Thursday, June 30, 2005

Lucky Lions?

We may be cursing luck here in Detroit with regard to our inept football team, and especially in the case of the twice-injured Charles Rogers, but things could have turned out worse, as this article drove home. The article discusses the previously undiagnosed stress fracture in Redskins' cornerback Carlos Rogers (no relation, I think). Washington took the cornerback Rogers one pick before the Lions' spot, and it was rumored at the time that Millen would have taken him had he been there at the 10 spot.

The year before's draft featured a couple of hard luck players the Lions managed to avoid. First, Washington (them again, poor bastards) selected Sean Taylor, a player who a lot of Lions fans would have liked to see slip to the Honolulu Blue. Unfortunately for Taylor and the 'Skins, the safety is now facing a three-year minimum sentence if convicted. Yikes. He may not be convicted, of course, but I'm sure Washington's not real pleased about the arrest, or the fact that his trial may start the day after the team's first game.

Next in that draft, the Lions traded down a spot with Cleveland. This was a good move at the time, because it gave them another second rounder, which they later traded to move up into the first round and turned into Kevin Jones. The trade looks even better now, after the player the Browns picked, Kellen Winslow II, will miss the season after injuring himself while popping wheelies on his motorcycle. This after he missed most of his rookie season due to injury.

So it could be worse. That's all I'm saying.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

The Tigers' Revival

I haven't posted on the team's progress, and will continue to not do so, but this article from's Jerry Crasnik about the Tigers' revival from the 119 loss season is a good read. It's also pretty cool that a story about the Tigers made the front page of, even if it was heavily influenced by the fact that the All-Star Game is here this summer. If you're reading it as a Tigers fan, you'll shudder as you remember such names as Damion Easly, Randall Simon, and Mike Drumwright. Man, it was a rough run.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Zoltan: Hound of Dracula

This review is great. What a blast from the past. When I was a kid I used to watch the thriller double feature on Channel 20. For a long time I've had a visual of a stake being pulled out of a cloth-covered body, and a dog jumping out at the guy who pulled the stake. From time to time I have wondered what movie that was, but never enough to try to figure it out. I think this is it: Zoltan: Hound of Dracula. Nice. This explains a lot about me.

Stoker Winners Announced

The awards are here. Unfortunately, the book that I selected (and reviewed here), Deep in the Darkness, did not win. Michael Laimo's book was up for best novel and lost out to Peter Straub's In the Night Room. I guess it's not terribly shocking that Straub won. He seems to be somewhat of a critical darling, at least as far as horror writers attain that status. Still, in reading the description of Night Room, I learned that not only does it "transcend the conventions of horror fiction," but it also features the continuing saga of Tim Underhill, whom I first met in Straub's novel Koko. Koko is not a good book. The parts that aren't confusing are alternately boring and painful to read. I was dismayed to learn that somehow Straub thought Underhill's story was worthy of continuation. Frankly, I think it says something about the man (Straub, not Underhill: he can't help it).

Now, it's not that I dislike Straub. Ghost Story is an unquestioned horror classic, and I couldn't put down the first half of Shadowland. Mr. X was also a heck of a read, especially the strange, twisting city within a city that was one of the weirdest yet very real feeling horror settings I have ever encountered. But then you get to bloviations like Black House (Mr. King shares equal blame for this profaning of The Talisman), and, well, tell me how it turns out, because it's just not worth the effort.

My point is, based on the description of In the Night Room, I won't be reading it any time soon. Straub needs to be grounded to reality to be good, not exploring even farther boundaries of weirdness. And let me just say this: if you're too weird for my tastes in reading, you're pretty freaking weird. Maybe you should tone it down.

Thus, to me it's a shame that Mr. Laimo didn't win. His book was a creative, suspenseful effort, and in a year with no masterpieces it would have done nicely as a best novel.

Batman Begins

We also saw Batman Begins this weekend. It certainly did not disappoint. I, of course, enjoyed the darkness (if you thought Tim Burton's version was dark, wait 'til you get a load of Christopher Nolan's) and the general scary atmosphere. One of the bad guys in this one, played by Cillian Murphy, who single-handedly made me want to see Red-Eye, has a spray that induces hallucinogenic panic in his victims. That is pretty neat, and any movie with fire-breathing horses is liable to be pretty cool.

We saw the movie at the Imax, which was incredible. That magnified my only major criticism of the movie: the fight sequences were shot at such close quarters that it was really difficult to tell what was going on. I found this doubly annoying because the movie spends so much time building up his training that it would be fun to see how he put it into use and because I study karate and am always curious now to see if I recognize any moves. Even seeing the fights giant-size really didn't help the clarity.

Overall, though, this was a minor criticism, and I loved the movie. The characters were all great, except for Katie Holmes'. However, I think it was less a function of her incompetence as an actress and more the role she was playing. Her character was just annoying, and I really don't think it would have matter who was delivering the lines.

I also gave a thumbs up to Christian Bale as Batman. I still rank Michael Keaton as my favorite Batman, but it's pretty close. I think if I needed to fight crime, though, I would pick Christian Bale's Batman. The way he growled and spit out his lines was very menacing. With him, you could really believe that cold-blooded criminals would be afraid of a man in a bat suit.

In conclusion, go see the movie and hope that you don't end up in front of the same inappropriately laughing Asian man that we did.

"Have You Checked the Children?"

Saw When a Stranger Calls this weekend. I almost don't know what to say, except "wow." The first half-hour may be the best suspense sequence I have ever seen. I won't say too much about it, but if you like suspense movies, urban legend-type stories, or just scary movies, you should without a doubt see this movie. It slows down a little in the middle, and you get the feeling that the director/writers were basically adding some scenes to stretch it to movie length, but the end picks up again with another shocker that's as almost as cool as the beginning.

Aside from the story, there's a lot of neat stuff about this movie. Here's a couple. The music. I thought I heard right during the movie, and Imdb confirmed it: the big chord that recurs throughout the movie is now used as the sound you hear when the THX logo comes on. Also, this movie heavily influenced Scream. I mean heavily. Even the caller's voice was similar.

Apparently, there's going to be a remake of this movie next year. As usual, I find this unnecessary, especially when the guy doing it is the same man who inflicted Tomb Raider upon us.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Jeremy Roenick Says F. U. to the Fans

Mr. Roenick, who is currently an unemployed hockey player, says to the fans:

"We're going to try to make it better for everybody, period, end of subject. And if you don't realize that, then don't come."

Aside from this not making much sense and being rather peevish, does Roenick think hockey is in a position to be thumbing its nose at fans? I think they should be happy to take back anyone who is willing to pay. This is, after all, a league whose ratings had been falling faster than the coyote off a cliff with an Acme anvil, was never widely recognized anyway, and has recently cancelled an entire season.

Now, Roenick has always said his mind, so this can be taken with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, everyone in the NHL, both on the owners' and players' sides, had better get on the same page in a hurry if they ever want to come back and be a major league again. Given the shows that have done better than them on ESPN ratings-wise (the dog show, NCAA women's softball), they are in real trouble.

We Like the Moon

This is interesting. Apparently there's not an accepted theory for why the moon appears larger at the horizon than when it is high in the sky. For some reason, I find this very disturbing. Doesn't this seem to be something we should know? Spooky.

Zombie Dogs!

Here! Well, I guess the headline is a little dramatic, but the picture at the link is kind of scary. Reminds me of Resident Evil. That was really scary, for a video game.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Reports of His Death...

...have been greatly exaggerated. Apparently Chief Justice Rehnquist is not dead, despite the Post's reporting otherwise. Oops. Whoever posted that should be fired like the guy who screwed up the numbers on American Idol. To cut the paper a break, though, maybe he was just "mostly dead," like Wesley.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Tom Cruise is Freakin' Nuts

Not an original insight, I know. But look at the picture at the link. Just one more reason I'm glad I'm not Matt Lauer, I guess. One thing I found especially rich was Mr. Cruise, a devout follower of Scientology ("Scientology. It's like science, but it's not!"), lecturing about "pseudo-science." And even if psychiatry were a "pseudo-science," which it isn't, that would still be better than "no" science, which Scientology most certainly is. And never forget that, despite the group's propoganda to the contrary, that Scientology's founder was a science fiction writer on record as saying that the best way to get rich would be to found a religion.

