Archive for September, 2008



September 21, 2008

When I was in college I developed the knack for remembering and writing down my dreams. One of the more memorable ones involved me trying to escape flesh eating zombies in some kind of industrial, post-apocalyptic setting. I ended up flying a plane out into the country where I found more zombies.

Such is the degree to which the zombie horror movie sub-genre has infiltrated my psyche.

Lately I’ve had zombies on the brain again, so I started reading up on the subject. The modern zombie movie started in 1968–the year I was born, believe it or not–with the release of Night of the Living Dead. Maybe you remember that one: shot in black and white; African-American guy as the hero; “they’re coming to get you Barbara!”; survivors holed up in an old farm house, etc. Apparently critics were divided. Some said it was terrible, others said it was a very important film that would be remembered for decades to come. Audiences were stunned, by all reports. They’d never seen anything like it.

The co-writers, George A. Romero and John Russo had differing ideas on where to go next, so each went on to make subsequent zombie films independent of one another. Romero released four more: Dawn of the Dead, 1978; Day of the Dead, 1985; Land of the Dead, 2005; and Diary of the Dead, 2007. Russo churned out seven: The Return of the Living Dead, 1985; Return of the Living Dead Part II, 1988; Return of the Living Dead 3, 1993; Return of the Living Dead: Necropolis, 2005; Return of the Living Dead: Rave from the Grave, 2005.

Who’s movies are better? Certainly Romero’s movies have more heft, involving a lot of social commentary that you can really (if you’ll pardon the expression) sink your teeth into. Russo’s movies aren’t so thoughtful, but they have better zombies and a lot more humor.

Other things to note about the two men’s work: Romero’s zombies eat the living, but Russo’s zombies are specifically after brains. Also, Russo’s movies all include the word “living” in their titles, Romero’s do not.

A week ago I watched Night of the Living Dead again. Not the remake, the original black and white. It’s still good, and the end is still pretty hard hitting. Then, being on a zombie roll, I got the 1978 Dawn of the Dead. All I could remember about it was that the living protagonists were barricaded in a suburban shopping mall. The movie has so many terrific things going for it that it seems a shame that it’s so pitifully dated: bad makeup, bad 70s hairstyles and clothes, etc. Maybe next I’ll try the remake of Day. Someone told me it was pretty good.

But I also really want to revisit Russo’s The Return of the Living Dead. I remember the zombies being really excellent. (How can you forget the guy coming out of the chemical canister all slimy and decayed, saying “brrrains!“?)

If these kind of movies aren’t your cup of tea, maybe you should satisfy your inner zombie with some comedy instead. I recommend Shaun of the Dead and Fido.


What’s the difference between me, a pit bull with lipstick, a pig, a moose and a hockey mom?

September 18, 2008

I generally don’t take a lot of delight in people being mocked, but damn. This New Yorker piece had me in stitches.


Sword sale

September 16, 2008

Want to buy one of my swords?


Explain it to me

September 15, 2008

President Bush and the Republican party have controlled Washington for much of the last eight years. During those years we have begun an unnecessary war. That war has been prosecuted badly. A lot of people are dead, and it’s not clear if anything much has been accomplished in terms of our national security. The economy is circling the drain. We’re bailing out industries who overreached because of lax regulation. Unemployment has cracked 6% and may go higher. Worker productivity has risen, but no rise in middle class incomes has accompanied it. The budget deficit has reached historic highs. The federal response to hurricane Katrina was shameful. They have implemented policies of warrantless spying, secret prisons and torture. It’s not surprising, then, that our Republican president has the lowest disapproval rating in history. Similarly, 80% of the country believe we’re heading in the wrong direction. I think it is fair to say that we can now see what Republican policies bring us: economic downturn, war and an erosion of civil rights. They’ve had their shot, and nobody seems very pleased with the result.

So why is it that McCain is polling as well as he is? Can it really be that he’s so completely and effectively distanced himself from his own party and its failed policies? I do get that he’s “mavericky,” that he’s the anti-GOP Republican. But how in hell is this man defying so much gravity? What am I missing?

