Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Long wanky QB post

It's a shame Blogger doesn't have an LJ-cut equivalent.

At last journalists from the quizbowl circuit -- Cooch and JQ -- are weighing in on the Ken Jennings phenomenon. It's refreshing to read people who not only understand what NAQT does, but get the damn name right in their stories.

It may come as a surprise, but I didn't see any of Ken's episodes. It's on at an inconvenient time here and I know that if I tape it I won't make the time to watch it regularly. The last time I taped it was a year or so ago, to see a guy I sorta know from movie lists. He briefly held the single-day record, at $50K. Before that, the last ep I taped was to see how the woman who beat me fared.

I don't know Ken Jennings. We've met--else the paragraphs below wouldn't exist -- but I don't remember a thing about him. I don't remember many incidents in matches, and I forget who people are unless I see them regularly at tourneys, and he wasn't a regular fixture. The thing I admire most about him is that he likes Hayao Miyazaki enough to bring a Totoro onto the Jeopardy set.

But like JQ, I did beat him at a trivia competition; the same one in fact: Ann B. Davis 20001900. Or rather, my team beat his team. And just barely. I still have the notes from this game, because I'm a huge dork and keep a notebook during games. Gives me something to do. Mark doodles, usually drawing a whole bunch of connected triangles and then filling them in.

This was the last game in our round-robin bracket, they were 8-0, we were 7-1. A loss probably would have kept us in the playoffs, but without a first-round bye. Things started out bad for us. First question, they score 15 points on "4 Little Girls". I should point out right away that movie tossups -- what I consider my strong suit -- went entirely to Ken. At least I assume they went to Ken, as he's clearly a movie buff. Then we give up Montreal. Then Greta Van Susteren. Fortunately they're struggling with bonus conversion, getting 30 of a possible 90 points. We finally get on the board with question 4, "Bette Davis Eyes." We get 25 pts on the bonus to trail 35-60. One question later ( and we're down five, 55-60.

This doesn't last long, as they get the next two (including another movie question, "The Gold Rush") and the full bonuses to go up 145-55. Then four of the next six to go up 280-120 -- including another movie tossup, this on the director Josef Von Sternberg. Our saving grace in this stretch is getting a tossup on Zits, the comic strip, and picking up garbage points on a TU they negged on. The answer? Ironically, it was Rock 'n' Roll Jeopardy.

So we're doubled up on points with eight questions to go. Dwight powers a tossup on Canadian-born country singer Hank Snow, who had died a month earlier. Ken's team negs on a question that I pick up (Coleco -- I owned the ADAM computer that eventually became TRASH's first grand prize). We trail 190-275 with six questions to go. Mark gets "Shaken Martini". Chris gets a question on NHL ref Andy Van Hellemond. Dwight's in with Futurama's Zap Branigan. Suddenly we're back in it, 265-275. Three questions remain.

Question 19 is on the talent-free rapper/Puffy hanger-on Ma$e. It falls silent. It's times like this that gives me the utmost pride in the men and women of the quizbowl community. Except for the jackasses that write questions about Ma$e.

Question 20 is a self-help book question and they neg. I forget the answer they gave (it'd be ironic if it was the Mormon-written 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) but the eventual answer was Don't Sweat the Small Stuff. A full 30 on the bonus and we take our first lead of the game, 305-270. They can still win with a tossup and full bonus conversion.

Question 21 is a sports question. uh-oh. I suck at sports questions. But it's one on an obscure sport. Co-ed teams...played running with the ball...baskets in the middle of the court...I buzz in...

"Korfball?" 10 points, and an exhale. After a bonus, it's our game, 335-270. But as JQ noted, clearly he's had the last laugh.
Oh yeah, the Civic hybrid. It wasn't bad, but noisier than the Prius. A weird whining sound when braking (the regenerative batteries? ABS? What?) which the dealer couldn't diagnose either. He also didn't know about the ECON button on the dash, which gets the gas engine to cut off more, resulting in a quieter, more fuel-efficient ride. Based on our salesperson's lack of knowledge, it seemed like this model of car was the redheaded stepchild of the fleet --at least at this dealership.

I liked the color scheme better, at least this color scheme. I also liked that the back seat floor was flat--no crankshaft hump. And the cab was more of what I'd expect w/r/t roominess. I did NOT like that the back seats didn't fold down because that's where the batteries were.

