Friday, November 12, 2010

New Favorite Humorous Website

I have a few favorite humorous websites I check regularly to get a few laughs. The newest is Oddly Specific, which showcases peculiar signs, signs that are...well, oddly specific! Here's a sample. (If photos don't display properly, click on box & link will take you to site.)

Guaranteed In-Stock!
see more funny videos

Then Use Glass to Carve Band's Name in Arm
see more funny videos

see more funny videos

Finally, The Great Question Can Be Answered
see more funny videos

Only One At A Time, Please
see more funny videos

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead is a new series on cable channel AMC (American Movie Classics). It's a six-episode miniseries about a zombie apocalypse, where the live people are trying to figure out how to survive. (There seem to be far more Living Dead than Living Living.) It's really well done, with excellent production values and good actors, good writing, classy ambiance (okay, "classy ambiance" & "zombie movie" sound like a contradiction in terms, but it's classy for a zombie movie). The Associated Press critic loved it. I recommend it, unless you just can't stomach the peeling flesh, partially-rotted corpses, etc., that are the stock-in-trade of zombie movies. The AP article on the show has interesting comments from a couple of the network execs:

One big surprise for viewers who thought they knew the zombie-film genre: an across-the-board humanity resonating in the "Walking Dead" saga.

"There are sequences where zombies are actually humanized," notes Joel Stillerman, AMC's head of original programming. "The series has an empathetic point of view that isn't just about the survivors but about the zombies, too.

"Transcending gore for gore's sake was very important to us," he says.

Adds AMC president Charlie Collier, "It's a character drama about survival, where the characters are faced with decisions of 'What would you do, given this adversity? Who would you be? Would you stay or go? Lead or follow?' These are universal themes."

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Michael Connelly & Steve McQueen

Michael Connelly

USA Today has a good article on Michael Connelly, author of the Harry Bosch detective series and the Mickey Haller "Lincoln Lawyer" series. Connelly has become one of my favorite writers. I love his Harry Bosch series.
The article page also features a video interview of Connelly, in which he reveals that his vision of the best actor to play Harry Bosch onscreen is the late Steve McQueen. Connelly says when he created Harry Bosch, he was picturing McQueen in his role as the detective Bullitt.

Steve McQueen in
The Great Escape

That was a surprise to me, because I hadn't pictured Bosch as being anything like McQueen. But then, it's been a long long time since I saw the movie Bullitt. I'll have to put that on my NetFlix queue. My favorite of the roles he played was his character in The Great Escape, Virgil Hilts, "The Cooler King."

McQueen, who was nicknamed the King of Cool, died 30 years ago. If he'd survived he'd be 80 years old now. It's hard to picture an 80-year-old Steve McQueen.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Followup on San Fermin

To follow-up my post on the Running of the Bulls in New Orleans, the fourth annual San Fermin in Nueva Orleans event was a big success. An estimated 8,000 people participated, with nearly 300 "bulls" consisting of not only New Orleans' Big Easy Rollergirls but also teams of rollergirls from surrounding states.

Below is a video of parts of the run itself. The video starts at the back of the Rolling Elvi and moves through them to the group escorting the fake "St. Fermin" statue (in imitation of the procession with the St. Fermin statue that opens the Pamplona fiesta). Later on you'll see the runners and the rollergirl bulls. (I love the creativity of the bulls' headgear--who'da thunk there were so many ways of putting horns on helmets?)

(Photo by John McCusker/The Times-Picayune)

© Video. © Photo. / facebook

I don't know how they could stand the scorching heat, but I guess that's why the organizers set the run for early in the morning. It looks like everyone had a great time. What wonderful silliness!

Oh, and here's some late-breaking news (meaning I just found it via Google). The New Orleans festival this year also included competitions among the "bulls":  One for the best dressed bull; the other for the horniest bull -- "You know, the one with the longest, pointiest horns." (No word yet on who won that.)

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Running of the Bulls in New Orleans!

It's that time of year again--the Running of the Bulls in New Orleans!

