Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bridge to Terabithia on ABC Family Tonight

The last theatrical film I saw via TV was Cabaret, about a quarter century ago. During the many frequent commercial interruptions, my friend Diane (who had already seen the movie in a real theater) would fill me in on all the material that had been hacked out to make it suitable for an audience that was apparently expecting pablum. It was a desecration, and I was so completely disgusted with their butchery that I swore off movies on TV. (I would occasionally make a tiny exception for a movie that was MADE for TV, since they could plan around the commercial breaks and tailor the pacing, language, violence level, etc. for the LCD standards of the medium.)

I mention this because I personally will not be watching tonight when ABC Family (Madison Cable Channel 49) shows Bridge to Terabithia at 8:00 Central time. But you may want to.

IMHO, Bridge to Terabithia was the best SF&F film of 2007. I rated it a 9 and awarded it the Buzzy. I blogged about it twice:

The film, based on the novel by Katherine Paterson, stars Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb as 2 appealing young people who, if they were only aware of SF fandom, would have instantly identified themselves as fans. As it is, they're bright and creative in a milieu that doesn't much cotton to that kind of foolishness. And they're heart-achingly lonely until they find each other.

The movie was produced by Walden Media and released thru Disney, so it was festooned with the "family-friendly" air that adults frequently dismiss as meaning "only for kids". This is sooooooo wrong!

Since you can't see it in theaters any more, your best bet is definitely to watch it on DVD. But, if for whatever reason you're just not gonna do that, then it can be delivered free to your living room tonight.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Rating a Century of Wisconsin Senators

Rating a Century of Wisconsin Senators

The Scale

100 – legendary
90 – heroic
80 – superb
70 – admirable
60 – adequate
50 – mediocre
40 – pathetic
30 – regrettable
20 – embarrassing
10 – disgraceful
0 – despicable

The Scores

1906–1925 • 97 • Robert M. LaFollette Sr. (R)
1907–1915 • 81 • Isaac Stephenson (R)
1915–1917 • 50 • Paul O. Husting (D)
1918–1927 • 67 • Irvine L. Lenroot (R)
1925–1947 • 62 • Robert M. LaFollette Jr. (R/P)
1927–1933 • 48 • John J. Blaine (R)
1933–1939 • 55 • F. Ryan Duffy (D)
1939–1963 • 30 • Alexander Wiley (R)
1947–1957 •  8 • Joseph R. McCarthy (R)
1957–1989 • 75 • William Proxmire (D)
1963–1981 • 89 • Gaylord A. Nelson (D)
1981–1993 • 17 • Robert W. Kasten Jr. (R)
1989–20__ • __ • Herbert H. Kohl (D)
1993–20__ • 86 • Russell D. Feingold (D)

Herb Kohl claims to be "nobody's senator but yours". His substantial personal wealth means he can basically buy re-election as long as he wants. He doesn't have to take campaign contributions from anyone — trial lawyers, unions, Big Oil, Big Pharma, the NRA, the NBA, the insurance industry, military contractors ... nobody. He's in nobody's pocket.

From this essentially invulnerable, independent position, he could be a leader. He could be a star. He could be a role model. He could qualify for Volume 2 of Profiles in Courage.

A hundred years from now, when historians are updating this list for the 22nd Century, will Herb Kohl be mentioned in the same breath as Young Bob (let's face it, Old Bob is pretty much out of reach for anyone), or will he be ranked somewhere between Paul O. Husting (chair of the Committee on Fisheries) and Alexander Wiley (insert accomplishments here)?

I've left his rating blank above. Feel free to suggest a number.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Horrifying Words

The other day I reposted to several atheist listservs a message sent to me by a guy who said he's a life-long dedicated atheist but just doesn't understand all the fuss about homosexuality. His essay was entitled "Must Atheists Support Homosexuality?" and, to make a long story short, his answer was "no".

However, I was interested in some of the reactions I got to his so-called "reasoning". His essay was riddled with misinformation, but mainly he just seemed to be exasperated at what he saw as the juvenile behavior of gay people. Yet I got more than one response characterizing him as "hateful" and his essay as "hate-filled".

I personally think that there are certain words that refer to really, really awful things — war, rape, torture, slavery, hatred — that people feel far too free to fling about casually, thereby cheapening their meaning. "Man, I had a rotten day at the office today. It was torture." No. It wasn't. If you'd ever ACTUALLY been tortured, you'd know the fucking difference, idiot!

I think we should reserve those words for occasions when horror and revulsion are truly warranted. War on drugs? War on poverty? War on (for Christ's sake) CHRISTMAS? All stepping stones on the path of trivializing war, until we get to the ultimate destination: Orwell's "War is peace." Anyone who ever uses those phrases should, IMHO, be sentenced to spending a week or 2 in a REAL war zone so they can see what REAL war actually looks like.

So too with "hate". It's way too easy to run across something we disagree with and just dismiss it out of hand by saying the author must be a hater. That's way easier than trying to figure out where the person could possibly be coming from. Plus which, it means that we'll be robbed of the sting that should invariably accompany real hatred when we truly do find it and want to describe it.

Ambiguity is the most insidious thief of meaning.

= = = = = =
Don't steal my words!

-- Lenny Bruce

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Top-Rated SF&F FIlms over the Last Decade

The other day I wrote that I only hand out a 9 to a film that's so well done that I expect it to stand out in a crowd as truly memorable from a decade's perspective. It occurred to me that I should put that to the test. Herewith the SF&F films that I've considered 9-worthy since 1998 — 29 (10 of them rereleases) out of the 626 I've covered. Judge for yourself:

1999 The 6th Sense 13 original
1999 Being John Malkovich R original
1999 Dogma R original
1999 Galaxy Quest PG original
1999 South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut R original
1999 Toy Story 2 G sequel
2001 The Lord of the Rings [1]: The Fellowship of the Ring 13 original
2001 Monty Python and the Holy Grail PG rerelease
2002 2001: A Space Odyssey G rerelease
2002 Apollo 13: The IMAX Experience PG rerelease
2002 Beauty and the Beast G rerelease
2002 E. T.: The Extra-Terrestrial PG rerelease
2002 The Lord of the Rings [2]: The 2 Towers 13 sequel
2002 Spirited Away G original
2003 The Lord of the Rings [1]: The Fellowship of the Ring 13 rerelease
2003 The Lord of the Rings [2]: The 2 Towers 13 rerelease
2003 The Lord of the Rings [3]: The Return of the King 13 sequel
2004 Monty Python’s Life of Brian R rerelease
2006 Pirates of the Caribbean [2]: Dead Man’s Chest 13 sequel
2007 Blade Runner: The Final Cut R rerelease
2007 Bridge to Terabithia PG original
2007 Stardust 13 original
2008 Bolt PG original
2008 The Dark Knight [Imax] 13 sequel
2008 The Shining R rerelease
2009 Inkheart PG original
2009 Star Trek 13 original
2009 Up PG original
2009 Watchmen R original

Thursday, July 16, 2009

SF&F Movie Reviews Now Being E-Mailed

Pursuant to manufacturer's recommendations, I let the battery in my electric toothbrush run down twice a year — at Independence Day and Xmas.

I figure that's also a good time to send out semiannual notices of the availability of my e-mailed reviews of science fiction and fantasy films. I try to send them out the same day the movie opens in Madison. Subscribe by sending blank e-mail to: