Thursday, December 28, 2006

A new fuel option for India

I have a fascination with alternative energy sources, and am a strong proponent of biodiesel in particular. And the only time I've been off this continent (and more than a few miles from my own country) was three weeks I spent in India. So naturally, this story interested me.

Jatropha is a plant that grows in warm climates, but has never been farmed or harvested on a large scale because it is inedible. It has been used primarily as a hedge or decorative plant. However, India has started growing it and turning it into biodiesel. Recent breakthroughs by The Energy and Resources Institute show that the plant could be mass-harvested by growing it with certain fungi, and that it can be grown even in "wasteland" conditions where edible crops cannot be grown (and which India has a good deal of).

Given the horrible pollution problems I saw over there, biodiesel is going to be an important resource for them.
These findings could be a real boon for many "developing nations" with warm climates.

Friday, December 22, 2006

I've got the power!

Well, we just got home from various things to find that we finally - after a week and a day - have power at home! Yay for electricity. It almost seems novel. We are so happy there aren't words to describe it.

Having power inspired me to dig up this:

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


So, to follow up on the storm situation, my in-laws have gone home to where they have power. We still do not have power, PSE says it is probably three days away. Our generator basically shook itself apart and I am going to have to take it in for repairs before it is useable again. My in-laws' generator has something wrong with it and stalls out after 15 minutes or so. As a result, we are truly without power now.

And to follow up on my post about the British serial killer, as Memophage pointed out, the authorities got a suspect, but he is denying everything at this point. In fact, the police now have two suspects in custody. If it's a serial killer team, that will be interesting. Those are very rare.

Poll results: Most Floridians functionally retarded

From CNN-

Jeb Bush is leaving the Florida Governorship.

"Here is how Floridians rated Jeb Bush as governor:
Great: 21 percent
Good: 36 percent
So so: 31 percent
Bad: 10 percent"

Proving, once again, that there is something in the water in Florida that causes one to stick one's head up one's ass.

Another quote on this topic:

"About half of the respondents expect incoming Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, to be as good a governor as his predecessor."

Way to set the bar low.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Stormy weather: The Saga Begins

Tuesday night, we heard warnings of a huge windstorm coming our way. Wednesday morning, the power went out for a few seconds. I was up, getting ready for work. I reset my alarm clock. I took 5 steps, and the power went out again for a few seconds. I decided not to reset the clock, and just unplugged it. Wednesday night, I was setting the clock again in preparation for going to bed. The power went out. I sat there in the dark, alarm clock in hand, for about a minute before the power came back on. Luckily, it did not go out again that night.

Thursday night came the mother of all windstorms. Jen and I left work, in separate cars, at 5pm. The way I usually go home was blocked by a felled tree already. I turned around and was behind a Subaru Outback with a sizable branch jammed in the axle. I flashed my lights until the driver pulled over, then crawled under her car and pulled the branch out. Then it was back toward work to try route #2.

Jen had already taken route #2, and told me via cellphone that she was stuck in traffic. When I was halfway home via route #2, she called again and said the highway was closed, and she was turning around. I adjusted my path to route #3. The highway was open where this path got to it, so I called Jen and let her know that was open. We got home around 8pm. A mere three hours for what is usually a 40 minute trip.

We had dinner, got the boy a bath and into bed, and waited. The wind picked up speed constantly. At one point, I decided to set the clock on the stove so I could see what time it was. The power went out as soon as I finished, but came back on after a minute. I promised I would not attempt to set any more clocks.

A little after 11pm, the power went out. Not knowing how long it would last, I decided not to start up the generator yet. (A generator came with our house when we bought it, complete with a little enclosure built for it and a GenTran system for powering the house's circuits with it. When we bought the house, I found this odd. After last winter, I no longer found it odd at all.) We went to bed.

I laid awake in bed, for I had no fan running (I overheat when I sleep if I don't have my fan on, no matter how cold it is). My in-laws, who are staying at our place, were still awake because they keep graveyard shift hours. Jen and the boy were sound asleep. Sometime past midnight, there was a god-awful cracking sound that seemed to be a tree falling, followed by some tree crashing noises. I leapt out of bed, grabbed my flashlight and some shorts, and went out to check. As I came into the living room, my in-laws were coming upstairs with a flashlight. They thought it sounded like it was out front, so they checked there. Nothing out there, and the cars were fine. We looked out back, and couldn't see any missing trees or anything. Finally, my mother-in-law spotted something on the ground that looked like a large tree limb. We figured it was a big limb that fell from one of the many huge cedars in our yard. Nothing to worry about.

Around 2am, I fired up the generator so I could get some sleep, as well as my father-in-law, who can't sleep without his CPAP machine. I was worried I would wake my neighbors, as the generator is damn loud, but I fired it up and we went to sleep.

Daylight comes, and I wake up thinking the generator sounds really loud. I step out the door to check on it and realize it's just that other neighbors are starting up their generators, too. I went in the backyard to check on that limb. It wasn't a limb. It was a big, big tree in the yard of my neighbor to the right, that fell and landed in my yard. Actually, exploded in my yard. A nine or ten foot section of it is standing straight up in my yard, buried so deep I can't knock it over.

Half the people in the neighborhood were out walking their dogs or just strolling, checking out the damage. I went out and talked to neighbors. My neighbor to the right came out. "Hope I didn't wake you by starting the generator at 2am," I says.

"Are you kidding?" he says. "We were all laying awake downstairs, and couldn't sleep because of the howling wind. When you started up the generator, it drowned out the wind and wasn't so scary, so we were finally able to get to sleep."

That made me feel better.

The last three days has been almost non-stop running around to buy supplies (food, hardware to repair a kitchen sink leak, etc.) and gas for the generator. The nearest place with power (and therefore working gas stations) is Monroe, and they keep selling out of gas. The neighborhood is a warzone of felled trees and power lines. We have land-line phone service, but cell service is spotty. For the first couple days, we could only get through on 1 in 5 calls because we'd get "all circuits are busy". Our DSL is out, so no internet. But all in all, we're relatively comfortable thanks to the generator; 3am refill-and-restarts not withstanding.

Power's back on at work, so I'm here, working and writing up this post. Hope to have some pictures of the disaster area for you soon.

Mattbear out.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Jack's back!

If you've known me for long, you probably know that I have a fascination with serial killers. The missus often says this fascination is "disturbing" or "unhealthy", but I don't find anything wrong with it. Besides, I saw Helter Skelter when I was like 7 years old, and one of my college instructors knew Edmund Kemper. It's not my fault that I like this subject!

Anyway, on serial killer news front, England has one who is preying on prostitutes in Ipswich. Naturally, since he's killing prostitutes and is in England, some are drawing comparisons to Jack the Ripper. While I think that is ridiculous, he is up to five victims, and that's actually a pretty high number for a serial killer, especially in just two weeks. The afore-mentioned Kemper killed 10 over a period of nine years. David Berkowitz (the "Son of Sam") killed six, over the course of a summer.

My guess is, after they catch the guy, James Spader will be in the movie.

Friday, December 08, 2006

An old favorite, coming back to TV

I am a nerd, a social outcast, very uncool. And always have been. One of the reasons I cite for this (other than my own basic character flaws and maladjustments) is that my parents were older than most of the parents of people my age. This might not seem like much, but it caused me to grow up with a different perspective and frame of reference than other kids.

What most people my age call "the comics" I call "the funnies", because that is what my parents called them. Many of my friends' dads went to Viet Nam. Mine went to Korea. Many of my friends' parents were ex-hippies, or grew up in that era. My parents grew up in the days of greasers and hot rod racers. To this day, I love big band and boogie-woogie because of my parents' influence - although now everybody calls it "Swing" and even it's rebirth into popularity faded years ago.

And when most people my age hear "Flash Gordon" they think of the movie with the Queen soundtrack (Flash! Ah-Aah!) and when they hear "Buck Rogers" they think of Gil Gerard on the TV (Beedeebeedeebeedeee, Hey Buck!). Certainly I watched those things, but when I hear those names, the first thing I think of is Buster Crabbe and the serials he starred in.

Why? Largely because of a show on PBS that my mother watched every weekend, called Matinee at the Bijou. Matinee at the Bijou showed old movies from the '30s, 40s, and 50s; but they showed them the way they were done back then. First they would show a newsreel from the era, then a cartoon (often Betty Boop), then an adventure serial such as Flash Gordon or Zorro, then the movie.