This is the announcement from the Times-Picayune:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Running of the Bulls

The 3 Legged Dog, 7 a.m.
Conti Street and Burgundy Street, French Quarter

Tickets: Free
Resources: Official site
More on this event

San Fermin in Nueva Orleans replicates and pays homage to the world famous Encierro of Pamplona, Spain, or "The Running of the Bulls", only the bulls are none other than members of the Big Easy Rollergirls. The event will begin at 7 a.m. at the Three Legged Dog bar the French Quarter. Sangria, Stella Artois beer, Spanish wines and good cheer will be available. The "running," which winds through the streets of the Quarter, begins sharply at 8 a.m.

This event has grown exponentially each year since it started. Now, in only its fourth year, it's expanded to a three-day festival. It starts on Friday night with a pre-party (El Txupinazo) featuring tapas, paella, flamenco dancing, and lotsa beverages. On Saturday morning is the main event--the running of the bulls (El Encierro)--followed by rest time, then a post-run party Saturday night (La Fiesta de Pantalones) that includes a concert, more great tapas, and lotsa more beverages. (Me, I love a good Sangria.) On Sunday there is a grand finale (Pobre de Mí), about which I quote from the Nolabulls website:

WHAT: As part of the grand finale to the San Fermin in Nueva Orleans fiesta weekend, the festivities continue with the second annual Pobre de Mí (Poor Me). Featuring a savory tapas brunch menu by Vega Tapas Café and specialty drinks, the event is highlighted by the 2nd Annual Ernest Hemingway Talent Contest, a collaboration with NOLAFugees:

Death in the Afternoon Drinking Society presents Hemingway, Ole!

Six teams enter the ring, but only one will claim the big prize. Sign up now with your 2 or 3-person team (or just sign up now and draft someone on game day) to compete in this Ernest Hemingway-themed contest of nerves. Teams will perform 2-minute micro-skits (no memorization required,as there will be closely-guarded scripts provided at the event) of infamous Hemingway scenes. A panel of judges, and the audience, will decide who advances to sweet sweet victory.

What you need to participate: absolutely nothing. A sense of humor helps, but is not required.

What you do not need: any prior knowledge of Hemingway’s works or life.

What you will gain by joining the hunt: Prizes. Glory. And your photo will be made over the carcasses of your enemies.

What you stand to lose by not joining the hunt: your sense of adventure, and perhaps the ability to look your mother in the eye when she says, “Don’t worry, honey, I love you anyway.”

So unleash your inner Hemingway and enter now!

We will also roll the party directly into a live screening on multiple screens of the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final Match in South Africa!

I love the whole idea of this--it's so New Orleans and, yes, so Spanish. (Not to mention that The Rolling Elvi will be following the crowd of bull-runners....)

What fun!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Reviewerspeak Awards

Book Examiner Michelle Kerns has a great post about her monthly Reviewerspeak Awards:

Hilarious yet heartbreaking: The Reviewerspeak Award results for May 2010

Just inaugurated a couple of months ago (It's gripping! It's luminous! It's the maiden voyage of the Reviewerspeak Awards!), Kerns' Reviewspeak Awards aim is

to thought-provokingly observe, vividly record, and unflinchingly report every book reviewer cliché perpetrated daily on the hapless readers of a select number of online book review sites. To leap boldly into a Brave New World where prose isn't always lively or spare or graceful or taut or accessible or lyrical; where debut novels aren't always solid or sparkling; where characters aren't always flawed or fully realized (or, if you prefer, perfectly realized) or quirky or likable or nuanced; where authors aren't masterful or at the top of their game in every third review.

For anyone whose work has ever been savaged by a book critic, damned-by-faint-praise, or even received a rave review, Kerns' Reviewerspeak Awards posts are hilarious. See also some of her previous review-satire articles:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Battle over Search-Engine Placement for Oil Spill Info

Today our local newspaper (The Times-Picayune) reports that BP has purchased the top spots on search engines such as Google:

BP, the giant oil company that owns the collapsed rig that is spewing oil, has paid search engines like Google to prominently feature links to the company's website. And, according to one online marketing expert, lawyers and other parties with work tied to the spill will likely fight for prominent links of their own. . . .

