Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Because YOU asked for it!

As the Spider said a couple of posts ago, he's on his way to New Jersey to help celebrate "the end of an engagement." Ladybug and I are getting married this very weekend, and the Spider is one of the groomsmen.

Since this effectively turns off the Hive for a little while, it's only fair to answer a couple of requests. The first is from fellow blogger Ms. Maggie, who writes: "But I would have liked for there to have been some words between Harry and Snape AFTER Harry learned the truth. I would love to have known what Snape would have said to Harry."

Yes - she does write; but it's in Spoiler Vision, because it refers to the dratted Seventh Book. (Tracey's take, with a big spoiler alert, can be found here, as can the above comment in context.) Mentally, I and others are already mentally re-writing hunks of the thing. May as well make this bit stick as well. I will warn you, of course, that it may hint at spoiler information, but I am not going to use the Spoiler Vision on the following.


As Harry walked onward into the clearing, a thin-fingered hand stretched down to slip gently over the cracked engraving on the Stone, now lying cool amid the dirt and twigs.

"You should have said something to him," a voice behind said.

The hand withdrew into its black-sleeved robe, and the man straightened but did not turn. "As I'm sure you know, he only saw the people he asked for, James."

"And as you know, Severus, the help we never expect is often the greatest benefit."

"You really think that he would have bothered to reply?" he answered, turning on the others. "Your son has always had the annoying habit of 'knowing it all.' At least Ms. Granger usually has the excuse that she actually DID know the facts. Mr. Potter acts before he even gets that far, and gets insulted when anyone informs him otherwise."

"Fair's fair, Severus," Sirius said. "You know exactly how he felt there."

The shadow of old hurts passed across Snape's face, clouding it like smoke. Sallow even in life, the living memory of the headmaster was paler still, but it did not have the steady pearl sheen of the others. But he did not fire back. He admitted the justice of the statement. For a moment he glanced back over his shoulder, to the jeering of the other Death Eaters as Harry faced them, out of sight. It seemed to be happening a lot farther off.

"Something you wanted to say, Severus?" asked Lupin lightly.

Snape did not answer, but stood still, expecting at any minute that the shade of Harry Potter would walk back into the trees; would join his family, walk away into the sunlight of the grounds, happy at last, forsaking the world's troubles. He would not be surprised. He felt almost like it would not be enough, even, to see them turn their backs on him and go. Would they just gather in a bright circle and then fade to gold before his eyes, without so much as a word?


Maybe nothing else would have gotten him to turn back at that moment but his old nickname, spoken by the voice he best loved in life. He turned to her. She appeared to him almost like the portraits in the castle, as if in a frame, with a unique background, cast about with a billowing glow. The others were worn, sepia prints beside her. Then he blinked and looked at them more closely. Sirius was as he remembered and hated him most, from their school days - he had always lorded it over the House of Slytherin, proud to have "escaped" as he put it - but as he looked more steadily, something in him shifted slightly. Hadn't he been proud to have escaped his childhood home, proud to have been elevated forever beyond the Muggles' filth and prejudice and mulish fears? What appeared to be proper pride in him must have seemed rot to Sirius Black.

And looking for that instant through Sirius' eyes made him see Sirius' smile differently: the joy of it, the feeling that life was long and free and happy, that he could write anything he pleased within its pages. Lupin, too, snapped into focus at once - a shy youth, forever shunned and set apart, through no fault of his own; grateful for his few friends.

James was last, but Severus would possibly have succeeded in avoiding his gaze altogether if he hadn't slipped his hand into his wife's. His eyes felt drawn up the arm to the face that was so like his son's, with the unruly black hair, glasses, and smile. Only the eyes were different.

"I wanted to be misunderstood," he said at last, surprised. He would never have believed it to be true until the instant he heard it, and wondered that he could speak the words without exactly knowing them beforehand. "I knew I could never be liked, so I wanted to be disliked for a good reason, so I could enjoy it. So I could feel like I had a valid grudge against the world."

As he spoke, it all came back to him - all the arrogance, the sniping in the halls, the hexes and plots and crude practical jokes, the cutting words, the dreams of a final vengeance. Severus did not run away from it this time. He had certainly paid it out as good as he'd gotten, and each side had felt justified. For what end? In the end, he had come round to fighting the Dark Lord, though he had to confess, now, that he never quite understood what would happen to him after it was over. But had he ever switched sides?

"It was easier than hating him simply because his eyes were in the wrong face."

He'd been so busy dreaming of Lily's eyes all his life that he had never permitted himself to see what was in James' eyes. It was the final shock - a force so solid that the headmaster's form seemed to waver before it. He recognized them. They were the wrong color, for sure, but they were Harry Potter's eyes. Reaching out, always, to others; disregarding any restriction in order to set things right, if he could - the strengths that of necessity led to his blundering forward until maturity and insight could catch up.

It had gotten quieter behind him. He looked, but could see nothing through the trees, could barely hear what he knew must be shrieks of triumph... but then he heard a whisper as if in his ear. "He's in the castle?"


Cissy, and Harry. Even Draco Malfoy was someone to reach out to for Harry Potter, if he could. Even Severus Snape - though it was too late to be spoken between them.

"Does he realize how shockinly lucky he's been?" he said suddenly, with his old asperity.

They all roared with laughter, even Lily. Perhaps only the dead could fully appreciate the difference - Severus' tone and manner were unchanged, but drained of the venom they'd borne before. It wasn't Severus and his bitterness, Severus and his hate, but just Severus alone; for the first time in many years, Severus Snape, not as he was but as he could have been.

"He was lucky enough to have you," James said, holding out his hand in welcome.

"So he won't be along presently, I expect."

"I expect not."

"Pity," he said, with his old smile. "It would be worth it for the look on his face. But I suppose it would quite spoil the whole point."

Who let the dog chew toys out?

"Let Hercules himself do what he may,The cat will mew and dog will have his day."-
William Shakespeare, Hamlet 5.1

Sparked by a minor league baseball team's promotion in California and a clever idea from a longtime supporter, the St. Paul Saints are making plans to give away 2,500 "Michael Vick" dog chew toys designed with the Atlanta Falcons' team colors and the No. 7 worn by the team's embattled quarterback.

"People expect so many crazy things from us," said Sean Aronson, director of media relations for the American Association baseball team. "When the idea was presented to us, we simply couldn't resist."

Vick pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges related to an alleged dogfighting ring. His trial begins Nov. 26.

The details described in the 18-page indictment against Vick and the national uproar that has ensued led NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to order Vick to stay away from training camp while the league investigates.

Falcons owner Arthur Blank said the team considered suspending Vick for the maximum four games allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, but agreed to let Goodell handle it at this point.

Fans have protested the Falcons’ Flowery Ranch, Ga., complex, the NFL offices in New York and outside the Richmond, Va., courtroom in which Vick was arraigned.

Sunday, the Long Beach (Calif.) Armada minor league baseball team will hold a "Michael Vick Animal Awareness Day." Any fan who brings in a Vick shirt or jersey to be thrown into a bonfire receives free admission and a donation in their name to a local animal rights organization.
A Saints fan, who doesn't want his name published, came up with the chew toy idea and emailed it to Aronson.

Aronson said the Saints would have more details on the promotion on Monday. He added: "We think it's a great idea. It's a way for our fans to let their dogs get back at Michael Vick."


Peaceniks like to throw around the term “chickenhawk” for people who support the current war on Islamonazi terror but never served in the military. What would be a good term for someone who renders opinions about someone’s sobriety but was never a drunk themselves? Winohawk? Does anyone out there have a better term?

Well, I’m about to pull the winohawk card.
Ellen Ratner knows a lot about politics but she wouldn’t know alcoholism if it jumped up and bit her auf ihrem Po. Has she ever peed in a phone booth? Has she ever woken up in someone’s backyard? Has she ever thrown up on the hood of a 1976 Plymouth Volare? Has she ever been pulled over at 2 AM? “Sir, I couldn’t help but notice you were weaving.” “Weaving? I can’t even knit!”

Sure, Alberto Gonzalez is incompetent. No, he did not commit perjury. But the simple reason he can’t be canned now is because the Dems want it too badly. That’s it. I know you libs are so pure and righteous that anyone who disagrees with you can’t just be wrong, they must be mentally deficient or have a nefarious purpose. And all these libs speculating on W’s sobriety who have no idea what they are talking about.

I was a minor league wino. My dad was the Jack Murtha of winoism. When it came to drinking he had boots on the ground. Actually, Jack Murtha is the Jack Murtha of winoism- next time you see him on TV note his nose. Nothing says thirty years of hard liquor more than the Ted Kennedy nose.

I may not be posting for a while. I am going to New Jersey to help the Fly celebrate an important engagement (or, shall I say, the end of an engagement). As a sober person I offer my services as a designated driver.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Break out the tinfoil hats...

....because the truth is out. W had Pat Tillman fragged for supporting Kerry.

Actually, that’s overstating it: He thinks it might have been Bush or our right-wing military acting of its own accord. You’ll find it below at about 3:00 if you’re counting down. Would the president have had one of his own men murdered to prevent a meeting with Noam Chomsky? That’s a given in Olbyworld. But would he have sent the military to do it knowing that the revelation of this murderous order from on high by any of the co-conspirators along the chain of command would have meant his certain impeachment and possible/entirely justifiable trial for murder? But of course. To prevent a Pat Tillman/Waffles photo op? If Bush could pull off 9/11, how hard could something like this be?