For a seven- or eight-year old boy, it was like heaven. Nothing was cooler than Zorro or Flash or Buck. Usually I would get bored with the full-length movie, but during the newsreels I would ask my mom questions about FDR or the war or what-have-you, laugh through the cartoon, and watch the adventure stories with excitement. When they showed the original Bela Lugosi "Dracula" around Halloween, I was hooked, and have loved vampires ever since.

I miss that show. But! PBS is bringing it back. In HD, apparently. I may have to get HD from DirecTV just for this.

The missus got me the old Buster Crabbe Flash Gordon collection on DVD last Christmas, and I've been neglecting to watch it. Shame on me. I just may have to bust it out and watch it this weekend to celebrate.

Monday, December 04, 2006

It's a little more than just "Inconvenient", there, Al

With the missus out of town on a business trip, I had lots of free time last night where "sleep" should have been. I don't take well to sleeping alone. To pass the time, I moved my computer into my bedroom and popped in the DVD for the much-hyped An Inconvenient Truth. I figured Al Gore is so freaking boring, it would put me to sleep.


Not only was Gore more passionate and interesting in this film than any political campaign (damn it, Al, if only you could have been this convincing in 2000...), it exacerbated my sleeplessness by giving the gory details about global warming in a way that could induce nightmares.

For about five years, I have said that Requiem for a Dream was the most depressing movie I'd ever seen. It is a fictitious (but believable) story of a handful of drug addicts who ruin their lives.

An Inconvenient Truth is about how all of us (but especially the U.S.) have fucked the environment up, and now we're all going to die a slow horrible painful extinction. And it's not fiction.

Yay. I think I'll go chase a bottle full of Vicodin down with a pint of Jack Daniels and save global warming the effort.

Global warming is something I have been aware of, but only in a vague "this is bad" sense. I have even tried to make token efforts here and there to reduce my contribution to pollution (see: my many rants and discussions about biodiesel). This movie, though, puts front-and-center in your conscience the fact that:

a) this is a really serious problem that is going to eliminate our species, possibly in our lifetime, if left unchecked.

b) WE are responsible for a good chunk of it.

And while Al tries to brighten it up in the last 10 minutes or so with a "there is still hope" message, the reality is:

c) The necessary steps to stop it are really in the hands of the world governments (half of whom are in the pockets of the oil and energy lobbies) and a populace who largely can't be bothered to do anything.

This does not come at a good time for me, as I've been on a bit of a consumerist spending spree lately, including buying a car that runs on gas and not diesel (my diesel truck died and had to be replaced, so no biodiesel for me right now). Knowing more about global warming than I ever wanted to know, I now wish I could sell it all and move to some remote area and live off the land wearing animal pelts and using a bow and arrow to hunt for food. Unfortunately, I'm a lazy city boy and creature of comfort, so that's out.

At least I don't still drive a '71 Buick with a broken carburetor getting 4 miles to the gallon. Jesus, I want to go back and kick that me in the ass, over and over again.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The writer in me…

…is always looking for one thing.

There’s this girl who works at my favorite teriyaki joint. She’s very nice, always smiling. She knows my name and knows my order. She’s pretty, she’s sweet. She seems very smart; when I see her on break, she’s always studying. The other gals who work the counter are grumpy and scowl at the customers a lot. But this girl – I never see her so much as give a customer a dirty look.

And so I always wonder: What’s her flaw?

We all have them. Lord knows I have more than most. But it’s the interesting thing, the flaws. Character flaws drive every story ever written. The character who is just nice is the victim; the one things happen to. And they’re never written well. The nice character is never fleshed out as more than “nice”. Because if you dig deep enough into anyone, you find the flaws.

I don’t know if I’m a cynic because I started looking for the flaws, or if I started looking for the flaws because I’m a cynic. Maybe it’s a bit of both. Regardless, I know this: I always look, and they’re always there. I just have to get enough time to see them.

Friday, November 17, 2006

One of my "check every day" sites

If you're interested in politics at all, you should check out Devoter. It's a great "community blog" where anyone who is signed up can post, and it is dedicated to political news. Most of the posts come from the two founders (I think). I throw some posts in there once in awhile, if I beat them to it. It's not hugely popular yet, but I predict it could become a great forum for public political debate. It is trying somewhat to cast itself in the mold of Metafilter, which is hugely popular.

Now, onto the Two Minutes Hate:
You know what I hate? When you're scooping ice cream out of one of those cylindrical half-gallons, and you're near the bottom, and your knuckles hit the side and get ice cream on them, and you have to wash your hands right away or they get all sticky. I hate that.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Amanda Congdon gets deal with ABC

If you've been reading my blog since this post about dumping host Amanda Congdon, you know I'm a big fan of hers (read: lust after).
I knew at the time it wouldn't be long before Amanda got a TV gig that actually paid, thus converting internet fame into the more conventional type - and pay. And so it is. Ms. Congdon has gotten a deal to do some video blogging and TV appearances for ABC, and is working on something with HBO.
You go girl!

Not flooded anymore

So yeah, the flood waters receded on Thursday and we were able to get out and go to work. But if you'd like to see the pictures I actually took of the flood, hit my Flickr page here:

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


So, due to record flooding in the area, I am stuck at home today. Better than being stuck at work, I guess. All the roads into our town are flooded today. This is one of the roads out of town:

This is the town downhill from us:


Changing topics, sort of: I am often accused of hating everything, or hating a lot of things. The truth is I really don't hate more than the average person, I'm just very vocal about it, so people think I hate everything. However, I am going to take this perception and turn it into a new "feature" for my blog: The Two Minutes Hate. If you don't know where I cribbed that name, may I suggest you do more reading?
On most blog posts, I will tack the Two Minutes Hate at the end, where I will rant briefly about something I hate. Naturally, some posts will entirely be the Two Minutes Hate, like when I'm talking about certain topics.

Now, for today's Two Minutes Hate: You know what I hate? Global Warming. We are so screwed here. I mean just look at this flooding...this is record-breaking stuff. It's hard to deny there are some seriously bad things going wrong with our climate and environment. Damn it I hate Global Warming!

Friday, November 03, 2006

My worst nightmare...

It is well documented that my son has an unbelievable obsession with cars. Jen and I both have a fear of him getting the keys to one of our cars and trying to drive it. We keep talking about locking up our car keys so he can't get to them, and we should probably do that soon.

But here's a video of a dad with too much money and not enough sense, actually giving the keys to his brand-new $50,000 Mustang to his 14 year old son, and the aftermath of that decision. All I can say is: idiot.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

More on political corruption.

Swiped from My Meme Can Beat Up Your Meme. This is part of an effort to bring all these fun articles about the slease and corruption of GOP Congressional candidates up in the Google search rankings. For more information, go to the Daily Kos article here.
If you want to participate, the HTML source is here.

--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl

--AZ-01: Rick Renzi

--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth

--CA-04: John Doolittle

--CA-11: Richard Pombo

--CA-50: Brian Bilbray

--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave

--CO-05: Doug Lamborn

--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell

--CT-04: Christopher Shays

--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan

--FL-16: Joe Negron

--FL-22: Clay Shaw

--ID-01: Bill Sali

--IL-06: Peter Roskam

--IL-10: Mark Kirk

--IL-14: Dennis Hastert

--IN-02: Chris Chocola

--IN-08: John Hostettler

--IA-01: Mike Whalen

--KS-02: Jim Ryun

--KY-03: Anne Northup

--KY-04: Geoff Davis

--MD-Sen: Michael Steele

--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht

--MN-06: Michele Bachmann

--MO-Sen: Jim Talent

--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns

--NV-03: Jon Porter

--NH-02: Charlie Bass

--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson

--NM-01: Heather Wilson

--NY-03: Peter King

--NY-20: John Sweeney

--NY-26: Tom Reynolds

--NY-29: Randy Kuhl

--NC-08: Robin Hayes

--NC-11: Charles Taylor

--OH-01: Steve Chabot

--OH-02: Jean Schmidt

--OH-15: Deborah Pryce

--OH-18: Joy Padgett

--PA-04: Melissa Hart

--PA-07: Curt Weldon

--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick

--PA-10: Don Sherwood

--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee

--TN-Sen: Bob Corker

--VA-Sen: George Allen

--VA-10: Frank Wolf

--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick

--WA-08: Dave Reichert

Friday, October 20, 2006

And in sicko news...