Uh oh...

I have been fairly excited about Land of the Dead, because George Romero is the master. However, this review from the Detroit Free Press makes me a little nervous, especially where the reviewer claims: "Most impressively, it actually has something to say." Maybe it's just me, but I don't want politics (and yes, it's politics the reviewer is talking about here: later he specifically mentions the political metaphors) in my zombie movies. This is a trend lately that I've found annoying. Reviewers seem to think a movie only has something to say if it has some sort of political message. Wrong, wrong, wrong. In today's climate, Hollywood people taking potshots at the President is just laziness, the easy way out. It's a lot harder to actually say something about human nature than to just throw in sneering references to the politics of the majority and try to pass that off as meaningful commentary. In my opinion, these type of references are on the level of gratuitous nudity in slasher movies: they do nothing to advance the plot and are a jarring interruption to the flow of the movie.

So please, if you're going to make a horror movie, tell us something about how the characters you have created would react and change in the crucible of stress created by the horrifying circumstances in they are trapped in. Have actual scary parts. And don't try to make zombies into the great political metaphor of our time.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

War of the Worlds

In advance of the movie, here's an article about H.G. Wells, who apparently never met a tragic "-ism" that he didn't like.

Kelo Case

For a lawyer, I don't blog that much on law issues, but the bad decision in the Kelo case jumped out at me today. Perhaps those who are upset about the decision, like me, and who believe, like me, that it shows the lack of even a passing acquaintance with the Constitution should come here to live in Michigan. Here, I am proud to say, our state supreme court last year overturned an old precedent much like Kelo and ruled that it was unconstitutional to take private property for private use:

Reversing more than two decades of land-use law, the Michigan Supreme Court
late Friday overturned its own landmark 1981 Poletown decision and sharply
restricted governments such as Detroit and Wayne County from seizing private
land to give to other private users.

The unanimous decision is a decisive victory for property owners who object
to the government seizing their land, only to give it to another private owner
to build stadiums, theaters, factories, housing subdivisions and other economic
development projects the government deems worthwhile.

Read the rest...

Monday, June 20, 2005

The Devil's Rejects

I'm pretty excited about Rob Zombie's new movie. I thought House of 1000 Corpses was pretty underrated. There was a lot to like about it, especially the scenes with the clown at the gas station and his "tour of serial killers" ride. Ultimately, the movie did get a little too crazy at the end. I wasn't a big fan of Dr. Satan. He was just too fantastical compared to the rest of the movie to really pack a punch. What I loved about the movie, though, was Mr. Zombie's evident love of horror. From the Halloween scenes, to Otis and Granpa watching old horror movies, to the two couples looking for offbeat roadside attractions who are inordinately attracted to the aforementioned ride, the movie has a lot of little details for a horror buff to appreciate. My only concern about the new movie is that it might concentrate too much on the type of graphic violence that was found in Corpses. This business about the main characters going on a "killing spree" has me wondering. I don't mind a little violence from these people (the Swiss Family Robinson they ain't), but, as always I am of the school that understatement is more effective. I thought the first movie had a lot to offer, and the violence didn't always add to the frightening atmosphere. Still, I will being seeing the new movie as soon as I can.