And besides, Olby’s technically not asserting anything here. He’s … just “airing it.”

What really offends me about this is how those who "support the troops" have so little respect for them. How does that conversation go? "Bowers, you need to whack Tillman - orders are from the top." And Sergeant Bowers is going salute smartly and then go murder one of his brothers in arms? What the hell kind of people do these moonbats think GIs are?

Obly is replacing Costas on NBC Football Night in America pregame show. Is there a snowball's chance that I will watch?

Friday, July 27, 2007

Hasn't anyone just tried reading the gospels?

Or is it just more fun doing this instead?

New ‘Last Supper’ theory crashes Web sites
Amateur scholar claims Leonardo painting reveals mysterious figures

Of course he does.

MILAN, Italy - A new theory that Leonardo’s “Last Supper” might hide within it a depiction of Christ blessing the bread and wine has triggered so much interest that Web sites connected to the picture have crashed.

News flash! At the Last Supper, Jesus blessed bread and wine! What else has the Church been hiding?

Now Slavisa Pesci, an information technologist and amateur scholar, says superimposing the “Last Supper” with its mirror-image throws up another picture containing a figure who looks like a Templar knight and another holding a small baby.

Now, I know that Leonardo was a ridiculously bright fellow who, among other things, actually wrote in mirror-image script in his notebooks... but aren't we reaching here?

“I came across it by accident, from some of the details you can infer that we are not talking about chance but about a precise calculation,” Pesci told journalists when he unveiled the theory earlier this week.

Yeah, darndest thing. I just happened to be screwing around with the skew and rotate functions in Photoshop and whaddya know, all this esoterica came tumbling out.

Or, of course, you could read the Bible and find the straight story in black-and-white. The only bit of real information here, that Christ blessed the bread and wine, was already known; da Vinci's fresco didn't suddenly end 14 centuries of doubt on that point. What is with people needing to find all sorts of secret messages that overturn or contradict the plain statements that are already there? "This must not be what He really meant; let's take a painting, someone's old diaries, mix it with a bunch of crap someone made up to make his family look important, and say that the Church covered all of it up in favor of the actual Bible."

Mastering the original material is hard enough without this crockpottery.

Quote of the day, part II

Courtesy of Rob at Crab Apple Lane...

Sail on, sail on
I will rise each day to greet the dawn
So high, so high
I've found my freedom flying high
Without my wings, you know I'd surely die
I've found my freedom flying high
I climb the mountains of the sky

Blame the Barking Spider, he's why I own six Kansas albums. (And perhaps he can correct the quote: I don't think they repeat the freedom line, but that CD is in a box in my new apartment.)

Stealing Air Conditioners

The high cost of copper and aluminum scrap is spurring thieves on:

The building that houses Toledo police’s Safe-T-City program adjacent to the Scott Park district police station could be a little warm this summer after thieves made off with its air conditioning condensing unit.

The crime occurred between May 2 and Wednesday, when an officer was checking on preparations for the summer safety program that caters to children entering kindergarten.Police hope to replace the unit before the first session on June 13.

The officer noticed the top part of the unit on the ground as he was going into the building, 2201 Nebraska Ave. He found that someone pulled or pried away a large metal fence around the unit, cut the copper tubing and other wiring, and removed most of the condensing unit, police said.

One of our customers - a tavern owner got hit last week. They hit businesses because they know at night no one is there. Churches are hit hard by this.

Is this a false memory of my childhood, or did criminals have an unwritten ban on stealing from churches?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Harry in review, part III

Folks, before you go on - read part one and then part two. Then we can roll forward! Cry, "For Harry, God, and St. George!"

19. Rallying the students: likewise a letdown. This is where Draco could have stared down that simpering Pansy Parkinson and stood with Hogwarts. (Grade – P.) Here, let me:
... “Help Potter?” said Pansy Parkinson in shock.
... “You can clear out, but I’ve had enough,” Malfoy said roughly.

... “But Draco…” Pansy said. “This is for us!”
... “Really?” he replied. “How is this working out for us so far, Parkinson?” She recoiled when hearing her last name, as if Malfoy had dashed a cup of pumpkin juice in her face. “All he does is take for himself. He says it will help purebloods, but when?” Unconsciously, his voice had begun to rise. “I’ve lost my wand, my home, my friend, and my freedom. What's next? Do I lose my family, get killed? Why? This is MY school! I will not give it up just so Voldemort can kill a worthless git like Harry Potter!”
... The hall was about to cheer, but at the word “Voldemort,” they stood dumbstruck, forgetting even to take offense at the insult to Harry. Malfoy suddenly stabbed out with his hand, and shoving aside Parkinson’s arms, he rummaged in her robe and yanked her wand free. “Shove off if you want to be pawns,” he said to the Slytherin table. He turned back to the astonished Professor McGonigal and said, “Slytherin for Hogwarts,” and raised the wand, which fired off green and silver sparks to the ceiling.
... There was a small silence, and McGonigal said, “Very good, Mr. Malfoy. Anyone else?”
... “Hufflepuff for Hogwarts!” said Ernie McMillan at once, and there was a shower of yellow and black.
... Cho Chang stood. “Ravenclaw for Hogwarts!” she cried, and fired off sparks of blue.
... And a dozen voices competed at once to yell, “Gryffindor for Hogwarts!” and a wave of scarlet and gold burst out. Under cover of the cheers and fireworks, Harry noticed that many of the Slytherins had slunk from the hall – but a solid minority remained. Malfoy still stood, arms folded now, looking over the entire crowd as if he was personally leading each and every one to glory. Well, it was a start, he supposed. Malfoy caught his eye and they regarded each other coolly; then, for no reason he could discover, Harry grinned and stuck his tongue out at him.
... Draco arched his eyebrows in amusement, and then called, “Haven’t you somewhere to be?”

20. The fight for the tiara: mostly well-done in the execution, as Harry gets to put his Seeker skills to use, but kind of pointless in the consequence – for one thing, the tiara perishes in the Fiendfyre, and for another, it has pretty much no effect on Draco Malfoy. You’d think that being asked to kill Dumbledore, having to host 180-proof evil under his roof, having his wand stolen, watching one of his best buds snuff it, and having his life saved by Harry Potter would be enough to sink into his head. Worse, Rowling had set us up for Draco’s change of heart, where (as the Tick would say) he “knocks off all that evil!” Then she never gives it. That was a serious misstep. Grade – D.

21. I’ve just noticed that with the rewrite Draco wouldn’t be confronting Harry about the tiara, it would just be Crabbe and Goyle. I give myself a P. But - but still - somehow I think that this beats the "INSERT SYMBOLISM HERE" moment, where the Slytherin hourglass is smashed during the fight. I think the book is stronger if all four houses band together, the way Dumbledore and Snape worked together. Even the Sorting Hat talked about it!

22. The Shrieking Shack: poor Severus. It’s a hell of a way to die. But it does demonstrate what he’s been doing under the deadliest peril for seven straight books, and unlocks the character most completely. Grade – E+.

23. Three cheers for Percy. I knew that deep down he wasn’t such a prat. Head Boy, after all, and the Weasley blood runs in him. I would NOT want to be Rookwood. Grade – E.

24. Eleven cheers for Rowling herself, for making death stick. Grade – O.

25. Harry in the Forbidden Forest: this is troubling to me, especially after the curse lands and he goes down. I was a little hazy on the explanation for his ability to come back. Was it just the nobility of the thing, his choosing not to resist? Did his mother’s blood have something to do with it? But then why was Voldy such a threat for the rest of the book? Did it have something to do with his possession of the Stone and Cloak, being struck by a spell from the Elder Wand, thus uniting the three elements of the Hallows and giving Harry control over death? That seems the likeliest according to the logic of the story, but Dumbledore seems not to give that as an answer. Of course, at this point it was about four in the morning and I couldn’t understand English anymore. In any case, this is how Harry does in the last Horcrux – himself – and so it’s essential that he do it and then somehow get back to finish the job. There’s a ready explanation at hand. Even if that’s not what the book actually said, I’ll give it to her. Grade – A. It goes up to E if it turns out that the Hallows thing is the explanation, and I don’t remember it right.

26. Yay, I got my centaur charge! Grade – O.

27. Neville rocks so wicked hard I have to go beyond grade O. Fact: cutting off Nagini’s head with the sword of Godric Gryffindor is AWESOME. I waved a lit Zippo over my head while twelve ninjas started wailing on guitars. Bonus points – this means that tool Griphook lost the sword AGAIN. Grade – \m/ ^.^ \m/

28. Leader say Mrs. Weasley don’t shiv. Grade – O.

29. After all of that, it’s almost a foregone conclusion that Harry rules Voldemort. I don’t know that I was totally behind that explanation of the Elder Wand thing – I would have to reread it to really get what was being said. What I do get is how this sums up why Harry has become the best wizard of his age. He always had the character, he used that to get the superior knowledge, and then all of that plus his skill means a walkover, one-spell duel. Voldemort may as well tried to fight him with a conductor’s baton. Good touch at the end with repairing his own wand, and the salute from the portraits. Grade – E.

