May 31, 2006

Geek Alert is very, very high

Thanks to Jalopnik for pointing me toward this collection of leaked location shots from the Transformers Movie.

Not much there, but I do like the Saleen Mustang-as-Decepticon cop car.
I'm not as sold on Bumblebee though. Apparently VW doesnt' allow them to use the Beetle as they don't want VW products associated with violence, even goofy giant-robot violence. I dunno if I buy using an American muscle car as replacement though.

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am 32 years old.

Posted by Frinklin at 06:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 30, 2006

Hockey's Back...

... for me at least.

Those of you who have been reading my "work" for a while are probably aware that I am a hockey fan. Being a hockey fan hasn't been easy the last few years, particularly for a diehard Capitals fan like myself. You have all probably heard about the strike that cost the NHL its entire 2004-05 season, a strike that may well have permanently crippled the league in public esteem and that gained the league nothing, except the resignation of the idiot player's-union heads (though the shyster commissioner, Gary Bettman, is somehow still around). Here in the Fedroplex, the strike coincided neatly with the Caps' plan to purge the team of anyone you might have heard of, which produced fantastic results both in the standings and at the gate.

Although I thought the strike was stupid and pointless (and did not, as I had hoped, lead to mass bankruptcy among the Southern teams that currently plague the league), I didn't make any angry pronouncements that I was through with hockey when the strike hit. I'm not the type for angry pronouncements, and I figured the lure of the sport would be too strong anyway. I waited, patiently, with the idea that I'd resume the same level of fan intensity as soon as the sport returned. I figured that the sport would be hurting badly enough that it would need all the support it could get.

Well, wonder of wonders, the NHL seems to have survived better than anyone imagined. Average attendance was actually up a bit this year as compared to '03-'04. (TV ratings have taken a major tumble, but this is no surpise, as the national hockey broadcasts have moved from ESPN ["Your Yankees-Red Sox-Barry Bonds Network"] to OLN ["Your Tour de France Network, If You Cared"].) The NHL, amazingly, seems to have emerged whole, if not completely unscathed, from its historic attempt at self-immolation. The NHL got its fans back.

More shockingly, I wasn't one of them. I didn't go out of my way to avoid following the NHL, but I found myself ignoring hockey for weeks at a time without a pang. I didn't make it to a single Caps game until March, and only then because I was offered a free ticket. If I happened to encountered a game while channel-surfing, I might watch, for a while. But I didn't plan my life around the Caps in any way.

Now, you might point out that my waning interest in the Caps has at least a little to do with their poor play, and with the arrival of the Nationals to capture my interest and attention. And you'd have a point. (Although I think my long track record of loyally supporting losers should prove that the Caps' on-ice fortunes didn't have that much to do with it.) But you have to understand: you're talking to a guy who used to slip a transistor radio under his pillow and fall asleep with Ron Weber's Caps play-by-play filling his ears. You're talking to a guy who learned how to spell "Kypreos", "Franceschetti", and "Bengt Gustafsson" You're talking to a guy who lived and died with Rod Langway, Scott Stevens, Dale Hunter, and Kevin Hatcher. And now I found myself a casual fan at best. I guess the strike bothered me more than I realized.

Even after I went to the game in March, which I figured would re-light my dormant hockey flame, I remained largely indifferent. Even though the Caps won handily over longtime rival and recent partner in misery Pittsburgh, and even though the crowd was as charged up and passionate as always, my rabid fandom did not return. Sure, I had a great time at the game, but I didn't jump around and yell the way I used to. The biggest upside to attending the game was the chance to see Alexander Ovechkin, who is every bit as breathtaking as advertised. Seeing him in person, watching him handle the puck, seeing him turn on the jets on a breakaway... it must be a lot like watching a young Dr. J, seeing a young man who has the potential for real greatness, possibly even the potential to re-define the game as we know it. Despite my awe at Ovechkin's brilliance, I did not find myself chaecking the standings or tuning in the games any more frequently than before. I resigned myself to the idea that hockey no longer held the special place in my heart that it had. My hockey fanaticism, I figured, was dead.

Until Tuesday night, that is.

On Tuesday night, I happen to surf past OLN, where Game 3 of the Western Conference finals between the Edmonton Oilers and the Anaheim Mighty Ducks was just getting started. There wasn't anything else on, and there wasn't much for me to do, so I decided to watch for a little while. Once I got settled in, however, I was riveted until game's end. On this night, my long-dormant love of hockey was finally re-awakened. This was the sport I'd grown up loving!

What made this game so special? A few things stand out:

- In any sport, the charged-up playoff atmosphere makes the game extra-special. But I think it's truer in hockey than in any other sport. The crowds seem a lot more engaged come playoff time, and their enthusiasm energizes the players. As a Caps fan, I can attest how refreshing it is to see two teams playing for something more than pride and, consequently, electing to give a crap. Also, it's a pleasure to see good teams playing (mostly) crisp and energized hockey. The difference between a team like the late-model Caps - with their sloppy passes, ragged rushes, and indifferent defense - and teams like the Oilers and Ducks is truly striking to the hockey-savvy eye.

