Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Here's a couple more YouTube video links. First we have Yellow Magic Orchestra performing "Rydeen" on Japanese TV. The second link is the promo video for Sandii and the Sunsetz' "Battery." If there's any '80s Japanese group that should have hit it big in North America it was the Sunsetz given Sandii's charisma and English singing ability.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Damn, I need to pay more attention to the news. I hadn't realised that the US had decided to blow up the Moon. Betcha that will push up their national debt even more.
Its been a bad week for actors. Its just been announced that Dennis Weaver has died of cancer at 81. Weaver was a regular on Gunsmoke for 7 seasons, starred as McCloud in the '70s, and was the star of Duel, a 1971 TV movie that was one of Steven Spielberg's first big projects.
Today is not a fun day to be walking around Saskatoon. I was just outside walking for half an hour and ended up rather frozen, although I've been out in worse. Its the wind that's the problem.

Today I picked up some American money from the bank. Its been a long time since I've handled any, and I must say its not very impressive money for one of the world's major currencies. Canadian money is made of much better paper, and carries more modern security features, especially the currently issued tens, twenties, and the soon to be issued fives. Americans often joke of foreign money being Monopoly money because it frequently uses coloured inks and so on, but frankly American bills seem less real to me. Of course its simply what you're used to. Its also worth noting that the 2004 US twenty and the soon to appear 2006 US ten use more modern security features than the bills I handled today.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Naps may be good for some people, but I tend to think I'm not one of them. When I take a nap I usually sleep far longer than I want to and I feel kind of out of it for a while after I wake up. Like right now.
I had to chuckle when I tried to access my Where's Willy account a couple of minutes ago. Instead I got a page stating that the site was experiencing heavy user activity and try again in a bit. Somehow I doubt there are large numbers of users trying to hit the site at one in the morning.
I just finished watching 1981's Thief. This was director Michael Mann's first big screen effort.

I got this DVD out from the Saskatoon Public Library, and it had problems at times. My DVD player balked at playing it about midway through the film. This fits in with my suspicion that DVDs will in the end turn out to be more expensive for rental places and libraries than VHS cassettes were because they won't wear as well. For some reason people seem to treat them poorly, as can be seen at the amount of scratches that quickly accumulate on some disks. I'd love to know what people are doing with them. Using them as coasters?

Its interesting that Tuesday Weld is James Caan's romantic interest in the film. Even then many films often would team an up and coming young actress with a somewhat older male lead, and its probably gotten worse over the last 25 years. Instead we have a veteran actress who comes across as a woman who has experienced life, not some engenue who isn't convincing in the role she's asked to play.

If you enjoyed Mann's 1995 film Heat you'd be well advised to watch Thief.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

I'll admit it, I often watch America's Most Wanted. I'm not quite sure why, but I do. Tonight's episode featured a rather surprising fugitive. The name Victor Willis might not be familiar, but if you're old enough to remember the late '70s you know his onstage persona, the policeman in the Village People. Willis left the band in 1980 in part due to the disapproval by the other members and their management of his freebasing habit. In subsequent years Willis has had numerous brushs with the law, and is now a fugitive on drugs and weapons charges. Incidentally despite the gay image the group projected Willis was married to actress Phylicia Rashad, who would play Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show, during his Village people stint.
Its time to say goodbye to yet another familiar face. Veteran comedy actor Don Knotts has died at age 81.
I'm sitting here listening to the police frequencies, and the Saskatoon Police Service is busy tonight. This includes a reported car accident a block and a half from here. Hopefully they'll get a breather soon.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ads have begun to appear on TV for a new film called Spymate, about a spy chimpanzee. It looks to be rather horrific. In one quick shot I saw what looked to be the recently deceased Pat Morita. I took a look at the IMDB and sure enough it is. Too bad, like most actors, that he had to do crap like that to make a living.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Let the whining begin! Team Canada was eliminated from medal contention this afternoon in Olympic men's hockey. We will now be subjected to untold hours of second guessing, complaining, and excuse making regarding the loss. The loss will overshadow all the Canadian successes because too many people are obsessed with men's hockey, and too many people in the media think that everyone is obsessed with hockey. I've only heard a little bit of it and already I'm tired of it.