So, most people probably heard about the fatal Enumclaw bestiality case that prompted Washington state to finally pass a law against sex with animals. Good job, Washington, as that law came in handy today for it's first known arrest. Note: if you're going to get freaky with your pitbull, make sure the wife doesn't catch you. She might get jealous (or maybe just disgusted) and photograph you with her cellphone and turn you in.

I know, it's only rock'n'roll, but I like it... it, like it, yes I do!

On Tuesday, we went to fabulous Qwest Field to see venerable rock legends The Rolling Stones. I'm not even gong to try to give it a review. I mean, do you really think I would bash on the Stones? No way. They rocked. They came, they saw, they kicked ass, and they're like twice my age. It was awesome!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

One less thing to worry about

A few years back, we lived in a suburban yuppie-land in Issaquah. I disliked most of our neighbors there, because they were fake, plastic-y people who always had a smile when they faced you but turned up their noses and gossiped when you walked away. One exception was a neighbor named Thad, who lived in the place next to us with his wife and step-daughter, and later their son who was born when my son was about a year and a half old.

Thad was a working stiff, but a well-paid working stiff. He was more down-to-earth than most of our neighbors. I liked Thad, and would talk to him often. We never got to be what I would call "friends" - partly because we were both busy, and partly because his wife seemed to really dislike me. But it was good to have one neighbor who didn't piss me off, who didn't drive a massive shiny new SUV, who didn't pretend he was more important than you.

A few months before we moved out of yuppie-land and moved back to the city, Thad and his family moved out. They were renting a house somewhere. But Thad wouldn't really be moving with them - he was former military, and still on active Reserve, and got called up and sent to Iraq. I worried about Thad. Here's a family man, near my age, with a baby just a few months old, getting sent off to war. And like I said, we weren't really "friends", so we didn't stay in touch and I never knew what happened to him.

Yesterday, I happened to be at what I knew was Thad's place of employ before getting called up. There was a guy there I thought might be him, but it was hard to tell as this guy had a thick beard - I had only ever seen Thad clean-shaven. As one of the guys who worked there walked by me, I said, "I used to live next to a guy who worked here, named Thad or Tad...he got sent to Iraq. I was wondering if he came back, if he still works here." I have known several guys named Thaddeus, and they all go by either Thad or Tad, and I was doubting I was remembering right which one this guy used.

"Don't know any Tad," the guy said, and walked away. I was wondering if maybe he was just suspicious of why I was asking when the bearded guy walked over.

"Thought you looked familiar," he said.

"Hey Thad," I said, "Wasn't sure it was you with that crazy beard you have going."

We chatted for awhile, til I finished my business and left. I told him I was glad to see he got home in one piece, that I had worried about him. I suppose I could have given him some contact information, but honestly I'm not sure we have enough in common to sustain more than a brief conversation. And for now, it's enough for me to know he made it back.

There are thousands of Americans "over there" fighting still, and some die every day. That makes me sad. But knowing that one of them who I know - one who I like - came back ok, after a few years of wondering whether he did or not...well, today, that makes me just a little bit happier.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Live music review: Carrie Akre and Johnette Napolitano

A while ago, Nick posted on "Billy Ocean, Student Council Treasurer" a post about women-fronted bands. I went to make a comment about my favorite little-known female singer, Carrie Akre, and went to her website to link in the post. While perusing the site, I found out about a show she was doing, opening for Johnette Napolitano at The Triple Door. I immediately bought tickets. I wouldn't have known about the show if it wasn't for Nick, indirectly. Thanks again Nick!

First, about the The Triple Door. This is a swank dinner-and-a-show kinda place. Not too big...smaller than the Showbox, I think, but still good sized. The nice design and the way the tables are laid out all cozy-like make it a very intimate atmosphere for a show even if you're way up in the back. They don't reserve or sell certain seats, they just open the doors a certain time before the show and seat as people come in. One complaint I do have is that if you're a couple, you will probably get stuck on one of the little two-tops along the side, which are nice because they're close to the stage but suck because they're cramped. Seriously, these tables are barely big enough for one person to eat dinner on, much less two. If you're going to a show at the Triple Door, I suggest getting a foursome together and showing up early.

The food is actually from the Wild Ginger restaurant upstairs. Most of their food is Thai, which I hate, but there was enough on the menu for me to get something I liked. We had some unbelievably yummy potstickers, and delicious lamb satay. Dinner was chicken pad thai for Jen (she liked it) and seven-flavor beef for me (good, nothing to write home about). For dessert, they actually had a creme brulee that Jen liked. It was fantastic, in fact. (Jen has a bizarrely high bar for creme brulee - it must be perfect or she hates it)

Just about the time we were finishing up dinner and preparing to order dessert, Carrie Akre took the stage. Jen had in fact gone out for a smoke and came back in just as Carrie sat down with her guitar. There were obviously a number of fans of hers there, and she got a warm reception. She proceeded to play the first few songs herself, just her and the guitar. Two of them were songs I wasn't familiar with, but they were good anyway. Who am I kidding, that woman could sing me the phonebook and I'd be in heaven. Anyway, after the first three songs, she was joined by her friend Jared somebody (can't remember, sorry Jared) and did one of his songs that Carrie dueted with him on his CD. It was a good song, if I can remember who the hell he is I'll have to check out his CD. They proceeded to do a few more of Carrie's songs before the sadly short half hour set was up. I wish she could have played more; she really seemed to be just warming up when it ended. Thus is the nature of being the opener, I guess. It wasn't just me and her other friends who were happy with the set, though. The couple next to us were from Jersey and had never heard of her, and they were blown away.

On a side note, she broke my heart introducing one of her songs. She said she wrote it for the man who "hopefully soon" would be her husband. Jen turned to me with a sarcastic frown and said, "Sorry." Then she laughed at me.

After a brief intermission, Johnette came out and the crowd went wild. Her fans are not huge in number, I think, but they could be described as "rabid". She proceeded to do some of her own solo songs, but mostly acoustic renditions of Concrete Blonde songs. Naturally, the Concrete Blonde songs got the most reaction. About a quarter of the way through the show, though, she did Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows", which Concrete Blonde covered for the soundtrack of "Pump Up the Volume". She hit it out of the ballpark. It was amazing, leaving in the dust the Concrete Blonde recording and Cohen's own performance. I thought, "Damn, she should have saved that one for later," but there it was.

Sitting in front of us were half a dozen gay guys. I mean, over-the-top, justifying every stereotype gay guys. They were quite amusing. Between sets, they were asking the waitress to tell some guy to come over to their table, then one of them said, "You know what, just tell them ALL to come over here." Anyway, when Johnette launched into "Take me home" these guys starting hopping up and down in their seats and squeeling. I mean, seriously, squeeling, like giddy little girls. Jen and I cracked up and had to lean against each other we were laughing so hard.

Anyhow, Johnette worked through a number of songs. "Mexican Moon" stands out for me, because her acoustic version was more beautiful (that's right, I said beautiful) than the Concrete Blonde version. Eventually, she got to "Joey".

I hate that song. It is probably the only Concrete Blonde song I don't like. When the video for that came out, it was the first time I had ever heard of them, and I assumed based on that one song (because it was the only one of theirs you ever heard) that I would not like Concrete Blonde. It wasn't until years later when a friend played "Bloodletting" for me that I realized I really would like them. So when she started singing "Joey" I got up and went to the bathroom. When I came back, the song was ending and Johnette was saying goodnight.

I got back the table and told Jen, "God, she better not end it on that fucking song." Jen assured me there would be an encore, and there was, thankfully. One song.

Johnette came back out and did an a capella rendition of "Tomorrow Wendy". It was awesome, and tied for me with "Everybody Knows" for her best song of the night. A great ending for a great, but too short, performance.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Geek joy

I've heard some rumors around that there was going to be a strategy game based on Halo. Those rumors have come to fruition with the announcemend of Halo Wars for the Xbox 360.
I have reservations about how well an RTS can be played on a console, but I know I will be playing it anyway. Because it's, you know, Halo.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Restoring manliness.