BP has purchased the "sponsored link" for that search term, via Google's AdWords program, according to Sandra Heikkinen, a spokesperson for Google. Unlike the standard links provided by a search engine, a sponsored link is one that a search engine sells to an interested company -- the link appears above the "related searches" and the "organic" links, which are based on relevance.

I myself when searching rarely click on the sponsored links, but go below them to the organic links. I've always figured the sponsored links are little more than advertisements or propaganda for the sponsor. On the other hand . . .

[W]hile BP currently has the market cornered on web searches, other interests -- such as law firms trying to attract clients affected by the spill -- are going to increasingly attempt to fight the company for the coveted spots at the top of the page.

"Those lawyers are going to start making it awfully expensive for BP to stay at the top of the links."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mr. Potato Head has left the building...

This is hilarious--like something from a Saturday Night Live skit:

The Elvis version of Mr. Potato Head will be released for Elvis Tribute Week, according to a Graceland spokesman.
Photo by PPW Toys

Mr. Potato Head Elvis Presley Figures to Launch in August of 2010

Elvis fans, toy collectors and pop culture enthusiasts will spend much of this summer anticipating the launch of the Mr. Potato Head Elvis Presley collectible figures from PPW Toys, under license from Hasbro, Inc. and Elvis Presley Enterprises.

Mr. Potato Head appeared as KISS last year, and this year he is ready to take on the king of rock 'n' roll. A series of Mr. Potato Head collectible figures will be released, each with a variety of costumes, instruments and other iconic components representing Elvis' most memorable performances.

The first spud to be released this August in tandem with Elvis Week events at Graceland in Memphis and will feature Elvis' famous white jumpsuit, microphone and guitar. A second version with Mr. Potato Head wearing black leather from Elvis' 1968 Special Performance will be released during the 2010 holiday season. Components such as hairstyles, costumes, faces and musical instruments will be compatible with every version, so fans can mix and match the styles with hilarious results.

The Mr. Potato Head Elvis Presley collectible figures will not only appeal to kids, but these figures will also be in demand by music fans and pop culture collectors of all ages. The Mr. Potato Head Elvis Presley collectible figures will be available at specialty retailers and e-tailers.

Created in 1952, Mr. Potato Head, the first toy to be featured in a television commercial, became an instant hit with youngsters. In the past 58 years, the beloved character has emerged as an American icon, a true evergreen brand with broad demographic appeal.

Hasbro licensee PPW Toys suits up MR. POTATO HEAD as Elvis Presley for a unique co-branded product. An Elvis tribute artist shows off the new collectible during a launch event at Licensing International Expo 2010 in Las Vegas.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Oil Spill and the Chain of Life

It's Prophet-of-Doom time again. If you're not in the mood to be bummed out, then skip this post.

A few days ago Newsweek published "What the Spill Will Kill," which discusses not only the damage the BP Oil Spill will have on the surface environment, but also what may happen in the deep sea:

The consequences for the delicate balance of existence in the vulnerable ecosystems of the gulf, and for the vast cycles of nature that sustain life there and beyond, are as incalculable as they are potentially devastating. ...

As far as scientists can tell, the undersea oil is actually a witch's brew of crude mixed with dissolved methane, stretching 15 miles long, 5 miles wide, and 300 feet thick in the case of one plume detected by the Pelican, and 22 miles long, 6 miles wide, and 3,000 feet thick in the case of a plume found by University of South Florida researchers aboard the WeatherBird II last week. The latter plume reaches all the way to the surface. ...