30. The epilogue: Necessarily scant on the details. Still, I would have liked to have known more. Did Harry ever reconcile with his Aunt Petunia? Does Dudley run Grunnings now? Has Krum retired from International Quidditch, did he play in England – or did Harry? Did he ever follow through on becoming an Auror? Etc, etc. One thing that kind of bothered me is that most of the Order wound up snuffing it. It's not that I preferred half the school under shrouds - it was bad enough that Colin Creevey was killed - it's just that, logically, one would expect the Order to suffer losses at a lesser rate, being fully-trained (some of them professional Aurors) and well-practiced. Grade – A+.

So, that’s it. I rather suspect that Harry did become an Auror, if he isn’t teaching Defense Against the Dark Arts. He’s already got job training for those, after all. Luna is in the Department of Mysteries. Kingsley runs the Magical Enforcement department. Hermione could of course teach Charms or Transfiguration if she pleased, but I think she’s more of a writer and researcher. Percy, naturally, is now the undersecretary to the Minister of Magic, his father. George is carrying on at Weasley’s with Ron. Lee Jordan is now editor-in-chief of the Daily Prophet. Ginny held the Charms post herself for a while after Professor Flitwick became headmaster, but resigned to accept a full-time position on the Wizengamot. The Patils do astronomical research. Draco is a resident at St. Mungo’s, and his potions work has given him a thriving private practice.

He never gave back Pansy’s wand. (She moved to Yorba Linda and currently owns 43 cats.)

Thanks for reading! Any thoughts? I know Spoiler Vision is unavailable in comments, but go ahead - everyone is advised to be careful clicking through if you're not done reading! You have been warned!

Harry in review, part two

11. Between popping up to save Harry and taking the lead while Harry has been sidetracked by the Hallows, Ron comes into his own and lives up to his family standard. We really see what Hermione sees in Ron, especially as he overcomes his darkest fears to destroy the locket. Best Ronald Weasley ever. Grade – O.

12. The capture and escape: this began to stretch my credulity a bit. The capture was well-done, but the escape was very strange. I fully expected more of Peter Pettigrew’s help to make this happen, to meet the “life debt” from Goblet of Fire; his fate was ignoble and useless. Equally useless was Fenrir Greyback. Obviously, if you introduce him in “Half Blood Prince” you have to use him later, but this was kind of a letdown. [Aside – as I commented at SarahK’s blog, I had a dream that I’d hunted down Greyback and presented each of his fangs on a gold chain to Bill and Fleur as keepsakes; it’s sort of sad when my subconscious spits out a better plot turn than the actual book.] Obviously, Rowling needed Harry to get Griphook’s help and the wand info from Ollivander, and so on… it was a nice bonus to be able to rescue Luna and the others as well – it’s just not ringing true for me in the way the Ministry raid did. Darn it, I can’t quite figure it out, but it irks me a little. Grade – A.

13. It’s realistic that they would luck into something that was essential later (Draco’s wand), and Harry certainly makes great use out of his terrible mistake in breaking the Taboo. It also makes sense that Harry stays free so long precisely because Voldemort isn’t leading the hunt himself, and forbidding his followers to kill him when they get the chance. It makes sense that therefore they can escape Malfoy’s home with help. One of the better parts of the story dynamic is the consistency of underestimating Harry and his friends. Voldy himself calls it luck in chapter one. In fact, it’s resourcefulness and determination, and we see Harry pass these on back in “Order of the Phoenix.” Grade – E.

14. All the scenes at Bill and Fleur’s home are wonderful, from Dobby’s funeral to Harry’s deal with Griphook, and his interview with Ollivander. This is where Harry turns the corner. To his many talents he adds the initiative, of which we’ve only seen flashes so far: in many of the books Harry is nearly always reacting, either to events as they happen (as he tries to untangle them) or to his friends (as one or the other needs him or gives new information) or even to Dumbledore. He decides to stick to Dumbledore’s plan to finish off the horcruxes, but it’s much like what we saw near the end of “Half Blood Prince.” It’s the difference between being forced and moving ahead under one’s own power. It’s the difference between letting your talents bail you out and actually using them for a single aim. He has mastered himself. He doesn’t just ask questions, but knows what to ask, why to ask it… Not surprisingly, this is where both he and we realize that he actually can win. Grade – O.

15. Busting into Gringott’s: yet more daring escapes, and Death Eaters knocking down the door, and etc. etc. SEEN IT. And I hated that initial reaction to a well-written set piece, especially one so essential to the plot. My first feeling was, how many times can we do the “Harry does something desperate and foolish and barely escapes?” Then I realized why it was different – this is the first time he’s tried it since he’s turned that corner. I took a closer look and compared it to the parallel plan, breaking into the Ministry, and that’s when I saw the difference: no desperate panic. He knows how little time he’s got, sees the goblins and knows the Dark Wizards are going to arrive, and sticks it out until he gets what he’s come for and goes. Sure, Griphook screws them out of the sword (little fink), but (again) they get the goods. That brings up the score. Grade – E.

16. Hogsmeade: three cheers for Aberforth, for the true tale of Dumbledore, and for Harry passing the last test of his loyalty to and admiration for the headmaster. Two cheers for the last hidden passage into the castle. One big razz to the stupidity of Harry’s pursuers. They didn’t even search the bar? Morons. Grade – A.

17. The resistance: great to see everyone again, and to see Harry’s friends rally around him. You can see the parallel development of free allies vs. Voldy’s fear-driven masses. They are willing to face death and suffer alongside Harry, and they don't fall for Voldemort's "it's his fault you are getting killed by Death Eaters" jive. On the other hand, even the Malfoys think they're getting a bad bargain in the end. Grade – E.

18. Uhm – I know Ron’s doing that whole “fulfill your destiny” thing, and it’s really awesome, but I call total Bravo Sierra on his being able to fake Parseltongue and getting into the Chamber of Secrets for the basilisk fangs. NO WAY. Grade – T.

Shorter? Sure. But that's just a deep breath. The next hunk is the big one. Scroll up, friends!

The Potter review, part one

The book! That’s it, the end, the final installment of the Potterness – The Deathly Hallows is out, read, digested, and now I’m ready for some half-considered blurting on the subject. I’m going to use Spoiler Vision, so highlight the blank areas to read up. Beforehand, I wish to make clear that I don’t have the book in front of me, since the Ladybug is annoyed that I zoomed ahead and is now zooming to catch up. As a result I can’t do a lot of quoting or such. We’ll be assigning the traditional wizarding grades to each element: Outstanding, Exceeds expectations, Acceptable, Poor, Dreadful, and Troll. And as this gets long, it will be chopped up into three installments.

These are my general impressions, as follows:

1. Good use of the ancillary characters. In particular, I like how Rowling is willing to let people be themselves: for example, Mundungus bailing on the mission and being generally unreliable in the pinch. Grade – E.

2. Early chapters: I felt that some of this was very odd. Why not let the Dursleys take Hedwig and the Firebolt for safekeeping? At the very least, they could have given Hedwig to one of the decoys, and then she could Portkey to the Burrow that way. If you’ve got six fake Hedwigs, obviously the real one is going to be a giveaway; to say nothing of toting Harry’s distinctive Firebolt as cargo. It’s not like Mad-Eye Moody to have a plan that he hasn’t thought through completely. Unfortunately, it looks like Rowling required Harry not to be able to zip around on the broom or send messages, so she dispensed with them in a way that made them too obviously plot elements. Hedwig deserved better. On the other hand, the characters were strong, and that’s the point. I liked Dudley and Harry’s good-bye. Grade – A.

3. Voldemort can fly? What the heck is that? It seemed, again, like nothing more than a cheap way to be able to get him in on the action as required while letting him run around the Continent on his Elder Wand search. Having the other characters act surprised that he can do this is not remotely enough to establish it as a viable element of the story. Grade – D.

4. Wonderful near-escape at the beginning. Rowling’s action sequences have gotten better. Grade – E. (And no, that's not a spoiler. Everyone should know there are going to be some near-escapes, and this is early. Read up!)

5. As much of a beast as Rita Skeeter is, I think it’s very strong for Rowling to show that she’s been abiding (more or less) by her agreement with Hermione from “Goblet of Fire.” She’s telling the truth, albeit maliciously. Harry learns a lot this way, and it sets up much of the later book very well – it naturally flows from the characters and the previous action. It only highlights the oddity of Flying Super Voldemort even more when you see that Rowling knows how to do this as well as it’s done here. Grade – O.

6. Odd things that worked, more or less: Kreacher coming around so quickly, the Taboo on Voldmort’s name (I was visited every ten minutes by Death Eaters just writing this review), talking Patronii, and Harry’s wand defending him. I found some of the explanations a little dodgy. The talking Patronus Charm especially teetered on the line: I do remember mention in previous books of non-owl messaging between wizards, so this at least had the realm of possibility about it. But this was introduced as a powerful, hard-to-master defensive spell with a particular application, and now it’s a singing telegram? Grade – A.
7. The raid on the Ministry – Umbridge is as odious as ever; she doesn't even bother with disguises now, her inner bitch is quite apparent. Rowling’s chief strength has always been in characters, so much that she has a good ear for trusting them. Moreover, she trusts the reader to stay with the characters even when they’re making mistakes the reader would “avoid” (in the sense that the reader knows it’s a mistake as it’s happening). The mis-steps are a nearly-seamless part of the storyline. In this case, it means that our Three Amigos take a truly foolhardy challenge and lose their stable base of operations as a result, though they do secure the goods. Another fine set piece. Grade – O.