We're still not close to a decision.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Remember when I said we were new to this whole car-buying thing? About 12 hours ago? That was borne out today when we went to the nearby Honda dealership and saw--duh!--they were closed on Sundays. Maybe this is SOP for dealerships, but it completely surprised us. I mean, sure, a car showroom needs to close sometime, but one would think both days of a weekend would be prime car-selling time, and a weekday would be a more profitable day to close. And car salespeople are all going to Hell anyway, so what do they need the Sabbath off for? In any case, a simple call or check on the website would have clued us in.

Anyway, we went down to Facets and saw Word Wars with the Gropys. We all enjoyed it a lot, but if you've read Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis (an acknowledged inspiration for the film, and interviewee), not much new ground is covered. A Scrabble game isn't going to have the inherent suspense that the Spelling Bee brought to Spellbound. Still, it's interesting to see these personalities from the book onscreen, and the filmmakers had the good sense to use two Minutemen songs.

After that we got some crazy-good deep dish at Pequod's, a little hole in the wall nearby. I'm not typically a deep-dish guy--it mostly ends up too gooey for me--but there are 3 or so places that do it great, and this is one. The movie and dinner ended up being just what the doctor ordered. After the wedding in Ely I was a bit wistful about my old crowd and the land o' lakes, thinking wouldn't it be cool to hang out with these people more, frequent the $2-beer bars in Nordeast with 'em, etc. I snapped out of most of that when I thought, look, half of them don't live in the Twin Cities any more, and the three in the Chicago area---including one two blocks away--you rarely make the time to see anyway, you putz. The rest of that wistfulness was driven away today by the return to two things here that I love and can't get elsewhere. The past few weeks I'd been busy and had forgotten about them. Obscure Movie + Killer Food. Why would I want to leave?


A few variably-sized steps into new territory for me/us:

1. In addition to signing up for two more 6-week fencing classes, I finally ordered my own gear this week. Jacket, mask, another glove, and two epees. I will no doubt ease up on the fencing once curling season starts, but I can pick it up again in the spring. And if nothing else, I have a kickass Halloween costume for the next few years.

2. I also joined the iPod masses, or I will have once it arrives. The new 20 and 40 GB models on the market prompted firesales on the older ones. I ended up getting a refurb'd 10GB for $170 from the Apple Store, which seems more than reasonable. I also got the FM transmitter doohickey.

3. Most importantly, we began doing homework on a new car. I think there's still life in the 11-year-old Saturn, but I want our next car to be a hybrid, and I'd like the ever-dwindling tax benefit on such a car before it goes away entirely. We looked at the Prius yesterday. It handled nicely, didn't have the pickup problems I feared, and has nifty gadgets. And it's so quiet--nice change of pace. The drawbacks:

a. an odd lack of rear headroom (though overall the car felt more spacious than the Saturn).

b. The FM antenna was weak. My favorite station is a low-power one out of Rogers Park, but should be easy enough to get in Evanston, less than 5 miles away. Yet this radio wouldn't lock on it while scanning.

c. The plasticy interior bothered me. The Saturn is plasticy, and I'm living with the long-term implications of that now; stuff's falling apart, and it looks like shite but is too pricey/solely cosmetic to justify repairing. Maybe that's de rigeur for cars in my price range; I've been out of the market for so long.

I know at least one sporadic reader has a Prius -- have you noticed these problems? How'd you see past them?

Next up: the Honda Civic hybrid. Immediate advantage is its availability (and, presumably, the ability to strike a better deal--it's my uninformed guess that the 6+month waitlist for Priuses [Prii?] makes MSRP close to haggleproof ), downside is the mpg's not as sexy as the Prius. I won't bother with the Insight; a 2-seater's out of the question.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