These undersea rivers of oil, though not nearly as concentrated as oil at the surface, are likely to affect the gulf through two mechanisms. The first is oxygen depletion, which has been estimated at 30 percent in the plumes. The other will be direct toxic effects of the oil and methane. Leatherback turtles and sperm whales dive to the 3,200-foot depths where plumes have now been detected, and aren't smart enough to take evasive action. ... Sharks, shrimp, and squid are all inhabitants of the deep, which would protect them from a Valdez-type spill on the surface, but now puts them in the crosshairs. Marlin, snapper, and grouper swim hundreds of feet down. One of the biggest losses may be bluefin tuna. Already imperiled from overfishing, the species breeds only in the Mediterranean Sea and the gulf. ... Even small bits of crude, like those in the plumes, can suffocate fish by gunking up their gills.

Other species imperiled by the deep-sea plumes include those that migrate down from the surface and others that make the reverse commute. "There are plankton that go from the surface to the middle of the water column, and other things eat them and go down deeper, and other things eat them and go to the bottom," says oceanographer Lisa Levin of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. "All the zones of life interact, and now they're probably all being hammered."

The worst effect of large-scale death on the gulf floor is nothing as photogenic as dead pelicans, but much more pernicious. "The organisms most likely to be harmed by the oil plumes are those at the base of the food chain," says biological oceanographer Andrew Juhl of Lamont-Doherty. "Most of the primary producers, such as phytoplankton, live throughout the water column. Effects on them would cascade to the larger species we care about."

The deep-sea communities are also linchpins of the global carbon cycle—the ocean's garbage men and recycling centers. They eat the waste and carcasses of creatures that lived and died in higher layers of the sea, and whose bodies drift to the sea floor. ... [W]ithout deep-sea organisms, dead marine creatures would accumulate like bottles and cans in places without deposit laws. That would deprive the rest of the living seas of the nutrients they need to keep life going. If a large enough area in the depths of the gulf becomes a kill zone, organic matter would accumulate in the sediment and be cut off from the rest of the ecosystem, says marine scientist Mahlon Kennicutt of Texas A&M.

Uniquely in the crosshairs are creatures living at or near the sea floor: deep-sea corals, jellyfish, and soft-bottom fish such as Atlantic croaker, sand seatrout, Atlantic bumper, sea robin, and sand perch. Three coral reefs live in the area under the surface slick, and two are close to one plume that scientists tracked last week. Oil could be lethal to a reef. The Minerals Management Service's 2007 report concluded that "in the extremely unlikely event that oil from a subsurface spill were to reach a coral reef…in lethal concentrations," recovery could take as long as "10-20 years." "In the time scale of man, this will be a catastrophic event," says Baguley.

Of special concern are the hundreds of "seep" communities in the gulf, enclaves of crustaceans, weird tube worms, tiny fish, mussels, and crabs that live near natural gashes in the sea floor. These seeps release hydrocarbons, which might suggest that the oil-and-methane plumes are good for these creatures. Unfortunately, the profusion of hydrocarbons is likely to be less like sitting down to a Thanksgiving feast than like being encased in marshmallowed sweet potatoes: deadly. Like Yellowstone's geysers, they support unique organisms that may have scientific and commercial uses. Bacteria from a Yellowstone geyser are the source of enzymes that power a biochemical reaction called PCR, a workhorse of the genome revolution. Marine scientists have high hopes for finding similarly valuable microbes at the seeps. Some even talk of compounds that might fight cancer, much as extracts of the rosy periwinkle fight Hodgkin's disease and childhood leukemias.

Oil on the ocean surface eventually evaporates, is degraded by sunlight, gets consumed by microbes, or washes up on beaches, where it can be collected. The fate and effects of the undersea oil are largely unknown. The Deepwater Horizon disaster is thus one big unplanned experiment.
As I said in my previous post, Krewe of Dead Pelicans, the effects of the BP Oil Spill will be felt not just for decades but possibly for centuries. It could change the ecological balance of the entire planet.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Krewe of Dead Pelicans

Feeling helpless at the immensity of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, New Orleans resident Ro Mayer organized a protest in a typical New Orleans way: a mock jazz funeral for the Gulf and its wildlife. Participants in The Krewe of Dead Pelicans were asked to wear black pants and blue shirts, and to carry blue umbrellas painted with black splotches--symbolizing the black oil beneath the blue waters. They also were asked to wear shrimpers' boots--the short white rubber boots you'll see many people in the second-line parade wearing--symbolizing the mighty Louisiana seafood industry, which is likely to be permanently devastated by the oil spill. 

