Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Paris - Sonic Jihad
David Bazan - Fewer Moving Parts
Todd Steed and the Suns of Phere - Heartbreak and Duct Tape
Starflyer 59 - Leave Here a Stranger
Mustard - Eureka Grande
My Photo
Location: Illinois, United States

The peaches, apples, plums and pears are guarded by ferocious bears.

Powered by Blogger

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J.K. Rowling
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling
My Secret - Frank Warren
Persepolis - Marjane Satrapi

30 January 2006

First Line's The Charm Revisited

Last year I posted some of my favourite first lines. Now American Book Review has their own top 100. Like any list of this sort, it's widely open to debate, especially since the list mostly sticks with classics and modern classics. It's still a fun browse. A few of their lines were the same ones I picked. Here are some of my other favourites from their list:

You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler. —Italo Calvino, If on a winter's night a traveler (1979; trans. William Weaver)

The moment one learns English, complications set in. —Felipe Alfau, Chromos (1990)

It was the day my grandmother exploded. —Iain M. Banks, The Crow Road (1992)

The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up. —G. K. Chesterton, The Napoleon of Notting Hill (1904)

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. —Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle (1948)

Also stop by Dan's for some more favourite lines. Not first ones, mind you. But faves nonetheless.

(h/t: I can't remember! Sorry!)

26 January 2006

Low Fat Vegetarian Hamas

So Hamas won the Palestinian election, giving the militant group 76 of the 132 seats in parliament. Some are shocked by this development. Others not so much.

I guess that's the problem with democracy. Sometimes people in other countries don't vote the way that Israel and the United States want them to. Does this mean that freedom is no longer on the march for democracy's struggle? Or just that we've grossly misunderestimated the people of the Middle East? Or maybe being washed in the soul cleansing blood of democracy won't solve the world's problems after all.

23 January 2006

Cry For Wi-Fi

There’s gonna be a collision, the world is going fast.
A mortgaged future meets a bankrupt past.
- Larry Norman

I’ve written before about the perplexing short-sightedness in the U.S. towards alternate energy sources, rising gas costs, and the sleeping dragon that is peak oil. It’s hardly the only way in which our country is favouring the trivial as the big picture grows murkier by the day. Global warming comes to mind. So does a starving continent of people who are 40 percent Muslim and who might understandably hold a grudge against us someday for not doing much about that. So does our $8 trillion of debt. Those are the sorts of issues that are really going to matter someday. But by the time we get around to taking those issues seriously, I fear it will be much too late. (That’s, incidentally, one reason why George Bush is no better at leadership than he was at being a National Guardsman. And why John Kerry wouldn’t have been much better. Any President who doesn’t make these sorts of issues a major priority is, quite frankly, living with his or her head in the sand.)

At any rate, those playing at home can add another category to the U.S. Fails to Take the 21st Century Seriously Score Card: Wi-Fi. Broadband Internet is a major component of tomorrow’s society, particularly its economy. And, apparently, we’re getting our collective ass kicked.

Note Robert W. McChesney and John Podesta:

Most people know broadband as an alternative to their old, slow dial-up Internet connection. These high-capacity data networks made of fiber-optic cables provide a constant, unbroken connection to the Internet. But broadband is about much more than checking your email or browsing on eBay. In the near future, telephone, television, radio and the web all will be delivered to your home via a single broadband connection. In the not-so-distant-future, broadband will be an indispensable part of economic, personal, and public life. Those countries that achieve universal broadband are going to hold significant advantages over those who don't. And so far, the United States is poised to be a follower -- not a leader -- in the broadband economy.

American residents and businesses now pay two to three times as much for slower and poorer quality service than countries like South Korea or Japan. Since 2001, according to the International Telecommunications Union, the United States has fallen from fourth to 16th in the world in broadband penetration. Thomas Bleha recently argued in Foreign Affairs that what passes for broadband in the United States is "the slowest, most expensive and least reliable in the developed world." While about 60 percent of U.S. households do not subscribe to broadband because it is either unavailable where they live or they cannot afford it, most Japanese citizens can access a high-speed connection that's more than 10 times faster than what's available here for just $22 a month. (Japan is now rolling out ultra-high speed access at more than 500 times what the Federal Communications Commission considers to be "broadband" in this country.)

The economic ramifications are profound. "Asians will have the first crack at developing the new commercial applications, products, services, and content of the high-speed-broadband era," writes Bleha. Already, South Korea, which leads the world in the percentage of its businesses and homes with broadband, is the number one developer of online video games -- perhaps the fastest-growing industry today. What's more, societies in which broadband use is near-universal will adapt to its uses much more quickly than those where access is available only to the well-to-do few.

The countries surpassing the United States in broadband deployment did so by using a combination of public entities and private firms. The Japanese built their world-class system by ensuring "open access" to residential telephone lines, meaning competitors paid the same wholesale price to use the wires. The country is also establishing a super-fast, nationwide fiber system via a combination of tax breaks, debt guarantees and subsidies. But of particular note, the Japanese government also encouraged municipalities to build their own networks, especially in rural areas. Towns and villages willing to set up their own ultra-high-speed fiber networks received government subsidies covering approximately one-third of their costs.

Unfortunately, the United States has pursued the opposite policy. President Bush has called for "universal, affordable access for broadband technology by the year 2007," and FCC Chairman Kevin Martin claims broadband deployment is his "highest priority." But they have made no progress toward these goals; in fact, they have rewarded their corporate cronies for maintaining high prices, low speeds and lackluster innovation. Federal policies have not merely failed to correct our broadband problems, they have made them worse. Instead of encouraging competition, the FCC has allowed DSL providers and cable companies to shut out competitors by denying access to their lines. And whereas the Japanese government encourages individual towns to set up their own "Community Internet," Washington has done nothing. Fourteen states in the United States now have laws on the books restricting cities and towns from building their own high-speed Internet networks. No wonder America is falling behind its Asian competitors.
As I pointed out when writing about oil and gas, I have to think that we're attached enough to our current lifestyle that we'll come out on top in the end. But I also have to wonder if isn't about time we started looking for a leader who actually knows how to lead.

18 January 2006

Funniest Damn Book Of The Year

Coming 14 March, from the people who brought you Lark News, is A Field Guide to Evangelicals and Their Habitat. The manual features such helpful chapters as:

• What Evangelicals Believe - Plus a Master List of Who Is Going to Hell

• How to Party Like an Evangelical - Ambrosia, Li'l Smokies, and Potluck Fever

• The Diversity of Evangelical Politics - From Right-Wing to Wacko

• How to Talk and Act Like an Evangelical Without Being One

• Evangelical Mating Habits - The Shocking Truth

• Identifying Evangelicals in the Field

• Sighting Evangelicals Overseas

• Planning Your Field Trip to an Evangelical Church

• Decorating Like an Evangelical

In the meantime, read an excerpt here.

Or take the quiz:

1. In the last election you:
a. Made MoveOn.org your homepage.
b. Listened carefully to both candidates’ positions.
c. Tithed to the Bush campaign.

2. Your children attend school:
a. at the local public school.
b. at a private school.
c. in your living room.

3. You think “backslide” is:
a. A country dance step.
b. A type of alcoholic drink.
c. A sinful state of non-belief.

4. If someone says “See you here, there or in the air,” you know they mean:
a. “I’d like to see you hanged.”
b. “Let’s get together on our next business trip.”
c. “See you at church, in heaven or at the Rapture.”

5. Your car bumper sticker reads
a. Pro-Child, Pro-Choice
b. My child is an honor student
c. My boss is a Jewish carpenter

6. The last time you raised your hands was:
a. During an encounter with the law.
b. On a roller coaster.
c . During praise and worship.

7. Prominently displayed in your living room is:
a. Your vacation shot glass collection.
b. An expensive piece of modern sculpture.
c. A Thomas Kinkade painting the size of a child’s swimming pool.

8. The last time you read the Bible was:
a. At your aunt’s memorial service.
b. When you were bored in a hotel room.
c . Five minutes ago.

9. You hope heaven is like:
a. The Summer of ’69.
b. A non-stop rave.
c. A gated, Republican community.

10. Before each meal you:
a. Have a stiff drink.
b. Say grace.
c. Give an altar call for your family.

11. The last time you were in a bar, it was to:
a. Pay your tab.
b. See the guys.
c. Hang posters for an evangelistic crusade.

12. You greet your friends by saying:
a. “Where’s the money you owe me?”
b. “How’s it hanging?”
c. “Blessings, brother.”

13. When another driver cuts you off in traffic, you:
a. Give him the finger.
b. Take down his license plate number.
c. Pray for his salvation.

14. On your last vacation you:
a. Got drunk in Cancun.
b. Gambled in Vegas.
c. Built a church in Ecuador.

15. You think Wal-Mart is:
a. A greedy corporation.
b. A downscale place for cheap goods.
c. An extension of your local mega-church.

Congratulations on finishing the EQ test! Award yourself
0 points for every “a” answer,
5 points for every “b” answer
10 points for every “c” answer.

125-150 points Very evangelical.
75-124 Somewhat evangelical.
25-74 Backslidden.
0-24 Unsaved.

(h/t: Looking Closer)

09 January 2006

Monday Lyrics Blogging

Sufjan Stevens - John Wayne Gacy, Jr.

His father was a drinker
And his mother cried in bed
Folding John Wayne's T-shirts
When the swingset hit his head
The neighbors they adored him
For his humor and his conversation
Look underneath the house there
Find the few living things
Rotting fast in their sleep of the dead
Twenty-seven people, even more
They were boys with their cars, summer jobs
Oh my God

Are you one of them?

He dressed up like a clown for them
With his face paint white and red
And on his best behavior
In a dark room on the bed he kissed them all
He'd kill ten thousand people
With a sleight of his hand
Running far, running fast to the dead
He took off all their clothes for them
He put a cloth on their lips
Quiet hands, quiet kiss
On the mouth

And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floorboards
For the secrets I have hid

07 January 2006

Ripe Or Hype?

So we watched Sideways a couple of nights ago. Now I'm trying to decide whether it or Million Dollar Baby was the most overrated film of 2004. Right now, my money is on Sideways.

06 January 2006

Friday Comics Blogging

05 January 2006

The Twelve Days Of Christmas: Day Twelve

Leinenkugel's Berry Weiss

Enjoy its unique color, aroma and sweet taste over ice, or mix it with Honey Weiss for a perfect refresher from April through September. This tasty fruit beer, around since 1996 and winner of the Bronze medal in the Fruits and Vegetables category at the Great American Beer Festival® 2004, is brewed with Pale and Wheat malts, Cluster hops, and flavored with a blend of blackberries, elderberries and loganberries.

04 January 2006

The Twelve Brews Of Christmas: Day Eleven

Ska Brewing's Buster Nut Brown Ale

This Brown Ale has a touch of nuttiness provided by our good friends Mr. and Mrs. Victory and Munich Malt. The addition of Northern Brewer, Cascade, and Willamette hops smooth this beer out to create an incredibly drinkable Brown Ale.

03 January 2006

The Twelve Brews Of Christmas: Day Ten

Otter Creek Brewing's Alpine Ale

This special release will be available from November to April, during the ski season. It is a malty amber ale, brewed with 2-row barley malt, caramel malt, and malted wheat, and four different varieties of hops, for a smooth, balanced flavor. The perfect apres ski refreshment. Or for any time you want to relax and warm up during the colder months to come.

02 January 2006

Monday Lyrics Blogging

Randy Newman - Political Science

No one likes us, I don't know why
We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try
But all around, even our old friends put us down
Let's drop the big one and see what happens

We give them money but are they grateful?
No, they're spiteful and they're hateful
They don't respect us, so let's surprise them
We'll drop the big one and pulverize them

Asia's crowded and Europe's too old
Africa is far too hot
And Canada's too cold
And South America stole our name
Let's drop the big one
There'll be no one left to blame us

We'll save Australia
Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo
We'll build an All-American amusement park there
They got surfin', too

Boom goes London and boom Paris
More room for you and more room for me
And every city the whole world round
Will just be another American town
Oh, how peaceful it will be
We'll set everybody free
You'll wear a Japanese kimono
And there'll be Italian shoes for me

They all hate us anyhow
So let's drop the big one now
Let's drop the big one now

The Twelve Brews Of Christmas: Day Nine

Lakefront Brewery's Holiday Spice Lager Beer

Timed to coincide with the holiday season, a very special lager is brewed with honey, oranges, and spices. This beer uses two pounds of honey per pound of malt in its brew, making it an exceptional fortified holiday specialty beer which will keep for years. The spices and hops balance the sweetness of the honey and malt to give this lightly hopped beer its perfect flavor. Holiday Spice Lager is a Lakefront gift to you!

01 January 2006

The Twelve Brews Of Christmas: Day Eight

Two Brothers Brewing Co.'s Domaine DuPage French Style Country Ale

This French-style country ale is deep amber in color. With a toasty, sweet caramel start, it finishes with just enough hops to clean off the palate. Bon Appetit!