For the last couple weeks I've been driving - a lot - all big V6 and V8 vehicles. Today, for the first time in quite some time, I briefly drove our 5 cylinder Volvo wagon, replete with childseat and Spongebob Squarepants air freshner. As I told Jen afterward, I felt very un-manly.

To restore the balance, I figured I would have to butch up my ride home. I liberated a cigar I had left in the Volvo. When 5pm came, quittin time, I climbed into my big ass truck and fired up the 6.2 liter diesel V8, threw my leather jacket on the seat next to me, lit up my stogie, and drove off.

It was very manly. I think I get back man points just for writing that sentence. To get more manly, I would have to get Lee Marvin* riding shotgun or something.

*Yes, I am aware Lee Marvin is dead. One could substitute some other manly guy, like say Clint Eastwood; but Lee Marvin is the icon of manly. Long before he starred in The Dirty Dozen (the manliest movie of all time), he was a Marine and fought in the battle for Saipan. Manlier credentials simply don't exist.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Spokane weekend

Over the weekend, we drove across our beloved state to Spokane, to visit Jen's grandmother and aunt. Unfortunately, we didn't get to leave home until afternoon, so our actual visiting time was short. We spent way more time in the car than we did visiting, but oh was important we go visit them, no matter how short a time.

Since the Ella the Volvo is in the shop (regular maintenance - it still runs fine) and Big Dog just got out of the shop (and therefore is not trusted by Jen), we rented a car for the weekend. That is to say, we rented a ginormous SUV. Jen had reserved a "small SUV", but for no apparent reason they gave us a huge one - a Mercury Mountaineer.

Naturally, I being the biodiesel evangelizing, guilt-ridden environmentalist I am, I felt some definite pangs of guilt driving this gas-guzzling behemoth around. The thing has a big gas tank, big enough that it held enough fuel to make it all the way to Spokane without refueling. As a result, I had no idea what kind of mileage that monster was getting until we arrived in Spokane. I was surprised to find that it ran about 20mpg on the open road - just about 2mpg less than our Volvo. Now I feel doubly guilty, one for driving the kind of vehicle I normally deride, and two for the fact that one of our daily drivers gets pretty similar gas mileage.

I will say, the Mountaineer was incredibly comfortable and nice to drive, if a little boring. Sixty MPH felt like about 35 would in any other car.

The visit with Jen's grandmother and aunt was pleasant and relaxing, but short, so not much to say about that. They seem to be doing well and are looking forward to their new house being built.

Spokane was actually kind of nice. I've never heard much good about it. Usually it gets portrayed as some kind of white-trash, redneck haven, such as in the Twisted Tunes song (When you're down on your luck/And they repo your truck/Spokane). One thing I had to do before we left was find the giant Radio Flyer described in my "Roadtrip USA" book. I am a sucker for silly touristy things like this. Jen's aunt knew exactly what I was talking about, and told us it was in Riverfront Park, so we went there.

It's a nice, big park, full of pleasant attractions. There's the giant Radio Flyer (with a slide for a handle), a carousel built in 1909, and the Skyride. The Skyride is basically little gondolas that carry you over the river like a ski chair lift. I am afraid of heights (not ashamed to admit it) so the journey was a bit nerve-wracking for me. Not so for the boy - it was actually his idea to go on it. He begged to go on the Skyride, and he loved every minute of it.

A nice, but uneventful trip. Mattbear out.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Old stories: the Tropic of Cancer

Ok, this isn't an "old story" so much as a reminiscing, but you get the idea. Back in my fabulous Community College days, ol' Charley introduced me to this great little coffehouse that existed in downtown Everett then, called "The Tropic of Cancer".

The Tropic (as we call it) was a very beatnik/bohemian inspired coffeehouse. Soft, mismatched "vintage" furniture filled the place. An old chest sat in the corner filled with board games; one table had a backgammon board painted on it. Cool jazz played all the time. Coffee was served in those huge cups now so popular in cafes, like the one in So I Married an Axe Murderer that inspires the line, "Excuse me, miss, I think there's been a mistake - I believe I ordered the large cappucinno. Hello! It's like Campbell's cup-o-cinno." I always drank drip coffee, deriding those who preferred mochas or lattes as "coffee snobs". Oh how the times have changed. Famously, one friend, Aaron, ordered a cappucinno, even though he didn't know what one was. Half-way through his drink, he exclaimed, "Foam! I paid a buck and a half for a cup of foam!"
It's been a long time since you could get a large cappucinno for $1.50. I blame Starbucks.

The Tropic served delicious desserts made by the hoity-toity Passport restaurant next door. My favorite was the cognac chocolate torte. My sweet tooth pangs just thinking about it. (Passport's desserts and bread were so good, they spun off a bakery called Pavé, which Jen and I would later work at - along with Launchpad and Charley, briefly. We still go to Pavé when we're in Everett to get their wonderful bread and terrific deli sandwiches, and say "Hi" to the owners)

One of the things I loved about The Tropic was the sketchbooks. On many tables, there would be a sketchbook that people would write and draw in. They were very entertaining to look through and add your thoughts or drawings. One favorite I still remember for some reason: Along the top it says "Jesus in his College years". Drawing of Jesus holding a glass, he says "And now I'll turn this water into Schmidt." Cheers and yeehaws from the background.

Thursday nights at The Tropic were live jazz nights. It was a packed house every Thursday. I always loved jazz, so I frequently co-erced Jen and other friends into going. Music started at 7pm, if you weren't there by 6:30, you weren't getting a table. Many was the Thursday night we sat on the sill of the floor-to-ceiling windows, sipping our coffee and listening to the jazz play.

And one of the biggest attractions: Wendy, the owner. A young, gorgeous, blonde, neo-hippie/beatnik chick. She had hired other pretty young girls to work there as well, but none held a candle to her. Most all the male regulars (and some of the female ones) were madly in love with Wendy - myself included. Alas, she was married - to a Snohomish County Sherriff's deputy. We all thought it was odd, this liberal hippie chick married to a cop. The Man. And it made us envious, especially those of us who were Criminal Justice majors.

After awhile, Wendy started wearing out on the whole cafe thing (she worked a full-time job and ran The Tropic). She started changing things in ways the regulars didn't like - switched Jazz Night for improv comedy, quit serving food altogether, started selling the furniture as "antique" or "vintage". The regulars stopped going - us included - and eventually The Tropic closed its doors. We were sad to lose our beloved hang out, and have never found another cafe quite as cool as The Tropic of Cancer.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Giving Seattle a bad name

So-called "hipsters" get a bad rap from most of the Seattle crowd. I have no real opinion on them, as I am not sure I really even know what a "hipster" is. It's a label that seems to get thrown around a lot, but used on very different people. Regardless, there's apparently a new reason for them to get bashed: Mars Hill Church, a scary fundie cult centered on Capitol Hill.

Maybe I'm being a little harsh in calling them a "cult", but any organization that enforces backwards rules the rest of society has moved past (like "prescribed gender roles"), pushes reproduction to increase membership and further the message, and has group housing to help segregate it's members from outside influence - that stinks of cult to me. This could describe Catholicism too, to some degree, and I would say Catholicism has not outgrown its cult roots.

It's no secret that I'm not a fan of religion. But fundamentalists in particular really piss me off, no matter what religion you're talking about. These guys make me nauseous.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years

I imagine a lot of bloggers will have posts today remembering where they were and what they experienced five years ago today, and I'm not ashamed to be among them. Three may be the magic number for clovers and movies, but anniversaries seem always to be honored most on the fives.

When I was young, just about everytime the subject of JFK was brought up, my elders would discuss where they were that day. They could always remember it with a clarity unmatched by any other experience in their lives. I was mystified by this until the Challenger disaster. I remember to this day my father coming home and telling me about it (we didn't get to watch the launch on TV at school as so many other kids apparently did). I came to think of that day as my generation's JFK moment, if you will.

But then, five years ago today, the tragedy of the shuttle was eclipsed by the terrorist attack. I still remember the day of the shuttle explosion well, but 9/11 is the most serious, best-remembered news happening in my life.

That day marked six months to the day since my son had been born. I was on parental leave from work, at home taking care of the boy. At that time, my routine was based around his routine: I would wake early in the morning to feed and change him, would go back to sleep when he did, would wake again when he got hungry. Lazy days spent napping, feeding, changing, and burping. That day would be drastically different.