The 100 top-grossing documentaries

what I've seen in bold

1 Fahrenheit 9/11

2 Bowling for Columbine

3 Winged Migration

4 Super Size Me

5 Hoop Dreams

6 Tupac: Resurrection

7 Roger and Me

8 Spellbound

9 Touching the Void (but this one's sitting on the TV thanks to NFLX)

10 The Fog of War

11 Paris is Burning

12 Imagine: John Lennon

13 Step Into Liquid

14 Capturing the Friedmans

15 Crumb

16 Unzipped

17 When We Were Kings

18 Comedian

19 My Architect

20 The Endurance: Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure

21 A Brief History of Time

22 Rivers and Tides

23 The Corporation

24 The Endless Summer II

25 Beyond the Mat

26 Life & Times of Hank Greenberg

27 Control Room

28 Vincent: The Life and Death of Vincent Van Gogh

29 The Kid Stays in the Picture

30 Microcosmos

31 The Celluloid Closet

32 Hearts of Darkness

33 Anne Frank Remembered

34 Brother's Keeper

35 Dogtown and Z-Boys


37 The Thin Blue Line

38 American Movie

39 The Eyes of Tammy Faye

40 35 Up

41 The War Room

42 Fast, Cheap and Out of Control

43 Marlene

44 Visions of Light

45 Trembling Before G-d

46 To Be and to Have

47 Listen Up: The Lives of Quincy Jones

48 For All Mankind

49 Lost in La Mancha

50 The Big One

51 Wigstock: The Movie

52 Kurt and Courtney

53 Pumping Iron 2: The Women

54 The Filth and the Fury

55 Road Scholar

56 The Weather Underground

57 Hands on a Hard Body

58 Incident at Oglala

59 Wild Man Blues

60 Sex Is...

61 A Great Day in Harlem

62 Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser

63 The Trials of Henry Kissinger

64 Mr. Death

65 The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl

66 I Am Trying to Break Your Heart

67 Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy

68 The Last Days

69 Riding Giants

70 Still, We Believe: The Boston Red Sox Movie

71 Into the Arms of Strangers

72 Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary

73 Genghis Blues

74 The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years

75 Keep the River on Your Right - A Modern Cannibal Tale

76 Trekkies

77 Grass

78 America's Heart and Soul

79 The Panama Deception

80 Nico-Icon

81 42 Up

82 Bonhoeffer

83 Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky in Our Times

84 Scratch

85 American Pimp

86 Paradise Lost

87 Heavy Petting

88 American Dream

89 Life and Debt

90 Mayor of the Sunset Strip

91 Dancemaker

92 Sex with Strangers

93 Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey

94 Promises

95 Ram Dass: Fierce Grace

96 Weapons of the Spirit

97 This Old Cub

98 Bukowski: Born Into This

99 This So-Called Disaster

100 The Agronomist

Out of #101-182, I've seen five, with one coming up this weekend (Word Wars).

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Related to our trip to the Art Institute a few posts down, here's another reflection on the venerable Parker Brothers game. I do have to agree with her comparison of Peter Blume's painting to a seventies album cover. Maybe that's what I like about it.
Here's a game for you that's been sweeping one of the movie lists I'm on. Maybe we can turn it into a blog meme.

Use a single movie title to succinctly summarize another movie. Examples I came up with:

Before Sunrise/set - Walking and Talking

Insomnia - The Longest Day

A River Runs Through It - Go Fish

Titanic - That Sinking Feeling

Enter the Ninja - Men in Black

Groundhog Day - Time after Time

Barfly - Drunken Master

Leaving Las Vegas - Drunken Master II

Seabiscuit - A Day at the Races

The Crying Game - He's My Girl

Lassie Come Home - The Bitch

Have at it!

Monday, July 19, 2004

two weddings, two weekends: part II

Half a lifetime -- Christ!--half a lifetime later, I consider myself very fortunate to have a biggish group of high school friends who are A) friendly with each other, and B) took right away to that tall pretty girl from Braintree I brought home in the early 90s and indoctrinated her in our mysterious ways goofy crap, so that she's not odd man out at the frequent reunions. Kirsti's also still in touch with some people from her youth, but they mostly don't know or don't like each other, leading to lots of individual playdates whenever we get back to MA. So this weekend we were in Ely, MN for Liz & Matt's wedding. Lizzie's an ex-girlfriend--not the first, but the first where there was a substantial amount of good ol' high-school drama. So I got to make the highlight reel in one of the prom pix, which was cool (no, I'm not posting it). The first time I met Matt, the three of us went to a Twins game and he and I had a big conversation about Replacements bootlegs. Unsolicited endorsement received, sir.