- Especially early on in the game, the Oilers and Ducks were playing a very "phyiscal" game, by which I mean they were making a concerted effort to beat the crap out of each other. At practically every stoppage in play, there were a couple of players dropping the gloves and circling each other. This was fun on a lot of levels.

Allow me to explain something here. As I have stated before, I am generally opposed to fighting in hockey. I'd rather see great skating, passing, and shooting than a bunch of guys pounding on each other. And in general, I think the game has improved in recent years with the relative scarcity of pure goons like Joey Kocur, Ken Baumgartner, and Rich Pilon. So isn't my pro-fighting position here hypocritical?

Well, yeah. But I like my fighting in limited doses and special circumstances, such as here. It was pretty clear that Anaheim was trying to jump-start its fading chances by being aggressive, and Edmonton was more than willing to respond in kind. I also got the sense that the fighting was motivated more by mutual dislike than by sheer thuggery, which made it more interesting.

Also, there's something cool about watching the reaction to a fight: the announcers who try desperately to disguise their enjoyment, the referees who are perfectly content to let the combatants whomp on each other for a while before braking it up, the fans (especially in Canada and some Northeastern cities) who react with unrestrained glee. That's what makes the NHL's anti-fighting crusade so amusing: they either can't see or refuse to acknowledge that they're up against a pillar of the hockey culture in a lot of their most loyal markets. (And for that matter, as far as their ill-fated voyage into the Sun Belt is concerned, it's a lot easier for a hockey novice to grasp the simple elemental pleasure of seeing guys beat each other up than to appreciate the nuances of great stickwork and passing.) In the interest of cleaning up the game to appeal to "respectable" mainstream America, the NHL once again freely alienates the very fans who made it a major sport in the first place. Good work, guys!

(Incidentally, I'm all in favor of goons who can also skate and handle the puck well, such as Edmonton's Georges Laraque, who showed some nifty stickwork scoring a goal in Game 4.)

- Other than the NFL, the NHL is the only major sports league that shows no favoritism toward big markets. On the ice, it really is possible for the Calgarys and Edmontons to compete on equal footing with the New Yorks and LAs. Neither the salary structure nor the officials are stacked against small-market clubs in the NHL. It's refreshing.

The upshot of this is the unique joy of seeing smaller-market crowds (especially Canadian ones) in the grip of playoff fever. When the Capitals made the Stanley Cup finals in 1998, we in the Fedroplex thought it was pretty cool, but the area wasn't exactly gripped by Caps Fever or anything. But in the Edmontons and the Calgarys of the world, they go crazy. I'll never forget the sight of the "Red Sea" in the streets of Calgary when the Flames made the finals in '04, or the throngs of Edmonton fans waving their silver pom-poms this year (and creating crucial shortages along the "Blue Mile"). It warms my hockey-loving heart to see people who care that much. In Washington, hockey is a sort of cult activity. In Canada, it's a religion.

- Also, it was a hell of a game. Edmonton scored an early goal on a mistake by Ducks goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, and that remained the game's only score through two period. Oiler goalie Dwayne Roloson was fantastic, making miraculous save after miraculous save. (One of the joys of hockey is watching unsung goaltenders make heroes of themselves during a playoff run. Roloson appears to have the chops to be an elite netminder, although he seems to be a bit of a whiner.)

Suddenly, over a 2-minute span in the early third period, the Oilers exploded for 3 goals, pushing the lead to 4-0 and whipping the crowd into a frenzy. They figured, as I figured, that the game was all over but the shouting. Then, about halfway through the period, the Ducks scored a goal. Then another. Then.... another. The "insurmountable" lead was down to one.

Edmonton scored a goal, seemingly putting the game on ice, but then Anaheim struck again. The lead was at one again. The city of Edmonton held its collective breath. So did I. Anaheim had a couple great shots to tie it up, but Roloson stonewalled them (leading to chants of "Rol-ie, Rol-ie" that filled the arena). Time ran out, and Edmonton held on for the win, 5-4.

As I unclenched my fingers from the armrest of my sofa, I realized that I'd been on the edge of my seat for the entire third period. Just the way it used to be. Fast-paced, wide-open, riveting... this is the sport I'd grown up loving. The NHL was back. At last.

Welcome back, guys. Now, no more strikes and lost seasons, okay, guys? And Buffalo, do you think you could take the East for me? After all that, I'm not sure I could stand seeing Carolina win. Thanks.

Posted by Mediocre Fred at 11:17 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 26, 2006

Amateur Movie Review: Over the Hedge

This is a sugar-rush of a movie; the cinematic equivalent of empty calories. This is a DreamWorks picture from the same people that made the Shrek series. Like those two films -and upcoming sequel- Over the Hedge combines physical comedy for the kiddies with nod-and-a-wink in-jokes for parents. The voice casting is impeccable, led by Bruce Willis as RJ, the scoundrel raccoon who has to convince to the turtle Verne (Garry Shandling) and his family of woodland creatures to help him swindle food from the McMansions who’ve encroached on their territory. RJ needs this stuff because he stole -and eventually destroyed- the stuff that Vincent the local buy hoarded before settling in for his winter-long sleep.

