshined the original. Now, keep in mind that I am only including those which I've seen; please add to the list if you feel something has been omitted. Also keep in mind that I am only including immediate sequels, not later follow-ups (like, for instance, many Star Trek sequels were better than the first film, but only Star Trek II can count.)

So now, in no particular order:

SUPERMAN II. "Kneel before Zod!" (See left.) The original 1978 Superman made you believe that "a man could fly;" Superman II made you fear what four Kryptonians doing battle in a large city could wreak. The original Richard Donner cut is the one to see (despite the obvious edits), and given that it was 1981 when the flick came out, the F/X still kick butt (especially the city battle scenes).

STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN. Despite the big hype surrounding the return of Kirk and co. in 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the film was way too slow, especially the ridiculously interminable scenes where various Enterprise crew gazed in awe at the remodeled NCC-1701. But no worries -- the follow-up featured hated villain Khan hijacking a Federation starship and threatening to wreak havoc upon civilization everywhere. Vintage Kirk hijinks, epic space warfare, and Ricardo Montalban spouting the classics make this one of the best sequels ever.

TERMINATOR 2: JUDGMENT DAY. Maybe not fair considering the budget of the original; nevertheless, Jimmy Cameron delivers and then some in this non-stop sci-fi action thriller. Schwarzenegger's killer android this time is good, and comes back to protect young John Connor from a more advanced Terminator. Connor's efforts at teaching Ah-nuld human colloquialisms ("Chill out. Dickwad.") are an instant classic.


I haf detailed files on human arousal. Dis turns me on.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK. Yep, it technically is a follow-up to Ang Lee's Hulk which had Eric Bana in the title role. But this time it's Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, who's on the run from his own government because, y'know, he's super-charged with gamma-irradiated BADNESS!! General Ross flushes Banner out of Brazil, and back to the States, where he eventually has to battle the Abomination (played awesomely by Tim Roth).

THE ROAD WARRIOR. "Two days ago I saw a vehicle that'll haul that tankeh. You wanna get outta heah? 'Ya talk t'me." That's probably the longest line star Mel Gibson has in this follow-up to Mad Max. The dystopian Outback can't be any scarier with the hordes of The Humongous waiting to pounce on you. But 'ol Max has a plan, and the climax car chase scene cannot be topped in cinema.

THE GODFATHER PART II. Delves much deeper into Michael Corleone's motivations and psyche, and features a young Bobby DeNiro as young Vito when he first came to America. Very long, but very, very good.

X-MEN 2. In my view the greatest comicbook flick ever made, it features Charles Xavier's minions teaming up with Magneto's Brotherhood of Mutants to stop the evil William Stryker from unleashing a plan to eradicate the planet of mutants. The action never stops, and the story is fantastic. It also features the live-action debuts of popular X-Men Nightcrawler and Colossus.

SPIDER-MAN 2. The origin story is over, and the lame movie version of the Green Goblin is done with, so now it's time to really swing! (Pardon the pun.) Spidey takes on one of his greatest enemies -- Dr. Octopus -- smartly portrayed by Alfred Molina. J.K. Simmons' Jonah Jameson couldn't be any better (especially his coining of the name "Doc Ock"), "The Soup's" Joel McHale has a cameo, and the action is sensational.

THE DARK KNIGHT. This sequel to the "re-imagined" Batman Begins not only kicks major ass in the action department, it features the absolutely spookiest portrayal of a villain I think I've ever seen -- Heath Ledger's Joker. Insanely dark and brooding, the soundtrack expertly adds to the creepiness whenever Ledger's highlighted.

FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE. Though Dr. No is noteworthy as the original Bond flick, it's arguably one of the lamest. The immediate sequel is much better, featuring, of course, Sean Connery in the title role and a young Robert Shaw as a buff Russian killer.

The following are HIGHLY DEBATABLE:

ALIENS. It's very difficult to compare the original, Alien, to its 1986 follow-up. They're two completely different types of films. Ridley Scott's 1979 scare fest was just that -- an insanely spooky and gory horror film. James Cameron's sequel was a knock-down/drag-'em-out action flick with the US Marines charging in to (futilely) attempt to off the deadly xenomorphs. Each film is top-notch in its own way.


What is that Alien doing to my balls??

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (STAR WARS EPISODE V). I'm not at all in the cadre that agrees with this; however, many, many folks online believe that TESB is superior to Star Wars. Sure there's more characterization and mind-blowing revelations, but as a whole the original is clearly superior. SW's action alone makes it better; couple that with the snarky humor and Mos Eisley bar scene and it can't be beat.

DAWN OF THE DEAD. I saw this one pop up a lot in online debates on the topic; I have to disagree with this one as well. The original Night of the Living Dead is so classic in its campiness (it helps being in black and white) that none of the sequels tops it, in my opinion. Oh, and did I mention the dark humor? "Yeah, they're dead. They're all messed up." Love it!

LETHAL WEAPON 2. The sequel to the Mel Gibson-Danny Glover team-up is at least on par with the original, and it probably has better villains: racist, Apartheid-loving, "kaffir"-spewing white South Africans. Aside from Nazis, there's no easier bad guys to make use of then outright hardened bigots. But ... how does Mel always seem to bump into old Special Forces acquaintances? Especially ones now in the employ of a foreign government? I dunno ...

CHRISTMAS VACATION. Personally, I dig the original more, but I can see the appeal of the sequel. I've never been a big Chevy Chase aficionado, and he's definitely dopier (in a negative sense) in this sequel. I also could have done without the silly Julia Louis-Dreyfus/Nicholas Guest neighbor interludes. The original had it all: John Candy's dopey amusement park guard, Randy Quaid's hillbilly-esque family, and, of course, Christie Brinkley!

The "DO NOT GET ME STARTED" list:

DIE HARD 2. Nothing, I repeat, NOTHING tops the original Die Hard film. The original premise was so good that a flurry of knock-offs quickly followed (Under Siege, to name one, and even an episode of "Star Trek: TNG" did one -- "Starship Mine"), not to mention the campy humor was first-rate (Harry Ellis: "Hans? Bubbie!"). Classic roles by character actor Paul Gleason (Deputy Chief Dwayne Robinson), Robert Davi (FBI agent Johnson -- the white one), Reginald VelJohnson (Sgt. Powell), and William Atherton (Richard Thornburg) are not even close to being eclipsed in any of the sequels. (The only exception, perhaps, being DH2's Dennis Franz as Capt. Lorenzo.)

BACK TO THE FUTURE II. Good film, good sequel, but hardly on par with the original. C'mon -- the first film had it all, including a terrific soundtrack, and the while the sequel (to me) was pleasing from a time travel/scientific point of view (it actually made sense!), the overall entertainment value was taken down a notch. And I'm still laughing at how Biff didn't manage to see Marty riding behind him on his hover-board!


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February 06, 2012

More GIANTS!

To follow up on Duffy's post, I too want to give a shout out to the G-Men for their second consecutive Super Bowl victory over the hated Patriots. Why "hated?" Simply put, because they denied my beloved Rams a place on the mantle of greatness by besting them in Super Bowl 36. They shouldn't have even been there (remember the infamous "Tuck Rule" call?), and then there was the whole issue of videotaping the Rams' practices and late hits (beyond five yards) on the Rams' receivers the whole game. Yes -- they deserve kudos for the game they played; they would have lost nine out of ten to that 2001 Rams team, though.


Don't worry, Bill -- Mike Martz looked like this after Super Bowl 36.


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January 14, 2012

NFL Divisional Weekend picks

Went 2-4 last weekend -- Saturday picks were pretty good, while Sunday's were dismal. Let's see if we can do better this weekend:

SATURDAY:
4:30: Saints 30, 49ers 17.
8:00: Patriots 34, Broncos 20.

SUNDAY:
1:00: Ravens 16, Texans 13.
4:00: Packers 36, Giants 17.

Meanwhile, in related NFL news, my team -- the St. Louis Rams -- acquired Jeff Fisher as their new head coach. The Rams beat Fisher (who then coached the Tennessee Titans) for their only Super Bowl victory back in SB 34 (2000).


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January 10, 2012

Is liberalism killing comics?

Via Insty comes word of the site Bleeding Cool whose Darin Wagner asks this -- in my opinion -- ridiculously obvious question (no offense to Darin). The intro:

You pick up a superhero comic book featuring a childhood favorite of yours, hoping to reignite some of that magic you felt way back when and you see that the opening sequence in the comic deals with an oil rig disaster. You immediately and disappointingly know what’s going to be said, either by your childhood favorite or by some other character given credibility within the story. You turn the page, and sure enough, your childhood favorite grumbles about his/her country’s dependency on oil or how inherently dangerous oil drilling is to the environment and how it’s not worth it or simply mutters to him-or-herself briefly about the evils of corporate America. That’s when you put the comic back on the shelf and your local retailer loses a sale. (Sound familiar? Brightest Day #5 contained a similar scenario featuring Aquaman.)

Alas, I know this all too well. As a big comicbook geek from waaaaay back (I obviously have a section of Colossus dedicated to comics), and as one who continued to purchase comics up until the mid-2000s, I find this modern "progressive" trend not only disburbing, but disgusting. It's what led me to stop purchasing contemporary comics outright, and lose some, if not friendships, associations, as a result.

Much of Colossus' comics section deals with the ridiculous liberalism that has crept into comics over the last decade or so. The very first post in this category dealt mainly with a group called The Authority, whose members' actions supposedly on behalf of the "greater good" were a progressives wet dream come true. They at one point took over the United States government and proceeded to make demands that your typical environmentalist, climate Chicken Little, and socialist would begin crying in delight over. Modern hot shot writer Mark Millar (ever see the movie Kick Ass? That's his) is an avowed leftist from way back. Many of his works are imbued with progressive drivel throughout, such as in his Superman: Red Son (which reimagines the Man of Steel as a Soviet superhero), in Marvel's The Ultimates and the cross-over event "Civil War." In the former, Millar had Londonders cheering on the Soviet Superman as he battled his American counterpart as sort of an analogy to American "interference" in European affairs during the Cold War. In The Ultimates (which, by the way, the upcoming The Avengers movie is mostly based on), Millar had a superhero team composed of characters from countries like North Korea and the Muslim Middle East invade the United States so as to "restrain the Roman Empire" because they "feared what America might do next." Another rationale was because America was "interfering with cultures they could never understand." Lastly, in "Civil War," Marvel's superheroes split along ideological lines: One side favored registering superhuman powers with the government; the other side fought against such. The former was led by Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, and the latter by Captain America. Millar's scripts were heavily tilted in favor of Captain America's team; he ridiculously had Iron Man's team utilizing some of the worst Marvel villains in its history working on its behalf, and even made use of an other-dimensional prison where dissenters were locked up without trial.

Darin mentions the recent choice by Superman to renounce his American citizenship, and how [supposedly] conservative-leaning heroes are either borderline psychos or outright mental defectives as more up-to-date examples. He also brings up a good point that many individual instances of lefty "jabs" in comics aren't all that big a deal; however, the cumulative effect begins to piss people off if they do not share the politics of the writers. Like Captain America of the future informing his counterpart of the past how awful his country has become since WW II. Like Captain America infiltrating the Tea Party. Like writer/artist Erik Larsen stating outright that George W. Bush was "worse than Nixon," and stole not one, but two elections. Like Larsen having his most popular creation, the Savage Dragon, punching G.W. Bush in the face. Like popular writer Warren Ellis creating a superhero who takes it upon himself to kill the president (Bush, of course) for, among other things, his "illegal" war in Iraq. Where popular X-Men writer Chris Claremont laments the Reagan era in his story "God Loves, Man Kills" wherein religious fundamentalists go around murdering mutants.

Are you getting that cumulative effect yet? Because this is only the tip of the iceberg, my friends. And what's more, all the above and more are widely accepted without so much as a peep (the only exception being conservative blogs), whereas when the few instances of right-of-center stories are in development, they're "controversial" and contain all the progressive "-isms." The writer of the novel First Blood (think: Rambo) writing Captain America? Oh, NO!! Frank Miller planning a Batman story where he battles al Qaeda? We're squeamish.

This cumulative effect eventually took its toll on me. I kept purchasing comics probably longer than I should have. Many of the stories were top notch despite my knowing the politics of the creators -- the aforementioned Superman: Red Son, The Ultimates, and original The Authority series are examples -- but at a certain point, I had had enough. (I think it may have been after collecting a few issues of the series Supreme Power, which I wrote about at the Four Color Media Monitor here.) I just asked myself "Why do I continue to support these guys? I give them my money -- and they continually spit in my face."

Some otherwise reasonable creators don't seem to get this concept. Last year I "unfriended" popular comics writer Kurt Busiek on Facebook shortly after the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. Kurt's best known for his Astro City original series, as well as his memorable run on The Avengers. But Kurt is pretty outspoken on his Facebook page -- which is certainly OK, but when you're in the field he is, it just might not be a very good idea. As I wrote in the comments at Four Color Media Monitor,

I've absolutely NO hassle with anyone pontificating on matters political, whatever your field of endeavor. However, if you're in Kurt's field, it is ridiculous to expect NO criticism in response to your outspokenness. In regards to the Giffords shooting, Kurt immediately took the Reflexive Left's penchant for invoking conservative "hate" rhetoric as a "cause" for a killer's/terrorist's actions. Yes, he did say "we need to wait and see," but then again, Kurt did not exactly wait, did he? Moreover, by exclusively focusing on Palin, the Right, and moronic a-holes like that hateful comics vendor, Busiek effectively alienates approximately half of his fan base. And then people complain when those alienated point to his comments?

Busiek apparently didn't like that I made screen caps (see at above) of some of his comments and sent them to FCMM's Avi Green, who then wrote about it. (He Tweeted about it and his minions rushed over to FCMM in his defense.) That's too bad. Years before this little incident, I had had an e-mail exchange with Kurt (I was writing and editing an Iron Man fanzine at the time) where we discussed (mainly) economic boycotts when entertainers (or writers/artists like Kurt) make controversial statements or do something controversial. Kurt was dead-set against such boycotts, stating that he felt it best to "discuss" the issue in various forums. Of course, with that, the power resides with the entertainer since they have much more access (based on their popularity) to social media and such. The only real thing that the average joe can do to "inform" entertainers that they're dissatisfied is to utilize their pocketbook -- or, more accurately, not utilize it.

It's the 'ol "Shut up and sing!" mantra. If you're in the entertainment business, you run the risk of alienating a certain portion of your fanbase if you insist upon making controversial statements or taking up controversial positions on issues. This is no way means you have to shut up; however, you need to be aware that freedom of speech does NOT mean there's freedom from criticism -- or freedom from consequences.

And, thus, all this is [partly] why I blog. I why I'll continue to not shell out $3-4 for a comicbook any time soon.


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January 08, 2012

What Guys Should Not Know How to Do

Sterling Terrell has a cool article up at American Thinker so titled. I gathered all twenty-five and added my own thoughts to 'em:

1. Plan a wedding. Terrell says "If you're in it, your only job is to show up on time." Agreed. That's pretty much all I did for my first one over 20 years ago; if it happens again to me, that's all I plan to do again!

2. Arrange flowers. I frequently buy flowers for my girlfriend, but arrange? That's a big "negatory."

3. Identify the brand name of a purse you see from over fifty feet away. I can ID a Vera Bradley purse (or any other such item) fairly routinely now, only because of the distinct pattern and because my GF is crazy about the products ...

4. Distinguish between magenta and purple.

5. Shop for hours without buying anything. I hate shopping. Period. Totally. Completely. When I have to do it, I do it online.

6. Identify what your wife just served you for dinner. This is a pretty lame one. C'mon, you mean a guy can't ID chicken? Spaghetti? Steak?

7. Identify more than a handful of birds. What's a "handful?" I love animals so I can probably ID a bit more than a handful. But not much more than that.

8. Change a diaper. Terrell says "Come on. That's her job ... most of the time." And so it was when my daughter was born. Most of the time.

9. Identify the best cleaner for a particular task. I just buy something that says "All-Purpose Cleaner" on the bottle and I'm good to go.

10. Know the proper culinary uses for basil, oregano, rosemary, and cumin. There's "proper uses" for these?

11. Talk without saying anything. Amen. It's like when Steve Martin tells John Candy in Planes, Trains and Automobiles "... and here's an idea when you're spouting off one of those 'interesting' anecdotes: have a point."

12. Go grocery shopping in a competent way. I've learned to do this over the last two-plus years of living solo. The key is "get in and get out -- fast."

13. Mix an appletini. Or a friggin' Cosmo. Only beer for me. Or maybe a gin Gimlet on the rocks if I'm feeling a bit daring.

14. Spend all day playing videogames. I played out my videogame nut when I was in my late teens. Now I can't stand 'em.

15. Know how to French-braid a girl's hair.

16. Pack for your wife. I can't even pack for myself appropriately.

17. Arrange more than two pillows on a bed. Pillows should only be on beds if you use them to put your head on. Period.

18. Communicate predominantly by text. "Predominately?" No. Frequently? In this day and age that's completely reasonable.

19. Set a formal dinner table. Being that I worked as a waiter during college at a private country club, I, ahem, get a pass on this one ...

20. Decorate using Feng Shui. Whaaaa ...??

21. Throw a baby shower. Hell no.

22. Watch only one channel. Panic ensues when the remote cannot be found in less than one minute.

23. Browse a candle store.

24. Lie. Only when absolutely necessary.

25. Completely understand a woman. Will forever remain the unresolved question.


Posted by Hube at 08:35 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 31, 2011

I've argued for this for years

Interesting article here about teacher pay and subject taught:

There are 19 gym teachers in the Farmington School District who make more than $85,000 a year each. The average gym teacher's salary in Farmington is $75,035. By comparison, the science teachers in that district make $68,483 per year on average. That’s not unusual in Michigan schools, according to Freedom of Information Act requests received from around the state. In the Woodhaven-Brownstown district, 18.5 (FTE) science teachers average some $58,400 per year in salary, while 12 gym teachers averaged nearly $76,700. In Harrison, science teachers earned $49,000 on average while gym teachers averaged $62,000. This is not unusual, because school districts don’t differentiate what a teacher does when considering compensation, regardless of the district's educational needs. Teachers are paid on a single salary schedule based on seniority and education level.

And today that is just silly. Teachers in subject areas which are generally tougher to find -- math, science, foreign language -- should be paid more. That is, if you'd like an easier time finding them (and keeping them)! It shoudn't be too difficult for districts to make a case for such if they so wanted (just point out the demographics, applications vs. need, etc.); however, you can probably count on the various state and local unions to oppose it.

And in another aspect, here in Delaware, which teachers get the vast majority of the pressure from state testing? English and math teachers. Are they compensated for this? Heck, no. Should they be? Yes. Even teachers who do not teach a core subject area will be partly evaluated ... on the test scores of students in English and math. In other words, these non-core teachers rely on their English and math teaching colleagues to keep up good student test results ... so that they get good evaluations!! Aside from the inherent inanity in such an evaluation method, doesn't it make sense to compensate the teachers who bear the bulk of the testing pressure, i.e. English and math teachers??

Again, count me in as an emphatic "yes."


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September 16, 2011

I probably still won't buy American, but if I do, I'll be like this guy


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August 29, 2011

Come on, Irene!

Blogging will be light as I've been without power now for 36 hours, and my basement is flooded with about three inches of water. The good news is none of my major appliances -- washer, dryer, hot water heater, furnace -- appear to be affected.

I'm at my girlfriend's place now, so hopefully power will come back some time today as my first day of classes is tomorrow!!


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August 08, 2011

It's a girl!

At 2:59 PM my wife and I welcomed our daughter into the world. 7 lbs 4 oz and 19". Mom and baby are doing well. Pix soon as I can muster the energy.


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July 22, 2011

The transition

With a hearty hat tip to Soccer Dad, check out this excellent piece by Aussie Philip Mendes. It details how he went from a college-aged pro-Palestinian student to a pro-Israel common sense adult. It eerily mirrors my own experience on the topic.


Posted by Hube at 10:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 05, 2011

The Hube James Bond Films Ranking Index

Because NOBODY demanded it but because I know you all look to me for the pinnacle in creative and cultural insight(!!), I now present to you the official Hube James Bond Films Ranking Index.

The number in parentheses is the number of the film (chronologically).

1. CASINO ROYALE (21). Daniel Craig explodes onto the scene as the sixth James Bond ... and the best. "Casino" signals a "rebooting" of the franchise with Bond as a meaner, grittier and less perfect agent. So good, I watch it in its entirety every time it's on.

2. GOLDFINGER (3). Original Bond Sean Connery's best outing, featuring one of the best Bond villains ever, Oddjob; one of the best lines ever ("No Mr. Bond, I expect you to DIE!"); and, of course, probably the best gadget of all, the spy-equipped Aston Martin. Oh, and need I mention the best Bond Girl name of all -- Pussy Galore?

3. FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE (2). Connery has to deal with a beautiful fake Soviet defector, as well as a sociopathic (Soviet) assassin Robert Shaw.

4. LICENSE TO KILL (16). I know I'll get grief for this choice, but Robert Davi's portrayal of drug lord Franz Sanchez makes this second (and last) Timothy Dalton-as-Bond film a keeper, not to mention possibly the most beautiful Bond Girl of all, Cary Lowell.

5. YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE (5). Connery kills it again in this epic featuring snatched spacecraft, "marrying" a kickin' Japanese babe, and SPECTRE's Ernst Blofeld.

6. THUNDERBALL/NEVER SAY NEVER AGAIN (4, 13.5). Put together because the latter was a(n) [unauthorized] remake of the former (starring Sean Connery making a comeback), albeit with the added subplot of James Bond becoming an aging agent. The plot: SPECTRE threatens the planet with stolen nuclear weapons.

7. MOONRAKER (11). I'll get grief for this choice, too, but this fourth Roger Moore offering has non-stop action in worldwide locales, a classic villain (Jaws), and it unabashedly latched on to the late-70s "Star Wars" science fiction craze. There's never a dull moment, despite some silliness.

8. DR. NO (1). Set the stage, though it arguably doesn't hold up very well in contemporary viewings. Ursula Andress is the first-ever Bond Girl, and it was a damn good choice.

9. THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (10). My least favorite Bond, Roger Moore's, third outing features hottie Barbara Bach as a Russian agent with whom he must team up. Introduces Jaws and villain Karl Stromberg is deliciously evil (even though he keeps calling our hero "Mr. Bund").

10. DIE ANOTHER DAY (20). Pierce Brosnan's last outing is his best as he goes after the North Korean despot who once escaped him (and is responsible for his torture). And Halle Berry as the Bond Girl? HOO-YAH!!

11. DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER (7). Connery's "adiós" to the role (until the non-sanctioned "Never Say Never Again") where he's put on a few LBs and has to deal with a sexually androgynous duo of assassins. But hey, an incredibly sexy Jill St. John livens up things nicely.

12. TOMORROW NEVER DIES (18). The second Brosnan outing, Bond takes on a ... media mogul? Yep, but he's nicely portrayed by Jonathan Pryce ("Brazil," "Glengarry Glen Ross"). Bond Girls Teri Hatcher and Michelle Yeoh make the film verrrry easy on the eyes.

13. THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH (19). The third Brosnan outing features Sophie Marceau and Denise Richards as the Bond Babes. That's enough for this one!

14. QUANTUM OF SOLACE (22). Daniel Craig's second outing is a precipitous drop in quality from his premiere, but that's a bit expected when that debut is the best of all-time. Bond continues his search for the baddies behind the Quantum Corporation.

15. OCTOPUSSY (13). Roger Moore's second-to-last effort is better than you recall, for the most part. Louis Jourdan is neatly diabolical as the baddie and a still-hot Maud Adams is the main chick.

16. GOLDENEYE (17). Pierce Brosnan's debut is a rather boring affair, though Pierce himself definitely lives up to his long-desired role. Bonus points for the totally hot Famke Janssen as the sociopathic female baddie.

17. ON HER MAJESTY'S SECRET SERVICE (6). A brief break on the Connery era stars George Lazenby (an Aussie!) as Bond, Telly Savalas as Blofeld, and Diana Rigg (of "Avengers" fame) as Bond's eventual wife.

18. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (12). Rather lame Roger Moore effort features Bond in a race against time to retrieve a submarine computer system. Trivia: Cassandra Harris, who has a small part in the film, was married to Pierce Brosnan. She had wished her husband would eventually get the role of Bond, but unfortunately she died of ovarian cancer four years before it actually happened.

19. THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN (9). Even Hervé Villechaize ("Tattoo") as Nick Nack cannot make this one interesting, but at least Roger Moore is young enough in this one to at least make one believe he could actually be MI6.

20. LIVE AND LET DIE (8). Moore's first outing as Bond and all it does is mimic the "blacksploitation" craze of the 1970s. At least a [very] young Jane Seymour makes it easy on the eyes.

21. THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS (15). Timothy Dalton's debut as 007 only induces a lot of yawning. At least he went out with a bang with "License to Kill" a couple years later.

22. A VIEW TO A KILL (14). Since it's hard to know who's older -- Roger Moore or costar Patrick Macnee ("Avengers") -- this means that Moore is way past his prime to play 007. Even Chris Walken and Grace Jones can't save this dreck.


Posted by Hube at 12:14 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 27, 2011

Where I disagree with Victor Davis Hanson

... for once. He writes today regarding the Gold Cup (soccer) final from this past Saturday:

“I love this country, it has given me everything that I have, and I’m proud to be part of it,” said Victor Sanchez, a 37-year-old Monrovia resident wearing a Mexico jersey. “But yet, I didn’t have a choice to come here, I was born in Mexico, and that is where my heart will always be.”

That’s a quote from an LA Times story on the booing of the U.S. soccer team by an overwhelmingly Latino audience during a U.S.–Mexico match at the Rose Bowl. Examine the odd logic: Mr. Sanchez is booing the country that gave him “everything” while cheering the country that apparently gave him very little. “I didn’t have a choice to come here,” he says; one immediately thinks, “But you most certainly do have a choice to return to the nation where your ‘heart will always be.’” Can Mr. Sanchez not even offer symbolic thanks to the country that blessed him, perhaps a clap or two at the Rose Bowl when the United States is mentioned? And if the immigration service arrived at the Rose Bowl to bus spectators without legality back to Mexico, where his “heart will always be,” would he boo or cheer?

I don't see in the first quote where Mr. Sanchez "booed" the United States team. I see where he was merely cheering on the country of his birth and culture. Is this really unusual? As some in the comments point out in his article, how would Hanson feel about, say, a Philadelphia transplant to Los Angeles (for employment purposes) who continued to cheer for the Eagles, Phillies, and 76ers? Isn't that essentially the same premise? Hanson would have a much better point if he found a quote of Mr. Sanchez where he explicitly said "F*** the United States -- I hate them!" and actually did boo the US team.

My personal experience is much like Mr. Sanchez's. I was married for 20 years to a woman from Costa Rica. Since Costa Rica and the US soccer teams are both in CONCACAF (the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football), they frequently play(ed) each other in tournaments like the just-finished Gold Cup (the CONCACAF championship) and World Cup qualifying matches. My ex, who again, has been in the US since 1989, always roots (rooted) for Costa Rica. According to Hanson, she should be "ashamed" of this. Again, I think this is nonsense. Although she cheers for her home country team, she is never belligerent towards her adoptive country's team; indeed, she's not even unhappy (much) if CR falls to the US, and actively cheers the US when they play other teams. Now, I'm not sure if Mr. Sanchez (and other Mexicans) do this. I'd hope they would.

I will say that my one experience at attending a US-Mexico "friendly" soccer match wasn't exactly "friendly." It took place at the Meadowlands and the Mexican fans that were seated around us were openly hostile towards the US team and its fans. They threw drinks and other objects at US fans and several scuffles broke out. It was, ironically, a 180 of the "Ugly American" scenario where it was, in this case, Mexicans who were behaving execrably -- and the saddest aspect of that was it's a good bet most of them live and work right here.

Hanson would do better to criticize what US goalie Tim Howard was so miffed about after the Saturday game: The post-game ceremonies were performed in Spanish. Howard was dead-on when he said "You can bet your ass if we were in Mexico City, it wouldn't be all in English."


Posted by Hube at 11:59 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 13, 2011

You know you're a veteran teacher when...

(Got the following from my girlfriend, also a veteran teacher.)

You know you're a veteran teacher when...

*sleeping until 7 am is a treat.

*your response to the students' comment, "You're mean!" is "Thank you."

*you think 30 is a SMALL class.

*you find yourself teaching the child of one of your former students.

*you finally realize that a professional development day means administrators go to their comfortable offices and actually work while the teachers sit in hard chairs listening to boring speakers.

*you get excited about a 2% pay raise.

*you have a permanent horizontal white line across your fanny from the chalkboard.

*you no longer show up at school bright-eyed, but need a caffeine injection just to stay upright.

*you find yourself sitting on a stool more and more to get through the day.

*you remember the good old days when the teachers had rights, too.

*you aren't surprised a bit when asked to teach ESL students, even without the language skills or a text.

*you've learned the fine art of scarfing down lunch in 20 minutes.

*you no longer dream of passionate love scenes with Kevin Costner (Angelina Jolie for me!), but how to keep your ADD student in his seat.

*you remember when the boys' pants were tight enough that they didn't fall down when they stood up in class.

*the responsibility for getting a good education was placed on the shoulders of the students and parents.

*you've found 789 ways to say "Your child is really dumb" on a report card so that it sounds positive.

*you think fondly of the days when cursing was not commonplace.

*you start seeing your ex-students names in the newspapers - the listing of dean's lists, wedding announcements, the police blotter

*you've trained your bathroom breaks to work around your planning time.

*the "old math" was good enough.

*a "great" day at work means every student had a pen, paper, and books when they crossed your threshold.

*cell phones and pagers didn't go off during class.

*nothing shocks you anymore -- even when you walk into the girl's bathroom and find three students in one stall, and two of them are boys!

*your car is not as nice as your students'.

*you've learned not to ask questions in the faculty meeting.

*you realize that when the principal asks for your "input," he doesn't really want it.

*you've come to the conclusion that you obtained an advanced degree so you could serve as a hall and cafeteria monitor.


Posted by Hube at 08:46 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

May 28, 2011

Kenickie has died

I thought Jeff Conway by far did the best acting job in the only musical (film) I've ever enjoyed -- "Grease." To wit, I always astonish my girlfriend (who's a huge fan of musicals, including "Grease") by reciting obscure lines from the film whenever it's on the tube.

Two of my fave Kenickie lines:

(To girlfriend Rizzo): "Oh, sure! Fine! Eureka! How 'bout I finish with ya, huh?"

(To girlfriend Rizzo while in back seat of car making out): "My 25-cent insurance policy!" (Pulls out a condom.) "It broke!" (Rizzo asks how it could break.) "I bought it when I was in the seventh grade!"


Posted by Hube at 08:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 17, 2011

Tragedy

My youngest sister passed away last Thursday, quite suddenly. She was only in her early 40s. Initially, over the first subsequent days, I used writing (as I often do) as therapy; however, today was her funeral, and my desire for "therapeutic measures" has, well, plummeted quite a bit.

Just a quick FYI.

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April 28, 2011

The definitive list: Marvel Comics movies from Best to Worst

Once again, because no one demanded it, the crack staff (to borrow a phrase from the now-defunct but still-great Hatemongers Quarterly blog) here at Colossus has compiled the DEFINITIVE (and quite subjective) list of Marvel Comics films from best to totally dreadful. Omitted from this list are made-for-TV productions, but included are flicks that ended up going straight to video (or were sorta meant to -- see #24). Also, omitted is "Elektra," which we (remarkably) haven't seen yet.

#1. X-2: X-MEN UNITED. Has it all, frankly: Superb, smart script, constant action and a fanboy orgasmic cliffhanger. Nasty government agent William Stryker mounts an assault on the mutants, and Prof Xavier's team has to team up with Magneto's squad.

#2. IRON MAN. Just a smidgen behind "X-2," Robert Downey Jr. is stupendous as Tony Stark/Iron Man in this brilliantly done origin tale by director John Favreau.

#3. SPIDER-MAN 2. Pete Parker battles his classic nemesis Doc Ock in this sequel. Alfred Molina as the villain is perfect, although he shouldn't go shirtless when on the attack in Manhattan (see left).

#4. BLADE. Marvel's first "big" feature flick, it was a chance, too, with its "R" rating. And it proved awesome: Wesley Snipes shines as the protagonist and Stephen Dorff is delightfully diabolical as the baddie. Not to mention, the opening sequence is slam-bang hard to beat.

#5. SPIDER-MAN. Superbly done origin tale with Tobey Maguire superbly cast as teen geek Peter Parker who chances into amazing powers. Willem Dafoe is villain the Green Goblin, but they should have allowed his helmet to show his naturally disturbing facial features.

#6. THE INCREDIBLE HULK. Light years better than the first Jade Giant flick (see waaaay below), you rarely can go wrong casting Edward Norton in a starring role. And Tim Roth as villain the Abomination and Liv Tyler as Norton's love interest? Hoo-yah!

#7. IRON MAN 2. A worthy sequel to be sure with more Iron action than the debut movie, but at the same time it loses some of the story-telling magic of its predecessor. Oh, and I know I'm in the minority, but Terrence Howard as Jim Rhodes is still way better than Don Cheadle.

#8. X-MEN. Marvel's skillfully done first "mainstream" blockbuster featuring the merry mutants. Hard to go wrong with folks like Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen at the helm. Hugh Jackman debuts as Wolverine making him a household name. Too bad Wolvie is actually supposed to be about five feet tall, and Jackman is 6'4".

#9. X-MEN 3: THE LAST STAND. The cinematic take on the "Dark Phoenix" saga, it succeeds pretty darn well. Jean Grey's dark side takes over, and she threatens the entire planet. Kelsey Grammer's Beast is terrific.

#10. DAREDEVIL. Ben Affleck does a neat job portraying one of his favorite comic heroes. The story gets a bit bogged down trying to do too much (Elektra, Bullseye, and the Kingpin in one film), but overall it's better than many people remember. Colin Farrell is delightfully wicked as Bullseye, too, by the way.

#11. X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. Good origin yarn about the Canuck mutant. I still think Wolvie would have been in a lot more agony when he got his adamantium, and the whole Sabertooth thing (why's he look so different in "X-Men" and why does he not mention his kinship to Wolvie?) leaves one scratching his head.

#12. BLADE 2. The vampires come to Blade to help them track down and eradicate a mutant strain of their own dubbed the "Reapers." Why? Because the Reapers feed on vampires as well as humans. D'oh!

#13. SPIDER-MAN 3. A good example of "trying to do too much" in a second sequel, Spidey takes on no less than the Green Goblin, Sandman and Venom in this flick. Loses [major] points for the total silliness of Parker's antics after the Venom symbiote affects his personality.

#14. BLADE: TRINITY. Cool concept in having Blade tackle the ultimate vampire -- Dracula -- but hindered by the silly, snappy dialogue of Ryan Reynolds and the vampires that awaken Drac. Bonus points, however, for Jessica Biel as Whistler's daughter.

#15. FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER. The FF films are known as Marvel's "family" flicks, but the addition of the Sentinel of the Spaceways (voiced by Laurence Fishburn) adds some decent pep to this story. Lameness: Galactus as a big "space cloud," and Julian McMahon as Doc Doom (again).

#16. PUNISHER: WAR ZONE. Marvel's third attempt at a Frank Castle flick, and it's their most violent, garnering a Blade-ish "R" rating. But third time's not a charm, even though this is the best of the three tries. And WTF is up with Ray Stevenson's Bazooka Joe-esque wardrobe?

#17. FANTASTIC FOUR. Cookie cutter fare with a total miscasting of Julian McMahon as Dr. Doom, not to mention giving Doom cosmic ray-spawned powers just like the FF. Also misplaced was the subplot of Ben Grimm (The Thing) feeling sorry for himself and ditching the team. Ugh.

#18. GHOST RIDER. Since Nick Cage's best acting performance was 28 years ago ("Valley Girl"), only the smokin' Eva Mendes elevates this origin tale. But hardly. (At right: Cage's acting skills go down in flames.)

#19. HULK. Lame reworking of the origin, lame casting of Nick Nolte, and lame idea of making Nolte an Absorbing Man-type villain ... coupled with herky-jerk split-screen antics? LAME.

#20. THE PUNISHER. Straight-to-video (in the US) offering starring Dolph "Ivan Drago" Lundgren as Frank Castle. No, Lundgren doesn't say "I must break you" to the thugs he offs. (At left: Lundgren says of his latest victim: "If he dies, he dies.")

#21. THE PUNISHER. Remarkably, lamer than the Lundgren version. Thomas Jane's dye job looks ridiculous, and John Travolta as the villain is at his "Battlefield Earth" worst.

#22. HOWARD THE DUCK. Yep, this is a Marvel property, and yep, they made a rather pathetic film out of it starring 80s film fave Lea Thompson.

#23. CAPTAIN AMERICA. A unattractive protagonist with the physique of a 60 year old? Check. The Red Skull an Italian instead of Hitler's right-hand man? Check. Cap thwarting a missile attack on Washington DC ... by kicking the missile off course? Yep. Worth "Mystery Science Theatre 3000"-style viewings only.

#24. THE FANTASTIC FOUR. What do you do when you have only a $1.5 million budget and you're about to lose film rights for the property? You make this dreadful fiasco. Only available via bootleg copy (it was never released, even straight to video), the plot, effects and acting are so pathetic that it makes the above "Captain America" look like an Oscar-winning film.

Posted by Hube at 10:31 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 24, 2011

"Wrong" is right, in this case

"Wrong" [Ron] Williams is actually right in his News Journal column today regarding Delaware's still-new hands-free cell phone law. He writes,

Whenever I tell myself and colleagues that it can't get any worse on the state's highways, it does. And it's not slowing down one bit, especially the violators of the newest safety measure that outlaws handheld cellphone use and texting while driving.

The other day, I was stopped in heavy traffic on Del. 1. A woman to the left of me had a cellphone planted in her ear. The woman driving on my right had a cigarette in her left hand and the cellphone in her right. The driver behind me had a cellphone to her head and the passenger was feeding her mustard on soft pretzels.

He's totally correct. Here's what I've seen just this past week:

  • Driving back from my girlfriend's earlier this week along route 40, a dude in front of me was going unusually slow and weaving right and left in his lane. I thought he might be drunk. He was texting.
  • I was running yesterday, and while re-entering my neighborhood, a lady turns into the entrance, makes a ridiculously wide U-turn (with me halting my run awaiting to see just WTF she was doing), and heads back out. Cell phone in her right hand/ear.
  • On my way to work this past Weds. I made a note to count all those on cell phones in my scant 8-minute commute. I counted four.

I used to blame the state for not advertising the law well enough on our roadways. That still may be the case; although on I-95 signs now clearly denote the new law, I've seen little in the way of advertising on state routes. And, ya'd think with the state's financial woes, the cops'd be out there writing tickets en masse, eh?

FWIW, I think the hands-free cell law is stupid; if you wanna go after people for reckless driving then do just that. But there are plenty of folks who drive just fine while talking on a cell. However, texting certainly is a different animal, and I support that law wholeheartedly. Texting while driving is just crackers.

Posted by Hube at 08:40 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 22, 2011

The road to hell ...

... and you know the rest.

This article caught my eye today because I just had a sort-of scary experience with a CFL light bulb this past weekend. From the article:

Energy saving light bulbs 'contain cancer causing chemicals.' Their report advises that the bulbs should not be left on for extended periods, particularly near someone’s head, as they emit poisonous materials when switched on.

Peter Braun, who carried out the tests at the Berlin's Alab Laboratory, said: “For such carcinogenic substances it is important they are kept as far away as possible from the human environment.”

The bulbs are already widely used in the UK following EU direction to phase out traditional incandescent lighting by the end of this year.

But the German scientists claimed that several carcinogenic chemicals and toxins were released when the environmentally-friendly compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) were switched on, including phenol, naphthalene and styrene.

Terrific. Now, this past weekend an old incandescent bulb had burned out, so I went to grab a CFL I had pruchased a few months ago to replace it. However, when I opened the box, I noticed that the top "spiral" (CFL bulbs are sprial in shape) had a crack in it. When I went to remove the bulb from the packaging, the top spiral came apart. Now, if you know anything about CFLs, you know that they contain a small of mercury. I immediately put the bulb back in the box, washed my hands, and checked the Internet for specific information about what to do about such a situation. Of immediate concern was the fact that a break in a CFL emits a mercury vapor; the info I found recommends that one opens windows in the room where the break happened, and to turn off the heating or air conditioning system in the house. I did both of these. Of course, the break could have happened long ago when the bulb was being packaged or stacked on the store shelf, but I didn't take any chances.

Still, based on this site, I need not worry overmuch. Incandescent bulbs actually emit more mercury than CFLs via their use, but it's CFLs that pose a handling and disposal hazard, if even a relatively small one. And given that hazard, wouldn't you expect there to be a [much] more convenient way to dispose of them? Nope. There's a whole TWO recycling centers for all of New Castle County, [by far] Delaware's most populous county! I was completely ready to drive up to the general recycling center about two miles from my home just to properly dispose of this one CFL light bulb, but it seems they do not handle CFLs!

Consider: Does it make sense not to have readily available recycling spots for an everyday necessary household product -- one that in its general use is fairly significantly more dangerous than its predecessor? Not only that, but how many average folk will actually dispose of CFLs properly anyway ... let alone be cognizant of the dangers of handling a damaged/broken bulb? My guess is "not many."

Will CFLs end up being a green fad that actually is not any better for the environment than what it replaced (or semi-replaced), much like ethanol? Batteries for electric cars? We'll see ...

Posted by Hube at 10:01 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 19, 2011

Late credit

Uber edu-blogger Joanne Jacobs had a post up last week about giving -- or not giving -- a penalty for late work in school. She quotes two other edu-bloggers, pro and con. What caught my eye more than anything, however, were the comments by teacher "Cal":

I don’t assign math homework. When assigning history and English homework, I make it clear that the work will be on time, and if it isn’t, then they’ll will be staying in at lunch or missing any interesting classwork until it’s done.

Most of my students turned in the work on time and, if they forgot occasionally, got it to me the next day or so. The students who were consistently late at first changed their behavior because they didn’t like staying in at lunch and after a while, they got the idea that they were going to have to do it anyway, so may as well do it sooner rather than later.

Teacher convenience is, I’m sorry, just a ridiculous reason to use late penalties. So what if it makes your life a bit more difficult? It’s part of the job. Cope.

Later on, "Cal" calls teacher late penalties ridiculous "morality plays," and says that such is to prepare students for the real world is "nonsense."

Many other commenters address Cal's points quite aptly (especially Michael Lopez, one of my favorite all-time bloggers who now writes at Joanne's site), but I'll throw my own two cents in here.

First of all, Cal is correct in that not handing in assignments does not denote academic ability in the subject matter. The key is finding an adequate balance of assessments. But Cal's issues with late penalties have several flaws:

1) The SES (socio-economic status) of the children. He says that his students will miss lunch / any interesting classwork until late assignments are complete. My guess is that, by making this very statement, he teaches relatively well-off students where such penalties are much more easily enforced. You think such a ... demand would be effective in a tough inner-city school? Not a chance:

"Brian, you're going to have to miss lunch today so you can finish that homework assignment from three weeks ago."

"F*** you, Mr. Cal."

And that's the end of that!

2) Grade level of students. Based on the fact that Cal said he teaches multiple [diverse] subjects it's a good bet he teaches elementary school. It's certainly easier to enforce such things as a lunch detention to get past-due work done, or make kids come after school to do it. Middle schoolers and especially high schoolers are much more likely to say "screw that."

3) Teacher convenience is a legitimate issue. As Michael Lopez notes in the comments in response to Cal,

Why should you get to turn it in after the assignment is due? Should students just get to turn ALL their work in ten minutes before the teacher has to file his or her grades with the front office? Of course not. A group of students that did this would receive F’s, and rightly so, because they missed their chance to demonstrate their skill level. And why would they have missed their chance? Because teacher convenience matters, and administrative convenience matters.

Indeed. Teachers have deadlines to get interim reports done in addition to the usual report cards. Imagine if 100 students handed in a late assignment (and a lengthy one, at that) the day before report cards had to be done by the teacher. In an nutshell, there simply isn't enough time in the day to grade these assignments and get the report cards finished. Period.

4) The real world is a relevant consideration. Let's follow Cal's logic to its logical conclusion through various "real world" examples:

  • It shouldn't matter if college students hand in, let alone do, research/term papers for their classes. After all, does such an assignment really measure whether you've mastered the subject matter? Why can't you just take a test at the end of the semester to make such a determination?

  • Why does it even matter if students come to school on time? Most schools have a homeroom period at the beginning of the day where attendance is taken and whatnot. As long as the kid makes it to school before the actual subject matter day begins, right ...? And for that matter, why have late penalties for being late to class? Does one minute really make a difference? Two minutes? Even three?

  • Why does it matter if you're late to work, too? As long as you're getting your job done, right ...? And speaking of which, why would an employee have to concern him/herself with getting, say, various paperwork done at a certain time? As long as he/she knows how to do the job ...?

You can see where this is going. The real world requires punctuality quite often. There are deadlines in the real world, just as teachers have deadlines. The great NFL coach Tony Dungy wrote "Being late means it’s not important to you or you can’t be relied upon." I personally find it amazing that schools today are expected to be virtually everything to kids these days, yet people like Cal would not require that basic punctuality be enforced -- perhaps the most important "real world" skill needed as an adult?

I've no doubt that there are teachers -- too many, perhaps -- who assign tedious class and homework assignments with little or no real assessment value. Such has little value period let alone if a late penalty is added for it being handed in tardy. As I noted above, the key is finding a balance, so here's how I've done my grading for over 15 years:

  • Tests, quizzes and [major] projects are 60% of a student's total grade.

  • Homework and classwork are 40% of a student's total grade.

  • Virtually all homework and classwork can be corrected, and subsequently handed in again for a higher score. This enables students to recognize and rectify any errors, and get assistance on any particular problem if needed. (Yeah, it's essentially double work for me, but it's worth it.)

  • My late policy up until a few years ago was actually considered fairly liberal: A letter grade point deduction was assessed for each day late past the due date; after the 5th day it became a "zero." However, our school recently adopted a school-wide late policy of 50% credit if not turned in on the due date, and an assignment [still] becomes a "zero" if not turned after a week (five days).

Seem fair? I haven't had any complaints about it since I implemented it.

So, in conclusion, let's face it: As one "moves up the ladder" in our district, then on to college, and then the working world, the penalties for being late increase in severity. Not having tangible consequences for is doing a disservice to kids.

Posted by Hube at 04:28 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 07, 2011

Best (Scariest) Movie Monsters of All-Time

Because nobody demanded it, it's time for another Hube entertainment-based list. Again, because NOBODY demanded it!

1. Alien (from the "Alien" franchise). Still by far the freakin' scariest damn creature ever to come out of Hollywood to date, the original "Alien" film (made over 30 years ago) rivals any modern CGI-enhanced flick. I mean, how frightening is this: A spider-like creature latches onto your face, shoves a tube down your throat, and lays an egg -- which quickly turns into the dreaded "xenomorph." Soon after, the damned thing busts its way out through your chest cavity, causing immeasurable pain and agony (and, of course, death). Then it quickly matures into the creature seen below, and proceeds to obliterate anything that tries to f*** with it -- and even things that don't f*** with it -- usually via its jackhammer-like secondary jaw with razor teeth.


Why's it need those handle bars on its back??



2. The Thing (from John Carpenter's "The Thing"). The 1951 original scared the beejeebees out of my father as a kid; the 1982 "remake" (quotes because the only thing really "remade" was its Antarctic location) is not only freaky scary, it's funny as well! In the opening sequence, a Norwegian helicopter is chasing a dog towards an American Antarctic outpost. The copter is very obviously trying to kill said dog; they fail, and unfortunately for the Americans, this "dog" turns out to be an alien organism that can slowly take over -- and mimic -- any lifeform. Slowly, one by one, the Americans fall victim to it, leaving everyone wondering just who's who -- or what.


100,000 years under the ice tends to piss one off.



3. The Predator (from the "Predator" franchise). It ain't much scarier than an alien civilization that stops by your planet every so often and hunts you (unless you're an Alien xenomorph or the Thing, that is!). That's what Ahnuld Schwarzenegger and his special ops team had to face in the original film; Danny Glover had to deal with them in the first sequel (which is better than you remember, by the way). Skip the "Aliens vs. Predator" films -- they suck. Instead, read the original Dark Horse "Aliens vs. Predator" graphic novel -- it's outstanding.


One ugly muddahfuggah ...



4. The Cloverfield creature (from "Cloverfield"). One of the best "alien invasion/monster" films of the 2000s, "Cloverfield" is actually the code name for the "incident" that occurred in New York City where a behemoth creature of unknown origin decimated the city. No one knows where the creature came from or why it was so damned pissed off. We do know that smaller spider-like creatures dropped off the big monster and attacked individual people -- and if bitten by said creatures a person would quickly become ill and ... explode. Word of warning: If you have a weak stomach, you might wanna avoid this film. Not because of gore or anything, but because of the herky-jerky camera work in the film. (See Colossus's review of "Cloverfield" here.)


New York -- my kinda town.


5. The Demons (from "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark"). This is a TV flick from 1973 that still gives me shudders when I think about watching it as a young boy. Kim Darby stars as the wife of a couple who move into a [scary-looking] house, and things get really freakin' creepy after they remove the bricks from in front of the fireplace. Extremely well done as a TV horror film, and the "demons" that infest the house are definitely nightmare-inducing.


Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.

Posted by Hube at 01:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 05, 2011

If Protack wins the state GOP chairmanship ...

I'm switching to "independent." Tennessee Walker has a post up at DE Politics in reference to a News Journal article about the GOP chair battle, and rightly points out how pathetic a candidate Mike Protack is. For the record, Protack has YET to win an election ... or even a primary. There's nary an office for which he won't run, which begs the question "Why does he keep at it?" What's he after? 'Ya'd think someone would get the message that people aren't buying what he's offering after so many defeats.

For me, it's a matter of believability and character.

As the News Journal and TW note, back when Dave Burris ran the Delaware Politics website, Protack's IP address was traced to several nasty comments on that blog. Protack's reply was that someone must have snatched his wireless signal to post said comments. Uh huh. Then there was the matter of the infamous pink postcards for which Burris made a compelling case that Protack was the originator. Protack threatened to sue Burris; uh huh -- such a suit never materialized. More recently, Protack was caught changing his story about in-state college tuition for illegal immigrants. Protack's response to this was to claim the video "was doctored." Uh huh.

In myriad blog discussions, Protack's replies often display contempt and irritability towards views that challenge his, even when said views are posted in a very civil manner. Is that how you treat people you want to represent??

In my opinion, Protack keeps at it for one reason: Power. Since he hasn't realized no one's buying what he's selling, and based on how he deals with people, it's really the only conclusion I can come to.

Past Protack gems:

Posted by Hube at 05:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 01, 2011

Hube's Top Ten Lawyer Flicks of All-Time

After catching one on the list for the umpteenth time on Encore a few days ago, it hit me -- here's a film list that I haven't blogged yet -- "Best Lawyer Films!" ('Cuz I usually concentrate on stuff like comics and scifi, natch.) So, here they are, in no particular order:

The Verdict. Paul Newman does a phenomenal job as Frank Galvin, a hard-drinking, down-on-his-luck attorney who refuses a large settlement from the Catholic Church after one of its hospitals botches an anesthesia procedure. A classic "David v. Goliath" scenario, it co-stars perennial supporting actor Jack Warden and the inimitable James Mason.

A Few Good Men. Best known for its instanty classic Jack Nicholson-uttered line "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!' it also stars Tom Cruise, Demi Moore and Kevin Bacon. The film neatly mixes military culture with the legal system.

... And Justice for All. Al Pacino shines in the late 70s offering about a young attorney disillusioned with the system who's forced to defend an ethically challenged judge who's charged with rape. Also starring the previously mentioned Jack Warden as an insane, suicide-by-crazy stunt judge.

To Kill a Mockingbird. What else can be said about this classic starring Gregory Peck? A white lawyer defending a black man in the Depression-era South -- and the film was made in 1962?? 'Nuff said.

Philadelphia. A gay lawyer (Tom Hanks) contracts AIDS, is fired from his firm, and hires homophobic attorney Joe Miller (Denzel Washington) to represent him.

Law Abiding Citizen. Fairly smart until the very end, it stars Gerard Butler as a tactical genius whose wife and child are murdered. Hotshot lawyer Jamie Foxx accepts a plea deal for the killers without consulting Butler. As a result, Gerard methodically goes about teaching Foxx -- and virtually the entire city government of Philly -- "a lesson."

Kramer vs. Kramer. This "Best Picture" Oscar winner stars Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep as a couple divorcing and the subsequent parental custody courtroom battle.

Sleepers. After a childhood prank ends up disastrously killing a man, several young boys are sent to a juvie detention center where they're raped and brutalized by several guards on a regular basis. Years later when two of the boys (now adults) recognize one of their former molesters, they shoot him in cold blood in a restaurant. One of their other buddies (Brad Pitt), also a past victim of the guards, is now an attorney, and he manipulates and pulls numerous strings to get his pals acquitted.