New Horror Reading

Now that I've finished blowing through Storm of Swords (amazing like its two predecessors; if you have any interest at all in fantasy, read these books), I am going to read The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. This book is what could be described as a "literary" horror novel and seems to be something of a critics' darling. It's about the search for Dracula over a couple of generations. My wife's reading club actually read this book a couple of months ago, although it was only released to the general public last week. Like the Amazon reviewers, her club had mixed opinions of the book. Based on their comments and those of the reviewers, it sounds like a book more suited to a horror/history buff than to the general public. As luck would have it, a horror and history buff is exactly what I am, so I am hoping to enjoy it. My comments will follow in the one to two week range, hopefully.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

This Guy is Brave

He eats some seriously foul things from the supermarket -- such as "potted meat food product"-- and writes hilarious reviews of the results. Good stuff.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Evil in the Isles

"Child sacrifices in London" Including black magic spells requiring the blood of young boys and exorcims. Very spooky -- I can hear the tubular bells now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

It's Good to be a Michigan Wolverine

Here's an article from that alleged newspaper The Detroit Free Press which was apparently written by the Emperor. In it, the Dark Lord of the Sith's writing oozes disdain for the Michigan fans who complained that the Detroit zookeeper named the zoo's wolverines, in what passes for humor among the greenly envious graduates of East Lansing high, Sparty and Bucky. Even more amusing than the article's attempt at a sarcastic skewering are the several dozen people in the Free Press forum who took the opportunity to bash the "couple dozen" Michigan fans who complainted to the zoo. It seems that this alleged petty issue was serious enough to stir up several times the number of complaints from Moo Uers than the number of Wolverines who did the original complaining.

The Sparties say that the complaints prove once again how whiny the ultra-liberal (I resent that) Michigan grads are. But how would they like it if we placed a name dripping with Maize and Blue pride on something as intimately associated with their institution as the wolverine is with ours? Such as if we made the people who work at McDonald's call themselves "wolverines"...Hurts, doesn't it?

Oprah is a Zulu

It's a strange news day. Here's an article wherein the popular talk show host claims that her DNA has been traced to the Zulu tribe. Some experts doubt the veracity of this claim, as the Zulu nation was apparently more of a cultural or linguistic group than an ethnic group. I care little about whether she is right in her claim or not, but I do find it amusing that she would make the claim in the first place. After all, the Zulu were a rather warlike bunch, as anyone who has studied the battle of Rourke's Drift or played one of the Civilization games knows. I can't see her touchy-feely show making much of a dent in the Zulu viewership, assuming they were still around. So then should we expect the next selection from her book club to be The Art of War?

Not to worry. The true reason she has a fondness for the Zulu: "I'm crazy about the South African accent." Whew.


The headline says it all: "Abortionist Accused of Eating Fetuses." You have to read the whole story to believe it, but it includes fetuses kept in styrofoam cups in the refrigerator and human waste being brought home to throw out in the regular trash. Talk about an idea for a scary story...

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

PC Police Are After Putin

In case there is any confusion that this post is a defense of the man, I think Putin is a worthless world leader. That said, what's this "astonishment", according to this article, that Putin would say Africa had a history of cannibalism? Arguing that Africa has a history of cannibalism is not much of a defense to Putin's own poor human rights record and Soviet nostalgia. Still, to argue that it's a "prepostorous" thing to say (I've even done a relatively recent post on some of these shenanigans in Tanzania, although in all fairness one could argue that witch doctors and human skinners may not actually eat the people they're skinning), like a matter of public record is some sort of figment of Putin's imagination? That's pretty silly. Even worse, by focusing on whether it was taboo to mention the history of cannibalism in Africa, the PC police have fallen right into Putin's plan to distract his critics from the original topic: his own poor human rights record. Good work, bozos.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Paparazzi Gone Wild

This post from Tim Cavanaugh on Reason's Hit and Run blog about the low credibility of celebrities when it comes to vehicular run-ins with the paparazzi is absolutely a must read. There's nothing better than a good take-down of celebrities' asininity.

Have a Cigar

Somewhere, a lot of stoners are very excited, in a very mellow but intense way:

The classic lineup of Pink Floyd is reuniting for the LIVE 8 charity event.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Lions Sign McQuarters

I like this signing by the Lions. They needed help in the secondary, especially at safety, and McQuarters can play corner, safety, and return punts. Plus, they need someone to fill in for Dre' Bly, Fernando Bryant, and Eddie Drummond when they get hurt this year.

Thursday, June 09, 2005


Macaulay Culkin pleads guilty to drug charges.

Why, Thomas J., why? Check out the picture with the article. That looks kind of gives a whole new twist to "home alone," doesn't it?

George R. R. Martin

I've just finished A Clash of Kings, the second book in Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. These books are really amazing. Martin's style of fantasy is heavy on the people side of things. There is some magic in the books, and some monsters too, but the focus is more on how each individual schemes to get power, to keep it, or sometimes just to stay alive. One of the more interesting features of the series so far is that main characters died frequently and unexpectedly. This odd characteristic adds suspense, on top of Mr. Martin's cliffhanger style of arranging the chapters.

Despite the frequent deaths, the scope of the story has also been growing, which is probably why Mr. Martin has decided to split the upcoming A Feast for Crows in half. Unlike some, I'm not particularly bothered by this. At the same time, I haven't been waiting since 2000, when the hardcover edition came out. As Professor Bainbridge pithily said, five years is a long time to wait for half a book. I guess the consolation here is that the "half a book" will run almost 1100 pages, and the second half, which will be of similar length, will probably follow within a couple of years.

Anyway, if you like fantasy at all, I highly recommend these books.


The NBA Finals start tonight, and the Detroit Pistons are rumored to be involved. I'm hoping (and assuming) that all my jinxing mojo has gone toward the Tigers and that this post will be in no way detrimental to the 'Stons. Of course, if you read the commentary online, you'd pretty much assume that the champ had already been decided anyway. (As an aside, where have we heard this dismissal of the Pistons before? Against a certain team with a certain inhumanly large and athletic center? No, no the Lakers, although we heard it there too. The correct answer, going all the way back to the last round, is Miami). The new line, emanatingly particularly from the boys at, is that the "Pistons don't get any respect" angle to the Finals is already played out.

My favorite recent example is this "wish list" from Marc Stein. He says that the Pistons don't get any respect line is "so played out that we can all finally stop addressing (it)." Mr. Stein, along with a couple of the other commentators at the site, have adopted a line that boils down to the following: "We respect the Pistons, so quit complaining. If everything goes right for the Pistons, they might win a game or two against the Spurs. Spurs in 5 or 6." Maybe it's just me, but I don't think this is what Pistons fans are talking about when they talk about respect. Mr. Stein's "wish list" is especially rich. At the top of the column, he reiterates that he has picked the Spurs in 6. Then, he later argues that the Pistons' best chance is basically to assault the Spurs, and if that doesn't work the Spurs will probably win in 5. An appreciation of the Pistons' talents is not exactly dripping from that analysis.

All I can say is, we'll see. Unlike Mr. Stein, I, and I think most Detroiters, actually do appreciate and respect San Antonio, because in a lot of ways their team is just like ours. I expect a hard-fought, seven game series. But if San Antonio goes down the way the Lakers did, Mr. Stein will have some series egg on his fact, like I'm sure he did last year.

Hail to the Victors!

Congratulations to the University of Michigan softball team, winners last night of the NCAA softball title. They are the first team east of the Mississippi to win the title, and the northernmost. To get a feel for the advantages a team like UCLA (whom Michigan defeated in the final series) has, think about this: Michigan scheduled its first 33 games on the road because of cold weather in Ann Arbor. The team proceeded to lose the first game and then win the next 32 in a row en route to a 65-7 overall record. Truly they are now the champions of the West.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Shark Attack... the shore of New Jersey. The speculation is that it was a small great white. If that reminds you of Jaws, it should. Peter Benchley's book was based on a series of shark attacks by a rogue great white off the coast of New Jersey. A good account of the attacks is Close to Shore by Michael Capuzzo. In a lot of ways, the true life account is more chilling than the fictional terror at Amity Island, especially the part Capuzzo relates where the great white actually travels a good distance up a freshwater creek to attack a boy in a popular swimming hole. I don't know if I'll ever look at muddy water the same way.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Team That Shall Not Be Named

The two losses immediately following my post about them may have been coincidence, but to be on the safe side I am going to refrain from posting any positive news about them. You know who I'm talking about.