What's especially annoying is that this will likely bolster the Gretzky Conspiracy Theory. Quite simply some folks figure the recent revelation of the Tocchet gambling ring, including the possible involvement of Wayne Gretzky's wife Janet, was all a plot to screw up Gretzky and make him coach poorly, thus weakening Canada's chance of a medal. Somehow I think the New Jersey State Police have better agendas to push than screwing with hockey. If they were conspiring against someone it would be some local politician they don't like. Or whoever designed their uniforms. Frankly they look like something the military of a fictious South American dictatorship in a bad action-adventure movie would wear.

Monday, February 20, 2006

I've seen more than a few people claim comic book artist and writer Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns Batman series of the mid '80s was an ultimately negative influence on the character, that it lead to a Batman who in recent years has become increasingly dark and paranoid, going so far as to make elaborate plans on how to beat his fellow superheroes if they "go rogue." The opinion of many comic fans of Miller isn't likely to be helped by his new project Holy Terror, Batman. Batman's new foe? Osama bin Laden. Batman goes after bin Laden after al Qaeda attacks Gotham City. Personally this sounds like a recipe for disaster, especially since Miller himself refers to it as "a piece of propaganda." Its true that they did this kind of things during WW2, but tastes, and the sophistication of comic book readers, has changed. At the very least you risk making yourself look silly, writing a piece of wish fullment fantasy. Certainly that was my reaction when reading that in one of the 1980s editions of Don Pendleton's The Executioner action series Mack Bolan actually kills Ayatollah Khomeini.
In this morning's Star Phoenix there was a shot from a PETA protest against Kentucky Fried Chicken held in Saskatoon over the weekend. The picture on one of the placards was of Dick Gregory, who has long been a vegetarian. I found it kind of surprising, because to be blunt Gregory isn't exactly a widely known figure these days, especially amongst younger folk who have had no real exposure to him. Pam Anderson was on another, which of course makes far more sense.

On a totally different topic if you're looking for information on the firearms currently used by police and the military in various parts of the world the Modern Firearms and Ammunition site may be of interest. Besides weapons actually in common use the site also has information on some projects that may soon see use as well as items of historical interest, such as the Atchisson AA12 machine shotgun.

Friday, February 17, 2006

The questions that appear in the information column in the large TV schedule supplement that comes with the Friday paper often make me smile. But one of the ones today.... Someone wrote in saying they had seen episodes of a sitcom called Murphy Brown. They were wondering when new episodes might be coming. The columnist noted the series was cancelled in 1998 after ten seasons, and that new episodes were unlikely to be forthcoming.

I just can't imagine how anyone could think Murphy Brown was a current series. Didn't these people watch any TV during the late '80s and '90s? How could they miss the infamous incident where then US Vice President Dan Quayle denounced the series as a negative influence on society? At the very least you'd think there would be more than enough clues in the show to tip off anyone it wasn't a recent production. Either they spent the last 20 years living in some isolated part of the planet with absolutely no contact with the outside world, or the letter is a joke.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

If you're interested in professional gambling and/or watching Spike TV's King of Vegas series the book Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids by David Kushner may be of interest to you. It tells the story of Jon Finkel, a New Jersey geek who used the card game Magic: The Gathering to find a place in life for himself before expanding his horizons into the world of professional gambling. One of the "characters" in the book is David Williams, who he met via Magic and who like Finkel has gone on to gamble professionally. Williams is one of the current contestants on King of Vegas.
Chances are if you watch sporting events on Canadian TV you've probably seen the ads for Alexander Keith beer featuring an obnoxious man with a Scottish accent berating people for not treating their Keith beer properly. If you found those ads annoying you won't be annoyed any longer. Unfortunately its not for a reason anyone would like. Actor Robert Norman Smith, who plays the character, has been arrested by Toronto police on child porn charges. Not surprisingly parent company Labatt Breweries has pulled the ads until further notice.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Another year, another edition of Sports Illustrated's (in)famous Swimsuit Edition. I wonder if we'll ever see a day where there's even a tiny article with men in skimpy swimsuits instead of women? Probably not, other than perhaps as parody.
Sad news for sci fi tv fans. Actor Andreas Katsulas has died of lung cancer at 59. Although Katsulas had a long career in various roles he's probably best known for the role of the Narn ambassador G'Kar in the series Babylon 5.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

How's this for a spammer name? Ivanhoe P. Cultivated. I guess Mrs. Cultivated liked classic adventure tales.