The Firm. Tom Cruise joins a prestigious law firm only to discover its involved with organized crime. Either he cooperates with the feds who need his help in bringing down the firm, or he continues knowingly working for criminals. Some choice, eh?

The Accused. Jodie Foster got the Best Actress nod for her portrayal of a hardened biker-type chick who gets gang raped at a local watering hole. Kelly McGillis represents her as they struggle to get witnesses to testify ... and to figure out how to get a jury to believe them.

Posted by Hube at 04:13 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

March 09, 2011

Best "real human origins" science fiction

Numerous science fiction outlets have postulated that humanity actually has extraterrestrial origins. It's quite a popular concept. Two of my favorite written word examples follow ...

I'm currently into the fourth book of James P. Hogan's "Giants" series, Entoverse. The entire series is five novels -- Inherit the Stars, The Gentle Giants of Ganymede (at left), Giants' Star, Entoverse, and Mission to Minerva -- and establishes that humanity actually sprang from a race of beings called the Lunarians. The Lunarians are so named due to a dessicated remnant of one being discovered by humans on our moon. These Lunarians were actually a genetically altered race based on Earth's early hominids, and lived on the planet Minerva, which occupied the orbit where our Solar System's asteroid belt is now. But who ... "made" them?

The answer to that is the Ganymeans. The Ganymeans, so named because an old vessel of theirs was discovered by humans on Jupiter's moon of Ganymede, had naturally evolved on Minerva, and experimented on Earth's early hominids in an attempt to battle their own physiological shortcomings in their planet's impending ecological shift. When they realized this would not work, they allowed their creations to occupy their planet, while they took off for another star whose planet would be better suited to them. Over the course of two millennia, these beings built a civilization. But they eventually split into two distinct camps, the Cerians and the Lambians, and a battle for dominance ensued. The ultimate battle destroyed Minerva (creating our asteroid belt), and the Cerians escaped to Earth -- to become Modern Man. And if you're wondering why these advanced beings didn't advance Earth much earlier than what actually occurred in history, the answer to that is part of the annihilated Minerva was eventually captured by Earth's gravity ... to become our moon. The resultant ecological upheaval almost eradicated the Cerians; as it was, the survivors reverted to barbarism, needing the numerous thousands of subsequent years to crawl back to a semblance of what they once were.

In Larry Niven's Known Space universe, it's established that humanity on Earth descended from the Pak (at right) -- a species of humanoid bipeds who lived on a planet in the center of the Milky Way. Millions of years ago, thousands of Pak hollowed out an asteroid and journeyed outward towards the galactic arms, eventually settling on Earth. The Pak had two stages of life: breeder and protector. Their breeders were our planet's early hominids as a results of this long Pak space journey. On the Pak homeworld, breeders would become protectors (at around age 40) by eating a fibrous root dubbed "Tree of Life." The breeder would undergo a drastic physiological change over the course of a few weeks (while in a coma): its brain case would expand for increased intelligence, its joints would swell to allow greater leverage, its sexual organs would disappear, a secondary heart would form, and its skin would harden into a leathery armor. This change to "protector" meant just that -- the protector guarded its own breeders, and was specifically altered to do just that, via enhanced intelligence and strength. (Most of the backstory regarding the Pak and protectors is told in Niven's novel Protector.

But the Pak discovered something very unfortunate a little while after landing on Earth: the Tree of Life root did not grow properly in our soil. The root grew ok, but the virus within which triggered the change to protector died in the root. Eventually, the protectors died out, leaving only breeders to populate our planet. These breeders, over millions of years, evolved into ... Modern Man.

Protector told the tale of Phthsspok, a lone Pak who journeyed from the Pak homeworld in hopes of discovering what had happened to those who traveled to Earth millions of years prior. He succeeded, but discovered what the old breeders had turned into -- a vastly mutated, space-faring race! It is via Phthsspok that humanity learned of its true origins, and in later Niven-approved stories we learn that the Pak themselves are a genetically engineered race created by one of Niven's oldest Known Space background creations, the Tnuctipun, over a billion years ago.

Protector and some later stories (mainly in the Niven-approved "Man-Kzin Wars" books) detailed how some human protectors acted "behind the scenes" to guide humanity to progress and annihilate any threats to humans across Known Space. In addition, it's later established that the Pak constructed Niven's greatest-ever literary creation -- the Ringworld.

**********

But what about movies and/or television? In one of my favorite scifi shows ever, "Star Trek: The Next Generation," the episode "The Chase" clearly establishes that an ancient humanoid race once "seeded" the Earth and the homeworlds of several Star Trek alien races (Klingon, Romulan, Cardassian) to allow intelligent life to evolve (and also seemingly explains how all these races are more or less at the same technological level!).

What are some others -- that either I've never heard about or am obviously forgetting?

Posted by Hube at 06:48 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

February 18, 2011

Students -- see the world and keep your head on straight

Interesting column the other day by National Review's Jason Fertig -- quoting Dennis Prager -- about how beneficial it is for students to study abroad. Prager says:

All this travel has been life-changing and life-enhancing. For many years, I have urged young people to take a year off after high school to work and to take time off while in college to travel abroad, ideally alone for at least some of the time.

Nearly everyone grows up insular. The problem is that vast numbers of people never leave the cloistered world of their childhood. This is as true for those who grow up in Manhattan as those who grow up in Fargo or Tokyo. And as for college, there are few places as insular and cloistered as the university.

Insularity is bad because at the very least, it prevents questioning oneself and thinking through important ideas and convictions. And at worst, it facilitates the groupthink that allows for most great evils.

Now, as neither my father nor mother went to college, they refused to allow me to take a year off to work, insisting that I remain in college to "get that piece of paper (diploma)" as my dad put it. However, as I was minoring in Spanish, when the opportunity arose to study abroad in the Central American nation of Costa Rica my junior year (spring of 1986), my parents shared my enthusiasm for the idea. First, a little information about tiny Costa Rica:

  • It has no army. It abolished its army in 1948 and poured those funds into education.
  • It's one of the longest-running (and strongest) democracies in Latin America, with a vibrant two-party system (although, like the US, numerous third parties abound).
  • The people are unabashedly pro-U.S.
  • It's sometimes known as the "Switzerland of the Americas" due to its peaceful nature and general neutrality in regional conflicts.
  • Its president, Oscar Arias, won the Nobel Peace Prize during his first term as the country's leader, in 1990 for his role in brokering a peace deal for Central America. (Guerrilla wars were being fought in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua at the time.)
  • Life expectancy in Costa Rica is 79 years -- not bad for a "Third World" country!
  • Its literacy rate is 95%, one of the highest in the world.

One of the fascinating things about teaching Spanish now for 20 years is attempting to impart to young Americans a sense of how good they have it here in the U.S. And I mean really good. Despite the good demographic ratings for Costa Rica, there is real poverty there -- and I mean REAL. "Poverty" in the U.S. can mean you still have cable TV, air conditioning, a cell phone, a microwave, etc. ... even a car. Whereas in CR poverty means absolutely none of those things -- and possibly no running water, no plumbing, no electric power. Yet, you'll see the poorest of kids walking miles to school in their blue uniforms ... to attend classes alongside their better-off peers. The "uniform uniforms" for CR public schools means that class differences are barely noticeable. After witnessing what students in CR go through to get to school and to get an education, it miffs me when I then see the all-too common apathetic attitude of American kids today. Indeed, aside from living the example abroad, over the years I've talked to parents from foreign countries who have moved here, and many have expressed surprise -- and outrage -- at how American students could care less about their education ... let alone how they fail to appreciate everything that your average American classroom is equipped with. In Costa Rica (and many other countries), if there's enough desks, chairs and a chalkboard, that's "well-equipped." Of course, no matter what I say to my Spanish students, they'll never be able to truly grasp how fortunate they are to be living in the U.S. They, like I did, will have to experience it. (Ah, the 'ol adage "Talk is cheap ...!")

To be sure, I didn't fully appreciate my experiences until several years after -- indeed, until I entered the "real world," i.e. post-college. One of the problems with a college semester abroad (as some note in the comments in the link above) is that some -- most? -- students will use such a time to merely party their asses off. Well, OK yeah, I did my share of that, I admit. Not to mention, if your accompanying professor is a rabid lefty (like mine was), you might just suffer a bit of indoctrination. As I noted way back in one of my first posts at Colossus, Dr. M, though one terrific person, made few bones about letting us know where his political sympathies lied. He was a big supporter of the Sandinistas in neighboring Nicaragua (who at the time were fighting against the U.S.-backed Contras) and all the guest speakers he "treated" us to were leftists, one of whom openly mocked the U.S. and its domestic and foreign policies. But again, Dr. M wasn't a "my way or the highway" type of prof; indeed, as noted in the linked post above, one of the ... funnier moments of the trip occurred when Dr. M invited a member of the new Arias government over for a political discussion, and the guy essentially mocked Dr. M's opinions and statements as unrealistic and even outright wrong. I don't think Dr. M expected that, because, as noted, only one side of an issue (the left) was usually explored in our classes and discussions. (And I think this was partly -- even mostly -- due to Dr. M believing we already were exposed to the other side via the media and conventional wisdom, so to speak ... even though that assumption was largely erroneous.)

And ... I did fall for some of Dr M's indoctrination. We all did, the thirteen of us in the University of Delaware group, to some degree. I became sympathetic to the FSLN (Sandinista) cause (Dr. M had us read a book on the Sandinista literacy crusade; after completing it, it was quite difficult to find fault with anything Danny Ortega and Co. were doing!)

Ronald Reagan ordered the bombing of Libya during our stay in CR, and a short time thereafter there was a grenade attack on our embassy in downtown San José, the capital. I had been out that night with my Tica (native slang for "Costa Rican") girlfriend and had no idea what happened. My parents were frantic, and called the house where I stayed all night, much to the chagrin of my host family! A few days later, the words "Reagan Terrorista" was spray painted on the wall right across the street from my house, with an accompanying swastika. I wondered if the culprits knew an American was living in the house across the street. Should I be worried? I was, but thankfully nothing ever happened to me. (The U.S. embassy was moved shortly thereafter to a more suburban location; in fact, it is now a mere 400 meters up the street from my in-laws' house. Yes, even though I split from my Costa Rican wife of 20 years a year and a half ago, I still call her parents my "in-laws" as I maintain an excellent relationship with them and they are, simply put, the nicest people I've ever known.)

Speaking of my host family, they were the "poorest" -- monetarily speaking, purely -- of the thirteen host families for the UD group. Their house was located in downtown San José, and was quite old. It was certainly ... a shock, in terms of adjustment the first few days I was there. Ever see a palmetto bug? These sons of bitches were living in the walls of the house, and at night you could hear them munching on whatever house material they were, well, munching on! Zancudos, or what we cheerfully call "mosquitos," were endemic at night since, for some reason, many Tico households do not like screens on their windows. Eventually, I wised up and bought a package of "espirales" -- a spiral-shaped thingie that you light at night and keeps mosquitos at bay. My family didn't exactly take care of leftover food the way I was used to; I think that contributed to my getting the sickest I've ever been in my life a month and a half after I arrived in CR.

But y'know what? They were some of the kindest, gentlest, politest and down-to-earth people I've ever met. The mom and dad had five children then; the oldest lived in New Mexico, and the other four were at home. Two of the girls have since passed away -- one, two years older than I, from cancer, and another, my age, from a car accident. They had run the cafeteria at a local private school, and I helped them out a few times when they were in a pinch. (Which was pretty neat, too, since it was a bilingual academy.) I'd visited them a couple times since 1986 -- once in 1992 (my first trip back to CR after being married), and again in 1999. In 2009, the last time I was in the country, they were no longer living in the house in which I'd visited them ten years previous (they had moved a couple miles from the 1986 house back in 1993). I asked numerous neighbors if they knew where they'd gone, but to no avail.

I hope I'll track them down someday. I always look back at that spring of 1986 quite fondly. It made me very appreciative to have been born and raised in my own country, but also made me realize more than ever that material comfort and possessions are certainly not the end-all to be-all in life. And of course, it gave me a whole new perspective on looking at things, not just exclusively from the estadounidense angle.

Posted by Hube at 09:42 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 08, 2011

Nickel and dimed

After about six full years with the same cell phone, I recently buckled under my daughter's pressure and bought a brand-spankin' new one -- a Droid 2 Global from my local Verizon store. Even after six years, I didn't get the free upgrade because my daughter was made primary number since she has changed her phone several times (and hence gets the free upgrades). OK, no biggie. I get that. But then ...

... $15 for three plastic screen covers?
... $25 for a hard plastic case?

I fairly reluctantly went along with these since everyone has 'em; indeed, they say they're virtually required. But then, I got home and the upper part of the phone's case had partially come off! Not only that, the extra space that part of the case/cover took up made using the tops keys of the retractable keyboard extremely difficult. My attempt to get the case back on was unsuccessful. Considering the pricey nature of this piece of plastic, I was miffed. I went back to Verizon and returned the case. But then the following took place:

Salesman: "You want to get another case?"
Me: "Nah, I'm good, thanks."
Salesman: "Well, keep in mind that if you scratch or nick the phone your one-year warranty is void."
Me: "Thanks -- I'll be OK."

WTF???

Later, at the mall, I spotted another Verizon place. I tell my girlfriend, "Give me a second. I'll be right back." I go in and ask the three salesdudes (no customers were in the store at the time) if what the salesman at the other Verizon joint told me about the warranty was accurate. "WHAAAAT?" they all said in unison. Then the last salesdude says, "If you get a large chunk or something taken out of your phone, maybe. But normal wear and tear will not void your warranty."

So, even though I'm relieved at my decision to not get a new case, I'm pissed at that salesguy for trying to dick me over. Then this happens: While examining the phone's various apertures and outlets, I notice several scratches over the Verizon logo itself -- scratches that certainly weren't due to anything I had done, since I had the phone by then only a couple of days. (I hadn't noticed 'em before because you had to catch 'em in just the right angle of light.) Either this was a flaw in the manufacture, or the original salesdude did it when he put the later-returned case on it that very first day. I pondered not bothering taking it back since these scratches were hard to see unless seen at the right angle, but then again, hey! This is a brand-new freakin' phone!

I went back. The original salesdude took care of me. His expression was somewhat along the lines of "You serious? For this?" but he did exchange my phone without much of a protest. I still didn't buy a case. But I probably will -- somewhere where a friggin' piece of plastic doesn't cost over $20. At any rate, I now possess a scratch-free, all-purpose smart phone. My monthly bill will now include the rate for an unlimited data plan, but fine -- I knew that going in.

Then ... I read this today.

The launch of the iPhone on Verizon adds to the mountain of evidence that you just can’t trust wireless carriers.

On the day that iPhone preorders began last week, Verizon quietly revised its policy on data management: Any smartphone customer who uses an “extraordinary amount of data” will see a slowdown in their data-transfer speeds for the remainder of the month and the next billing cycle.

It’s a bit of a bait-and-switch. One of Verizon’s selling points for its version of the iPhone is that it would come with an unlimited data plan — a marked contrast to AT&T, which eliminated its unlimited data plans last year.

Verizon incidentally announced a plan for “data optimization” for all customers, which may degrade the appearance of videos streamed on smartphones, for example.

In addition, for some reason the concept of "competition" seems to be eluding cell carriers. If cell carriers become like cable and Internet providers (little to no competition), I'll be yanking out my old 2004 phone and going back to simple voice and text messaging again.

Posted by Hube at 08:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 01, 2011

Ten things to "hate" about "Star Trek: TNG"

Via Spinoff Online, Graeme McMillan offers up the following in bold, with my thoughts (if any) following each:

* The Show Was Clearly A Product Of Its Time. Whaaa ...? McMillian writes, "... the show now looks more like something far cheaper and lower quality than the average Syfy Saturday Night movie, and it’s hard to get that out your head while you’re watching." Not even close. Given that TNG began in 1987 and ran through 1994 makes SyFy look pretty pathetic, especially given the quantum leap in computer technology over the last 16 years.

* The Show Was Offensively Inoffensive (1) and (2). I agree with McMillan that, compared to the Original Series, TNG was inoffensive. There was no McCoy, especially, in TNG that kept things "interesting" with his perpetually embittered mannerisms and not-so-subtle xeno-racism. Still, McMillan is stretching when he says this:

"Also, after the multi-cultural original cast, the almost entirely caucasian [sic] TNG crew seemed like a weird step backwards, especially considering one of the black actors played an alien, and the other spend most of his time keeping the engines running…"

Dude. C'mon. This is what we call a "stretch." Let's see ... the original cast had an American white guy (Kirk), an alien (Spock), an Asian (Sulu), another white dude (McCoy), a black woman (Uhura), and a Scot (Scotty). (Chekov, a Russian, was added after the first season.) The TNG cast had: a Frenchman (Picard), an American white dude (Riker), a white chick (Dr. Crusher), a robot (Data), an alien woman (Troi), an alien security chief (Worf, played by a black guy), a black guy (LaForge), a black woman (Guinan), an an American white kid (Wesley Crusher). You might also count O'Brien (Irish guy) and Tasha Yar (white chick). Face it: Given the actors who played the characters in the Original Series, it wasn't any more multi-cultural than TNG.

* This Here Is An Allegory. Though McMillan admits TOS (The Original Series) had its fair share of these, he seems to believe TNG took it further -- even though he admits it was only "at times." Personally, I don't believe TNG was any worse at this than TOS. Still, in its later seasons, TNG used more of a sledgehammer to make its "points." Anyone remember the episode where Wesley became some sort of "meta-human" ... and the Western conquest of the Americas allegory to the Federation selling out a planet of Indians to the Cardassians? How about how utilization of warp drive was made akin to using fossil fuels? Or treatment of homosexuals when Riker fell in love with someone from that "genderless" planet?

* Riker And Troi: Science Fiction’s Most Passionless Unrequited Love. True, but not a big deal in the whole scheme of things. They finally got sexy in the movies (not to mention married), and there was that one episode where that duplicate Riker (from a transporter glitch, natch) had never changed his feelings for Troi and promptly jumped her as soon as he had the chance ...

* Almost Everything About Data. While I certainly wondered at times why the Enterprise couldn't have run very efficiently with just Data and a few other crewmen, some of TNG's best episodes were about the android. The second season's "The Measure of a Man" is sensational, centering on whether an android has the same rights as humans. Then there's "Data's Day" centering on the android learning about human subtleties, among other nuggets. And don't forget "Time's Arrow" which has Data traveling back to 19th century San Francisco!

* While I’m At It, The Rest Of The Crew, Too. I'm not sure I follow McMillan's point here, but if he was wanting top-notch acting outside of Patrick Stewart, he's definitely looking at the wrong show. But so what? TOS and every other Trek series was the same way. C'mon -- Kate Mulgrew's Capt. Janeway? Ugh. Scott Bakula's Jonathan Archer amazingly, was even worse. And then there's virtually "Voyager's" entire crew (sans The Doctor), DS9's Quark and Kira, and "Enterprise's" Tripp ...

* The Borg. McMillan writes:

"From exciting two-time problems – their first appearance and the “Best of Both Worlds” two-parter – to completely and utterly overused characters that ended up becoming boring as a result ..."

Sheesh. "Completely and utterly overused" is what the Borg weren't in TNG. As a commenter noted in the article, TNG featured the Borg a total of six times. SIX! Where the Federation's greatest enemy was overused was in "Voyager" (which McMillan also concedes). But even that makes a sort of sense: The Borg are from the Delta Quadrant, where Voyager was lost. If anything, rag on the totally lame TNG Borg episodes "I, Borg" (where a spineless Picard refuses to off the Borg once and for all ... and is thankfully scolded by a Starfleet admiral for it in a later episode) and the awful "Descent" where the Borg from "I, Borg" are led by Data's evil twin Lore. Hey, come to think of it, fully half of TNG's Borg-related episodes suck! The good ones are "Q Who?" (where they're introduced) and the classic two-part cliffhanger "The Best of Both Worlds."

* Those Uniforms. I agree with McMillan that the first two seasons' uniforms were dreadful. But those that followed? The only flaw I can see with them is that you always have to pull the top back down after sitting down (aka the "Picard Maneuver").

* It Ruined The Franchise All The Way Until JJ Abrams Saved It. This is where McMillan really makes little sense. I mean, c'mon -- three Trek series continued and/or started after TNG left the air. If TNG "ruined" the franchise, why did DS9, "Voyager" and "Enterprise" all get on the tube -- and thrive? (The former two lasted seven seasons like TNG; the latter lasted four.) Th reason Abrams "saved" the franchise is because, like anything else, something that has lasted for so long can get a bit stale. Just check out Daniel Craig and "Casino Royale" and what it did for the [stale] James Bond franchise.

Posted by Hube at 11:15 AM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

December 29, 2010

Top 50 comicbook artists of all-time -- the Top Seven

Finishing the list posted here, via Comic Book Resources:

#7: JOHN BYRNE. I dug Byrne's stuff before he became "popular," via his work on Iron Fist. When he got chores on The Avengers and especially X-Men, I was overjoyed. But be sure to take a gander at his art and writing chores on Fantastic Four beginning in the early #230s -- unbelievable stuff (see his Thing at left) with outstanding homages to those who came before him. Byrne's characters too often look the same, but his art is clean, crisp, and maintains a perfect combination of realism and cartooniness. His "tech" art rivals that of the master, Jack Kirby.

#6: JIM LEE. Feh. He's a good artist, sure, but I was never overly impressed. He got hyped thanks to the Image craze of the mid-1990s, much like the much-less talented Rob Liefeld (among others).

#5: NEAL ADAMS. Indeed. Adams is a god among men in the comicbook art realm. Insanely realistic and detailed, his work on the "Kree-Skrull War" for Marvel in the 1970s remains a highlight in Avengers history. He also had an incredible stint on the [original] X-Men series, not to mention very memorable runs on Batman and Green Lantern.

#4: GEORGE PÉREZ. I love me some George, but there's no way he's ahead of Adams. Nevertheless, I grew up on his debut in The Avengers (#141) -- so memorable was the issue that it was immortalized with a binder-style notebook (see top of the display) and that I guarded it with my life in 6th grade. I still consider Avengers #147 to be one of the best issues ever (Vinnie Colletta's inks really help George here), and the highlight of Pérez's Avengers-Squadron Supreme run. More recently, his volume 3 Avengers run with Kurt Busiek is superb (which includes an homage to the original #141 Squadron Supreme cover, which was drawn by Gil Kane by the way), not to mention the four-issue series (also with Busiek) Avengers-JLA.

#3: J.H. WILLIAMS III.

#2: FRANK QUITELY. Huh??? I am totally flabbergasted that this average artist made it so far up the list. I was disappointed when he replaced Bryan Hitch on The Authority, and his New X-Men work is merely OK. WTF??

#1: JACK KIRBY. Without question, he should be #1. He set the standard for all who came after, and he's the true creative genius behind the Marvel explosion of the 1960s. No amount of praise can do "The King" adequate justice; I'll just offer up a classic Kirby cover as tribute:


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December 22, 2010

Top Ten Star Trek Villains

The Unapologetic Geek has his list, so naturally it piqued my interest -- and memory -- as to what my own list would include.

10) TOLIAN SORAN. Not who you'd normally think of when nominating "Trek" villains; however, just consider what this El-Aurian (yep, he's of the same race as "TNG's" Guinan) did (pictured at right): He destroyed an entire star (and hence, its solar system) just so he could live forever. Yep, for over 100 years he was obsessed with getting into the Nexus, where immortality is achieved and dreams come true. Apparently, he tried getting into it during the maiden voyage of the USS Enterprise-B, was unsuccessful, and his next opportunity didn't come again until Capt. Picard's era. (See "Star Trek: Generations.")

9) THE THOLIANS. These crystal/insect-like aliens (regular "Trek" universe) were first glimpsed in TOS's "The Tholian Web" but really came to life during "Enterprise." In that series' "In a Mirror, Darkly," the [Mirror Universe] Tholians have captured the USS Defiant from the "regular" universe (and from over 100 years in the future) -- indeed, this Defiant is the same vessel seen in "The Tholian Web." Y'see, the Tholians have a thing for capturing future technology and using it for themselves! They slaughtered everyone on board the Defiant and would have been successful in reverse-engineering the ship had not the ISS Enterprise, the Mirror Universe doppleganger of the "standard" 1701, intervened and stolen the ship from the Tholians' clutches. Even "standard" universe Tholians have a knack for future tech, as shown in "Enterprise's" "Future Tense."

8) V'GER. It's debatable as to whether this massive, all-devouring space cloud is actually a villain, but when you kill untold numbers of people because you're on a ... quest, well ... V'Ger is actually Voyager VI, launched by long-dead NASA and which disappeared into a black hole a couple of hundred years prior. It was discovered by a highly advanced race "of machines" (Gene Roddenberry himself once said it may have been the Borg planet that discovered V'Ger) on the other side of the galaxy, which then sent it on its way back to find its creator -- humans. It was about to totally annihilate the Earth until Kirk and co. convinced it otherwise.

7) SPECIES 8472. What sort of ... creature can dismantle the Borg? Species 8472 can, that's who. Seen only in "Voyager," these denizens of "fluidic space" eventually actually set up a faux Starfleet Academy to prepare for what they thought would be an inevitable conflict with the Federation. Fortunately, thanks especially to Chakotay, the Voyager gang persuaded them not to ... and even made friends of them!

6) THE CARDASSIANS. Geek only mentions one, Gul Dukat, at #7. But there were many more, and their occupation of -- and subsequent departure from -- the planet Bajor is the basis for the series "Deep Space Nine." These nasties teamed up with the Dominion over the Federation/Klingon/Romulan Alliance, and one had the audacity to torture Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (at left)! They're first seen in "TNG's" "The Wounded," and though there was a peace treaty between the Fed and Cardassians at that time, they were clearly up to no good.

5) THE ROMULANS. Geek's #6 choice, these Roman Legion knock-offs have caused numerous instances of grief for the Federation since before its founding. According to "Trek" lore, the Earth-Romulan War occurred in the mid-22nd century, and gets a mention (thanks to the time-traveling Daniels) in an early episode of "Enterprise." We first see these Vulcan cousins in TOS's superb "Balance of Terror," and they've connived against Starfleet ever since. Notably, the Roms once attempted to invade Vulcan ("TNGs" "Unification" parts 1 and 2), and to infiltrate Starfleet with a clone of Picard ("Star Trek: Nemesis"), but now the planet no longer exists based on the backstory of the reimagined "Star Trek" film from 2009 -- it was destroyed by a supernova. In fact, the whole alternate universe in which the reimagined "Trek" exists was created by the time-traveling Romulan Nero.

4) THE DOMINION. They are Geek's #5. I didn't follow "Deep Space Nine" very closely except for various individual episodes (especially the absolutely sensational "Far Beyond the Stars"); nevertheless, many of the Dominion War entries filled that bill. Led by the shapeshifting Founders, the Dominion was comprised of many races and eventually came into contact with the Federation via the Bajoran wormhole. Some of "Trek's" best space battle scenes take place in this conflict's pinnacle, with Starfeet teaming up with the Klingons and Romulans against this Gamma Quadrant threat.

3) THE KLINGONS. Also Geek's #3. And rightly so! Warriors bred, the exist solely for battle, and that alone alone makes them worthy ... and deadly. Over the course of the various "Treks" we learned that Klingon society was once a lot more peaceful and even bookwormish, which sorta makes sense since they have high technology -- and you wouldn't expect the society that they currently possess to even manage a world government let alone interstellar travel. (Larry Niven's very similar Kzinti race obtained their high-tech from another [star-faring] species.)

2) KHAN. He's Geek's #2, too. And why not? He's a diabolical as they come -- a genetically engineered superman in part responsible for "Trek"-Earth's World War III. He and some of his similarly enhanced comrades were shot into space aboard a spaceship, to be later salvaged by Capt. Kirk's Enterprise. Fortunate to have defeated Khan, Kirk maroons Khan and his minions on Ceti Alpha V -- only to be later discovered by the crew (which included Pavel Chekov) of the USS Reliant, as seen in the best "Trek" film of all, "The Wrath of Khan." (Yes, just ignore that Chekov wasn't onboard the Enterprise when Khan first appeared, and that the Federation somehow didn't know about Ceti Alpha VI exploding shortly after Kirk deposited Khan and crew on its neighboring planet ...)

1) THE BORG. They're Geek's #1 as well. Introduced during the second season of "TNG" by the omnipotent Q (he had to teach the Federation a lesson in humility, it seemed), they're like a humanoid version of Robert Heinlein's Pseudo-Arachnids from Starship Troopers. They're the basis for "TNG's" best two-part cliffhanger episode(s) and the second-best "Trek" film of all-time ("First Contact"). Also noteworthy: Their "transwarp conduit" network allowed the starship Voyager to get back to Earth in that series' finale.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

  • The Xindi. Devoting an entire season of "Enterprise" to tracking them down was stupid in the extreme; however, offing over seven million humans in Florida makes you pretty nasty.
  • The "Conspiracy" aliens. In possibly the greatest loose end in "Trek" lore, these "brain parasites" almost succeeded in taking over Starfleet and the Federation (in "TNG's" "Conspiracy"). Fortunately, Picard and the Enterprise-D crew thwarted their plans -- but not before the "queen" was able to activate a homing beacon to (apparently) the parasites' homeworld. (These creatures were #9 on Geek's list.)
  • Shinzon and the Remans. Shinzon is the previously mentioned Jean-Luc Picard clone that was to be used by the Romulans against Starfleet. But when these plans went asunder, Shinzon was exiled to the Romulus sister planet of Remus, where he was "adopted" by the aliens. His revenge included offing the entire Romulan senate and almost the whole planet Earth.

OK, hit me with those who I forgot! ;-)

UPDATE: How about these villains I conveniently forgot?

  • The Doomsday Machine. A planet-busting ice cream cone-lookin' thing appears ready to trample its way through the Federation. Be sure to watch the "remastered" version of this outstanding TOS episode.
  • Admiral Satie. This preposterously over-zealous Starfleet admiral almost turned the organization into a McCarthyite guilt-by-association confab. Thankfully, Capt. Picard used her pop's own words against her, and that was that!
  • The Devidians. These nasties traveled back in time to the 19th century to snatch up human life forces (from near-dead people) to, urp!, ingest! The Enterprise-D crew, upon realizing the plot, promptly put a few photon torpedoes into the Devidians' cave -- and that is that.
  • Temporal Cold War Guy. Never fully explored in "Enterprise," this ... "guy" involved various factions (most notably the Suliban) from across time and space in a conflict which could have rendered the time-space continuum asunder.
  • Henry Starling. This 20th century hippie turns yuppie after discovering a 29th century Federation timeship. His actions could lead to the destruction of the entire solar system, but he doesn't care. Therefore, it's up to the Voyager crew to stop him. (The positive of Starling's actions, though? He started the computer revolution!)
  • Annorax and the Krenim Imperium. Using time-altering technology, these Delta Quadrant inhabitants have been altering their local history for who-knows-how long in a quest to "rejuvenate" Annorax's wife(!!). Just imagine if they used this tech against the Federation in the Alpha Quadrant.
  • The Hirogen. Also of the Delta Quadrant, these dudes' hunting rituals make the Klingons look tame in comparison. But since they're some 70K light-years away, they ain't all that scary ... not to mention that Voyager was able to hold 'em off by its lonesome.
Posted by Hube at 08:13 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 18, 2010

Top 50 comicbook artists of all-time

Comic Book Resources has a list of the best 50 artists of all-time as voted on by readers. Here's the list thus far (they're in the Top 10, doing three per day now, apparently); the ones I'm familiar with are in bold ... and my commentary is in italics. I'll update the Top Ten, as CBR does, in new posts.

50 Jaime Hernandez – 213 points (3 first place votes)
49 Sean Phillips – 222 points (1 first place vote)
48 Francis Manapul – 230 points (8 first place votes)
47 David Finch – 242 points
46 Doug Mahnke – 249 points (5 first place votes)

45 Mike Deodato – 251 points (5 first place votes). Realistic artist, although his men are way too muscular and females way too curvaceous (see the Black Widow at right, for example). Did quite a bit of work during the wretched "The Crossing," where Iron Man became a teenager.

44 Steve Dillon – 253 points (2 first place votes)
43 Paul Pope – 255 points (3 first place votes)
42 Ryan Ottley – 261 points (7 first place votes)
41 Mike Allred – 262 points (2 first place votes)
40 Adam Hughes – 273 points (3 first place votes)
39 Alex Maleev – 276 points (2 first place votes)

38 Dave Gibbons – 278 points (1 first place vote) Perhaps best known for his work on Watchmen, in my opinion Gibbons is just a middle-of-the-road artist -- not great, but certainly not bad, either. He also teamed with [writer] Frank Miller (#8 on the list) on the superb Give Me Liberty and its sequels.

37 Tim Sale – 283 points (5 first place votes)
36 Joe Kubert – 285 points (4 first place votes)

35 Steve McNiven – 291 points (4 first place votes) Has done a lot of modern work, notably on various Avengers titles. Pretty good stuff.

34 Barry Windsor-Smith – 294 points (3 first place votes) Very gritty work with a quite realistic touch; some of his early work, however, featured way-out of proportion anatomy. But that same work was quite "cinematic" in approach. I loved his work on Machine Man 2020.

33 Jim Aparo – 298 points (4 first place votes)

32 Moebius – 305 points (10 first place votes) Didn't this guy only do posters??

31 Gene Colan – 335 points (4 first place votes) Gene set the standard for the "cinematic" approach to comics. His panels were angled in such a way as to make it feel as if you were watching a film. His work on Daredevil and Iron Man in the 1960s was sensational.

30 Ivan Reis – 385 points (5 first place votes) Very realistic contemporary artist with a John Buscema-feel to his work.

29 Arthur Adams – 388 points (6 first place votes)
28 Olivier Coipel – 408 points (6 first place votes)
27 Chris Bachalo – 429 points (11 first place votes)

26 Gil Kane – 435 points (3 first place votes) One of the masters of the Silver Age, his realistic work perhaps reached its zenith with Amazing Spider-Man #s 121-122, the death of Gwen Stacy. Check out Kane's "signature pose."

25 David Mazzucchelli – 438 points (5 first place votes) Incredibly detailed and realistic artist, he's perhaps best known for his work with the aforementioned Frank Miller on Batman: Year One and Daredevil: Born Again.

24 Walter Simonson – 449 points (7 first place votes)
23 Jim Steranko – 467 points (5 first place votes)
22 Brian Bolland – 489 points (9 first place votes)
21 Bill Sienkiewicz – 493 points (10 first place votes)

20 Bryan Hitch – 495 points (6 first place votes) Incredible contemporary artist perhaps best known for his work on Marvel's The Ultimates and Wildstrom's The Authority. Hitch masterfully extrapolates on the "cinematic" approach perfected by guys like Gene Colan and John Buscema.

19 John Romita Sr. – 505 points (7 first place votes) Although a stalwart Marvel Silver Ager, I was never overly impressed with his work. His women, in particular, all looked the same, and his action scenes were too "wooden."

18 Will Eisner – 512 points (10 first place votes)
17 Stuart Immonen – 535 points (10 first place votes)

16 John Buscema – 593 points (17 first place votes) Buscema is a god among men in the comic realm. His Silver Age work was beyond phenomenal (Avengers, Silver Surfer, Fantastic Four) and his sense of realism and cinematography were unparalleled. (At left: Buscema details how the Silver Surfer first got his powers from Galactus.)

15 Alan Davis – 678 points (14 first place votes) Another superb contemporary penciller, he perhaps is best known for his work on Excalibur and more recently his stint on The Avengers.

14 Darwyn Cooke – 686 points (21 first place votes)
13 John Cassaday – 728 points (13 first place votes)

12 Steve Ditko – 749 points (5 first place votes) Ditko is a hard guy to pigeonhole. His work on the beginnings of Amazing Spider-Man has to be his best-ever; his other stuff, in my opinion, is easily forgettable due to its ridiculous overly cartoony nature.

11 Mike Mignola – 810 points (12 first place votes) I've never read his Hellboy, but I've seen some of his other stuff. He has a very cartoony style, but it works well because of his incredible cinematographic approach.

10 Alex Ross – 822 points (21 first place votes) You really cannot get much better than Alex Ross. Why he is only #10 is a travesty. Just scan through Kingdom Come and Marvels and if you're not literally gasping at how breathtaking his paints are, well, you're a dolt.

9 John Romita Jr. – 846 points (13 first place votes) Sorry, but the fact that JR Jr. is ahead of such giants as John Buscema, Gene Colan and Alex Ross makes me want to tear my hair out. If Romita Jr. doesn't have the right inker, he's a mess. Period.

8 Frank Miller – 897 points (10 first place votes) Miller is just an OK penciller but his action sense is hard to top. Just check out his work on Daredevil to see what I mean. He's a much better writer, in my opinion.

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December 04, 2010

The ultimate Christmas tree ornament

'Nuff said.

(BTW, if you're admiring those pretty hands, they belong to my girlfriend, not yours truly.) ;-)

Posted by Hube at 09:44 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 03, 2010

Live-action "Star Blazers" movie is out!

Well, in Japan at any rate. Cannot wait till it gets to the States!

IGN has a clip (all Japanese). An English subtitled trailer is here. Official(?) English website is here.

Anyone else remember that soap opera-like cartoon from the late 70s/early 80s -- "Star Blazers" but originally called "Space Cruiser/Battleship Yamato" in Japan? The first two series were fairly prominent here in the local TV market and were cutting edge for that time. In the original series, Earth is under attack by the planet Gamilon. By 2199, most of humanity is dead and its remnants are underground. But then a mysterious capsule lands on the planet -- with a message of hope. It contains schematics for a "wave motion" engine, an FTL (faster than light) drive, and a notification that their planet, Iscandar, (located in the Larger Magellanic Cloud) has a device which will remove the radiation from Earth. (I always wondered why, if they can send blueprints for an FTL drive, they couldn't also just send plans for the radiation cleaner! Oh well ...) The Yamato's long journey to obtain the device features some of the coolest space battle scenes ever seen in cartoons, especially when the Yamato (renamed Argo for the American audience) fires its "wave motion gun." And you can check out the [English] show's introduction here.

The sequel featured the Yamato/Argo and the Earth Defense Fleet against the Comet Empire from the Andromeda Galaxy. It's probably longer than it had to be, but the space battle sequences in the second series are absolutely sensational, particularly the epic confrontation between the C.E. and the Earth Defense Fleet led by the cruiser Andromeda. The Argo, which was damaged, wasn't present at this battle, but ultimately leads the last-ditch effort against the Comet Empire's Prince Zordar. Here's the cartoon's second season intro.

Series 3 was a definite step down. Seemingly playing on the original series' premise, our sun is hit by a stray missile from a nearby galactic battle which increases its rate of fusion. Earth must either evacuate or find a way to stop the sun from going nova. Of course, the crew of the Yamato/Argo leads the way. Interestingly, the Galman Empire in this series is shown to be from where the Gamilons of series 1 descended. I at one time possessed series 3, but it was so convoluted and its premise so repetitive that I never actually finished watching it.

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November 30, 2010

Miffed

OK, I just got back from some food shopping. It's time for a compare and contrast ...

I have "bonus cards" for two stores -- Acme and Shop Rite. I usually go to the latter as, as a whole, their prices are lower (and even though the Acme is closer). But today I was miffed. Here's why:

Last week I stopped by my very-close Acme to pick up some odds and ends. One of these, a bottle of skin moisturizer, had a sale tag on the shelf. That's why I bought the brand I did, natch. However, when I rang it up at the self-checkout, it was $2.00 more than what the shelf tag said. The [very nice] lady overseeing the area hustled to check it out. She came and said "You're right -- and you get it for free as that's our guarantee." I told her I'd be content with merely the $2.00 advertised sale price, but she insisted on the store guarantee of free. I didn't argue!

This afternoon, I hit the Shop Rite. My first stop was the deli where I ordered some Swiss cheese that was on sale -- $5.99/lb. But when the guy puts the price tag on it, it says $7.99. I inform him of the sale sign right behind him, whereupon he says "Use your bonus card and the savings will appear. If that doesn't work, come back and we'll deduct the savings." OK, fine. However, when I go to checkout, the savings doesn't appear. I tell the cashier, whereupon a supervisor takes the cheese to the deli to check it out. After well over five minutes, she comes back and says that I ordered the wrong cheese. I reiterate what the guys told me at the deli. She then says, "Well, since you waited so long, I'll just take off the difference" -- like she's doing me a favor! Then, as I continue to run items through, a bottle of spaghetti sauce, which I wouldn't have even bought had it not been for the sale tag on the shelf, comes up at regular price! I tell the cashier about that. She acts irritated, as if I'm trying to put one over on her. As she's about to call for the super (again), I say, "Y'know what? Just delete the item from my bill. I don't want it."

A tale of two markets ... and of customer service. You can probably guess where I'll be shopping more regularly.

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November 28, 2010

The ten best comics stories I have ever read

I was perusing the Colossus comics archives and I really noticed I never posted on such. That's weird. (Well, I sorta did here.) At any rate, I've had it with politics this Thanksgiving weekend and I was pontificating on why so much modern comics writing blows so badly. I've been managing to get my comics fix by reading and rereading old classics. And here's a list of the best stories I have ever read:

1) SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY. Kurt Busiek is at his pinnacle here with a largely action-less story that focuses on ... well, story. I doubt I've had a bigger smile on my face than when I finished the last page of S.I. It helps if you have kids, too, to really appreciate this book.

2) AVENGERS FOREVER. If you've never read (or barely read) the Avengers over the years, forget this story. If you are an Earth's Mightiest fan, this is indispensable. Also written by Busiek and drawn by the phenomenal Carlos Pacheco, several Avengers from different time periods are whisked to the present to stop the evil machinations of time-lord Immortus. Busiek is the undisputed master of continuity, and no other book displays this better. Except for maybe ...

3) MARVELS. Yep, it's Busiek again. Told from the perspective of Daily Bugle photographer Phil Sheldon, Marvels covers some of the most compelling moments in Marvel history, including Galactus' first visit to Earth and Gwen Stacy's death. But it was the chapter on the X-Men and anti-mutant hysteria that is best. Again, if you have children, you'll find it hard to hold back the tears regarding the tale of the little mutant girl Maggie. Slam-bang paints by Alex Ross.

4) THE KREE-SKRULL WAR. This early 70s multi-part epic featuring art by the great Neal Adams is tough to beat.

5) IRON MAN #78. Back in the day, when deadlines actually mattered in comics, "fill-in" issues were the norm when said deadline couldn't be met. One such "fill-in" edition turned into a masterpiece, and such is Bill Mantlo and George Tuska's "Long Time Gone."

6) SUPERMAN: RED SON. The politically risible-yet-talented Mark Millar's best work, this yarn imagines the Man of Steel as a Soviet superhero. Millar expertly weaves virtually all of DC's marquee characters into the story, and the ending is spot-on perfect!

7) ALIENS BOOK ONE. Writer Mark Verheiden's work in this first "what if?" look at post-"Aliens" happenings is simply sensational. The original is in black and white, and Dark Horse has since renamed the book (title escapes me at the moment), but just try not to be freaked out after reading this, especially the interlude "Theory of Alien Propagation."

8) DAREDEVIL "BORN AGAIN." Frank Miller and David Mazzuccelli's magnum opus on the title, it details what the Kingpin does to Matt Murdock upon learning he is really DD. In a word, "wow."

9) KINGDOM COME. This Mark Waid/Alex Ross masterpiece takes place in a DC future-world where its marquee superheroes have pretty much given up their "duties" as younger, less scrupulous meta-humans prowl the globe. Ross' paints are awe-inspiring.

10) IRON MAN #281-283. This introduction of War Machine by Len Kaminski and Kev Hopgood is the highlight of this iron duo's run on the book. The action is non-stop, Hopgood's pencils (with inks by Bob Wiacek) outstanding, and Kaminski's "take no prisoners" approach by Tony Stark/Iron Man/War Machine is stupendously kick-ass.

Posted by Hube at 09:33 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 20, 2010

Boston Globe's 50 Scariest Movies of All Time

Yet another list which was fairly intriguing. I don't agree with a few of these, but so what? That's what makes lists like these so great! The ones I've seen are in bold.

50: Arachnophobia
49: The Innocents
48: Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2
47: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (Wha-a-a-a ...??)
46: The Wicker Man (1973 version)
45: The Blob (1988 version)
44: Rosemary's Baby (Scared the living crap out of me as a kid.)
43: The Brood
42: Event Horizon
41: Dawn of the Dead (2004 version)
40: Eraserhead
39: Amityville Horror (1978 version) (Again, wh-a-a-a-a?? This film is a pathetic version of the classic book.)
38: Pet Sematary
37: Open Water
(Freaked me out!)
36: A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984 version)
35: The Fly (1986 version)
(Not very scary, in my opinion, but rather gory and sci-fi-ish.)
34: Salem's Lot (1979 version)
33: Gates of Hell
32: Session 9
31: In the Mouth of Madness
30: Altered States
29: The Mothman Prophecies
28: The Mist
27: Videodrome
26: Se7en
25: War of the Worlds (1953 version)
(Still holds up extremely well today; if this made the list, I'd certainly put Spielberg's 2005 version in here too.)
24: Saw
23: Janghwa, Hongryeon (A Tale of Two Sisters)
22: The Silence of the Lambs
21: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974 version)
20: Hellraiser
19: The Changeling (1980 film with George C. Scott)
18: 28 Days Later
17: Pan's Labyrinth
16: Jacob's Ladder
15: Jaws
14: The Exorcist

13: Quatermass and the Pit
12: Cloverfield (Should not be this highly ranked.)
11: The Shining (1980 version)
10: Audition
9: Halloween (1978 version) (Still scary today after over 30 years.)
8: Evil Dead II
7: Dawn of the Dead (1978 version)
6: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 version)
(By far the spookiest of the remakes and worthy of this high ranking.)
5: Alien (This scary-as-shit flick will forever be in moviedom's Top 5.)
4: The Ring
3: [REC] (Saw this for the first time in the summer of 2009; WAY better than its US counterpart.)
2: Ju-On
1: The Thing (1982 version) (WOO HOO! One of my favorite films of all-time, scary or otherwise. And this sure IS scary. And unintentionally funny, too!)

Posted by Hube at 07:00 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

No one cares

The AP via Four Color Media Monitor:

Has Spider-Man spun his final web?

Marvel Comics said Tuesday it will unveil a story line in Ultimate Spider-Man - a separate imprint from its other comics - with a title that may prove unsettling to the webslinger's fans: "Death of Spider-Man."

The publisher is playing coy about what fate may befall Peter Parker, but the story is likely to be groundbreaking given that the Ultimate Comics line has been less than kind to several characters in the past, killing off Magneto, Wasp, Wolverine and others for good.

"For good?" Has time stopped? You really think that (especially) Magneto and Wolverine were killed off "for good," Ultimate line or not?

Cheeyeah, right. NO character stays dead "for good," and especially not marquee heroes/villains. So, does anyone really believe that, if Spidey is killed in the Ultimate line, he won't be brought back at some point? Remember, he is the symbol of Marvel Comics.

Honestly, I can't think of any Marvel character that stayed dead "forever." Even fairly minor characters. Take a gander, just off the top of my head:

  • Captain America. Recently "killed" and brought back.
  • Bucky. Cap's partner from WWII was believed "killed" in the accident that threw Cap into suspended animation for some 20 years. Guess what? Bucky was too -- except that he was recovered by the Soviets.
  • Iron Man/Tony Stark. In a ridiculous attempt to attract younger readers, Marvel "killed" Iron Man in 1996 and had the Avengers bring forth a teenage Tony Stark to "replace" him. It was a marketing disaster of monumental proportions. So, the omnipotent Franklin Richards (son of the Fantastic Four's married couple) "reintegrated" adult Stark a couple years later.
  • Jean Grey/Phoenix. In one of the greatest comics stories ever, Jean Grey of the X-Men could not control the Phoenix power she inadvertantly inherited some 20 issues prior. She had already destroyed a solar system, and now the aliens wanted vengeance. Instead of risking Phoenix rising from her again, she committed suicide (see panels below). But ... she was brought back years later.

  • Wonder Man. Definitely a minor character, he was first killed way back in Avengers #9 but then resurfaced in the #150s -- apparently from a "latent state." He was "killed" again a couple decades later in Force Works #1, but a few years after that Kurt Busiek revived him -- again -- in the pages of volume three Avengers.
  • Gwen Stacy. Peter Parker's first true love was killed by the Green Goblin in the classic Amazing Spider-Man #122. She was brought back (usually as a clone ... or two or three or more) not to mention that so was ...
  • Norman Osborn. The original Green Goblin who "killed" Gwen apparently died when his glider, which he had hoped to impale Spider-Man with, missed and zapped him instead. But guess what? Right -- he wasn't dead! Most recently, Osborn has morphed into one of Marvel's most dastardly villains, even donning an Iron Man suit and leading a team of "heroes."
  • The Original Human Torch. Even one of Marvel's original superheroes couldn't be left in peace. Artist-writer John Byrne brought the Torch back in the 1980s and had him join the West Coast Avengers. He's since been "killed" again.
  • Kang the Conqueror. One of the Avengers' biggest nemeses has been "killed" and brought back too many times to shake a stick at. Perhaps the most head-shaking moment was in Avengers #143 when it was stated that, after Thor pummeled the living sh** out of him, his "atoms had been dispersed across time and space, never to be reintegrated" (or something like that!). But a few years later -- yep -- tantalizing Earth's Mightiest yet again.

Sales of comics are nowhere near what they were a decade ago. It's certainly just my opinion, but I think fans (like myself) have just grown weary of the endless gimmicks -- including "deaths" -- which they know ultimately mean nothing in the whole scheme of things. This is why I ceased purchasing new comics over two years ago. It just got plain ridiculous.

Just give me a good writer and a good story and I'll be happy as a clam. (Try "Superman: Secret Identity" by Kurt Busiek and "The Walking Dead" by Robert Kirkman, now an AMC original TV series.) No need for grandiose nonsense.

Posted by Hube at 09:58 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 06, 2010

Support Project Valour-IT

Please consider giving a donation to Soldier's Angels annual Project Valour-IT fundraiser which helps purchase technology for wounded veterans.

You can donate in honor of any of the branches of the service, but I'd recommend giving through the Marines if for no other reason than you don't want to piss off the Marines.

Posted by PaulSmithJr at 11:25 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 03, 2010

Election Post-Mortem

WINNERS:
* Sensible anti-Obama candidates. The vast majority of the GOP House winners were common sense conservatives who took advantage of the disaffection with Obama's policies. Bigger gains than 1994 is highly significant.

* The public. They were pissed off and they stopped one-party government.

LOSERS:
* Obama's policies, by and large. The public was ignored by the administration regarding many of its biggest initiatives and the public sent a strong message.

* The state of California. The most populous state in the Union voted to keep Barbara Boxer in the Senate and rehash "Moonbeam" Jerry Brown as its governor? The state is in dire straits, and they turn aside very politically attractive candidates Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman? They deserve whatever comes their way.

MIXED:
* The Tea Party. Its candidates were most significantly represented in some key Senate match-ups across the country. The biggest success by far was Marco Rubio in Florida. The biggest loser was Sharron Angle in Nevada, allowing the risible Harry Reid to remain in the Senate. And it appears that Sarah Palin's US Senate pick in Alaska, Jim Miller, is going to lose to former GOPer-turned write-in candidate Lisa Murkowski.

What happened?

If Delaware's own Christine O'Donnell's candidacy is any indicator, Nevadans and Alaskans suffered a similar fate with Angle and Miller (albeit to a much lesser extent). As I've noted here at Colossus numerous times over the last couple months, O'Donnell was an awful candidate. Being a native Delawarean all my life allowed me to have a more intimate knowledge of the minutiae surrounding O'D's campaign than a casual observer somewhere else. So, if Angle's and Miller's campaigns were in any way similar -- and they were in some respects (the locals would certainly know better than I) -- that would account for their losses. Clearly, if [Tea Party] Delaware and Nevada had chosen better, they would have fared better.

The idea behind the Tea Party remains a good one, certainly, but its disciples have to recognize that, although America is a right-center nation, "center" is part of that description! O'Donnell, Angle and (perhaps) Miller were judged more "right" than "center," whereas Marco Rubio was not. Here in Delaware, I understand the desire to replace Mike Castle (as Christine O'Donnell did) but one has to remember the old "battle vs. war" adage. Trashing virtual sure things so that your state becomes bluer than blue is not a winning strategy.

Lastly, how'd I do with my pre-election predictions? I had said:

House: GOP +53 -- looks like I underestimated by roughly ten!
Senate: GOP +8 -- looks as if I'll be 2-3 seats short there.
Upset: Murkowski wins in AK -- currently looks as if this will hold true.

Highest Ranking Loser: Harry Reid -- oops. Ugh.

Posted by Hube at 03:41 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 24, 2010

Agony

Last night's Phillies' loss to San Francisco was almost -- almost -- as agonizing a feeling as when the New England Patriots' Adam Vinatieri aced the game-winning field goal at the end of Super Bowl 36 to upset the powerhouse St. Louis Rams 20-17 back in 2002.