8. I liked that it wasn't just Harry running around destroying horcruxes; it was obvious that in some ways, they were in over their heads. Remember, these are 17-year olds who skipped their NEWT year in school. It's the wizarding equivalent of a bunch of law students arguing a case against Perry Mason before the Supreme Court. As a result, I didn’t find (like others) that the forest stuff dragged on too long. In fact, it dragged on the proper amount of time. They struggled terribly and reached an impasse. In many ways it was the most “realistic” part of the book. It’s only after Ron’s breakaway and return that they get unstuck, and something that big is usually what it takes. Grade – E.

9. Godric’s Hollow: a disaster from Harry’s point of view. A fine chapter from ours. We needed to know about Harry’s past, and this was well-executed: not forcing, full of details and fine touches. (Somehow, I pictured the town as somewhat of a larger version of New Hope/Peddlar’s Village in Pennsylvania.) Grade – E.

10. Dumbledore’s gifts: the book is perfect, the snitch is odd but well-done. The Deluminator is the most curious… How does it pick up Hermoine like a wireless whenever she mentions Ron? Is it because she is his light? In a way (less than the talking Patronii) it’s somewhat of a plot device to enable Ron to find them again, only with valuable information they couldn’t have otherwise – but I think Rowling makes it smoother. Grade – A.

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Watching your step, and the skies at Busch Gardens

Here in Tampa, Busch Gardens wants to sell beer throughout the park.

Do roller coasters and beer mix?

Busch Gardens is hoping so. Officials from the amusement park asked the Tampa City Council this week to consider allowing beer to be sold all over the park.

Rather than in just a few select locations. The park would need to change its alcohol license to make that happen. Currently, beer sales and consumption is limited mostly to three restaurants in the park - Desert Grill, Zambia Smokehouse and Crown Colony House Restaurant. There's also beer in the Busch Gardens' Hospitality House, where patrons 21 and older can join the Brewmaster's Club and consume free samples of Busch beverages.

Busch Gardens is owned by the brewing company that makes Budweiser and Bud Light.

Consider going on Sheekra with a belly full of Bud. I can see guys hanging over the side barfing up their internal organs.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Allow me to elaborate

The story, on ESPN.com: Still-suspended Simon re-signs with Islanders

Translation: The fans are sick to our stomachs.

NEW YORK -- Chris Simon got a second chance from the New York Islanders.

The Isles are up the creek. They've had major personnel losses. Last season's number two center has chosen to play in Russia with the exiled Alexei Yashin rather than return to the team.
The rugged forward [cheap-shot artist], still serving a [too-short] record 25-game NHL suspension for [an ambush] a two-handed, swing-swinging attack against the Rangers' Ryan Hollweg last season, re-signed with the Islanders on Monday.
Simon missed the final 15 regular-season games in the Islanders' late push to the playoffs and the entire five-game loss to Buffalo in the first-round postseason series.

The Islanders missed Simon, his grit, his leadership, his measly 27 points...

Had New York advanced further,

Pigs with monocles and top hats would have flown out of our bums.

Simon could've completed his suspension in the playoffs. But since he hadn't missed a total of 25 games, the remaining five carry over to next season.

Game Six is Saturday, October 13th, in Philadelphia. Those cats will eat him alive.

The ban was the longest in terms of games missed in NHL history.

Gary Bettman was too gutless to ban Todd Bertuzzi for a full season, at minimum; then the lockout kept him from having to make this, among many other tough decisions.

Marty McSorley was suspended 23 games in February 2000 for knocking out Donald Brashear with a stick-swinging hit. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman stretched that punishment to one year, and McSorley never played in the league again.

Of course, it was easy to ban McSorely at the very end of his career; consequently it had no sting in it. Someone can ask Ryan Hollweg or Steve Moore how much impact that's had on future incidents.

..."I take a lot of pride in being an Islander and I didn't consider playing anywhere else this season but on Long Island," [Simon] said in a statement.

"I can't believe they want me back after this. Nobody else would have me."

"Everyone knows the respect I have for [coach] Ted Nolan, but it goes well beyond that."

"I respect Ted so much I publicly embarrassed him and our franchise."

"Everyone connected with the Islanders, from the owner to the fans, have been first-class."

"Except me. Hopefully we'll forget that it ever happened, at least until the next joker comes along to get me off the hook."

"I cannot wait to get the season started."

"But I may want to skip anything in Madison Square Garden. I mean, it wouldn't be fair to the guys if the fans just booed me all the time and didn't get to them eventually."

... Simon had 10 goals and 17 assists with a plus-17 rating in 67 games.

In other words, the Islanders can't do without him defensively, even if they preferred it that way. Even with him they were in the bottom five in the league in shots allowed per game.

"Our staff was unanimous in wanting to bring Chris Simon back," [GM Garth] Snow said in a statement.

"Ladies and gentlemen of the press, we're over the barrel."

"He's an outstanding leader, and year after year he contributes on the offensive end."

"Hey, 27 points is contributing! I know that's like one month for Sid, whaddya want from me? Maybe he'll catch lightning in a bottle again and light it up like in '98."

I know. I shouldn't be bitter, right? And in the long run, it's hard to see if he can repent if he never gets an opportunity. I'm just a little rattled after recent personal experience, and the far more serious stories I've been reading lately, especially here and over here. Simon's had six suspensions. I can understand how Ted Nolan would want him to have another chance, since he himself spent ten years inexplicably blackballed from the NHL. Those are high dues, and he's made them count by turning in the fine work he's done with the Islanders. Snow, too, after watching the mass defection on July 1, has gotten the team together.

Let's say that I'm hoping this turns out better than I fear it will, for Simon and the Islanders. If he can truly show that he's not the same guy who tried to behead Hollweg, then I'll come back to this space and I'll say so.

Monday, July 23, 2007

One, two, three, chat-chat-chat

Yes, it's time once again to usurp Joe Morgan's place as lead baseball analyst for the Worldwide Leader, courtesy of FJM. As always, this is straight cut-and-paste, without reading the answers until I'm finished. I'm going to click over and read what KT had to say about the real thing while you scroll on:

Bernard (Princeton, NJ): Hi Joe! At one point do the Red Sox start to worry about that team in the Bronx?

I don’t think “worry” is the correct word, Bernard. The Yankees have a great lineup and score a lot of runs, which helps to cover up their rotation and overused bullpen. As a result, they will go on stretches where they look like the best team in baseball, and then a couple of bats will run cold and their lack of reliable pitching shows. Right now they’re streaking against some poor teams, but they still have to make up eight games in less than half a year, so if anyone should worry, it’s the Yankees and not the Red Sox.

Kwame (New York, NY): Joe can you pinpoint anything that would explain Beltran's struggles? He's killing the Mets in the middle of the order right now. Is it because Delgado is having a bad year? With his tools he should be hitting .290 during an "off" year.

But Beltran isn't really a .290 hitter anyway; he's a .275 hitter with good pop, walks a lot, and he plays a fine centerfield. This season, despite some soft stretches, Beltran still leads the team in HR, is second in slugging among regulars, third in total bases, third in walks… he’s also 14 for 16 in steals.

Last season was something of a high-water mark for Beltran, and even though he’s not up to that level this season, he’s still hitting better than he did two years ago. Delgado's been coming on over the past few weeks, and David Wright has hit behind him as well, so it's not lack of protection, just the normal variations from year to year. He’s only thirty, it’s not time to run up a white flag on Carlos Beltran.

Randy(Knoxville,TN): Hi Joe...I dont get the move by the Cubs to get Jason Kendall. He isn’t hitting or playing particularly well it seems. The buzz words being bandied about are 'leadership' and 'caretaker', but Koyie Hill seems to have handled our pitchers well. What is your take on Kendall and what he means for the Cubs? Thanks for the time, Joe.

A sideways move at best. Kendall has been one of the worst-hitting regulars in all of baseball this season. Obviously the Cubs hope that he’ll rebound somewhat to his Pittsburgh form, but there are two big warning signs: first, he’s got a lot of mileage on him for a catcher (1600 games and counting), and second, he’s been declining for some time, in all offensive areas: his power’s down (and with a career high of 14 HR, it was never that “up”) and he’s not on base as often.

In the NL he can hit seventh or eighth, hopefully draw a walk in front of the pitcher, get moved over on a sacrifice, and then be driven in by the top of the order. He can also teach some of the finer points of catching to the young guys, which isn’t going to help if he’s playing in front of them all the time. Game experience counts as much as the instruction he could offer. Really, there’s not much else he can do except not get punched in the head by Carlos Zambrano.

Scotty (Warren, Mi): If Zumaya and Rodney come back healthy for the Tigers pen are they the team to beat in the American League?

It would mean avoiding Todd Jones to close games, and that couldn’t hurt. Not that Rodney’s numbers are that good, but when healthy I’m sure he’ll pitch better than he was. The offense just has to keep pace, and Ordonez, Sheffield, Guillen, and Granderson aren’t slowing up.

Boston is the most serious challenge they have, and that’s while carrying some dead wood in the batting order. Detroit leads the majors in runs scored, but are 13th in ERA; Boston is fifth in runs and third in ERA. Also remember that Detroit plays in a tougher division and has to worry about Minnesota and Cleveland – only 11-11 combined, with 14 games left against them. Boston’s got six against the Yanks, but are already 7-5 on them.

Joe (DC): Besides firing the owner, what are three things the Orioles need to do to become contenders again in the next 3-5 years?