Ah, Saskatoon weather. 4 degrees above zero Celcius one day, 14 degrees below freezing the next. Besides the cold the resulting ice from thawing yesterday and freezing last night overlaid with some early morning snow made for some troublesome walking. I spent a lot of today outside(for reasons I shall not reveal lest you think I'm insane) and slipped quite a few times, ending up on my behind once. But it could have been worse, I could have fallen flat on my face, which could have been very painful.

The cold combined with moisture in the air resulted in sundogs this morning. And as is often the case at this time of year you could occasionally find a bit of melting in places where the Sun was bright enough and the surface dark enough despite the cold temperature.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I was just watching Spike TV for a bit, and they had an ad for their premiere of Austin Powers. Given that they also recently played The Shawshank Redemption I can't help but suspect that they'll end up playing to death the very films that TBS played to death.

On the weekend they played Steven Seagal's first film, Above the Law. (This was another TBS regular in recent years.) Its interesting how his career went from the big screen to direct to video over the last 3 or 4 years. It seems that when I make my rare visits to the local video stores every few months there's another Seagal direct to video schlocky in the New Releases section. Seagal is well known for being a high dan black belt in the Japanese martial art aikido, but reading his Wikipedia entry I learned he also studied shito ryu karate as a teen under well known karate teacher Fumio Demura. Interestingly one thing Seagal's Wikipedia entry doesn't mention is that he plays guitar and owns a considerable collection of classic guitars, appearing on the cover of the January 2006 issue of Vintage Guitar magazine, which profiled some of his collection.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Well, I must say I'm surprised. The new Steve Martin version of the Pink Panther has generated some good reviews, as can be seen at Rotten Tomatoes. Its currently at 22%, which is better than I imagined. I expected it to be in the range Big Momma's House 2 is currently pulling. Not that I'll be running out to see it.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The tonnes of ink and paper, tens of thousands of feet of video tape, and hundreds of thousands of keystrokes expended in Canada covering the Danish-Muslim cartoon crisis may very soon be far exceeded by the effort spent on the Wayne Gretzky "crisis." Does what is happening really deserve that kind of coverage? There are far more important issues.

Yet the interest is understandable. Wayne Gretzky is a Canadian icon, the Great One. He was one of the best hockey players ever, at a time when hockey still was the primary sport in Canada, a position eroded over the last decade or so by the increased precense of Canadians in Major League Baseball, the penetration of the NBA into the Canadian market and the growing fame of Canadian NBA player Steve Nash, and so on. More importantly Gretzky's personal reputation was every bit as admired as his hockey skills. He generally avoided on ice fisticuffs. Off the ice he was a family man, marrying actress Janet Jones in 1984 in what was often refered to, without irony, as Canada's "Royal Wedding," a marriage that has lasted 22 years with no hint of infidelity. Nor did he engage in nonsense like drinking and driving which had humbled many a fellow athlete. His image was totally one of being a class act.

But now the icon is tarnished. Even if he's done nothing wrong Gretzky is in the company of those who have. He's been shown to be human like the rest of us. And so people find themselves trying to understand where things went wrong, and whether their faith in Wayne Gretzky was misplaced.

One thing I have trouble understanding is why this kind of ring would form in the first place. The sports world people involved surely can just go someplace where sports gambling is legal if they want to do so. Was it greed, wanting to avoid the taxman? Or was it the fact it was illegal, but not something that would involve direct danger or cause anyone harm, that made it appealing, the idea of forbidden fruit? Perhaps in the days to come we'll find out.
In the past I've made the comment that the departure of Chris Franke from the German group Tangerine Dream seems to have been the start of their severe decline. Tonight I was listening the TD album East, a 2004 CD of a 1990 concert in what had just ceased to be East Berlin with the fall of the Berlin Wall 3 months earlier. The material on this live album seems to confirm that impression. Other than a few relatively brief places the album is on the whole bland, and could be any new age/smooth instrumentals group of the era. Its interesting to compare this with a live show from 3 years earlier in Berlin that I have on an mp3 I downloaded from someplace. That show was lots more interesting, with the interesting parts overshadowing the blandness that had already started to trouble the group. The 1987 concert was Chris Franke's last as member of the group, and the 1990 show seems to indicate how much of an impact he had on the sound of Tangerine Dream. Interestingly this history claims Franke and Froese have had only the most minimal of contact since Franke quit, making me suspect there must have been some major rupture between the two that lead to Franke's departure.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Here's a couple of video links for those of you with odder musical tastes. The first is Can performing "Paperhouse" on the German TV show Beat Club back in '71. The other is some live footage of the Ruins. Too bad the audio quality isn't better, but since I haven't had the chance to see them live, and its free I'm hardly going to complain. Given some of the bootleg stuff on the YouTube site I suspect sooner or later there will be a crackdown on some of the material posted there.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Yes, its another shot of Plutonians Emory and Oglethorpe. After I posted that shot of Nitz and Jesse on Monday they demanded I post another shot of them. What egos they have! Here they are barbequing. But don't let Oglethorpe's pearly whites deceive you. You can hear his real intent for anyone visiting him here.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Oops, I should have looked at the games a bit more closely. The Massachusetts Keno game pays off on one and two numbers on a two number pick, while the WCLC version only pays off on two numbers on a two number pick.
I made a post the other day mentioning checking out the lottery odds on the Western Canada Lottery Corp. site, and noted they didn't have the odds for Keno. I've now found the odds for that game at the Massachusetts State Lottery Commission site. The only difference is that the WCLC doesn't offer eleven and twelve number picks on their Keno game. Its interesting how the best odds of winning on a ticket are for a 2 number selection.
Via Brent McKee's blog I've just learned that controversy has arisen regarding the biography of actor Al Lewis, whose death I reported a few days ago. His son Ted has stated to the media that his father was born in 1923, not 1910, throwing certain elements of his personal history into dispute given that he would have been too young to do certain things when he supposedly did them. Most peculiar if true, as celebs usually shave years off their ages, not add them. There is the occasional execption, such as Traci Lords, who did most of the pron films she appeared in underage with fake IDs.

Appearances can be deceptive. I bought a copy of the Japanese fantasy film Legend of the Eight Samurai on DVD for the dirt cheap price of 88 cents plus tax at Walmart this week. There's a scene where Princess Shizu, played by Hiroko Yakushimaru, and the peasant warrior Junbei, played by Hiroyuki Sanada(seen in The Last Samurai as Ujio) have sex. There's nothing explicit about it, as it shows no real nudity, but it still had me jumping for the computer given that Yakushimaru looks about 12 in most of the film. A quick look at the IMDB shows she was 18 or 19 when the film was made. This may explain why we don't even see a breast shot, since the age of majority in Japan is 20, since we certainly see enough of the naked breasts of the witch Tamazusa, played by Mari Natsuki, in one shot to see her nipples. Then again maybe Yakushimaru or her handlers simply were unwilling to do even a topless shot.