Photo of oil-coated pelican by Matthew Hinton/The Times-Picayune

As Ro Mayer said in her video interview with the local newspaper's reporter, we feel helpless in the face of this calamity. We have to cope as best we can. At nearly five years after Katrina, we are faced once again with an environmental disaster that will destroy our marshes, our wildlife, our homes, our businesses, our jobs, our economy, our lives. Its effects will be felt for decades, if not centuries, and will reverberate far beyond Louisiana and the other Gulf Coast states.

See the video of the event, held Saturday, June 5, 2010. Hundreds of people participated.

In a press conference last week, BP CEO Tony Hayward said he'd like to have his life back. Yeah, so would we, but it ain't happening. How about this, Mr. BP? You don't get your life back until, and unless, we get our lives back. You suffer what we suffer, as long as we suffer. How about that?

Photo by Michael DeMocker/The Times-Picayune

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

In memory of my mother's cousin, Private First Class Alcide G. Angelloz Jr., killed fighting in France in 1944, I post a famous and touching poem:

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. After World War I it became a day to remember not just those who died fighting in the Civil War, but also Americans who died fighting in any war. Inspired by the poem "In Flanders Fields," it became the custom to wear artificial red poppies on Memorial Day.

In December 2000, Congress established a program to observe a universal "National Moment of Remembrance" on each Memorial Day as a "simple and unifying way to commemorate our history and honor the struggle to protect our freedoms." The "National Moment of Remembrance" asks that at 3 p.m. local time, all Americans "voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to 'Taps.'"

The U.S. Memorial Day website suggests these ways to observe the day:

The "Memorial" in Memorial Day has been ignored by too many of us who are beneficiaries of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice. Often we do not observe the day as it should be, a day where we actively remember our ancestors, our family members, our loved ones, our neighbors, and our friends who have given the ultimate sacrifice:
  • by visiting cemeteries and placing flags or flowers on the graves of our fallen heroes.
  • by visiting memorials.
  • by flying the U.S. Flag at half-staff until noon.
  • by flying the 'POW/MIA Flag' as well (Section 1082 of the 1998 Defense Authorization Act).
  • by participating in a "National Moment of Remembrance": at 3 p.m. to pause and think upon the true meaning of the day, and for Taps to be played.
  • by renewing a pledge to aid the widows, widowers, and orphans of our falled dead, and to aid the disabled veterans.
"Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all." -- Memorial Day History


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Robin Hood 2010

Continuing my Robin Hood musings from yesterday, here's my review of the new version of Robin Hood, a 2010 movie directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe.

It's a prequel--that is, it tells the story of how the expert archer Robin came to be "Robin Hood." Crowe plays Robin Longstride, a yeoman archer who's been following King Richard the Lionheart on crusade for ten years. Worn out, bitter and disillusioned, he sneaks away after King Richard is killed while besieging a castle in France. Along the way Longstride and his three soldier buddies happen on an ambush massacre. They repel the attackers and discover the victims are a group of Englishmen who were trying to return King Richard's crown to England. One of the dying victims, Sir Robert Loxley, begs Robin with his dying breath to return his sword to his father at Nottingham. Robin promises he will. He and his buddies return to England disguised as knights--Longstride calling himself Robert of Loxley and bearing the Loxley sword as well as the royal crown. Thereafter plot complications ensue. (For a full plot summary, including spoilers, see the Wikipedia site on the film.)

It has great production values, cinematography, costumes, and period detail. It has lots of action--battle scenes, swordfights, fistfights, chase scenes, executions, etc., as you would expect in a movie by Ridley Scott (whose work I greatly admire--Blade Runner is one my favorite movies).  It has Russell Crowe, a great actor, as well as a cast of other top-notch performers--e.g., Max von Sydow, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt.

But...I was disappointed.