It looks like they can build a great rotation around Bedard, Guthrie, and Loewen (as long as he gets his control under control). I’d start there. Next, I’d see if anyone would like to take a flyer on Miguel Tejada or Melvin Mora at the deadline. I may even be persuaded to part with Brian Roberts, who is still getting on base very well and is only 30, after all. But I’d have to be really impressed with the offer, since he’s a solid contributor at second base. After that, it depends on how aggressively Baltimore wants to pursue free agents. They could use upgrades at catcher, first, and third, so it's not an overnight fix.

Sean (Washington DC): Joe, great to see you getting an early start on the chats, thanks! I was wondering with the way Willis is pitching right now, what would a team really want to give up for him? Also, have you ever thought about writing a book?

To start from the end, I write all the time, but I don’t always finish the darned things. Regarding Willis – he’s the most intriguing pitcher in the trade market right now. But it’s just like you observe: his walks are up for the past two years, he looks like he’s not the same guy, and that is holding down his value. I’m convinced he hasn’t moved yet because Florida is holding out hope that some teams will start to drive the price up. There are a dozen teams that could use another starter, and the Willis from 2003-2005 represents a solid upgrade on a lot of guys; but would you give up a lot for the Willis from this year? The Brewers may roll the dice sometime in the next week, if they feel like they can’t stay ahead of Chicago. (Surprisingly, the Cubs have had a fine rotation, it's not just Zambrano and Lilly.)

Raymond (Wichita, KS): Hey Joe, What is your take on the Royals success since the middle of May? Do you see good signs in the way they have been playing?

It’s very encouraging. The young players are getting some valuable playing time right now. They also have that kid Billy Butler hitting well in the outfield in AAA. If they get a typical progression from Gordon, Teahen, Buck, etc., the Royals could threaten .500 next season.

Adam (Dayton): Hey Joe! If you were GM of the Reds (there's a thought), would you deal Griffey Jr and/or Adam Dunn?

I would probably deal Griffey for the right package in return, and with his consent; Dunn I would keep. You’ve got to be able to build around something next season. The Twins would love Junior; I’ve been saying that often enough, but I don’t think Griffey would agree to a deal there. The Braves do have young players to offer Cincy, and Griffey would be more amenable to a move there.

John, Akron: Hopefully you will answer a Indians Question...What are your thoughts on Grady Sizemore as a centerfielder and also what do you expect out of Travis Hafner in the second half? Thanks for answering...

I really like Sizemore’s game. He gives you more than most centerfielders in baseball. Right now he’s not in the same defensive class as Ichiro or Torii Hunter, but who is? He’s young and can learn. He’s certainly got the wheels to get to a lot of balls. At the plate, he’s a force – speed, power, (on base) average.

Hafner’s been hitting the ball on the ground a bit more often this season, so I suspect that for him it’s just a matter of a small adjustment in his swing. He is still drawing walks and helping the team. I hope that he can get into a groove in the last eight weeks, maybe hitting another 12-15 homers over the last 60 games as the Indians try to catch Detroit.

Maureen (Boston): Joe, I was just wondering, what's your first baseball memory? I'm also thinking of taking my daughter to her first game this summer and besides Fenway, if cost was no object where would you recommend I take her?

It would be hard to do better than Fenway Park for a first-ever baseball experience. You’ve got a very good team in one of the great historic ball yards on Earth. I’d also try to get her out to a few minor league games, to follow some of the younger players and get a much closer look at the action on the field. It will help her appreciate the game even more.

My first baseball memory was rooting for the New York Mets in ’82 and ’83, when our best player was George Foster, and being flabbergasted that the Mets got Keith Hernandez from St. Louis. It was like we were trying to be a real team all of a sudden. Then Strawberry and Gooden arrived, they got Gary Carter from the Expos (he hit homers in his first two games in Shea, as I recall), and it was off to the races.

john (denver): Do you think the rockies can contend, and how good do you think Matt Holliday is?

I think the Rockies need another piece or two to really contend, since their pitching has to scare you a little if you’re a fan. Aaron Cook allows a lot of runners and doesn’t strike out people, which means that if the ground balls find holes he’ll tend to lose. But it’s not a bad team overall. As for Holliday, his splits are like so many others Coors hitters – much better at home – in fact, over .200 higher slugging at home. Worse, he also gets on base much better at home, .422 to .322. All told he’s a 1.064 monster at Coors, and a .758 mouse around the rest of the circuit. It’s not a comforting statistic. One could do worse, though.

Nick (Chicago): Do you make much of a team's record away from home? The Brewers lead their division with a sub-500 road record and the Tigers also lead their division with an outstanding road record.

This is a strange little statistic. The Brewers are a young team, by and large, and they don’t have a lot of shut-down starters. It’s easier to have problems on the road with those conditions. They’ve also led their (inferior) division for most of the way, so teams gun for them when they come into town. This is more of a postseason concern, when one bad road series pretty much ends your season unless you’re perfect in your own park. But since that’s at most 19 games, it’s hard to predict. Anyone can get hot for four weeks and look unbeatable.

Washtionton DC: I am from St Louis Mo and a long time St Louis Cardinals fan. I was wondering what next year has in store for the Cardinals as of moving or acquiring players this year or during the off season?

Speaking of hot for four weeks... [I swear that's how the questions came up.]

Well, they want pitching; their best starter has been converted reliever Adam Wainwright. I would look for near-ready prospects with every move I made. I’d hope beyond hope that someone would take Edmonds and Rolen off of my hands for the stretch run in reply for some younger talent. I’d build around Pujols and Duncan in the order, try to rebuild the rotation, and then make a couple of signings here and there to get the team back into contention in a couple of seasons. This year is a lost cause, and the core of the Cardinals will only be older next season. They won a title with them so there’s no cause to complain; time to rebuild.

Fishing with Jailbait

….will catch you twenty-three pervs in Polk County FL over the weekend.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office has charged 23 men with soliciting sex from a child via the Internet.According to Polk County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Carrie Rogers, those arrested either lived or were staying in cities around Florida and traveled to Polk County to an undercover location with the purpose of having sex with a child. Undercover detectives used chat rooms and instant messaging to direct suspects to the location.One suspect is a youth hockey coach in Orlando, one is a volunteer firefighter, and one is a former deputy sheriff from Marion County and currently employed by the Department of Homeland Security. One is a registered sex offender from the state of Ohio.

One of my guilty pleasures is the Dateline: To Catch a Predator series. It is a great study on the nature of addiction. For one thing, whatever it is that makes these guys do it transcends age and race and social stature. From rabbis, youth pastors, cancer doctors, computer programmers, GIs just back or going to Iraq, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker.

Some of these guys have even seen the show and recognize Chris Hanson when he comes out to grill them. I’m not the kind of guy who throws around the phrase “demon possession”, but what else explains the power of the jones?

Mind you, the Polk County Sheriff has officers hunting pervs on the web full-time.

Friday, July 20, 2007

No reward is worth this

As some of you know, I ref hockey games. Or, more accurately, I ref “hockey” games. Sometimes it’s roller hockey, but more often it’s dek hockey.

The missing C is intentional – it stands for Class, a substance totally unknown to a few of the players. They curse and whine every time anything goes against them. They think that they never commit any penalties whatsoever, and loudly demand penalties any time someone brushes into them. One can’t be a ref for very long without expecting and enduring such treatment.

Thing is, such a player can’t possibly be objective, and can’t begin to understand that they aren’t being objective. The ref is the one who has to do it for them, and they don’t like it, and they pitch tantrums like a three-year old hearing “NO” in the candy aisle.

My folks brought me up to be very polite, and tantrums were definitely Not Allowed – as in, “Report to your room immediately” and “I’ll be in shortly to paddle your buttocks.” Alas, this is not an option for the ref. It’s an uncrossable line: players do not lay hands on officials, and vice-versa. A ref may restrain a player while breaking up a fight, or get between people in an argument, and that’s it.

Well, this past week Mr. Unmentionable pole-vaulted that line.

You may recall Mr. U, though not by that name. I bawled him out in language not fit for mixed company, in fact. I was boiling over. Thing is, that miserable little puke does this sort of thing all the time. He’s the worst whiner I’ve ever seen on a rink. In this instance, his team took a penalty early, and for the rest of the evening my partner and I took a shower of the usual garbage – you missed a slash, that’s tripping, you’d call that on us, get your head out of your ass, you’re biased, you’re throwing the game for the other team… Yes, gentle readers, that is not unusual – we are actually told that, for $20 per game, we are intentionally trying to make a dek hockey team lose. But my favorite is Mr. U, on his way to the penalty box, telling me “You think you’re cops because you have a whistle” – the awesome power to influence a dek hockey game has gone to our heads! Today it’s two minutes, tomorrow it’s forced labor camps in the parking lot! Call the FBI!

Not surprisingly, the more crap someone dishes, the less they’re able to take. An angry-yet-reasonable person will stare in disbelief – but they’ll hear your explanation, even if they disagree. Ol’ Rumplestiltsken, however, will shriek, and then tell you to fuck off, asshole. I’ve taken this for ten years, when someone like Mr. U couldn’t take it for a month.