Ely's a 4 or 5-hour drive from the Twin Cities. For anyone else it's a crazy haul. Most of the outstaters ended up making some sort of layover in the Cities. We opted to take a connector jet to Duluth/Superior and drive a rental the remaining 2 hours to Ely. We stayed at the Adventure Inn, a newly-remodeled motel with "northwoods-themed" rooms, which were not as tacky as you'd think. Well, okay, they were. Our first room (busy tourist season, and we booked late) was "Winter Wonderland"--sky blue, with little woodland creatures on the handmade quilts and window treatments. Second room was "Summer Sunshine;" sunflower motif, bright yellow walls. Not unlike living in an egg yolk.

The ceremony was short, sweet, outdoors in great weather, officiated by a minister friend but barely religious at all. Matt surprised everyone by singing this song a cappella just before the vows. He makes no claims to singing ability, but it was touching and romantic. Kirsti's not a wedding-cryer, but that's when she lost it. And it's by the Jam! How cool is that? Apparently a few single guys chewed him out later in the evening for raising the bar.

Reception was great fun. I did not have to go through with my threat to punch the groom if he smushed cake in the bride's face. I got to hear Mathleen's ringing endorsement of internet dating services (sorry, it's only funny when she gives it), and the product of same -- really great guy after a long line of flakes; I'm pulling for him, even despite the Cubs fandom. Got to see Liz's parents for the first time in a decade, and her formerly-little brothers, who are now huge and have a bunch of cute kids. Final song was "Da Butt." Can't beat that.

We were invited to the gift opening Sunday at a cabin on one of the lakes up there, but we were pretty sure if we went we'd leave late and miss our plane. Instead we stopped briefly at the International Wolf Center (interesting, although I saw no live wolves) and made our way back to Duluth. We stopped briefly here as an appetizer before the US Hockey Hall of Fame. That was swell, but I have a feeling my UM and BU-based readers may have found it disappointing in its Minnecentricity. Pat LaFontaine represents Michigan (I think Amo Bessone's in the hall too), and while there's a Beanpot program and a story of a typical BU 'Pot win, the sweater in that case is of the Crimson. Surprisingly Harvard is the big Massachusetts representative there, no doubt because of Bill Cleary. Also surprisingly, despite Ceglarski's inclusion, Boston College is nearly nonexistent there -- odd since Ceglarski made a big deal about only recruiting within the US. But I shouldn't protest too much, because more BU attention would surely mean more Eruzione focus, and who needs that?

I was sad that the place next to the HOF was closed. I wanted to get a pin. I'll have to go to a bonspiel there sometime.
two weddings, two weekends

Part I

One of my cousins met a woman from Wheeling IL in college and married her two weeks ago. This was an opportunity for most of my mom's family, from the Rochester area, to converge on the Chicago suburbs. Mom and Donna stayed with us, as did Katie and Todd; the first trip to Chicago for them, and first in a long while without the boys. Friday we did the touristy stuff, taking an architectural cruise and hitting the Art Institute to see if my sister would cry at the site of her favorite painting, which calls for a digression:

One of the boardgames we had as kids was Parker Brothers' Masterpiece. In it you bid at auction for various works of art, all of which were, in this edition, from the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago. Katie's favorite painting was this, and if we ever outbid her on it in this stupid game, she'd cry and pout. I was always a fan of this, and Hopper's probably my favorite artist, but I always found this strangely alluring.

No crying, I don't think. But we all converged on the painting ahead of her and watched her discover it, which was a nice moment. We also saw what little of Millennium Park was open at the time. Since it will be a point of contention for tourists and residents for years to come, I want to go on record as being pro-"The Bean."

Wedding was Saturday. Pretty big affair. We all crashed at the hotel near the reception and I lured 10 people to the nigh-legendary Walker Brothers for breakfast. There was some grousing about driving so far, but the food put a stop to that right quick.
Revealed at last! The link between Patti Page and Tenacious D

And the peculiar thing is this my friends:

the song we sang on that fateful night? It didn't actually sound anything like this song!
-- The D, "Tribute"

We were driving back from the wedding yesterday and "Tennessee Waltz" comes on the radio. In "Tennessee Waltz," the singer laments -- well, here are all the lyrics, since it's short:

I was dancin' with my darlin' to the Tennessee Waltz

When an old friend I happened to see

I introduced her to my loved one

And while they were dancin'

My friend stole my sweetheart from me.

I remember the night and the Tennessee Waltz

Now I know just how much I have lost

Yes, I lost my little darlin' the night they were playing

The beautiful Tennessee Waltz.