Why? Because there was none of the joie de vivre I associate with the Robin Hood tales. All the movie/TV versions of Robin Hood I've seen have had strong explicit or implicit wit and good humor--an optimism, an underlying happy feel. The Scott/Crowe Robin Hood, however, is grim. Really grim. Everybody is grim. Everything is grim. Oh, unquestionably real medieval times were grim. And yes, the whole Robin Hood thing is just a legend. But we expect legends to fulfill our (often subconscious) mythic fantasies. Mine went unfulfilled by this version of Robin Hood. There's no real humor or happiness anywhere in the movie. Robin Longstride becomes a hero as the movie goes along--he helps save England from a French invasion, and directly saves the perfidious King John from being slain--and he's clearly a leader of men. But even at the end, when Robin, Lady Marian (or, as spelled in the movie cast list, Marion), and the merry men are living in Sherwood Forest as outlaws, purportedly one big happy family, the smiles and merriment seemed forced. And the romance between Robin and Marian (Marion)? Hah. I did not sense any chemistry between Crowe and Blanchett, good actors though they are. I didn't get the feel-good ending I hoped for.

Oh, and I have some quibbles with accuracy, if one can expect historical accuracy from a movie about a legend. The movie has King Philip of France invading England, himself along for the ride. It never happened. And the French troops are being landed in boats with drop-down fronts, just like the Higgins LSTs used during the D-Day invasion in WWII. I didn't tear out my hair at the movie theatre, but I did tug on a few strands from time to time.

If you want to read a review of the film by a real movie critic, the esteemed Roger Ebert, go here.

Does all that sound like I'm bashing it? Yet, I still recommend you see it if you love costume dramas, historical settings, medieval battles, and watching great actors in cinematic tropes. It's worth the price of admission, but it may not be what you expect out of a Robin Hood remake.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Musings on Robin Hood

I've just seen the new Robin Hood movie and it has inspired a spurt of Robin Hood nostalgia in me.

First, let me return to the days of yesteryear, when the British half-hour series The Adventures of Robin Hood was one of my favorite TV shows. Starring Richard Greene, the show had a memorable theme song that I still remember:

Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, with his band of men
Feared by the bad, loved by the good;
Robin Hood, Robin Hood, Robin Hood!

Too bad I can't reproduce the catchy tune in this blog, but I guarantee that any of you who grew up in the 50s-60s remember it, too. I'd say a lot of my idealism goes back to those days of viewing brave Robin steal from the rich to give to the poor...Ah, how my romantic notions were fed by the idylls of Robin and Maid Marian, with Friar Tuck, Little John, and the other Merry Men cavorting in Sherwood Forest, making fools out of the Sheriff of Nottingham and King John and their evil minions.

(It now occurs to me that King John somehow appeared in a lot of those episodes--strange his predilection for traveling repeatedly to that part of his kingdom and dealing with these lowly subjects, when so many other parts of England and more noble subjects must have been much more to his taste....)

I love almost all the versions of Robin Hood I've seen so far:
  • The 1938 Errol Flynn film (The Adventures of Robin Hood), which many critics consider the benchmark of Robin Hood cinema, with Flynn in his most famous role;
  • The 1952 Disney film The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, starring Richard Todd;
  • Disney's 1973 animated Robin Hood (a favorite of my daughter's childhood), in which Robin Hood is a fox;
  • 1976's Robin and Marian, showing the legendary couple in their golden years (and what a couple--the leading roles were played by Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn);
  • I even liked 1991's Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, despite its star, Kevin Costner (among the most stone-faced of leading men, the other top contenders being Keanu Reeves and Arnold Schwarzenegger), because it had the wonderful Alan Rickman as the Sheriff (whose mesmerizing voice made me almost like the Sheriff);
  • Mel Brooks' 1993 parody Robin Hood: Men in Tights, which hilariously satirizes both the 1938 Flynn version and the 1991 Costner version, stars the delicious Cary Elwes as Robin; his best line is when he turns to the camera and smugly announces, "Unlike some other Robin Hoods, I can speak with an English accent!" (an overt dig at Kevin Costner's American accent in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves).
I found the links for these movies on Wikipedia's List of films and television series featuring Robin Hood. That list is much longer than I expected and I've seen only a few of the entries. I know many of those movies are no longer available, but it may be time for a Robin Hood DVD Festival here at the SphinxInk digs. I see there are lots of different takes on Robin Hood out there, including several TV series that I've completely missed.