Jen called me early in the morning and woke me - it must have been about 7am. She heard on the radio on the way to work that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. This would have been just about an hour after it actually happened, details out here on the West Coast were still sketchy. I asked her what kind of plane, if it was an accident or an attack or what; she didn't know. She was just getting to work.

At the time, we had a TV but it was just for watching movies. We had no cable, not even rabbit ears, no TV reception at all. I immediately got online to find out what was happening. Many of the major news sites were down, their server load crushed by the number of people trying to hit them. I got most of the news that day from Slashdot and similar sources. Slowly, the truth began to unfold: two planes, one into each tower of the WTC, one into the Pentagon, another downed by passengers on the plane who fought hijackers.

Despite exhaustion from waking several times in the night to feed the baby, I stayed awake all day, refreshing pages, hitting new sites, and messaging friends. More facts came out, the death toll estimates rose and rose. I only left the computer to feed the boy or take care of other biological necessities.

I worried what the reaction in the U.S. would be like. I was concerned about a backlash against Muslims in this country, worried about violence toward innocent Muslims. My then brother-in-law is Muslim, has dark skin, but he's no terrorist. I worried that the Bush administration, whom I had already come to distrust, would use the attacks as an excuse to take away rights from the people and enforce more draconian laws.

I worried this would just be the start of a new wave of terrorist attacks in the U.S. and I worried about what kind of world I had just brought my son into. I worried we would go to war in the middle east, and I worried it might result in a draft.

Much of my worry was justified. There was some violence against "foreigners" in the weeks after the attacks, although most wound up being perpetrated on poor east Indians because the ignorant fucks who made these racist attacks don't know the difference between a Muslim and a Punjabi. Not that the Muslims deserved it either...I'm just saying these things were done by the worst and most ignorant of our countrymen.

The Bush administration railroaded through the Patriot Act, which I consider to be one of the worst legal precedents in my lifetime. The Patriot Act, the attitude of xenophobia and "you're with us or against us" that the President happily fostered, and other so-called "programs" of the "War on Terror" (such as the NSA warrantless wiretapping) pissed all over the First, Fourth, and Sixth Amendments. Then Bush used 9/11 as a supporting reason to push us into this war with Iraq, which I feel is unjust and horrible for us as a nation.

I did, however, support the attack on Afghanistan. I am a peaceful man, I hate war. But I do understand that sometimes it is necessary. Attacking Afghanistan to remove the Taliban and hunt down the terrorists living under their protection was needed. I wish our government had done a better job of it, but I am glad they did something.

I'm sure today many will spend time thinking back on that day, and of the many people who lost their lives. The loss of the attack victims, their families, and for our country will never be forgotten. Nor will the heroism of the police, firefighters, and everyone else who helped in those tragedies, and that of our armed forces who went to fight the enemy on their own turf.

If you've read this far, thank you for putting up with my rambling, sad memorial. Mattbear out.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Bush & Specter's wiretapping bill gets shot down

Sen. Russ Feingold is now temporarily my new hero. Why? He has gotten a lot of the responsibility/praise for stopping a bill in committee pushed by The Shrub and Sen. Arlen Specter that would have made Bush's warrantless wiretap program legal.

"The president has basically said: I'll agree to let a court decide if I'm breaking the law if you pass a law first that says I'm not breaking the law," Feingold said. "That won't help re-establish a healthy respect for separation of powers. It will only make matters worse."

You go Russ. Thank you for trying to protect our rights.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

A day of firsts....

Yesterday, the boy went to his first day of kindergarten. He's in the same montessori school we had in him for pre-school last year, so he was pretty comfortable with it.

It was also yesterday that he lost a baby tooth for the first time. This afforded me a first: I got to play "tooth fairy" for the first time. Right before I went to bed last night, I swapped out his tooth for a dollar's worth of quarters.

When I was a wee lad, I got a quarter for a tooth. Inflation is a bitch, but I figured the boy ought to get enough for his first tooth to be able to buy one of his beloved Hot Wheels cars.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I like smokin' lightnin'....Heavy Metal thunder...

I am now, sort of, a biker.
This afternoon I went and got my motorcycle learner's permit, thus authorizing me to ride a motorcycle on the streets during daylight hours (but not with a passenger or on the freeway).
Then tonight I went and bought a motorcycle. I got this '81 Yamaha Midnight Special 750 off a guy who posted it on Craigslist:

My buddy Nate, who is an experienced rider, took it for a test ride and gave it the thumbs up. After the money/title exchange was made, he rode it back to his place (as my place is much farther away from where I bought it) and will be bringing it down to me sometime soon.

It ain't pretty, and it ain't fancy, but it's a goer. It needs some love, but I'll have all winter to work on it so I can ride next season.

I am a very pleased Mattbear this evening.
Very pleased Mattbear, out.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It's going to be an awkward Thanksgiving for Kyra Phillips...

This one made me laugh, because let's face it, I enjoy other people's pain. News anchor Kyra Phillips of CNN accidentally left her mic on while going to the bathroom, and broadcast over national TV that she has to "protect" her big brother because her sister-in-law is a "control freak". Youch.

At least she had flattering things to say about her husband.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

More politics

So, lately, there seems to be a rash of Republicans who have made stupid racist comments on camera lately. This may seem like a series of unrelated screw-ups by conservatives with a racist bent. But I am wondering if this actually maybe part of their strategy.

Let's face it: the majority of the white people who hold racist views are going to vote Republican. (This is not to say that most Republicans are racist!) Look at the immigration debate and vitriol there and I think you'll see some racist motive. So is it not possible that by making these slightly off-color, racist remarks - publicly and on camera - they might be pandering to that vote? Trying to motivate those people to go out and vote for them, the politician seen as holding the same views and values?

Racism, even the hint of it, is definitely taboo in today's overly-politically-correct society. One has to assume that beyond those that are openly or conciously racist, there are those who hold some biased or racist views that they keep hidden or repressed. By making these somewhat minor "slips" and then apologizing, might this on some level appeal to those who have similar feelings, but don't want to admit it - to others, and possibly to themselves?

One of my favorite theories, Occam's Razor, dictates that the simpler idea of them just being ethnocentrics idiots who perhaps didn't see anything wrong with what they were saying, would hold true. One or two moron politicians doing it - ok, I'd agree. Three in the span of a week? That's one of those things that makes me go "Hmmmm".

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A tall ship, and a star to steer her by...

On Sunday, we headed out with our son, along with Launchpad and his daughter, to see the Lady Washington. The Lady Washington is a replica of an 18th century boat (also the Lady Washington). The replica sails out of the Gray's Harbor Historical Seaport, crewed by volunteers, and gives dockside tours as well as cruises. The ship is best known these days as playing the part of the HMS Interceptor in Pirates of the Carribean.

We did not have reservations for the cruise (which costs money) but the dockside tour is free to all. The kids had a blast walking around the "pirate ship" and seeing where the crew slept and ate, and watching Kenmore Air's planes take off from the pier next door. Quite frankly, the adults had a blast too. I love boats and ships and the water. Were I a young bachelor without responsibilities to tie me down, I'd be volunteering to sail with the crew myself.

After wrapping up our time aboard the Lady Washington, we cruised to the Seattle Center, which proved mostly to be for the kids...they wanted to go on rides, so we bought them some tickets and let them take several rides. I think the biggest hits were the bumper cars and the pirate ship (the "boat" that swings back and forth like a pendulum).

By 7pm, the boy was so tired he fell sound asleep and wouldn't wake up the rest of the night for anything, including dinner. His "teacher" at Kindercare the next day said he was totally hyper and wound up. Heheheheh.

Friday, August 18, 2006

The Lord may work in mysterious ways, but I doubt this one.

Yes, another "Virgin Mary in foodstuffs" sighting. This time, the supposed image of the mother of the supposed saviour has come about in chocolate drippings at a sweets factory.

I may piss off some of my readers when I speak of religion, because I tend to do so unflatteringly. But this trend of seeing Mary or Jesus in mold or food or what-have-you is just ridiculous. Can't the sane among us - even the religious believers - agree with that?

Anyway, all I can think of is my favorite Tom Waits song.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Nothing pisses me off faster than politics.

The other day, there was a truck parked in my neighbor's drive across the street - not their truck, some visitor's - and it enraged me immediately. The truck had bumperstickers like "100% of terrorists agree...Anybody but Bush in '04" and such. At least 5 similar neo-con Republican, pro-war, anti-thought stickers were plastered to the back of this thing.