Monday, February 06, 2006

A reminder to Canadian fans of the cartoon series Undergrads. Its back on Teletoon again, starting this evening.(Yeah, I should have posted this sooner.) Make sure you watch it, or Jesse will get mad at you. And you don't want Jesse mad at you. Just ask Nitz.
Today I unfortunately say goodbye to an online acquantance. I never got to meet David Covell in person, and he has passed away of cancer at too young an age. We were both members of the same private mailing list, and he was always very open about the cancer that was slowly taking his life, despite efforts such as a bone marrow transplant. He knew he was going to die, yet he never stopped trying to enjoy those things what little health he had allowed. He also told us tales of what its like to be someone with a life threatening disease, tales that, although they were often disturbing, were also fascinating. He lived at least a couple of months longer than the doctors were expecting after his transplant didn't take, but it still wasn't enough.
Has Steven Harper already made his first mistake as PM? Today he announced his cabinet and the big surprise was that just elected Liberal MP David Emerson crossed the floor to become the new Minister of International Trade. This is rather an interesting move given the moaning amongst Conservatives when Belinda Stronach crossed the floor last year to the Liberals to take a cabinet post. It seems to me Harper has already undercut claims the Conservatives would improve the ethical standard of politics in Canada. Of course its not exactly uncommon in politics for a party to claim doing something is wrong when they are in opposition, and then turning around to do the exact same thing once they are elected.

One of Harper's cabinet appointments may be short lived. Chuck Strahl has been appointed Minister of Agriculture, but is unfortunately dealing with lung cancer that is apparently terminal. I would guess his appointment is intended as a reward for years of involvement with the Reform Party and support of Harper.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

I just watched the Stones half time performance at Superbowl 40. Supposedly there was a 5 second delay on the broadcasts in case something untoward happened. But there was probably no need. The Stones are too professional at this late date to do something stupid, or for that matter to have something onstage that would screw up badly. Of course given what Keith Richards looks like these days perhaps they should have had a warning the show might disturb more sensitive viewers.
Another death to report. Betty Friedan, one of the influential theorists of modern feminism, has died at age 85.
Goodbye Grandpa Muenster. Veteran actor Al Lewis has died at age 95. Besides his acting career Lewis had a wide range of interests, including running for the New York State governorship against George Pataki under the Green Party banner at age 90.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

If you play any of the lotteries in your jurisdiction you might want to take a look at the odds for the various games. I was looking at the Western Canada Lottery Corp. site and it was interesting to compare the winning odds on various lotteries. For example the best odds of winning on a Pick 3 ticket are 1 in 167. Compare this to the Western 6/49 where the odds of winning any prize are 1 in 27.3 So spending a buck on Western 6/49 gives you a better chance of winning something. Unfortunately they don't have the odds for their Keno game which is the one I specifically went looking for. The best winning odds are for their scratch and win tickets. It should be noted that these are the odds for winning a prize on these things, while the odds of winning the big prizes are much higher. For example the odds of winning the one million dollar prize on Western 6/49 are 1 in 6,991,908, so you might want to consider this if you're in the habit of dropping 20 bucks a draw on such things.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Here's a picture of interest to Rush fans. Geddy really hasn't changed all that much over the last 35 odd years, but Al's face seems to have changed somewhat.
He may be a prat at times, but he's apparently no coward. Prince Harry will likely be serving in Iraq next year. Of course he does have a family example to follow. His uncle Prince Andrew saw combat as a Royal Navy helicopter pilot off of HMS Invincble during the Falklands War, including flying as an Exocet missile decoy. Harry's father Prince Charles also served in the Royal Navy in the 1970s, and his grandfather Prince Phillip saw action during WW2 with the Royal Navy. (The link comes via James Nicoll's Livejournal.)

Thursday, February 02, 2006

As an addendum to my last post I should note that Pete Williams has started posting on the Internet Movie Database's Undergrads board. Series co-writer/voice of Rob Brodie Josh Cagan has also sometimes posted over there.

I also hope no one took the "man of 4 voices" bit as some sort of insult. Far from it. I think its pretty cool that he could do the voices for the 4 main characters and make them distinctive enough from each other than you didn't sit there thinking "Hey, those are all the same guy."

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Here's something neat for Undergrads fans. Series creator/man of 4 voices Pete Williams now has a blog on Teletoon's Detour site. And he says he still holds some hope the series might see more episodes. Hope springs eternal I guess.
I was just cleaning some of the spam out of my mailbox and noticed yet another piece for getting a fake Rolex. People have been mugged for their Rolex watches. Imagine getting hurt in a mugging for a fake Rolex.