On top of that, I get the usual dose of the standard ribbing that men dish out in friendship: “You’re reffing? Aw crap.” Or, “Couldn’t you play goal instead so I can get a hat trick?” Or, “Cut your hair, you hippie.” Etc. Except that in my case, there’s that manners thing. So besides this, I get people who cross that line as well – who cut to draw blood, under cover of simply kidding around, and who treat me with no respect at all precisely because they know I’m not going to make an issue out of it. And really, life’s too short.

Mr. U, however, is a bit delusional. He thinks he can actually shove me on a rink while I’m trying to do my job. I’m not sure how long his suspension will be – the rest of the season sounds just to me – but there’s something more basic that’s on my mind. It’s not the shove, or his pathetic mewling, or even the assumption that any ghetto hockey league is worth all of this grief. It’s the contemptible attitude. I know that next week he’s going to show up despite that suspension and address me as if I were an idiot child, and not an adult. He’s going to come along with some jive about what I did wrong. If I do, by some miracle, get an apology, it will immediately be followed by “BUT” and a further lecture about how bad I am reffing, and what a piece of shit I am.

I’ll save him the trouble. Mr. Unmentionable can kiss my ass – and given his height, he won’t have to bend over to get there, either.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

38 Years Ago Yesterday...

...while Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins were hurtling through space toward the moon, Ted Kennedy was also hurtling through space off the Dyke Bridge from Chappaquiddick Island.

If I were a congressman I would nominate poor Mary Jo Kopechne for a Congressional Medal of Honor. Her death was not in vain; it kept Ted out of the White House.

With three 24 hour cable news networks, Ted would never have survived this incident today. The clan Kennedy was better able to manage a compliant media.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Michael Vick Experience

If half of what I'm reading is true, then the ride is over in Atlanta.

NFL star Michael Vick ... and three others were charged with competitive dogfighting, procuring and training pit bulls for fighting and conducting the
enterprise across state lines.

The details are not for the faint of heart.

The government's case includes evidence that Vick and his cohorts "tested" pit bulls for ferocity. If the dogs failed the test, the indictment charges, they were executed by hanging or drowning. In one case, with Vick present, the indictment says a dog was slammed to the ground until it was dead. In another incident, a dog was soaked with a hose, then electrocuted.

As the author notes, this isn't the sort of thing to earn probation and fines. If convicted, Vick will be going to Club Fed, using his scrambling skills to avoid other inmates in the shower.

On a personal note, I can add that my brother owns a well-trained, properly-raised pit. He's a sweet dog. It's horrible to think of dogs like him kept as slavering weapons for the amusement of decadent fools with too much money. Even Pete Rose only bet on baseball.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pooping the party

According to the Corner and SarahK, some troll has decided that nobody is allowed to have any fun that they don't approve of - he took pictures of the entire closing chapter of the last Harry Potter book and posted them online.

Fear not, the links above only take you to news of the perfidy, and not the pages themselves. Hopefully our anonymous jackass winds up with the word SNEAK gleaming across his smug face. Pretty much none of us are likely to be in the position to have millions counting down the hours to our latest work: but I would hope to be permitted the choice of how that work was unveiled if it were mine. Really, would you like it if someone told you what was going under the Christmas tree on December 20th?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Movie of the Phoenix

For this review, the Emma Watson Eyebrow Alert is Orange (elevated, but not that often).

Order of the Phoenix has arrived in theaters, and off we went (the Ladybug and I), having read all the books like the big ol' geeks we are.

Things get off to a cracking start right in, with Harry on the swings in a park that seems like it was stolen from Kansas - muted colors, huge prairie skies, and a quick-moving darkness with the promise of a storm. All of it is quite well done, up to the small touches, such as Dudley's (and his gang's) reactions when Harry jumps up to confront them.

From there, however... well, it's like many of the Potter movies: they don't always pick the best stuff to leave in or take out. It really has nothing to do with the plotlines. This book is 850 pages of single-spaced, nine-point type - they will NEVER fit it all. That just means that when you make a change, do it right, and respect the characterizations. The stuff you need to leave in is the stuff that matters later.

So, for example, when you take out a scene make sure that you haven't damaged your characters. (Small spoiler) In the book, there is a lot of Snape and Sirius going back and forth, with Lupin struggling to mediate. With the exception of ONE overheard remark, that vanishes entirely from the film; and without it, where does Sirius get his motivation? It's not that Gary Oldman is bad in the movie - he's quite good, I thought - but the filmmakers could have taken a little more trouble. They also could have mentioned, at least in passing, that Hermione and Ron were made prefects.

Another omission - which isn't really a spoiler since it stems from the previous film, but be warned - S.P.E.W. The whole idea is dropped. I can see the temptation, since it's the sludgiest part of the fourth book, but it proves increasingly important in books five and six. The casual arrogance of the wizarding world in most matters is important to the overall plot: it really underlines why Fudge refuses to believe in the return of Voldemort, it shows how the Dark Lord unites his own followers, it explains why the Order fights an increasingly lonely battle against the Death Eaters. In this movie, they pick a poor solution (which is in Spoiler Vision, since it's a big thing) - they just drop the idea entirely. Are you wondering how Dumbledore is going to win the trust of the elves, centaurs, and giants in their fight? Keep wondering. The elves are barely even an afterthought, even Kreacher; the centaurs get one scene; Hagrid and Grawp are a human-interest sideline. You don't even see Firenze in the film. In its way, the movie is just as arrogant as the wizarding world, by pretending (as the wizards do) that they are the only ones (magical or otherwise) who matter.

What they leave in, however, is for the most part well-done. Daniel Radcliffe does good work here. I got a very good sense of his frustration and struggle; just when Harry feels most at home in the wizarding world, that world speeds up and he feels dragged along, until he decides that it's time to start doing something more than hang on for dear life. As a result, the scenes with the DA are excellent. It's the first conscious step into the adult world for all of them, and as his peers rally around Harry, he rallies as well, and I could see that growth. And three key cast members turn in great performances as well:

1. Evanna Lynch: an excellent choice for Luna Lovegood. She captures her shrewd, spacey personality and never seems over her head. It must have been tricky to show such a character in mortal peril (such as during the fight in the Department of Mysteries), because one has to look detached without making it seem as if one knows it's all CGI whiz-bangs - and she does it.

2. Imelda Staunton: the key performance for me in the entire movie. Reading the book, I felt like it would be difficult for an actor to convey the saccharine disdain of Dolores Umbridge, but she nails it. Even in scenes where I felt the script left out an important point, she carries the day - especially in the Dark Forest. She's more menacing than the dragon from the last movie.

3. Alan Rickman: each of these movies seems to take a turn neglecting a major character, and Severus Snape was odd man out in Goblet of Fire. He comes roaring back here. This is the kind of thing the fans have been waiting for since he hit Kenneth Branaugh with the expelliarmus jinx in Chamber of Secrets - I can't be as detailed as Sheila would be, but there wasn't a weak moment with him on the screen.

Alas, it's not all pumpkin juice and chocolate frogs. Helena Bonham Carter looks like Cruella DeVil and hams it up on autopilot. (At least she didn't require any makeup to play Bellatrix.) The campaign against Umbridge by the Weasley twins and the other students is eviscerated. I'm also not sold on the use of the Daily Prophet headlines as a transition device; after a while it just felt like the writers gave up and did it to get the movie finished.

This movie's Disappearing Act goes to the horribly underused Emma Thompson and Maggie Smith. You'd think that if one had an Emma Thompson and a Maggie Smith at one's disposal, one would be inclined to make good use of it. But there are at least two major scenes that are entirely missing, and one other that was mis-handled. The most damaging omission requires more Spoiler Vision: where is the career counseling? The movies seem all too content to pretend that the characters don't matter after the end of The Deathly Hallows, which is really starting to tick me off, not only as a fan but as a writer. Great characters live on even when their story is not being told, and a smart writer respects both the character and the fan by providing them with the foundation for that future. This movie doesn't do that. I got the impression that the movie itself doesn't care what happens to its own star, which is usually fatal to the whole suspension of disbelief. Do not dispel, as I've mentioned before. It is vital to know that Harry wants to be an Auror, and that McGonagall is defying Umbridge by promising all her efforts to further that desire; it explains both of them in a way that forty pages of omniscient narration couldn't.

The big flaw, we may as well meet head-on, out loud (as it were). I'm sure Michael Gambon is a fine chap and a good actor, but he just isn't Dumbledore. At no point whatsoever in these three movies have we ever gotten the impression that this is the only wizard the Dark Lord ever feared. (In this film there are the following Spoiler Examples: His escape from Fudge and the Aurors in his office is lame, and his appearance at the Ministry isn't much better: the film gives him no role in defeating the Death Eaters. Even his fight with Voldemort, which is well-done, omits the symbolic and important destruction of the fountain. And his tense interview with Harry in his office lasts THREE LINES in the movie, which is outrageous.) It's not just that the films are limiting Dumbledore's scenes the way they've done with everyone else, it's the manner in which Gambon has gone about them. Dumbledore has a gentle air which never spoils his gravitas. He is supremely comfortable with himself and others, and as a result permits himself both doubt and whimsy without any defense mechanism: no hiding, no bluster, no panic; no need to raise his voice for fear that he won't be heard, and no fear about what other people think or say about him. This is not a routine man, but Gambon is routine in his portrayal. As a result he makes Dumbledore seem an ordinary, crotchety oldster. They should have just stuck some age makeup on Ewan McGregor and been done with it.

All told, however, I don't want to put anyone off seeing the movie. There are some wonderful moments, and enough of the important stuff happens. All in all, solidly done, and in honor of the O.W.L.s:

Radcliffe - E (exceeds expectations)
Watson - A (acceptable)
Grint - A
Lynch - E
Staunton - O (outstanding)
Rickman - O
Gambon - D (dreadful)
Effects, set pieces, and such - E
Plot and writing - P (poor) (too much left out)

Overall - A for Acceptable.

Wasn't this a Lileks book?

Well, people do need more fiber in their diet.

BEIJING, China (AP) -- Chopped cardboard, softened with an industrial chemical and flavored with fatty pork and powdered seasoning, is a main ingredient in batches of steamed buns sold in one Beijing neighborhood, state television said.
State TV's undercover investigation features the shirtless, shorts-clad maker of the buns, called baozi, explaining the contents of the product sold in Beijing's sprawling Chaoyang district.

Granted that this is over there, but I'm beginning to wonder about the local $4.50 lunch special. (Note to self - avoid the wontons.)

"What's in the recipe?" the reporter asks.
"Six to four," the man says.
"You mean 60% cardboard? What is the other 40% ?" asks the reporter.
"Fatty meat," the man replies.

I hope they use the thin, glossy boxes; they have an extra kick that's hard to find in your generic single-wall cartons.

Squares of cardboard picked from the ground are first soaked to a pulp in a plastic basin of caustic soda -- a chemical base commonly used in manufacturing paper and soap -- then chopped into tiny morsels with a cleaver. Fatty pork and powdered seasoning are stirred in.

Alton says: "Now, be sure that the cardboard is thoroughly soaked before chopping, because this helps to break down the cross-grain bonding in a typical box. You want to make sure the adhesives are completely dissolved, so they rinse away. Don't skip the rinse - that stuff will overwhelm the taste of the spices and leave you with gummy baozi. Gummy baozi is BAD. Then chop fine, and add a tablespoon of kosher salt, ¼ cup of mustard, ¼ of paprika, two eggs, and your fresh parsley."

"This baozi filling is kind of tough. Not much taste," [the reporter] says.

Skipped the rinse, didn't you? I'm going for pizza.

"... It fools the average person," the maker says. "I don't eat them myself."

Well, you know what they say - you want to eat ethnic food at a place where you see a lot of that ethnic group in the dining room.

If you're worried about demon worship in the Senate...

....well, that train left the station years ago.

Three people were arrested Thursday after staging a noisy protest as a Hindu chaplain read the opening prayer at the US Senate, branding his appearance an "abomination."

US Capitol Police said the protestors, apparently Christian religious activists, were ejected from the chamber and charged with an unlawful disruption of Congress.

As Hindu chaplain Rajan Zed started to recite his prayer, one protestor was heard chanting "Lord Jesus, forgive us father for allowing a prayer which is an abomination in your sight.
"You are the one, true living God."

Faith leaders from various creeds are sometimes invited to give the Senate's daily opening prayer, though it is normally offered by the chamber's Christian chaplain.

The pressure group Americans United for Separation of Church and State condemned the protest.

"This shows the intolerance of many Religious Right activists," said the group's executive director, Reverend Barry Lynn.

"They say they want more religion in the public square, but it's clear they mean only their religion."

The conservative American Family Association had been campaigning against the use of a Hindu prayer in the chamber, asking members to send emails and letters to Senators in protest.

A true opening prayer for the Senate would be for someone to hold up a giant mirror for them all to gaze upon and bow down to. Seriously, this protest was a dumb move that gave Barry Lynn his sound bite.

Thank God that most MSM are ignorant of Christianity, because if I were covering this I would be looking to see how many of these Bible-thumping GOP Senators were were bowing the knee to Baal. And, after all these puff pieces about how much Hillary and Barak love Jesus I'd be interested to see if they were offering prayers to Brahma or Vishnu or whatever goat deity it was.

Senator Spider would have just showed up late after it was over and got to work.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Genuis is the opposite of cautious

I'm putting it all in this link - pictures, comments, etc - because it's always nice to see Sheila take time out from her obsessions to remember her prior obsessions. But I'm thinking specifically in this instance of the comments, and the remark I've paraphrased as the title here.

Simply put, I enjoy moments like this. No, not that somebody got himself killed in a duel by refusing to fight back; I mean the moment where a genius, on realizing that the plan isn't going working, decides "Screw it. Stand back and watch it happen" - and then guns the engines and roars into action.

Afterwards they can be bored, arrogant, and petulant. Not that geniuses can't also be supreme jerks, but it really is a byproduct of their gifts. It's not so much vice as frustration; here they are working wonders among mortals who may never understand the half of it, who care more for them than for what they just saw happen.

A genius decides that mathematics is insufficient to describe his ideas, and invents calculus to close the gap. A genius maps out the backbone of the most durable and successful economy in world history, over a century ahead of time. A genius writes music "as if taking dictation from God." A genius wins four gold medals in the 1936 Olympics, before the whole world, to shatter the illusion of a master race.

The great joy and privilege in watching genius, even in failure, is in witnessing someone who has run up against the outer limits of possibility, and refused to stop because what lay just beyond was so marvelous that it had to happen.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Is this news?

Hasn't this been Catholic Doctrine since God was a corporal?

Pope Benedict XVI has ignited controversy across the world by approving a document saying non-Catholic Christian communities are either defective or not true churches, and the Roman Catholic Church provides the only true path to salvation.

From what I understand, the Catholic Church claims that B16 and the bishops are direct spiritual decendants of Jesus' 12 apostles (Is Saint Paul the replacement for that guy who went bad?). And Saint Peter gets a special commission - as well as his name- from the Lord in Matthew 17:16-19. The Fly will correct me if I am getting any of this wrong.

But what is missed lower in the story is how B16 is cutting us Bible-thumpers some ecumenical slack.

"These separated churches and communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation," the document read. "In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church."

Here is the standard evangelical belief as to what is meant by the word "church" as mentioned in the New Testament. It is considered all individuals who believe Christ as their Lord and Savior, regardless of where they worship. One cannot say, "All in Church X are unsaved" or "All in Church Y are saved", because the Lord saves people, not organisations. I think the above statment by B16 would support this opinion, but that the Catholic Church communicates the full Gospel.

One thing that I and the Fly and B16 and many of you out there are in agreement is that Jesus of Nazareth walked out of a tomb on a Sunday morning. If He didn't, then we are all screwed.

Have you see this in your newspaper?

An Air Force Loadmaster from McGuire AFB in NJ is fighting for his life after being shot by a wacko. I am sure that there are a few snippets od coverage of this in local Jersey media, but how much nationally? And do they include this?

A random act of insanity? Not so fast. There’s more to the story. A reader whose son is the best friend of Senior Airman Schrieken wrote to Charles Johnson of the Little Green Footballs blog with background details:

My son’s best friend, Jon, who’s in the Air Force stationed in New Jersey at Fort Dix/McGuire Air Force Base, was shot by a crazed anti-military white guy on Independence Day and he remains in critical condition.

He had been on leave here in Ohio and got back to his home off base and was unpacking stuff from his car when this 22-year-old guy walked up to him and asked him if he lived in the house. When Jon said yes, the guy said ‘not any more’ and shot him point-blank in the chest.

He tried to shoot him again, but his gun jammed. Jonathan made it into the house. The guy then shot himself.

Turns out the guy left a couple of suicide notes stating how much he hated the military and he wanted to go out making a statement, so he chose to make his statement on Independence Day trying to kill a soldier. We are very worried about our Airman . . . he’s like a son to me. He’s been to Iraq and Afghanistan on our behalf and then gets shot in his own driveway here in the U.S. by an anti-war, anti-American lunatic. This is gut wrenching.

Michelle Malkin goes on to say that if a G.I. had killed a peacenik these whores in the press would be all over it. My contempt for the mainstream press knows no bounds. I'd rather have a daughter dancing around a pole at the Mons Venus than working for my local paper.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Sin For a Season

Steve Taylor put it best.

There's a sweaty hand handling his cocktail napkin
"come on up and see me" is scribbled with a gold pen
"but you'd better ring twice"
seven months after his little indiscretion
he sits with his wife at a therapy sessionfor a little advice
"if the healing happens as the time goes by
tell me why I still can't look her in the eye"
"God I'm only human, got no other reason..."
sin for a season

WASHINGTON (AP) - Louisiana Sen. David Vitter, whose telephone number was disclosed by the so-called "D.C. Madam" accused of running a prostitution ring, says he is sorry for a "serious sin" and that he has already made peace with his wife.

"This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible," Vitter said Monday in a printed statement. "Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling. Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there - with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way."

Vitter's spokesman, Joel Digrado, confirmed the statement Monday evening in an e-mail to The Associated Press after a statement purported to be from Vitter was received by to the AP bureau in New Orleans.

It said his telephone number was on old phone records of Pamela Martin and Associates before he ran for the Senate.

Will public Christians and social conservatives get special scrutiny from the press? Of course - and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It keeps you on your toes knowing that these Medienheuren are out to get you. I will be stunned if the media found a Dem or one of their own (I know. redundant) that it would be made public.

Senator Vitter at least had the good sense to get straight with Mrs. Vitter about this long ago. You don't want the wife to be surprised by stuff like this.

Why fans aren't GMs

Because they're idiots.