One pro-Bush bumpersticker makes me think about keying your car. Not actually do it, but think about it. This asshole had me wanting to throw a molotov cocktail at his vehicle.

I don't have a lot of love for Democrats, either. I hate both parties, and I hate politicians. Our government has been hijacked by an oligarchy beholden only to corporations and their own power. However, the new breed of so-called "neo-conservative" (an oxymoron of sorts, I might add) that has taken over the Republican party has proved themselves the worst of the worst.

Before the last election, I got very wound up and very mad. I was very worried about how the election would turn out, and all my worst fears came true. Now the same thing is happening again, over this year's "mid-term" Congressional elections. I fear another Republican-controlled Congress. I am hoping that the anti-war sentiment, Bush's low approval rating, and the various other bunglings of the Republican party will turn the tide. I don't think the Democrats will do a great job, but I don't think they can do a worse job.

So until the elections come and go, I am going to be just a little bit tense all the time, and seriously pissed off some of the time. I hate that.

Monday, August 14, 2006


I finally broke down and set up a YouTube account and uploaded some video, since I'm always filming stuff anyway. I've started off by uploading the video I took of Big Mike getting his 30th birthday beating. So not pretty.

More will come, and hopefully it will be more intelligent and interesting than this first one.

- Mattbear out

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

This isn't Nam, Smokey; there are rules...

If you've never seen The Big Lebowski, go now and see it. Like right now. Tell the boss you feel sick, hit a video rental place and get it, go home and watch it. Of the Coen Brothers' stellar body of work, this is by far my favorite. It rocks. Go, now, go watch it; I'll still be here. Come back and read more when you're done.

Some other, more industrious, fans of Lebowski from Louisville, KY created an annual event called the Lebowskifest. This September will see the 5th such fest in Louisville. I have wanted to go since I first heard of this thing, but funds and time off never permitted such a trip. Fans gather, they drink, they bowl. They dress up as characters from the movie. Actors from the movie, and the real-life guy who inspired the character of The Dude, show up.

Other Achievers (as fans of the film are now known) who couldn't make the trip to Louisville wanted more locations, so the creators of the Lebowskifest took their show on the road. There have been Lebowskifests in LA, Austin, and Vegas. I didn't get to go to those, either.

But I'm on the mailing list, and get all the news on the fest. And in the most recent newsletter, near the bottom, it said:

"The next Lebowski Fest will be in the Spring of 2007. We're looking at the Northwest... More to come."

Oh yeah. I am sooooo there. I will be costumed as Walter. Launchpad has said he will go dressed as The Dude himself, not surprising as he embodies Dudeness. His wife intends to go as Bunny Lebowski, which should be interesting since she only appears in the movie in a bikini. My wife has said she would go dressed as Maude. Now we just have to find a Donny, and maybe a Jesus.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Movie review time: "Miami Vice"

So, being all my own tonight - no kid, no wife - I went to see a movie. I really want to see Clerks 2, but strangely just didn't feel like it tonight. Instead I went to see "Miami Vice". I'm still not really sure why.

I guess the Vice would be pretty much what one would expect - an slightly updated version of the show, put on the big screen, and taking advantage of the fact they can show nudity and more violence than on TV. Especially since this movie was directed by Michael Mann, who produced the TV show.

Mann's style is generally pretty flashy, and he carries that to the hilt in this one. Fast, expensive cars, fast boats, pretty planes, and lots and lots of beautiful people. And big guns. As with Mann's last work, Collateral (which I loved), most of the movie is shot with digital. Go Michael! Viva le revolucion! Screw those bastards who say film looks better. Digital is the way of the future.

Unfortunately, the flash overwhelms the movie. You never give a shit about the characters, or really what's going on. The script is pretty weak. The story never goes anywhere, and there are more loose ends than you can shake a stick at. In most big-budget movies, I'd say they were setting up a sequel; here I think they were just sloppy in the writing. This lack of a decent story takes what could have been a good movie and drags it down to truly sub-par. I can't emphasize this enough; this movie is all visual and sound with no reason.

On one episode of Dinner for Five, Faizon Love complained about his experience "acting" in the shitfest Torque, which was directed by a former music video director. He said of music video directors, "All they know is Bentleys, ass, cut! Bentleys, ass, cut!"
Mann comes dangerously close to "Bentleys, ass, cut!" in this movie (in fact, there is a Bentley near the beginning of the movie).

One feature of the show Miami Vice was the music. In the show, the contemporary, popular music they used was almost a character in the show. It had that same level of importance. Mann knows music, he knows how to drive a scene with it, and he knows how to pander to his audience with it. This movie is no different. Using a soundtrack powered mainly by Moby, Mogwai, and Audioslave, he manipulates the scenes with sound and keeps your senses overwhelmed. Mann is obviously a fan of Audioslave; he used them to great effect in Collateral (the scene with Cruise riding in the back of the taxi while "Shadow of the Sun" plays was awesome). I am pretty sure there were some new Audioslave songs in Miami Vice, featured on the movie soundtrack before their eventual album release. Mann arranged the same thing for Collateral. As I am a big fan of Audioslave, this made me happy. I am listening to Audioslave very, very loud as I type this.

One of the big, memorable song features from the TV show was Phil Collins "In the Air Tonight". When I sat down in the theater, I wondered to myself, "Am I going to hear In the Air Tonight somewhere in this movie?"
Got all the way through the movie, no In the Air Tonight. Oh well. That was 20+ years ago, one couldn't expect him to feature it in a current, multi-million dollar movie. But then as the screen went black and the credits started...what's that I hear? In the Air Tonight! Not the original, sure, but it was still the seminal Miami Vice song. I failed to catch who did the cover, though. Too bad he couldn't work in Glenn Fry's "Smuggler's Blues", a song pretty much custom-written for Miami Vice. I think only my buddy Nate and I still like that song, anyway.

So to sum up: beautiful, flashy cinematography; beautiful, flashy cars, people, and music. No story to speak of. Save your money.

Mattbear out.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Obscure Movies I Love, pt. 3: the Jason Priestley double-feature

Yeah, that's right, I said Jason "90210" Priestley.

It's easy to pick on Priestley. He was in one of the most over-rated, idiotic shows of our youth; and he's mostly done crappy TV stuff since then. However, he's been in a few good movies in the meantime. Most likely, you've seen Tombstone - one of the coolest westerns ever - but you may have forgotten that Jason got a small part in that (he was the gay guy). There were a couple of straight-to-video movies he was in that I rather liked, though:

Nowhere to Run

This coming-of-age/murder thiller movie starring Priestley and David "Kung-fu" Carradine is actually fairly well done. It does move a bit slow, and suffers from some plot schizophrenia, but the elements of a good '60s crime caper are all there. With some plot ideas and setting somewhat reminiscent of parts of Stand by Me, but with older kids, Nowhere to Run tells the story of high school kids dealing with impending graduation and the rest of their lives, until they run afoul of a violent and dangerous moonshiner (Carradine) who's back in town and stirring up trouble.

The director, Carl Franklin, went on to later make One False Move - a tight crime drama written by and featuring a then-unknown Billy Bob Thornton. Like he did in One False Move, Franklin is good at keeping the threat of impending violence alive even during slow parts of the movie, and maintaining some tension. Given "ok" performances by Priestley and Carradine, Franklin actually turned out quite a good movie - just not one popular enough to get wide release or attention.

Alas, this has not been released to DVD yet, so no Netflixing for this. But if you get a chance to watch it, give it a shot.


In a role that actually calls for flat, detached, almost robot acting, Jason Priestley is apparently your man. In Coldblooded, he plays a weirdly apathetic and detached bookie named Cosmo, working for the local mob boss at pretty much the bottom rung. When the boss dies and a new capo takes over, Cosmo is inexplicably "promoted" to being a hit man - whether he wants to or not.

Partnered up with an experienced killer played by the hilarious Peter Riegert, Cosmo has to learn the ropes of being a mob hit man. Until he falls in love, which complicates things. Hilarity ensues.

This black comedy is far better than "Jason Priestley as a reluctant hit man" has any right to be. I laughed out loud through much of the movie, even when watching it a second time. The scene with Michael J. Fox is particularly funny.