Sure, he’s a Vietnam war hero. (I don’t know if you knew that or not.) But other than his admirable service record, he’s not a very inspirational guy. He looks like a grumpy old man and he sounds like he’s telling us all to get off his lawn. What cartoon physics are keeping this Wile E. Coyote from plummeting to the bottom of the canyon?

I still predict an Obama win. I just wish I understood this phenomenon.


Prom date! Prom date!

September 11, 2008

Like others, I’m really, really bothered by senator Obama’s comments regarding the McCain campaign’s economic policies. “You can put lipstick on a pig,” he said. “But it’s still a pig.”

“Still a pig”? C’mon! Get it right. The expression is “you can put lipstick on a pig, but that don’t make it a prom date.”

I expect higher standards from the Obama campaign.


Three measures of Gordon’s

September 10, 2008

Karen and I went to Eddie Martini’s in West Alis Wauwatosa last weekend. She’d seen several cool places to eat and drink in that area, so we were trying them out.

Once inside Eddie’s, we sat at the bar and ordered drinks: she a Pimm’s and me a Vesper martini. My drink arrived ice-cold (as is called for), and refreshingly lemony. Her Pimm’s was astonishing in that it was made with an ingredient we had never seen before: cucumber soda. While demolishing our terrific appetizer, we chatted up the bartenders about how they made our two excellent drinks.

I was introduced to Lillet, a white French aperitif wine, and also the widely accepted best substitute for the no-longer-available Kina Lillet made famous by the original Vesper martini ordered by James Bond in the novel Casino Royale. Up to now, I’d been using everyday vermouth. It really makes a difference. And so does having an actual slice of fresh lemon peel instead of what bartenders will usually give you: a small wedge of lemon out of their fruit bin.

When we asked whither the cucumber soda, we were told it was available at Sendik’s grocery store. We resolved to get some. (Note: this is not the stuff produce by Pepsi and sold in Japan. I’ve never had that one before, so I don’t know if it’s good or not. I’ll double check to see what brand this item is and get back to you.)

We never made it to Sendik’s, though, because when we went to our local Discount Liquor, we discovered that they carried both of these items. Now we can create our own fabulous Vespers and Pimm’s at home.

Vesper martini

three ounces of Gordon’s gin
one ounce of grain vodka
half an ounce of Lillet blanc

shake with ice until very cold
serve in a deep champagne goblet with a slice of lemon peel (or, as my next door neighbor and I sometimes do, use a garlic stuffed olive instead of lemon peel. We call this the “vampire Vesper.”)


pour two ounces Pimm’s (#1 cup) over ice
fill glass with cucumber soda

One more thing about Eddie’s: they not only educated us about the ingredients in their fabulous drinks, but they also brought is a free dessert. I don’t usually tip like this, but in that instance I left a 60% one.


Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia

September 9, 2008

“We need to come to the defense of Southeast Alaska when proposals are on the table like the bridge and not allow the spinmeisters to turn this project or any other into something that’s so negative” — governor Sarah Palin of Alaska, speaking about the now infamous “bridge to nowhere.” October, 2006 [link]

“I told the Congress thanks but no thanks on that ‘Bridge to Nowhere.” — governor Sarah Palin of Alaska speaking about the now infamous “bridge to nowhere.” September, 2007 [link]

“FYI This does not include our nearly one million Dollars from the Feds for our Airport Paving Project. We did well!!!” — mayor Sarah Palin of Wasilla, Alaska, speaking about the millions in pork barrel spending acquired for projects in her town of 9,000 people. June, 1999 [link]

How exactly does a person who has spent the entirety of her brief political career championing incredible amounts of pork barrel spending position herself as the staunch enemy of such spending a mere matter of months later? Then finally she speaks to the press–Charlie Gibson–and he doesn’t ask about it?

What the hell is wrong with these people?