"At My Signal, Unleash Hell!"

Actor Russell Crowe arrested for assault.

Is it just me, or is there something amusing about Mr. Crowe's decision to use a phone thrown at a hotel employee's face as his means of persuasion? Something tells me he didn't think that one all the way through (the fact that the argument took place at a little after four in the morning suggests that Mr. Crowe may not have been entirely sober).

Saturday, June 04, 2005

This Can Only Lead to Trouble

"Japanese scientists are to explore the centre (sic) of the Earth." As I've said before, it's a fairly well known scientific fact that punching through the crust of the Earth is a sure way to open the gateway to hell, to a hollow earth full of aliens, or to uncover some Lovecraftian evil. Or it's just an important and fascinating scientific break through in the making.

The Tigers...

I'm not going to do a post about how cool it is that they are back up to .500, because the last time I did a post like that they lost several games in a row.

I will say, though, that my fantasy baseball team continues its residence in first place, by a fairly dominant margin.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Supreme Court Speculations

Powerline links to speculations that Chief Justice Rehnquist will retire within the next month and that President Bush will nominate Judge Michael McConnell of the 10th Circuit to replace him. I'd seen that rumor before, and Judge McConnell seems like he would be a pretty solid Supreme Court Justice. What I didn't know is that Judge McConnell received his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University. Yes, that's right: we could have a Spartan on the Supreme Court.* Heaven help us.

*It appears that the last Supreme Court Justice who graduated from the University of Michigan Law School was Frank W. Murphy, who was on the Court from 1940-1949. One thing in Justice Murphy's favor is that he was from Michigan, while Judge McConnell was born in Kentucky.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Pudge Rodriguez on Playing with a Broken Hand

"There are going to be some days it's going to hurt. Those are the days I need to suck it up."

Now that's a man's man. Read the whole story here.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

A Cure for Butterfingers?

The Lions have been one of the worst-catching teams in the NFL the last couple of years. In fact, it could be said of the Detroit receivers that there was no pass too good for them to drop. To cure this problem, the team has hired a new receivers coach, who has a unique training technique that is specially designed to capture the receivers' attention and improve their concentration.

He throws bricks at them. To quote the mullet-haired guy Stiffler played in Old School: "That's awesome!"

A Question for Professor Bainbridge

I recently finished A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin and am now a couple of hundred pages into A Clash of Kings. I thought Thrones was amazing, and Kings is starting off well. The prologue to Thrones was the most engrossing beginning to a fantasy series I have ever read. It contained a heavy dose of horror, which is probably why I liked it, reminding me of a cross between Stephen King's The Eyes of the Dragon and John Carpenter's version of The Thing. This probably should not be too surprising, since Mr. Marting won a Bram Stoker award in 1987 (actually he tied for it, but the point remains) for the novelette "The Pear-Shaped Man."

My question to Professor Bainbridge regards this post of his, in which he seems a little less than excited about the incipient release of the fourth book of the series. I am curious why not. The update and the post suggest that it is because Mr. Martin has slowed down his output and the story has become somewhat bloated. Not having read most of the second yet or the third at all, I'm wondering if the story has become bloated in Professor Bainbridge's opinion. Overwriting is one of my problems with Stephen King's later work and the reason why I think his short stories retained so much punch even to the end of his career while his novels began to taper off. So, I could see why that would be a problem.

As for slowness, that's not as much of a problem for me. Mr. Martin's books are long enough to be the equivalent of two to three regular novels. For instance, the one I'm reading is 969 pages. I'm not going to complain if he takes a few years to write a book if it's that long, assuming the writing is still pretty lean. And I've only read one chapter in the first couple hundred pages of Kings that showed any signs of bloat. Anyway, I'm just curious as to what the good Professor has to say, because it was a post of his from earlier this year that inspired me to read the books in the first place.