Unfortunately, this one hasn't been released on DVD either, but I give it a higher recommendation than Nowhere to Run - if you haven't seen this, and you have a VCR, go see if your local video store has this. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

R.I.P. Caroline

Well, it seems Caroline, my trusty '96 Saturn, has probably run her last mile. The radiator developed a nasty leak and the engine overheated severely as I tried to limp her home. The overheating seems to have taken out some other systems, like the power steering, ABS, and all the gauges. Lord only knows why. Given that the Blue Book on her would be something like $700 in "Fair" condition, I don't think it's going to be worth it to repair her.

Caroline gave me a good 10 years and nearly 200,000 miles, including over a year of pizza delivery that was very hard on her. But as they say, they just don't make 'em like they used to. I think she's gone for good.

I considered turning her into an electric car when the mechanicals gave out, but I think the cost and limited range (which won't help much living in the boonies) will prevent that, especially given the fact that every car I own is in need of repairs of one sort or another. Of course, I have to find the title before I can get rid of Caroline, so who knows how long she'll be sitting in the driveway before I dig that up. Maybe long enough to actually give her a second life as an eco-friendly-mobile.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Closest thing to a celebrity sighting I've had in awhile

So last night, I was at the Lenscrafter's across from BellSquare getting new glasses and contact lenses. The Bellevue Arts and Crafts Festival was going on right outside. While I was in my eye exam, Jen showed up to take the boy off my hands for a bit. Afterward, I wandered around the Arts and Crafts Festival with her for a bit. Right before I had to go back to Lenscrafters to get my glasses, the boy said he needed to use the bathroom. Jen took him to the closest one, in the Starbucks.

While I was taking out my trial contact lenses to wear my new glasses, Jen calls me. "You'll never guess who just walked in here!"
I hate this kind of question. "You're right," I say, "I'll never guess."
"Steve Ballmer!"

After getting my new specs, I headed over to Starwhores to join the wife and kid. She had a nice soy chai waiting for me. Sure enough, there sat Steve Ballmer, sipping a venti something. He was with a woman I would have first assumed to be his wife - but after someone he knew came in, he introduced her to them as his sister. Now, it's not like I was eavesdropping on the ol' CEO to learn this. If you've ever seen clips of him at the Company Meeting, you've heard that crazy loud voice. That's no act - that's just how he speaks. The whole shop could hear him.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Watch the House

Now that West Wing is over and done with, I had to find a new show to fixate on. So, I have latched onto House.

House is a show about Dr. Greg House, a brilliant but angry doctor, played by the talented Hugh Laurie. I had seen Hugh in the Black Adder series from his native Britain before, and found him to be a brilliant comedic actor.

In this show he has to be only slightly more serious. House is a doctor who takes the idea of detachment to the extreme - he doesn't even like to meet his patients. He is cynical and bitter, always ready with a stinging witty remark. In short, my kind of guy.

The show itself is not fantastic. The plots are very formulaic - patient comes in with bizarre mystery illness, House and his staff have to deduce from the symptoms what is going wrong, his initial diagnosis is wrong (and often nearly kills the patient), and after cajoling some secret out of the patient or their loved ones, House figures it out and saves them. And at least once per episode they show some gross surgery stuff.

The good part of this show is the interaction between the characters and the dialogue that goes on, with Dr. House always leading the way in biting cynical jokes. Hugh Laurie's lines and performance alone make the show worth watching. Add to that some interesting touches like good music, a decent supporting cast, and clever jokes, and and I have been hooked.

Anyway, enough rambling about the vagaries of my TV watching. Mattbear out.

Hi, I'm Mattbear, and I'm a Blogaholic

I have an addiction. Well, I have a number of addictions, but one of the newer ones is...blogs.

I write in my blog. Actually, now I write in two blogs - see Billy Ocean, Student Council Treasurer. I read blogs. Lots of blogs. Blogs about cool stuff, blogs about geeky stuff, blogs about politics. Even blogs about blogs. I read smart ones, I read goofy ones. I'm out of control here.

Oh well. So be it. I'll keep this addiction, it isn't killing me or making me bankrupt.

And while you're reading this, really, go check out Billy Ocean, Student Council Treasurer. Just don't ask me about the name. I really have no idea.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Today's Randomness

I've been neglecting my posting lately (aside from the rant about RocketBoom the other day), so here is a bunch of random amusing/interesting/scary stuff I've been compiling and meaning to post. Enjoy:

Doonesbury has a great message for Creationists.

Adam Carolla finally did something I thought was funny, and gave the supreme bitch Anne Coulter a come-uppance. (audio)

You're 18 years old, racing a friend at 100mph, and slam into somebody, killing them. The only thing that could make it more sucky is if said somebody happens to be foreign royalty.

Feeling like reading something naughty? There's a whole ring of blogs dedicated to writing smu...sorry, "erotica". :) Check out Dawn 'n' Dirty. (Warning: NSFW pics scattered in there)
Or maybe you'd prefer to hear Violet Blue read her essay "American Sex Ed".

If you've never heard it before, check out Last Will and Tempermant by the Frantics. (audio, thanks to Launchpad for finding this one)

Marketing, evil as it is, fascinates me. There's a great article from Business Week about the ad agency that created the awesomely funny Unpimp ze Auto ads for Volkswagen. Speaking of which, I really want one of these. (thanks to Will for the article)

If you like watching amateur-made short films, check out Some are great, some are good, some...not so good.

That's all for now. More later. Mattbear out.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

RocketBoom is dead to me.

If you've ever checked out you know it's a video blog ("vlog", I guess, if you want to get into ever-more-ridiculous slang) hosted by hottie Amanda Congdon.

At least it was, until an apparent disagreement with the show's co-creator caused her to leave/get fired/whatever. So I shall no longer watch the RocketBoom.

You see, RocketBoom was amusing in that it was just a video version of a blog, presenting random internet memes and funny news stories. It wasn't particularly timely - I usually read the day before on BoingBoing or Metafilter about whatever RB was presenting. So the real reason to watch it was Amanda, who at least presented it in an enteraining and easy-on-the-eyes manner.

But now RB has replaced Amanda with someone definitely not as hot. That is why RocketBoom is dead to me. If I'm going to watch a video about what got posted on BoingBoing yesterday, it better be done by Amanda.

Of course, Amanda, who was already getting some attention I am sure from various TV entities, is now getting interviewed all over the place, including the evil Scarborough Country.

Internet "fame" is a bizarre thing. It is fleeting, and mostly of minimal profit, Penny Arcade not withstanding. And your fans are a subset of the population, so you'll never become a household name, but you'll still get recognized anywhere there are techies and geeks. And to them, you may be more famous than those in the so-called "mainstream" types of media. I would know Amanda on sight, but I'm not sure I could pick Katie Couric out of a line up even though I know her name. I wish I could explain better the differences I see between Internet fame and, say, TV fame, but it is hard to define. Ms. Congdon has already gotten the internet variety, and hopefully she will get her wish and get some of the "mainstream" variety too.

Good luck Amanda. And RocketBoom, fuck you.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Obscure Movies I Love, pt. 2: A Shock to the System

Michael Caine has been in about a bazillion movies. Some went largely unnoticed by the movie-going public. One of those was the delightfully dark 1990 film, A Shock to the System. I'm not even sure if this had a theatrical release, or if it was straight to video.

Aside from Mr. Caine, the movie had a great supporting cast, such as Peter Riegert and Elizabeth McGovern. The movie centers around Caine's character, one of several middle-age ad execs who are getting passed over and pushed out in favor of young, irritating yuppies. For awhile, Caine is the whipping boy, doormat for the New Corporate Order of the self-obsessed 80s yuppies, until a chance encounter with a bum changes his attitude...

This movie is like a murder mystery in reverse. You get to see the killer plotting his moves, calculating the angles, and dodging suspicion. And it's the killer you're rooting for, because his victims are the soulless embodiment of greed. So yeah, it's a bit on the dark side, but it's the dark side we all wish at one time or another we could walk. Well written, well acted, and I would say well directed, this is a great movie that should have been big but wasn't. An evil take on the greedy culture that begat the amazing movie Wall Street.

Netflix has this one. Check it out if you haven't seen it yet. If you have, post your thoughts here!

Mattbear out.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Do you love music?

Then you need Pandora.