The plot is easy to follow and anyone over the age of 10 will figure out the ending by about halfway through. Really though, the plot isn’t what’s important here. The gags are the thing, and they come at a rapid-fire pace. About half work, which is similar to the Shrek flicks. Over the Hedge is slick, funny and fun, if not especially meaningful.

Posted by Frinklin at 10:17 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 25, 2006

Ghost Rider

Is it a little disturbing that the trailer is out for a movie that scheduled for a February 2007 release?

Well, yeah. The Ghost Rider movie has been in production for some time, and was pushed to winter 2007 because it sure doesn’t seem summer-movie quality. February is the Dead Zone for movies, especially wanna-be blockbusters like this one. And let’s face it, there is no well in hell that a Ghost Rider movie isn’t going to be completely cheesy.

The problem? It’s Ghost Rider for chrissakes. How many series has this character had? It’s always the same: Every few years Marvel comes out with a GR series, and fanboys go “Hey, Ghost Rider! That looks cool.” They buy the series for a couple years and then realize that beyond the visual, there just isn’t much there. So Marvel cancels the series and waits a couple more years until the fanboys have forgotten just how dull and pointless Johnny Blaze (seriously? Johnny Blaze?) can be.

This is considered worthy of a major motion picture?

Trust me, this is going to make Daredevil look like a masterpiece.

Posted by Frinklin at 09:48 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 23, 2006

DC Top 50

This past week, the Great Curve surveyed the blogosphere on the top-50 DC Comics characters. This is my list. The big three (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman) are at the top of course, but there are a few surprises I think.

50. Rose and Thorn
49. Eclipso
48. Hourman: Drug addict as superhero.
47. Neptune Perkins
46. Phantom Stranger: About 20 years ago DC did a Secret Origins special on him, giving several different possibilities. It was brilliant then, and it still works.
45. Vandal Savage: He invented cannibalism? Is that even possible?
44. Gorilla Grodd: He’s a super-intelligent gorilla. What more is necessary?
43. Calculator: D-Grade villain turned into Oracle’s evil twin. Brilliant.
42. Changeling/Beast Boy:
41. Detective Chimp: How was he not picked for the Seven Soldiers project?
40. Alfred Pennyworth
39. Scarecrow: He always gave me the heebie-jeebies when I was a kid.
38. Sue Dibney: So wonderfully, refreshingly normal. And then…
37. Blue Beetle (Ted Kord): Yeah, him too.
36. Guy Gardner: Thank Heavens the “Warrior” stuff is gone. The One True Green Lantern.
35. Cosmic Boy: He’s basically DC’s version of Cyclops.
34. Johnny Quick: Ever tried saying it?
33. Commissioner Gordon
32. Catwoman
31. Darkseid: The only cosmic villain that matters.
30. J’onn J’Onzz
29. Two-Face
28. Deathstroke: Bonus points for the nuttiest family in the DC universe.
27. Booster Gold
26. Brainiac 5: The current version is perfect.
25. Firestorm: You have to give Gerry Conway credit for making this absurdly overpowered hero into a villain-of-the-month book. Not sold on the new version.
24. Blue Devil: A normal guy turned into giant, blue-skinned devil. And he loved it.
23. Maxwell Lord: Wasted in the OMAC storyline, Max Lord turning into a bad guy was way, way too easy.
22. Spectre: Just lose the goatee, okay?
21. Lady Shiva: She might be the most dangerous person in the DC universe.
20. Flash (Wally West): His maturation has been believable at every turn. Why on Earth did this book need a reboot?
19. Captain Atom: Lately he’s been pigeonholed in the government-approved superhero slot. Does anybody remember his origin? Convicted of a murder he didn’t commit, he volunteered for a experiment and woke up 20 years later to find the guy who convicted him married his wife.
18. Black Canary
17. Lady Blackhawk: I have to go with the Natalie Reed version, and I don’t know if she ever “existed” at this point in continuity. Miles better than the Zinda Blake version.
16. The Question: His Denny O’Neil/Dennys Cowan series in the 80’s was the first book that really made me think.
15. Lois Lane: Superman’s girlfriend. Like Big Blue, a template for everything that followed.
14. The Elongated Man: Sigh…
13. Green Arrow: I don’t know if I’m buying the Mitchell Hundred rip-off.
12. The Ray: A modern-day Spider-Man. Bonus points for hooking up with Black Canary. I would have loved to see Priest take that farther.
11. Blackhawk: I don’t know how well Janos Prohaska fits in the DC universe anymore, but his early-90’s series is an unfortunately forgotten gem.
10. Oracle: One of the most shocking moments in the DC history (remember Killing Joke) turns into a marvelous character. Loads more interesting than Batgirl ever was.
9. Dr. Fate: How many different versions have their been of this character?
8. Green Lantern: A better concept than character. I lump Kyle, Hal and John all together here. None of them, quite frankly, have ever been that interesting.
7. Robin (Tim Drake): Comics are, at heart, all about wish fulfillment. What teenage boy didn’t want to be Robin?
6. Nightwing: The original -and still best- sidekick. Unfathomably bad solo series though.
5. The Joker: A bit overexposed, but the perfect vision of grinning, laughing evil.
4. Lex Luthor: The other great DC villain. A normal -if genius- man who matches up with Superman.
3. Wonder Woman: Last leg of the Big Three. Seemed to lose something following Crisis on Infinite Earths. It will be interesting to see this new version.
2. Batman
1. Superman: He gets bonus points for being the first, but he doesn’t need them.