Okay, so this means the song being sung is NOT the Tennessee Waltz. It's a song about the Tennessee Waltz..."Tennessee Waltz-prime" if you will. So how do you suppose the Tennessee Waltz being sung about, the one that turns interlopers into little mackdaddies/mommies, goes?

Monday, July 12, 2004

I'm mostly doing this to see what happens when activities designed for LJ get ported into Blogger:

IMDB's Top 100 Best Movies of All Time
generate this HTML for your own page at



Didn't See It/
Started It/
Finished It/
Hated It!


Godfather, The (1972)

Finished It


Shawshank Redemption, The (1994)

Finished It


Godfather: Part II, The (1974)

Finished It


Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The (2003)

Finished It


Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The (2002)

Finished It


Casablanca (1942)

Finished It


Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The (2001)

Finished It


Schindler's List (1993)

Finished It


Shichinin no samurai (1954)

Finished It


Star Wars (1977)

Finished It


Citizen Kane (1941)

Finished It


One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)

Finished It


Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

Finished It


Rear Window (1954)

Finished It


Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Finished It


Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Finished It


Memento (2000)

Finished It


Usual Suspects, The (1995)

Finished It


Pulp Fiction (1994)

Finished It


North by Northwest (1959)

Finished It


12 Angry Men (1957)

Finished It


Fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain, Le (2001)

Finished It


Psycho (1960)

Finished It


Lawrence of Arabia (1962)


Buono, il brutto, il cattivo, Il (1966)


Silence of the Lambs, The (1991)

Finished It


It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

Finished It


Goodfellas (1990)

Finished It


American Beauty (1999)

Finished It


Vertigo (1958)

Finished It


Sunset Blvd. (1950)

Finished It


Matrix, The (1999)

Finished It


Apocalypse Now (1979)

Finished It


Pianist, The (2002)


To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Finished It


C'era una volta il West (1968)


Some Like It Hot (1959)


Third Man, The (1949)

Finished It


Taxi Driver (1976)

Finished It


Paths of Glory (1957)


Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi (2001)

Finished It


Fight Club (1999)

Finished It


Boot, Das (1981)

Finished It


Double Indemnity (1944)

Finished It


L.A. Confidential (1997)

Finished It


Chinatown (1974)

Finished It


Singin' in the Rain (1952)

Finished It


Maltese Falcon, The (1941)

Finished It


M (1931)

Finished It


Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Finished It


Bridge on the River Kwai, The (1957)


All About Eve (1950)

Finished It


Se7en (1995)

Finished It


Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)

Finished It


Saving Private Ryan (1998)

Finished It


Cidade de Deus (2002)


Raging Bull (1980)

Finished It


Rashômon (1950)

Finished It


Wizard of Oz, The (1939)

Finished It


Sting, The (1973)

Started It


Alien (1979)

Finished It


American History X (1998)

Finished It


Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)


Léon (1994)

Finished It


Vita è bella, La (1997)

Finished It


Touch of Evil (1958)

Finished It


Manchurian Candidate, The (1962)

Finished It


2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Finished It


Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The (1948)

Finished It


Great Escape, The (1963)

Finished It


Wo hu cang long (2000)

Finished It


Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Finished It


Clockwork Orange, A (1971)

Finished It


Amadeus (1984)

Finished It


Modern Times (1936)

Finished It


Ran (1985)

Finished It


Annie Hall (1977)

Finished It


Jaws (1975)

Finished It


On the Waterfront (1954)

Finished It


Braveheart (1995)

Hated It!


High Noon (1952)

Finished It


Apartment, The (1960)

Finished It


Fargo (1996)

Finished It


Sixth Sense, The (1999)

Finished It


Aliens (1986)

Finished It


Shining, The (1980)

Finished It


Strangers on a Train (1951)

Finished It


Blade Runner (1982)

Finished It


Metropolis (1927)

Finished It


Duck Soup (1933)

Finished It


Finding Nemo (2003)

Finished It


Donnie Darko (2001)

Finished It


General, The (1927)

Finished It


City Lights (1931)


Princess Bride, The (1987)

Finished It


Toy Story 2 (1999)

Finished It


Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

Finished It


Great Dictator, The (1940)


Sjunde inseglet, Det (1957)


Lola rennt (1998)

Finished It

Which movies have you seen?