As for what I thought of the new Robin Hood, starring Russell Crowe and directed by Ridley Scott, I'll post that tomorrow.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Flashlight Worthy Follow-Up

Apropos my previous blog entry:

Peter, the fellow who runs Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations, just got in touch out of the blue. (He clearly has Flashlight Worthy on Google Alerts.)

Peter's making a concerted effort to increase the number of book lists in his Book Club Books category. Interested in writing a book list? Think you know a number of books that would make a good addition to his collection of book club recommendations? Get in touch with Peter at and he'll fill you in on the details.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lists! I Love Lists! Especially Book Lists!

I recently discovered a blog that I'm now looking at every day. It's called FLASHLIGHT WORTHY, describing itself as "Handpicked Book Recommendations on Hundreds of Topics."

The Flashlight Worthy bloggers say they're "Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime." They explain, 

Why Flashlight Worthy Exists

Amazon sells every book in print, but the choice can be overwhelming. Flashlight Worthy is here to help: We don't list the best selling books — we list the best books. We don't list 6,072 results when you search for John Irving (including 251 versions of Garp!) — we list only his best books just once. We don't make you hunt around for hours to find the very best books on parenting — we do the work for you. Flashlight Worthy is nothing but thoughtful, hand-picked recommendations... Organized into hundreds of useful, interesting, fun lists... And all we do is books. :)

Every day, a new list, with a bit of commentary. How about these:

Just a sampling.

There is even a Questions & Answers page, where you can ask other readers for recommendations of specific types of books, or other book-related info.

I love reading the lists, and making notes about books to add to my (already immense) TBR shelves. I like seeing how many of the books on the lists I've already read, too, and whether my opinion matches theirs. It's a book nerd's delight.













Thursday, April 08, 2010

Reading Great Literature. Or Not.

I was an English major in college, many years ago. My college work was almost entirely reading, then writing about what I'd read. (I chose English as a major simply because I'd always loved to read. At 18 I was far too impractical to worry about what kind of job I could get with an English degree.) Many of the assigned books were not to my taste. Callow and smug, I missed a lot of the subtleties and themes in the Great Literature of which all English majors must partake.

Yet I knew those books were considered great for good reason. Some were ground-breaking at the time they were written, even if they seemed ponderous or boring by modern standards. Others had beautiful prose or great stories or unforgettable characters; some had all of the above. I always knew, however, that I had to consider every book within the context of its times. Even the ones I had to force myself to read -- such as The House of the Seven Gables and The Scarlet Letter-- were important within the context of the eras in which they were written.

After I graduated from college, I still read constantly, but I turned to popular fiction, with emphasis on genre fiction of various types. I wanted to read for pleasure; I didn't want reading to be "work." Yet although I prefer Popular Fiction to Timeless Classics, I am disheartened by "Amazon reviewers think this masterpiece sucks," Jeanette Demain's essay on one-star reviews on Amazon. The article is funny yet tragic. Demain describes the reviews by people who hated, just hated, the great novels of the the English language. What saddens me is how little these readers seems to realize the books they're panning were written in different eras, written by and for people whose lives, history, educations, and moral backgrounds differed vastly from ours. Examples:

The Grapes of Wrath -- "trite, contrived"
To Kill a Mockingbird--"sappy, cliched"
Jane Eyre--"endless, pointless description ...  stupid metaphors"
Charlotte's Web--"how in the world does a pig and a spider become friends?"
An American Tragedy--"bleak narrative of little consequence"

There's more--not only in Demain's essay, but of course on Amazon. I won't go looking for more one-star reviews, however, because they would depress me too much. Certainly every reader is entitled to have his or her opinion of a book, but I'm saddened to realize how many people are ignorant of history, of literary experience, and of the desire to experience the many different forms of the novel.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Memo to Self...

Memo to self: Never, never drive in between two humongous trucks, especially not when the one in front may have to stop suddenly...

February 2010, Westbank Expressway, Harvey, Louisiana
Photo by Byron Pertuit

I am told the driver about his or her lucky day!

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Little Post-Oscars Comic Relief

I devoted much of last weekend to the Oscars. On Saturday I attended a day-long movie marathon that showed five of the ten Best Picture nominees. (Yep, 12 hours sitting in a movie theatre, watching five films in a row.) On Sunday I devoted six or seven hours to watching pre-show interviews and red carpet fashion commentary followed by the Academy Awards event itself.

But somehow it's not enough. I love all that stuff. I'm sorry I missed the first Saturday movie marathon in which the other five Best Picture nominees were presented.

I'm always willing to laugh at our movie mania, however, and here's a clever website (which I found on Jenny Crusie's Argh Ink blog):

Honest Movie Titles: Oscars 2010

These are funny regardless whether you've seen the movies parodied, but of course they're best if you've seen the flicks.

And this -- also via alert from Argh Ink -- has nothing to do with Oscars or movies, but is extremely clever. (Couldn't understand what they were singing, but I love those Rube Goldberg devices....)

OK Go - This Too Shall Pass - Rube Goldberg Machine version

Oh, and hey -- isn't it cool a woman finally won Best Director? And for a truly worthy effort: The Hurt Locker is excellent. You go, Kathryn Bigelow!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Who Dat Won Dat!

Yeee-haaaahhhhh! That's my cheer for the Saints winning the Super Bowl. I'm a few weeks slow getting this post online, but that works out well. I've had a chance to observe not just the night of the Super Bowl victory, but the days and weeks afterward. 

Wow. We're still elated, floating on air, exuberant, overjoyed, delirious with happiness. It's been a huge boost  for everyone, not just the sports fans. It gave us our power back, power that seeped away over many long years of defeat after defeat--failures not just of the Saints, but of the city, the area, the whole state. Katrina was nearly a death-blow. We're fighters, though; we've hung in there, remained loyal to the Saints, kept hope alive despite our civic messes, doggedly rebuilt from disaster after disaster.

Now, well . . . who ever thought we'd see headlines like "Aggressive tactics boost mighty Saints to first title" (USA Today) "Mighty Saints"! There was a time when those words would have been said only in cruel derision.

I keep thinking, "Sport as metaphor . . . sport as metaphor . . . sport as metaphor." That, in fact, was what I talked about in a blog entry from 2006, when I first became a real Saints fan. It resonates even more with me now.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

We're goin' to the Super Bowl! We're goin' to the Super Bowl!

The doubters said it would never happen, or at least not unless Hell freezes over. . . .

Well, see the sign!

The Saints versus the Colts. Miami. February 7th.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

In Memoriam: Robert B. Parker

One of my favorite authors died last week: Robert B. Parker, creator of the ageless PI Spenser, as well as Jesse Stone, Sunny Randall, Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch. Parker died at his writing desk on Monday, January 18. The perfect way for an author to go.

Here's a great farewell essay from The Lipstick Chronicles blog that gives all the info on Parker and his career, written in the voice of Spenser himself:
Remembering Robert B. Parker by William Simon 

And another, more personal tribute from another crime fiction writer:
Robert B. Parker, an Appreciation by Jim Fusilli

Rest in peace, Robert, and thanks for all the great stories and characters. I'll miss them, especially Spenser.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Silent Monks Singing Hallelujah

The "Hallelujah Chorus" of Handel's Messiah is one of the most beautiful chorales ever written. Take a look at this charming, novel and humorous performance of it:

Silent Monks Singing Hallelujah

Monday, January 18, 2010

Introducing Sphinx Inkling

My grandson, Sphinx Inkling, born on November 5 (my birthday). It's been a surprise to discover how instantly one falls in love with one's grandchild. I just dote on him.