Wow... that was a lot of geek in one setting.

Posted by Frinklin at 11:12 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 21, 2006

Huh, that was easy

Hey, remember about three days ago when we we're all a-twitter about what to do with the money? Yeah, that's over now.

I agree, it is pretty cool.

Posted by Frinklin at 11:23 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

I'm just geeky enough... stay up half the night watching Max Fleisher Superman cartoons on

Thanks -I think- to Yet Another Comics Blog

Posted by Frinklin at 12:50 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 20, 2006

714: And the world said... meh.


Barry, I wish you could understand this: We don't dislike you because of your race. We don't dislike you because of the steroids either. We don't dislike you because you're about to kick Babe Ruth into third place. We dislike you because you're an asshole.

Posted by Frinklin at 11:41 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Random Comic Review

Okay, it’s been like a year or so since I wrote anything about comics, but here goes:

Shadowpact #1

Wow… this is rather disappointing. I hadn’t read a DC super-hero book, other than the LSH, in a couple years until a friend at work found out I liked comics and dumped three trades on my desk for my enjoyment. It was the Identity Crisis (technically excellent but really unlikable), and two of the Infinite Crisis tie-ins, Villains United and Day of Vengeance. The latter two I really rather enjoyed and it eventually stimulated my interest enough to try out many of the OYL books. After the somewhat scattered but still enjoyable DoV special, I was very much looking forward to this ongoing series.

And it’s just not that good. This makes very little sense, as Bill Willingham returns as both writer and artist. Actually, that seems to be a big part of the problem. The art here is just awful, full of odd proportions and shapeless figures. There is a very amateurish look to it, and I can’t tell I that’s the point or what. Willingham has been a very fine artist in the past, so there is hope. Unfortunately the story doesn’t come to the rescue either, as we’re presented with a very generic group of villains doing… well, we’re not quite sure. They’ve encased an small Wyoming town in a force field made of blood (that’s pretty damned cool) and plan some sacrifice to summon an ancient evil. You know, like you do.

Not all of the spark is gone from this title. The interplay between characters is still better than most anything else available, especially between Detective Chimp and Nightshade. Just having Detective Chimp is cool, and the fact that he now wears a superhero costume is classic.

I really want this series to do will -and we all know how successful most D-List characters are at keeping their own series- and there is stuff to like here, but it needs to get better.

And get Enchantress’ her damned pointy hat back.

Posted by Frinklin at 12:06 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 19, 2006

The Money and What We Do With It

My Grandmother’s will was read this week. I wasn’t in it. Not a complete shock; our relationship was poisoned well before she had it written. Recently though we had a rapprochement, and she had mentioned more than once she needed to rewrite the will to add me in. She also mentioned she wanted to write a couple of her own children and maybe one or two of my cousins. She did this weekly, so it wasn’t something I paid much attention to. This was one of the great mysteries of the past week: Which version of the will was the real one.

It turns out to be the one written several years ago. None of my aunts or cousins were ever written out, though one of them did get a bit less than the others. Me? Nowhere mentioned. Disappointing? Yeah, but not that big a deal in the long run. I was -and this actually surprised me a bit- really just glad that I had a relationship with her before she died.

It wasn’t good enough for my father though. He is -out of his share of the estate- giving me the same amount each of my cousins received. Grandma wasn’t a woman of tremendous means, but she and my late grandfather did plan well and had a considerable nest egg. So now, the Missus and I have a decision to make. We’ve already spent hours thinking about what to do. The money isn’t huge, but it’s enough to do one big thing. The question is what. We could use the whole thing and have the house resided and repainted. Or just part of it and repaint. Or we could redo the bathroom. Maybe we should re-plumb the house? Pay off the newer car and replace the quickly aging pick-up truck?

The mind boggles.

Posted by Frinklin at 11:43 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 18, 2006

The Will & Grace Finale

I haven't watched this show, so maybe I'm way off... but wasn't the finale to this show waaay better than it really had any right to be?

Posted by Frinklin at 09:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 15, 2006

Chronicles of Bill Addendum: The Tale of Jenny

I had another strange encounter this morning, but amazingly, it was not with my slow-leak co-worker, Bill. This conversation was with our receptionist, "Jenny," a charming young woman who usually seems to have something on the ball. Today, though, as I entered the building, she was waving a copy of that noted scholarly journal, Us Weekly, and going on about Britney Spears, and whether or not she would have another "slutty phase" after the birth of her next child. Since I happened to be around, she asked me how I felt about Ms. Spears.