Why, exactly?

Because this Phillies team was loaded. Incredible offensive firepower, and their pitching was lights-out when compared to their championship season of 2008 (c'mon -- Jamie Moyer and Brett Myers compared to Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt??). The 2001 Rams were similarly more gifted than their 1999 Super Bowl-winning squad. Their offense, believe it or not, was even better than two years previous, but their defense, especially, was substantially improved. Their 2001 ranks, if memory serves, were #1 (offense) and #3 (defense). 1999's team was 13-3; 2001's was 14-2 and those two losses were incredibly close despite the Rams playing incredibly sloppily. The Rams entered Super Bowl XXXVI fourteen point favorites. Their loss that Sunday was, at the time, the second biggest upset in Super Bowl history (the biggest being Super Bowl III when Joe Namath's Jets upset the Baltimore Colts, and the second now being the NY Giants' upset of New England in 2008).

This year's Phillies should have crushed the Giants in the Championship Series. How many opportunities did they have to score with runners in scoring position -- especially last night? I lost track. It was pathetic. The Phils are clearly the most talented team in the majors this year. But if you're not gonna prove it, you obviously don't deserve the accolades. Mike Martz and the 2001 Rams clearly did not a decade ago; the 2010 Phils didn't either. I don't know if part of it is conceit, part a feeling of "we deserve it," part laziness, and/or part lack of desire.

All I know is it sucks.


Adam Vinatieri gives the Pats their first championship
over the heavily favored Rams in SB XXXVI.


The Giants celebrate winning the National League
pennant after beating the heavily favored Phils.

Posted by Hube at 12:16 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

October 05, 2010

The Philly Daily News deserves a "bravo" for this

Well, specifically conservative pundit Dom Giordano, whose column today on parents and their kids is right on the mark.

LAST week, a federal judge refused to suspend an innovative 24/7 policy developed by the Haddonfield School District that punishes students for off-campus drug and alcohol use. The district, trying to curb substance abuse, would bar students from extracurricular activities if they're accused of breaking the law.

The policy was cheered by many because it was a reasonable attempt to do what a number of Haddonfield, N.J., parents were failing to do - raise their children in a responsible manner. Fearing that the loss of extracurricular activities on their child's resume would prevent them from getting into a prestigious college, these parents opened their checkbooks and hired lawyers to fight the policy.

In the eyes of these parents, the fact that their children were arrested for underage drinking was irrelevant - the warning signs of potential substance abuse were secondary. Sadly, what was important was that nothing get in their child's way of getting into a "name" college.

First, good for that judge. And now -- that "other" aspect of parent hassles that teachers dread. Usually in the media and elsewhere, you hear about apathetic parents who never show up for meetings or open houses, and never return calls or e-mails. But on the other side of the coin are the type of parents from this article -- the mom and dad who believe their kid's feces don't stink. Every form of [disciplinary] action by a teacher or administrator is questioned and fought. (Who are we to make such a judgment about their child, after all?)

I mean, c'mon -- what good are you doing your kid by pulling this sort of nonsense??

Girodano has more examples:

While education reform is a hot topic today, what about parental reform? Bad parenting is equally harmful to a child's ability to achieve success at school and in life. If you don't think this is serious, consider some of these scenarios:

"Not My Child" Syndrome. At one time or another, most children behave badly. But way too many parents, confronted by another parent or teacher about their child's behavior, get defensive and go into blind denial mode. Without proper discipline, kids develop a sense of entitlement and the dangerous realization that their bad behavior will go relatively unpunished.

Enabled by clueless parents, kids soon realize there are no moral boundaries. Bad behavior escalates. Yet no matter how many times these parents are confronted, they refuse to see reality. It probably pains them to think they've raised less-than-perfect children - but it's more painful to see the damage these disruptive kids do to the other kids they victimize.

And this is the ... "intangible" which the endless educational "reforms" present and coming down the pike never take into account. Teachers today are not only expected to teach, but to act as a parent to the kids too -- but without the means to discipline the kids as an actual parent would.

Here's another classic (personal favorite) head scratcher:

"Why haven't you ever contacted me about my child's grades and/or him not turning in work?" Hmm, let's see: First, elementary school has long been bye-byes. At this level, I have almost 170 students. Not only do I have approximately that many homework assignments and tests to grade when I assign them, but then I have to grade the corrections on them too. Then, not only do I input these grades on a hard copy page, I also put them online -- updated at least once per week -- for you to view at your leisure. And not only that, I post homework assignments on my personal webpage -- when they're assigned, when they're due, what they're worth, and a description of the work -- so that you know what's going on in my class. This is all in addition to the district-mandated interim reports and report cards, by the way. So, in other words, I am providing you with more than enough information about your child for you to keep up with what he/she is doing... and how he/she is doing. Oh, and remember what I mentioned at that Open House? "E-mail me anytime if you have any questions."

In essence, it boils down to the fact that if I had to e-mail (or call) each and every parent about each and every single assignment, test and quiz, a 24 hour day would be insufficient. But more importantly, me doing that aborgates mom and dad of their responsibility.

See also: Why I don't (and won't) coach anymore, Why I decided against coaching (again), and Sounds VERY familiar!

Posted by Hube at 07:22 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

September 30, 2010

R.T.T.T. stress -- and more

Saw this story over at Joanne Jacobs' edu-blog:

An elementary school teacher from South Gate who mysteriously disappeared last week was found dead about 9 a.m. Sunday in the Angeles National Forest, authorities have confirmed.

The Coroner confirmed the body found by a search and rescue team near Big Tujunga Canyon Road is that of Rigoberto Ruelas, 39, a fifth grade teacher at Miramonte Elementary School.

Authorities said it is a suicide, but did not say how he killed himself. An autopsy is scheduled for Monday.

Friends and family said he was feeling stressed about work and a recent teacher evaluation report printed in the Los Angeles Times.

"He kept saying that there's stress at work," said Ruelas' brother, Alejandro.

In my opinion, Ruelas had problems that went beyond just the reporting of his teacher rating in the paper. The report in the LA Times was this. The paper used a "value-added" analysis which "estimates the effectiveness of a teacher by looking at the test scores of his students."

Each student's past test performance is used to project his performance in the future. The difference between the child's actual and projected results is the estimated "value" that the teacher added or subtracted during the year. The teacher's rating reflects his average results after teaching a statistically reliable number of students.

But then we read this under the "What are some of the limitations of the value-added approach?" section:

Scholars continue to debate the reliability of various statistical models used for value-added estimates. Each has an inherent error rate that is difficult to measure. Value-added estimates may be influenced by students not being randomly assigned to classes, or by students moving from class to class during a single year. Likewise, they could be misleading for teachers who team-teach. Even many critics of the approach, however, say value-added is a vast improvement on the current evaluation system, in which principals make subjective judgments based on brief pre-announced classroom visits every few years.

I don't know how many times I've opined here and elsewhere on the idea of basing teacher evaluations solely on student test scores; if you (the public) want that to be the way your teachers get evaluated on their "effectiveness," so be it. You pay our salaries, after all. But the Times itself admits, this value-added method has its skeptics -- there's plenty of debate on its use -- yet it still thought it a good idea to publish the supposed "effectiveness" of all area 3rd, 4th and 5th grade teachers via the method. And even though, through its article FAQ, it notes the limitations of "value-added," how many people would actually take the time to comb through it? Or (more likely) will parents and others merely head for the "Find A Teacher" and "Find A School" menus and take what the results say as gospel? For me, this is essentially the same as a biased newspaper headline -- people see the headline, and barely scan the actual article.

I've also opined that I have little difficulty with such assessments if they're well thought-out and fair. In Ruelas' case, I was left wondering (and perhaps I missed something from the various pages of the Times story) about the across-grade comparison. For example, say a student has truly excellent teachers in 3rd and 4th grade. But then when they reached Ruelas in 5th grade, their test scores dipped -- because, say, Ruelas was just slightly "worse" a teacher than his 3rd and 4th grade counterparts. Contrariwise, Ruelas rating would be the opposite if his 3rd and 4th grade colleagues weren't very adequate; his rating would be positive since when they got to him the students' scores went up a bit. In other words, it is highly dependent on the teachers that precede you for your rating. Not very good teachers preceding you can "mask" another bad teacher, and very good teachers can "mask" another very good teacher.

Delaware is moving in this direction, and trust me -- if you know anyone in education in the first state, they probably don't know much about Race to the Top (RTTT) and, specifically, how it will affect them yet. But it's here now. Don't'cha think they should know (by now)?

In my case, I teach a first-year course. What would be my baseline? There's no teachers in the pipeline before me that teach the subject. Should I assume that I'll always get an "effective" (or "highly effective") rating since it's essentially inevitable that my students will show progress ... because they've never had the subject before me? I don't know! Apparently, we have to have a baseline test in place by next school year. What is it? I don't know. How will I be measured? I don't know. What exactly is on this test? I don't know.

And so on. Yet, this will be part of my job evaluation.

That's why I titled this post what I did. Again, ask educators across the state if they're 1) anxious, 2) uncertain, 3) stressed beyond belief, 4) scared, and 5) very worried. I bet all five will be an "affirmative." I've never seen a school year begin like this. But I will tell you that if things had been concretely laid out and teachers knew what to expect -- and how they'll be evaluated ... well, it'd be a whole different story.

Par for the course for the state? Don't get me started.

Posted by Hube at 07:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 21, 2010

O'Donnell's problem

... which (among others) I've mentioned numerous times: Qualifications. Check out the latest Fox News poll:

Regardless of how you plan to vote, do you think Chris Coons is qualified to be a U.S. Senator?

59% Yes
27% No
14% Not sure

Regardless of how you plan to vote, do you think Christine O’Donnell is qualified to be a U.S. Senator?

33% Yes
60% No
8% Not sure

The key is "regardless of how you plan to vote." I'd say "yes" to the former and "no" to the latter myself. Sure doesn't mean I in any way favor Coons' policies and ideas, though!

Look, a guy with just a high school diploma, who's worked manual labor for 15-20 years and successfully raised a family would be more qualified to run for Senate than Christine O'Donnell, in my book. At least the guy's worked, for one thing, and the fact that he's [successfully] raised a family means he's paid his bills and hasn't d***ed around on his obligations.

If such a person was running for Senate, I'd pull the switch for him in a heartbeat.

Posted by Hube at 05:31 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 18, 2010

And on a lighter note ...

I haven't done one of these in years on Colossus. It's the 'ol "Blog Meme" thingamajig. This time it's Which of the Following Flicks Have You Seen, and rumor is that if you've seen 85+, you have no life (which probably includes me, regardless).

( ) Rocky Horror Picture Show
(x) Grease
( ) Pirates of the Caribbean
( ) Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest
( ) Boondock Saints
(x) Fight Club
( ) Starsky and Hutch
( ) Neverending Story
(x) Blazing Saddles
(x) Airplane
( ) The Princess Bride
( ) AnchorMan
( ) Napoleon Dynamite
( ) Labyrinth
(x) Saw
(x) Saw II
( ) White Noise
( ) White Oleander
( ) Anger Management
( ) 50 First Dates
( ) The Princess Diaries
( ) The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
( ) Scream
( ) Scream 2
( ) Scream 3
( ) Scary Movie
( ) Scary Movie 2
( ) Scary Movie 3
( ) Scary Movie 4
(x) American Pie
(x) American Pie 2
(x) American Pie The Wedding
(x) American Pie Band Camp
( ) Harry Potter 1
( ) Harry Potter 2
( ) Harry Potter 3
( ) Harry Potter 4
( ) Resident Evil 1
( ) Resident Evil 2
(x) The Wedding Singer
( ) Little Black Book
( ) The Village
( ) Lilo & Stitch
( ) Finding Nemo
( ) Finding Neverland
( ) Signs
( ) The Grinch
(x) Texas Chainsaw Massacre
( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
( ) White Chicks
(x) Butterfly Effect
( ) 13 Going on 30
(x) I, Robot
( ) Robots
( ) Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
(x) Universal Soldier
( ) Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events
(x) Along Came Polly
(x) Deep Impact
(x) KingPin
( ) Never Been Kissed
(x) Meet The Parents
( ) Meet the Fockers
( ) Eight Crazy Nights
( ) Joe Dirt
( ) King Kong
( ) A Cinderella Story
( ) The Terminal
( ) The Lizzie McGuire Movie
( ) Passport to Paris
(x) Dumb & Dumber
( ) Dumber & Dumberer
( ) Final Destination
( ) Final Destination 2
( ) Final Destination 3
(x) Halloween
( ) The Ring
( ) The Ring 2
( ) Surviving X-MAS
( ) Flubber
( ) Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
( ) Practical Magic
( ) Chicago
( ) Ghost Ship
( ) From Hell
( ) Hellboy
( ) Secret Window
( ) I Am Sam
( )The Whole Nine Yards
( ) The Whole Ten Yards
(x) The Day After Tomorrow
( ) Child's Play
( ) Seed of Chucky
( ) Bride of Chucky
( ) Ten Things I Hate About You
( ) Just Married
( ) Gothika
(x) Nightmare on Elm Street
(x) Sixteen Candles
(x) Remember the Titans
( ) Coach Carter
( ) The Grudge
( ) The Grudge 2
(x) The Mask
( ) Son Of The Mask
( ) Bad Boys
( ) Bad Boys 2
(x) Joy Ride
( ) Lucky Number Slevin
(x) Ocean's Eleven
( ) Ocean's Twelve
( ) Bourne Identity
( ) Bourne Supremecy
( ) Lone Star
(x) Bedazzled
(x) Predator I
(x) Predator II
(x) The Fog
( ) Ice Age
( ) Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
( ) Curious George
(x) Independence Day
(x) Cujo
( ) A Bronx Tale
( ) Darkness Falls
(x) Christine
(x) ET
( ) Children of the Corn
( ) My Bosses Daughter
( ) Maid in Manhattan
(x) War of the Worlds
( ) Rush Hour
( ) Rush Hour 2
( ) Best Bet
( ) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
( ) She's All That
( ) Calendar Girls
( ) Sideways
(x) Mars Attacks
(x) Event Horizon
( ) Ever After
(x) Wizard of Oz
(x) Forrest Gump
( ) Big Trouble in Little China
(x) The Terminator
(x) The Terminator 2
(x) The Terminator 3
(x) X-Men
(x) X-2
(x) X-3
(x) Spider-Man
(x) Spider-Man 2
(x) Sky High
( ) Jeepers Creepers
( ) Jeepers Creepers 2
( ) Catch Me If You Can
( ) The Little Mermaid
( ) Freaky Friday
(x) Reign of Fire
( ) The Skulls
( ) Cruel Intentions
( ) Cruel Intentions 2
( ) The Hot Chick
(x) Shrek
( ) Shrek 2
( ) Swimfan
( ) Miracle on 34th street
( ) Old School
( ) The Notebook
( ) K-Pax
( ) Krippendorf's Tribe
( ) A Walk to Remember
( ) Ice Castles
( ) Boogeyman
( ) The 40-year-old Virgin
( ) Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring
( ) Lord of the Rings The Two Towers
( ) Lord of the Rings Return Of the King
(x) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
(x) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
(x) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
(x) Baseketball
(x) Hostel
( ) Waiting for Guffman
( ) House of 1000 Corpses
( ) Devils Rejects
( ) Elf
( ) Highlander
( ) Mothman Prophecies
(x) American History X
( ) Three
( ) The Jacket
( ) Kung Fu Hustle
( ) Shaolin Soccer
( ) Night Watch
( ) Monsters Inc.
( ) Titanic
(x) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
( ) Shaun Of the Dead
(x) Willard
( ) High Tension
( ) Club Dread
(x) Hulk
(x) Dawn Of the Dead
( ) Hook
( ) Chronicles Of Narnia The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
(x) 28 days later
( ) Orgazmo
( ) Phantasm
(x) Waterworld
( ) Kill Bill vol 1
( ) Kill Bill vol 2
( ) Mortal Kombat
(x) Wolf Creek
( ) Kingdom of Heaven
( ) The Hills Have Eyes
( ) I Spit on Your Grave aka the Day of the Woman
( ) The Last House on the Left
(x) Re-Animator
( ) Army of Darkness
(x) Star Wars Ep. I The Phantom Menace
(x) Star Wars Ep. II Attack of the Clones
(x) Star Wars Ep. III Revenge of the Sith
(x) Star Wars Ep. IV A New Hope
(x) Star Wars Ep. V The Empire Strikes Back
(x) Star Wars Ep. VI Return of the Jedi
( ) Ewoks Caravan Of Courage
( ) Ewoks The Battle For Endor
(x) The Matrix
(x) The Matrix Reloaded
(x) The Matrix Revolutions
(x) Animatrix
( ) Evil Dead
( ) Evil Dead 2
( ) Team America: World Police
( ) Red Dragon
(x) Silence of the Lambs
(x) Hannibal

Posted by Hube at 07:52 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 17, 2010

I admit it -- I'm seriously considering it too

Former GOP insider and prolific First State blogger Dave Burris has left the Republican Party to become an Independent:

After much thought, I left the Republican Party today and became an Independent. That's all I have to say on the subject at this time.

Me? I remain a GOPer. For now.

Posted by Hube at 09:54 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Krauthammer on O'Donnell

I won't go paragraph by paragraph dissecting the respected conservative columnist's article (I do highly recommend you read the entire thing, though); however, the following paragraph is highly relevant in light of many of the comments I've been getting on my recent posts:

Nor is opposition to O'Donnell's candidacy a sign of hostility or disrespect to the Tea Party. Many of those who wanted to see Castle nominated in Delaware have from the beginning defended the Tea Party movement from the mainstream media's scurrilous portrayal of it as a racist rabble of resentful lumpenproletarians. Indeed, it is among the most vigorous and salutary grass-roots movements of our time, dedicated to a genuine constitutionalism from which the country has strayed far.

If you're even vaguely familiar with what I've written here at Colossus, you know my defense of Tea Partiers, especially against the rantings of the MSM and "progressive" pundit lunkheads, is second to none. But I am hardly alone among those on the right who have myriad reservations about O'Donnell. After all, as I've said already here, why has her candidacy alone among Tea Party favorites across the land so split conservatives? It's a combination of the belief that she cannot win in the general election (whereas Mike Castle could -- no, would) and her highly suspect personal background.

If you feel I am [fill in an adjective] for not pulling the lever for O'Donnell this November, so be it. (I'm certainly not pulling it for Coons, either, please keep in mind.) When I know nothing of candidates in a race I don't pull a lever -- because I don't think that's fair. Similarly, if I am so turned off by both candidates, I won't pull it either.

(Thanks to Soccer Dad for the tip.)

Posted by Hube at 06:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 15, 2010

What the O'Donnell victory means (to me and otherwise)

It really says something when a race so splits the conservative punditry. And no race did that (to my knowledge) more than the Delaware Senate primary between Mike Castle and Christine O'Donnell. The question remains, even after O'Donnell's victory yesterday: Why? Conservatives across the land have been virtually united backing "upstart" candidates (usually supported by Tea Parties) across the country. What makes Delaware an exception to this?

It all comes down to one simple answer: O'Donnell is a lousy candidate with a lousy background.

It means something when popular conservative media outlets like the National Review and the Weekly Standard pan you. You think these magazines are big fans of Mike Castle? Hah!! You can bet your bottom dollar had there been even a marginally more qualified candidate than O'Donnell they'd be in his/her corner in a heartbeat. But there wasn't another candidate. So we were left with someone who cannot tell even the simplest of truths, who's had the sketchiest of "jobs" over the course of her adult life, and, contrary to conservative "values," initiated a meritless gender discrimination lawsuit against a Wilmington-based think tank (the ISI) for millions of dollars. Though Mike Castle's campaign manager was quite tactless when he said O'Donnell's qualifications are only good enough to "run for dog catcher," his sentiment is well-taken. O'Donnell is grossly unqualified to be a senator.

Here's the deal: If a candidate and/or a candidate's advisors/managers/whatever treat potential constituents like complete sh** because of a mere difference of opinion, I don't care if they are running for the GOP. Like perennial state GOP office candidate Mike Protack (who thankfully lost his primary last night, this time for New Castle County Council) in the past on the Delaware blogs, O'Donnell's goons have acted like nothing but cheap thugs towards those who expressed a difference of opinion -- in this case, a willingness to vote for Mike Castle. Therefore, why in the hell should they get my vote?

Therefore, I am either leaving the US Senate spot blank on my November ballot, or I'll do a write-in vote.

Posted by Hube at 03:00 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

September 09, 2010

Simple driving advice -- for dunces

Is it me or has driving become increasingly nutso over the last few years? I mean, I suppose what prompted me to write this post was an incident that happened to me yesterday. I was driving south to my girlfriend's place in Bear. I took 495 south, and then connected to 95 at Churchman's Marsh. Everything was fine. Traffic was moving smoothly.

But soon after I merged onto 95, the car that was in front of me braked suddenly to get into the right lane so as to make the next exit. But as I passed this car, the woman began shouting at me and gave me the finger!! Like ... why?? I didn't do a blessed thing! The only thing I could even remotely consider was that maybe I was tailgating her ... but I wasn't! Even so, with the amount of traffic on the highway at that time (4:45) all the cars on the road were pretty tightly packed together. Yeesh. Whatever.

Is asininity becoming as common as stupidity on the road nowadays? It seems like it.

Look, here's a few tips for the clueless:

  • The left lane is for passing, not (slowly) cruising. The usual culprits here are northern Delaware geriatrics and Pennsylvania drivers of any age. If you wanna go the speed limit on I-95, do it in the right f'in lane, OK?

  • On a four-lane road (two lanes going each way), if a school bus stops to drop off or pick up kids, the cars in the opposite direction do not have to stop!! I've gotten beeped at when I've continued through a bus light in such a situation, and yelled at by drivers at a subsequent stoplight. My reaction was basically to roll down my window and tell the idiot "to learn the rules of driving." Until then, keep your f'in mouth shut.

  • If you insist on talking on your cell phone while driving, a couple things: One, at least go the damn speed limit, huh? Why do so many cell phone gabbers tend to go upwards of 20 miles an hour under the posted limit? What, is your conversation that interesting? If so, pull the hell over and then continue the convo. And two, try to stay on the road while on your on the phone. I've often thought I was behind a severely inebriated person (often at mid-day) when I eventually discovered they were just gabbing on their cell.

  • If you text while driving (excepting being stopped temporarily at a stoplight), you're a complete menace on the road and should have your license suspended for a year.

Feel free to add your own helpful suggestions in the comments. :-)

Posted by Hube at 10:24 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 16, 2010

My second favorite superhero is coming back

That would be Marvel's Vision, and he'll be back in November:

As a result of Chaos War, The Vision, Captain Mar-Vell, Yellowjacket, Swordsman, Deathcry and Dr. Druid find themselves not only back to life, but also the best line of defense against one of the Chaos King’s allies — who happens to be a rather formidable Avengers villain.

Bravo. Vizh has always been one of Marvel's coolest characters -- essentially Marvel's version of Data from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" (although Vizh came first by 20 years) -- an android in search of his humanity. His best years were from his debut (1968) through the late 70s, and then again when boffo writer Kurt Busiek took the reins of The Avengers in 1998.

Hey, even if you don't dig robotic superheroes, 'ya gotta hand it to him for having bagged one of the hottest chicks in the Marvel Universe -- the Scarlet Witch.


Vision's debut, in Avengers #57 (1968).

Posted by Hube at 06:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 11, 2010

Ron Williams and the Verizon vs. Comcast debate

Which is better in your experience (that is, of course, if you have one or the other)?

I used to have Verizon DSL (not FiOS) that had myriad connection problems which were finally resolved a couple years later. At my new place, I've had Comcast (Internet and TV) for almost a year, and I've been happy as a clam. Internet hasn't had a single problem (knock wood), and when I had a hassle with the signal to my new [free] converter during the digital turnover, the [human] customer service rep I got on the phone resolved it quickly and courteously. With Comcast, about the only hassle I've had was not getting a very clear explanation of precisely what would be included in my "introductory" package (Internet and TV) when I signed up. I was under the impression that I'd get more channels than I did, and that the prices were set for a year. (I had to pay a bit extra for the channels I thought I was to get, and the rental charge for my modem was raised from $3/mo. to $5/mo. after only two months into the deal. Apparently, modem rates were exempt from set price offers.)

Williams' column about his distaste for Verizon is here.

Posted by Hube at 12:35 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 10, 2010

I'll now once again be watching NBC's Sunday Night Football

NBC Takes Olbermann Off Sunday NFL Broadcasts.

Posted by Hube at 06:44 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Culture of cluelessness

Well, after my buddy's and my annual Fellas Weekend, my girlfriend and I hit Cape Henlopen beach yesterday. Two incidents during that time with her, in addition to a few more earlier today, REALLY are causing me to question why I am always such a nice, polite guy in public. Seriously.

When my girlfriend and I arrived at the Cape, it was pretty early. Thus, we got a prime parking spot near the beach's entrance. We left around 2:30, and as we were entering the parking lot, I noticed a van, full with family, circling around looking for a parking spot. I waved my hand around and indicated to the driver where we were parked and that we were leaving. I even pulled my car out of the spot before we packed up our gear so as to hasten the van's parking.

Now, did anyone from the van even utter a simple "thank you"? Nope. Did the driver physically indicate such when I gestured to her? Nope. She and her family merely poured out of the van, got their stuff, and hit the beach. My incredulous girlfriend and I just packed our stuff -- in the fire lane, mind you -- and simply chuckled. It's all we could do.

A couple hours later, the girlfriend and I hit a local eatery near her house. We were seated next to a mom and a few of her kids, including an infant. The infant had no toys in his high-chair, nor did mom give him anything to eat. Thus, the little guy was crying quite a bit. Mom's reaction? Cursing at him the entire time, including the F word. All within easy earshot of us, too, natch. Unbelievable.

Then, earllier this afternoon, I hit the local supermarket to pick up some needed items. And what do I encounter? Clueless old ladies with their carts in the middle of the aisle not heeding my polite "excuse me's." Clueless moms on their cell phones making sure the entire aisle can hear what the other person on the line wants from the store (all the while also keeping their carts dead center in the aisle). Clueless moms paying no attention to their kids who're running amok through the aisle (and store).

*Sigh*

And school begins in about three weeks. Connect the dots.

UPDATE: The unfortunate ultimate result of folks like the above.

Posted by Hube at 04:08 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 05, 2010

Wow

Recent surgery has prevented me from playing golf this year ... until now. I just got back from the driving range (first time swinging clubs all year) and all seemed swell.

Back in February, I won a spankin' new Nike Sumo driver at a CHOP benefit. I had been wondering how I'd hit it all year. Now I know.

WOW. Super long, and super forgiving. Tomorrow's first golf game of the year might not be as dreadful as I thought!

Posted by Hube at 02:51 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 31, 2010

Irony

At the end of the Los Amigos Invisibles concert this past Thursday in Philly, I was chatting with the bass player, José Torres, when some schlub (had to be a U. Penn student) came up to him to ask a question ... in a Ho Chi Minh t-shirt, complete with prominent red star.

The irony? Torres and the other Amigos are from Venezuela -- where proto-dictator Hugo Chávez is busily transforming their country into a basket case.

Torres (not a fan of Chávez at all) is way too nice of a guy to say anything ... but I sure was tempted.

Posted by Hube at 10:49 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 13, 2010

25th anniversary of Live Aid

Man, this news almost escaped me -- 25 years ago today, possibly the greatest music event in history took place. Locally, it occurred at the now-demolished JFK Stadium.

A few things I'll always recall about the event:

1) Organizer Bob Geldof remarked "Who the f*** are the Hooters?" when informed that the band would be opening the Philly show. The Hooters were already a popular local band; they were just emerging as major stars at the time Live Aid took place. Ironically, nineteen years later at a concert in Germany, Geldof opened for the Hooters!

2) Phil Collins played at both arenas! He played at Wembley Stadium in London first, then took the supersonic Concorde to New York, then helicoptered to Philly -- to perform at JFK. Wow.

3) The MTV VJs got way too much face time. I recall my sisters and I watching and clamoring "WTF!! Will you show the bands already??"

4) Wayne and Garth on an episode of Saturday Night Live's "Wayne's World" totally busting on the fact that the lame Russian band Autograph actually got Live Aid coverage. Hilarious!

Posted by Hube at 10:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Foundation's Triumph review and the fate of human destiny

Being that it is summer and I was recovering from surgery, I just had to get some fresh reading material. Isaac Asimov's Foundation series may be the best known and beloved story in all of science fiction. I first encountered the original trilogy in high school, and quickly gobbled up all the subsequent sequels and associated stories thereafter.

The series centers around Hari Seldon, the inventor of a science called "psychohistory" which can predict, essentially, the future based on the actions of large numbers of humans. The original trilogy (Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation), written in the 1950s, details the crumbling Galactic Empire and Seldon's efforts to shorten the chaotic interim between it and the Second Galactic Empire. He does so by creating the Foundation -- a group of dedicated scientists on a planet at the edge of the galaxy whose preservation of technology and science will be the ... foundation of the next empire.

Asimov didn't write his sequels until some thirty years later (mainly due to fan pressure). These are Foundation's Edge and Foundation and Earth. Being that there was a lot of difficulty of proceeding further, Asimov then penned a couple of prequels: Prelude to Foundation and Forward the Foundation. These, to me, failed to maintain any interest as after Foundation and Earth, there didn't appear to be a point.

However, Asimov wasn't through. He went on to "unify" his universe -- weaving the Foundation stories with his pre-Galactic Empire Robot tales, in particular the "Robot novels": The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, The Robots of Dawn, and Robots and Empire. There's also his "Empire" books, which deal with issues during the Galactic Empire.

After Asimov died in 1992, he (and later his estate) gave various authors permission to "play" in his established universe, much like another favorite scifi author of mine, Larry Niven (who's still alive, by the way). Numerous writers "played" in Isaac's Robot arena, and others with the Foundation, although both are intertwined. The "ultimate" novel, David Brin's Foundation's Triumph, serves as the complete "wrap-up" story that attempts to unify each and every Foundation and Robot novel (and short story) published. Some reviews I had read about it mentioned that someone familiar with the original trilogy and sequels could probably skip the other non-Asimov written novels which immediately precede Triumph and delve right into it. They were right.

But, I had a big problem with it. Actually, it wasn't author Brin's fault -- Asimov had started it years before his death. The main protagonist of the Foundation and Robot novels, the robot (R.) Daneel Olivaw, is revealed to be the "puppet master" of human destiny since the early years of human space travel. Humanity has been coddled for over 20,000 years -- its mind dulled, its creativity stifled, its destiny ... predetermined! And, ultimately, the great psychohistorian Hari Seldon barely raises a ripple of dissent about this.

To be fair, Brin does allow a lot of argument in the pages of Triumph about this fact of robotic human coddling. But again, that very premise (robots babying humanity) acts -- at least for me -- as a huge belly drop. I mean, there I was, in high school, enthralled with a novel about a human who has devised a way to assist his own kind through troubling times (and it by no means was a perfect method) but it's now revealed to be a ruse! It's only a "stop gap" measure for the robot Daneel Olivaw's ultimate goal for humanity!

And what is that ultimate goal? The ultimate communism! A single, unified mind dubbed "Galaxia" by which all humans galaxy-wide would be connected.

Wow. So all that I had read was actually secretly maneuvered by an immortal robotic entity who believes he has humanity's ultimate good in mind. Humans themselves played little to no role in that decision.

I immediately thought of a comicbook parallel: Marvel's super-team The Avengers. In 1999, master comic scribe Kurt Busiek penned the outstanding Avengers Forever -- but it was outstanding not for the ultimate plot, but for the encyclopedic noggin and story-telling of the author, and for the phenomenal artwork by Carlos Pacheco. Like David Brin in Foundation's Triumph, Busiek "unified" the myriad stories of Avengers history written by other authors ... ultimately by making them all the result of the machinations of Immortus, a time-traveling human and occasional Avengers nemesis. So, those Avengers tales I had read since my age was in the single digits were all the result of one man's actions -- a time-traveling occasional super-villain. Ugh.

I mean, what about free will? Freedom? People determining their own destiny? Isn't the essence of freedom and free will the freedom to fail? And, possibly, to become extinct?

I can understand the premise that Daneel Olivaw ultimately could not allow the latter based on his human-protection programming (the Three Laws of Robotics); however, even if he allowed humanity to develop naturally, it wouldn't be eliminated altogether. It would just face more periods of turmoil and chaos. (And, again, to Brin's credit and that of other authors playing in Asimov's universe, this topic is debated heatedly at times among humans and robots in later novels.)

Just imagine: How would you feel if, as many conspiratorial types rant, it was revealed that a secret cabal had been directing the United States since virtually its founding? I'd feel pretty sick to my stomach. No freedom. No free will. Predetermined (or, as predetermined as possible) destiny. Heck, I've defended the United States against the complaints by (primarily) Euros that we're "too violent," and "we have too many in prison," and "your freedom of speech allows outright hate." My reply is essentially along the lines of "So? It's called FREEDOM." Freedom allows for the fact that you can own a gun. Freedom allows you to say what you want, even if it is "hateful." And having such freedom means that, if you go overboard and infringe on the freedom of someone else, you go to prison. I do not want such basic freedoms being determined, and especially not directed, by an individual or group of individuals.

But ... does such a desire go against the Judeo-Christian premise of "pre-determination" -- that God has an ultimate destiny for each of us? I'm a fairly non-religious person, but I recall the teachings that God has a "plan" for every one of us. However, He has given us free will. He doesn't guide our every movement to that plan, and He allows this for humanity as a whole. (Else, why is there so much violence and suffering in the world, right?) Even if we had, say, a massive nuclear war, not all of mankind would be extinguished ... He would have allowed us the free will to make that disastrous decision, yet despite that, He would provide for the seeds of beginning anew.

Just as I was disappointed with how humans were directed by R. Daneel Olivaw and Immortus as noted above, so too would I be disappointed if, upon entering the Great Thereafter, I discovered that all my decisions throughout my life were guided and influenced. I am hoping that I have a copious amount of free will, and that through exercising it in a positive manner, I'll be guaranteed acceptance into that Great Thereafter.

Posted by Hube at 02:50 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

July 12, 2010

What’s the Fastest You’ve Driven?

I believe that would be around 105 mph on Ebright Rd. (highest point in DE) back when I was a crazy-ass 17 yr. old (and before the road had all those traffic impediments). It was in a 1969 Chrysler New Yorker, my first car.

How 'bout you?

Posted by Hube at 08:53 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

July 08, 2010

Why we should get out of Iraq and Afghanistan

Duffy and I were discussing issues on which we disagree ... and how we could post on such in a sort of more "formal" debate. The one topic on which seem to vigorously disagree is the American presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. I say we should get out (notice the two graphics I added at the lower right side of the main page under "What We're Reading"); Duff says "no way."

Regarding Iraq, in one of my very earliest posts here at Colossus I laid out my reasons for my opposition to the invasion. It really hasn't changed.

With regards to Afghanistan, I certainly agree with our reasons -- the right -- to attack it after 9/11. But what the hell have we been doing in these nine years? Why are we still there? Did we forget the Soviet experience there? Our objective was (or, should have been) to zap those al Qaeda f***ers for 9/11 and then get the hell out. But no -- like Iraq, we're now attempting to "nation build."

Look,

  • We should have continued to contain Saddam and continued to pummel him anytime the f***er violated the terms of the '91 armistice.
  • We should use our bunker-busting weapons to blast the living sh** out of the cave-loving al Qaeda (and the Taliban) in Afghanistan.
  • We should not be nation-building anywhere. This is not (should not be) a function of the military, especially.
  • Look how much it's costing us -- at a time when the US is in dire financial straits.
  • Look at how much it's costing us in terms of human lives, dead and injured.
  • It pisses the Muslim world off. NO, I don't necessarily care about that per se; however, a situation where we're perceived to be occupiers (and we are in both instances) further inflames passions against our country. We come off looking like the strong bully that we can be. And face it -- in our history, we have -- many times ... overtly and covertly (especially in Latin America).

Now I know the argument that "we need to fight the terrorists where they live." I understand that. But we can do it without tens of thousands of troops. And we should, as a country, inform the known terrorist-sponsoring nations (and anyone else, for that matter) of a very simple message: If we discover that you've supplied terrorists after an attack on us, we will bomb you back to the stone age -- period.

Posted by Hube at 09:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 29, 2010

Private jet liberals

I wrote yesterday about Oliver Stone's slobbering love fest for Venezuelan strong-man Hugo Chávez. The left-leaning Village Voice (aside from Variety) takes Stone apart for his film fellatio about Chávez, noting his preposterous hypocrisy:

And yet Stone raises the specter of media manipulation when it suits him, devoting a whole section of the film to sympathetically presenting Chávez's argument that during the failed coup attempt of 2002, the Venezuelan media were so in the tank for his political opponents that they edited footage of rioting in the streets to make it look as if Chávez's supporters instigated a fire fight. The construction of false realities for political gain is the subject of much of Stone's own work—so why is he content to take each leader's practiced-for-the-camera spiel at face value, never pushing for information or conducting interviews on any deeper level than a photo op? South of the Border's subjects are masters at cooking bullshit, and Stone just eats it up.

Because, at least in part, Stone is a rich, pampered elitist, whose status and position makes him "see" (he believes) the lofty "goals" and "values" of rulers like Chávez (and Fidel Castro) -- and yet conveniently ignore the cold hard realities of their policies. Why? Good question. You think Stone would ever live as a typical Venezuelan or Cuban for any length of time? You think members of Congress (like idiot Maxine Waters) who've spoken favorably of Cuba would likewise do so?

Hell no.

I've always been fascinated by well-to-do lefties who just don't get it. Are they so enamored by the professed ideals of people like Chávez that they purposely block out the actual results? Or do they actually approve of the results -- jail for political differences, massive barriers to free speech, etc. -- at least in the short term, so that the ideal can be reached?

I've come to the conclusion that there are essentially two types of people who support people like Chávez, Castro, et. al.: Very well to-do "progressives" (usually foreigners) and the very destitute (usually natives). People in the middle usually want nothing to do with these thugs. I can understand the destitute; it's the reason why the double Cs got into power in the first place. After all, the majority of Latin American countries are poor. Costa Rica, where my ex is from and where I've spent a heck of a lot of time over the last 25 years, is one of the few L.A. countries with a sizable middle class -- and as such is a stable democratic nation which generally despises far-left politics.

There's my own grappling with far-left politics: It began in 1986 when I first went abroad (to Costa Rica) as a college junior to study. (Detailed here and here, among other places.) As noted in that first link, this was largely due to the influence of our accompanying professor. Dr. M clearly falls into the first category I noted -- a well to-do progressive. Whoa -- an American academic ... a progressive?? What a surprise, eh? Dr. M lectured to us and had us read about the virtues of the then-in progress Sandinista Revolution in neighboring Nicaragua. I became quite an opponent of the US-backed insurgency there, and Dr. M even noted that many of us should look into opportunities to study ... in Cuba!

And that's just it. I was studying. I wasn't a part of the [average] Nicaraguan (or Cuban) population. I was essentially on a big vacation where studying was only a [relatively small] part of the whole equation. I had enough money to do as I wished. In effect, it was a charade. It was far from reality. How in the f*** could I sit there and, based on what an academic and his choice of books said, judge the Sandinistas and Castroites as nothing but beneficient? (Side note: It was also around this time that I was rabidly pro-Palestinian. Another side effect of academic progressivism!)

By the time I was a grad student I had delved into the opposing side of the Sandinista-Contra question (not to mention the Palestinian-Israeli topic). There was clearly a lot more to the whole discussion than what had been presented by Dr. M, needless to say. So, again -- what is it that so arouses comfortable progressives to the poverty-inducing policies of people like Chávez? Is it a deeply-ingrained desire for "equality" at virtually all costs? The ultimate egalitarianism? Our own [leftist-dominated] education system is replete with such a philosophy. We cannot have "achievement gaps" among various racial/ethnic groups. Academic "tracking" is anathema. Honors and gifted classes with the "wrong" ethnic make-up are a no-no. Group work over direct instruction. Restrictions on free speech on campuses so as not to offend "historically aggrieved" groups. Etc. But all these efforts at "equality" only make people equally ... poor, destitute and wanting.

A good (leftist) friend recently visited some of his family in Cuba. He is furious at people like Stone because they are clueless. The only "equality" is in poverty, and the moral hypocrisy of the Castro regime is appalling; his tales of young girl prostitution that are outright ignored by the regime were sickening. Further south, average Venezuelans like the members of Los Amigos Invisibles and the myriad friends I have made from that country are all trying to get out, or, if they're already out, get their families out. These are average Venezuelans, folks, not rich elitists.

I'm not a big fan of those who put forth knee-jerk quips like "America, love it or leave it;" however, when it comes to "progressives" who unhesitatingly espouse the "virtues" of people like Hugo Chávez, Fidel Castro, (Bolivia's) Evo Morales, I will quickly ask them to go live in those "paradises" as a typical citizen for a period of not less than six months. They cannot take any of their American-earned cash with them. They have to live completely as a typical Venezuelan/Cuban/Bolivian citizen.

Think they'll want to come home after those six months?

Posted by Hube at 02:09 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 26, 2010

I always liked Bill Clinton

... and here's a good snapshot of why:

Pretty cool that a former prez poses for a snap with 'ya with a Budweiser in his hand. (That's US soccer star Carlos Bocanegra with Bubba after the US victory over Algeria.)

Posted by Hube at 05:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 25, 2010

Out of commission

Yours truly had a couple hernias repaired Wednesday and thus has been recuperating since. I hope to be back posting regularly in a couple days.

Posted by Hube at 04:00 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 19, 2010

So much for Africa digging the U.S.

A referee from Mali made what was possibly the worst call I've ever seen in a soccer match yesterday -- denying the US team a goal that would have capped the greatest comeback in US World Cup history. So much for Africa being so Americaphilic, eh?

Nevertheless, the US is still alive to advance to the second round; their tie yesterday means that if they defeat Algeria in their next match they're virtually assured of advancing.

Watching the World Cup really gets me jazzin' to play some [English] football. Then again, maybe not ... !

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UPDATE: Looks like the ref is gonna get the boot. Good riddance, dope.

UPDATE 2: Andrew Das defends (sort of) the referee. I must admit, he makes a pretty good case. (But not enough of one to disallow the goal, though.)

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June 08, 2010

A fond farewell

The San Francisco 49ers have traded Isaac Bruce back to the St. Louis Rams -- so that he can retire with the team with whom he became an NFL great.

Bruce "ranks second in NFL history in receiving yards (15,208), fifth in receptions (1,024) and ninth in receiving touchdowns (91)." Perhaps his most memorable play was catching the go-ahead touchdown in Super Bowl 34 (see below) that gave the Rams its victory over Tennessee, 23-16.


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May 27, 2010

Who has the more annoying local radio laugh?

Is it WDEL's Al Mascitti or Rick Jensen?

Mascitti has the annoying habit of making a lame "funny" and then heartily laughing at it himself ... followed by an equally annoying "oh well" or "oh my."

Jensen has what probably is the fakest-sounding laugh I've ever heard. He never sounds sincere when he's giggling.

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May 23, 2010

Don't know much 'bout history

Numbskull, over at the LGOMB, predictably knows little about what's actually IN the Texas history standards or how they're written. Pandora, also predictably, calls for her acolytes to e-mail Delaware districts to lobby against adopting any of Texas' textbooks. (But, of course, if a teacher doesn't parrot the standard "progressive" line on certain topics, though, pandora has a different attitude!)

Maybe these dolts ought to pick out the standards that are so "offensive" and let us know why they are so ... just so we don't have to take their word for it (because their word, frankly, is rarely, if ever, good). Like sort of what the Washington Post did. Thankfully, Ann Althouse injects some common sense into the WaPo. Here's an example:

The Washington Post writes:
The Texas state school board gave final approval Friday to controversial social studies standards....

The new standards say that the McCarthyism of the 1950s was later vindicated -- something most historians deny --...

The students are required to "describe how McCarthyism, the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), the arms race, and the space race increased Cold War tensions and how the later release of the Venona Papers confirmed suspicions of communist infiltration in U.S. government..." The word "vindicated" is inflammatory and unfair. What is the Washington Post saying historians deny? One can be informed of the reality of what the Venona Papers revealed about communist infiltration into the U.S. government and still understand and deplore the excesses of "McCarthyism."

Ah, but you see, by including anything about communist infiltration into the US, you are insulting true-blue leftists! McCarthy was an evil, evil man and must remain such without any caveats, get it?

They also removed references to capitalism and replaced them with the term "free-enterprise system."

The document on economics does use the term "free enterprise system" throughout, but students are required to "understand that the terms free enterprise, free market, and capitalism are synonymous terms to describe the U.S. economic system," so what is the problem?

This must be some sinister attempt to "absolve" capitalism -- or at least lessen its culpability -- regarding the current economic crisis, eh? Since so many "progressives" are busy pointing out how capitalism "caused" the contemporary downturn in the economy, let's just "change the wording," right? LOL!!

Personally, though I don't concur with all of the changes that I've seen in the Texas standards, I think it is a push-back from decades of leftist politicization of school texts. I once was a member of a committee that analyzed various secondary level history texts, and probably the biggest example of such politicization was the overriding effort of "inclusion" -- that of various ethnic, racial, religious, gender, sexual orientation groups -- at the expense of actual historically relevant knowledge. Here's but one example from California. Certainly, inclusion of previously neglected peoples (and events) is a good thing -- provided, of course, such inclusion has some historical merit. Inclusion for inclusion's sake is just politically correct silliness. As our textbook review committee wrote about one American history text, The American Journey by Glencoe McGraw-Hill (1996 edition), it

attempts to make all groups equally important to development of American history ... Inclusion of the contributions of women and minorities is beneficial when it relates to the main themes of historical development, but forcing trivial information into the text to ... increase the number of politically correct paragraphs creates a disjointed and unsatisfactory narrative.

A lot of the leftward PC tilt in history standards can be traced to UCLA's Gary Nash. He was the principal author of the 1992 National Standards for History. He stated that American history is the story of outcast groups "struggling under difficult conditions and ... in large and small ways, refusing to submit to abuse, discrimination and exploitation." In Nash's standards, for example, "the 1848 declaration at Seneca Falls by a conference of feminists gets more coverage than either the Declaration of Independence of the Gettysburg Address."

That's American history? Thankfully, Nash's standards were shot down by the US Senate by a vote of 99-1.

By the way, California's "great" for PC textbook matters. Bet you didn't hear a peep from lefties about the state's law that prohibits "... the adoption of official teaching materials or the conducting of school activities that reflect adversely on people on the basis of race, religion, gender and so on." Or of Muslim efforts to "tone down" textbook lessons on terrorism carried out with religious motivation. Hey -- maybe Cali can take a page from the UN and ask whether the Holocaust should be taught in schools, eh?

Lastly, the big difference in the Texas controversy and those noted above should by now be obvious: The former, because it involves conservatives dominating the standards, gets a large amount of negative MSM coverage. The latter was only covered at all by conservative-oriented media which, back in the early 90s, really only included talk radio. Thankfully, that situation has changed.

Posted by Hube at 12:37 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 19, 2010

Pet peeve

Here's a new personal pet peeve of mine: Why is it that people can't park in a parking space when they go to [whatever] store? Why do they insist on pulling right up to the front door -- parking in the FIRE LANE -- with their emergency flashers on? It's reached epidemic proportions where I live, and makes it a royal pain in the ass to even drive down a store's main drag so that I can find an actual parking spot!

It's the 'ol "The Rules Don't Apply to Me" attitude. I've seen a lot of that at school of late. Now I know where it's coming from! ;-)

Posted by Hube at 08:47 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 09, 2010

Did "Iron Man 2" blow it ... or not blow it?

MSNBC.com has an article from May 4 titled "Dear Iron Man: Please don’t blow it in sequel."

Well, did he? (WARNING!! SOME SPOILERS BELOW!!)

1) Don’t forget: Action, action, action.
In this, "IM2" delivers -- much more than the original if you're especially thinking of the film's climax. Though there is a mid-flick lull, it's more than made up for with Stark and Rhodes (in their respective armors) blowing the living sh** out of Justin Hammer's armored drone army.

2) The obligatory dark side.
MSNBC.com argues that these failed abysmally in "Superman 3" and "Spider-Man 3." They're right. However, Tony doesn't succumb to his well-known alcoholism; he only gets lit during one party when he believes he's dying -- and he quickly is set straight (with notable "help" via Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury). So, in "IM2," this also succeeds.

3) Don’t explain everything.
Quickly, "IM2" doesn't. It certainly could have, but Favreau is superb with his weaving of myriad storylines into a coherent narrative. Again -- success.

4) Know thy fan base.
This is Jon Favreau's strength, much like that of Bryan Singer with his "X-Men" films and Sam Raimi with "Spidey." Favreau knows his Iron Man lore and knows his hardcore fans do too. And he doesn't us. Success.

5) Don’t be afraid to make changes.
Again -- success! Though I personally didn't like how Justin Hammer was turned into a swarmy, bumbling fop, Favreau turning War Machine into essentially a Hammer creation, and neatly transforming Ivan Vanko into an amalgam of the Crimson Dynamo and Whiplash among other things worked out very, very well. Although, I would have enjoyed hearing Scarlett Johansson's character being called "Black Widow" just once!

6) Consistency.
If Favreau leaves the franchise, I'll be worried. But he hasn't. Success again.

7) The revolving cast.
The only change in "IM2" was Don Cheadle assuming the role of Rhodey. Although I'd have preferred seeing Terrance Howard back in the role (I'm in the minority on that one, apparently), Cheadle did a good job. Another success.

8) Overcasting.
This was my biggest worry when I saw all the different characters involved in "IM2." But unlike "Spidey 3" and "Batman and Robin," "IM2" works well because Favreau knows how to best make use of 'em all. Mickey Rourke's Whiplash is supposed to be the main bad-guy, but we see him only sporadically -- and when it counts. Johansson's Black Widow is inserted expertly as a SHIELD covert agent. And the intro of Cheadle in the War Machine armor doesn't detract from Downey's Iron Man in the least. Still, some might get overwhelmed. Success again -- but just barely.

Final verdict? "IRON MAN 2" IS A SUCCESS!!!

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"Iron Man 2" review

Yes, of course I saw it on opening day, and yes, it was damn good. But, as always, any review from me about anything "Iron Man" usually includes spoilers, so only continue below the fold if you don't care about inside scoop!

First of all, I'll be like all the reviewers I've read thus far and say that "IM2" is not as good as the original. But only just. The movie starts with Mickey Rourke as Ivan Vanko tending to his sick father, Anton Vanko. In the comicbook, Anton was the original Crimson Dynamo, the first Russian analogue to Iron Man. Vanko eventually defected to the West and was hired by Stark Industries. Here, the senior Vanko passes away, and Ivan then presses on with some of his work, creating an arc reactor similar to that which Tony Stark created (and which powers his Iron Man armor).

Half a year later, we see Tony Stark at the height of his popularity (due to his being Iron Man, natch). He's eventually called before Congress which demands possession of his Iron Man armor and technology. Stark refuses, and here is where we get introduced to rival business bad-guy Justin Hammer. In the comics, Hammer is much older than Sam Rockwell's portrayal, and he's not nearly as bumbling and incompetent. This is probably the one downside of any of the characters' facets; whereas every other character lives up to his/her persona, Hammer clearly does not. Hammer has always been one of Stark's greatest nemeses, and he is certainly no slouch. But not in this film. During the congressional hearing, Stark shows what a bumbler Hammer is (by hacking into a video feed showing how Hammer's attempts to duplicate Iron Man tech have been disastrous failures), and Rockwell's geeky (on-screen) attempts at humor and toughness make the character quite less than the malevolent scum that he really is.

In another neat homage to IM lore, Tony jets off to Monaco and decides to race his team's own car. Ivan Vanko shows up as the villain Whiplash (actually, again, he's a good combination of the Crimson Dynamo -- who had electricity-based powers -- and Whiplash) and begins trashing the race course en route to nailing Stark. But Happy Hogan (played by director Jon Favreau) takes Stark's Rolls Royce out onto the race course to rescue his boss! (In the comics, this is how the two actually met -- Stark suffered an accident while car racing, and Hogan ran out onto the track to save his life.) Hogan has Stark's new "suitcase" armor (another neat hat tip to the comics) and Tony promptly suits up! A terrific early battle scene ensues, and Iron Man gets the better of the Russian. After being sent to prison, Hammer's devious self gets Vanko out of jail, and Ivan begins working for the evil industrialist making Iron Man-like suits for the military. But ... Vanko has other plans!!