Oh man, this is the coolest thing I've seen in awhile. A brilliant use of technology. The Music Genome Project, a collaborative effort to create a detailed analysis of the evolution of music, have created this online service. Pandora lets you create up to 100 "radio stations" to listen to by entering an artist name or a song. Then it plays songs with similar qualities to that. You can vote them up or down, which helps determine what gets played next.

You can also help guide your "stations" by choosing "Add more music to this station". For instance, I created a station based on AC/DC. To help guide it, I added Jackyl to the station.

This service not only gives you a chance to listen to music you love, but also will introduce you to new music you may like.

Of course, it has extra little "widgets" like RSS feed, and code you can add to your blog to show your stations (and others can listen to them), or favorite songs, or favorite artists. You can see my stations in my sidebar there.

Enjoy. Mattbear out.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Just a brief post with some linky-linkys.

The Chinese get super-efficient when it comes to executions.

Photographer goes to small town, takes pictures of all the people. Goes back 20 years later, photographs them again. Pretty interesting, really.

Make your own high-definition projector. Oh man I want to do this.

The freak flag was flying at Stonehenge for the solstice today.

AT&T fucked its customers' privacy rights in the ass today. Hard. With no lube.

-Mattbear out.

Thursday, June 08, 2006


There's a group out of Minnesota urging people to submit what is called a "memorial", basically a formal citizen complaint/demand, to Congress to impeach Bush. In theory, submitting these memorials is a way to initiate impeachment proceedings. It has been used before successfully to impeach a federal judge.

I urge all who read this to go to and download the Do-It-Yourself Impeachment PDF file. Follow those instructions and help impeach the most corrupt President this nation has ever had. Also, please spread the word. Post this on your journal/blog (who cares if the same 5 people who read this also read yours? let's peer pressure 'em), e-mail it to your friends, whatever it takes to spread the word.

Who knows if it will work. Congress may ignore it all. But I hope not. All I know is, I cannot sit idly by and watch the current "administration" continue its reign of crime unchecked. Knowing others are being drummed up to do this, to give voice to our common complaint - I cannot in good conscience ignore this opportunity to make ourselves heard.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Obscure Movies I Love, pt. 1: Diggstown

Erik has his features "Overrated Films" and "Bad Movies I Love" and he has suggested I do my own Overrated Films thing, but I don't want to copy the man outright. So instead, I'm going to do my own, Obscure Movies I Love. This is the first in said series. The great movie, Diggstown:

Diggstown is a classic con-man movie. It features some fantastic actors: James Woods, Bruce Dern, Oliver Platt, and Louis Gossett Jr.
The movie focuses on con-man Gabriel Caine (Woods), just out of prison, who sets up a complicated con involving a small town addicted to boxing, and his old boxer friend "Honey" Roy Palmer (Gossett).

So I will get my main criticism of the movie out of the way first: it is hard to believe Gossett, at his age, could fight and win against some of the boxers he goes up against. The movie stretches the bounds of Suspension of Disbelief here and there.

Other than that, it's a great flick. The writing is funny. The pace is slow enough to tell the story, but quick enough to keep you interested. Woods, Platt, Gossett, and Dern play off each other expertly. While the Woods/Gossett scenes are good, the best ones are between rivals Woods and Dern. Both are amazing character actors, and yet both can ham it up...these are both traits this script called for, and these two acquit themselves well.

So why am I calling this movie "obscure"? After production was all done, the studio decided to undersell it. No hype, no promotional tours, no talk shows. The trailers came out about two weeks before the movie. As a result, when the movie released, hardly anyone had heard of it and it bombed at the box office. With poor ticket sales, it only lasted a few weeks in the theaters. A shame in my opinion.

Speaking of trailers, there was a line in the trailer that got cut from the movie that frankly I thought was quite funny. When "Hammerhead Hagan" comes out Gossett looks at Woods and asks, "Did you tell him he's black, too?"
If you haven't seen the movie it makes no sense. But if you've seen it, or if you go watch it now that I've told you about it, you'll know why that's funny.

If you haven't seen this one, rent it, Netflix it, whatever. If you have seen it, feel free to share your opinions here.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Would you say I have a plethora of posts?

So, I haven't posted on here in awhile (three weeks?). I've been busy, and stuff. So for your reading (dis)pleasure, below are a few posts made all-in-a-row. Enjoy.

That is the most flexible woman I've seen in my life!

...Now that I have your attention...

What I am referring to is Cirque du Soleil (henceforth, CdS). They are in town doing their show Varekai. Back on Valentine's Day, I got tickets to this for my loved one. And a teddy bear holding a heart. Musn't forget the teddy bear holding the heart. Ok, inside joke, sorry. Moving on...

I like CdS. But Jen loves CdS. When she discovered that Netflix carried their DVDs, she put them in our movie queue. All of them. In one solid block. I had to move the queue around so some actual movies would arrive in between CdS DVDs. She was happy when I gave her the tickets; she was nearly ecstatic when the day finally arrived for the show, this past Saturday.

Our son also likes CdS. He would sit and watch their TV show or the DVDs all the way through, even at 3. But all day Saturday it was "I don't want to go!" or "We're not going!" or "I don't like Cirque du Soleil!"
When he says it, it kind of comes out "serkda solay".
He was a demon all day. He was a brat on the car ride there. He calmed down a little when he saw their big, colorful tents. Then we went inside.

From the moment we entered, he was enthralled. He sat through the first half only moving or speaking to ask for a drink of water. He watched the act and applauded with enthusiasm when the adults appluaded. He was an angel.

Intermission came and he needed to go to the bathroom, for which there were long lines. While in line, he impressed the adults with his trick - I hold his hands, and he half-jumps-half-get-pulled up and plants his feet on my chest, then flips over backwards and lands. He is still so flexible it doesn't bother him that his arms are jacked around the complete wrong way when he lands. We really ought to get him into gymnastics now. I always ask him if he wants to be in CdS when he grows up, but he always says no. When we went back in, he continued his enthralled, but completely good, behavior.

Anyway, enough about the kid. The adults loved it too. I've seen them on TV, on DVD, and yes it is amazing to watch that way. But live, it just takes on a whole 'nother level. If you haven't seen them at all, rent a DVD or two. If you've seen the DVD, but not the live act...oh, you're missing out. A woman in line for the bathroom insisted (really, insisted, like in a scary-crazy way) that you absolutely must see them in Vegas, that it is even better there. Going to have to do that one of these days.

I leave you with this:

Yummy Xbox 360 goodness....

Yes, Jen spoiled me and bought me an Xbox 360 as a slightly early birthday present. I am enjoying it greatly. It came with Project Gotham Racing 3, and I went out and bought Battlefield 2 and Burnout Revenge.

So yeah. Now I have an Xbox 360 hooked up to a widescreen HDTV and surround sound. I am one spoiled bastard.

Eat it. :)

The Body Nazis

As some of you have heard from me already, my lovely wife decided we needed a personal trainer. Apparently, I'm overweight or something.

She heard about this place called Temple of Health. It's run by a couple, both bodybuilders (yes, male-female couple). They have this little private gym where you go train with them one-on-one or as a couple (as Jen and I do). So with two of them, there is generally a max of four people working out in the gym, and often it is just us with our trainer. So we started going there twice a week, and we train with the woman, Charma (pronounced Sharma).

Who am I kidding? We go there twice a week and she tries to kill me. We got back from there about an hour and a half ago, and I feel like I've been run over. By a tank. With a disco happening on top of it.


I refer to our them as the Body Nazis - lovingly, of course. And never, ever to their faces. He is Czech and she is not white and from a jewish upbringing, so they may not see the humor with which I am using the term. I mean, would you call this woman anything but "ma'am" to her face?:

She's not quite that buff anymore. She doesn't do shows or really bodybuild anymore, but she is still fit enough to kick the crap out of this fat man.

They put us on a really horrendous diet, which we are going to start tomorrow. Supposedly. Jen hasn't cooked anything for tomorrow yet, and I sure as hell am not about to right now. I can barely stand right now.

We will see how it goes. Hopefully it will stave off the heart attack I am sure I have coming. In the meantime, I feel like such a fucking yuppie. I own a home in the Duvall area, quickly becoming the place for Microsoftie yuppies (yes, I know, I know). I have a doctor, whom I refer to as "my doctor". I have a lawyer. Now I have a personal trainer. Next I'll have an accountant.

Lord, please take me now, before I start shopping at Nordstroms.