I smiled faintly and said, "You're asking the wrong person. I'm one of those obnoxious curmudgeons who feels that American popular culture peaked sometime around 1945."

She looked at me oddly. "1945?" she said. "What happened that year, Woodstock?"

I paused. She blinked. I blinked. "Please tell me you are kidding," I said.

She blinked, and blinked again. "Um. I'm... kidding?"

"You're only off by about 25 years," I said, as gently as I could manage.


Another pause. She smiled. I smiled. I walked away.

Somebody tell me this is all a dream. Please?

Posted by Mediocre Fred at 01:09 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Fred Takes The Liberal Test

Since Frinklin was interested to know how I'd answer the questions on the "Liberal Test," I decided to give it a whirl, even though I tend to think laundry lists like this are pretty silly.

1. Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration Yes. I agree with Frinklin on the need for personal responsibility, and I have limited sympathy for people who pave the road to debt hell with credit cards and plasma TVs. However, given the number of people who declare bankruptcy due to illness-related calamities, I think tightening the bankruptcy laws needs to come after we reform the health care system (see #4).

2. Repeal the estate tax repeal
Sure, but it's not a major priority for me. There are many things that need fixing more urgently than this.

3. Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI
Yes, and absolutely. While I see certain problems with the "living wage" concept (given my bakcground in economics, how could I not?), I do think the minimum wage is overdue for an increase.

4. Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one).
I'm with Frinklin here: how can you absolutely endorse this without knowing the details of the plan? As a principle, I'm absolutely for it. This does not mean that I'd endorse every universal-coverage plan that came along. However, I will say that it would be hard to conceive of a system worse than the one we have now.

5. Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation.
Yes and yes (although the second "principle" is so vague as to be meaningless). I think, ultimately, getting serious about alternative energy sources is a must. Imposing higher CAFE standards is one way to get us there. So is increasing funding for research into alternate energy (possibly funded by a gas tax). So is increasing tax credits for hybrid vehicles. What is not helpful is staging a photo op in front of the Capitol Hill Exxon, whining about gas prices, and proposing half-baked solutions like mailing everyone a $100 check. (Both parties are guilty of this bold approach to problem-solving. I'm not sure what's more disheartening: the naked cynicism of this approach, or the politicians' well-placed certainty that people will buy it.)

6. Pro-reproductive rights, getting rid of abstinence-only education, improving education about and access to contraception including the morning after pill, and supporting choice.

7. Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code.
Well, yes. But I have yet to meet anyone, liberal, conservative or otherwise, who is opposed to simplifying the tax code. As with health care, the devil is in the details, unless you're pro-flat-tax like my blogpartner. (I'm not.)

8. Kill faith-based funding. Certainly kill federal funding of anything that engages in religious discrimination.
I'm leery of this, simply because I'm worried that for a lot of liberals, this would boil down to "no federal funding for anything remotely connected, in any way, to religion." I believe in a healthy church-state separation, but I think we Democrats have a tendency toward excessive hostility toward religion, which offends many sincere people of faith and walks right into the Republicans' "faith-vs.-heathenism" trap. But that's a separate post entirely. So I'll say no and yes, sharing Frinklin's caveat that I'd like to see what this supposed "religious discrimination" consists of.

9. Reduce corporate giveaways.
Well, duh.

10. Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan.
No, no, no. Replace the Medicare drug plan with something useful instead.

11. Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions. Change corporate bankruptcy law to put workers and retirees at the head of the line with respect to their pensions.
Hmmm. I'll say yes, but: The sad fact is that these pension plans are driving a lot of American companies to bankruptcy in the first place. We need to figure out a solution that allows American industry to remain competitive, or what little industry we have remaining is all going to flee overseas, either through outsourcing or foreign competition. Shaking your finger at companies and saying, "Stop underfunding your pensions!" isn't an answer. The idea of putting workers and retirees at the head of the bankruptcy line has more appeal. So I'll say no and yes.

12. Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana. Generally move towards "more decriminalization" of drugs, though the details complicated there too.
Eh, no. If we're going to change the drug policies, we need to do it at the federal level. Legalizing (or decriminalizing) drugs in some states but not others is asking for trouble. That said, we need to have an honest discussion about the merits of things like medical marijuana, rather than sticking our fingers in our ears and saying "It's bad la-la-la-la-la-la I can't HEAR you!"

13. Paper ballots

14. Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies.
Yes, but what's a "pro-family policy"? The Christian Coalition thinks an anti-gay-marriage amendment is a "pro-family policy." Has anyone ever stood up in favor of an "anti-family policy"?

15. Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes.
Yes. I take issue with Frinklin's contention that Democrats don't think any Social Security reform is necessary; both parties have demagogued this issue heavily.

16. Marriage rights for all, which includes "gay marriage" and quicker transition to citizenship for the foreign spouses of citizens.
Yes. I mean, come on, people. This one isn't hard. I hadn't heard the foreign-spouse thing was that big of a deal, though.