We also see that Tony Stark is dying due to palladium poisoning (palladium powers his chest device). Nothing he tries works as a substitute for palladium, so eventually Tony resigns himself to the fact that his days are numbered. This is where director Jon Favreau and co. neatly weave two of IM's best storylines into one here: "Demon in a Bottle" by the classic David Michelinie/Bob Layton team, and "War Machine" by Len Kaminski and Kev Hopgood. Dying, Stark becomes a party animal, even "entertaining" party guests in his Iron Man suit ... drunk! Best buddy Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes -- who, even as a member of the US Air Force has been defending his friend against government attempts to procure the IM armor -- now changes his mind upon seeing what his friend has turned into. He goes down to Tony's lab, dons one of his other suits of armor, and then confronts his friend (another neat homage to comics; Tony and Rhodey have squared off a few times, notably when Stark was drunk once). After a brief battle Rhodes jets off his his suit, with the intention of turning it over to the US military!

Rhodes begins to have misgivings when, after turning over his IM suit to the military, it's Justin Hammer who is assigned to "upgrade" it! In effect, it is Hammer who turns what was a "standard" Iron Man suit into the "War Machine" armor! And the cool thing is, at a military expo, Hammer refers to the War Mach suit by its original [Len Kaminski-given] name: the Variable Threat Response Battle Suit! (In the comic, ironically the War Machine outfit was designed by Tony Stark to take on several high-tech baddies who attempted to assassinate Stark via the machinations of Justin Hammer.)

As Stark's demise grows near, Samuel L. Jackson makes an appearance as SHIELD's Nick Fury. He gives Stark clues on how to reverse his medical condition, and also supplies him with a temporary antidote to his palladium poisoning. It's also here that we finally see the true intentions of Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow character -- she is in SHIELD's employ as a secret agent. (My buddy and I thought she was a Russian spy working for Vanko.) Tony unearths (literally -- hidden within the bowls of his home) an old "footlocker" of his father's, and therein is the clue to curing his blood poisoning! Stark actually creates a new element on the periodic table to replace the palladium which is killing him. (This is neat, too, in that it forms a triangular shape -- which just happens to be the shape that Iron Man's chestpiece has had for about the last decade or so in the comics!)

Meanwhile, back at the big expo where Hammer is unveiling his new battle suits, Vanko has hacked into Hammer's computer systems and has gained control over his battle armor control network! He begins trashing the expo with his control of the remote suits ... and he's even taken control of Rhodey's War Machine armor!! But ... Iron Man comes to save the day, natch -- and a battle royal begins!!

Eventually Stark breaks Vanko's control over Rhodey's armor, and the two friends begin tearing apart Hammer's/Vanko's armored remotes. Of course they're successful, and this finale certainly surpasses what we saw in the first "Iron Man" film! Just make sure you stay past the credits for a very cool scene which directly ties in to 2012's "Avengers" movie!! You won't be sorry!

HUBE'S RATING FOR "IRON MAN 2": Four out of Five stars.



"IRON MAN 2" RELATED COMICS IMAGE GALLERY:


Tales of Suspense #46: The first appearance of Anton Vanko, the Crimson Dynamo.



Tales of Suspense #52: The first appearance of Johansson's Black Widow.



Tales of Suspense #97: The first appearance of Whiplash.



Takes of Suspense #45: The first appearances of Pepper Potts (Paltrow)
and Happy Hogan (Favreau).



Iron Man #118: The first appearance of James "Rhodey" Rhodes.



Iron Man #120: The first appearance of Justin Hammer.



Iron Man #170: Rhodey assumes the role of Iron Man for the first time.



Iron Man #192: Rhodey and Tony battle it out in armor for the first time!



Iron Man #281: The debut of the War Machine armor!
Here's the kickin' splash page at issue's end:



Iron Man #291: Iron Man and War Machine fight side-by-side against a bunch
of robotic drones (just like in "IM2's" finale!).

UPDATE: My buddy Brent (with whom I saw "IM2") sends me a terrific link to an interview with Iron Man greats David Michelinie and Len Kaminski discussing the evolution of Rhodey/War Machine!

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May 05, 2010

Why "Spanglish?"

Michelle Malkin reports on a "unity" stunt by the Phoenix Suns basketball team -- they will wear jerseys that say "Los Suns" on them tonight for their playoff game.

Besides the stupidity of the team owner for needlessly injecting politics into his sport (good luck on that revenue next year, pal; up to 70% of your state favors the new immigration law), what -- didn't the team know the Spanish word for "suns?" At least AllahPundit was almost correct: He said "First, shouldn’t 'Los Suns' be 'Los Sols'?" Not quite. Nouns in Spanish that end in a consonant add "es" to make the plural. Therefore, it would be "Los Soles."

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April 18, 2010

Colossus fan at Tea Party rally

Check out m'man Fred Gregory, longtime reader of Colossus, at the Tea Party rally in Greensboro, North Carolina:

More snaps here (courtesy of a nice liberal blogger, by the way!).

Here are a few more that Fred sent me via e-mail:

Many thanks, Fred!!

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April 12, 2010

What makes good teachers?

George Leef over at Phi Beta Cons ponders:

In today's Pope Center Clarion Call, Jay Schalin writes about a very important piece of research that has just come out of the UNC system. It's a report on "The Impact of Teacher Preparation on Student Learning," and finds that students perform better if they're taught by "non-traditionally" trained teachers rather than those with education-school pedigrees. Teach for America wins high honors.

What explains why teachers who have not specifically studied to become teachers (Teach for America people have earned degrees in actual academic disciplines) tend to impart more knowledge than ed-school types?

One reason is that TFA only takes graduates of top universities — an intellectually gifted group of people. In contrast, the students drawn into your standard ed-school program are generally among the least gifted at any college or university. Smarter teachers are better at engaging with students, motivating them to learn.

Another reason is that TFA teachers have not been put through the ed-school processing plant, where you find weak and dubious courses having far more to do with politics than academics and professors you would hardly entrust your children to — for example a professor of "science instruction" who questions the objectivity of science, saying that it depends more on "factors like power, culture, race, gender, and ethnicity."

I've opined numerous times here and elsewhere that, by and large, ed schools need a LOT of work (meaning, "improvement") in prepping teachers for what they'll face in a classroom. And Leef is certainly correct that way too many [new] teachers aren't exactly the brightest folk, whether in their subject area or in general. It certainly makes sense that teachers with a greater knowledge base would be better at engaging with students ...

... but is that a given? How often is this the case?

I ask because over my many years in the public schools I have seen rather brilliant people get "eaten alive" by modern public school students, and for some it was enough to send them looking for another career. And I often wonder how many education professors have actually taught in [public] schools -- and if they did so for more than five years.

So, by "smarter teachers," I hope Leef also means "street smarts." The best combination (I've found) for teachers is to be an intellectual who's "hip." This means you can relate to the kids, and once you "have them" (metaphorically, obviously), your intellect (hopefully) will then "grab them" ... make them intellectually curious!

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April 08, 2010

Top 100 movies of the 90s

Link courtesy Insty; the ones I've seen (granted, there aren't that many!) are in bold, comments in italics.

01. The Thin Red Line (Malick, 1998) (Good WWII flick, but "Saving Private Ryan" is better.)
02. Short Cuts (Altman, 1993)
03. Trois couleurs: Rouge (Kieslowski, 1994)
04. Breaking the Waves (von Trier, 1996)
05. The Age of Innocence (Scorsese, 1993)
06. My Own Private Idaho (Van Sant, 1991)
07. Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick, 1999) (This movie just plain SUCKS. It shouldn't be in the top 500 let alone the top-freakin' ten!)
08. Trois couleurs: Bleu (Kieslowski, 1993)
09. The Ice Storm (Lee, 1997)
10. Goodfellas (Scorsese, 1990) (A true classic. Watch it every time I am able.)
11. Being John Malkovich (Jonze, 1999)
12. LA Confidential (Hanson, 1997)
13. Sense and Sensibility (Lee, 1995)
14. The Double Life of Véronique (Kieslowski, 1991)
15. Safe (Haynes, 1995)
16. All About My Mother (Almodóvar, 1999)
17. Unforgiven (Eastwood, 1992) (Overrated, but still good. Should be lower on the list.)
18. The Remains of the Day (Ivory, 1993)
19. Pulp Fiction (Tarantino, 1994) (Brilliant flick. Like Goodfellas, I never miss it.)
20. The English Patient (Minghella, 1996)
21. Chungking Express (Wong, 1994)
22. Close-Up (Kiarostami, 1990)
23. The Grifters (Frears, 1990)
24. Barton Fink (Coen & Coen, 1991)
25. The Piano (Campion, 1993)
26. Secrets & Lies (Leigh, 1996)
27. A Taste of Cherry (Kiarostami, 1997)
28. Ed Wood (Burton, 1994)
29. Lost Highway (Lynch, 1997)
30. Happy Together (Wong, 1997)
31. Mother and Son (Sokurov, 1997)
32. Magnolia (Anderson, 1999)
33. Howards End (Ivory, 1992)
34. Les amants du Pont-Neuf (Carax, 1991)
35. The Long Day Closes (Davies, 1992)
36. The Silence of the Lambs (Demme, 1991) (Anthony Hopkins scares the sh** out of me in his role as Hannibal Lecter.)
37. Naked Lunch (Cronenberg, 1991)
38. Heavenly Creatures (Jackson, 1994)
39. Lone Star (Sayles, 1996)
40. Raise the Red Lantern (Zhang, 1991)
41. Edward Scissorhands (Burton, 1990) (WTF????)
42. Naked (Leigh, 1993)
43. Fargo (Coen & Coen, 1996)
44. Schindler’s List (Spielberg, 1993) (Why is this not in the top ten? Are you kidding???)
45. Husbands and Wives (Allen, 1992)
46. Beauty and the Beast (Trousdale & Wise, 1991)
47. The Truman Show (Weir, 1998) (Another WTF???)
48. La belle noiseuse (Rivette, 1991)
49. Miller’s Crossing (Coen & Coen, 1990)
50. Sátántangó (Tarr, 1994)
51. Jackie Brown (Tarantino, 1997)
52. Rushmore (Anderson, 1998)
53. Rosetta (Dardenne & Dardenne, 1999)
54. Dead Man (Jarmusch, 1995)
55. Groundhog Day (Ramis, 1993)
56. Underground (Kusturica, 1995)
57. Flowers of Shanghai (Hou, 1998)
58. The Wind Will Carry Us (Kiarostami, 1999)
59. Starship Troopers (Verhoeven, 1997) (OK, now I know this list is full of sh**. While the book is fantastic, the movie is simply awful. Unless, that is, you like cool FX and adult cartoons.)
60. Thelma & Louise (Scott, 1991) (So far, the only one worthy of its actual place on the list -- that is, a bit less than halfway.)
61. Wild at Heart (Lynch, 1990)
62. Days of Being Wild (Wong, 1990)
63. The Player (Altman, 1992)
64. La cérémonie (Chabrol, 1995)
65. Beau travail (Denis, 1999)
66. The Talented Mr. Ripley (Minghella, 1999) (And underrated flick, I think this actually is one of Matt Damon's better performances on film.)
67. Fallen Angels (Wong, 1995)
68. The Big Lebowski (Coen & Coen, 1998) (A classic. Period.)
69. Titus (Taymor, 1999)
70. Vanya on 42nd Street (Malle, 1994)
71. Crash (Cronenberg, 1996)
72. Ulysses’ Gaze (Angelopoulos, 1995)
73. Van Gogh (Pialat, 1991)
74. Babe (Noonan, 1995)
75. Before Sunrise (Linklater, 1995)
76. A Brighter Summer Day (Yang, 1991)
77. Boogie Nights (Anderson, 1997) (Great performances by Burt Reynolds and Mark Wahlberg.)
78. American Beauty (Mendes, 1999) (Really too "artsy" for my tastes, but -- as usual -- Kevin Spacey is sensational.)
79. Dead Man Walking (Robbins, 1995) (A pretty good film if you can get past the fact that Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon are two of the biggest tools in Hollywood today.)
80. Kundun (Scorsese, 1997)
81. Porco Rosso (Miyazaki, 1992)
82. Smoking/No Smoking (Resnais, 1993)
83. The Crying Game (Jordan, 1992)
84. Gattaca (Niccol, 1997) (I love intelligent scifi and this film is just that!)
85. The Nightmare Before Christmas (Selick, 1993)
86. Trainspotting (Boyle, 1996)
87. Trois couleurs: Blanc (Kieslowski, 1994)
88. Bullets Over Broadway (Allen, 1994)
89. Everyone Says I Love You (Allen, 1996)
90. Eve’s Bayou (Lemmons, 1997)
91. Goodbye South, Goodbye (Hou, 1996)
92. Se7en (Fincher, 1995) (Not for the faint of heart!)
93. Carlito’s Way (De Palma, 1993)
94. Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (Mirkin, 1997)
95. Un coeur en hiver (Sautet, 1992)
96. The Straight Story (Lynch, 1999)
97. Dong (Tsai, 1998)
98. JFK (Stone, 1991) (Wait -- are freakin' KIDDING ME??? I fell asleep TWICE attempting to watch this revisionist bullsh**.)
99. A Summer’s Tale (Rohmer, 1996)
100. Edward II (Jarman, 1991)

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April 02, 2010

"Honor?"

OK, so my daughter texts me the other day saying she didn't get in to her school's National Honor Society. I thought that quite strange, as she has over a 3.9 GPA. Not being a complete moron, I'm aware that, these days, the National Honor Society puts some emphasis on stuff like community service in addition to academics. (Personally, I think that is a bunch of bullsh**, but more on that later.) Daughter says that she had filled in every section with requisite information. Hmm.

I send an e-mail to the school's Honor Society advisor and ask how the students are judged, etc. (Oh, and being a teacher myself and a total NON-helicopter parent, I was extremely polite and non-accusatory ... FYI.) Here's what I thought is, well, astonishing for a group the dubs itself an honor society: Only 25% of a student's application is based on academics. The other three categories are, 1) community service, 2) leadership, and 3) character. A faculty group judges each application. The school's society is in adherence to the national group's standards.

When I got into my high school's honor society, it was based solely on one's academic achievement -- your GPA. So were the college honor societies into which I was inducted. I can understand certain aspects of the "character" and "leadership" categories, but community service?? And even so, why is GPA (currently) given equal footing with such?

In my only semi-snarky line to the advisor, I asked, based on the info above, why the group wasn't called the "National Good Citizenship Society" since academics is such a small part of the whole package. The answer was that the group is "in line" with what universities want.

I see. 'Nuff said, eh?

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March 30, 2010

Five Captain America stories that Chris Evans needs to read

Chris ... who? Evans played the Human Torch in the Fastastic Four movies. And now, he's been cast to play the Star Spangled Avenger, Capt. America. My fave entertainment site Screen Rant has a list of five Cap stories that Evans must read in preparing for the role:

1) Captain America Comics #1, 1941. The first-ever story, and one that S.R. says is a must for Evans to capture the essence of Steve Rogers (Cap's real ID) -- and to understand the mood and ambience of the country as it entered into World War II.

2) Tales of Suspense #63-71, 1965. In-depth flashback coverage of Cap's exploits against the Nazis during WW II.

3) Captain America #298-300, 1984. These issues detail the origin of the Red Skull, Cap's arch-nemesis.

4) Captain America #332-350, 1987. One of my favorite series of issues of any character, these editions have Steve Rogers ousted as Capt. America and replaced by John Walker, formerly the Super Patriot. Worthy because it explores the role the US government should have in controlling Cap who was, after all, a government creation.

5) The Ultimates Vol. 1, 2002. This updated version of the classic Avengers #4 is the perfect modern telling of Cap's joining Earth's Mightiest Heroes. I personally highly recommend the first volume of The Ultimates if you're an Avengers fan.

I might've picked a different set of issues, but I think these five offer a well-reasoned rationale.


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March 24, 2010

Teachers and student test scores

Colossus R&D man Gooch sends me this link about a Florida state senator who wants to base teacher firing/promotion primarily on student test scores:

The bill, sponsored by state Sen. John Thrasher, the new head of Florida’s Republican Party, would require that school systems evaluate and pay teachers primarily on the basis of student test scores. What would not factor into teacher pay would be advanced degrees and professional credentials, including National Board Certification, which requires teachers to pass a competitive series of tests that is considered the gold standard for educators.

It gets worse: Experience in the classroom wouldn’t matter either. And student test results would determine which teachers get targeted when layoffs are necessary.

Would it be fair, say, to fire doctors because his/her patients failed to follow his/her directions in taking their medication (meaning their health got worse)? If not, how is this radically different from Thrasher's proposal?

I once went back and forth via e-mail with DE state Senator Dave Sokola about this very issue (among others). I never did get a worthy response. Sokola's reply consisted of him explaining that he "knows what he's talking about" because he did a year-long stint as a substitute teacher back in the day, and that teachers are really not different from a company. Regarding the latter, I had asked Sokola how teachers aren't different from private companies as they do not control the factors or production. They have to "produce" a product solely based on what they're given -- whether they want the "factors of production" or not. Can companies do this? Sokola retorted that a person at a manufacturing co. could get canned if one of the co.'s suppliers didn't come through with some materials needed to build a [finished] product (on time). Well, perhaps. But that co. could easily ditch that supplier for another, not to mention make amends (monetarily or materially) to whomever for the lateness of the company's finished product.

In addition, Sokola could offer no explanation as to how it was fair that a then-proposed state teacher evaluation system that based 20% of every school's teacher's evaluation on test scores -- tests that were, like the current DSTP, reading, writing, and math. So how is that fair to teachers who don't teach those subjects? 20% of an art teacher's evaluation ... based on students' math scores?? Say whaaaa ...?

Hey look, those who know me know that I am hardly a hardcore union type who is against any sort of education reform. Indeed, one proposal from the article I don't have much of a hassle with (at a cursory glance, however, to be sure) is "Newly hired teachers would be on probation for five years and then work on annual contracts for the rest of their careers." (Right now, in Delaware, teachers usually are on a probationary period for three years and then get tenure that next year. And contrary to popular belief, tenure does not mean a teacher cannot be fired; it ensures certain steps must be followed and can, admittedly, prolong the process and make it difficult to ax a lemon teacher.) Annual contracts are what many charter schools utilize, so I don't see many reasons why they couldn't be used in public schools. (As long as the primary basis for a firing isn't student test scores, that is!)

Also, I am not one who seeks to blame everyone but teachers and schools for lousy performance. Clearly, teachers (and schools) play a big role in shaping students' lives. Lemon teachers can clearly exacerbate even more the problems of students who already have myriad issues, and great teachers can assist in alleviating [some] of these. But ultimately, a teacher would have to be "in control," for lack of a better term, of a student's life for much more than the 45-to-60 minutes per day that he/she sees him/her (and that's all individual teachers see students per day, especially 6th grade and up -- not the full 7 and a half hours that critics claim) to make "student test score teacher evaluations" fair.

What would be a "fair" evaluation system for teachers? The way the system is currently set up across the country, [school] administration does teacher evaluations based on a few classroom visits. (Again, keep in mind that the frequency of these visits vary from not only state to state, but district to district and not all states/districts may use such methods.) The inherent problem with this is, while administrators may be well versed in general pedagogy, they may not know a whit about the actual subject matter. I'd recommend assembling a small cadre of veteran (good) teachers, one for each subject area in both elementary and secondary levels, that would periodically visit teachers' classrooms for evaluations. This would ensure that the evaluators would actually know something about the course being taught. (This idea doesn't address the issue of cost; however, various districts might be able to pay EPER -- Extra Pay for Extra Responsibility -- or offer "clock hours" towards recertification, which are required by the state.)

As for counting students' test results towards evaluations, I've little problem with it as long as it makes logical sense. Sokola's and the former DE legislature's inane 20% for all teachers regardless of subject matter certainly doesn't qualify. The DSTP goes a step towards the right direction in that since children are tested every year, one can see progress up or down, and somewhat correlate it to the teacher. By "somewhat," I mean it is not clear cut. For example, a student may have never been taught (or taught properly) his times tables in elementary school, so why should that reflect [moreso] on a subsequent teacher whose primary job is to teach him middle school algebra? An 8th grade algebra teacher's evaluation who had such a child may be more negative than that of another algebra teacher who had children who benefitted from an excellent past teacher of multiplication ... even though the former may be a superb algebra teacher. One of Thrasher's ideas in Florida is to test students in every subject every year not already done so by state or other assessments. That's a good idea, if you can come up with such [good] assessments. (Band? Chorus? Art? Shop?) And for introductory classes, what would be the baseline assessment?

There are many, many questions involved in utilizing student test scores for teacher evaluations, pay, and hire/fire decisions.

Posted by Hube at 06:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 15, 2010

On the Texas textbook controversy

So much has been made in the MSM of the Texas social studies textbook "controversy" the last few weeks. The Associated Press, to name just one, wrote that a "far-right faction wielded its power to shape the lessons." To be sure, some of the changes made caused a question mark to appear over my head (excising a reference about the US being founded on the principle of religious freedom, ditching Thomas Jefferson in referencing the Enlightenment); however, have you ever seen stories about textbooks changes garner so much attention ... when leftist groups are the most influential? Of course not. Unless you read conservative media.

Let's take a quick gander at what the AP wrote:

... it agreed to strengthen nods to Christianity by adding references to "laws of nature and nature's God" to a section in U.S. history that requires students to explain major political ideas.
So?
They also agreed to strike the word "democratic" in references to the form of U.S. government, opting instead to call it a "constitutional republic."
Again, so?
In addition to learning the Bill of Rights, the board specified a reference to the Second Amendment right to bear arms in a section about citizenship in a U.S. government class and agreed to require economics students to "analyze the decline of the U.S. dollar including abandonment of the gold standard."
Once again -- so? Have you heard in the AP (or other MSM) any of the following instances?
An unelected review panel, not the elected members of Texas State Board of Education (SBOE), attempted to push through a number of highly questionable changes to the standards – removing Independence Day, Neil Armstrong, Daniel Boone, and Christopher Columbus – from them. They even dumped Christmas and replaced it with Diwali. You can’t make this stuff up! After a huge outcry from citizens and strong leadership by conservatives on the Texas State Board of Education, each of these changes was reversed.

Sadly, the attacks didn’t stop there. Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison were removed from World History, yet Mary Kay and Wallace Amos (of Famous Amos Cookies) were added, it appears, for more “diversity.” That’s unbelievable. Edison is the greatest inventor in American history with over 1,000 patents; oh, and by the way, that Einstein guy was pretty successful too!

I didn't think so. And that's the point.

A decade ago several other teachers and myself formed a committee, supported by the Delaware Association of Scholars, to examine several American and world history texts. Addressing us at our inaugural meeting was Gilbert Sewall, director of the American Textbook Council. Sewall was concerned about the mid-90s' proposal of American and world history standards that were, essentially, the reverse of the present-day [media] worry. (Back then, the MSM reaction was only conservatives' reaction about these proposals -- "They're only trying to get more diversity etc. etc. etc. into our texts which are long overdue ..." they clamored.) To note:

What the public and elected officials didn't like about these new standards was their failure to affirm or celebrate the nation or the Western tradition. Just the reverse. Like a muffled drum through the U.S. history standards, African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, gay Americans, and women face and overcome centuries of oppression, neglect, and adversity. Students meet Speckled Snake and Dolores Huerta, Mahmud al-Kati and Madonna. These people were, according to the drift of the curriculum, the real American heroes. They and others replaced such white patriarchs as Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Jonas Salk, and Albert Einstein. The defining reform institutions of the future? Political phalanxes like La Raza Unida and the National Organization of Women.

The standards reinvented the European discovery of the New World, changing a once triumphal Columbian conquest into a three-way "encounter" of Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans. From the beginning, disease-carrying Europeans encounter and enslave innocent people of color. Older paradigms of federalism, industrialism, and expansionism were minimized, along with heroic figures and their achievements. Hamilton end Jefferson, the Erie Canal, Gettysburg, and Promontory Point did not exactly vanish, but they were not much savored either. Teachers and students inherited a solemn, often bitter chronicle of unfulfilled national promise. Historical sufferers and victim groups receive belated recognition and redress. Participation in history becomes an empathetic act. By sharing the pain of exploited groups and learning the gloomy "truth" of the U.S. past, students presumably learn to become more virtuous and sensitive.

The world history standards pushed Western civilization to the side, straining throughout for equivalence of cultures. "Drawing on archaeological evidence for the growth of Jenne-jeno, interpret the commercial importance of this city in West African history," states one suggested activity. "How did the commercial importance of Jenne-jeno in this era compare with that of contemporary western European commercial centers such as early Venice?" The cultural achievements of Classical Greece, the Abbasid Caliphate "as a center of cultural innovation and hub of interregional trade in the 8th-10th centuries," and "the civilization of Kush" receive equal weight in the standards. The miracles of Western science and public health are sidelined in favor of recherche topics interesting only to university specialists. In order to demonstrate historical understanding, eighth-graders could "create a summary evaluation of the Zagwe dynasty of Ethiopia from the view of an Egyptian Coptic Christian" and ask "How would a Muslim from Adal have evaluated the Zagwe history? "

Ancient Rome, Judeo-Christian theology, the Enlightenment, and the Industrial Revolution all suffered from inattention, as new attention was paid to Gupta India, Coptic Ethiopia, and Bantu culture. Old military heroes like Hannibal and Wellington disappear from the historical scene. Now Julius Caesar and Marcus Aurelius, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, Martin Luther and John Calvin, Catherine the Great and Louis XIV, Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud play supporting roles, and are no longer considered dominating figures of their respective historical ages.

This is what has been the norm in late-20th century and early 21st century textbooks, not what just occurred down in Texas. If this has been going on for decades, is it not inevitable that some people -- like the board in Texas -- will react?

The question isn't whether there should be "diversity" in such texts (there should), but whether the need for such diversity outweighs basic common sense. After all, should the Kush civilization really be given equal weight to the achievements of the ancient Greeks ... just because of "diversity?" Should the Columbian conquest be reduced to "a three-way encounter" between Europeans, Native Americans and Africans when it was only the Europeans doing the actual "encountering" ... just because it may show some "superiority" of the European side?

This doesn't mean that such history should be whitewashed, of course. The horrors of slavery, the decimation of the Native Americans, and the long, brutal struggle for civil rights for all Americans should be covered -- and covered well in our textbooks. But not to the exclusion of [many] other significant topics and not without discussion of the ongoing battles for remedies for past wrongs. Many texts have become denigrations of virtually anything Western, while anything not Western is celebrated. (Which, as you might expect, just might leave middle and high schoolers pondering just why the heck the Western world has been so damn successful!)

At any rate, good history teachers will know how to supplement textbooks -- and may only use them at a minimum anyway. And why should it matter to the rest of the country what Texas does? Why do publishers have to use the standards that Texas adopts for other texts? Why don't other states complain and demand to use different standards and/or books? Education should be a local matter (though I know that sentiment is not exactly en vogue at present). Honestly, if liberal enclaves across the nation want to teach that the Columbian conquest was "an equal encounter" or whatever, then let 'em. And if Texas wishes to stress Christianity's influence in the Founding, so be it. At the very most at the federal level (if anything) only extremely basic standard outlines for the subject should be available.

Posted by Hube at 04:03 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

March 08, 2010

Why I decided against coaching (again)

Friday, as I laid on the couch recovering from one of the nastier sinus infections I've had in a while, I got a call from our school's athletic director. "Hey Hube -- the softball coach had to quit due to injury -- you wanna do it again?" Now I had just finished coaching with our A.D. this past basketball season -- sort of last minute thing being that the former assistant had moved to another school. And, I had coached softball with this person for five years previously. I said "I'd mull over" the softball gig and call the A.D. back.

At first I was very much leaning towards taking the job. The girls that we keep on the team are usually very nice and easygoing. Then a friend and I went out to eat yesterday at a local restaurant ...

We got there fairly early (around 4:30) so it wasn't too crowded. However, there was a table of about four couples and some of their kids on the other side of the room. During our entire meal two of the kids (ages around 7 and 5) were running around the restaurant while playing "hide and seek." The parents? Completely oblivious. Not even once did they even look in the kids' direction to see what they were up to. I could have grabbed one of the kids and whisked them out of the place, were I a demented predator. Yep, the entire time we were there these kids were running, jumping, yelling and engaging in other assorted non-restaurant behavior. Many of the staff were looking on with dumbfounded grimaces on their faces.

And this is what helped me make my decision ...

Do I want, after my regular school day is essentially over, to deal with similar parents? The restaurant kids were allowed to do as they wished. Do I want a similar atmosphere about my team? Do I want to field phone calls from them upset that their child didn't make the cut? Do I want to hear how their child is an all-star in their local league, and that there's no reason for her not to make the team (despite the fact that our school draws from virtually all over the northern part of the county)? Do I want to persistently be asked about "playing time" during games? Do I want my team rules (like everyone has to sit in the dugout during games) to be questioned all the time?

Now, granted, such parents are [usually] a minority, but they are a distinct minority. They can take the "wind out of a coach's sails" in a microsecond. After-school sports are extra-curricular activities, yet too often they are viewed as just another "right" that a kid has. They have a "right" to be on the team, and once on the team they have a "right" to play -- when and where they want.

So, sorry -- I don't need that headache and aggravation. Not at this point in my career.

(And if I wasn't already sufficiently clear, such parents [and kids] are still, in my opinion, in the minority. But -- it is getting worse. It has every year since I've been teaching.)

So you parents at that restaurant yesterday? Next time, get a freakin' clue and realize that there are other people in the restaurant who are paying for their food and trying to enjoy their meal. They did not come to have their senses assaulted by your children being unsupervised, because you're too damned lazy to discipline them.

Thank you.

Related, from the archives: Why I don't (and won't) coach anymore; Sounds VERY familiar!.

Posted by Hube at 07:30 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 07, 2010

Comics of Rhodey -- done for now

I've decided to nix my experimental comics blog, The Comics of Rhodey, for the time being -- "time" being the operative word. There just ain't enough of it!

I'll be back blogging about comics and related matters right here, as I have in recent days.

Posted by Hube at 12:45 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 16, 2010

Divisional round playoff picks

OK, enough with the actual score of the games -- let's just pick who's gonna win. It's a "visiting team's weekend":

Today:

  • Cards over Saints. (I'll always love Kurt Warner -- ALWAYS -- for the 1999 season!)
  • Ravens over Colts. (Was Baltimore impressive or what last week in Boston?)

Tomorrow:

  • Cowboys over Vikings. (Hate the 'Boys, but they've looked pretty impressive.)
  • Chargers over Jets. (The only home team to win, and they'll do it handily. San Diego is my pick to win it all this year.)

Posted by Hube at 06:00 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

November 26, 2009

Happy happy!


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November 06, 2009

Los Amigos Invisibles win Latin Grammy!

Mis panas from Venezuela, Los Amigos Invisibles, won their first Latin Grammy last evening for Best Alternative Album.

Heartiest congrats, my friends!


Left to right: Mando (keyboards), Chulius (lead vocals), Maurimix (percussion, vocals), Catire (bass), and Cheo (guitar). (Drummer "Mamulo" is not pictured.)

Posted by Hube at 12:18 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 26, 2009

Eagles cake FAIL!!

My daughter stopped me yesterday while we were food shopping, all the while she was laughing hysterically. Why? Looks like whoever decorated this cake only likes one member of the team:

Eagles support FAIL!!

Posted by Hube at 03:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 18, 2009

C.O.M.M.O.N. sense

Patrick Welsh has an article in the Washington Post that lays out what those with just a decent quantity of common sense already know: That having a dad around in the house (or, parental involvement in general) has a LOT to do with a child's academic achievement in school.

My students knew intuitively that the reason they were lagging academically had nothing to do with race, which is the too-handy explanation for the achievement gap in Alexandria. And it wasn't because the school system had failed them. They knew that excuses about a lack of resources and access just didn't wash at the new, state-of-the-art, $100 million T.C. Williams, where every student is given a laptop and where there is open enrollment in Advanced Placement and honors courses. Rather, it was because their parents just weren't there for them -- at least not in the same way that parents of kids who were doing well tended to be.

Unfortunately, way too many school districts across the country use race as the "handy explanation" for the achievement gap. It may be they'll advocate for more resources (such as above) or they'll bring in speakers -- supposed "experts" -- who lecture teachers that it is white [teacher] racism that is responsible for minority children not doing as well as their Caucasian counterparts.

And people wonder why some folks snicker at [public ed.] educationists' explanations for low performance? For example, if those above "experts'" theories that white teacher racism is the true culprit for poor minority school performance, what explains the results of schools whose staff is overwhelmingly minority? And if state-of-the-art technology, infrastructure and materials is the answer, what explains the Kansas City Experiment?

Welsh:

But focusing on a "racial achievement gap" is too simple; it's a gap in familial support and involvement, too. Administrators focused solely on race are stigmatizing black students. At the same time, they are encouraging the easy excuse that the kids who are not excelling are victims, as well as the idea that once schools stop being racist and raise expectations, these low achievers will suddenly blossom.

Indeed. Most of the rest of Welsh's article is eerily (and sadly) familiar. But I am not attempting to excuse schools and teachers from doing their utmost best to help rectify what is inherently a societal problem that is brought into the schools. That's their job, after all. What I am saying is that more people -- educationists -- need to stop relying on esoteric theories and just use plain old common sense. It'll save them a LOT of money and best of all, something substantive actually might get done.

Which brings me to this: A good friend of mine who was finishing his masters about a decade ago was enrolled in a class that [partly] dealt with this topic. After class, off the record, the professor -- despite covering a great deal of "theory" so criticized above -- told my buddy that "if you tell me a kid's socio-economic status and whether he/she has involved parents, I can tell you how well that kid will do in school."

'Nuff said.

Posted by Hube at 11:04 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 05, 2009

Good news for the worst team in football?

My buddy Rhymes With Right noticed some potential good news for the NFL's doormat -- which just happens to be my fave team, the St. Louis Rams:

In 2003, Rush Limbaugh had a brief dalliance with the sport he loves, spending a month as the "voice of the fan" on ESPN's pregame show before resigning after a delayed reaction to comments made regarding Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb triggered a firestorm.

Since then, the mega-rich Rush's name has bubbled up from time to time as a potential owner of all or part of an NFL team.

And it could be coming to fruition.

Charley Casserly of CBS reports that, of the three groups that submitted bids to buy the St. Louis Rams, one group includes Dave Checketts and Limbaugh.

Hey, the way things have been in the Gateway to the West the last three years, anything will be an improvement. But I think Limbaugh would be a lot more than that; he has a passion for the sport that is beyond prodigious. I believe it would only serve the former "Greatest Show on Turf" quite positively.

UPDATE: "MJD" at Yahoo Sports thinks he's funny in his article about Rush's Rams interest. Just another reason why sports writers ought to stick to their subject:

Rush Limbaugh, conservative political commentator and hater of poor people, has made a bid to buy the NFL's St. Louis Rams. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Limbaugh and St. Louis Blues owner Dave Checketts teamed up to make the offer, and they'd like to keep the team in St. Louis.

So the "St. Louis" part won't be changing. Whether or not Limbaugh would plan on changing the team's name from the "St. Louis Rams" to the "St. Louis Health Care Deniers" or the "St. Louis Anti-Environmentalists," I can't be sure.

Here's why I don't like the idea: I have my opinion on Rush Limbaugh, and, as we're all about to witness in the comments, everyone else has their opinions on Rush Limbaugh, too. His very presence brings politics into the football discussion. I'd prefer to avoid that, but the man is so polarizing that I don't see any way around it. I couldn't get through the first sentence of this post without a little jab.

MJD actually has a point in that last paragraph. However, I really doubt Rush would make any ownership in the Rams a topic of his radio show (he's not stupid; why bring potential harm, media or otherwise, to his own team?). And if MJD is so concerned about mixing politics with football, has he done a column on Keith Olbermann being a regular on NBC's Sunday Night Football? Why yes, he has, but concern about politics wasn't an issue. His only "concern" was whether Keithy and Dan Patrick could "recreate" their old ESPN "magic":

But it's worth taking the chance to find out if there's any of that chemistry left. What's the worst that could happen, the NBC set becomes a little too crowded? Goodness me, how would we ever deal with that?

No, the worst that could happen is that people (like me) won't tune in to the Sunday Night pregame because they cannot stand Olbermann. Who wants to watch the guy who denigrates much of your politics on a nightly basis injecting same into the sport you love? And personally, even though I agree politically with Limbaugh more than Olbermann, I also disliked Rush being on ESPN's "NFL Countdown" years back. Football is football. I want to watch football on Sunday. I can watch/listen to politics the other six days of the week.

Posted by Hube at 07:53 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

October 01, 2009

Jonah Goldberg on the rise and fall of "Battlestar Galactica"

And the coolest thing about it is he asked me for a research assist. Really.

The article.

UPDATE: Jonah's colleague David French has some disagreements with his friend's assessment.

While I think that French makes [very] some persuasive arguments, Goldberg's contention that the writers pretty much "phoned it in" the last couple seasons holds up. The point remains that Ron Moore and co. never adequately laid out -- or explained -- just WTF was happening in those latter seasons. Viewers were left trying to cobble together events, and then explain them. While that may be OK for Starbuck's situation (her becoming an angel), it's not OK for the sudden reappearance of Tigh's wife (as head Cylon) and the continuing meandering role of Baltar.

Goldberg might be interested to know that SyFy is supposed to put out a "Battlestar" movie sometime soon titled "The Plan," which delves into just what the Cylons [originally] had in mind for themselves and humanity.

Though Moore (and French) say that BSG elaborated on the very essence of human nature, as I've written many times here, my main issue with the series was just that -- the sometimes ridiculous ways in which Galactica's personnel reacted to situations. Robots wipe out 99.9% of your race? But let's pass up the chance to return the favor! 99.9% of humanity destroyed and its an all-out war situation? But we must restore a democracy and freedom of the press! Priority isn't given to food and fuel among the BSG fleet (like, why wouldn't it during a war footing?) so those that labor on those respective vessels go on strike causing even more problems for the surviving humans.

And so on.

Posted by Hube at 08:23 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

September 30, 2009

Science fiction as fact?

Just like John Scalzi's Old Man's War and Frederik Pohl's Gateway series: By 2040 you will be able to upload your brain. (h/t to Insty.)

In the former, several hundred years from now, Earth's colonial defense forces are comprised of elderly humans who've uploaded their consciousness into new, biologically engineered bodies. This awesome story is continued in The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony and Zoe's Tale.

In the latter, Pohl imagines a world where people can upload their minds into computers and essentially live forever at the hyperfast speeds of electrons. That's really only a subplot to Gateway, however. The real coolness of the yarn is humanity discovering an alien asteroid near Venus stuffed with faster-than-light spacecraft. The humans can use them -- but can't control them. They're all automated and pre-programmed! It's a "take your chances" sort of scenario where an interstellar flight can mean agonizing death from starvation (or, more rarely, via spatial phenomena) or can make one rich beyond the wildest dreams of avarice (to quote a certain "Bones" McCoy from "Star Trek IV"). The follow-ups Beyond the Blue Event Horizon and Heechee Rendevous aren't as good, and there is at least one more sequel out there whose title I can't recall. But there's also a neat collection of vignettes surrounding the Gateway Asteroid in The Gateway Trip.

Posted by Hube at 04:29 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

September 29, 2009

I scored a "45"

... on this "Libertarian Purity Quiz."

A "45" means that "[my] libertarian credentials are obvious. Doubtlessly you will become more extreme as time goes on."

(Thanks to Paul Smith Jr. for the link.)

Posted by Hube at 08:48 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

September 28, 2009

Manoman -- they really are that bad ...

... the St. Louis Rams, that is.

Posted by Hube at 05:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 14, 2009

Why I don't watch Sunday Night Football

I'm with The Corner's Andy McCarthy and John J. Miller: Because Keith Olbermann is on -- not only on the one-hour pre-game show, but the halftime show as well.

Posted by Hube at 05:38 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 06, 2009

Gender questioning now = racism

As a runner myself (like Chanman, from whom I got this article) and as one interested in the ever-evolving definition of "racism," I thought this was ... intriguing:

The president of Athletics South Africa, Leonard Chuene, was also defiant and said he had resigned from his seat on the IAAF board to protest the organization's treatment of [Caster] Semenya... "We are not going to allow Europeans to describe and define our children," he told a news conference, which Semenya attended although she did not address reporters... Semenya's supporters say the allegations against her are motivated by jealousy and show racial discrimination against Africans. (Link.)

What's the beef? Well, this:

World athletic officials said they were going to conduct "gender tests" on Semenya based on the suspicion of her [overly] muscular build and deep voice -- hence they're "racists."

But are they?

Chanman (again, a noted runner) offers a brief history lesson for the Sharpton-esque South African officials:

I guess this South African official wasn't paying attention during the 1970's and 1980's when female athletes from Eastern Block communist countries were showing their grotesque selves at track meets all over the world. How about current world record holder in - of all events - the 800 meters, Jarmila Kratochvilova of Czechoslovakia, who set the still-standing record of 1:53.28 back in 1983? Check out her feminine self:

Or how about Ewa Klobukowska of Poland, who actually did fail a gender test in the 1960s:

1:53 is absolutely smokin' for a woman in the 800 meters, by the way. So, it wouldn't come as a surprise to me if Kratochvilova proved to really be a man. It's either that, or, like way too many Eastern European athletes during the Cold War, she was steroided up to the hilt. Just look at "her" legs.

Posted by Hube at 10:53 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

September 04, 2009

"Hyper-partisan?"

DE Libertarian's Steve Newton thinks you're an idiot if, as a parent, you withdraw your kid from class (or school) for the day when President Obama speaks to kids on Sept. 8. While I tend to agree that it would be an overreaction to take your kid out of class/school merely for the speech (I wouldn't use the term "idiot" in this case), as I noted in the comments in Steve's post the bigger concern was over the federal Dept. of Education's proposed lesson plans (since scrubbed from its website) dealing with Obama's address -- some of which forced students into adopting a particular point of view.

But Steve said "his post stands," and added

If Barack Obama's lesson plans are that effective in brainwashing the children of America in thirty minutes plus a bunch of lessons that very few teachers are ever going to do ... then we are all idiots.

Sorry, but this is hyper-partisanship carried to a ludicrous extreme.

But the issue isn't whether "very few teachers" use the plans (again, the controversial ones have since been deleted). The issue is teachers that would use them -- and use them to, as Steve might say, "hyper-partisan" effect. Steve seemed to have an objection to my use of the term "right of conscience" for he later wrote a rambling post about kids being "over-protected." In it he wrote:

Which is why I do not buy any of the faux "freedom of conscience" arguments from people who don't want their kids to be "forced" to watch President Obama on TV. Guess what? School is frankly about coercion all over the place, and the chief lesson once your kids become independent learners is how to find the edges of the system and survive. Coddling them by "protecting" them from strange ideas or bad teachers is, frankly, not helping them at all.

Don't agree? Fine. Take your kids out of every school activity with which you politically disagree; I won't interfere, other than to think you're not doing them any favors.

Since I was the only one to invoke such a term in his previous post, it's pretty obvious to me that Steve had myself in mind when he wrote that. But I didn't object to kids being forced merely to watch Obama on TV; again, I objected to the proposed lesson plans that the Dept. of Education initially had in mind (and which Steve indicated he still didn't care about). I responded in the comments section thusly:

"Faux?" I was trained as a social studies educator (even though I'm in foreign language now) and my cooperating teacher (a big-time conservative) made it more than clear that on all things political teachers should cover both (or as many as feasible) sides of an issue, and NEVER mandate that students be forced to PICK a side. If you are OK with what the federal DoE had in those lesson plans, fine. (I never said anything about merely watching Obama's speech, which I agree would be pretty much benign in nature, politically.) But as a social studies person yourself, I find that horrifying frankly. Amazing that you brush off concern over that as "hyper-partisanship," yet you get all apoplectic about a DNC memo invoking right-wing terrorism (which has also since been scrubbed from its website) which is what -- just more modern "politics as usual." Spare me.

You implication that I condone parents objecting to all things "controversial" is hilarious. So is your implication that I am a "helicopter parent." Try reading what I've written on that subject in my education archives. It would have saved you from being overly self-righteous (and verbose) in this post. All I was saying is that NO student should be forced to take a [political] side by advocating for something that he/she does not believe in. Would you, Steve, take such a cavalier attitude if schools forced students to say the Pledge of Allegiance? Would anyone concerned about that be "hyper-partisan" and/or "not doing their kids any favors" in life, hmm??

Indeed, even though I am (obviously) a right-leaning person politically, it frankly turns my stomach when I ponder myself assigning to students a paper/project for which they MUST adopt a particular point of view that may be [so] contrary to their personal beliefs. (And we're not talking about a college law class where potential lawyers must learn to advocate for a client despite personal views or something similar, OK?) Steve thinks this is just "hyper-partisan" (which, ironically, puts him in the company of the MSM).

UPDATE: Newton has since commented that my "right to conscience" point was not the genesis of his follow-up post, and that he still thinks classroom coercion in certain areas isn't that big a deal. And when he says

Children are amazing resilient and resistant to a lot of this crap, especially when parents are actually involved in their education. When parents are not, the children usually aren't learning much of anything

I largely agree. Personally, were my own daughter assigned a project to write a letter of support to a politician whom she did not agree with, I would not contact the teacher and demand he rescind the assignment. I would tell my daughter to ask the teacher if she could write a letter expressing her concerns over the politician's policies instead of indicating support. If the teacher refused, then I would [politely] contact him/her and ask why. I'd estimate that in 99% of such cases, the situation would be resolved right here. But if was not, at this point I [still] would not contact the school's administration. I'd tell my daughter to go ahead and write the "contrary" letter anyway -- just to see what happens. If the teacher gave the letter a failing grade that resulted in a detrimental overall drop in class average, then I would consider asking for a parent-teacher-[and possibly] administrator conference.

Overall, my view is that when delicate/controversial issues arise in classrooms/schools, parents should be well notified and should have a [reasonable] provision to either have their children do alternative work, or not attend altogether. Good teachers/administrators (and I've been fortunate enough to work with both over my almost 20 years in public ed.) recognize this and make allowances for such.

UPDATE 2: Uber edu-blogger Joanne Jacobs has a post up about the Obama speech/lesson plan controversy.

Posted by Hube at 09:22 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

August 18, 2009

Gadgets that make you look like a tool

MSNBC.com has an interesting feature today. A side article from the main "40 Big Losers -- Obsolete Technology" is the "Seven Gadgets That Make You Look Like a Jerk." Here's my take on a few of them:

The Blackberry. I agree with writer Daniel Harrison-- if you absolutely don't need it outside of work, put the damn thing away. There's rarely a bigger tool at the bar, restaurant or golf course than the friend/acquaintance/newly introduced someone that spends every passing second on his/her BB surfing the 'net for ... whatever.

iPod accessories. I always get a chuckle out of folks that scoff at the fact that I have one of the first model iPods (the Nano), that it's a hand-me-down (I "inherited" it from my daughter when we "upgraded" hers to the latest model a Christmas or so ago), and that I don't have a "neat" case for it or some fancy headphones. Well let's see -- gee, I'm in my mid-40s so I could care freakin' less what my iPod LOOKS like! As long as it holds and plays the music I like, I am golden, hear? Hell, some of my best friends don't even own an iPod yet, so at least I'm ahead of that curve! Oh, and speaking of headphones, I'm with Harrison -- WTF is the deal with having one hang uselessly all over one's self? Isn't the idea to listen to music in stereo?

Linux. I saw the story about these dudes on "60 Minutes" a while back and was intrigued. But Harrison has it right: "... a lot of Linux users out there give the whole thing a poor name. They forget that most people don't know as much as they do about computers. Some people garden, write poetry, fall in love or ... er, bloviate about gadgetry." Indeed. What layman wants to bother to learn/use a system that reminds one of the pre-Windows DOS days? These tools remind me of the folks that derided AOL users back in the '90s. I mean, God forbid that a company make [new] Internet technology a piece of cake for the everyman! Harrison continues:

Please don't confuse your fanaticism with superiority and, for the love of Jobs, stop telling us we're sheep under the sway of Microsoft. No one likes Comcast either, but until it's convenient to string our own fiber optic cable we're sticking with it. (Msnbc.com is a Microsoft-NBC Universal joint venture.)

Cool if: You're not heaping disdain on the rest of us, or maybe if you're in charge of a server farm.

Not cool if: You feel your mastery of computers excuses your inability to control a neck-beard.

Such putzes are in line with those who, for instance, wanted to boycott the revamped Star Wars films (y'know, the "special editions" that made use of new CGI effects). I mean ... why?? Get an F'ing grip.

The Bluetooth. This is by FAR the gadget that makes you look like biggest tool imaginable. The ONLY place this piece of equipment is necessary is in the car, where it actually makes sense. But at the grocery store? The mall? Going for a walk? At the MOVIES?? (Yes, I've been totally miffed at morons who wear their BTs in the movies -- that freakin' annoying blinking blue light in the ear-piece distracting the hell out of me as I try to keep my eyes on what I'm supposed to -- the movie screen. Unreal.) Then there's the parents who come to school for a parent conference (usually because their "angel" has been suspended or gotten detention) with their BTs mounted; you try to ask them "Can I help you?" but they're clueless. You're ignored while they continue their convo -- oblivious as to why they're at the school in the first place. And they wonder why their kid misbehaves?

Posted by Hube at 06:16 PM | Comments (12) | TrackBack

August 12, 2009

Costa Rican prez has swine flu

Geez -- Costa Rican prez and former Nobel Peace Prize winner Oscar Arias has been diagnosed with swine flu:

Nobel Peace laureate and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias said Tuesday that he has swine flu, showing that not even a head of state is safe from the virus that has caused worldwide concern but relatively few deaths.

The 69-year-old president and Nobel Peace Prize winner said in a statement that he was quarantined at home and is being treated with the anti-flu medicine oseltamivir.

Hmm, I passed by his house numerous times when I was in CR (late June-early July). Hopefully I'm not infected! ;-) The CR prez's house is a fairly non-descript domicile -- right on the main "boulevard" and only slightly larger than the surrounding homes. It's only about a mile from my in-laws' house. And there's usually only one guard on duty in front!

I am wondering why all the hubbub about swine flu. As the article says, there's "worldwide concern but relatively few deaths" regarding the flu. If anything, it's currently quite less severe than the "regular" flu, but I believe I read some info that the real concern is that it will mutate into a more virulent strain. If it continues to hang around as it has been, such a mutation would rack up a bigger death toll.

In a semi-related note, I was barred from donating blood a couple weeks ago because I was in Costa Rica for a time earlier this summer. If I had remained in San José, the capital, I would have been allowed to donate. But since I trekked to the Pacific coast beaches for four days while there, I was categorized as a "malaria risk." Not allowed to donate for one full year. Geez.

Posted by Hube at 11:19 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 11, 2009

These folks must have been "un-American"

Much has been made of Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer's note that

These (townhall) disruptions are occurring because opponents are afraid not just of differing views — but of the facts themselves. Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American. Drowning out the facts is how we failed at this task for decades.

There has been much parsing of this statement. Some believe Nance and Steny are correct; others play semantics games to the tune of defending Pelosi and Hoyer.

So, is it "un-American" to "drown out" opposing views? I wonder, especially considering these examples of discussions about privatizing Social Security from 2005:

"a boisterous crowd which frequently interrupted the discussion with shouts and hard nosed questions. ... Democrats in the audience who were interrupting the panel.... the crowd erupted in anger... Democrats in the audience started shouting him down again."

"By now, Jack Kingston is used to shouted questions, interruptions and boos. Republican congressmen expect such responses these days when they meet with constituents about President Bush's proposal to overhaul Social Security."

"Shaken by raucous protests at open "town hall"-style meetings last month ... Santorum was among dozens of members of Congress who ran gantlets of demonstrators and shouted over hecklers at Social Security events last month. Many who showed up to protest were alerted by e-mails and bused in by anti-Bush organizations such as MoveOn.org and USAction, a liberal advocacy group. They came with prepared questions and instructions on how to confront lawmakers."

Not only are these folks "un-American" using the Pelosi-Hoyer standard, they also did precisely what the Left is accusing the GOP of doing now -- planning on how to disrupt meetings.

Did any GOP lawmakers refer to these protestors as "un-American?" I don't know. I sure didn't hear about it. If they did, you can be sure we would have heard about it in the MSM, just as we did when the occasional conservative/Republican called an anti-Iraq War protestor "un-American" or something similar. But I did hear about these Social Security protestors, though -- and it was usually referred to positively by the MSM. After all, can't have anyone touching Social Security now, can we? But when folks are concerned about a federal takeover of 1/5 of the US economy, well, they're somehow "overreacting!"

And where are Pelosi and Hoyer (not to mention their defenders noted above) when this "un-American" prevention-of-discussion" activity happens regularly on American college campuses? Anecdotes abound of conservative speakers on campuses being heckled, shouted down and even physically attacked. Again (as I've noted many, many times here), this happens all the time. And this doesn't even take into account the myriad speech codes, kangaroo college "courts" and so-called disciplinary procedures that universities utilize to suppress views contrary to the "prevailing orthodoxy."

But if the Left suddenly has determined that "loudly protesting" something is "un-American," then why do we make such a big deal of the McCarthy Era in American history? After all, there were Communists that had infiltrated our government (and other cultural institutions) and Communism was dedicated to destroying the United States one way or another. Was Elia Kazan wrong to expose those who were associated with Communism? The conventional wisdom (mostly among the Left) is that what Kazan did was "un-American," not what those who he exposed did!