A week ago, I wasn't too happy with my boys. As recently as Friday I was still ranting. But you know, that wasn't a half-bad weekend for the Islanders: Mike Comrie and Bill Guerin. Along with Fedotenko, it's three of the best five second-tier players in the market, and they may yet close the deal on Sheldon Souray.

So what's with the "Isles suck, they always suck" bunkum in the comments over there? One poster actually said something that made sense - Mike Sillinger would be an excellent captain. The rest are just fourteen year olds who don't know crap about hockey.

To digress - I am a Mets fan as far as baseball is concerned. If I were an idiot, I'd hate the Yankees, right? But you know, I'm also a baseball fan, and the Yankees have been not only a great team for most of the past 12 years, they've also been classy doing it. Torre, Rivera, Jeter, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, etc. etc. There are relatively few jerks in that clubhouse. On the other hand, you had the Mets of the early 90's, whose two best players were the sullen Eddie Murray and the sullen, almost-washed-up Bobby Bonilla... a team that tossed firecrackers at fans, squirted bleach at reporters from a water gun, and conducted themselves with all the grace of a camel at the ballet.

It didn't matter that they were a bad team - I've rooted for some first-class stinkers in my time - but it did matter that they were a miserable lot of joyless turds.

So, here are the Isles, bereft of every first-class player in the current free agent period... looking like a mortal lock for the basement. Of course I complained. Everyone who loved the team did - but again, that's why we're not running the team. Contrast with this "wisdom" from "johndogg31":

Isles blow! Who cares about Bill Guerin and some scrub FA's?? Isles fans- look across NYC, and take a gander at Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Jaromir Jagr, Brendan Shannahan, Sean Avery, Henrik Lundqvist etc., then look back at me with a straight face and tell me you can compete. You're kidding yourself if you think you can. Your a team in NYC, one of the largest markets (if not THE LARGEST) in the WORLD, and you are pleased with scrub FA's and a distant hope of the 8th seed. Give me a break.

DUH. What, Garth Snow was just going to resign? They were going to fold the team and burn down the Coliseum? Well, gosh johnny, you done opened our eyes! Let's run our jerseys through the shredder! Really, your team is soooooo awesome we should just give up, right?

Of course they're going to regroup and get the team into some sort of shape. We'd rather have Drury and Gomez than Guerin and Comrie - who wouldn't? But we're not going to turn up our noses at what we do have. Considering how free agency started it's a wonder Garth Snow signed anyone at all. Comrie, Guerin, and Miroslav Satan is not a bad top line.

And as for your team - well, this is why I hate the Rangers in a way that I don't hate other rivals. The Rangers haven't exactly lit the world on fire since '94, but their fans talk as if they've already won this year's Cup: with an old Shanahan, an old Jagr, one of the poorer defensive units in the conference, and Sean bleepin' Avery, who is a dirty player and a punk. How can any fan possibly be proud of that guy? How can anyone complain about Chris Simon and embrace Sean Avery?

Personally I think the Isles should cut Simon for his slash-happy habits, the way they ditched that little rat Kasparaitis. It's got no place in hockey. As for results... well, the Penguins are going to be a good team, the Devils are still a good team, the Flyers look respectable, Ottawa is still good, the Sabres can still make the playoffs, Washington has improved... The Rangers probably won't have a top-four seed, so unless they get lucky again and draw a weak division champion in the first round, how are they any better off in the long run than the Islanders?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Music Solves Everything!

Dear Rock Stars:

Just because your music is wicked cool, doesn't mean that playing it will air condition poor beleaguered Gaia.

I can understand Woodstock. Music can move us emotionally, bypass our logic, and take us to great and terrible places - so promoting peace, love, and understanding through a three-day festival of music is at least defensible. (I still think it's more harm than good, as shall be seen.) An all-day, multi-city, resource-binging concert about climate change, however... It's so self-contradictory that mere metaphor can neither express nor contain it.

How much fuel was burnt assembling the talent, gear, and audiences? How much forest did you clear-cut to print up promo material? And how, exactly, did any of it make any difference to anyone, beyond the self-abuse of the enormous egos involved? Governor Corzine of New Jersey took to signing legislation on the stage there at Giants Stadium - a new law that will be both useless and expensive, but will no doubt make all the Legislature feel like superheroes. (Conducting the business of the state at a rock concert is about the easiest possible way to prove worthless the whole exercise.)

Later, on that same stage, Melissa Etheridge sang her alleged song, "We Need to Wake Up," and scolded her faithful paying customers by asking, "America, what happened to us?"

What's happened to us is that we are taking policy direction from utter morons who are incable of accomplishing anything beyond feeling bad about stuff. Too many people have long abandoned the practice of thought - and like anything else, if you don't practice at it, you soon are unable to do it. Everything nowadays is a ridiculous mishmosh of emotion and scraps of isolated observation, leading humanity about by their guts and moods, making snap decisions about economics, culture, faith, education, and good stewardship without any sort of deliberation. The new law Corzine signed got a big boost from some old-fashioned scare mongering, with nobody stopping to consider that it will have ZERO effect on what people do in China, Russia, or even Iowa.

Etherdige, Corzine, and a host of others whose lives burn vast resources, however? They can actually get a little something done by trimming their own lives, rather than scolding their fans (who are far more green) for not doing something. Since they were at these concerts they might have a little point in the current instance, but in general? Excuse me, ma'am, but one of us has carbon footprint with it's own zip code, and it isn't me.

It took Roger Daltry of the Who to speak some sense: "Bollocks to that! The last thing the planet needs is a rock concert. I can't believe it. Let's burn even more fuel! We have problems with global warming, but the questions and the answers are so huge I don't know what a rock concert's ever going to do to help."

Poor Roger. The rock star life hasn't quite killed enough brain cells for him to get with the Feelings Uber Alles program. On the same page as the Corzine news from Reuters there's a link to this unpleasantness - Cindy Sheehan, who on May 29th "retired" from the public because America has dared to be less awesome than she is, has issued a schoolyard dare to representative Nancy Pelosi: if she doesn't attempt to impeach the president, Sheehan will run against her for her seat in Congress.

This is no different that daring a kid to eat a worm or stick his tongue to a cold flagpole, and it's what passes for "news" right now, unless it's Skank Heiress Saturday, in which case all the foot-stamping gets shoved off to page 5. Worse still - it stands a reasonable chance of working. Not that I think Bush or Cheney can be impeached, much less removed; but "high crimes and misdemeanors" are a matter of fact and deliberation, not "I think he's mean, so he must be a criminal and evil."

And again - notice how long her "resignation" held? The second something annoyed her she came roaring back. Note that she decided to make this announcement in advance of a planned march on Washington: this is something that's been in the works a while. For all we know, she posted her sham "good-bye, you people aren't worty of my effort" letter on Kos and the next day agreed to front this protest.

That's how it is with a mood: it changes quickly and utterly from moment to moment and day to day, and thus is an untrustworthy basis for decisions that may affect millions for years to come. That's why I think the net effect of something like Woodstock is negative. They weren't just promoting peace, love, and understanding - they were also pushing a seriously flawed way to live, by saying that one's thoughts and choices ought to be based on emotions alone. I agree that it's wonderful and all, that people are finally gettin' together; but we have to do more than sing about it and feel like the man next to us is our brother. What happens tomorrow, when the man next to us nearly kills half a dozen people by making a left from the right lane? Is he still our brother when we stop feeling like it? Or when he acts like a jerk? Is that love for our neighbor?

I hasten to point out the meta-textual irony of my shrieking foot-stamp post about emotion over thinking; but I still think I have a point.

Thanks for the heavy lifting

I owe a lot to the Barking Spider - a man I've known over half my life (gosh), who witnessed to me about Christ and housed me for a while after school; and who was the guy who suggested, "Hey, Mike - you should try blogging."

And now he's the guy pretty much keeping the Hive running singlehandedly while I spend most of my time on wedding business: hauling furniture, signing 8,900 documents, working a second job, and all the actual ceremony stuff. (I cheat a little bit, as my commenting pattern shows, but it's hard to clear a block of time for sitting down and writing a reasonably good post.)

Thanks to all for your continued visits. I'll be on diminished output for a few more weeks, so Mr. Spider, you have the conn.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Practice Firearm Safety...

....while you're pistol-whipping your ex-girlfriend.

TAMPA - While pistol whipping his ex-girlfriend, a 29-year-old man accidentally shot himself in his hand Thursday night, police reported.

Police say Tarvaris Jones confronted Latasha Heart, of Tampa, outside a 7-Eleven convenience store at the corner of North 22nd Street and East Sligh Avenue.

Jones knocked Heart to the ground and repeatedly struck her in the face with a handgun, police said. He then accidentally shot himself in his left hand and fled in his car.

Guys, you can't make this stuff up.

Now this is going too far

Forget increases in the price of food. Now it's hitting us where we live. Farmers are switching from growing barley to corn to meet the ethanol demand, driving up the price of beer.

The price of barley has escalated drastically, breweries and industry analysts said, in part because of a tighter supply caused by more farmers growing corn.

The advent of biofuels - such as E85, which is made of 85 percent corn ethanol - has helped push the price of corn futures up 49 percent since December 2005.

"More corn acres were planted this year than at any other time since 1944. Those acres had to come from somewhere," said Nancy Krull, director of marketing for the Minneapolis Grain Exchange, a commodity exchange.

Forget dependence on foreign oil. What about dependence on foreign beer?

Maybe that's why more folks are also growing dope.