I count 16 yeses, 5 nos. (I'm not sure how Frinklin and I came up with a different number of answers, but so be it.) I suppose I'm liberal, which strikes me as accurate. This "test" is pretty much pablum, though. In my opinion, it's more instructive how you answer the questions that whether you say yes or no.

To use an example from Frinklin's and my answers: We both said "yes" to the "universal health care" question, but I'll bet that his conception of an ideal universal-coverage plan is very different from mine. We answered differently on the bankruptcy-law question, but I wouldn't be surprised if we had more common ground there than on the health-care question. Also, I agree that the "test" doesn't tell you all that much without including some foreign-policy questions.

I don't know that Atrios intended this as a "Liberal Test" as such, though. I think it was more of an attempt to define what Democrats (or at least the liberal blogosphere) believe, which is a noble and necessary effort. I'd like it better, though, if it was stated in the form of certain principles which would form the liberal worldview (you know, "that vision thing") rather than a laundry list of programs. Democrats already suffer from a lack of vision and big thinking; advancing a list of vague programmatic objectives doesn't help matters.

Posted by Mediocre Fred at 07:38 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

May 13, 2006

The Liberal Test

I’ve stayed away from political topics lately, which is weird, since right now I’m reading more political blogs than I have at any time since the 2004 election. I couldn’t stay away from this growing meme though. It began as an Atrios post about the common ground between lefty blogs and more centrist DLC-types. Kevin Drum tweaked it and viola! We have the Litmus Test for Liberals. This covers only domestic issues, which betrays its roots as a conciliatory piece. Anyone who reads any left political blogs knows that the Iraq war and the larger War on Terror splits the left pretty cleanly between liberal and more centrist DLC-types.

Now the list also has a dual purpose. Disaffected conservatives like Daniel Drezner, Professor Stephen Bainbridge and Jane Galt have used it as a test. Do they (and me for that matter) fit into the Democratic Party? While I’ve officially reregistered as an Independent, I’ve never really seriously thought of taking the plunge into serious leftyhood. Here I go. I’d love to see my blogpartner take a crack at this too.

1. Undo the bankruptcy bill enacted by this administration No. Making it harder to declare bankruptcy should increase personal responsibility. The bill isn’t perfect -and my understanding of it isn’t perfect either- but that needs to be the first priority of reform. And I say this as someone who has come close to declaring bankruptcy.

2. Repeal the estate tax repeal
Ehhh… okay. Not my first priority by any stretch, but I’m no fan of the idle rich.

3. Increase the minimum wage and index it to the CPI
No and Yes. I don’t see a need for an immediate increase, but I have no problem with indexing.

4. Universal health care (obviously the devil is in the details on this one).
Now, how the hell does one answer this without knowing any of the details? I would love everybody to have health coverage. Are we talking about single-payer? A Massachusetts-style mandate? I’ll say Yes, but with some serious reservations.

5. Increase CAFE standards. Some other environment-related regulation.
No. and No Increasing government regulation is unnecessary and often counter-productive. Continuing high gas prices would have the same desired effect. I wouldn’t say no to an increased gas/carbon tax neither.

6. Pro-reproductive rights, getting rid of abstinence-only education, improving education about and access to contraception including the morning after pill, and supporting choice.
Yes, though I’m wondering what “improving access” would mean. Are we funding this or merely leaving it legal?

7. Simplify and increase the progressivity of the tax code.
The first isn’t a goal, it’s a must. Give me a flat tax, kill the IRS and watch me dance in the street. The second would become immaterial after the flat tax. Call this Yes and No.

8. Kill faith-based funding. Certainly kill federal funding of anything that engages in religious discrimination.
No to the first, Yes to the second, though I’d like to hear what religious discrimination we’re talking about.

9. Reduce corporate giveaways.

10. Have Medicare run the Medicare drug plan.
A thousand times no. Kill it. We’ll figure it out with #4.

11. Force companies to stop underfunding their pensions. Change corporate bankruptcy law to put workers and retirees at the head of the line with respect to their pensions.
Huh? I’ll say no, just because that much interference with companies gives me the willies.

12. Leave the states alone on issues like medical marijuana. Generally move towards "more decriminalization" of drugs, though the details complicated there too.
Yes, but don’t be a pussy: legalize it all.

13. Paper ballots
No. This one ties into about a thousand lefty conspiracy theories. Leave this up to the states. I would love to see serious work against voter fraud in general.

14. Improve access to daycare and other pro-family policies.
No. I do love how “improve access” is the new euphemism for “pay for it”.

15. Raise the cap on wages covered by FICA taxes.
Yes… sorta. I would love to see this lead into serious Social Security reform, but that isn’t necessary if you listen to Dems.

16. Marriage rights for all, which includes "gay marriage" and quicker transition to citizenship for the foreign spouses of citizens.
Yes, please. I still can’t see the problem with gay marriage in the first place. The caveat: it has to be legislative, not judicial. Meaning gay marriage on a state-by-state basis. I’ll live with that.

On numbers alone, I’m 10 and 10. That settles nothing, now does it? This is an interesting trifle, but not much more than that. Without considering foreign policy -especially with the world we find ourselves in- this list isn’t just incomplete, it’s meaningless. For many on both sides, national security issues (Iraq, Iran, Terrorism and the like) are more important than most of this list, if not all of it.