So, which is "un-American?" Actively supporting an ideology that wishes to annihilate our own system of government ... or boisterous protests in favor of preserving our system of government? If the Left really believes that the latter is "un-American," then they also need to believe that the former is likewise so. If not, then they have a rather unique view of "American."

Personally, I feel that the current anti-Obama healthcare reform protestors should indeed be respectful and allow our elected officials to say their piece. Contrariwise, our elected officials need to listen to THE PEOPLE, and deal with the bit of anger they may express -- and even the occasional "boos" and shout-outs. After all, that's what our elected officials are -- elected officials. WE are THEIR bosses, not the other way around.

And while I certainly feel that the Communists of the 50s (and before and after) are "un-American" (again, their very belief system desires the demise of America), the mere fact that they reside in the United States gives them the right to hold their beliefs, and to be free of government coercion and investigation unless of course, like anybody else, they become an actual threat. (Holding beliefs and informing others of said beliefs is not an actual threat -- as long as the beliefs and informing are sans violence.)

Overall, it seems to me that the Left is extremely touchy about being called "un-American," but are awfully quick to use the term (and similar epithets) when their opponents do something that they do not like. And it's bolstered by the fact that the MSM will immediately jump on a conservative that has dubbed a liberal politician so ... not so much the other way around. Thankfully, the new media is changing all that -- and exposing long-known hypocrisies.

UPDATE: How easily predictable.

Posted by Hube at 11:18 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 10, 2009

One thing futurists got wrong

And that's the size of computers in the future.

I discuss the matter over at The Comics of Rhodey.

Posted by Hube at 10:45 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 25, 2009

The Gates story and the local blogosphere

Steve Newton of Delaware Libertarian has an additional post up about the Henry Louis Gates situation. He is upset that in the comments on his original post on the topic, I referred to Black Studies as not being a "real" discipline. I noted in the comments in his latest post that I regretted posting that statement, and that I wrote it in response to the DE Liberal-loving "anonone" saying that Gates didn't deserve what happened [merely] because he is a "pre-eminent" scholar. A comment which by itself is total bullsh**, but that doesn't warrant the comment I made, especially since Gates has done work across several disciplines.

Which brings me to my next point:

Newton seems to think that his own personal experiences make the phrase "post-racial America" a farce. He works at an Historically Black University, and relies on the anecdotes of colleagues to "make" his case. Well, Steve, it has been MY experience (at the U of D) that areas of study such as, yes, Black Studies but others such as Womens' Studies, Queer Studies and even Education (my own field) are much more ... "fluff" (for lack of a better term) as opposed to areas like economics, biology, history and business. (Again, although Professor Gates is currently located in Black Studies, his work cuts across academic lines.) Why would my experiences mean less than Newton's? In addition, would my own personal and work experiences count as a "counter" to Newton's [anecdotal] experiences that supposedly "prove" Gates was in the right on the police/arrest matter? If not, why?

Newton stated in the comments of his recent post that "What offends me most about the incident are the people who are responding to Dr Gates in profoundly racist terms ..." Really? It was Professor Gates himself, who Newton has defended from the onset, that made the issue a racial one right away, and then Newton did it himself in his initial post, titling it "What's wrong with the arrest of Dr. Henry Louis Gates of Harvard is not just the racism... " To do that, and then say you're "offended" by me saying that Black Studies isn't a "real" discipline amounts to just so much asininity. Further, why did Newton title his initial post what he did, and subsequently continue to make the "race" case when he responded here at Colossus thusly on my first post on the matter: "The issue is not so much racism (at least to me) ..."? I understand that Newton has much more of a problem with law enforcement than I do, and that is fine (Jonah Goldberg pontificated on the "two camps" surrounding the Gates matter in an update on my original post); but don't say that the issue is NOT racism and then write a couple posts based [mostly] on just that.

You've written myriad posts over the years, Steve, denouncing cheap insinuations of racism; unfortunately, you fell into this pit yourself recently.

Posted by Hube at 11:24 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

July 22, 2009

Common sense on the Gates arrest

James Taranto puts Henry Louis Gates' recent arrest (charges since dropped) into perspective:

So, is this what happens to black men in America? We’d say it’s what happens to men in America who are mistaken for burglars. It -- or something very similar -- happened to us.

It was a balmy afternoon in the mid-1990s, and we were a guest at a friend’s house in Alexandria, Va. Our friend was out of town, but he left us the key. Shortly after arriving, we went out to the backyard for a bit, then to our room for a rest. We heard some commotion outside and went downstairs to investigate.

It turned out to be Alexandria’s Finest, trying to get in the back door. Apparently a neighbor had seen us in the yard, mistaken us for a strange man, and summoned the police. As we recall, there were two cops. They were not friendly. We remember vividly that one of them had his gun drawn, albeit defensively (that is, it was still pointed into the holster).

We were shocked and offended by the intrusion, but we had the presence of mind not to give voice to those feelings. We explained the situation, showed our identification, and demonstrated that the key in our pocket unlocked the front door. Satisfied that we were not a trespasser or burglar, the policemen left. They did not apologize. The experience left us a bit rattled. But on reflection we realized that although perhaps the policemen’s manner could have used some improvement, they were merely doing their job. It wasn’t their fault the information on which they acted was bad.

Having been through a similar experience, we feel qualified to say that Gates handled the situation poorly. Becoming belligerent with a police officer is almost never a good idea. Not only can it get you arrested, but it can cause a merely uncomfortable situation to escalate into a deadly one. If Gates thought the officer behaved improperly, he should have held his peace, defused the situation, and later taken the matter up with local officials. In addition, if Gates did tell the officer he had “no idea who he was messing with,” he showed a distinct lack of grace.

Taranto goes on to note that the cops weren't totally in the right, either. Once Gates' identity was established, they should've taken off. (As I, too, said in the first update of my original post.) He says the situation "appears to have been a misunderstanding between two stubborn men, both of whom would be better off had one of them exercised some maturity and forbearance." Indeed. Which doesn't seem to satisfy those on the hard-left like a certain two commenters over at DE Libertarian. The usual [racial] canards are trotted out ("it wouldn't happen to a 'nice white guy' like you...") as well as the contradiction in feelings toward authority. That is, one commenter in particular (a frequent visitor to the local gaggle of moonbats) ripped the police as invasive Gestapo-ites because they dared to hang around after Professor Gates' had established his ID. Of course, on the other hand, if someone happens to drive a vehicle with a bumper sticker that states support for a vigorous application of the 10th Amendment, then you're deserving of federal surveillance!!

Taranto's anecdote reminds me of the time me and a buddy, as juniors in high school, were detained by a couple of cops for fitting the profile of a some teens who were terrorizing young kids on Halloween night. They detained us, in fact, right in front of my house. My mother was frantic. One of the cops (a woman, for what it's worth), was exceedingly nasty, seemingly already considering us guilty. My friend and I were cooperative and polite, as was my father who eventually came down to see what was going on. It all took about 20 minutes, and we were released. Was I upset? Not really. I knew I wasn't guilty, and I knew the cops were just doing their job. I was more upset at the embarrassment my folks had to endure by the neighbors seeing a cop car in front of our house with the lights flashing. But that was nobody's fault. Again, the cops were just doing their job. And y'know what? It's a job that is becoming less and less one that people will want, thanks to overblown incidents like the one involving Professor Gates.

UPDATE: Who is owed an apology?

UPDATE 2: Some common sense from the WaPo, remarkably.

Posted by Hube at 11:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 30, 2009

Costa Rica update

Well, we all just got back from the awesome beach in Puntarenas, Costa Rica. I got burnt to sh** because I used a spray sunblock instead of a lotion, and it didn't apply evenly. So now I have this wacky looking burn-tan pattern on my shoulders and back. Nice. At any rate, the place we stayed was awesome (an all-inclusive resort) and if I've never said it here before, the Costa Rican people are simply awesome. The friendliest folks on the planet.

And what happens while we're here? Honduran President Zelaya gets ousted in a coup ... and Costa Rica takes the dude in! (This is what happens when libs are in power, eh? Oscar Arias is prez of CR once again; his first term was back in 1986-1990.) And what's this -- Obama agrees with Hugo Chávez and Fidel Castro that Zelaya should be allowed back -- even though he blatantly defied the Honduran Congress and Supreme Court more than once?? SEE??

Another update as time permits.

Posted by Hube at 08:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 24, 2009

Costa Rica

Tomorrow, I'm heading back there for the first time in four years. As a matter of fact, Colossus of Rhodey started up during that time. My daughter will be celebrating her quinceañera, which is akin to a Bat Mitzvah but for Hispanic culture. It means "fifteen years." The whole trip will be a time of family and friends ... and a lot of Imperial.

Thus, blogging will be quite light. I'll have a 'net connection at the in-laws to check in occasionally, and I'm sure I'll post a few a reports about anything exciting that may happen (like an earthquake or me getting infected with a Botfly larvae).

¡Hasta entonces!

Posted by Hube at 06:00 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

June 23, 2009

Video: Author of One Second After

Back in March I posted about the scary book One Second After by William Forstchen. It details what would happen if the U.S. suffered an EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) attack from a nuclear weapon detonated high in the atmosphere above the country. Glenn Reynolds now has up a video of Forstchen discussing his novel.

Posted by Hube at 10:43 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 19, 2009

Marvel comic makes a M*A*S*H gaffe

I've noticed a gaffe in my favorite TV show of all-time for many years now -- something only a true Marvel Comics fan could catch. Check out these two images of "Radar" O'Reilly asleep in his cot:

See what that red arrow is pointing at? Look closely. Yep, that's an issue of Avengers #60 from 1969. Here's the full cover:

So tell me: How can Radar be reading a comic from at least sixteen years in the future?? (The Korean War lasted from 1950-1953.)

Posted by Hube at 06:59 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 11, 2009

"I've eaten a river of liver and an ocean of fish!"

Igor: We have liver or fish.
Hawkeye: I didn't hear you say that, because it isn't possible. It's inhuman to serve the same food day after day! The Geneva Convention prohibits the killing of our taste buds!
Trapper: Easy...
Hawkeye: I simply cannot eat the same food every day! Fish, liver, day after day! I've eaten a river of liver and an ocean of fish! I've eaten so much fish, I'm ready to grow gills! I've eaten so much liver, I can only make love if I'm smothered in bacon and onions! Are we gonna stand for this?! Are we gonna let them do this to us?! NO! I say, NO!! WE'RE NOT GONNA EAT THIS DRECK ANYMORE!! WE WANT SOMETHING ELSE!!!

DRAFTEES OF THE WORLD ARISE!!! YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT YOUR COOKIES!!!

(Courtesy of the greatest episode of the greatest show ever.)

Posted by Hube at 01:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 27, 2009

The libertarian in me says "no," but ...

... it is dangerous and at the least a royal PITA (that's "pain in the ass.")

A letter in today's News Journal:

Thankfully someone realizes the danger of a cell phone while driving. We narrowly missed big accidents twice with people using cell phones. My husband was a truck driver for 30 years with a perfect driving record. If he wasn’t so cautious and attentive behind the wheel, we would have been in a terrible accident. Both times the drivers were on a cell phone. They have to ban cell phones while driving before something or someone gets killed. Drivers should pull to the curb or the side of the road to use a cell phone. Legislators stopped smoking in public places. In today’s world with so many careless drivers on the road, we really don’t need a cell phone mishap.

Seriously, there is nothing more irritating -- and possibly dangerous -- today than someone on a cell phone while driving. I know many folks can talk and drive competently at the same time; however, way too many cannot. It's gotten a helluva lot worse the last few years, too. (It's miffed me so much that I actually want to title my hypothetical first book about it.) Here's a few instances that have happened to me the last few months:

  • Some lazy teen on a cell phone was going about 5-10 MPH and braking intermittently for no reason in a north Wilmington neighborhood. After tailing the dude for several minutes, I then attempted to go around him. This idiot, in an obvious attempt to "not be shown up" or some other such nonsense, then drastically speeded up so as to not let me pass. I was successful, however, but the cretin then tail-gated me through the rest of the neighborhood, inexplicably upset. So, "to return the favor," so to speak, I dropped my speed to 5-10 MPH.

  • On Foulk Rd. on north Wilmington, a 50-something guy was driving like the teen in the first instance -- but Foulk Rd.'s speed limit is 45 MPH!! The left lane was lined with traffic, and after about 3 minutes of putting up with 10 MPH driving and intermittent braking on what is essentially a highway-like road, I beeped the guy with my horn. He proceeded to give me the finger and was obviously shouting at me behind closed windows! But the cell phone never left his hand (and ear).

  • In a double-lane left-hand turn lane, a woman in the left lane attempted to merge immediately into the right -- and right into my car. Thankfully, I laid into my horn and she quickly yanked back into her lane. Yep, she was on her cell phone.

  • A middle-aged guy was driving in the left lane on I-95 at about 45 MPH, oblivious to the massive line of traffic behind him and the various flashing of headlights by numerous cars indicating to him to get over. The cell phone never left his hand, and a smile from his conversation never left his face.

Posted by Hube at 05:13 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

May 19, 2009

Another year comes to a close ...

The end of another school year is upon us, and me. It's number eighteen for me, meaning I'm a few years past the "halfway point" to retirement (that is, if I can actually afford to when the time comes). The bunch I had this year were the most ... "trying" I've had in the many years of teaching my current subject, perhaps the most trying. By that I mean academically and behaviorally. I don't think I've ever seen the degree of utter apathy among my students that I witnessed this year.

What got me really thinking about this was when I caught a short segment on CNN's "Lou Dobbs" show a couple weeks back. A few graphics showed the [growing] percentage of drop-outs across the country, with Dobbs then asking "Are we failing our children?" Then I thought of the numerous foreign students I've had over the years -- and some of the observations made by their parents. Why? Well, to show how spoiled we've all become in our country.

I still recall an Indian (from India, not Native American) family from my very first year in the classroom (1991). They were astonished at all the "stuff" American students had at their disposal in their classrooms, and school in general. Really. Astonished. Hell, my wife (from Costa Rica) was equally astonished the day she first set foot in my class. And again, this was 1991. Drastic improvements in schools and classes have taken place since.

So, if we have top-of-line schools and classrooms across this country (and face it -- even our poorest districts are [much] better off than schools in the 3rd World), why do our kids still drop out? Why could they care less about their performance in class? They have the best facilities, as a whole, anywhere on the globe.

In short, I think we've become a victim of our own affluence -- and of our "no (or "lack of") responsibility" mindset. After all, why study when you know you're going to be "promoted" anyhow? (This is called "social promotion" -- granted to those who do absolute sh** in the classroom and eventually get moved on to the next grade because, well, they're too old.) Why study when you know that X-Box will be there for you when you get home, along with your cell phone and laptop? Why study when it's mostly the teachers' responsibility to "make" you learn? Why study when the government will take care of you if you just wanna be a bum?

Why behave in class when no matter what you do, mommy and daddy will believe you and not the teacher? Why behave in class when even the most egregious behavior will garner a mere slap on the wrist? Why behave in class when disruptions that require the teacher to physically restrain a student frequently result in the teacher getting into trouble?

Yet, society demands more and more that the classroom teacher rectify these academic and social shortcomings.

Hey look, trust me -- I'll be the last person to place all the blame on society and parents for the travails in our schools today. Hell, a good/great teacher is vital today more than ever, especially in classes where there are numerous academic and behavioral issues. But as the degree of social strife increases year after year in our schools, logic dictates that not only will the effects of these great teachers be less, but more and more great teachers will be less willing to stay in the profession, let alone enter it at all.

Is it any wonder that the most successful schools are those with the lowest BS tolerance? Seriously. Take a look around. Schools with strong administrations -- administrators that are a constant presence in the hallways and classrooms, and tolerate NO behavioral nonsense -- are the ones that end up with safe, successful schools. Just consider the Rudy Giuliani approach to crime and safety during his tenure as New York mayor: Deal with the little things and the big things will follow (being dealt with, that is). Administrators (and teachers) who don't deal with the "small" things (like school/class latenesses, minor class disruptions like repeated talking, constant unpreparedness) are just inviting bigger hassles to appear -- and they will. Why? Because students recognize that they can get away with it. It sure ain't rocket science. And anyone recall the name Joe Clark? (I previously discussed Joe here.) Immortalized in the film "Stand By Me," Joe was hired to turn around a perpetually dysfunctional high school, and he did just that -- by putting up with absolutely no bullsh**. (Granted, some of the instances depicted in the film I doubt could actually occur in real life -- unfortunately -- like gathering the numerous repeat troublemakers on the auditorium stage and informing them that they are "expurgated;" basic state laws would forbid such a casual dismissal.) If more school administrators -- and their higher-up central office administrators -- were willing to go to the mat to get rid of the worst of the worst elements in a school, problems would decrease markedly. However, these folks fear the costs of lawsuits brought by the "parents" (and their ambulance-chasing lawyers) of such troublemakers and [especially] central office personnel end up making the most cost-effective decision: Cede to the "parent's" demands. And so the cycle continues ...

And what of stigma? The very definition doesn't exist anymore in schools. Back when I was in school, those known to use drugs (usually marijuana in those days) were known as "druggies" or "burn-outs." Socially they were shunned, and with good reason. The majority of students were well-behaved, and most were decent-to-good students or at least worked to be. Now, truly good students are a minority. "Tracking," or its slightly less un-PC relative "ability level placement" has become anathema because those who aren't as intellectually rigorous or hard-working might be "hurt" by their placement in a "lower level" class. So, in the meantime, the hard-working and bright students sit aside those who could care less, the behavior and attitude of the latter diminishing the class atmosphere as a whole. But hey, at least their self-esteem is intact! Isn't that more important than the achievement of the kids who really care about school? Right? Getting suspended from school used to be considered a really big deal. Now, it is almost a status symbol. Where it was once rarely invoked, suspension is done on a daily basis now.

Do I sound like an embittered educator ... a surly grizzled veteran who should vacate for someone new and fresh? After reading this post I can see how you might get that impression. However, I am really not at that point yet. Really. Teaching keeps me young (in mind and spirit) and the joy of seeing that "light bulb" go on in a young student's head is still a joy for me to behold. My students seem to think so too as they've yet again -- twelve years in a row now -- chosen me as the school's "Favorite Male Teacher."

Perhaps part of the problem related to my beefs is that I hold what are considered to be largely "traditional" views. And as such, these beliefs go up against "the system." Traditional belief holds that misbehavior should have consequences, especially severe and/or chronic misbehavior. Modern "educationist" belief holds that we have "to understand" the student, counsel him/her, and rely more on "positive reinforcement." (Granted, I am not against this out of hand; however, note that I previously said "severe and/or chronic" behavior. It gets beyond ridiculous when a kid who's constantly a disruption gets only a talking to ... about the "good" things he/she has done. Meanwhile, the kid is laughing his/her ass off inside planning what he/she can get away with next.) Traditional belief holds that students actually have to earn something. Educationist belief holds that "all students are special" regardless, thus ability grouping (discussed above) is scorned, competition is frowned upon, and awards celebrations have to include everybody. (I've made a decision not to attend any more "awards nights." They've become a satire of their former selves as kids are now getting "awards" for being an office aide or for mere participation in, say, an afternoon "chat" session -- right alongside those who earned a perfect 4.0 GPA and/or earned academic honors in a specific discipline. Sheesh.)

I suppose I'll end where I began. Later in June I'll be traveling back to Costa Rica to, in part, celebrate my daughter's "quinceañera." While there, I am always incredibly touched by the hundreds of "Ticos" (what Costa Ricans call themselves) all dressed in the standard school uniform, walking several miles, if need be, to what in many cases is something akin to a traditional, old-style one-room schoolhouse. Often with only a few pencils and a notebook. Costa Rica is, after all, the country that abolished its armed forces over a half century ago ... to pour those monies into education. It is one of Latin America's most prosperous countries.

Let's hope that it's growing prosperity and affluence doesn't alter its attitudes on education.

Check out a big part of the US's problem here -- my Watcher's Council non-member blog submission of the week.

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May 18, 2009

When I write a book, I think I have a title:

Get the F*** Off the Cell Phone and Drive.

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May 13, 2009

Almost happened to me yesterday

Check this: Rotten office fridge cleanup sends 7 to hospital.

I hit the Chili's on 202 after seeing "Trek" yesterday, and its men's room had probably the single most foul stench I've ever encountered. And it wasn't just the result of someone with gastrointestinal difficulties. It was as if a sewer pipe had cracked, or something. I might not have been able to finish my dinner had I not copped a big inhalation of [semi-] fresh air before hitting the stall.

How does a restaurant not take care of something like that??

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May 09, 2009

Which are worse ...

... teen drivers?

Or senior citizen drivers?

My vote: Senior citizen drivers by a long shot. They infest northern Delaware and they're as dangerous as these folks are stupid.

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May 04, 2009

Uh oh

Flu, Mostly Mild, Has Spread Across U.S. is a headline at the NY Times.

That's good to know. My daughter has something, and it looks like the flu (hence I'm home w/her today). She refused to allow me to mention the "S" word that's synonymous with "pig" yesterday, but we'll see what's up later today, hopefully ...

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May 02, 2009

My "Wolverine" review

... is up at The Comics of Rhodey.

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April 06, 2009

I plan to retire here, then

40 per cent of Australian women wear a bra with a cup size DD or bigger.

(Via Insty.)

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March 15, 2009

No wonder I'm a genius!

My dad was only 22 when I was born.

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March 14, 2009

Vaya con Diós, Torry

The St. Louis Rams release Torry Holt.

Thanks for the memories, my friend. You helped get us our only Super Bowl win. And, you once pointed to me and gave me a thumbs up! I'll never forget that!


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March 07, 2009

I've decided ...

... to keep separate from Colossus any comics-related blogging. To that effect I've started "The Comics of Rhodey" site where, henceforth, any and all comics and popular entertainment postings will take place.

There aren't any posts there as of yet (look for one later today, though); I've just been playing with the template and layout. Hopefully, a comics buddy will hook me up with a very cool title banner shortly!

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March 01, 2009

This I-Pod thing is cool

My latest additions:

The Pretenders:

  • "Mystery Achievement"
  • "Talk of the Town"
  • "Show Me"
  • "Tattooed Love Boys"
  • "Message of Love"

Yes:

  • "Starship Trooper"
  • "Tempus Fugit"
  • "Roundabout"
  • "Love Will Find a Way"

Boz Scaggs:

  • "Heart of Mine"
  • "Lowdown"
  • "Look What You've Done to Me"

Others:

  • "Loose Fit" by Happy Mondays
  • "Lay It Down" by Ratt (seriously! It jams!)
  • "I Can't Tell You Why" by The Eagles

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February 26, 2009

Useless stuff about me

I saw this post from Shirley, and also at Brian's, so since I'm in a lazy blogging mood I figured I'd do same -- since no one demanded it.

* My parents are quite young. They were 19 (mom) and 21 (dad) when I was born. They're currently both quite healthy and doing well.

* I just recently got an I-Pod. It was actually my daughter's; I "acquired" it after we got her the latest model for Christmas. Most of the songs I've put in it thus far have Spanish lyrics.

* I won a spelling bee in 6th grade by correctly spelling the word "grotesque." The credit goes to Marvel Comics -- I remembered it from a character called the Grotesque Glob, an enemy of the Hulk.

* I don't much like blondes. I much more prefer dark-haired, dark-eyed women.

* I once ran a quarter mile (400 meters) in under 50 seconds. (The world record, FWIW, is 43.18 by the US's Michael Johnson.)

* I worked as a waiter, bartender, soft drink pack-out guy, and bank credit card collector before getting my teaching gig.

* My favorite "hard" drink is a gin gimlet on the rocks.

* My favorite pizza is with pepperoni and sweet peppers.

* I was about an angstrom's width away from joining the Navy after college. I ultimately decided against it because my vision really sucked (and still sucks). How's that relevant? I wanted to fly.

* Speaking of the Navy, my maternal grandfather flew a Corsair off the carrier Roosevelt.

* My first ride in a plane was on a flight to Europe. We stopped in Iceland en route. That was cool.

* And speaking even more of flying, I once got into a bit of trouble as a teenager while in a Cesna. When the pilot (a friend of mine) and I arrived at Wilmington Airport, there were two police helicopters waiting for us at the end of the runway.

* My fave vegetable is either lima beans or broccoli. My fave fruit is bananas.

* I love many traditional Latin rhythms -- salsa, merengue, bachata -- but can't dance to them worth a freakin' darn.

* I think Trevor Rabin is the greatest guitar player I've ever seen play.

* I've lived in Delaware my entire freakin' life.

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February 22, 2009

It's meme time again

Thanks to Peevish for this one:

What are your middle names?
My middle name will remain anonymous. Besides, it's my mother's maiden name and is quite unusual. 'Da wife's is "Yadira," after her aunt.

How long have you been together?
Married nineteen and a half years; together for twenty and a half.

How long did you know each other before you started dating?
Two years.

Who asked whom out?
Neither. Ours was a ... different sort of beginning. Being that she was in another country until the time of my return and we weren't yet an "item," our friendship just "evolved" into a more intimate relationship.

How old are each of you?
I'm 44; she's 45.

Whose siblings do you see the most?
Mine, only because hers are in another country.

Which situation is the hardest on you as a couple?
The discipline of our daughter. I tend to be more "old school;" 'da wife is sort of a contemporary "helicopter parent." It causes more friction in our marriage than any other issue by far.

Did you go to the same school?
For a semester, yes. We met in 1986 when I studied abroad at the University of Costa Rica. (I'm a UD grad -- '87 and '01.)

Are you from the same home town?
Hell no.

Who is smarter?
Me.

Who is the most sensitive?
She's cries every time she watches "Extreme Home Makeover." 'Nuff said.

Where do you eat out most as a couple?
Traditional Latino places.

Where is the furthest you two have traveled together as a couple?
Costa Rica.

Who has the craziest exes?
I do.

Who has the worst temper?
I do. (And she sure knows how to activate it.)

Who does the cooking?
We both do, unless it's Latino. That's her exclusive domain.

Who is the neat-freak?
I am.

Who is more stubborn?
She is by quite a bit.

Who hogs the bed?
She does, but I'm usually so out cold I don't notice or care.

Who wakes up earlier?
I do, by far. She can sleep until almost noon on weekends.

Where was your first date?
Leonardo's in downtown San José, Costa Rica.

Who is more jealous?
She is, by light-years.

How long did it take to get serious?
About those full two years. We never officially "dated" when I studied abroad; however, we kept in touch constantly for two years until I returned to CR in '88. She had worked out a place for me to stay; it didn't work out. So I ended up staying at her place. And so it goes ...

Who eats more?
You kidding? Me.

Who does the laundry?
I do about 75% of the time, believe it or not. But she does the majority of the folding.

Who's better with the computer?
I am.

Who drives when you are together?
I have to, unless I have absolutely NO clue as to our destination. By "have to" I mean I go crazy if I don't. She's a sh**ty driver.

Posted by Hube at 07:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Hube's Spanish Language Video of the Week

Not sure if this is an official vid (looks like it) but here is my FAVE group EVER, Los Amigos Invisibles, with the first single off their new disc Comercial -- "Mentiras" ("Lies"):


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February 21, 2009

National Review Online's Top 25 Conservative Movies of the Last Quarter Century

Over the last week, National Review Online (NRO) has had numerous contributors write up blurbs for what they determined were the best 25 conservative flicks from the last 25 years. They solicited reader ideas; I sent only one in, and it made the cut. (I've noted it below at the appropriate film.)

I've put in bold the films I've seen. I've included the entire NRO commentary for each entry, and for the one's I've caught I've included my own thoughts following NRO's. NRO has the complete list here, sans the movie stills from their original entries. But before we begin, I want to note what I believe constitutes a "conservative" movie. It's pretty simple, actually. The story should include basic conservative (or, more accurately, what I like to call "classically liberal") principles or concepts -- things like self-reliance, hard work, family, a [fairly non-nebulous] belief in "good," patriotism, respect for country and others, equality under the law, and so on.

In addition, I'd like to note several films I felt were worthy of being included in the list but weren't:

  • "Tucker: A Man and His Dream." Jeff Bridges stars as Preston Tucker, an entrepreneur/car designer who engineers a new automobile with innovative -- and safety oriented -- extras. The Big Three notice the threat and conspire to ruin him. Rugged individualism, entrepreneurial spirit, ambition, enthusiasm, far-sightnedness ... it's all there.

  • "The Patriot." Mel Gibson is the man in this Revolutionary epic. He's a reluctant Colonial but soon finds himself immersed in the conflict in order to avenge his sons against a brutal British calvary. It's not very historically accurate, but compared to, say, "JFK" it's probably an autobiography. A good "USA! USA!"-style film even if the country wasn't formed yet.

  • "Miracle." Anyone alive and older than about six in the winter of 1980 will never, ever forget the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid that year. Why? 'Cause a rag-tag bunch of scrappy Yanks defeated a nigh-invincible Soviet team in ice hockey. Soon after they then beat the Fins to win the freakin' gold medal. Americans love underdogs, and we especially love 'em when they're us. Kurt Russell is awesome as coach Herb Brooks.

  • "Stand and Deliver." Hard work. No excuses. Belief in one's self. Edward James Olmos "delivers" that and more in his portrayal of math teacher extraordinaire Jaime Escalante. Olmos gets a bunch of ne'er do well-but-bright Hispanic high schoolers to become math wizards, taking them from basic math to calculus in four years. When they all pass the Advanced Placement math test, the testers wonder how a bunch of poor Latinos did it. Their answer: They must have cheated. Olmos proves them wrong by having the kids test again -- and they score even higher than before.

  • "Hoosiers." "Real friendly town you have here." That's one of Norman Dale's (played by Gene Hackman) first lines in this David vs. Goliath basketball epic. It was sarcastic, because Dale is looked upon with scorn and suspicion by the residents of the tiny hamlet of Hickory -- that is until he takes the small high school's basketball team all the way to the Indiana state finals. Hackman has skeletons in his closet, but he's paid the piper ... and through hard work, perseverance and redemption, the prize becomes his -- and the town's.

  • "The Right Stuff." This adaptation of Tom Wolfe's book is Americana personified. Drive. Ingenuity. Courage. Strength. A rather lengthy flick (three hours), it follows the original seven Mercury astronauts through their training to the first few flights. But it also concentrates on the man with the "rightest stuff" of all -- pilot Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier. Yeager amazingly "didn't qualify" for Mercury because he didn't have a college degree. No matter. A guy who can survive a jet flame-out at about 100,000 feet -- and walk away from it -- gives the metaphorical middle finger to such bureaucratic nonsense.

  • "Black Hawk Down." Gutsy adaptation of Mark Bowden's book about the rescue of several soldiers marooned in Mogadishu, Somalia. Courage, dedication to comrades and a never-say-die attitude ultimately -- and thankfully -- prevail, but not without cost. We're also "treated" to the bungling bureaucracy that is known as the United Nations. Feh.

  • "Gladiator." Russell Crowe's dynamic portrayal of General Maximus Decimus Meridius got him an Oscar, and the film got one too. Maximus' charisma is hard-earned -- his men love him due to his dedication to them and their well-being, as well as his love of king and country. But when that king -- Marcus Aurelius (played by Richard Harris) -- is murdered by his power hungry son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), Maximus stays true to the real leader of Rome, and the empire's ideals. This leads Commodus to have Maximus killed, but he escapes -- and he "will have [his] vengeance!"

And now, here's the NRO list:

#25. "GRAN TORINO." NRO says:

Clint Eastwood directs and stars in the ultimate family movie unsuitable for the family. He plays Walt Kowalski, a caricature of an old-school, dying-breed, Polish-American racist male, replete with post-traumatic stress disorder from having served in the Korean War. Kowalski comes to realize that his exotic Hmong neighbors embody traditional social values more than his own disaster of a Caucasian nuclear family. Dirty Harry blows away political correctness, takes on the bad guys, and turns a boy into a man in the process. He even encourages the cultural assimilation of immigrants. It feels so good, you knew the Academy would ignore it.

#24. "TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE." NRO says:

This marionette movie from "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone is hard to categorize as conservative. It’s amazingly vulgar and depicts Americans as wildly overzealous in fighting terror. Yet the film’s utter disgust with air-headed, left-wing celebrity activism remains unmatched in popular culture. As the heroes move to stop a WMD apocalypse, they clash with Alec Baldwin, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, and a host of others, whom they take out with gunfire, sword, and martial arts before saving the day. The movie, like "South Park" itself, reveals Parker and Stone as the two-headed George Grosz of American satire.

#23. "UNITED 93." NRO says:

Minutes after terrorists struck on 9/11, Americans launched their first counterattack in the War on Terror. Director Paul Greengrass pays tribute to the passengers of United 93 by refusing to turn their story into a wimpy Hollywood melodrama. Instead, "United 93" unfolds as a real-time docudrama. Just as significantly, Greengrass provides a clear depiction of our enemies. United 93 opens as four Muslim terrorists pray in a hotel room. Several hours later, the hijackers’ frenzied shrieks to Allah mingle with the prayerful supplications of United 93’s passengers as they crash through the cockpit door and strike a blow against those who would terrorize our country.

Hube adds: I saw this with several other right-leaning bloggers when it first came out. You'll be on the edge of your seat for the vast majority of the film, needing to take a huge sigh of forced relaxation at story's end. There are no "name" actors in this film; indeed, some of the actual personnel who were on duty that fateful September morning play their roles here.

#22. "BRAZIL." NRO says:

Vividly depicting the miserable results of elitist utopian schemes, Terry Gilliam’s "Brazil" portrays a darkly comic dystopia of malfunctioning high-tech equipment and the dreary living conditions common to all totalitarian regimes. Everything in the society is built to serve government plans rather than people. The film is visually arresting and inventive, with especially evocative use of shots that put the audience in a subservient position, just like the people in the film. Terrorist bombings, national-security scares, universal police surveillance, bureaucratic arrogance, a callous elite, perversion of science, and government use of torture evoke the worst aspects of the modern megastate.

Hube adds: Recommended to me by a good friend years ago, I actually think "Brazil" could hold the top spot. It's everything NRO says and more. Perhaps Robert DeNiro's cameo as sort of a "rogue capitalist" repairman (he end runs around the state-controlled bureaucratic apparatus giving people quick, reliable service for a price) best exemplifies the theme of the film. It just so happens people are more than willing to pay DeNiro for his services as waiting for the state to send someone could take forever, and their quality sucks (sound familiar?). Of course, the authorities are after DeNiro for his "illegal activities." The film's ending is as tragic as it should be predictable, and the terrorism themes could serve as a warning to today's "progressive" elites.

#21. "HEARTBREAK RIDGE." NRO says:

Clint Eastwood’s foul-mouthed Marine sergeant Tom Highway makes quick work of kicking Communist Cubans out of Grenada. And, boy, does “Gunny” hate Commies. Not only does he kill quite a few, he also refuses a bribe of a Cuban cigar, saying: “Get that contraband stogie out of my face before I shove it so far up your a** you’ll have to set fire to your nose to light it.” A welcome glorification of Reagan’s decision to liberate Grenada in 1983, the film also notes how after a tie in Korea and a loss in Vietnam, America can finally celebrate a military victory. Eastwood, the old war horse, walks off into retirement pleased that he’s not “0–1–1 anymore.” Semper Fi. Oo-rah!

Hube adds: This is the film I submitted to NRO for consideration. If you followed the discussion on the NRO blog The Corner, however, quite a few contributors had reservations about it being on the list. I can understand why; Mario Van Peebles' character "Stitch" Jones is more of a cartoon character than soldier (as are some of the other Marines Clint -- Highway -- has to whip into shape), but the overall message is one that always resonates: Just because you can change something doesn't always mean you should. Highway's new C.O. brags about the "new" Marine Corps while simultaneously denigrating Eastwood's past (heroic) service (he won the Congressional Medal of Honor). Naturally, there's a segment in the film where Highway gets to [legally] kick his C.O.'s ass during a training exercise. Highway sums up his C.O.'s command abilities to a general with one word: "Clusterf***."

#20. "GATTACA." NRO says:

In this science-fiction drama, Vincent (Ethan Hawke) can’t become an astronaut because he’s genetically unenhanced. So he purchases the identity of a disabled athlete (Jude Law), with calamitous results. The movie is a cautionary tale about the progressive fantasy of a eugenically correct world—the road to which is paved by the abortion of Down babies, research into human cloning, and “transhumanist” dreams of fabricating a “post-human species.” Biotechnology is a force for good, but without adherence to the ideal of universal human equality, it opens the door to the soft tyranny of Gattaca and, ultimately, the dystopian nightmare of Brave New World.

Hube adds: Simply put, "Gattaca" is a film dedicated to the triumph of the human spirit. I'm not sure what NRO meant by "calamitous results" when Ethan Hawke assumes the identity of Jude Law. Sure, there are problems -- Hawke constantly has to be ultra-careful so as not to leave behind any of his real genetic material in the form of hair or skin, and he has to undergo an excruciating operation to add several inches to his height -- but even when the authorities are on his tail, and even when his love interest learns what his real story is, Hawke's dream is ultimately fulfilled.

#19. "WE WERE SOLDIERS." NRO says:

Most movies about the Vietnam War reflect the derangements of the antiwar Left. This film, based on the memoir by Lt. Col. Hal Moore (played by Mel Gibson), offers a lifelike alternative. It focuses on a fight between an outnumbered U.S. Army battalion and three North Vietnamese regiments in the battle of Ia Drang in 1965. Significantly, it treats soldiers not as wretched losers or pathological killers, but as regular citizens. They are men willing to sacrifice everything to do their duty—to their country, to their unit, and to their fellow soldiers. As the movie makes clear, they also had families. Indeed, their last thoughts were usually about their loved ones back home.

Hube adds: When I rented this film I was worried it'd be yet another film along the lines of what NRO mentioned above. It's not. Part of the reason may be because it takes place before 'Nam became a [politically] lost cause (1965 is before all the sh** hit the fan, so to speak). Overall, it's an excellent film which does precisely what NRO states: Gibson's men are "willing to sacrifice everything to do their duty—to their country, to their unit, and to their fellow soldiers." Gibson's wife is played by the gorgeous [half Costa Rican] Madeleine Stowe, complete with new, collagen-injected lips.

#18. "THE EDGE." NRO says:

Screenwriter David Mamet uses a wilderness survival story about friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness to present a few truths rarely seen in movies: Knowledge has its limits, fortitude is a weapon against hardship, and honor can motivate even the shallowest man to great sacrifice. Some have interpreted the film as a Cold War allegory because it features a menacing bear. The main characters (played by Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin) understand that there is neither wisdom nor nobility in waiting for others to save them, and that they must take responsibility for their own lives and souls. Life is unfair, but to challenge life on its own terms is an exhilarating reward, no matter the outcome.

#17: "THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA." NRO says:

The White Witch runs a godless, oppressive, paranoid regime that hates Santa Claus. She’s a cross between Burgermeister Meisterburger and Kim Jong Il. The good guys, meanwhile, recognize that some throats will need cutting: no appeasement, no land-for-peace swaps, no offering the witch a snowmobile if she’ll only put away the wand. Underlying the narrative is the story of Christ’s rescuing man from sin—which is antithetical to the leftist dream of perfected man’s becoming an instrument for earthly utopia. The results of such utopian visions, of course, are frequently like the Witch’s reign: always winter, and never Christmas.

#16: "MASTER AND COMMANDER." NRO says:

This naval-adventure film starring Russell Crowe is based on the books of Patrick O’Brian, and here’s what A. O. Scott of the New York Times said in his review: “The Napoleonic wars that followed the French Revolution gave birth, among other things, to British conservatism, and Master and Commander, making no concessions to modern, egalitarian sensibilities, is among the most thoroughly and proudly conservative movies ever made. It imagines the [H.M.S.] Surprise as a coherent society in which stability is underwritten by custom and every man knows his duty and his place. I would not have been surprised to see Edmund Burke’s name in the credits.”

Hube adds: Crowe is magnificent as Jack Aubrey, who commands the deepest respect of his crew as master of the Surprise due to his rough and tough exterior, yet at the same time he is a classically educated gentleman who possesses not only prodigious leadership qualities but an equal sense of humanity, too. Try to imagine, if you can, young men of age 12 to 13 in the positions held by those on the Surprise -- especially the lad who had to have his arm amputated after a surprise attack by the vessel Surprise was pursuing, the French Acheron. It'll make you fear for the future.

#15: "RED DAWN." NRO says:

From the safe, familiar environment of a classroom, we watch countless parachutes drop from the sky and into the heart of America. Oh, no: invading Commies! Laugh if you want—many do—but Red Dawn has survived countless more acclaimed films because Father Time has always been our most reliable film critic. The essence of timelessness is more than beauty. It’s also truth, and the truth that America is a place and an idea worth fighting and dying for will not be denied, not under a pile of left-wing critiques or even Red Dawn’s own melodramatic flaws. Released at the midpoint of Reagan’s presidential showdown with the Soviet Union, this story of what was at stake in the Cold War endures.

Hube adds: Based on a series of highly improbable events -- virtually the entire world goes Commie allowing a coordinated attack by the Russian, Cubans, Nicaraguans and Mexicans(!) -- "Red Dawn" stars [the young] Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson and Jennifer Grey. Yes, it's highly unlikely a bunch of high school teens could mount an effective insurgency against Russian soldiers, but as NRO says above, the theme is that "America is worth fighting for." It was a bit disturbing the first time I saw it in the theatre in 1984 during the segment when Swayze confronts an injured Russian soldier who's at his mercy. Swayze wastes little time putting a bullet in his head. The audience in the theatre cheered. I admit I was kinda hoping Swayze would do it, too. Perhaps such is the passion with which many of us regard America. It's something we Americans should remember about other countries, too.

#14: "A SIMPLE PLAN." NRO says:

A defining insight of conservatism is that whatever transcendent inspiration there may be to moral principles, there is also the humble fact that morality works. Moral institutions and customs endure because they allow civilization to proceed. Sam Raimi’s gripping A Simple Plan illustrates this truth. Bill Paxton plays a decent family man who lives by the book in every way. But when he’s cajoled into breaking the rules to get rich quick, he falls under the jurisdiction of the law of unintended consequences and discovers that simple morality is not simplistic, and that a seductively simple plan is a siren song if it runs against the grain of what is right.

#13: "BRAVEHEART." NRO says:

Forget the travesty this soaring action film makes of the historical record. Braveheart raised its hero, medieval Scottish warrior William Wallace, to the level of myth and won five Oscars, including best director for Mel Gibson, who played Wallace as he led a spirited revolt against English tyranny. Braveheart taught that freedom is not just worth dying for, but also worth killing for, in defense of hearth and homeland. Six years later, amid the ruins of the Twin Towers, Gibson’s message resonated with a generation of American youth who signed up to fight terrorists, instead of inviting them to join a “constructive dialogue.” Liberals have never forgiven Gibson since.

#12: "THE DARK KNIGHT." NRO says:

This film gives us a portrait of the hero as a man reviled. In his fight against the terrorist Joker, Batman has to devise new means of surveillance, push the limits of the law, and accept the hatred of the press and public. If that sounds reminiscent of a certain former president—whose stubborn integrity kept the nation safe and turned the tide of war—don’t mention it to the mainstream media. Our journalists know that good men are often despised by the mob; it just never seems to occur to them that they might be the mob themselves.

Hube adds: I admit I never viewed "DK" as a Bush allegory, but I can see the analogy. But honestly, I can see virtually any chief exec "devis[ing] new means of surveillance, push[ing] the limits of the law, and accept[ing] the hatred of the press" if a nutjob like the Joker was running around causing such mass chaos. And if he didn't, if he wanted to "sit down and have a constructive dialogue" with the Heath Ledger character, then he should promptly be removed from office. The old adage says "the Constitution is not a suicide pact." Unfortunately, many would rather perish, all the while bragging "At least we gave the terrorists habeas corpus ...!!"

#11: "THE LORD OF THE RINGS." NRO says:

Author J. R. R. Tolkien was deeply conservative, so it’s no surprise that the trilogy of movies based on his masterwork is as well. Largely filmed before 9/11, they seemed perfectly pitched for the post-9/11 world. The debates over what to do about Sauron and Saruman echoed our own disputes over the Iraq War. (Think of Wormtongue as Keith Olbermann.) When Frodo sighs, “I wish none of this had happened,” Gandalf’s response speaks to us, too: “So do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

#10: "GHOSTBUSTERS." NRO says:

This comedy might not get Russell Kirk’s endorsement as a worthy treatment of the supernatural, but you have to like a movie in which the bad guy (William Atherton at his loathsome best) is a regulation-happy buffoon from the EPA, and the solution to a public menace comes from the private sector. This last fact is the other reason to love Ghostbusters: When Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) gets kicked out of the university lab and ponders pursuing entrepreneurial opportunities, a nervous Dr. Raymond Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) replies: “I don’t know about that. I’ve worked in the private sector. They expect results!”

Hube adds: How this movie made the top 25 is beyond me. It's terrific entertainment, but aside from the instances noted by NRO above (which are quite fleeting), c'mahn!

#9: "BLAST FROM THE PAST." NRO says:

"Revolutionary Road" is only the latest big-screen portrayal of 1950s America as boring, conformist, repressive, and soul-destroying. A decade ago, Hugh Wilson’s "Blast from the Past" defied the party line, seeing the values, customs, manners, and even music of the period with nostalgic longing. Brendan Fraser plays an innocent who has grown up in a fallout shelter and doesn’t know the era of Sputnik and Perry Como is over. Alicia Silverstone is a post-feminist woman who learns from him that pre-feminist women had some things going for them. Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek as Fraser’s parents are comic gems.

Hube adds: A mildly enjoyable film; however, it made such an "impact" on me that I've largely forgotten anything about it. One noteworthy comedic scene: When a fresh-out-of-the-fallout shelter Fraser sees a black woman on the street, he exclaims "Look, a Negro!" Guaranteed to evoke a wince and a laugh at the same time.

#8: "JUNO." NRO says:

The best pro-life movies reach beyond the church choirs and influence the wider public. "Juno" was a critical and commercial success. It didn’t set out to deliver a message on abortion, but much of its audience discovered one anyway. The story revolves around a 16-year-old who finds a home for her unplanned baby. The film has its faults, including a number of crass moments and a pregnant high-school student with an unrealistic level of self-confidence. Yet it also exposes a broken culture in which teen sex is dehumanizing, girls struggle with “choice,” and boys aimlessly try — and sometimes downright fail — to become men. The movie doesn’t glamorize much of anything but leaves audiences with an open-ended chance for redemption.

Hube adds: My wife and [teen] daughter watched this together, and I watched it shortly thereafter on their recommendation. It is a surprisingly worthy film. The complexities of the teen pregnancy issue are dealt with realistically, and the film isn't preachy or whiny. In fact, it's downright thought-provoking and emotional. No wonder it won an Oscar for best screenplay.

#7: "THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS." NRO says:

Based on the life of self-made millionaire Chris Gardner (Will Smith), this film provides the perfect antidote to Wall Street and other Hollywood diatribes depicting the world of finance as filled with nothing but greed. After his wife leaves him, Gardner can barely pay the rent. He accepts an unpaid internship at a San Francisco brokerage, with the promise of a real job if he outperforms the other interns and passes his exams. Gardner never succumbs to self-pity, even when he and his young son take refuge in a homeless shelter. They’re black, but there’s no racial undertone or subtext. Gardner is just an incredibly hard-working, ambitious, and smart man who wants to do better for himself and his son.

#6: "GROUNDHOG DAY." NRO says:

This putatively wacky comedy about Bill Murray as an obnoxious weatherman cursed to relive the same day over and over in a small Pennsylvania town, perhaps for eternity, is in fact a sophisticated commentary on the good and true. Theologians and philosophers across the ideological spectrum have embraced it. For the conservative, the moral of the tale is that redemption and meaning are derived not from indulging your “authentic” instincts and drives, but from striving to live up to external and timeless ideals. Murray begins the film as an irony-soaked narcissist, contemptuous of beauty, art, and commitment. His journey of self-discovery leads him to understand that the fads of modernity are no substitute for the permanent things.

#5: "300." NRO says:

During the Bush years, Hollywood neglected the heroism of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan—but it did release this action film about martial honor, unflinching courage, and the oft-ignored truth that freedom isn’t free. Beneath a layer of egregious non-history—including goblin-like creatures that belong in a fantasy epic—is a stylized story about the ancient Battle of Thermopylae and the Spartan defense of the West’s fledgling institutions. It contrasts a small band of Spartans, motivated by their convictions and a commitment to the law, with a Persian horde that is driven forward by whips. In the words recorded by the real-life Herodotus: “Law is their master, which they fear more than your men, [Xerxes,] fear you.”

Hube adds: This Frank Miller screen adaptation features perfectly sculpted Spartan soldiers (and their likewise perfectly formed wives!), but hey, it is a graphic novel adaptation after all. Persian leader Xerxes comes across as an effeminate magician while Gerard Butler's Leonidas psyches up his fellow (300) superhero-ish Spartans with an appeal -- and zeal -- to the values of freedom, sacrifice, family and honor. Leonidas and co. ultimately fall, but boy -- do they make the Persians pay!

#4: "FORREST GUMP." NRO says:

It won an Oscar for best picture—beating "Pulp Fiction," a movie that’s far more expressive of Hollywood’s worldview. Tom Hanks plays the title character, an amiable dunce who is far too smart to embrace the lethal values of the 1960s. The love of his life, wonderfully played by Robin Wright Penn, chooses a different path; she becomes a drug-addled hippie, with disastrous results. Forrest’s IQ may be room temperature, but he serves as an unexpected font of wisdom. Put ’em on a Whitman’s Sampler, but Mama Gump’s famous words about life’s being like a box of chocolates ring true.

Hube adds: I couldn't have said it any better than NRO. Or, perhaps even more succinctly, "often, the simplest solution is the best solution."

#3: "METROPOLITAN." NRO says:

Whit Stillman’s Oscar-nominated debut takes a red-headed outsider into the luxurious drawing rooms and debutante balls of New York’s Upper East Side elite. One character, a committed socialist, falls for the discreet charm of the urban haute bourgeoisie. Another plaintively theorizes the inevitable doom of his class. A reader of Jane Austen wonders what’s wrong with a novel’s having a virtuous heroine. And a roguish defender of standards and detachable collars delivers more sophisticated conservative one-liners than a year’s worth of Yale Party of the Right debates. With mocking affection, gentle irony, and a blizzard of witty dialogue, Stillman manages the impossible: He brings us to see what is admirable and necessary in the customs and conventions of America’s upper class.

#2: "THE INCREDIBLES." NRO says:

This animated film skips pop-culture references and gross jokes in favor of a story that celebrates marriage, courage, responsibility, and high achievement. A family of superheroes—Mr. Incredible, his wife Elastigirl, and their children—are living an anonymous life in the suburbs, thanks to a society that doesn’t appreciate their unique talents. Then it comes to need them. In one scene, son Dash, a super-speedy runner, wants to try out for track. Mom claims it wouldn’t be fair. “Dad says our powers make us special!” Dash objects. “Everyone is special,” Mom demurs, to which Dash mutters, “Which means nobody is.”

#1: "THE LIVES OF OTHERS." NRO says:

“I think that this is the best movie I ever saw,” said William F. Buckley Jr. upon leaving the theater (according to his column on the film). The tale, set in East Germany in 1984, is one part romantic drama, one part political thriller. It chronicles life under a totalitarian regime as the Stasi secretly monitors the activities of a playwright who is suspected of harboring doubts about Communism. Critics showered the movie with praise and it won an Oscar for best foreign-language film (it’s in German). More Buckley: “The tension mounts to heart-stopping pitch and I felt the impulse to rush out into the street and drag passersby in to watch the story unfold.”

Hube adds: As a foreign language teacher, I love watching FL movies. I happened upon this film on a cable movie channel several months ago and became quickly transfixed. I've never seen a film so perfectly capture the drab, dank and plain ambience of a Communist society, complete with its pervasive paranoia and depressive moments of personal introspection. Ulrich Mühe is sensational as Stasi Captain Gerd Wiesler, torn between his loyalty to the totalitarian East German state, and his morally corrupt "mission" of "proving" the disloyalty of playwright. You can guess which wins out, but not without consequences.

Posted by Hube at 09:49 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

February 01, 2009

Super Bowl prediction

We heard before Wild Card Weekend: The Cardinals have no shot against the Falcons.

Arizona won.

We heard before the Divisional Round: The Cardinals will get crushed by the Panthers.

Arizona clobbered Carolina.

We heard before the NFC Championship that this was the end of the Cards' run.

Arizona beat the Eagles.

Still doubt Arizona's ability to win games?? I don't. That's why they're gonna be the story of the year, by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-20 in today's Super Bowl.

I admit there's another reason -- the MAIN reason -- I am digging Arizona: His name is Kurt Warner:

That's Kurt with then-Rams coach Dick Vermeil at the conclusion of Super Bowl 34, the Rams' only Super Bowl victory in team history.

Posted by Hube at 10:23 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

January 31, 2009

Again: Teacher bias

Steve Newton at DE Libertarian has some thoughts on what one should do if your kid's teacher allows some of his/her political views escape into the classroom. I've written about this more times than I can count, most recently here and here. The ironic thing about the incident Steve addresses is that it deals with an anti-Joe Biden teacher. Say whaaa ...?? A teacher [supposedly] espousing anti-liberal views in a classroom?? A true rarity!!