Posted by Frinklin at 07:36 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 11, 2006

Rodent Redux

We thought that local opossums would realize that this is not the house to hang out at.

We were wrong. I let Jeffery out this evening, and forgot about him during the season finale of The Office. This was odd; usually he would bark to remind us that he was out there. After he'd been out for 20 minutes or so, I let him back in. He was remarkably calm. This should have been the first warning. He curled up next to Ensie on the couch and fell alseep.

Later, when it was time to let them out once more before bed, I noticed Jeffery was very, very excited about going outside again. This worried me. I left the dogs inside and went to check the backyard.

Well, this one wasn't playing dead. It seemed that when we thought Jeffery was outside enjoying the night air, he had come across a young opossum, probably the offspring of the one he attacked last time. It didn't seem that Jeffery had chewed him. Rather, he had been trampled to death. Makes sense, our nutcase dog loves to pounce on things.

He had just stopped trying to find these things.

Posted by Frinklin at 11:07 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The World Would Be A Better Place...

...if we could throw people who file nuisance lawsuits like this into jail, just for pure asshattery. They could share a cell with the money-grubbing lawyers who agree to help them.

I'm sure the American legal system has its upsides, but they're eluding me at the moment.

Posted by Mediocre Fred at 07:41 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 10, 2006

A day of unrelenting awfulness

My workday started badly. Later it spun down into catastrophic. There wasn’t any one item that drove me to despair, but rather an unrelenting pounding. By the end of the afternoon, I had my fill of fuck-ups, morons and asshats for the next several years. Before I left I sent out an email to the people in my unit stating that the next time I had deal with someone else’s error -or my own for that matter- I would not respond, and they should look for the large Frinklin-shaped hole in the wall where I escaped. A couple of them didn’t get the joke.

Then I missed my train. I didn’t get home until after 7.

And I get to do it all again tomorrow.

Posted by Frinklin at 09:13 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 09, 2006

My Favorite Grocery Store is About to Bite the Dust

I’m rather pretentious when it comes to my grocery stores. The Missus and I frequent the Metropolitan Market here in Tacoma. When we lived in San Diego we would go about 30 miles out of our way to go to the Whole Foods in Hillcrest. We were smarter then. We would buy staples at Safeway or Albertson’s, then buy our organic vegetables and whatever else we pleased at Whole Foods. We would almost invariably buy more than we needed, spend more then we should have and never use at least one-third of what we bought. Now we buy everything at the upscale market, basically paying 20% more because it’s easier and because the Metropolitan is just very, very cool.

I blame my mother for this. When I was in high school, my mother discovered Larry’s Market, the upscale grocery store in the Puget Sound. Ours was in Kirkland, near the corner of 124th and 124th. We were never very good at naming streets where I grew up. Anyway, Larry’s was then -like the Met is now- the cool grocery store. It had a espresso stand and organic fruits and a giant wine section. In the early 1990’s this was close to revolutionary. Anyway, my mother -despite it being more expensive and several blocks farther away then other stores- became a Larry’s devotee. And it spread to me, apparently. From me to my wife.

Now it seems Larry’s is on hard times. It filed for bankruptcy today , and is expected to be bought out. The name will almost certainly change, which is sad, since Larry’s is a family-owned business on it’s third generation. The company made some horrid mistakes over the last decade, iincluding a low-budget spin-off called Larry's LoBucks. I'm very pleased that I never saw that.

Posted by Frinklin at 10:21 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 07, 2006


The Missus and I finally saw The Aristocrats tonight. It was one of the funniest movies I've ever seen.

I do need a shower though.

Posted by Frinklin at 10:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 03, 2006

The Superman Returns Trailer

Yeah, I know I’m a couple days late with this.

First let it be said that I agree with Jerry Seinfeld: Superman is, was and always will be The Guy. The Big Blue Boy Scout is the best thing to ever come from a comic book and one of the few completely perfect pop culture ideas ever. When I first saw the teaser, with Jor-El’s voice and John Williams’ incomparable score, my hair stood on end. I nearly -and my wife will vouch for this-burst out cheering when I saw the “S” logo onscreen.

So, why, after watching this trailer a couple times, am I sorta underwhelmed right now?

Superman should work as a movie. It did the first two times. The original was brilliant and only the two Spider-Man movies and X2 come close to Superman 2 in the pantheon of comic book movies. Brian Singer proved with the X-Men movies that he gets it, he understands how to move a superhero to the big screen, what to keep, what to lose and what makes the fanboys pass out with glee. This should work.

But what if it doesn’t? Is a mediocre Superman movie better than no Superman movie? Yeah, I know… it’s just a trailer and it’s not like Bret Ratner is the director. It just didn’t seem right though, like this could have been any other of a dozen action movies, just this one the guy wears a discolored cape. In 90 seconds we see a thousand CGI shots that we’ve already seen before. Only the stuff in the Fortress of Solitude seems to say that this is Superman.