Which brings me to what typically we hear about when it comes to political bias in the classroom: Loyal CoR reader Fred Gregory brings me word of a preposterous situation at Elon University. Freshman Joe Malone had a beef with how his "Global Experience" professor dealt with the conservative/Republican point of view:

The textbook for the course, "Democracy's Edge," by Francis Lappe, is an outrageous example of left-wing indoctrination.

Lappe expends gallons of ink hurling invective at Reagan, Bush, "the far right" and its "mean-spirited, ends-justify-means mind set." The "far right," the author claims, opposes "the democratic premise that citizens use government as our tool to provide basic security for ourselves and express solidarity with our neighbors."

To begin with, anyone who suggests that President Bush is a member of the "far right" is ignorant of conservative principles. And second, we can only wonder if Lappe has ever read the Constitution, or any of our founding documents, which say nothing about expressing "solidarity with our neighbors." Obviously, the author's paranoia about conservatives distorts her vision of "the global experience." For Joe Malone, things would only get worse.

Malone's instructor in "The Global Experience" was Stephen Schulman, assistant professor of philosophy, who, in the first week of class, proclaimed that President Bush, upon completion of his term, should be tried for war crimes and convicted by the International Criminal Court. Upon voicing a contrary position -- in a course that allegedly thrives on dialogue and the exchange of ideas -- Joe Malone was scolded and advised to alter his behavior. This exchange was verified by Wendy Warren, a classmate of Malone.

Shortly thereafter, Professor Schulman suggested that his students undertake, as a class project, the gathering of signatures to increase the minimum wage in Greensboro. It would be inappropriate for a "far right" professor to expect his students to gather signatures for tax cuts or to abolish affirmative action; likewise, isn't it inappropriate to expect students to participate in a partisan, progressive cause?

Students were asked to write a "response" to the minimum wage initiative, about which Malone's paper was critical. Although his arguments were valid and his tone respectful (I have read the paper), Professor Schulman, in an e-mail to Malone, declared the paper "unacceptable" because of the author's "overblown statements" and "general tone of distaste." In the same message, Schulman warned Malone that his "behavior in class comes across as borderline hostile to others."

Joe Malone Jr. was charged with "disorderly conduct" and ordered to appear at a hearing before Elon's Honor Board, which found him "responsible," meaning guilty as charged. (He has appealed the decision.) The aforementioned Wendy Warren wrote the board on Malone's behalf and argued that he was "never intimidating" in class. But Malone, she wrote, was "about the only one passionate enough about his beliefs to question Schulman's extremely liberal thoughts and ideas."

Now, this is college, so I personally don't have as much of an issue with a prof spewing his personal views about topics in his class. I do have an issue, 'tho, with the sort of assignments he put out. But that's not the issue. The issue is Schulman's [alleged] reluctance to allow Malone's contrary views to be expressed. In a word, it's ridiculous. It seems Schulman has been thoroughly schooled in that collegiate PC inanity known as "creating a hostile environment" merely when one voices disagreement with the prevailing liberal heterodoxy. (For example, we're witnessing a form of this right now nationally as those who disagree with Barack Obama's and the Democrat Congress's "stimulus" package are dubbed "anti-American" and "unpatriotic.")

I had my share of liberal profs in my undergrad and grad days, but thankfully none of them were anything like this idiot Schulman. Indeed, in one of my grad classes (dealing with student behavior and classroom management) I wrote a lengthy paper pretty much trashing the philosophy of the course and our assigned textbook. It was thoroughly researched and, as such, I got an "A." But the professor wasn't very happy with my views (since she wrote a full page of comments ripping me in return!), but the point is that she allowed me to express my points and didn't penalize me academically or in a disciplinary manner.

The sooner the Schulman's of the college world realize what asses they are, the better off academia will be.

Posted by Hube at 10:00 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 24, 2009

Parents want more male teachers

Shirley sent me this link the other day, and it sure bodes well for my future in education. Or so it seems:

Parents are calling for more men to become teachers because they fear their children lack male role models, research showed yesterday.

Demand is even stronger among single mothers, who told the survey their children had little contact with men in caring roles.

The study found one in six children living with a single mother spends less than two hours a week with a male role model, such as a father figure, relative or teacher.

High schools traditionally have more male teachers than elementary or middle schools. Men I've known that get certified for elementary education usually get snapped up (that's "employed") pretty darn quick.

Men tend to be more ... "direct" with discipline ... not as "touchy feelie" for lack of a better term. I don't it's a stretch to say that more men teaching in the early years would be better for discipline.

(By the way, the guy in the article's photo kinda looks like me...)

Posted by Hube at 12:12 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

January 20, 2009

Congratulations President Obama

I thought the president's speech was good. Good, but not great. I was astonished at the number of people on the Mall there in DC. Wow.

The Highlight: CNN capturing the various gazes of older African-Americans in DC and around the whole country. It was truly touching. I wonder how many of them thought they'd never see this day happen.

The Lowlight: The poet. WTF?? That was some of the worst poetry -- and poetry reading -- I've ever heard.

Once again, congratulations and best of luck to our new president!

Posted by Hube at 04:56 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

January 17, 2009

Huge

As I said, "huge."

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January 07, 2009

ABC's 'Ugly Americans': Obnoxious George Bush Supporters

(Due to a miscommunication first, and then being beaten by 15 minutes getting a post up about the topic, I'm putting this aborted Newsbusters post here at 'ol CoR ...)

ABC News, in its “What Would You Do?” segment, had some actors portray George Bush-infatuated, moronic Texan tourists on the loose in Paris. And they got precisely what I’m sure they wanted (just wait and see):

"Howdy!" shouted Bob to the porter, in a Texas drawl. "Je m'appelle, Bob!" They were dressed in shorts and matching shirts marked: "Paris, Texas" and "Bush '08." Instead of Manolo Blahniks, they wore Crocs. They were loud. They were clueless. And they didn't know the difference between haute cuisine and oat bran. No doubt about it: Our ugly Americans stood out among the well-dressed Parisians.

Indeed. "Bush supporter" has to equal "clueless" and "boisterous," right.

These actors went out of their way to be literally as obnoxious as possible. The “wife” was ridiculously rambunctious at every turn, and the “husband” began singing the “Star Spangled Banner” when their boat left its dock, and actually shouted “George Bush!”(why??) when posing for snapshots. Yeah, sure sounds like a “typical” American to me.

The kicker of the segment was when the "couple" stopped by a local café. After bewildering the other patrons with their ridiculous antics, commentator John Quiñones offers the kicker (on part 2 of the segment, at approx. -04:39 on the video):

QUIÑONES: Apparently not everyone's amused by our couple's t-shirts -- or their politics. This woman is German.

GERMAN WOMAN: This is nearly as if I had a t-shirt: "I Like Hitler," you know?

Bingo. George Bush = Hitler! Perfect! See what I meant about ABC "getting what they wanted?"

But wait -- ABC isn't done yet. We Americans need just the "right" person to advise us on how to act properly when vacationing in Europe. Indeed, we need the counsel of ... Barack Obama! (On part 3 of the segment, at approx. -02:15 on the video.)

QUIÑONES: So how can American in Paris avoid becoming "Ugly Americans?" Well, this expert says it's not just about avoiding those faux pas'...

CLIP OF BARACK OBAMA: When Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe ... and all we can say is "merci beaucoup."

QUIÑONES: Try to speak the language, however crudely. The effort is usually appreciated.

"Expert?" Barack Obama? What foreign languages does he speak, pray tell? What's that? None? In fact, Obama said this personal deficit was "embarrassing."

What about that "obnoxious Texan" George W. Bush? Oh, that's right -- he speaks Spanish.

I’ve done a fair amount of traveling in my time, and I’ve never met idiots like the faux (hey, French!) couple in the story. The worst example I can recall was in San José, Costa Rica. I was standing in line at a popular ice cream joint, and behind me was an [older] American couple from a cruise (taking a few days to travel inland). I got my order and paused to grab a few napkins. The [old, American] woman literally yelled her order to the poor girl behind the counter – y’know, that ‘ol bit about how someone will supposedly “understand” you better if you speak loudly – and when the girl said meekly “No entiendo” (“I don’t understand”), the woman got angry, looked at her husband, and complained “They don’t even speak our language!” That was enough for me (who’s usually way too shy to interject in such instances): “Maybe that’s because you’re in THEIR country, ma’am!” I said.

The woman (and husband) shot me a dirty look, but said nothing. In the meantime, the girl behind the counter had gone to get the manager who knew some English. (That’s the way your average Costa Rican is, after all – very polite and friendly.)

The only other ignoramus I encountered abroad wasn’t American, but [Anglo] Canadian. He was the boyfriend of one of my then-girlfriend’s (now-wife) friends. He was loud, rude and demeaning to practically every “Tico” (slang for “Costa Rican”) he met, especially at clubs and restaurants. They didn’t hang with us anymore after I – politely (really!), mind you – told this guy to calm down and stop being so insulting to the country’s residents. Oh well!

This continuing ABC program will be interesting to watch as they attempt to “uncover” cultural negatives. I wonder if they’ll do an undercover investigation in, say, a typical newsroom so we can all see the “hidden biases” of the assorted reporters and newspeople. That’d sure be interesting, not to mention very revealing. But who in the hell would do it? How could they do it?

Feh.

Posted by Hube at 07:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 03, 2009

Another sign the West has too much time on its hands

Via The Guardian (UK) (with a h/t to The Corner):

A new £4.7m primary school in Sheffield is facing criticism for dropping the word "school" from its title after governors decided the term had "negative connotations."

The headteacher of Sheffield's Watercliffe Meadow, Linda Kingdon, said the south Yorkshire school, which is due to open on Monday, will instead be called a "place for learning."

"We decided from an early stage we didn't want to use the word 'school'," she told local newspaper the Sheffield Star.

"This is Watercliffe Meadow, a place for learning. One reason was many of the parents of the children here had very negative connotations of school."

Ye gads. What's next?

Along these same [ridiculous] lines, I often joked with my students at how certain subjects over the years have had their monikers changed to a more ... "PC" orientation. For instance, "Shop" is now "Technology Education" (frequently called "Tech Ed") and "Home Economics" is now -- wait for it -- "Family and Consumer Science" (usually dubbed "FCS"). So, in keeping with this meme, a number of years back I "renamed" my class from "Spanish" to the edu-babblish "Acquisition of Indo-Iberian European Language."

About five years ago, one student of mine thought it was such a [hilariously] cool idea that she made a huge banner for the classroom with that title. It's hung in my room prominently every year since.

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January 02, 2009

Worst Iron Man armors

To add to this post, here are what I consider to be the worst of Iron Man's various armors over the years:


Ultimate Iron Man. Designed as part of Marvel's "reboot" of various characters (in this case, The Avengers as "The Ultimates"), this armor obviously stresses realism but the dorky helmet and ponderous boots make it highly unpleasing aesthetically. The color scheme sucks, too.


Thorbuster Armor. Tony Stark has noted myriad times how much he hates magic. So what does he do? He creates an armor powered by it! Yep, this ridiculous armor utilizes an "Asgardian mystic element" as a power source. The question is, what the hell does master of science Tony Stark even know about magic? Enough to build a suit of armor around it, I guess.


Iron Kid. Back in the mid-90s, the powers that be at Marvel had an "idea": Let's make Tony Stark/Iron Man "hip" by turning him into ... a teenager! It failed miserably, but nevertheless, when the young Stark (who was plucked from an alternate timeline by the Avengers) met his older counterpart (whom Marvel "wisely" turned into a madman), he picked out a manga-ish Ultra Man-lookin' outfit from [older] Stark's armory which also happened to be one of the weaker armors he could have chosen. Nice. Older Stark took the lad apart, tearing out his heart in the process. Not that it mattered much; Teen Stark's adventures were over a mere six issues later as "Heroes Reborn" Iron Man (volume 2 Iron Man) debuted, courtesy of Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld.


The S.K.I.N. Armor. The premise behind this novel idea was sound; SKIN stands for "Synth-Kinetic Interface Nano-fluid" which was a liquid, adamantium-strength alloy that essentially replaced the gold areas of Iron Man's armor. But the overall design of the armor sucked, probably in part due to the cartoony style of artist Keron Grant.


Space Armor Mark 2. Bob Layton's original design was a bulky lump -- but it made sense. What else would you expect "space" armor to look like? This newer version was more streamlined, but the helmet is a disaster. It looks like Iron Man has a bad hairstyle (kinda hard to see in the above pic), not to mention a square uni-beam should be anathema to any Iron Man design.

Posted by Hube at 10:13 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

December 31, 2008

The best and worst Iron Man armors

Yesterday I saw a couple posts at a [couple] comics blogs opining on their favorite and least favorite Iron Man armors of all-time. Some of the facts and monikers in these posts were erroneous, but then what would one expect from Iron Man fan "novices," right? So, what we need here is a truly informed opinion ... from one who has been an Iron Man fan since the very early years ... who made a second-tier Marvel character his favorite over "marquee" characters like Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four! In other words, MINE!!

HUBE'S TOP FIVE IRON MAN ARMORS


The Silver Centurion. This armor marked a drastic change from the 20 year Iron Man norm. Red and gold IS Iron Man. It defines him. His nickname is the "Golden Avenger." So what do you do when there's no gold in his suit?

Who cares? This armor was magnitudes more powerful than anything ever seen before (hence it was a bit bulkier) and the color change did have a reason: Tony Stark had just recovered from a long bout with alcoholism. He was still wary of even becoming Iron Man again. He still wanted to "forget" about much of his past.

Interestingly, Iron Man creator extraordinaire Bob Layton helped design this armor, but he didn't really like it. So, when he and writer-pal David Michelinie reassumed the mantle of Iron Man in the mid-80s, they quickly ditched the red and silver suit in favor of a new red and gold outfit. (See my past post about this armor.)



The Classic Red and Gold. There's a reason this suit is in the top five -- because it's the longest-lasting IM suit of all! Twenty years this bad-boy endured. Twenty years! This outfit saw "minor" modifications during its tenure, probably the most drastic of which was the adding of a "nose" to it in the mid-70s (issue #68 for you sticklers) and then an "instantaneous" method of "armoring up" less than twenty issues later (issue #85).

Also notable is the fact that several other people wore this outfit other than Tony Stark, most importantly of which was right-hand man Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes. This began in issue #169 -- when Stark succumbed to alcoholism.



The War Machine. This was a bigger change in armor design than even the Silver Centurion; however, it appeared seven years later in 1992. Writer Len Kaminski (one of Iron Man's best all-time writers and way underrated in my opinion) came up with this outfit when Tony Stark's long-time nemesis Justin Hammer sent some high-tech assassins to murder Stark. This suit gets away from a lot of the "exotic" weaponry Iron Man is known for in place of "old school" items like a Gatling gun and wrist-mounted machine gun! It's armor was also a lot tougher than that of previous suits, constructed from carbon-composites that could withstand the slicing energy blades of Hammer's hit men.

This was the armor that Stark bequeathed to Jim Rhodes to use on his own; you may remember Terrance Howard in the movie looking at one of Stark's suits in the movie and uttering "Next time" -- a clear homage to this moment and possibly a look at things to come in "Iron Man 2."



Iron Man 2020. This is actually an armor from an "alternate reality" -- that of Arno Stark, [supposed] nephew of Tony Stark in the [alternate reality] year of 2020. Arno actually began as a mercenary -- a "gun" for hire and was far from what we'd consider a hero. Eventually, 'tho, he evolved into that role (see the Iron Man 2020 graphic novel) and saved the planet from a worldwide computer meltdown.

This suit was, due to its futuristic design, packed with exotic weaponry, and was much "meaner" looking with a grimacing face-mask and serrated shoulder cuffs. In an issue of Iron Man (#250), David Michelinie and Bob Layton showed that this outfit survived to the year 2093 and was used by Arno's grandson Andros Stark. But Andros was a total baddie, in league with the 20th century-surviving Dr. Doom who plotted to wipe out most of the planet's population.



The Hulkbuster Armor. Also created by the aforementioned Len Kaminski (shortly after the War Machine, by the way, in issue #304) for Tony Stark to combat -- who else? -- the Hulk. But even with this suit, Stark was hard-pressed to beat the Jade Giant (as is practically every Marvel character). No matter; Kaminski's description of this armor's capabilities is what Iron Man is all about, as is Tony Stark creating a "specialized" outfit for "specialized" situations!

COMING SOON: Hube's Worst Iron Man Armors Ever.

Posted by Hube at 11:40 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 28, 2008

Top 100 Comicbook Battles

To add to this post, Comic Book Resources has the Top 100 Comic Book Battles of All-Time as voted on by fans. The one's I've seen/read are in bold; needed commentary is added where absolutely necessary!! Here we go ... !!

100. Superboy Prime vs. the Teen Titans

99. Skurge vs. the Forces of Hel

98. Squadron Supreme vs. the Redeemers (at left) (The Squadron Supreme is Marvel's version of DC's Justice League; however, I've never seen a super-team have to deal with such adversity as that suffered by the SS. Pick up Mark Gruenwald's phenomenal SS trade paperback for some high-quality entertainment! The SS's battle against the Redeemers is at story's end.)

97. Superman vs. Batman (New Frontier)

96. Thanos vs. Warlock, Captain Marvel, Avengers, Thing and Spider-Man

95. Ogami Ittō vs. Yagyū Retsudō (Final Battle)

94. The DC Heroes vs. the Center

93. Spider-Man vs. the Hobgoblin (Amazing Spider-Man #249-251)

92. Silver Surfer vs. Thor (Silver Surfer #4)

91. Wolverine vs. the Hulk (First Battle)

90. Spider-Man vs. Sinister Six (First Battle)

89. Superman Prime vs. Ion

88. Avengers vs. Nefaria (First Battle) (A classic three-part saga by the awesome Jim Shooter and the equally awesome John Byrne. There has rarely been a better scripted and drawn all-out donneybrook!)

87. Captain America vs. Red Skull (Cosmic Cube)

86. Spider-Man vs. Firelord

85. Authority vs. Kaizen Gamorra (The Authority is a leftist's super-team wet dream-come true. Lefties will love what the team does because it is "right;" however, if George Bush had done even one tenth of one percent of what the Authority does, the calls for his war crimes trial would be overwhelming.)

84. Punisher vs. Barracuda

83. The Ultimates vs. Thor

82. Flash vs. Zoom (First Battle)

81. Deathstroke and Terra vs. the Teen Titans (The Judas Contract)

80. Spider-Man vs. Venom (First Battle) (Be sure to tune in to my Delaware Talk Radio gig December 29 for more on this one!)

79. X-Men vs. Cassandra Nova

78. Thing vs. Champion

77. Mr. Fantastic vs. Dr. Doom (Timeslip)

76. Captain Britain (and friends) vs. The Fury

75. Wonder Woman vs. Mind-Controlled Superman (Sacrifice)

74. Batman vs. Cops in Year One

73. Superboy Prime vs. Superboy

72. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vs. Martians

71. Avengers and Justice League vs. Krona

70. Wolverine vs. Sabretooth (Right before the Age of Apocalypse)

69. Spider-Man vs. Morlun (First Battle)

68. Doom vs. Beyonder

67. Magneto vs. Apocalypse

66. Swamp Thing and Friends vs. The Soul off Darkness (American Gothic)

65. Thor vs. Iron Man

64. Batman vs. Superman (Hush)

63. Batman vs. Ra’s Al Ghul (First Duel) (Never read these issues; however, they come highly recommend by any comics fan who've read 'em. Art is by the great Neal Adams at his pinnacle.)

62. Supergirl vs. Anti-Monitor

61. Batman vs. Joker (Dark Knight Returns)

60. Wolverine vs. Sabretooth (Mutant Massacre)

59. Superboy Prime vs. Supermen

58. The remains of the JLA vs. Darkseid

57. Punisher vs. the Russian

56. Superman vs. the Elite

55. Nova vs. Annihilus

54. Colossus vs. Juggernaut

53. Fantastic Four plus Friends vs. Galactus

52. Superman vs. Muhammad Ali

51. X-Men vs. Magneto (Fatal Attractions)

50. Jesse Custer vs. Cassidy

49. Thor vs. Beta Ray Bill

48. Hulk vs. The Superheroes of New York City

47. Flash vs. Professor Zoom (Return of Barry Allen)

46. Spider-Man vs. Kraven (Kraven’s Last Hunt)

45. Heroes vs. Villains (Secret Wars)

44. JLA (with a spotlight on Batman) vs. Hyperclan

43. We3 vs. The Government

42. Batman vs. Bane (Knightfall)

41. Batman vs. Joker (Killing Joke) (One of the better Batman stories of all-time.)

40. The Battle of Fabletown

39. JLA vs. Avengers

38. Superman vs. Mongul

37. Daredevil vs. Nuke

36. Ultimates (and friends) vs. The Liberators (For a good Colossus synopsis, see here.)

35. Jesse Custer vs. Jody

34. Daredevil vs. Bullseye (Daredevil #181; at left) (One of the best all-out slugfests ever! Many of the lines in the "Daredevil" movie were lifted verbatim from this issue.)

33. Superman vs. Lex Luthor (All Star Superman #12)

32. The X-Men vs. Magneto (in the Volcano Base)

31. JSA vs. Dynaman

30. Thor vs. The Midgard Serpent

29. X-Men vs. Dark Phoenix (Not as good as the X-Men vs. the [Shi'Ar] Imperial Guard vs. Dark Phoenix, though!)

28. Legion of Superheroes vs. The Forces of Darkseid

27. The Final Battle of Civil War

26. Morpheus vs Choronzon

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December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

To all of our loyal readers, commenters, and fellow bloggers (with one notable exception) ...


MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

Posted by Hube at 06:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thoughts on the "new" Trek

My pal Vic over at Screen Rant has what appears to be the definitive scoop: The new Star Trek film due out next May will take place in an alternate timeline.

Roberto Orci: It is the reason why some things are different, but not everything is different. Not everything is inconsistent with what might have actually happened, in canon. Some of the things that seem that they are totally different, I will argue, once the film comes out, fall well within what could have been the non-time travel version of this move.

TrekMovie.com: So, for example, Kirk is different, because his back story has totally changed, in that his parents…and all that. But you are saying that maybe Scotty or Spock’s back story would not be affected by that change?

Roberto Orci: Right.

Anthony: Does the time travel explain why the Enterprise looks different and why it is being built in Riverside Iowa?

TrekMovie.com: Yes, and yes.

So, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek movie takes place in/creates an alternate timeline/version of the Trek universe we know and love. He talks a lot about quantum physics and the new way of viewing time travel (if it were actually possible). According to Orci, the old time travel paradox question of whether you can go back and kill your own grandfather has been answered - and the answer is: Yes.

The idea is that event would exist in an alternate timeline in which you would never be born. In that timeline you’re a guy who came from nowhere and killed the man who was to be your grandfather. In that timeline you will never exist. According to this theory there is NO WAY to go back in time and change events that will affect the timeline you started from.

And this seems to be the more widely accepted versions of time travel utilized in science fiction. Currently, I am reading The Man Who Folded Himself which comes recommended, aptly enough, by Michael Okuda, co-author of the Star Trek Chronology. Though I’ve read better time travel stories (granted, this David Gerrold tale was written in the early 70s), it does take the, well, time to inform the reader as best as possible just how the protagonist can do what he does without creating all sorts of wacky paradoxes. But basically the gist is this: Every time you travel into the past, you create an alternate universe. Period. This is why you could encounter your younger self, or, as noted above, you could kill your grandfather (or father) and not suddenly disappear. Because your grandfather (or father) that you kill exist in a different timeline from yourself.

With Trek canon, however, there seems to be a hassle:

The problem with even this explanation is that it goes against what has been established in previous Star Trek episodes and movies: In prior Trek time travel DOES repair problems and the crew returns to the “fixed” future they left. Examples of this include the TNG episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise” where a starship was sent back to fight a crucial battle and it set the existing timeline straight, and the film “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” where Kirk and Co. went back in time to bring humpback whales back to the future to avert the destruction of humanity.

In other words, Trek has historically used a … “linear” model of time where corrections in the past actually docorrect what is “wrong” in the future (in the “actual” Trek future). Other examples include:

  • “The City on the Edge of Forever” where a time-traveling McCoy ends up in the 1930s and his actions result in the Nazis winning World War II. Kirk and Spock have to bolt after him and “correct” what he’s done. (I’ve often wondered if that “uncorrected” timeline was the “Mirror” universe often seen in Trek; alas, it seems that universe had been historically brutal long before the events in this episode.)

  • “Star Trek: First Contact.” In this eighth Trek motion picture, Jean-Luc Picard and crew have to jet back to the mid-21st century to prevent the Borg from changing Earth history.

  • “Time’s Arrow.” In this “Next Generation” two-parter, the Enterprise crew has to go back to the 19th century to battle dastardly time-journeying aliens. The key ingredient here is that [back] in the 24th century, the android Data’s head was discovered by buried in a cave archeologists. Picard remarks near the end of the episode that it was “time to set history right” (or something like that).

  • “Past Tense.” In this “Deep Space 9” two-parter, Capt. Sisko plays the role of a revolutionary leader in early 21st century America after he’s accidentally killed – in order to “keep history straight.” In essence, Sisko is this leader from history as a result of his actions.

Of course, the main interrogative element in these Trek episodes is how, then, do people from the future exist in the past … in the same timeline. In other words, given standard Trek canon, Picard, Sisko or whoever could effectively change history by killing someone’s distant relative in the past – even their own, thus creating the standard “grandfather paradox.” Granted, Picard and Sisko (among others) always eventually hightail it back to their own time. However, it was established that in certain stories that some were “left behind.” For instance, the series “Enterprise” played on the events from “First Contact” when a few deactivated Borg drones were discovered. Yes, the drones were activated and wreaked a bit of havoc, but what would happen if these cybernetic goons began drastically altering the past – like offing a distant grandfather of Picard, say? According to Trek time travel law, the Federation would look a lot different. Not to mention, Picard would suddenly “disappear” from the bridge of the Enterprise-E.

In the aforementioned “Yesterday’s Enterprise” episode of TNG, Tasha Yar – who had been killed in the “standard” Trek timeline – reappeared as a bridge officer on the Enterprise-D when the Enterprise-C came through time to the future. To “restore” the timeline, Picard had to demand that the Enterprise-C go back to the past, but Yar – who realized she wasn’t supposed to exist – requested to go back with the older Enterprise. Picard agreed to allow her to go; however, we later learn that she survived the Enterprise-C’s battle with the Romulans twenty-two years prior, and was captured. What if she had managed to alter Romulan society in the past? What if Romulus was much friendlier to the Federation? According to Trek time travel law, the era of the Enterprise-D would suddenly transform into something quite different.

J.J. Abrams’ new twist to time travel in the Trek universe for the 11th film is actually akin to that of the popular “Back to the Future II.” This script was smart and detailed, explaining the “alternate timeline” theory of time travel quite thoroughly for the layman. Recall that Biff giving his younger self that sports almanac resulted in an alternate timeline where Biff became a rich (and unscrupulous) businessman. (Of course, this is a fundamental change from the classic first film, which seems to use a Trek-like linear approach. In that story, changes made to the past directly affected the future; recall that things disappeared – like Marty’s photos – and that the end result of Marty’s sojourn to 1955 resulted in his father becoming a confident and successful writer in the future of that same timeline.)

Most time travel novels I have read make use of “alternate universe” temporal mechanics; however, one excellent book that uses the “linear” approach is Orson Scott Card’s Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus. In it, scientists from the future ponder the “negative” effect Columbus’ voyage had on the natives of the Americas. But some others wonder if Chris’s trip wasn’t actually beneficial in the long run. The ultimate “solution” is incredible in scope, but the decision to alter time in the past results in the “present” timeline being erased -- no alternate timeline is created.

The 11th Star Trek film should appeal to both new fans and old Trekkers alike. It makes use of the most popular (and established) time travel theory, but most importantly it will inject a much needed “new energy” into a franchise that was becoming old and worn.

A terrific compilation of time travel movies and the theories behind them/problems inherent in them can be found here.

Posted by Hube at 09:59 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 20, 2008

December 29 teaser

Of course, no one was even close with their, um ... "guesses" as to who I'll have on with me December 29 from 9-11am when I take over "The Maria Evans Show" (on Delaware Talk Radio). So, here's a "teaser" of sorts ... if you can manage to ID the gent below:


Posted by Hube at 03:30 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

December 17, 2008

Mark your calendars!

Yours truly will be taking over Delaware Talk Radio's "net"waves during the "Maria Evans Show" (9-11am) on Monday, December 29th. Normally, I'd wait only a day or two before the date to announce it, but I've arranged an interview for the show with a pop culture ICON, one that lives right here in Delaware. And, many of you have no idea about this person's influence on said popular culture.

Mark your calendars, and stay tuned for more info!

Posted by Hube at 07:11 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

December 14, 2008

Why I'll wait to rent the DVD

I haven't yet read a good review for "The Day the Earth Stood Still," which means I'll check out the DVD only. Most of the reviews say the remake of the classic was unnecessary, especially if it has a stupid premise (as this does). Given the subject that was touched on here, it's a rational guess that intelligent life is a rare commodity in the universe. So, why is Keanu Reeves (who plays "Klaatu") threatening Earth's lone intelligent species with extinction if we don't stop ... global warming??

Ugh.

At least the original Klaatu said he didn't much care what we did to ourselves and the planet Earth -- as long as we didn't f*** around with other planets when (if) we gained interstellar travel. If we do ... WATCH OUT. (Of course, by the time we acquire the knowledge to journey to the stars -- if we survive ourselves that long -- I think it is safe to assume we'll have largely overcome many of our aggressive tendencies.)

It looks like the "TDTESS" remake forgot that effects alone don't make a good film. Most scifi fans'd much rather sink their viewing teeth into an intelligent story than be mesmerized by boffo F/X.

Posted by Hube at 08:16 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tear jerkers

Are there any movies which always (or usually always) make you cry? Or tear up? Especially at the end?

I have two:

1. Somewhere in Time, and

2. The Color Purple.

How 'bout you?

Posted by Hube at 05:42 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

December 10, 2008

How dumb was this?

From White Plains, NY:

A white social studies teacher attempted to enliven a seventh-grade discussion of slavery by binding the hands and feet of two black girls, prompting outrage from one girl's mother and the local chapter of the NAACP.

After the mother complained to Haverstraw Middle School, the superintendent said he was having "conversations with our staff on how to deliver effective lessons."

"If a student was upset, then it was a bad idea," said Superintendent Brian Monahan of the North Rockland School District in New York City's northern suburbs.

The teacher apologized to the mother who complained and her 13-year-old daughter during a meeting Thursday that also included a representative of the local NAACP. But the mother, Christine Shand of Haverstraw, said Friday she thinks the teacher should be removed from the class.

I wonder if the teacher is fairly new. I can see a young teacher, full of energy but also some naïveté, trying something like this out. Still, you gotta let just a bit of common sense to prevail, eh? Ever see the movie “Amistad?” I recall reading that, during its filming, the shackling of the [black] actors was quite an emotional experience. In fact, only other black actors, production assistants, et. al. were permitted to put the shackles on these actors. I can only imagine what these seventh graders must’ve felt.

Here’s how I would have handled the lesson: First, I’d send a mass e-mail (or a snail mail letter) home explaining the unit or lesson -- due to the sensitivity of the topic. Usually, if I want to demonstrate something, I ask for student volunteers. I don’t randomly choose students to come up in front of the class since many are quite introverted. In this case, ‘though, I doubt I’d consider such volunteers. If anything, I’d use myself as the subject of the demonstration (students love it when they see their teachers in something other than their customary role), and perhaps would enlist the aid of a few fellow instructors.

Eileen Bernstein, the teacher in question, apologized as noted. For me, if this was Ms. Bernstein’s first such “infraction” as it were, that is sufficient. Demanding her removal from the class (not sure if this means her dismissal?) is unduly harsh. She made a mistake. She attempted to liven up a lesson – as all good teachers should do – but she went about it in quite the wrong manner.

Of course, a lawsuit isn’t out of the question for Mrs. Shand. It’s America! Land of the Lawsuit!

This “sensitivity” issue brings to me an otherwise innocuous “incident” in one of my classes the other day. (And it fits perfectly into the PC/anti-PC nature we see every holiday season.) I was doing a verb review activity whereby two students each have a small whiteboard, a marker, and an eraser. As I was handing out these implements, I said, “Whoa! Look! Holiday-themed markers!” (as the markers were red and green). Notice I didn’t even say “Christmas” -- I said “Holiday.” One (very bright & friendly) student immediately remarked (facetiously, mind you, but a tad seriously) “That’s insensitive! Not everyone celebrates Christmas!” I responded, “Sure, but I didn’t say ‘Christmas.’ I said ‘Holiday.’” The student retorted, “Ah, but what do the colors green and red represent? Christmas! I then conceded that was pretty much accurate, but then pressed the student (again, all in good fun but with a touch of seriousness) on exactly how my bringing up these “representational” colors was “insensitive.” The student reiterated her point about everyone not celebrating Christmas.

I then asked if I had brought up a reference to, say, Hanukkah, if that would be "insensitive." Or Ramadan, say. Whatever. She found herself pondering that for a little bit. To which I said, “Y’see? Why worry about a reference [such as mine] to a particular holiday? I could have just as easily referenced Hanukkah or Ramadan in such an innocuous and well-meaning manner." I also asked is it “offensive” to reference a holiday whose overall general message is “goodwill towards all men?”

She got it. I like that. ;-)

Posted by Hube at 06:40 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

December 07, 2008

More edu-babble silliness

This actually is not a new idea, if one can actually call it an "idea." I recall my cooperating teacher during my student teaching days (over 20 yrs. ago, natch) laughing while recalling an educational "consultant" whose entire offering during a workshop was those "nasty red pens":

TEACHERS have been told to stop marking schoolchildren's work with red pen because it is an "aggressive" colour.

Queensland's Deputy Opposition Leader Mark McArdle told parliament today that teachers were being advised to reconsider their pen choice because it may offend children.

Mr McArdle tabled a Queensland Health document proposing "strategies for addressing mental health well-being in any classroom".

It says: "Don't mark in a red pen (which can be seen as aggressive) - use a different colour."

"Given your 10-year-old Labor government presides over the lowest numeracy and literacy standards of any state in Australia, don't you think it's time we focused on classroom outcomes rather than these kooky, loony, loopy, lefty policies?" Mr McArdle asked.

Got that right.

I use (and always have) a red pen when I grade papers for one simple reason: It stands out and kids can see it easily. Since I frequently allow students to make corrections on assignments for a higher score, I don't want my students to have difficulty finding what they had done wrong. And, I don't want to search for my initial marks when I re-grade the assignment.

I'm sorry if my use of red pen may "offend" some kids. I'm sure these same educational "consultants" will eventually determine that teachers actually correcting student work is offensive, too -- 100% on everything so as not to make little Johnny upset!

(h/t to Tongue Tied.)

Posted by Hube at 05:11 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

The Right Stuff

One of my favorite films from my youth is "The Right Stuff" (1983). Of course, being a huge aficionado of fighter aircraft, space flight and the battles of the Cold War made this a perfect choice for yours truly. Despite the film's length (over three hours, but it goes by quickly), the flick (based on Tom Wolfe's novel) is epic, charting the development of early space shots from Chuck Yeager's first sound barrier-breaking flight (1947) through the end of the Mercury Program (1963). And perhaps the very best thing is the humor that is injected into the story. Jeff Goldblum and Harry Shearer play two government bureaucrat recruiters whose wordplay and friendly arguments are riotous. But it is Donald Moffat's portrayal of Lyndon Johnson that really makes the movie, in my opinion, as evidenced by this clip (you'll also see some of Goldblum's and Shearer's antics):

The best dialogue:

SCIENTIST: "By combining our available rockets, the Redstone, the Atlas, I agree with those who say we could launch a pod."
JOHNSON: "A POT?"
SCIENTIST: "A POD! A capsule."

JOHNSON: "Spaceman?"
SCIENTIST: "SPAY-CI-MEN."
JOHNSON: "Well, what kind of SPAY-CEE-MEN?"
SCIENTIST: "A tough one... responsive to orders... I had in mind a chimp."
JOHNSON: "'Jimp?' Well, what the hell is a 'jimp?'"
SCIENTIST: "A chimp, a chimpanzee, senator, uh, an ape, unh?"

Posted by Hube at 11:13 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 06, 2008

If you're wondering where ...

... to send a charitable donation this holiday season, consider CHOP -- the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. (Donation form is here.) I don't think there's a more worthwhile cause, and CHOP really is a miraculous place.

Really. A good friend of mine's son needed to remain at CHOP for almost a year after being born. He's home now, thank God; however, without the miracle workers at CHOP, he might not be here period.

I'm heading to a benefit for the little guy today, and I'll be donating quite generously. Again, if you're considering a superb charitable cause during the holidays, please take a look at CHOP.

Posted by Hube at 09:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

December 03, 2008

Chances for divorce

According to the "Marriage Calculator," my stats read as follows:

People with similar backgrounds who are already divorced: 23%
People with similar backgrounds who will be divorced over the next five years: 6%

Hmmm ...

Posted by Hube at 06:11 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

November 25, 2008

Hube on DE Talk Radio tomorrow

Delaware Talk Radio's Maria Evans just confirmed it -- I'll be on with her at 9:00 am tomorrow "assisting" her with her Weds. morning show. You can catch the live stream here.

Maria and I go all the way back to junior high school, yo. I may actually bring some of those old memories up ... ;-)

Posted by Hube at 09:16 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

This Thursday ...

1. Turkey or Ham? Turkey!

2. Cranberry Sauce or Stuffing? Stuffing!

3. Pumpkin Pie or Apple Pie? Pumpkin!

4. Warm apple cider or hot cocoa? Irish coffee!

5. Cook the meal yourself or go to someone's house to eat? Someone's house!

6. After eating do you...collapse on the couch in front of the tv or go for a walk? Collapse on the couch watching football!

(h/t: Randomness.)

Posted by Hube at 09:12 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Try this question on for size:

When you first met your current main squeeze (husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other, sex partner, WHATEVER!), what were you thinking?

My answer: "How freakin' unbelievably hot her friend was!!" (That would be the second week of February, 1986, at the University of Costa Rica's "Pretil" -- the hangout in front of the campus library.)

Posted by Hube at 08:54 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 23, 2008

Top 25 Comic Battles

Comic Book Resources has a list of the "Top 25 Comic Battles" of all-time. The one's I've read are in bold. I've added some needed comments where necessary, natch.

#25: Fantastic Four vs. Galactus. The "Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer" movie was loosely based on this battle.

#24. Batman vs. the Leader of the Mutant Gang. From the classic "Return of the Dark Knight" by Frank Miller.

#23. Invincible vs. Omni-Man.

#22. X-Men vs. the Marauders.

#21. The Ultimates vs. the Chitauri. This Avengers revamp is high-powered action all the way. Also, two straight-to-DVD animated flicks are based on this saga.

#20. The Avengers (and friends) vs. Korvac. There may be no greater "everything is at stake" comics yarn ever. Comics master Jim Shooter at his finest writing.

#19. The X-Men vs. the Hellfire Club. Part of artist extraordinaire John Byrne's run on the X-Men.

#18. The Avengers vs. Ultron. Kurt Busiek's magnum opus of volume 3 Avengers.

#17. Deathstroke vs. the Justice League of America.

#16. Batman vs. Guy Gardner.

#15. The Superheroes of the DC Multiverse vs. the Anti-Monitor.

#14. Wolverine vs. the Hulk.

#13. Hulk vs. the Thing. The Thing never wins against the Hulk. Never.

#12. X-Men vs. the Shi'Ar Imperial Guard. "X-Men 3" was loosely based on this tragic tale of the "death" of Jean Grey. Original cover at left.

#11. Spider-Man vs. the Green Goblin. Goblin kills Spidey's girl, and Webhead is out for revenge. The original "Spider-Man" film is based on this classic two-part comic set.

#10. Elektra vs. Bullseye. Like #11 above, much of the "Daredevil" movie is based on this battle. In fact, many of the lines spoken by Colin Farrell (Bullseye) were verbatim from this double-sized comic.

#9. Avengers vs. the Masters of Evil.

#8. Spider-Man vs. Juggernaut.

#7. The Ultimates vs. the Hulk.

#6. The Sinestro Corps War. I'm not a big DC Comics fan, but my buddy Brent loaned me this series, and all I could say afterward was "Wow."

#5. Practically all of Marvel's Superheroes vs. Thanos.

#4. Miracleman vs. Kid Miracleman.

#3. The Final Battle in “Kingdom Come." An alternate version of the DC Universe, and painted (yes, painted) by artist supreme Alex Ross. Not to be missed.

#2. Superman vs. Doomsday.

#1. Batman vs. Superman. The last segment of Frank Miller's "Return of the Dark Knight," Bruce Wayne has high-powered armored to take on the Man of Steel. Great stuff.

Posted by Hube at 06:03 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 19, 2008

Culture of Whine (a rant)

Shirley at DE Curmudgeon has a terrific post which hit me at just the right moment today. I had just finished with what has to be the friggin’ WHINIEST class I’ve had in years. After spending some three days on a topic, I assigned a few pages from their workbook. First, about ten students didn’t even HAVE the workbook with them. This, despite me telling them the day before to bring it AND making a similar announcement over the school PA system this morning. Then the real “fun” started …

“I don’t get this.” (This question despite me asking numerous times over the last three days “Any questions?”) “We didn’t do this.” (Um, where WERE you the last three days?) “How are we supposed to know how to say this?” (By what we learned the last three days, perhaps? Have you looked at your notes?) “I don’t remember this.” (Maybe the fact that you kept talking to your neighbor that one day, and that you kept reading that pleasure novel the other day in class has something to do with it?)

My classes are supposed to be “honors” level. That’s right – “honors.” You might expect an “honors” level class to do their homework regularly, not get ridiculously irate by mildly difficult work, come prepared to class everyday, and get this – actually pay attention when there’s a lesson going on. This year, out of all my many years in the classroom, has demonstrated what a knee-slapper the term “honors” has become. Don’t get me wrong – there are still many students who rightfully deserve the label “honors.” But I feel bad for these students because they, like me, have to deal with the knuckleheads who shouldn’t be in their class.

Why are these kids in “honors” classes? One way to get in is to have mom or dad merely complain about it. You’ll get in an “honors” class, no problem. Grades? Test scores? Not a problem. The other reason there are kids who don’t belong in “honors” classes is because of what Shirley wrote – we don’t “want to hurt anyone’s feelings.” Y’see, those that aren’t in “honors” classes might feel … “left out.” “Stigmatized.” It’ll “hurt their self-esteem.” Then, there’s that tried and true belief (/sarcasm) that the real honors students might serve to “lift up” those who are not actual “honors” students in those “honors” classes. Yeah, uh-huh. In actuality, the typically worse behavior of non-“honors” students usually “rubs off” on the “honors” students.

Some “honors” students think they’re soooo smart that this somehow exempts them from actually doing any work. “I got As on my tests,” they’ll argue. “But,” I’ll retort, “you neglected to turn in those two papers, didn’t do that oral presentation, and you skipped five homework assignments.” In other words, “honors” means more than just smarts. It also means work ethic.

Perhaps this dilemma will get better next year. My field of endeavor, after all, has its ebbs and flows like anything else. (My group last year, for example, was one of -- if not the -- best group of kids I've ever had.) Perhaps. Just perhaps. But as a whole, I believe what Shirley noted is too rapidly becoming the norm. Kids want things easy. They want things to come to them easily. Effort? How come? If they don't do well, it couldn't possibly be THEIR fault, could it? "Why did you give me a 'D,' Mr. Hube?"

Yep, that's a classic line. The classic retort to which is "I didn't 'give' you anything. I merely wrote down what you 'earned.'"

Posted by Hube at 06:18 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

November 18, 2008

Stan the Man

The Master of Comics, Marvel's Stan Lee, has won the National Medal of Arts.

Excelsior!

Posted by Hube at 04:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 17, 2008

Still more ...

1. When you buy a greetings card are the words or the picture more important to you?
Words.

2. What's your favourite kind of cake?
Chocolate.

3. Do you ever make gifts for people, if so what, or do you buy them?
Buy them.

4. What's your favourite holiday - i.e. Christmas?
Christmas.

5. Are you going on holiday this year? If so, where?
Summer 2009 -- Costa Rica.

6. What was the best party you've ever been to?
20 year class reunion.

7. If you are married, describe your wedding. If not, what would your ideal wedding be like?
Down-to-earth.

8. What's the most romantic thing that's ever happened to you?
Fell in love with a foreigner in a foreign land.

9. What's your favourite romantic song?
"I'll Always Love You" by Taylor Dayne.

10. Which celebrity would you like a dream date with?
Patricia Manterola.

11. Which female celebrity do you find beautiful?
See above.

12. Which male celebrity do you think is attractive?
I'm secure enough in my heterosexuality to answer this question. Pierce Brosnan.

13. If you could be a fictional character from a book who would you choose?
Beowulf Schaeffer.

14. If you could be in a television sit-com, which would you choose?
M*A*S*H*

15. Which character would you like to be?
Hawkeye.

16. What's your favourite girl's name?
Don't have one.

17. What's your favourite boy's name?
My own.

18. What's your supermarket of choice?
Acme.

19. What is your best character trait?
Humor.

20. What is your worst habit?
Procrastination.

Posted by Hube at 04:33 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

For all those Eagles fans currently distraught ...

... just remember, it could be worse. A LOT worse.

Posted by Hube at 04:08 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 15, 2008

"Hey, watch my sandwich will'ya?"

My favorite segment from the Rodney Dangerfield classic "Back to School":


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November 12, 2008

Speaking of musical memories ...

... ah -- the jazz-fusion group Spyro Gyra from my mid-late teens. Man, if I only could have played like Jay Beckenstein here ... and man, is that soprano sax solo starting at about 4:09 just KILLER or what?

From 1980, here is "Here Again":


Posted by Hube at 08:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Cool science story

Via Instapundit comes Bussard’s Fusion and the Nebel Team Live On. Robert Bussard's idea for a interstellar hydrogen "ramscoop" has been the backdrop for many a science fiction story -- a plausible method for humanity to reach the stars. Here's just a few stories off the top of my head which feature these ramscoops:

  • Just about any "Known Space" novel by Larry Niven including the classics Ringworld (and its sequels), Protector, and A Gift From Earth.
  • A World Out of Time by Niven.
  • Anvil of Stars by Greg Bear.
  • Tau Zero by Poul Anderson.
  • Star Trek -- at the front of the Enterprise's warp drive nacelles are Bussard hydrogen collectors (as referenced in at least one episode of "Next Generation").

Any other novels/TV shows/movies in which we read/see Bussard's idea come to life?

Posted by Hube at 02:54 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Oh, the musical memories ...

It was a terrific moment.

I had made the AYJB, the American Youth Jazz Band. The name is sort of a misnomer, actually. The band didn’t encompass youth from across America, but from the tri-state region: Delaware, southeastern PA and southern NJ. Still, I considered it quite an accomplishment. I didn’t make it playing my primary instrument, the tenor sax, having to settle – if “settle” is the correct term – for playing the baritone sax. This fact lessened my glee somewhat. I was, after all, a mere 155 lbs. back in the spring of 1982 (which at my current height of 6’3”, which I was back then too, means I was one lanky MFer!). The baritone sax is quite a large instrument. It’s heavy to carry around. I’d have to lug that around Europe along with my suitcase. That wasn’t gonna be a lot of fun.

Oh, did I mention the AYJB was going to tour Europe for three weeks? Yep. That’s what the AYJB had done for several years now. Led by band director supreme Hal Schiff (may he rest in peace), the band’s needs and tour was largely financed by an elderly woman (may she also rest in peace) from suburban Chester Co., PA who maintained the AYJB as her big philanthropist cause. The objective of the band was to spread [American] goodwill through music, in particular jazz (hence the band’s name) which many Europeans absolutely love – as I was about to find out.

Our first stop was Belgium, at a beach resort on the North Sea. OK, understand that I was only 17 at the time. This means in Belgium it was LEGAL to buy and drink beer. Uh-oh. Upon getting settled in at our hotel, a few bandmates and I promptly hit the pub. And Belgian brew is some of the finest in the world, natch. The people, though, weren’t all that friendly in Belgium.

Our concert that evening (at the same resort) started off rather “blah;” that is, people seemed disinterested. This was quite disconcerting for us youngin' jazz musicians. We certainly hoped this wasn’t going to be the case for the whole three weeks! Then, about a half hour into our set, we broke out the Big Band Era tunes – songs like “Cherokee” and “In the Mood” – and WHOA! All of a sudden the people came out of the woodwork to cut the rug! All us band-folk glanced around at each other is amazement … and our dispositions became quite gleeful just like that. Director Schiff told us after the show how hugely popular Big Band tunes were in the Old Continent. Now we knew.

Our next stop was Cologne, Germany. The people here were less friendly than in Belgium. We played our concert in the middle of the afternoon in the large town square, and there was hardly an audience. In addition, quite a few “burnouts” – drugged-out teen types – helped themselves to sitting on the stage with us, talking at normal loudness, completely oblivious to the fact that we were PLAYING music. The worst part came a bit later when we ended up being the targets for some teens (who weren’t on the stage) throwing coins at us! WTF?? I was glad to end that concert, needless to say.

If I already didn’t have a bad enough taste in my mouth for Germans, I REALLY did later that afternoon. Our main singer – an early 30-something black woman with a voice that’d give Anita Baker a run for her money – asked me to accompany her to do some shopping. The stares and gawks from the Germans were almost too much to bear. As badly as this affected me (hey, again I was only 17) I can only imagine how the singer felt. But she hid her misgivings very well, as did I, as best we could. It was shocking, really. Even though it was the early 80s, back in the States nothing like this would have come even close to happening, at least around where I lived.

Thankfully, Germany only took up two total days of our journey.

The bulk of our trip was covered in Holland, or, if you prefer, The Netherlands. Wow – what a change!! Unlike Belgium and Germany, the Dutch were EXTREMELY friendly and outgoing, and seemed to really dig Americans. At our first stop, a fellow sax player and a trumpet player stayed with me at a newlywed couple’s house. They agreed to house us because they were huge jazz lovers! I’ll never forget the husband’s first gesture (amazingly, he spoke little English unlike his wife … amazingly because every other Dutch person I know speaks it perfectly) was to offer my two bandmates and I a beer. “Sure,” we three said. He then opened up a WOOD CABINET and handed us three bottles of Grolsch. Yep – room temperature beer, folks!

And hey – what is the deal with water pressure in Europe?? It was a constant problem everywhere we went. Do Europeans have something against water pressure? This couple’s house in Holland was the worst by far. Taking an adequate shower was virtually impossible. That “Seinfeld” episode comes to mind when I think back to this house. Our hair looked quite similar to Jerry’s and co.’s …

The Dutch LOVE jazz. They love it. At least all the folks we encountered did. Band director Schiff took two days to teach jazz techniques at a local school while we were there. A local jazz band followed one of our performances while in one small town. It was “comical,” for lack of a better term, listening to the Dutch jazz band. The reason? Their technique was excellent, but they didn’t … “feel” the music. Their improvisation skills were virtually nil. If they weren’t reading the music they seemed “lost.” This was one of the reasons director Schiff was teaching those classes – to improve the concept of improvisation among Dutch jazz musicians.

At another town, my two roomies and I stayed at a house which had two grade school-age kids. One kid was a military fighter jet aficionado (he really knew his stuff) and he and I chatted for hours about various air force planes, past and present. The humorous part about staying at this house? When the mother of this abode washed our clothes, she dried them … by using a single light bulb. I s*** you not. She laid out our various garb on hangers, and dangling down right in the middle of ‘em all was a 100 watt light bulb. Needless to say, even after two days our clothes were still damp. My butt itched something fierce when I wore those jeans the next day!

Did I mention how awesome the Dutch were? In another town they gave us the equivalent of the key to the town. In yet another they gave a parade in our honor.

Then we went to Amsterdam…

I don’t think, in retrospect, that taking a group of mostly 17 year olds to one of the most … “progressive” cities in the world was a particularly good idea. The sightseeing was terrific – the canal cruise, the bridges, the cuisine, the Heineken brewery(!) – but then there were things like a Heineken vending machine in our hotel lobby, and a thing called the Red Light District which attracted the attention of numerous male members of our band (just to look, not touch, by the way!).

Our last stop was Luxembourg. The highlight here, if it could be called such, was visiting the American WW II Military Cemetery. General George Patton is buried here, and his grave is absolutely no different from that of any other soldier. The only thing that stands out about Patton’s gravestone is that it is set apart just a bit from the rest of the graveyard. The feeling of walking among the thousands of graves was … overwhelming. If you’ve seen the beginning of “Saving Private Ryan,” you might understand what I’m talking about. After a short while, I started welling up with tears. When I saw the first grave of a soldier from Delaware, I lost it. And I wasn’t the only one. Everyone in the band, upon reentering the bus to leave, had wet eyes.

Unfortunately, it was at this last stop of Luxembourg that I encountered the only real instance of anti-Americanism of the whole trip. Our last night in Europe, me and a couple bandmates hit a bar not far from our hotel. At first no one came to serve us. When one of our number flagged down a server, his attitude was shitty. He then came back to “inform” us that our beers were going to cost an inordinate number of francs, much more than what was noted in the menu. When we inquired why, we were told it was because “we were not regulars.” When we asked what that meant, he mentioned some term – a term we later found out was derogatory for “American.”

I’ll never forget that summer. It remains the only time I’ve been to Europe, though I hope to journey back sometime in the future, hopefully to Spain, France and England this time. I soon realized how fortunate I was to have gone on that trip as it proved to be AYJB’s last; our elderly philanthropist died later that year, and director Schiff began suffering from the beginnings of Alzheimer’s disease.

The alumni of the AYJB had actually played numerous concerts in Costa Rica the years prior to my membership in the group. Unfortunately, based on the events noted above, this, too, had ceased. But a Costa Rican gent who had traveled back with Hal Schiff in late ’81 had stayed and practiced with my AYJB for about a month before we had traveled to Europe. In what has to be one of the “WTF??”-type small world stories, when I went to study in Costa Rica in 1986, I actually ran into this guy – he was playing his sax with his own band at a local nightclub! He had begged me to pick up his sax and play a couple tunes with his band, but I was totally rusty and didn’t want to embarrass myself.

Alas, I sorta wish I had kept up with playing my sax. In high school I once won “Best Woodwind Soloist” at the Newark Jazz festival, and I played in a college band called “Why Not?” at UD, as well as a small stint in a UD jazz combo. Alas, other interests have taken prominence over the years, including a thing called “marriage” shortly after college.

And so it sits – a Selmer Mark VI tenor saxophone, in its case, in my basement, gathering dust.

Posted by Hube at 02:13 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

November 10, 2008

A runner's agony

Ye gads. I went this past Saturday to my bro-in-law, who's a physical therapist, because I've had this nagging pain in my left foot. This pain really flared up a bit over a week ago after a three-mile run. It didn't hurt during the run; however, an hour an a half afterwards, while getting out of the shower, I was like "WTF??"

My bro-in-law's diagnosis? Plantar Fasciitis. I spent about ten minutes at my BIL's home office, and ... it was ten minutes of the most agonizing pain I've ever experienced. I thought I'd literally pass out from the torment. And how in the hell did I get this crap in the first place? I'm only moderately active now that I'm in my 40s. Cause: Wearing non-arch flip flops way too often. Solution: Get flip flops with arches and make sure all my footwear has sufficient arch protection.

I still have to go back at least three more times, but the agony should be less with each visit.

Terrific.

Posted by Hube at 05:11 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

November 05, 2008

Who should be "Iron Man 2's" villain?

Word has it that a big (major?) part of "IM2" will be how Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) succumbs to alcoholism. This would be consistent with two major storylines from Iron Man comics, the first in the late 70s and the second in the mid-80s. The latter took place over some 30 issues and Stark was literally living on the streets.

If Stark does fall prey to the bottle, this would open the door for new-Jim Rhodes Don Cheadle to assume the role of Iron Man as War Machine. But 'ya gotta have a villain. Who should it be?

Educated choices:

1) The Mandarin. Already alluded to in the first film (the terrorist organization known as "The Ten Rings"), Mandy would be the natural choice. But the Mandarin is Chinese (hence the name, duh) and the head baddie in "Iron Man" wasn't. Calling him "Mandarin" wouldn't make sense, but without the "Mandarin" name, what will fans think? What other moniker would suffice? "Ring Guy?" An all-out battle with Mandy would be kickin' though -- Stark and his armor (and brain) trying to fend off the multiple threat of Mandy's fingerwear.



2) The Crimson Dynamo. Originally a Soviet counterpart to the American Iron Man, it should be easy enough to rework the Red baddie/hero as a Russian (not Soviet) character. The question would be, though, how would the two armored heroes tussle -- since the US and Russia are largely allies now? And battling another armored character wouldn't be that much different from the first flick, when IM took on the Iron Monger.




3) Fin Fang Foom. Some websites have this big green dragon making an appearance in the sequel as the Mandarin's lackey. For me, this would be a mistake as in my view, the best Iron Man villains are technology-based. As Tony Stark/Iron Man frequently exclaims in his comics, "I hate magic." And FFF is too close to "fantasy" rather than hard science fiction.




4) Ultimo. Also once a minion of the Mandarin, this huge gleaming android is a doomsday device that was created by an alien race. Iron Man vs. Ultimo in the comics has been all-out donneybrooks and some of the best continued-story issues in Iron Man's 45 year history. Using Ultimo as a pawn of Mandarin could be killer (literally)!!




5) Justin Hammer & Spymaster. Combined together because dastardly businessman Hammer has frequently employed Spymaster to do his [evil] bidding. Hammer is one of Stark's ominous business rivals who'll stop at nothing to defeat and crush Stark. He used Spymaster to steal some of Iron Man's secret technology which Hammer then sold to the highest bidder(s). Thus began the classic "Armor Wars" (Iron Man #225-231). The problem with this is that we already saw a fair share of "corporate intrigue" via Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane in "Iron Man," so a full sequel about it might not be very satisfying.

Posted by Hube at 04:54 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

What to do when a comics news mag gets it wrong??

Answer: Go to the Iron Fan, a.k.a. Hube of The Colossus of Rhodey!

I was combing through Wizard #206 that a friend had lent me, and in the back where they have their price index I saw the following blurb:

Obviously I've recently written about changes in the "Iron Man" movie cast, as well as the speculation of seeing War Machine in "Iron Man 2." That's Wizard's premise here, but their facts are WRONG.

  • 1) This issue was NOT War Machine's first-ever appearance. It was in Iron Man #281 on the last splash page.
  • 2) "Rhodey Rhodes??" Who the hell is THAT? It's either Jim Rhodes, James Rhodes, or Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes. Or just Rhodey. Not "Rhodey Rhodes." Cripes.
  • 3) Jim "Rhodey" Rhodes was NOT -- repeat NOT -- in the War Machine armor seen above nor in it in the next issue, #283 (see red underline). Tony Stark was inside it. Tony Stark did not bequeath the armor to Rhodes until issue #284, a whole two issues after what the bunglers at Wizard tell you.
  • 4) The armor wasn't originally called "War Machine." It was actually just a specialized suit of Iron Man armor called the "Variable Threat Response Battle Suit."

Got it, Wizard? ;-)

Posted by Hube at 04:19 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 04, 2008

OK, I voted about a half hour ago ...

... and aside from those who ran unopposed, there was only ONE race for which I did not cast a vote.

Can you guess which one it was?

Posted by Hube at 04:35 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

November 03, 2008

I'm with Steve Newton at this point ...

... and that's that I've had just about enough of the election at this point. Just get it on, already! I've actually got two posts ready to go for late tomorrow/early Weds. -- one if Obama wins and one if McCain pulls it out. (And don't worry Obamaites -- I'm quite cordial to The Messiah in his post.)

So, since I've had it until after tomorrow (at least), let's check out some IRON MAN news!!

Terrance Howard, who played James Rhodes in "Iron Man" (Tony Stark's -- Robert Downey -- right-hand man), is OUT of "Iron Man 2!"

According to Entertainment Weekly, while some insiders guessed it had to do with Howard being difficult on the set, the story has much more to it:

“Howard was the first actor signed to the film and, on top of that, was the highest-paid. That’s right: more than Gwyneth Paltrow. More than Jeff Bridges. More than Robert Downey Jr. And once the project fully came together, it was too late to renegotiate his deal.”

Wow. How’s that for an interesting twist? To further complicate matters, the word is that Jon Favreau was not very happy with Howard’s portrayal of Tony Stark’s long time friend Jim Rhodes. Again, there is no confirmation on this as Favreau did not comment on any of this.

Who's gonna replace Howard? Check it: Don Cheadle. It's a no-lose situation for Iron Fans, although I dig Howard and thought he did just fine as Rhodes. But Cheadle is a phenomenal actor so I'm sure he'll pick up the role without skipping a beat.


Cheadle, at left, now gets a shot at playing the
armored War Machine, instead of Howard.

Posted by Hube at 05:25 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

October 19, 2008

Two for two in two weeks

How 'bout those St. Louis Rams? Last week they beat Washington in D.C.; this week they destroy the Dallas Cowboys 34-14!


Posted by Hube at 04:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

October 13, 2008

Hube hangin' with Los Amigos Invisibles

Last Thursday night 'da wife and I had the incredible pleasure of hanging with that Venezuelan super-group, Los Amigos Invisibles. They played at Penn's World Café, which also has a terrific menu at their restaurant. The crowd wasn't as wall-bustingly huge as at past concerts; 'da wife and I attributed that to the adjacent [home] Phillies game, the first against the Dodgers for the National League Championship.

Nevertheless, the crowd was rockin' and jammin'. Lead man Julio Briceño (aka "Chulius") gave yours truly a shout out as the band intro'd my favorite Amigos tune, "Encántame." Bass player José Torres (aka "Catire") invited us backstage after the show. We also helped the band get settled into their hotel, and then we treated Catire, drummer Juan Roura (aka "Mamulo") and guitarist José Luís Pardo (aka "Cheo") to drinks at the nearby Irish Pub. We closed down the place (meaning last call at 2:00am), natch!


'Da wife and I backstage with (from left to right) bassist
Catire, guitarist Cheo and singer Chulius.

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October 02, 2008

The downside of being a teacher

Too many of us are idiots:

"Educators for Obama" buttons are no longer worn by teachers at Soquel High School.

The buttons began sprouting up at the Santa Cruz County school and parent John Hadley complained that teachers were attempting to politically influence his 16-year-old daughter and other students. Hadley is a John McCain supporter.

Teachers have now agreed not to wear the buttons in class.

Greater Santa Cruz Federation of Teachers president Barry Kirschen says the teachers were simply exercising what they believed was their right to free expression.

Which is fine. But they're wrong. I like what a commenter over at Joanne Jacobs' site said:

Where in the world did teachers get they idea that they have a right to say whatever they want in class? They don’t. They shouldn’t. They never have. And as long as we have a pluralistic society, they never will. Why do they have to discover this the hard way? Weren’t they taught about these things in ed school? (Silly question, of course).

Legal (free expression) questions aside, WTF do teachers believe it's OK to blatantly endorse one candidate over another? Aren't we in the business of teaching these kids -- especially the means to think critically ... and for themselves? By what right does a teacher have to use his/her position of authority to subtly pressure students into who the "right" choice in the presidential race is? As a former social studies teacher, I was taught NEVER to allow my personal politics to enter my teaching. Indeed, many students this year thus far have asked me who I am voting for. I have refused to answer, telling them I will reveal who after the election if they wish. And if I do, I will actually cover both sides of various issues and explain why I agree with one side over the other.

Elsewhere, the Virginia teachers union sent an e-mail encouraging its members to wear blue collared shirts in order to show support for Barack Obama:

The Virginia Education Association sponsored "Obama Blue Day" on Tuesday. In an e-mail sent last week, it urged teachers to participate by dressing in blue.

"There are people out there not yet registered. You teach some of them," the Sept. 25 e-mail reads. "Others, including our members, remain on the fence! Its time for us to come together, voice our unity, because we make a difference!"

"Let's make Obama Blue Day a day of Action!" the e-mail continues. "Barack the vote!"

In a statement released to FOXNews.com Thursday, VEA President Kitty Boitnott defended the e-mail, saying that it called for teachers to wear blue shirts, but not ones that mentioned a candidate.

Does she think people are really this stupid? And this woman is a teacher. As Joanne Jacobs said (and to whom the h/t goes for these articles), "Perhaps the use of the words 'Barack' and 'Obama' gave teachers the idea that the union wanted a 'day of Action' for Barack Obama."

Gotta love the assumptions teachers unions make. I think I posted this once before, but I recall the DE senate election of 1994 -- Charlie Oberly vs. Bill Roth. A fellow teacher came by my room asking if I wanted an Oberly lawn sign. "Why?" I asked. "I'm voting for Roth." The look on the teacher's face was one of utter befuddlement and anger.

Posted by Hube at 08:00 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The "one word" meme

1. Where is your cell phone? Briefcase.
2. Where is your significant other? Work.
3. Your hair? Graying.
4. Your mother? Funny.
5. Your father? Strict.
7. What was your dream last night? Absent.
8. Your dream/goal? Relaxation.
9. The room you're in? Office.
10. Your hobby? Writing.
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Retired.
13. Where were you last night? Home.
14. What you're not? Gay.
15. Favorite person? Teacher.
16. One of your wish list items? Driver.
17. Where you grew up? Wilmo.
18. The last thing you did? Grade.
19. What are you wearing? Clothes.
20. Your TV? Small.
21. Your pet? Avian.
22. Your computer? Slow.
24. Your mood? Befuddled.
25. Missing someone? Yes.
26. Your car? Cold.
27. Something you're not wearing? T-shirt.
28. Favorite store? Target.
29. Your summer? Relaxing.
30. Love someone? Yes.
31. Your favorite color? Blue.
32. When is the last time you laughed? Today.
33. Last time you cried? Years.
34. Who will repost this? Bloggers.
35. One word to best describe yourself? Humorous.

(h/t to Peevish.)

Posted by Hube at 06:25 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 30, 2008

Study: Parents must be better role models

Can you believe it took a study to come up with that??

Here's the deal: If we need "studies" to tell the public sh** like this, we're all in a lot deeper trouble than we think. And I'll also tell 'ya -- take it from one who sees the effects every year -- it's getting worse. At my school's open house this year parent behavior was the worse I've ever seen it. In one class, there were two moms who decided to hold a [loud] conversation in the back of the room like it was old home week ... while I was discussing the curriculum. Numerous parents had their cell phones go off (no, they weren't on vibrate) ... and they took the calls -- in class -- while I was talking. Several parents left small messes in my room where they sat.

And I wonder why more and more kids laugh at/sneer at/ignore me when I make a request of them?

Posted by Hube at 06:23 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

September 29, 2008

Can my football team win a single game this season??

The St. Louis Rams, once called "The Greatest Show on Turf," are now the most pathetic team in the entire league. Today, they fired their coach, Scott Linehan, and replaced him with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Haslett once coached the Saints and had success, but as defensive chief for the Rams that defense has been abysmal.

Can this team even win a game this year? Let's take a gander at their remaining schedule:

10/5: Mercifully, this is their bye week.
10/12: at Washington. LOSS.
10/19: vs. Dallas. LOSS.
11/2: vs. Arizona. POSSIBLE WIN. The Cards' defense is nearly as bad as the Rams'.
11/9: at NY Jets. LOSS.
11/16: at San Fran. LOSS.
11/23: vs. Chicago. LOSS.
11/30: vs. Miami. POSSIBLE WIN. But unlikely, given how the Dolphins looked against the Pats.
12/7: at Arizona. LOSS.
12/14: vs. Seattle. LOSS.
12/21: vs. San Fran. POSSIBLE WIN. We always play the Niners tough at home. Haslett might have 'em on course by this time.
12/28: at Atlanta. LOSS.

The thing is, those three possible wins -- if the Rams play even close to how they've played their first four games -- will easily turn into losses. So it is entirely possible the Rams could become only the second team ever to go winless in the "merger" (post-AFL/NFL) era. (The only team to do so was the 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs.)

God help us.

Posted by Hube at 02:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 28, 2008

Two great American thinkers

Who is that highly intellectual pundit at right who was fortunate enough to have his picture taken with Hube? Post your answer in the comments!


Posted by Hube at 10:56 AM | Comments (14) | TrackBack

September 27, 2008

Wow. Maybe I ought not complain so much

... after reading this:

I thought it was bad enough that I occassionally have to stomp my feet while peeing (to scare the mice away...really). ( I rationalize that it's good for my thighs.)

Then I thought we had hit rock bottom when the administration took no sort of stance after teachers routinely had their personal property stolen out of their locked classrooms.

When I found a dead mouse in the middle of my rug (with several other LIVE mice feasting on the corpse) at 7:30 a.m., I thought, "This is it...this is as low as we can go. What else can be expected of me?"

And then...they took our parking spaces away.

So far this year my biggest infrastructure complaints are that my classroom is freezing and that the lights are so dull I fear I'll turn into a bat or a mole by June. But I guess that really ain't so bad ...

Posted by Hube at 10:53 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 21, 2008

Best fictional teachers

As a quickly-becoming grizzled veteran teacher, I've seen a lot of teacher movies. Some have been good, some pretty lame. Entertainment Weekly has a list of "24 Cherished TV/Movie Teachers," and here's my take on some of them (h/t to Matthew Tabor):

  • John Keating from "Dead Poets Society." Great movie, great example of a teacher. How do you reach kids? By relating to them, that's how. Keating was outrageous enough to keep his students' attention, and having succeeded in that regard, he could then instill in them inspiration, hard work and creativity.
  • Mr. Hand from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." How many of you have had a teacher like Mr. Hand? I really didn't have one like 'im 'till college, and the results were unintentionally hilarious. The tit-for-tat between Hand and Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn) is gut-bustingly funny ("You DICK!") right down to Hand making Spicoli study at home with him instead of going to the dance.
  • Prof. Diane Turner from "Back to School." Actually, her professor boyfriend Phillip Barbay makes the movie (outside of Rodney Dangerfield's antics, that is) as the stuck-up, holier-than-thou business prof whom Thornton Mellon (Dangerfield) mocks mercilessly. Mellon ends up stealing away Turner (Sally Kellerman) because Barbay, in the words of Mellon, "doesn't know dick."
  • Jaime Escalante from "Stand and Deliver." The best thing about Escalante (played by Edward James Olmos) is that he's a real guy and his story is true. He gives up a well-paying job in industry to teach math at a tough school. He uses his Latino roots to inspire his [Latino] students to succeed, getting all of them to pass the Advanced Placement Calculus Test. When the test gurus think he and his students cheated, he has them take the test again, and they all ace it -- again.
  • Glenn Holland from "Mr. Holland's Opus." Richard Dreyfuss (Holland) is a terrific actor, and here he chronicles the life of a music teacher from green novice to 30+ year vet. Along the way he learns how to best "reach" kids, inspires love of music, falls for a student, and deals with his own deaf son. Perhaps the best part is witnessing the cultural changes that take place over the decades.
  • Louanne Johnson from "Dangerous Minds." Like the reviewer of this ET segment, I found Michelle Pheiffer's role just a tad preachy and unbelievable. Still, I'm sure there are teachers out there like her who sacrifice pretty much everything else in their life for their students, and to them I say "God bless you."

Most notable forgotten mention: Alex Jurel from "Teachers." Although this flick is 24 years old, it holds up perfectly. Nick Nolte's portrayal of Jurel is dead-on; he's a history teacher at an urban, ethnically mixed high school. The staff is a mix of all personality types, including the teacher we probably all had at least once, "Ditto" -- the "teacher" who just hands out a worksheet and then sits at his desk reading the newspaper. Jurel deals with reality as he faces it. When his room's heater isn't working one class period, he gets out his tools and tells his class to gather 'round for "a lesson on home heating repair." In order to reach a perpetually failing student (Ralph Macchio), he allows him to take photos for an assignment -- photos that reach that local media. And Jurel takes the heat for it in order to keep the kid's trust.

The film also deals credibly with how teachers' union issues can border on the ridiculous ("We're fighting for an extra three minutes of planning time!"), tenure (how bad and even criminal teachers are virtually impossible to fire), and best of all denotes how teachers have to have at least "one screw loose" to go into the profession as demonstrated by Richard Mulligan's character. He plays a mental patient who inadvertantly takes a phone call for a substitute teacher, and ends up subbing for several days. His inherent nuttiness endears him to his class, and before he's found out he has his students loving history with a passion never before imagined.

Posted by Hube at 11:58 AM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 20, 2008

Real music

Gad, this is such a great song. I've seen Yes in concert twice and they were spectacular. From the Drama album this is Yes's "Tempus Fugit." And believe it or not, I actually once knew how to play the bass line of this song. (Um, that was 21 years ago, folks ... please don't ask me to try it today!)


Posted by Hube at 08:21 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBack

September 18, 2008

Hube's comicbook quirk of the week

Who would have thought this, huh? Check out this advertisement from Avengers #165 from 1977:

Yep, that's an ad for the "All-New" X-Men. "All-new" because in order to boost sales (yes, you read that right) in the mid-70s, writer Len Wein and artist Dave Cockrum revised the original line-up of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's merry mutants that launched in 1963. Included in that line-up was a dude named ... Wolverine. Heard of him? ;-)

But that's only part of the story. Check out what is circled in red from above:

Indeed -- X-Men magazine used to come out once every two months!! Looking back from today this is an astonishing bit of trivia. X-Men was actually almost canceled completely because of poor sales in the early 70s. The book was only comprised of reprints of earlier issues for most of that time period. Then, in 1975, Wein and Cockrum came out with Giant-Size X-Men #1 ...

... and about 20 years later the mutant characters were by far Marvel Comics' greatest creative asset. They pretty much remain so today, too. Wolverine may even be more popular than Marvel's "flagship" character of Spider-Man. There have been three "X-Men" movies, and Wolverine is getting his own solo movie due out sometime next year (starring Hugh Jackman who played the role in the "X-Men" flicks).

By the way, if you're looking for a nice copy of Giant-Size X-Men #1, good luck. That, and make sure your bank account is well padded.

Posted by Hube at 07:36 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 30, 2008

First week of school is over

... and I'm beat. But it's a "good" beat. As I told Paul Smith Jr. the other day, I crashed on my sofa Thursday night at 6:30pm, and didn't awake until 7:30am the next day! The transition from summer hours to regular school hours is always tough, but don't play any small violins for me -- I ain't really complaining, 'ya hear? ;-)

My classes this year appear to be a "notch down" academically from the group I had last year. You might think that "it's still too early to tell;" however, my instincts after 17 years have proven to be pretty accurate. It's not, though, as some teachers might complain, a "gradual dumbing down" year after year. For me, it "ebbs and flows" -- some years I get exceptionally bright students, other years not so bright. No biggie. I just gotta go more in-depth on basic concepts, that's all.

At any rate, I saw an interesting article the other day: Florida is considering allowing teachers to use "force" against students in a much more, well, "liberal" fashion:

Educators could use physical force to maintain a "safe and orderly learning environment" under a proposed state Board of Education rule.

State law already allows school officials to restrain special education students who are deemed a danger to themselves or others.

The proposed rule would extend the use of force to any student and is drawing criticism from parents across the state.

The 30-line rule does not define the term "force" and leaves open to interpretation the circumstances under which it would be allowed.

It says force can be used to protect students from conditions harmful to their learning, mental health, physical health and safety or in cases of harm, injury or the significant damage of property.

The rule would not require that parents be informed if a school staff member has used force on their child.

Many students have the misperception that NO teacher can touch him/her for ANY reason. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, here in DE (and my district in particular) we're advised never to touch a student unless absolutely necessary (like if there is a fight, or a threat to another student or teacher). This is how it should be, in my opinion. In our modern litigious society, any other reason just opens the proverbial can of worms regarding "inappropriate touching." And hell, I know of cases where that charge has been brought even when a teacher was just attempting to break up a fight or melee. I think Florida, if they enact this law, better put aside a "legal fund" to back up teachers/administrators against litigious parents and their attorneys.

Posted by Hube at 09:49 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

August 29, 2008

The Palin pick

First of all, how in the hell do you say her last name?? Al Mascitti on WDEL this morning said it was "Pah-lin." Yet, all the big pundit shows have been saying "Pay-lin." So, somebody find out and report back to me, dammit!

I am definitely happy with the pick, personally, because I like "outside the box" thinking. However, I will endeavor to take a more [brief] objective take on the matter:

The Positives:

  • Only second woman ever chosen for major party ticket.
  • She's known as a reformer; she's taken on the corruption that has [politically] plagued her state, mostly involving her GOP brethren (like Ted Stevens, natch).
  • McCain needed to make a "statement;" the Palin pick certainly is that.
  • Palin's youthful vigor can counter Obama's.
  • Has more experience than the #1 on the Democratic ticket!
  • Totally hot!

Negatives:

  • Hinders GOP "Obama is inexperienced" message ('tho Palin still has more relevant political experience than The Messiah).
  • Palin is in the midst of a state ethics investigation regarding a possible improper dismissal of a state official.
  • May get crushed by Joe Biden in VP debate.
  • Total unknown for the most part.
Posted by Hube at 03:50 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

August 21, 2008

32 things

1. When were you happiest?
Watching my newborn daughter in her crib smiling up at me some 14 yrs. ago.

2. What is your greatest fear?
Being lost in pitch blackness.

3. What is your earliest memory?
Watching the ambulance take my mom to the hospital so she could give birth to my youngest sister (who's three yrs. younger than me).

4. Which living person do you most admire, and why?
My father-in-law. At at very spry 70, he's not only the coolest guy I know, he's probably the funniest, nicest, most savvy and most loving person as well.

5. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
Procrastination.

6. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Arrogance.

7. What was your most embarrassing moment?
Being involved in an incident at my high school the year after I graduated, and which was reported through the AP. The news went national and was widely reported in local news and newspapers across the country.

8. Aside from a property, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought?
A fully restored Datsun 240-Z.

9. What is your most treasured possession?
My daughter (at least until she's 18, right?) ;-)

10. What makes you depressed?
Being lonely.

11. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My big melon.

12. What is your most unappealing habit?
I spit a lot whenever I'm outside.

13. What would be your fancy dress costume of choice?
Iron Man's armor.

14. What is your guiltiest pleasure?
Watching "Boiling Points" on MTV.

15. What do you owe your parents?
One hell of a lot.

16. To whom would you most like to say sorry, and why?
A certain friend from HS. Again.

17. What does love feel like?
Indescribable euphoria.

18. What or who is the love of your life?
My daughter.

19. What is your favourite smell?
Outdoor barbecue.

20. Have you ever said ‘I love you’ and not meant it?
Yes.

21. Which living person(s) do you most despise, and why?
Delaware Liberal. They're rock-like stupid.

22. What is the worst job you’ve done?
Grocery store pack-out guy for Pepsi. A pack-out guy stacks the shelves with "product." Back-breaking work for lousy pay.

23. What has been your biggest disappointment?
Not sticking with playing music after college.

24. If you could edit your past, what would you change?
Would have been more motivated with music and athletics.

25. If you could go back in time, where would you go?
Early 60s for the Space Race, and to advise Kennedy and Johnson to leave Vietnam alone. ;-)

26. How do you relax?
Reading, writing, watching TV/movies.

27. How often do you have sex?
Not as often as I'd like! ;-)

28. What is the closest you’ve come to death?
At birth. I was a "yellow baby" -- my blood and my mom's had mixed to a fairly dangerous degree, and it was touch and go there for a little while.

29. What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
Enough $$ to retire, pay for daughter's college, and pay off mortgage.

30. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Being the dad of one very smart, very creative, very lovely daughter.

31. What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
There's no such thing as a free lunch.

32. Tell us a secret.
I was once very close to a terrorist grenade attack.

(h/t to Duffy.)

Posted by Hube at 04:38 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 19, 2008

I'd look elsewhere ...

... if my district implemented these new rules:

1) teachers have to accept late homework without penalty,
2) ignore homework grades that lower a student’s semester grade, and
3) give retests to students who fail.

The rationale for this? Superintendent Michael Hinojosa says,

“We want to make sure that students are mastering the content [of their classes] and not just failing busy work. Our mission is not to fail kids. Our mission is to make sure they get it, and we believe that effort creates ability.”

There's a good debate going on in the comments, but as you might surmise by this post's title, I side with those who this idea is pretty much crap. As some note, part of teachers' job is to prepare students for the real world. This real world doesn't accept work whenever an employee feels like turning it in, nor does it allow an employee chance after chance to "master" a skill or knowledge until they "get it."

On the other hand, most teachers I know (including myself) aren't nearly that harsh. They'll accept work late (although with a penalty), and allow retests (but not interminably). I personally don't give retests; however, any homework I give is akin to a "take home quiz" and I allow corrections to be made on it.

A blanket edict where ALL homework must be accepted at any time and/or ignored if it lowers a student's grade (not to mention constant retests) is just educationist nonsense and will only serve to further decrease student motivation and necessary "real world" preparation.

Posted by Hube at 09:41 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

The best thing about the free market ...

... is that if someone treats you like sh**, you can go elsewhere.

Back on Father's Day, after a round of golf, the frame of my sunglasses broke. Not on a joint or anything, but right in the middle of the right earpiece. I assume metal fatigue. (I was wearing these glasses when I got hammered playing soccer a year and a half ago, but there didn't appear to be any damage as they flew off of head.) At any rate, I waited most of the summer to look into getting new ones, mainly 'cause I'm a lazy bum.

At any rate, I finally go to a place recommended by my aunt. A very friendly (and attractive) woman shows me the latest athletic-looking (yet still dressy) sunglasses. The first pair I try, I'm sold.

Nine days later I go to pick them up. Uh-oh. I soon as I walk outside I notice something is amiss. My depth perception is way off. I continue wearing them as I think I "just have to get used to them." Wrong. The problem is highlighted when, a little later at a nearby Target store, I missed the handle of the milk cooler. Missed it. Completely. That's how off my depth perception was. I call the woman at the optical place and explain what's up. She tells me to bring them in the next day. When I get there, she thinks she's discovered the problem: The "base" of the lenses were not crafted to "wrap-around" lens specifics. I give 'em back to her, and again, nine days later I go back to get the fixed glasses ....

... last Friday. When I walk outside this time, all seems perfect. I wear 'em on the ride home. Great. The next day, I head up to a buddy's house in Downingtown. While on rt. 202, I notice what I think is a smudge on my right lens. I use a lens cloth to wipe it off. It doesn't go away. At any rate, the traffic light turned green, and I pretty much blew off "cleaning" the lens the rest of the way up. The next morning however, when I put on the glasses, I see what's really up: The "smudge" was nothing of the sort. What was obscuring my vision in that small section of the lens was a small half "teardrop" shape where the anti-glare/anti-scratch coating did not spread evenly on the lens. (It's like when you paint a wall and some of the paint collects in small teardrop shapes at the bottom of the wall.) The left lens also had one of these too, albeit smaller. But what REALLY pissed me off was that there were three huge scratches where I thought I was cleaning the lens the day before!! Like, I put out $120 for the latest anti-scratch coating!! And I used a lens cloth to wipe them!!

But the best part is yet to come.

Yesterday I drove to the place before I went in to school to set up my classroom. The lady who had taken care of me the previous two times was not in. The other woman said "It's OK, I can help you." BIG mistake. When I explain the story of the glasses, the situation immediately became like that "Seinfeld" episode where Jerry's auto mechanic demeaned him for apparently not taking proper care of his car, not knowing what kind of motor oil he put in it, etc. When I explained I was a bit miffed about how the lenses scratched, the woman immediately asks "Well, what did you use to clean them?" I had brought in the cloth and showed her. "Well, that's not a good one," she says. "I got it at Delaware Opthamology Associates," I respond. Oops. That seemed to faze her. Then she asks, "Did you wash that cloth?"
"I do sometimes, yes."
"But did you do it before cleaning the glasses this time?"
"No, I was driving."
"Oh, so you didn't even wash the lenses beforehand either?"
"No. I was driving."

I proceed to show her the information card about the "latest special coating" I had paid for for the lenses.

"See what it says here, ma'am? 'No special cloth or cleaner is required to clean your lenses.'"
"Let me see that. Hmm. Well, despite what that says, you still need to wash your lenses with soap and water each time."
"OK, that's fine, but you can see why I cleaned them how I did based on this card and what I paid for, right?"
"What kind of cleaner do you use on your glasses?"
"I don't know. Something I bought at a pharmacy."

She exhales audibly, exactly like Seinfeld's auto mechanic in that episode. Like, I'm somehow SUPPOSED TO KNOW the precise type of lens cleaner I had bought many months ago.

"Here. Use this." She gives me a small bottle of cleaner. She then grabs a box and -- get this -- DROPS IT on the desk in front of me. It's full of lens cleaning cloths. I am now officially seething. "Pick one," she says.

"Thanks," I say. "Now about those lens imperfections ..."
"Right. Hold on while I take a look at 'em."

She spends approx. five minutes in the back room. She then comes back a bit through the doorway, apparently looking very hard for the "teardrop" shapes I told her about.

"They're very tough to detect."
"Not if you're wearing them."
"Here, I'll circle where I think they are and you can confirm it."

She circled precisely where the imperfections were. Plus where the scratches were.

"That's them," I say.
"Again, they're tough to see."

At this point, I'm about to explode. I wanted to stand up and scream "WELL THEN YOU WEAR THE DAMN GLASSES AND ENJOY GETTING YOUR VISION BLURRED EVERY TIME YOU LOOK IN THE DIRECTION OF THAT IMPERFECTION, LADY!! I PAID OVER $500 FOR THESE F***ING GLASSES AND IT'S NOT A LOT TO EXPECT THAT THEY ACTUALLY BE MADE RIGHT!!"

But I didn't. Because, mainly, I knew that the lady who took care of me the first couple times would never have treated me so, and I didn't want anything to reflect negatively on her. As I sat there -- with a quite noticeable scowl on my face -- the woman proceeded to pick up my glasses and say "We'll call when they're ready."

"Thank you," I said gruffly and walked out.

I called the place that afternoon hoping that "my" lady was in by then. She wasn't. I plan to lodge a complaint (tactfully) and definitely make sure that SHE is aware of the problem with the lenses. As it stands, I probably won't be going back to this shop.

UPDATE: My original sales-lady got back to me. She was extremely apologetic about the incident yesterday, and promised me that she'd call the [lens] lab personally to make sure they know exactly what the coating problem is and yes, to rectify the scratch problem too. Still gotta wait 7-10 days for the glasses, 'tho.

Posted by Hube at 09:07 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

August 13, 2008

My great golf summer

All right, all right I'm sorry. This is a braggart-type post, but I just can't resist. I'm quite happy. Y'see, I've been playing golf for a long time -- a really long time -- since my junior high school caddy days at the Concord Country Club. But it's really been this summer that I've gotten more serious about it than usual, and it's paid off big-time. For the first time ever, I've shot more rounds under 90 than above it. And by a wide margin, too. Heck, my last three rounds were an 81, an 83, and an 84 today. That 81, shot last week at Wilmington's Porky Oliver course, is my second best ever round of golf. (My best ever was a 79, the only time I shot under 80, back in that halcyon year of 1993.) I do believe that new TaylorMade Burner driver may have had something to do with it ...

And with that, I leave you with a classic scene from my favorite golf movie, Tin Cup:


Posted by Hube at 07:55 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Carnival of Education

Uber-education blogger Joanne Jacobs is hosting this week's edition, which includes this post of mine from a couple days ago.

Posted by Hube at 04:30 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 11, 2008

25 Hints You're Not Voting for Obama

Via The Corner's Peter Kirsanow. (Personally, I like #20):

It's unlikely you'll vote for Obama if you....

1. aren't a news anchor.
2. read the New York Times for pretty much the same reason the NSA monitors radio transmissions.
3. automatically conclude that the person laughing in the car next to you must be listening to Rush. Or maybe Obama off teleprompter.
4. dislocated your shoulder trying to explain Obama's position on Iraq to co-workers.
5. find autobiographies generally more interesting when the author has, you know, done something.
6. remember the Carter Administration.
7. would give a month's pay to play Jack Bauer's partner on 24.
8. increasingly agree with Mark Steyn that "almost everything [Obama] says is, well, nuts."
9. think it's relevant — despite what the sophisticates say — that several of Obama's mentors and associates have displayed a dislike for America or a disdain for Americans.
10. think it's relevant that several of McCain's mentors and associates are American heroes of historic magnitude.
11. think about 9/11 more than once a year.
12. have concluded that Larry the Cable Guy makes way more sense than Howard Dean.
13. feel a little safer during turbulence when your pilot is a calm "white haired dude."
14. thought about Hillary's 3:00 a.m. phone call ad when you first heard about Russian tanks in Georgia.
15. wonder why Obama felt it necessary to give a speech on patriotism.
16. get sorta creeped out by 200,000 Germans chanting "Obama! Obama!"
17. think the jury may still be out on Harvard Law School.
18. suspect "merci beaucoup" is French for "empty suit."
19. doubt that teleprompters are really magical dispensers of good ideas.
20. know in your gut that defiantly withstanding 4 1/2 years of torture trumps all of Obama's qualifications and accomplishments combined — regardless of what the elite pundits say.
21. repeatedly find yourself asking "Change to what?"
22. have ever used the term "pompous twit' in the same sentence with "Marx," "Marcuse," or "Sartre."
23. don't like being told what to do — especially by someone who hasn't done it.
24. really like ticking off the media, Hollywood, academics, and PC busybodies everywhere.
25. weren't born yesterday.

Score (# of descriptions that apply to you):
0— Go ahead, write in Dennis Kucinich
1—3 Obama may be your choice after all
4—5 You think Hillary got a raw deal and won't vote Obama
6—24 McCain's your man
25 It's OK to write in Reagan

UPDATE: Kirsanow has 25 more (from readers):

You're unlikely to vote for Obama if you.....

1. aren't registered to vote in France or Germany.
2. believe Gen. Petraeus is more important than Al Gore.
3. nod every time you read a Thomas Sowell column.
4. have ever caught yourself humming the theme from" The Green Berets."
5. have gotten your pants dirty in the last week.
6. kinda like a good steak once in a while.
7. have accidentally discharged your gun during church services in a bitter fit of antipathy over people who aren't like you.
8. wouldn't mind knowing if your 14 year old daughter was being taken by a non-family member to Toledo for an abortion.
9. prefer the Super Bowl to the World Cup.
10. know Sig Sauer isn't the name of Obama's domestic policy advisor.
11. are certain Obama would've taken the tank ride if Dukakis hadn't beaten him to it.
12. can't describe Obama's position on the surge without using the word "incoherent."
13. don't think having a baby is "punishment.".
14. have heard about Obama's vote against the Induced Birth Infant Liability Act.
15. tend to giggle whenever Nancy Pelosi talks energy policy.
16. think your taxes are plenty high already, thank you very much.
17. prefer legislation come from Congress, not the Supreme Court
18. believe we'd be in a world of hurt if we'd followed Obama's advice on Iraq last year.
19. resent the suggestion you're a racist for treating Obama like a serious presidential candidate.
20. hear the name "Osama Bin Laden" and words other than "habeas corpus" come to mind.
21. were to meet William Ayers, you'd be more likely to bop him in the nose than join his board.
22. list either Patton, Braveheart or 300 among your favorite movies.
23. realize that Obama's Speech of the Century on race was, in hindsight, a crock.
24. wonder which government agency is in charge of healing the planet.
25. personally know somebody who packs his passport whenever traveling to San Francisco... just in case.

Score (# of descriptions that apply to you):
0— You heard that according to Publisher's Clearinghouse, Al Gore won Florida
1—3 You think that had Ron Paul gotten more time in the debates he'd be the nominee
4—24 McCain's your man
25 If only Fred Thompson would drink more coffee....

Posted by Hube at 01:00 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

School's right around the corner ...

... and as such, the weird dreams begin. What do I mean by "weird?" Here's a typical week-before-school-starts dream:

For some reason, I miss the inservice days preceding the first student day. I discover that I am not teaching my own subject -- I have to teach something like math or keyboarding. I have the worst behaved kids imaginable. 35 or more of them. They absolutely, positively do NOT listen to a word I say, even after I slam a desk to the ground to get their attention. When I call the administration for assistance, I am told that it "is my problem, so deal with it." In addition, I'm back enrolled in grad school and I've forgotten that I enrolled in a class. I haven't attended once all semester. If I don't pass this class, I'll be tossed out of the graduate program.

This happens every year when there's about 1-2 weeks to go until the start of school. Every year. This, despite the fact that I'm a 17 year classroom vet who easily gets a full night's sleep before the first student day.

I'd be curious if many other teachers experience such pesadillas (nightmares).

Posted by Hube at 10:00 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

August 10, 2008

A purposeful diss?

Just a few days ago, China told President Bush to "mind his own business" after he denounced the communist government's record on human rights -- right before settling in to attend the Olympic Games there.

But did China get actual revenge ... last night? During swimmer Michael Phelps' first [gold] medal ceremony, the playing of the U.S. national anthem was quite wacky. The opening stanza was repeated three times and then the ending was cut short! Phelps looked around for a sec, dumbfounded, then began to clap and laugh. Pres. Bush was in attendance, so did the Chinese do this as payback? If so, it didn't faze Bush much; he, his wife and those surrounding him finished the anthem, smiling and waving Old Glory the whole time.

Posted by Hube at 05:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 08, 2008

Speaking of which ...

... here's this week's "Hube's Spanish Language Video of the Week." This time out it's Spain's Presuntos Implicados (Presumed Guilty) with their hit "Gente" ("People").


Posted by Hube at 12:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

We're "too negative"

Joe over at Merit Bound Alley says that Colossus is full of "constant negativism" (shouldn't that be "negativity?"):

I still read the Colossus of Rhodey on a regular basis, but as of late, it seems kind of like Garfield. Same ol’, same ol’. We know Colossus does not like Obama and liberals in the same way that Garfield dislikes Odie. It’s pounded in on a regular basis.

However, at least Garfield was able to devote some comics to what the fat cat liked. Lately, all that I see on Colossus is screeds against liberal media, against Mike Protack, against Obama, against Delaware Liberal. But what are they “for”? Comics, apparently.

I’d like to see Colossus of Rhodey get back to writing about what they do like, what they believe. The constant negativism has gotten tiresome and boring.

I thanked Joe for the constructive criticism in the comments, and for the fact that he thinks we were once "mighty." But are our posts all that different from, say, [lefty] DE Liberal's or [lefty] DE Watch's of late? Doesn't criticism of your ideological foes entail a lot of "negativity" -- by pointing out their faults and errors?

Wadda you think about Joe's pontifications?

Posted by Hube at 10:27 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

August 01, 2008

Hube's Spanish language video of the week

How could I have forgotten this musical genius from Mexico -- the one and only Aleks Syntek?? Here he is with his old chums from "La Gente Normal" ("The Normal People") and their superb "La Fé de Antes" ("The Faith from Before"):


Posted by Hube at 10:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 28, 2008

The Great Debaters

I saw this movie over the weekend. It is superb. I highly recommend renting this flick at your earliest convenience.

However, the only detracting aspect of the film is what -- incredibly, actually -- the World Socialist Web Site says -- that Wiley College (where the debaters attend) always ends up debating the "progressive" and/or "correct" argument. (One of these really stuck out: Denzel Washington, who plays debate team leader Melvin Tolson, informs his team that the debate is "Resolved: Captalism is Immoral. We'll be arguing in the affirmative.") Tolson is shown in the film to be a socialist, perhaps even a communist, although the latter doesn't appear to be an accurate assessment. Nevertheless, considering the story takes place during the Depression (and in the South), the present-day ... "stigma" of being labeled a socialist has to be considered in this light. But the horrors of the Jim Crow South are copiously portrayed in the story, and the climax debate between Wiley and Harvard (the national championship debate was actually against USC, not Harvard) is stupendous. James Farmer Jr.'s (played by Denzel Whittaker) final argument -- how unjust laws have to be actively protested and ignored -- can only leave you nodding your head with an accompanying "Amen!"

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July 26, 2008

Will "Watchmen" succeed?

Anyone who has seen "The Dark Knight" probably caught the trailer for the "Watchmen." And if anyone has read the 12-part series (or the trade paperback which collects all twelve issues) knows "Watchmen" is one intricate plot. (Hell, the official site even says so: "A complex, multi-layered mystery adventure...") Given that, the question is -- how will "Watchmen" translate to the big screen?

Unfortunately, my opinion is "not too well." "Watchmen" is one of those stories that is tailor-made for comics ... and comics only. (It is, like Marvel's awesome "Kree-Skrull War", "an epic so grand, only the comics could bring it to you!") To do the story any justice, I think the film would have to be about three hours long -- that's about an hour too long for a casual movie-goer.

I won't go into the plot here (that would require a LOOONG post); I'll simply recommend reading the trade paperback (probably about $25 at a bookstore/comics shop), and at the very least the Wikipedia synopsis. When you're through, ponder if the yarn will translate to the silver screen. For me, I'm seeing another "Dune" debacle. But I hope I'm wrong.


The main characters of "Watchmen."

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July 25, 2008

And Phil Gramm got grief? How come?

Ken Shepherd nails it at Newsbusters. "The media has done little to prove Gramm wrong," he writes, and this MSNBC.com segment proves it without a doubt. In "Salvaging a Miserable Summer," the Democrat Party cheerleader site solicits reader tales of summer "woe."

For instance, Nancy Carol Marquand says "Given the circumstances of our economy, I think this is one summer we will always remember." A summer to "always remember??" Why -- just 'cause gas prices are higher than last summer? Man, either I'm weird or I'm very old school. For instance, I like to live by a thing called "planning." One adjusts to circumstances. It doesn't make me "miserable" as MSNBC refers to it; at worst you ... "settle" for what is best for you. Does this make it any less enjoyable? Perhaps. But "miserable??" You're still vacationing with your family -- isn't that what it's all about after all, not where you go?

Take Apple Plotnick (what a name, eh?). She had to "settle" for a cruise this year:

In years past, as a do-it-yourself traveler, I visited friends in Europe for summer vacations, staying in hostels and traveling by foot, train, and occasionally, car. I've also flown down to Florida for two-week vacations to visit family.

Putting together my own vacation is simply too expensive, with the dollar exchange being so low right now, as well as the rising costs of gas. Driving used to be a low-cost way of experiencing a new city, but it's become a financial drain.

Because of high costs of gas and a completely unreliable airline industry, I have decided to take a cruise that leaves from my state of Virginia so that I can rely solely on myself for transportation to and from my departure port. The cruise will also include all the hotel, gas and food costs, as well as combining entertainment with my interests in guided travel.

Now, I plan on exploring the ship, shore excursions, tours, and I will use my own feet as we dock at interesting ports of call.

"Settling" for ... a cruise? Instead of going to Europe and staying in ... hostels? Yeah, that sure sounds "miserable!!" Puh-lease!

Then there's Katie Poti who seems quite contradictory in her assessment of this "miserable" summer:

This summer is much different for us because we just bought our first home in March and have a baby due in October. I would say that even if gas prices weren't as high as they are we would still be spending our money elsewhere.

Uhh, 'ya think??

This summer has changed our feelings about vacations to feelings of frustration. It used to be easier to just pick up and go somewhere, but now with the expense of gasoline -- and everything else for that matter -- trips require more financial planning.

Bingo!

We feel like we work very hard for the money we make and the time off we get, and a vacation shouldn't feel like punishment or something we should feel guilty about doing. Instead we feel more stressed out about taking a vacation now than we would if we just took our time off and stayed home.

Maybe that's because you just purchased a home and have a baby on the way? Maybe?? Those two "little" tidbits are naturally stressful events. Sheesh -- when my wife and I found out we had a daughter on the way, get this -- we planned ahead. We agreed that we wanted our daughter to have a stay-at-home mom for her pre-school attendance years, so this meant that I had to pick up a part-time job to help make up what we lost with my wife's salary. And since we were in the market for our first house shortly after our daughter was born, this additionally meant that luxuries -- yes luxuries -- like a travel vacation were out of the question for a number of years. That's just how we placed our priorities. Call us silly.

I'm quite sure there are many folks out there who are facing REAL difficulties -- whose lives are REALLY miserable. And I seriously doubt these folks are weeping over anecdotes like the above ... and this, where a family "had" to cut a trip to the Florida Keys by two days ... and "settle" for more time in South Beach instead.

"Miserable" indeed.

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July 24, 2008

Mike Protack: Going to a bar, having some drinks and dancing with women = "creepy." (And more)

Candidate for DE governor Mike Protack thinks the fact that [GOP gubernatorial candidate] Bill Lee likes to occasionally hit a bar, have a few drinks and dance with the ladies is somehow a disqualification for the office of governor -- that it's "creepy." Take a listen here.

PROTACK: I'm tryin' to think if my priest would ever give me that kind of advice. Um, and I don't think he would. I can't imagine him saying go to the night life to look for a mate if that's what you're, well, let me be, I'll be pointed -- you don't go to bars lookin' for a mate. You go to bars lookin' for a good time. And that's not somethin' ... that's creepy. I don't wanna hear about that from someone that's running for governor. That's just not ... it's creepy.

Protack then briefly mocked Lee's statement about "liking women;" he said that he's loved "one particular woman for 29 years."

That's terrific, Mike. Now the big question: So?

Protack today also criticized Lee for his reevaluation of the illegal immigrants and drivers license issue. While I happen to think Lee's initial statements about granting licenses indicated wrong policy, at least Lee recognized that he was out of the mainstream, and he did so quickly. Take a trip back a month and half ago now, to this Wilmington News Journal article of June 11, regarding Protack's plan on combating illegal immigration:

Protack said if he were elected governor, he would use federal Homeland Security grants to provide handheld computers to state and local police, allowing them to scan more than a dozen national databases and verify the identities and backgrounds of anyone they encounter. Those who don't check out would be arrested and turned over to immigration officials, he said.

Not only that, but Protack said he "would require all residents over 16 years old to carry a state driver's license." Um, Mike, doesn't "all residents" mean those that are also here ... illegally? (See DE Politics.net.)

Back to the hand-held computer system: This system is dubbed "E-Verify." The idea seems solid at first glance; however, I'm worried about this part: authorities can verify IDs of anyone they encounter?? Does Protack actually mean to say that a cop can arbitrarily stop someone that is walking down the street, ask for ID, and detain that person while they run a make on him using E-Verify? Is this is why Protack bragged that various "human rights" groups aren't happy with the idea? If it is, sorry Mike -- this time, the human rights groups are dead right.

I don't particularly like Mike Protack. Anyone who has perused DE blogs regularly probably knows that Mike often treats with contempt commenters with [legitimate] questions, and his "surrogates" or "supporters" denigrate others on the blogs routinely. Then there's that whole matter of these "surrogates/supporters" posting comments from the same IP address that Mike himself used. (So maybe many of those "surrogates" were ... Mike himself?) For me, ultimately it doesn't matter what Protack's ideas are. If he acts like a jerk to those who choose whether to hire him as our leader, to me that says quite a bit about character.

I wonder what Protack's priest would say about that?

UPDATE: A source informs me that Protack called in to WGMD earlier today and said he didn't mean illegal residents would be included in his mandatory drivers license scheme.

And I rediscovered yet another reason I don't Protack.

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July 20, 2008

Superhero movies I'd like to see

Blatantly copying Ryan's idea from a few days ago, and after the adrenaline rush of seeing "The Dark Knight," here are some comic characters I'd like to see have their own flick(s):

The Avengers. The good thing is, it appears we will actually see this film go to fruition if the teasers at the end of "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk" are any indication. The original team consisted of the Hulk, Iron Man, the Wasp, Ant-Man and Thor; I'm betting that Thor will be axed and in his place will be Capt. America. Why? Thor being a "god" doesn't translate well to the big screen, and Cap's "super soldier" serum was utilized in "Hulk." The Wasp and Ant-Man will be easy enough to do up.

The Silver Surfer. He was awesome in "Fantastic Four 2" and now we should see what he's all about. Marvel handled the planet-eating Galactus ridiculously in the film; now's the chance to redeem themselves by showing how he once threatened the Surfer's home planet, but in return for sparing it, Norrin Radd of Zenn-La offered to become Galactus' herald.

Green Lantern. Any sci-fi aficionado should be craving to see a flick where test pilot Hal Jordan is bequeathed an alien ring that can transform his thoughts into pretty much whatever he wishes. Or, given that Lantern was created in the days when African-American comic characters were unheard of, long-time Lantern John Stewart could fill the bill.

The Vision. My second fave character after Iron Man, the Vision debuted in 1968 in Avengers #57 (probably the most valuable remaining old comic in my collection, seen at right) as an enemy of Earth's Mightiest. He rebelled against his creator, Ultron-5, and joined the team. He is a "synthezoid," or artificial human, who can control his body density, becoming wraith-like or hard as a diamond (and unbelievably heavy) with a thought. He was created from the same robotic body as the Original Human Torch, one of Marvel's first-ever characters, so a writer could easily manipulate this back-story into what occurred Avengers #57 and violá -- you make him the bad-guy (who reforms) in the Avengers movie, and a couple years later you give him his own film!

Superman: Red Son. I'm not a big follower of DC characters (I grew up a Marvel guy) but this excellent alternate-reality yarn by Mark Millar is silver screen worthy in a big way. It re-imagines the Man of Steel mythos whereby Supes' spacecraft lands in the Soviet Union instead of a Kansas corn field. Stalwart villain Lex Luthor ends up being America's salvation. Go figure!

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July 19, 2008

Yet another rant

Yesterday I went off on rude and irritating movie-goers. Today, I played in a small golf tourney at the Scotland Run course in Jersey. It's the second year I've played in it. It's organized by a friend of a buddy I used to teach with; we get four foursomes (16 guys), and when everyone's done, we split everyone's scores into the best eight, and the worst eight. These scores then go into two hats. A score from each hat is then drawn (the scores have the people's names on 'em) and whichever duo has the lowest total score wins 75% of the money pot (everyone put in $20 at the beginning of the tourney). The next two win the other 25%. It's a fun way for even lousy players to get some cash.

At any rate, my buddy and I were teamed with two dudes we didn't know. My buddy and I are quite ... "traditional" golfers -- we count each and every shot, and count whatever penalties are required when necessary. In essence, we don't cheat. The duo we played with were the complete antithesis of us. Normally, I (we) wouldn't care a whit, but when the guys (or anyone, for that matter) start bragging about how they're doing -- when all the while they've been shaving strokes left and right -- and money is involved, well, that's when it becomes ridiculously annoying and irritating.

One guy was so bad that his cheating became irrelevant. (He finished with a 122. Supposedly.) But at the 18th hole, the other guy says (while lining up his putt) "I make this and I break 90!" My pal and I glance at one another, smile, and just shake our heads. He missed the putt, but there I was, finishing with a legitimate 92, supposedly being beaten by this guy with a "90" ... and whose score might be the difference between winning some cash or not.

And I knew precisely where this guy had shaved two strokes. (He had obviously done so on other holes, too, but this one stuck out). It was a par 3, and he chunked his first shot into the pond. He reloads on the tee, and does the exact same thing. This means he is now hitting shot number five with the appropriate penalties incurred. He hit up to where I laid one (just short of the green), again his fifth shot. I chipped up and then two-putted, carding a four. He did the same, which means he legitimately carded an eight. However, when we called out scores, he had said "triple bogey" which was a six. There's the two strokes right there by which this dude supposedly bested me.

Give me a break.

Some advice if you golf: If you shave strokes, just tell the folks you may be playing with that "you're keeping your own score." Or, when/if you announce your score, say something like, "Well, I took a few liberties (known in golf lingo as "mulligans") out there ..." That way, people won't think you're an unsportsman-like a-hole. Cool?

No, that's not the guy above, just an example video for the previous paragraph. And be sure to check out what has to be the world's worst golf swing.

UPDATE: I just heard from my buddy. (Since I didn't stay for the festivities afterwards, he had to fill me in.) He ended up with the best score overall (85) and he (and a dude from the worst 8 scores) won the pot 'o cash. Good for him. He informed me that my 92 was the fourth best overall score -- third best if you discount that one jackass's blatant cheating. Last year, I had finished in 8th place.

Thankfully, neither of the two numbnuts in our foursome won any $$. Oh, and my bud told me that after he had left, the dude with the 122 told those remaining at the post-golf party that my buddy had cheated on at least two holes!! Are you freakin' kidding me? WTF???

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July 18, 2008

I'm beginning to detest seeing movies in the theatre

I went to see "The Dark Knight" this afternoon with a buddy at the Movies 10 in Stanton. The mid-afternoon show was pretty packed. We sat in the back of the middle section, and off to our immediate right were about eight 12-13 yr. old boys who wouldn't shut the f*** up, and who kept checking their cell phones (whose light illuminated a too-big a portion of the area). The dad that "accompanied" them -- sitting directly in front of us -- was totally clueless. He never said a single word of admonishment; one gent in back of the boys told them to put the cell phones away at least four times that I heard. In fact, WAY too many folks kept checking their cells throughout the flick, despite numerous warnings beforehand NOT to do so.

Next, the dude who ended up sitting on the other side of me was loud beyond belief. What made it worse was that he was the slowest guy to realize happenings in the movie (like the way-too obvious Harvey Dent-is-Two Face "revelation"). Sudden exclamations of "OHHH! YEAAAH!" drove me nuts. (And no, the gent wasn't mentally challenged either, just in case you were wondering.)

Lastly, some old woman with way too much make-up on had a Blue Tooth on a few rows in front of me. Like, why the f*** do you need one of those in a friggin' movie theatre?? The constant blinking blue light on the damn thing was distracting -- and again, I was several rows behind her. I can't imagine what'd have been like to sit directly behind her.

Good thing I paid a bit less for the matinee. Even so, the way manners are going in public these days, it'll soon be worth it to just wait for the DVD and enjoy the movie where you won't have to worry at all about absolute behavioral cretins.

/rant.

BTW: For those who saw the "DK," can you name the well-known [current] U.S. politician who had a small bit part in the movie? (Don't look at the cast list at the link above ... even if you do, you'll have to be fairly sharp to spot the name!)

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July 12, 2008

R.I.P. Tony Snow

The Corner has numerous tributes, including a line from a Snow article (titled "Message to GOPers: When you sell out, you get booted out") showing how critical he could be of fellow conservatives:

The party that best praises limited government and traditional virtues will win — and if Republicans won't do the touting, Democrats will.

Amazingly, thus far, the moonbat Daily Kos comments have been respectful. Not so, as you'd expect, from these a-holes.

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June 30, 2008

Hube's Spanish language video of the week

This was a staple for a couple weeks on MTV En Español a few years ago. It's by Carol C. and DJ Nickodemus; Carol C. is the lead singer of the group Si Sé whom I saw when they opened for Los Amigos Invisibles in NYC in 2005. They were absolutely sensational. Not only were their songs hip, funky and toe-tappin' in both Spanish and English, Carol's voice is oh-so-yummy -- and she's damn sexy to boot! So without further ado, here's "Mariposa" ("Butterfly").

Warning for the very easily offended: The video has less-than-subtle lesbian overtones. I couldn't find lyrics of the tune anywhere, but they're not explicit; quite poetic, actually, from those I could make out from the video. The chorus chimes in part "Bailaré hasta el amanecer ... contigo ..." which translates to "I'll dance until the dawn with you." Make of that what you will, natch!

By the way, "Si Sé" translates to "If I Know." One weird thing about Spanish is that an accent mark can totally change the meaning of a word. For instance, "se" without the accent mark really means nothing at all without another word following it, so that's easy. Most Americans know that "sí " means "yes," but do not know that without the accent, it means "if." BUT (whew!) many folks who write in Spanish leave off needed accent marks as usually one can tell what the word means via context. I'm assuming Si Sé didn't leave off the accent on the "i" (see the album cover here) but if they did, the moniker still neatly translates into "Yes I Know." There's no context at all, so I'll have to go what the grammar shows me!

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June 27, 2008

Hube's Spanish language video of the week III

Another under-appreciated nugget this time from Monterrey, Mexico (where just about every great band from that country comes from) -- here's Jumbo with "Siento Que." (This site has the Spanish lyrics and the English translation ... though some of the translations aren't quite accurate.)


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Hube's Spanish language video of the week II

Here is the insanely phenomenal Argentinian Soda Stereo and their "unplugged" version of "Angel Eléctrico":

Lyrics:

Ahi va la tempestad,
Ya parece un paisaje habitual.
Un arbol color sodio, la caida de un Angel Electrico!
Nooooo!
No tengo estatica y no querria lastimarte de nuevo
Volvi solo y cargado por la caida de otro Angel Electrico.
Enrredado en cables, estoy al filo de la resignacion,
Debe ser del habito al esperar que algo quiebre en un mi sonor.
Un nuevo acorde te hace mirarme a los ojos,
Aun tengo al sol para besar tu sombra.
Hoy cai al dejarte sola, ya pague por quebrar la calma.


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June 26, 2008

Hube's Spanish language video of the week

Once again, it's Chile's La Ley from their Unplugged album (which is, in a word, spectacular). Lead singer Beto Cuevas' voice is phenomenal. Here's "Intenta Amar" ("Endeavour to Love"):


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June 23, 2008

George Carlin, R.I.P.

The popular comedian has died.

This guy cracked me up through three decades. He was probably best known for his "Seven Dirty Words" routine; however, one joke of his I'll never forget ('cause I laughed so damn much at it) was his consternation at the phrase "taking a shi*." He asked, "Who actually takes a shi*? Don't you leave one? Who would want to take a shi* anyway??"

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June 17, 2008

Best superhero fashions

Which movie superheroes have the best costumes/uniforms/appearance? MSN gives the grades, and we grade the grades:

The Hulk. MSN says "A-" and we say "OK," mainly because the newest film had an excellent homage to his classic comicbook purple pants. Green is a great color (is gamma radiation really green?), but how many of you out there knew that the Hulk's original color was gray?

Superman. MSN says "C" and we say "HUH??" No way. Supes is the original hero and his costume is timeless. "A" grade all the way. The rationale for MSN's grade is lame: "What up with the burgundy boots and cape? Red states yield red capes; burgundy is for wine drinkers."

Spider-Man. MSN gives and "A" and we agree, natch. They give Spidey's black suit a "B," but who cares.

Daredevil. MSN says "A" but we say "B." It's close enough to the original costume to satisfy us, but it's less sleek and has that goofy "collar." Matt Murdock in his Gene Colan-drawn outfit looked like a daredevil acrobat. Ben Affleck seems to be trying to impress Tommy Hilfiger.

Iron Man. MSN says "A" and we say "A+." MSN nails it: "The Iron Man costume may, in fact, be the best movie adaptation we've seen."

Elektra. MSN gives a "B" and we concur -- not only with the grade, but with their rationale: "The only problem is that it's missing some of the nastiness Elektra's comic-book fans are used to. It's more 'lite' than 'spite.'"

Batman. MSN gives the George Clooney "nipple suit" a "B-" and the Christian Bale outfit an "A-." We agree, 'though we'd give Bale's suit a full "A." And we also agree that Bale is [by far] the only Batman who is closest Bruce Wayne's actual physique.

Blade. MSN says "C," and we say "WTF are you smoking?" Their complaint is that you don't even notice the vampire hunter's costume in the comics. Um, hello?? This is the friggin' MOVIES here, you dolts! It's all ABOUT image. And WTF is this: "Black trench coat, black gloves and black shoes? This taxes our patience. Honestly, Blade's lucky that he doesn't get hit by a car"?? We give Blade's duds an "A-" because what the hell would you expect a vampire hunter to wear -- yellow spandex (to quote a certain adamantium-enhanced X-Man from the first "X-Men" flick)?

The Fantastic Four. MSN says "C," but we say "B." Yes, Jessica Alba should've been made to look hotter, but this is Marvel's "family" franchise. MSN also says the Thing looked great; we beg to differ. He looked OK, but when you look only a little better than the Thing from the never-released Corman 1994 FF flick, that says a lot.

Wolverine. MSN gives a "D" because they complain that Wolvie should be in yellow spandex (see Blade commentary above). That may have worked in the comics, but it'd look pretty silly on the silver screen. Besides, that comment ignores "Ultimate" Wolverine's look. We give the Canuck X-Man a "B" for his black on-screen duds.

Catwoman. MSN gives a disparaging "F;" we say anything that allows the devastatingly gorgeous Halle Berry to show off her spectacular bod deserves no less than a B-." But that friggin' headwear has GOT to go.

Silver Surfer. We're surprised he was even included, but we'll agree with MSN's grade of "A." His effects were first-rate.

Ghost Rider. MSN says "C;" we say "no friggin' way." GR was remarkably true to the comic's look, so if this is the factor by which we should judge, MSN (see Wolverine above), then what's the friggin' deal? He deserves at least a "B," and the effects (and movie story) were better than expected.

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Thanks to one of the greatest fathers ever

This commercial, which aired this past weekend, is a guaranteed tear-jerker (if you don't get emotional, you're not human -- sorry):

What makes the Woods' story so special is remembering the era in which Tiger's father Earl grew up. And this aspect is best exemplified -- and immortalized -- by Samuel L. Jackson's character in "Changing Lanes":

"I hope you don't mind, but I was intrigued by your conversation. I just thought you were in advertising. So I want to give you my dream version of a Tiger Woods commercial, okay? There's this black guy on a golf course. And all these people are trying to get him to caddy for them, but he's not a caddy. He's just a guy trying to play a round of golf. And these guys give him a five-dollar bill and tell him to go the clubhouse and get them cigarettes and beer. So, off he goes, home, to his wife and to their little son, who he teaches to play golf. You see all the other little boys playing hopscotch while little Tiger practices on the putting green. You see all the other kids eating ice cream while Tiger practices hitting long balls in the rain while his father shows him how. And we fade up, to Tiger, winning four Grand Slams in a row, and becoming the greatest golfer to ever pick up a 9-iron. And we end on his father in the crowd, on the sidelines, and Tiger giving him the trophies. All because of a father's determination that no fat white man - like your fathers, probably - would ever send his son to the clubhouse for cigarettes and beer." (Link.)

If you live in a cave, Tiger Woods won his 14th major golf championship yesterday in a 19-hole playoff. With a very painful left knee.

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June 16, 2008

Anybody catch "Battlestar Galactica" this past week?

I caught the rerun late last night (11:30pm) and discovered that ... they found Earth!! There's been, however, a lot of debate on various BSG forums about whether the planet really is Earth. The original BSG series had a two-part episode where the fleet discovered a world called "Terra" which was remarkably Earth-like ... but wasn't Earth. However, the ending of last week's show had two key ingredients that really make one believe the planet is 'ol Sol-3: 1) The panorama of the devastated city where the Galactica landing party lands seems to clearly be that of New York City. Did I say "devastated?" Yes I did -- Admiral Adama grabs a handful of soil and a junior officer puts a Geiger counter to it. The counter crackles rather noisily. Not to mention, of course, the ruins of buildings and other structures. 2) One of Galactica's officers announces that the "constellations are what they should be" when the fleet jumps into Earth space. We saw in an early season episode that Galactica knows what the constellations should look like from Earth.

If this is Earth, is it the present-day or ... some unglimpsed future? Or, an Earth from thousands of years in BSG's past? An rather interesting theory I read at one blog posited that the series will be shown to be sort of a "closed loop" civilizational evolutionary line -- that is, the Earth will be shown to have been destroyed after humanity created, and then fought in a cataclysmic war, its own robotic creations. The last remaining human beings escaped to space, and after a long journey, settled a world (or two) and eventually, after thousands of years, established the Twelve Colonies. Millenia later, humanity forgets what had happened to them so long ago, and ends up following the exact same path that brought them to the Twelve Colonies in the first place: The creation of robotic beings (Cylons) that eventually turn on them and nearly wipe them out.

We won't find out until around January, unfortunately.

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June 14, 2008

"The Incredible Hulk" review

So, I got together with my teaching/comics/movies buddy Brent yesterday to go see the latest Marvel offering, "The Incredible Hulk." Joining us was my old college pal Dan, the man who donated me most of my Iron Man collection back in the last 80s.

Let me just start off my saying that this flick is quite a step above the 2003 Ang Lee version. The action is better, the villain is vastly superior, and the hat-tips to past Hulk lore (comics and the TV show) were outstanding.

SPOILERS AHEAD! DON'T PROCEED IF YOU WANT NO REVELATIONS!

Edward Norton plays Bruce Banner this timeout, the Hulk's meek scientist alter-ego. Norton is a superb actor; if you've never seen "American History X," rent it ASAP and discover why. Norton doesn't really get a chance to show off his awesome talents in the film, unfortunately, but he's still better than Eric Bana from the 2003 film. (This guy doesn't think so; he says Norton comes off as "whiny." No way.)

The film is set five years after the 2003 film (exact time! Whoa!) and Banner is hiding from General "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt this time out) and his minions in Brazil. While working a menial job in a bottling factory, Banner spends his free time communicating clandestinely with a scientist back in the states in hopes of finding a cure for his affliction. One day in the factory, Banner cuts his hand, and a drop of blood accidentally falls into a bottle of the final juice product. The hapless American who ends up drinking the juice (played by Stan Lee, natch) dies of gamma radiation poisoning, and this tips off Ross as to where Banner is hiding out.

Banner manages to elude the special forces team sent to nab him, mainly by unwillingly transforming into the Jade Giant (the Hulk, that is). Special forces team leader Emil Blonsky (played by the awesome Tim Roth) demands to know from Ross just how Banner can turn into the green behemoth. Ross lets Blonsky in on what the government is attempting to do with Banner's gamma research, which is mainly the development of a "super soldier" serum. This here is a HUGE hat-tip to Captain America lore, emphasized by the fact that the vial Ross gathers to use in Blonsky is marked by a label with the name "Reinstein" on it. Professor Reinstein is the name of the scientist that developed the original super soldier formula in the 1940s that created Capt. America.

Meanwhile, Banner, after the battle against Blonsky and co. in Brazil, has lost his laptop full of needed data. Therefore, he's gotta make his way back to the U.S. He does, but stupidly goes to see his love Betty Ross (played by uber-hot Liv Tyler. And yes, Betty is General Ross's daughter.) This, of course, leads to another confrontation between the Hulk and Blonsky's team. But this time, Blonsky has been injected with the super soldier serum. He moves like a super-athlete, but it's still not enough to best the Hulk (not much is, yo!). Of course, it doesn't help that Blonsky is one cocky MFer; he stands directly in front of the Hulk and goads him with "Is that the best you got?" whereupon Hulk kicks him into a tree and breaks every bone in his body!

Banner and Betty escape, and eventually find their way to the scientist Banner was corresponding with from Brazil. Banner discovers, to his chagrin, that the dude has replicated the blood samples he sent him over the years into a mass storehouse for further experimentation. (This was my big "WTF?" moment -- how does one "replicate" human blood from a specific individual??) The scientist is not malicious in his intent, however, and agrees to try to cure Banner. He appears to succeed, but at a most inopportune time: Blonsky (whose super soldier serum healed his busted skeleton perfectly) and co. have found him, and without the Hulk now, Banner is easy prey. After Banner has been secured, Blonsky demands that the scientist turn him into a Hulk-like creature! He doesn't care that the scientist can make no guarantees; he's beyond all reason now. The scientist injects Blonsky with one of his myriad gamma-irradiated samples, and Emil turns into the monstrous Abomination as a result!

As Blonsky thrashes about, however, following his transformation, he knocks over the scientist and smashes numerous gamma-enhanced blood samples. Some of those samples splash onto the scientist, and into an open wound on his head. The last we see of the scientist is of his head seemingly growing larger! This, for Brent, Dan and myself, was the creation of longtime Hulk nemesis The Leader (at left).

The climatic battle between the Hulk and the Abomination is first-rate. As the Abomination goes on a rage-induced rampage through Harlem (yes, Harlem -- get ready for Al Sharpton to protest: "Why did they have to destroy Harlem? Why couldn't it be a predominately white area of New York??", although critic Alonso Duralde says "kudos" for using Harlem instead of, say, Times Square), Banner is in a helicopter being whisked away by General Ross. But he convinces Ross that the only chance they have to beat the Abomination is for Ross to let Banner go and battle him as the Hulk. There's just one problem: Banner is supposed to be cured now. No matter, Banner says. There was "no guarantee" the cure would work. But in another of the film's "WTF?" moments, Banner is seen falling from the helicopter (in hopes of changing to the Hulk before he hits), but when he opens his eyes shortly before landfall, there's no green color to them and he mutters "Oh, shit." Yet, he makes a huge cratering hole upon impact, leaving viewers to assume he had at least partially transformed before splattering the street.

The donneybrook between the two gamma-spawned monoliths is awesome. The Abomination looks little like his comics version, and indeed is much more powerful than said version. He actually resembles Doomsday, the villain that "killed" Superman in the 1990s. The Hulk uses many of the classic battle techniques he did in the comics, including clapping his hands together to smother flames, and pounding his fists on the ground to create a massive shockwave. He even screams out the venerable "HULK SMASH!" toward battle's end.

One big negative about the confrontation is that one huge aspect about the Hulk was totally ignored: The madder he gets, the stronger he gets. This has been a LONG mainstay in the Hulk mythos, yet it's never mentioned or touched upon. For instance, even though the Abomination is stronger at the onset, as the Hulk gets more and more pissed off, he should have eventually totally pummelled Blonsky. The Hulk's "victory," as it is, is more of a luck factor than anything else.

Another "negative," such that it is, is that we didn't see any of the Hulk's prodigious leaps. In the 2003 film, the Hulk jumped miles over the barren desert. In 2008, the Hulk resembled Spider-Man, jumping from building to building before finally jumping just a little bit longer over the East River.

The acting could have been a lot better considering the superior casting over the first flick. Norton, Hurt and Roth are all first-rate actors, yet unlike "Iron Man," with a similarly talented cast, they weren't allowed to shine. Norton did the best job in my opinion; there's just something about his "naturalness" in front of the camera that impresses me. Liv Tyler, who didn't do a bad job, really didn't have to act. Just looking at her is pleasant enough, natch!

The homages to Hulk references were excellent. In Brazil, Norton is shown watching an old rerun of "The Courtship of Eddie's Father," which starred Bill Bixby. Bixby, of course, played Banner in the "Hulk" TV show in the late 70s. Speaking of the TV show, its tell-tale melancholy piano interlude was featured in a brief segment where Norton was strolling up the street of his favela. And, of course, Lou Ferrigno, who played the Hulk in the TV series, gets his cameo as a college campus security guard whom Norton bribes (to gain entrance to a lab) with a free pizza!

And, it's obvious that Marvel is opening up their movie universe just like they did with their comics universe. In a final scene, General Ross is met in a bar by none other than Tony Stark (yep, played by Robert Downey Jr.) to discuss the "Avengers Initiative." If you stuck around 'til after the credits in "Iron Man," you'll know what I'm talking about. And speaking of Iron Man, there were several brief references to Stark Industries and S.H.I.E.L.D. in "The Incredible Hulk."

As for the CGI? Only mildly better than the 2003 film. The effects for the Abomination are better than those for the Hulk -- probably because he looked much less human.

Hube's rating for "The Incredible Hulk": 3 out of 5 stars.

Posted by Hube at 11:24 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

June 13, 2008

Jonah Goldberg expresses my view on "Battlestar" to a tee

But, like him, I'm going to "stick it out" 'til the end just to see how this miasma concludes.

Posted by Hube at 09:51 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

June 10, 2008

Excellent article on parenting

In "The Kindergarchy," writer Joseph Epstein describes in detail the differences between two generation's of parents attitudes towards raising children. What rang a distinct bell were the tales of his upbringing; in other words, he was not the center of his parents' universe.

When I was a boy my parents might go off to New York or to Montreal (my father was born in Canada) for a week or so and leave my brother and me in the care of a woman in the neighborhood, a spinster named Charlotte Smucker--Mrs. Smucker to us--who was a professional childsitter. Sometimes an aunt, my mother's sister who had no children, would stay with us. We seldom went on vacation as a family. When I was eight years old, my parents sent me off for an eight-week summer camp session in Eagle River, Wisconsin, where I learned all the dirty words if not their precise meanings. None of these things made me unhappy or in any way dampened my spirits. I cannot recall ever thinking of myself as an unhappy kid.

My mother never read to me, and my father took me to no ballgames, though we did go to Golden Gloves fights a few times. When I began my modest athletic career, my parents never came to any of my games, and I should have been embarrassed had they done so. My parents never met any of my girlfriends in high school. No photographic or video record exists of my uneven progress through early life. My father never explained about the birds and the bees to me; his entire advice on sex, as I clearly remember, was, "You want to be careful."

At roughly the age of 11, I had the run of the city of Chicago, taking buses, streetcars, or the El with friends to Wrigley Field, downtown, or to nearby neighborhoods for Saturday afternoon movies. Beginning at 15, the age when driver's licenses were then issued in Chicago, I had frequent use of my mother's cream-and-green Chevy Bel-Air, which greatly expanded my freedom. I don't recall either of my parents asking me where I had been, or with whom, even when I came in at early morning hours on the weekends.

When we were together, at family meals and at other times, we laughed a lot, my parents, my brother, and I, but we did not openly exhibit exuberant affection for one another. We did not hug, and I do not remember often kissing my mother or her kissing me. Neither my mother nor my father ever told me they loved me; nor did I tell them that I loved them. I always assumed their love, and, as later years would prove, when they came to my aid in small crises, I was not wrong to do so.

I did not seek my parents' approval. All I wished was to avoid their--and particularly my father's--disapproval, which would have cut into my freedom. Avoiding disapproval meant staying out of trouble, which for the most part I was able to do. Punishment would have meant losing the use of my mother's car, or having my allowance reduced, or being made to stay home on school or weekend nights, and I cannot remember any of these things ever happening, a testament less to my adolescent virtue than to the generous slack my parents cut me.

My emphasis above. Boy, does that hit the nail on the head!

This generational dichotomy is oft discussed in my own home. My wife is what I call (well, someone else made up the term) a "helicopter parent." She feels the need to be at every single event our daughter is involved in, frequently at the expense of other matters. This has led to some spousal conflicts as you might imagine. For instance, daughter might have a parent "visiting day" for her dance class. According to wife's philosophy, I am to drop everything and make sure I attend this visitation. Now, keep in mind that there are several visitations throughout the year, and what we see in the visitation we ultimately see at the big dance recital at the end of the year. The reason (or "excuse") that I may have students after school for extra help, or have some other school business to attend to, is not a valid one to miss visitation -- according to the wife.

Such a situation would be unimaginable to my own parents. My father would be too exhausted after work and/or had to give guitar lessons upon his arrival home. (Yeah, my dad is a pretty good guitar player!) Mom was a stay-at-home mom, but she had my two sisters to worry about. Like Epstein, it was a rarity for either of my folks to attend one of my little league games; I usually had to ride my bike to the games, as it were. Same with my school track meets. I only remember my dad being at a track meet one time, and the fact that I knew he was coming sort of made it "special."

And y'know what? I never held any grudges for my folks not being at my events. Not at all. I knew they had other commitments. Indeed, I was thankful that they ponied up the cash for my little league participation, and my track spikes for the running season! As Epstein notes,

Parents generally didn't feel under any obligation to put heavy pressure on their children. Nor, except in odd, neurotic cases, did they feel any need to micromanage their lives. My own father once told me that he felt his responsibilities extended to caring for the physical well-being of my brother and me, paying for our education, teaching us right from wrong, and giving us some general idea about how a man ought to live, but that was pretty much it. Most fathers during this time, my guess is, must have felt the same.

I attempt to abide by this idea, although I am clearly at odds with my generation, wife included. I make it clear to our daughter what's expected and if something doesn't happen as it should, there are consequences. But on the other hand, when daughter does something good, there are small rewards (NOT something like MTV's utterly ridiculous "My Sweet Sixteen") and a general attitude to "keep up the good work." For instance, daughter only received one "B" all year in her classes. (Yep, the rest were "A's" ... pretty good, eh?) Helicopter mom, however, was constantly checking daughter's grades online (two-three times per week), hovering over her when she was doing homework, and insisting on when she did her homework. My retort to this was: "She's gotten one 'B' all year. She's obviously doing something right. Why not leave her alone?"

But, again, it's my wife's attitude that is the prevalent one in today's age, not mine. I'm in the minority. I'm seen as some sort of ogre (and not just by my wife) if I don't "push" daughter to, say, play softball ... or run track ... or join the swim club swim team, and just about everything else that is humanly possible. "You have to show her!" I'm told.

I do? Sorry if I'm sort of showing off here, but my daughter is one smart cookie. She knows what she likes and what she doesn't. If she wants to try something, I'll certainly back her up, get her what she needs, and assist her with any training/advice.

Those with my wife's attitude abound in schools today. They micromanage their kids' homework, want daily or weekly reports from teachers on their children's academic and social progress, and perhaps worst of all will back their children in any conflict (academic or behavioral) with a teacher or administrator. Epstein recognizes this:

School is the pressure point. More and more teachers in grade and high schools complain not about the children they are asked to teach, but about the endless contact with children's parents. Parents are in situ, on the scene, unstintingly on the job. "How come Corey only got a B in physics? He's always been so wonderful in science." "Why isn't Lettice a better speller? Her father won the state spelling bee in Iowa." One wonders how many teachers have been driven out of the profession by parents' bombarding them with emails, phone calls, and requests for meetings?

Despite the wonderful accolades I receive at the end of a school year, I certainly get my fair share of those instances noted above, as well. Some of my favorites are "Your class is the only one [name] is not doing well in." "You're the only teacher who gave her a 'D.'" (I always like that "gave" part as if the child's study habits and work ethic had absolutely not a thing to do with the bad grade.) "My son says you're picking on him." (I do tend to "pick on" kids who constantly disrupt class -- "pick on" them to leave my class and go to the Time Out Room.)

Point of note: I don't want readers to think I am being unfair to my wife. It's an honest disagreement, but one that has legitimately caused the most consternation between us over the last thirteen years. But certainly, I feel that my perspective on the matter is the right one (else I wouldn't advocate/write about it, natch), and that hers is [partly] responsible for the generation of milksops we are raising today. I am fortunate that I work with a lot of teachers who share my view; however, the problem we all face is that ours is a distinct minority in the realm of education in general.

I am genuinely interested in what our readers think, so comment away.

Posted by Hube at 11:13 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

June 07, 2008

Schoooool's out. For. Summer.

One of the cool things about being a teacher: You always get that giddy feeling around the end of May/beginning of June that the [school] year is almost over. It's now officially over! And, frankly, I'm exhausted. I slept ten hours last night, and just got up from a two hour nap. My teaching load this year was the heaviest I've had in many years, and now that I'm in my mid-40s, it's not as easy handling that as it was when I was, say, 29!

This exhaustion, coupled with how my overall teaching load didn't allow for as many close relationships with students as I've had in past years, makes getting student/parent thank you letters a bit more "emotion-inducing" this particular end of the year. In other words, a few actually brought a tear or two to my eye(s). Here's a brief sampling:

Thank you for being such a patient, compassionate, and humorous teacher! [Name] often shared with me your funny stories, jokes and comments. I have always prayed that my son had the best teachers, and every time that prayer has been answered! You answered that prayer!
When I needed help staying after school you were always there to stay with me until I knew every little bit and piece of what I needed help on. I am going to end this letter with what another past student said about you: You are the #1 Best Teacher in the World!
I'm so glad I was in your class. You taught me how much fun Spanish can be. When I didn't understand a concept you helped me with it. I really appreciate that. And, you're the funniest teacher I ever had!
¡Muchas gracias! You were my favorite teacher this year, hands down. You definitely know how to make "not the funnest" subject exciting. You were always making other students, as well as myself, laugh. You're a wonderful teacher who knows how to keep entertaining.
Thank you for teaching me Spanish for two years. I really appreciate the way you have taught your classes. There wasn't a single day when your class was boring, unlike many of my other classes.
I liked how you find lots of different ways to teach us that are not just taking notes and being lectured. One of my favorite things in your class was when you taught us the proper verb form endings. You made up that song and started to dance on top of the heater and windowsill. That was SO funny!
Thank you for a great school year. I was ecstatic when I found out I had you as a teacher. I felt this way because I heard from all my friends you were awesome. Out of all the teachers I had I think you are the coolest. The class can be hard sometimes but you make it a good time. I learned a lot and will be prepared for more Spanish next year. Thanks for making Spanish so great and interesting.

I think I'm getting emotional again ...!

This is what makes, what can be a most difficult profession, all worthwhile.

Posted by Hube at 01:59 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

June 03, 2008

Great golf sign

Mike Mahaffie, Fritz Schranck and other golfers out there may get a kick out of this:

Any golfers, serious or otherwise, ever hit a house adjacent to a golf course? How 'bout a car in the parking lot? A fellow golfer?

I've hit a couple [town]houses along Porky Oliver's 7th hole before. There's a huge amount of protective netting along that fairway; however, it's still easy to put an errant shot through it.

I've never hit a car, although my car was hit once -- at the same Porky Oliver's. I was parked a safe distance (or so I thought) from the 9th hole (which is very close to the parking lot), yet my old Honda CRX had a big dent in its roof when I finished my round. Either someone hit a massive hook on the 9th tee to reach my car (unlikely), or a mild hook found its way to the parking lot and my car was on the receiving end of a bounce (more likely).

I've actually seen a moving car get drilled. It was only a few weeks ago at the revamped Rock Manor. A hole on the back nine is right alongside a new road that traverses the course. One of the guys I was playing with hits his drive and immediately yells "I think I got it!" "Got what," I asked? BOOM! He had hooked his drive right into the side of an oncoming Toyota. The car never stopped, although from the look on the passengers' faces, they were none too happy. 'Ya think?

Lastly, I have indeed hit another golfer with a shot while on the course. But -- it wasn't really my fault. At Chester County, PA's Loch Nairn course, a good buddy of mine and myself were a twosome. The very slow foursome in front of us graciously allowed us to play through at the second tee. My buddy hit his drive. Not well, mind you, but it was OK. My turn, next. One of the foursome was standing only about 150 yds. from the tee box, just a little to the left. He was right out in the open. Worst of all, he wasn't paying attention. SMACK! I hit my drive and it duck hooks left -- right at the guy! I immediately yell "FORE! FORE!!!!" Too late. The guy looks up when the speeding ball is almost upon him. It actually looks comical from my vantage point because he doesn't know which way to duck out of the way. In his indecision, he barely moves at all -- and my shot catches him full in the chest!! My buddy and I wince and exclaim "AWWW!" in unison, all the while suppressing laughter (you just hadda see the guy juking right and left trying to decide which way to duck!). We drive down to the guy and I ask "You OK, man?" He manages to get out "What do you think??" In my defense, I explain that I yelled "fore" right away and point out that he wasn't even watching us hit off the tee. No response. Not wanting to exacerbate the situation, my buddy and I don't bother completing the hole. We drive right to the third tee box. All the while clandestinely chuckling.

Lesson: Never, EVER take your eyes off a guy who's hitting from in back of you.

Posted by Hube at 04:48 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 02, 2008

Hube's Spanish language video of the week

Gustavo Cerati is by far and away THE musical genius in the genre that is Spanish rock. The former front-man of Soda Stereo, Cerati has put out numerous solo albums since 1995. His lyrics are phenomenal, his music incredible, and his guitar-playing jaw-dropping. So, from 1995's Amor Amarillo disc, here's "Te Llevo Para Que Me Lleves":


Posted by Hube at 09:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 31, 2008

Hube's Spanish-language video of the week, part 2

I had to put this one up. It is simply one of the most beautiful Spanish-lingo songs I've ever heard. It's by two Italian singers, by the way, Nek and the totally sexy Laura Pausini. Both put out tunes regularly in their native italiano as well as Spanish. (Pausini even has an English album out.) And if you think Nek (by the way, what the hell kind of moniker is that for an Italian guy??) has a lisp, he doesn't. He merely acquired the Castilian accent from nearby Spain. So, without further ado, here is "Tan Solo Tú":


Posted by Hube at 10:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 30, 2008

Meme: Countries you've visited

Name other countries you have visited:

1. Iceland
2. Luxembourg
3. Belgium
4. Germany
5. Holland
6. Costa Rica
7. Colombia
8. Canada

Of those, which had ...

... the best food? Canada.
... the best beer? Belgium.
... the hottest women? Costa Rica.
... the best weather? Costa Rica.
... the friendliest natives? Tie: Holland and Costa Rica.
... the most/best personal amenities? Canada.
... the cleanest cities? Canada.

Anything I'm leaving out? Feel free to add on!

Posted by Hube at 06:27 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Hube's Spanish language video of the week

Because nobody demanded it: Here's Argentina's Santos Inocentes with their electronica/metal hit "Santadélica." I usually disdain anything metal-ish, but this tune is so downright jammin' I can't help but love it.


Posted by Hube at 04:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 26, 2008

Top 50 sports films of all time

Keeping with my earlier post of Top 100 Films of All Time, how 'bout a sports film list, eh guys? The list is from Sports Illustrated's August 2003 edition. Films I've seen are in bold; my comments are in italics.

1. Bull Durham (1988)
Kevin Costner, Tim Robbins.
(Not as great as people think. Harder to watch today due to Robbins' and co-star/wife Susan Sarandon's radical politics. They just don't mix with America's past-time.)

2. Rocky (1976)
Sylvester Stallone, Carl Weathers.
(The ultimate Cinderella story. All the sequels pale in comparison.)

3. Raging Bull (1980)
Robert De Niro, Cathy Moriarty.

4. Hoop Dreams (1994)
Documentary.

5. Slap Shot (1977)
Paul Newman, Michael Ontkean.

6. Hoosiers (1986)
Gene Hackman, Dennis Hopper.
(I LOVE this flick. Hackman is beyond awesome as the hard-luck coach in this David vs. Goliath b-ball yarn.)

7. Olympia (1936)
Documentary.

8. Breaking Away (1979)
Dennis Christopher, Paul Dooley.
(Best Picture? Wasn't worth that, but still a keeper. Check out a very young Dennis Quaid, in addition.)

9. Chariots of Fire (1981)
Ben Cross, Ian Charleson.
(Frankly, I ain't that interested in a bunch of Brits' efforts in an early 20th century Olympics. No matter HOW much I love running.)

10. When We Were Kings (1996)
Documentary.

11. Bang The Drum Slowly (1973)
Robert De Niro, Michael Moriarty.

12. Dogtown and Z-Boys (2002)
Documentary.

13. A League Of Their Own (1992)
Tom Hanks, Geena Davis.
(The best part is at film's end when we see some of the actual players and coaches.)

14. The Freshman (1925)
Harold Lloyd, Jobyna Ralston.

15. The Endless Summer (1966)
Documentary.

16. North Dallas Forty (1979)
Nick Nolte, Mac Davis.
(One of my FAVE sports flicks, Nolte and Davis are friggin' hilarious as a QB-WR tandem, trying to keep football a game in what is becoming too much a business.)

17. Brian's Song (1971)
James Caan, Billy Dee Williams.
(Been a while since I've seen it; have a lot of tissues handy for the tears.)

18. Caddyshack (1980)
Bill Murray, Chevy Chase.
(Easily one of the funniest damn films of all-time.)

19. Downhill Racer (1969)
Robert Redford, Gene Hackman.

20. Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962)
Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason.

21. Pumping Iron (1977)
Documentary.
(Helped launch Ah-nuld's career.)

22. The Set-Up (1949)
Robert Ryan, George Tobias.

23. The Hustler (1961)
Paul Newman, Jackie Gleason.
(A must-see classic. Gleason easily eclipses Newman in the acting dept., however.)

24. Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)
Max Pomeranc, Ben Kingsley.

25. Horse Feathers (1932)
The Marx Brothers.

26. The Bad News Bears (1976)
Tatum O'Neal, Walter Matthau.
(Haven't seen the full film since I was a boy; Matthau is classic as the boozer-coach.)

27. National Velvet (1944)
Elizabeth Taylor, Mickey Rooney.

28. Eight Men Out (1988)
John Cusack, David Strathairn.

29. Rollerball (1975)
James Caan, John Houseman.
(Why is this ... ? Never mind. This flick is terrific, but has more to do with omniscient corporatism than sports.)

30. The Rookie (2002)
Dennis Quaid, Rachel Griffiths.

31. Baseball - A film by Ken Burns (1994)
Documentary.

32. Vision Quest (1985)
Matthew Modine, Linda Fiorentino.
(How did THIS make the cut?? Standard cookie-cutter fare with a Madonna soundtrack. Ugh.)

33. Fat City (1972).
Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges.

34. Everybody's All-American (1988)
Dennis Quaid, Jessica Lange.

35. Million Dollar Legs (1932)
W.C. Fields, Jack Oakie.

36. Jerry Maguire (1996)
Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr.

37. The Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick (1971)
Arthur Brauss, Erika Pluhar.

38. Field of Dreams (1989)
Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones.
(Terrific family fare.)

39. The Harder They Fall (1956)
Humphrey Bogart, Rod Steiger.

40. The Longest Yard (1974)
Burt Reynolds, Eddie Albert.
(Classic tale of convicts vs. guards in a football game.)

41. Remember The Titans (2000)
Denzel Washington, Will Patton.
(There ain't many films that are better for promoting racial harmony!)

42. The Pride of the Yankees (1942)
Gary Cooper, Teresa Wright.

43. Fists of Fury (1971)
Bruce Lee, Maria Yi: martial arts

44. The Deadliest Season (1977)
Michael Moriarty, Kevin Conway.

45. Grand Prix (1966)
James Garner, Eva Marie Saint.

46. Any Given Sunday (1999)
Al Pacino, Cameron Diaz.

47. It Happens Every Spring (1949)
Ray Milland, Jean Peters.

48. The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings (1976)
Billy Dee Williams, Richard Pryor.

49. Phar Lap (1983)
Tom Burlinson, Ron Liebman.

50. Best In Show (2000)
Christopher Guest, Eugene Levy.

NOTABLE OMISSIONS (I've seen all of the following; some may have come out after 2003):

  • The Natural (Robert Redford).
  • Tin Cup (Kevin Costner).
  • Rudy (Sean Astin).
  • The Greatest Game Ever Played (Shia LaBeouf).
  • Victory (Sylvester Stallone, Michael Caine).
  • Miracle (Kurt Russell).

Any others?

Posted by Hube at 06:18 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Top 100 movies meme

The list as taken from the IMDB. Movies I've seen in bold.

#1. Godfather, The (1972)
#2. Shawshank Redemption, The (1994)
#3. Godfather: Part II, The (1974)
#4. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The (2003)
#5. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The (2002)
#6. Schindler's List (1993)
#7. Shichinin no samurai (1954)
#8. Casablanca (1942)
#9. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The (2001)
#10. Star Wars (1977)
#11. Citizen Kane (1941)
#12. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
#13. Dr. Strangelove (1964)
#14. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
#15. Rear Window (1954)
#16. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
#17. Pulp Fiction (1994)
#18. Usual Suspects, The (1995)
#19. Memento (2000)
#20. North by Northwest (1959)
#21. 12 Angry Men (1957)
#22. Buono, il brutto, il cattivo, Il (1966)
#23. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
#24. Psycho (1960)
#25. Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, Le (2001)
#26. Silence of the Lambs, The (1991)
#27. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
#28. Goodfellas (1990)
#29. American Beauty (1999)
#30. Sunset Blvd. (1950)
#31. Vertigo (1958)
#32. Matrix, The (1999)
#33. Cidade de Deus (2002)
#34. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
#35. C'era una volta il West (1968)
#36. Apocalypse Now (1979)
#37. Pianist, The (2002)
#38. Third Man, The (1949)
#39. Paths of Glory (1957)
#40. Taxi Driver (1976)
#41. Fight Club (1999)
#42. Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (2001)
#43. Some Like It Hot (1959)
#44. Double Indemnity (1944)
#45. Boot, Das (1981)
#46. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
#47. Singin' in the Rain (1952)
#48. Chinatown (1974)
#49. L.A. Confidential (1997)
#50. Maltese Falcon, The (1941)
#51. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
#52. All About Eve (1950)
#53. M (1931)
#54. Bridge on the River Kwai, The (1957)
#55. Se7en (1995)
#56. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
#57. Saving Private Ryan (1998)
#58. Rashômon (1950)
#59. Raging Bull (1980)
#60. Wizard of Oz, The (1939)
#61. Alien (1979)
#62. American History X (1998)
#63. Sting, The (1973)
#64. Léon (1994)
#65. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
#66. Manchurian Candidate, The (1962)
#67. Vita è bella, La (1997)
#68. Touch of Evil (1958)
#69. Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The (1948)
#70. Finding Nemo (2003)
#71. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
#72. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
#73. Great Escape, The (1963)
#74. Modern Times (1936)
#75. Clockwork Orange, A (1971)
#76. Amadeus (1984)
#77. On the Waterfront (1954)
#78. Ran (1985)
#79. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
#80. Annie Hall (1977)
#81. Wo hu cang long (2000)
#82. Jaws (1975)
#83. Apartment, The (1960)
#84. Braveheart (1995)
#85. High Noon (1952)
#86. Aliens (1986)
#87. Fargo (1996)
#88. Strangers on a Train (1951)
#89. Shining, The (1980)
#90. Metropolis (1927)
#91. Blade Runner (1982)
#92. Sixth Sense, The (1999)
#93. City Lights (1931)
#94. Donnie Darko (2001)
#95. Duck Soup (1933)
#96. Great Dictator, The (1940)
#97. General, The (1927)
#98. Sjunde inseglet, Det (1957)
#99. Princess Bride, The (1987)
#100. Dogville (2003)

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May 24, 2008

Hube's Spanish Music Video of the Week

Because nobody demanded it: Chile's La Ley and their hit "Fuera de Mi."


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May 20, 2008

"Who the f*** is Zoé?"

That's what one buddy asked me when he saw my "Favorite Bands A-Z." So, thanks to the magic of YouTube, here they are -- the video for "Miel" ("Honey"), my fave song of theirs.

There's such a ... majesty to Spanish language lyrics that I don't think English can ever quite capture. León Larregui is Zoé's master, much like Gustavo Cerati is Soda Stereo's.

Posted by Hube at 06:22 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 18, 2008

Blog Meme: Favorite bands via the alphabet

List your favorite bands from A to Z:

A. Aerosmith
B. The Beatles
C. The Cars
D. D'arby, Terence Trent
E. Earth, Wind and Fire
F. Funkadelic
G. Genesis
H. Hall and Oates
I. INXS
J. John, Elton
K. K.C. and the Sunshine Band
L. Tie: Los Amigos Invisibles and Level 42
M. Miller, Steve
N. Nirvana
O. The Ohio Players
P. The Pretenders
Q. Queen
R. Rush
S. Soda Stereo
T. Tears for Fears
U. U2
V. Van Halen
W. The Who
X. XTC
Y. Yes
Z. Zoé

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I knew that





Your Spelling is Perfect



You got 10/10 correct.



Your spelling is excellent. You also have a great memory and eye for detail.

How's Your Spelling?

Posted by Hube at 08:58 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 17, 2008

"Battlestar Galactica" has sunk ...

... so low that even when I manage to keep myself awake on Friday night to watch it, I fall asleep during it. Such was the case again last night. Ugh.

For me, it seems the writers are attempting to stretch what could be a two-part episode into a whole season. It's boring, it's uninteresting, it ... sucks, frankly.

Hence, I've deleted the "Battlestar Galactica" section on the Colossus blogroll, and am in the process of expanding the comics blogroll, including an emphasis on Iron Man-dedicated sites.

Posted by Hube at 09:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 14, 2008

Dopey lawsuit

I got an interesting letter today in the mail. It was a letter asking me to join a class-action lawsuit against America Online (AOL) to collect "unpaid wages and overtime wages on behalf of current and former unpaid 'volunteers.'"

My first -- and only, really -- response was utter disdain and sneering laughter. No wonder attorneys get a bum rap. It's 'cuz of lawsuits like this. Y'see, back in the mid-90s, a fellow teacher asked me if I had AOL. When I replied that I did, she informed me of a program whereby AOL would give you free unlimited AOL access in return for a certain amount of time volunteering as a "Community Leader," in my case it was working in the "Homework Help" section. There, I'd assist students via message boards and in live chat rooms with homework questions. I did this for about four years. Getting AOL for free in exchange was a decent deal, in my view. I knew the deal and accepted it. Besides, it was fun.

Which brings me back to this lawsuit. Could the plaintiffs really have not known what they were getting into with AOL? If they thought what AOL offered them in return for their time was unjust, couldn't they have simply said ... "no?" Granted, there were many types of "Community Leaders;" some worked more hours than others, I'm sure. Nevertheless, if one wasn't sure of the agreement, either find out or don't do the job. Don't friggin' do the job, then file a friggin' lawsuit years later because you think the set-up was "unfair."

I may have to send this one to Overlawyered.com.

UPDATE: I did some Googling and found some interesting comments, especially on this AOL message board.

Here's more:

Volunteers' Wage & Hour Claim For Back Pay. In deciding workplace rights, labels do not matter. In this case, being called a volunteer does not mean that America Online's chat room volunteer “community leaders” did not perform work covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act and New York law and, as a result, that they are not entitled to back wages for that work. To decide whether a person is a covered employee, a court must look closely at the facts concerning how the services were performed. The FLSA has a very broad definition of employment, that is, “to suffer or permit to work.” Hallissey v. America Online Inc., Case No.99-CIV-3785, (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 20, 2006).

Among the duties the volunteers performed were managing and updating message boards; moderating chat rooms, including preventing inappropriate conduct; updating, deleting, and modifying forum content; running special features; writing reports about sessions and their actions; and providing tutoring services. Volunteers were required to work a minimum number of hours per week. The volunteers believed that to get a paid position, they were required to volunteer for AOL. In fact, the evidence showed that AOL had tended to hire its paid staff from their volunteer staff. In addition, volunteer services were similar to those of paid employees. The court concluded that these facts supported a conclusion that what the volunteers did was work that entitled them to backpay. (Link.)

My emphasis above. What isn't understood about "volunteer"??? And those "required hours" per week were beyond flexible. You could what you had to do when you wanted -- whenever it was convenient for you!

A very good summary of the whole case is here.

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May 13, 2008

Today's Hube Iron Man Trivia Tidbit

Casual Iron Man fans may not know that Tony Stark has died in the Marvel Universe -- at least twice. The more well-known instance took place in the 1990s, when Marvel had the "brilliant" idea to make Iron Man a teenager. Over a series of many issues (and many different titles, like The Avengers and War Machine), Tony Stark was shown to become the "puppet" of longtime Marvel bad-guy Kang the Conqueror. (Sticklers for detail know by now that it was actually Kang's "other-self" Immortus that was responsible for mentally controlling Stark, but let's not dicker here.) The Avengers (and if you don't know who they are, just stay in the theatre after the "Iron Man" credits finish to get an idea!) ended up traveling back in time to nab Stark when he was a teenager to assist them in defeating [adult] Stark.

The Avengers #395 (above) is where Stark meets his demise. He temporarily overcame Kang's influence to save the Avengers by sacrificing himself.

As mentioned too, in this post, it was only temporary. Death is never permanent in comics. Just ask Superman, right? When Marvel hired then-hotshots Jim Lee and Rob Liefeld to "re-imagine" some Marvel characters in various "volume 2" issues, adult Tony Stark was given new life. However, all of the volume 2 Marvel characters were inhabitants of a "pocket universe;" it was not the Marvel Universe proper. After thirteen volume 2 issues, Marvel decided to "bring back" their characters to their universe. Adult Tony Stark was included among those heroes. "How?" you may ask? It's complicated and would be esoteric to anyone not very familiar with many Marvel characters, but The Avengers Annual 2001 is where the actual "explanation" took place, in case you care.

Two and a half decades before, Iron Man/Tony Stark had died too. Ironically, it was also thanks to Kang the Conqueror. In The Avengers #132 (above), Kang had abducted various Avengers, including Iron Man, to Limbo -- a place where normal time doesn't exist. The time-traveling baddie had resurrected numerous villains from Marvel's past to battle the Avengers. One of these undead characters was the Original Human Torch, one of Marvel's first-ever characters. On Kang's order, the Torch grabbed Iron Man from behind, and held onto him -- until the incredible heat melted Iron Man's chestplate. Without that device to keep his heart beating, Stark soon perished. But not for long. In Giant-Size Avengers #3, Kang's other-self Immortus (again, ironically) gave Stark new life. In effect, Stark had been dead for only one measly issue!

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May 11, 2008

Today's Hube Iron Man Trivia Tidbit

You may have heard it before: Tony Stark has a drinking problem.

Or, at least he had a drinking problem. In the comics, that is. The first creators to elaborate on this ultimate Iron Man "enemy" were the awesome David Michelinie (a Delaware resident, by the way) and Bob Layton. In Iron Man #128 (below) -- "Demon in a Bottle" -- Stark had to battle through his addiction with the help (mainly) of then-girlfriend Bethany Cabe.

It didn't last very long, however. By issue #169 (below) Stark was drinking again -- this, due to rival businessman Obadiah Stane taking over his company.

Guess who he's talking to on that cover? Yep, Jim Rhodes (Terrence Howard in the movie) who thus begins his stint as the Golden Avenger for about thirty issues. #169 begins one of the most talked about Iron Man storylines ever. Tony Stark actually ends up living on the streets. His fortune is gone. His company is gone. It's rare that a comic can actually ... "touch" me emotionally; however, Iron Man #182 (below) says it all: Stark will either be sober ... or dead in this issue.

Of course, it's the former answer, yet Stark has to go through hell to make it. He fights not only his inner demons, but a killer blizzard to save the life of a fellow drunk's newborn.

Stark teams up with pal Jim Rhodes and two young scientists to start up a fledgling electronics company, and eventually comes back into conflict with Obadiah Stane. The climax occurs in issue #200 with Stark completely recovered -- as an alcoholic and from his fear of becoming Iron Man again.

Posted by Hube at 09:39 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 10, 2008

Like G.W. Bush, Cheney was right the first time

I was intrigued by this 2004 article, first posted by Steve Newton over at Delaware Libertarian: Cheney changed his view on Iraq; He said in '92 Saddam not worth U.S. casualties.

In an assessment that differs sharply with his view today, Dick Cheney more than a decade ago defended the decision to leave Saddam Hussein in power after the first Gulf War, telling a Seattle audience that capturing Saddam wouldn't be worth additional U.S. casualties or the risk of getting "bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq."

"And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth?" Cheney said then in response to a question.

"And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq."

I wholeheartedly agree, Mr. Vice President. That's why I wrote this some two and half years ago. Perhaps the key line from that post: Removing a dictator and instituting democracy to a country that's never had it is NOT -- NOT -- a job for the US military. Not a single US soldier's life is worth it.

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