I can see already that a couple of things will work and one that most certainly doesn’t.
First the good: Kevin Spacey makes one hell of a Lex Luthor. He has the look, he has the charm, and he has the insanity. This proves that Kevin Spacey should always be an asshole. Movies where he wants to make the world a better place (K-Pax anyone? Life of David Gale?) always suck. Frank Langella is a commanding Perry White. The Kid I Won’t Even Pretend to Have Heard of looks great as Jimmy Olson.

Kate Bosworth, on the other hand, does not. Lois Lane is supposed to be tough for chrissakes, and Bosworth nearly disappears into the scenery. She has none of the fire and spark that made Margot Kidder so perfect for the role. And what the hell are they doing giving her a kid? Forget for a moment how much this strays from the source material, and think how manipulative this could be. It strikes me as a tin-eared attempt to bring kids in, as if the man who could freakin’ fly isn’t enough.

As for Brandon Routh? I don’t know. He’s still so much of a cipher. It’s obvious that his resemblance to Christopher Reeve had something to do with his casting. I don’t know if that’s a good thing, but I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Don’t get me started on the costume color changes.

Posted by Frinklin at 10:00 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

O, Education!

On Monday night, I was watching the Yankees-Red Sox game with my Yankee-fan dad. Much of the announcer commentary centered around the storyline of Johnny Damon returning to Boston for the first time since he took the money and ran into the arms of Boss Steinbrenner. Damon was terrible, and he spent most of the game trying very hard not to look like he was not listening to the taunts from the bleachers, but this is not the point here.

From time to time, the ESPN cameras would show some of the signs that Boston fans had made to express their feelings about Damon. About the fifth or sixth inning, they cut to a very large banner, held up by at least three people, reading in its entirety:


I pointed this out to Dad, saying, "It says a great deal for the Boston school system that those idiots think that's how you spell 'traitor.'" This kept Dad amused for the remainder of the game ("Hey, look, it's the pride of Bunker Hill Community College!"), which is fortunate for him, since the Yankees got stomped like a Chardonnay grape.

I find this particularly interesting since, in his post-draft column on ESPN, DJ Gallo mocked some Green Bay fans for making this exact same mistake. We may be witnessing another victory for our collective illiteracy. You may have noticed that there are a number of words and phrases that so many people cannot use and/or spell correctly that the incorrect spelling/usage becomes generally accepted. One of my pet peeves is the use of "could of" or "should of" instead of "could have" or "should have." Is "trader" the next frontier for collective illiteracy? (I should point out that neither ESPN announcer commented on the sign; did they not notice it, or worse yet, did they think it was correct?) Stay tuned!

Don't mind me; I'll just be retching over in the corner here.

P.S. Dad's favorite anti-Damon sign read, "Johnny Damon: Looks Like Jesus, Acts Like Judas, Throws Like Mary." He also thinks the fans shouldn't complain, as the Sawx got the better end of things: "Damon was a Yankee-killer when he was in Boston. Now he's signed with us, and he's still a Yankee-killer."

Posted by Mediocre Fred at 06:46 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

May 02, 2006

Very, very quick Fashion show


I'll have to take a look at uni updates closer to the football season, but I gotta mention how goofy the new Viking unis are.

Posted by Frinklin at 09:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

May 01, 2006

It shouldn’t have come as a shock, but it did.

I got the call on Friday afternoon, about an hour before I got off work. My grandmother -my father’s mother- had died. She was in her late-70’s, she was a recent cancer survivor, she had several brain surgeries when I was younger. But she was as healthy as could be, we thought, still on her own, still driving. But she had a stroke on Friday, and she was gone before anyone knew what had happened.

My relationship with my Grandma was troubled, to say the very least. She could be a very difficult person, as needy and manipulative as you can imagine. My father was completely under her spell; the fact that he knew it only made it worse. She and my mother were never friendly. There was a noticeable iciness for family gatherings. I will always remember, when my parents divorced, my mother shouting that she would never have to deal with “that woman” again.

I always dreaded seeing grandma Alyce. I hated her plastic-covered couches and her prissy little dogs. I could see what she did to my parents. I could see what she caused between them. Going to my father’s side of the family was always a chore, and one I didn’t handle it well. I did get along fine with my grandfather, a kindly and -as you might imagine- rather henpecked man. I had my own falling out with my grandmother. I didn’t invite her to my high school graduation. I told myself I couldn’t get the extra tickets, but I didn’t really try. She told me I was out of the will - always her favorite threat- and I didn’t talk to her or see her since. I didn’t call or send a card when my grandpa died. I will always regret that.

When Ensie and I came up to visit the Christmas-before-last, my father told me straight out that I would have to see her. She was older, and lonely and had gone through some serious health problems. She won’t be around much longer, he said. She had changed, I think. She had mellowed, she seemed to dislike my stepmother even more than she hated my mother. We made up, as much as we could. We saw her several times since we moved, and we always planned on having her over for dinner at our new house. I was even back in the will.

I’ll miss her, and I worry about what this does to my father.

Posted by Frinklin at 10:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack