debunked, jumping over rocks and through
hurricanes, This Week in God, and geologic time.
Heinrich's well-informed (if syntactically weird)
book Winter World looks at how animals survive the winter.
It brings me peace to curl up and read of animals
braving the cold, and Heinrich's scientific
thoroughness makes his narrative bracing as the
breeze of a sunlit, subzero day. My favorite
comment on this book is made by highly rated
Amazon reviewer David W. Straight, who contrasts this book with Annie
Dillard's contemplative Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by tartly observing, "Neither
Thoreau nor Annie Dillard measured the rectal
temperature of insects in the winter to help
determine the mechanics of heat regulation."
December 22, 2004 11:06 pm
keep dismissing Netflix, the online DVD rental
service, even though only Netflix understands
what customers want. Intelligent customers,
anyway. Today Blockbuster announced they're
"ending" late fees, in another pathetic
attempt to hold on to their rapidly dwindling
market share, but under the new plan, customers
will have one week to return movies to
Blockbuster, after which they'll automatically be
chargedguess what?a fee.
Sounds to me the new plan will only ensure
emptier shelves for Blockbuster's blockbusters.
Yet market analyst Michael Pachter, quoted today on Reuters, rates Blockbuster's
stock a "buy," explaining,
"Netflix's reason for existing is 'don't pay
any more late fees'." Pachter doesn't get
it: Netflix's reason for existing is that its
superlative online DVD rental serviceits
selection, service (which genuinely doesn't
include any late fees), and, most of all, the its
blows any other way of renting movies out of the
water. Read here
why I like Netflix and don't like Blockbuster.
posted December 14, 2004 9:01 pm
In time for my
annual Christmas party, I bring you the drink
recipe for Archbishops, the infamous
libation with which I honor my late English
professor, Stephen Lacey. Recipe provided
courtesy of Tony Vaver, another alumnus, on pages
52-53 of the colorful tribute paid by his
colleagues, students, and friends, which you may
(my tribute is on page 47).
2 cups hot coffee
3 cups ice cream
2 cups vodka
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/8 cup Kahlúa
December 10, 2004 5:06 pm
Thomas Wilson, a blunt-spoken army specialist from Nashville,
Tennessee, stood up at a Donald
Rumsfeld's "town hall meeting" visit to
Camp Udeira, Iraq"it was supposed to
have been a pep-rally atmosphere," a
Rumsfeld adviser later complainedand
pointedly asked the United States Secretary of
Defense, "Why do we soldiers have to dig
through local landfills for pieces of scrap metal
and compromised ballistic glass to up-armor our
vehicles?" At this, wide applause and
shouting broke out among the 2,300 troops as
Rumsfeld stood, momentarily at a loss for words.
See a video of this here,
read an article about it here,
get NPR's take on it here,
and read the transcript here.
(Photograph below by Gustavo Ferrari, for AP
posted December 9, 2004 8:28 am
movie because of its eerily exact replication of
life in the office. Listen to
Kinna McInroe as Nina: "Corporate Accounts
Payable, Nina speaking! Just a
moment!"she repeats this endlessly
through the filmby visiting the
"Office Space" sounds webpage, here.
(To fully create the "Office Space" ambience in your home, open
Quick Time, click on "Open URL," and
copy and paste
into it, and check "Loop.")
posted December 6, 2004 9:27 pm
A delightful Jack
Ziegler cartoon for you (published in a
recent New Yorker). This might be a good juncture for
me to mention that the justly beloved Bea Arthur
(of TV's "The Golden Girls" fame) is taking on Kentucky Fried Chicken's incredibly sadistic and slipshod
animal husbandry practices.
posted November 27, 2004 9:37 am
Annoyed by yet
another patient telling me the Atkins diet works,
today I researched ketosis, the
nirvana Atkins acolytes seek to reach by
replacing carbohydrates with protein and fat.
Ketosis is in fact a kind of blood poisoning that
does indeed give you some short-term fat
breakdown, as well as headaches, nausea, and
muscle cramps, as undigested acids build up in
your blood. It also seriously impairs your
capacity to exercise because any lactic acid
produced by effortful movement pushes the already
unhealthful acidosis of your blood to potentially
toxic levels. (Assuming you can exercise at all
with your headache, nausea, and muscle cramps.)
High-protein diets also have been shown to leach
calcium out of your bones (not good!). A recent year-long study of Atkins dieters showed they did
indeed lose fat during the first six months, but
the diet was so unappetizing that after a year,
all the subjects had gained their weight back.
Moreover, the meats, cheeses, eggs, and other
high-saturated-fat and cholestrol-containing
foods advocated by Atkins may set the stage for
heart disease even as you enjoy your (temporary)
weight loss. Settling the matter, in my mind, is the role heart disease played in the
death of Atkins himself. Smarten up, and go
posted November 14, 2004 10:41 am
of a Tub" on Wikipedia
particular reason, I commend Wikipedia's article
on Jonathan Swift's "A Tale of a
Tub" for your
posted November 14, 2004 10:40 am
Out and about
last night, I finally noticed a place in Boston I
can recommend. The Qing Ping
Teahouse, on 231 Shawmut Avenue in Boston's South
End, features peace and quiet in the middle of
Boston's trendiest neighborhood. At the upstairs
landing was what looked to be (but wasn't) a DJ
console: "But what a good idea!" I said
to the tolerant hostess. See their generous
or get a map to it here.
are in the p.m., and, fittingly, inscrutable, so
call ahead: 617 482-9988. Or, for a more
Confucian experience, just go in the morning when
they're closed, and contemplate the eternal
verities of the cobblestone sidewalk"cracked sidewalks for the living," as Joan Didion would tell
posted November 8, 2004 12:47 pm
Netflix movie reviews, posted
Want ideas for
movie rentals? I've written some movie
reviews on Netflix. Read the reviews here.
And if you're a Netflix member already, and found
my reviews helpful, be sure to please click the
posted November 5, 2004 7:53 am
Now that Bush
is elected, we need unity more
than divisiveness. Speaking directly to
supporters of Kerry, Bush said: "I will need
your support, and I will work to earn it. I will
do all I can to deserve your trust." Is Bush
signaling a more centrist, inclusive approach to
his second term? I hope so. But Cheney wasted no
time getting back to business as usual, declaring Bush's victory a
"mandate," arrogantly dismissing the
48% of the country who voted for change. Before
you turn to reunite with the rest of the country,
read Kerry's letter he sent to his supporters here. In his letter, we glimpse the
potential greatness of a presidency that now will
posted November 5, 2004 7:41 am
about that handstand photo
Tim Boyles, who maintains a website with
similarly quietly excellent photos at timboylesphotography.com, reports, "A lot of people
came to the location I was at to face the storm.
As the waves crashed over the seawall, Eric was
just standing there getting wet with his buddies
for fifteen minutes or so, than out of the blue
did a handstand and held it for quite a
whilea minute or so. I couldn't believe it.
I just shot the picture and got his name after he
was done. We were on a beach..there were no
objects flying around except waves and
rain. He was completely calm and
comfortable." Thank you Tim, for the report!
Tim also is featured on media giant Getty Images here.
posted October 22, 2004 9:10 am
continue training, your body gets better at
adjusting to all weather conditions. Of course,
you should use common sense (one of the patients
I worked with in school had
quadraplegiaparalysis from the shoulders
downfrom body-surfing off Cape Cod during
1991's Hurricane Bob). Nevertheless, it's fun throwing
caution to the wind. Eric Simoneau knows
this, as he does a handstand while Hurricane
Jeanne passes through St. Petersburg, Florida.
(Photograph by Tim Boyles for AFP/Getty Images.)
posted September 26, 2004 6:52 pm
your duff with "Muffin Man"
Humankind's slide towards mass
obesity might be alarming, but
shouldn't it also be entertaining? Brilliant
independent filmmaker and alert That There Paul
visitor Jessica Eisner answers this question with
a resounding "Yes!" She brings us
"Muffin Man," a movie you can learn
Watch the trailer here,
shop for it on Amazon here,
but if you buy it, buy it on the filmmaker's own
("Amazon takes 67% of the profit,"
September 23, 2004 8:48 pm
murky, and brilliant, the lyrics of R.E.M.'s
early releases, Murmur,
Fables of the Reconstruction, and Reckoning, are as beautiful as they are inaudible.
What was Michael Stipe singing? At least for
these songs, now you can know: click on the song
title to read its lyric: "Gardening at Night," "Pilgrimage," "Letter Never Sent," "Harborcoat," "Maps and Legends," Old Man Kensey," "Green Grow the Rushes," "Kohoutek," "Good Advices," and "Wendell Gee." See a selective list of early R.E.M.
songs, courtesey of my friend Vince, here.
posted September 20, 2004 8:06 pm
Blue Hill photo
peace and quiet reigned during
this morning's early nature walk. Read more about
posted September 5, 2004 2:57 pm
My friend took
a picture of me today doing a pike jump,
one of the equipment-free exercises I espouse in
my upcoming fitness book.
posted August 24, 2004 1:41pm
This Week in God
Central's Daily Show brings us "This Week in
God," hosted by Strangers with Candy alumnus Steven Colbert. Using his
gift for fastidious sarcasm"God
works in mysterious ways; that's why He has me
explain what He wants in a way that leaves no
room for argument or
interpretation"Mr. Colbert makes short
work of a feminism-correcting Vatican document,
Mecca Cola, and Seth, a slightly flat descant
he assures, "God is very disappointed in
you"). See videos of Mr. Colbert here,
or visit The Daily Show's website here.
posted August 18, 2004 5:12pm
A man cries
out in pain as the caption extolls the pleasure
of beachside living. This photo from Diesel's large, arty 1995
catalogue, depicts fabulous, tormented beachgoers
staying at Le Panic, a beach resort loosely based
on Miami Beach's famous Pelican Hotel.
posted August 12, 2004 3:03pm
rediscoveredbrieflythe Boston music
scene, tough, durable, and waterproof, with the
aid of an important tool: earplugs.
Last weekend, I heard two rock bands: Banter,
headed by Dan Sheehan, (a sometime That There Paul
visitor), with feet-on-the-ground tunes off their
latest "Urban Pastures" CD like "Take A Walk,"
"Metaphysics," and "Open
Wide," the latter of which ostensibly
describes a visit to the dentist, but veers, as
far as I can tell, into a full-speed-ahead
rock'n'roll treatise on the human condition. The
neo-speed-punk songs of the next band, Reaxis, were leavened with garage kid
antics, including an angular drummer removing his
shirt for us: "Maybe he should put it back
on," the singer joked. "No, keep it
off!" two guys drinking beer shouted. Maybe
it was just the beer, but the raucous, joyful
music seemed as it should be.
posted July 29, 2004 6:36 pm
Once again, I
direct you to SpamRadio, where you may hear spam
messages read by a delightfully toneless computer
voice and set to dental office background
music.Try this advertisement for a spirituality
video, which, we are told, consists of a preacher
standing in a classroom for two hours. Listen to
posted July 5, 2004 10:05 am
Provincetown, I refer you to this view from the
ship entering Boston harbor.
Keeping it simple, I did not take any photos of
my Provincetown trip, but others did of theirs,
which you can see here
By now it should come as little surprise that I
have more to say about the sea, here.
posted June 26, 2004 3:29 pm
sister's visit to town this weekend, we walked
Boston's timelessly stodgy Freedom Trail and learned about marine
signal flags. "Naval
signalmen," an educational exhibit told us,
"transmit messages by hoisting a series of
flags." According to a refrigerator magnet
(enlarged below) on sale in the gift shop, each
flag spells out a letter. While I like this
cumbersome system because you could spell out Hamlet (78,241 flags including the
"endstop" flag), I was relieved to find
that according to international maritime
convention, signal flags can also represent entire thoughts. For example, the blue rectangle
"P" flag, also called "Blue
Peter", means "The ship is about to
sail" when at harbor, and "Hey, your
lights are dim," when at sea. Getting back
to the task of signaling the text of Hamlet,
semaphore might be faster: at one second per
signal, the great tragedy could be spelled out in
just 21 hours, 44 minutes, and one second.
posted June 6, 2004 9:13 pm
Merv Griffin Episode
something like it, is in the airwaves today as
the famous "Seinfeld" episode in which
Kramer appropriates the old Merv Griffin
Show set and, eventually, identity airs at 7pm
EDT on Fox, or at least does so here in New
England. Check your local TV listings here to find out when to watch this
episode, or read the entire script here
so you don't have to. See an interactive list of
my favorite dozen or so Seinfeld episodes here.
posted June 1, 2004 12:19 pm
Yes, it's time
for me to talk about another movie: this weekend,
Netflix served me up Richard Kelly's "Donnie
Darko", a beautiful movie revolving
around a ridiculous plot: only by agreeing to be
impaled by a jet engine can the hero prevent the
implosion of reality. Along with Netflix's
"Donnie Darko" page here,
read the definitive Richard Kelly interview with
Rebecca Murray here,
DVD Journal's exhaustive "Donnie Darko"
DVD inventory here,
or understand the director's secret agenda by
reading "The Philosophy of Time Travel"
I loved the movie for melding real-world detail,
like the Fibonacci spirals which are painted on jet engine nacelles so that headset-wearing grounds
crew will know the jet is spinning, into a vivid dream.
posted May 24, 2004 9:43 pm
brings us another piece of verbal
buffoonery in this week's New Yorker
deploring the exit of Tom Ford from Gucci, the
"most important luxury-products company in
the world", and explaining the Gucci
mission, "to make newer and more luxurious
luxury products than the ones that have
previously been made." Read the complete
piece, which I've posted here,
along with a bonus-healthy-sandwich-recipe link.
posted May 22, 2004 8:24 am
us to your leader
civilized humans have been the dominant life form
on earth for 10,000 years, or 1/100,000th percent
of geologic history, stromatolites,
oxygen-forming bacteria that look a lot like
rocks, have been the dominant life form for 3.26
billion years, or 78% of geologic history.
Extraterrestrials visiting at random would
therefore be 8 million times more likely to visit
during the time when our planet's most advanced
life form was a rigid heap of sedimentary
bacterial mucilage. Of course, should
they visit now and encounter the current American
administration, they would find much the same
thing. Learn more about stromatolites and
geologic time here.
posted May 10, 2004 4:02 pm
fitness book slowly improving
I've cut back
on my practice a little bit to invest time in
things that matter more to me, like my
fitness book, which I promise will stand
out from the crowd because it's based on
research, not whim. If you want, read another
excerpt from my book here.
posted May 5, 2004 10:34 am
As a Strunk & White devotee ("Omit needless words!
Omit needless words!") I always thought
clauses beginning with "which" should
be eliminated. "The careful writer, watchful
for small conveniences, goes which-hunting,
removes the defining whiches, and by so
doing improves his work." (Strunk &
White, p. 59.) Thinking Strunk & White could
never be wrong, I've never used a which since.
While clauses are driftwood usually best cleared
off the literary beach, the new grammar book I've been reading, by one C. Edward
Good, brings whiches
out of ignominy with a vivid example
using, I am proud to report (since I went to
school in Iowa), cows. (As Rose says when The
Golden Girls appear on the Hollywood television
game show "Grab That Dough" in episode #67, "I'm proud to take cows for
$500.") Use which for appositive or
nonrestrictive clauses: The cows, which slept in
the barn, survived (all of the cows slept in the
barn and survived). Use that for clauses
that restrict or define: The cows that slept in
the barn survived (only the cows that slept in
the barn survived; the cows that did not sleep in
the barn didn't call McDonald's).
posted May 5, 2004 10:34 am
Take a break
from overly processed corporate mall popmusik by
coming to the Skybar
of Somerville, Massachusetts, where alert That
There Paul visitor Dan performs this Saturday
night, May 8th, around 11 pm, at a reunion of the
anti-shlock rock band Banter. My friend Dan now lives in New
York City, where he runs Dakesh Productions, the platform from which he
launches myriad recording projects, such as Dan Sheehan Music, neo-retro band Hy-Tyde, or a
rumored solo project with Morrissey's drummer.
posted May 3, 2004 6:10 pm
patiently explained to my friends, I haven't had
an original thought in years. Whenever I see a
film, I can't wait to read The New Yorker
to find out what I should have thought about it.
Now that I see films on DVDs from Netflix, months
or years after their New Yorker review,
however, I've come close to thinking for myself.
Fortunately, with the New Yorker's new Film File, a collection of short reviews of
nearly two thousand films released since 1990, I
no longer have to. For example, The Film
File correctly describes the wilderness of "Black Robe" as "piercingly lovely",
the male dreams of "The Brothers
McMullen" as "straight", and the
empowerment fable of "Whale Rider" as
posted May 2, 2004 3:52 pm
president labeled an idiot
today on Yahoo! News, laptop bags made by laptop bag maker Tom Bihn
carry the words "Nous sommes desoles que
notre president soit un idiot. Nous n'avons pas
vote pour lui." ("We are sorry
that our president is an idiot.
We did not vote for him.") on the laundry
label. As a result, the bags are selling briskly.
This is a laundry label I agree with! Read the
full article here.
Buy a T-shirt with the label here.
See a picture of the label here.
posted April 29, 2004 3:12 pm
Robe" and Canadian wilderness
spectacular wilderness of "Black Robe"
was the film's true star. Using the low-tech
method of taking a photo of my TV, a method also used by Baltimore (and sometime
Provincetown-vacationing) filmmaker John Waters, who I admire for comfortably
exuding high levels of camp, I captured the photo
below. I've always wanted to live like an
Indian (yeah, yeah, Native American).
I have more to say - way more - about "Black
posted April 25, 2004 5:02 pm
PRIZM lifestyle cluster are you?
of years of marketing research
(with and without the two-drink minimum), the PRIZM lifestyle cluster matrix can help YOU understand your place
in their rosy, keep-on-spendin' view of society.
posted April 20, 2004 12:46 pm
readers, I descend into the depths of nerdiness
and bring you the shining towers and splendid
hills of Hong Kong. Simulated Hong Kong,
that is. Contemplate the zoning (yellow is
industrial; green, residential; blue, commercial;
and orange, other) before going here
to read more.
posted April 19, 2004 6:04pm
The fat American
There Paul visitor Jessica Eisner, MD has just
come out with an award-winning mockumentary movie, Muffin Man, describing our country's shimmy
down the evolutionary ladder. With
American obesity at an all-time high (obesity's doubled in the last ten years) and American prestige at a
historic low (we're fighting an unjustified war to gas our SUVs), her film is exceptionally
well-timed. "I'd never thought much about
how Americans were viewed overseas," says
writer David Sedaris in his essay, "I Pledge
Allegiance to the Bag" in his latest book, Me Talk Pretty One Day, "until I came to France and
was expected to look and behave in a certain way.
Europeans expected me to regularly wash my hands
with prepackaged towelettes and to automatically
reject all unpasteurized dairy products. If I was
thin, it must be because I'd recently lost the
extra fifty pounds traditionally cushioning the
standard American ass. If I was pushy, it was
typical; and if I wasn't, it was probably due to
Prozac." (No offense is intended, by the
way, to my big friends and family, who have my love
and respect.) If you want, read about
healthier eating here.
Buy your copy of "Muffin Man" here.
posted April 18, 2004 10:24 pm
The BBC brings
us a fully fledged website devoted to the
British television comedy "Keeping Up
(which airs in Boston tonight on Channel 44 at
8:50 pm) that includes downloadable
"Keeping Up Appearances" desktop
wallpaper. Finally, a site we can use!
Remember the closing song at the end of the
second Austin Powers? "BBC One! BBC Two! BBC
Three! BBC Four!" The song, entitled,
appropriately, "BBC One" by Brit
superneoschlockpop group Ming Tea, is
downloadable on Kazaa, not that I can recommend that.
Listen to clips of similar songs here.
Learn the cord structure for "BBC One" here.
posted April 17, 2004 5:02 pm
Paul kudos go to Stoli, the administrator of gay
dating service Qguys.com, who has 505 fans on his profile. I only have 117 fans on my profile
(which I maintain on another site, thank you very
much). Is it time for Botox already? My best
straight friend looks at the prolific
nature of gay dating wistfully: "If
only girls were so easy."
posted April 17, 2004 1:20 pm
I've been so
busy, but I still have had time to conclude that
there is just not enough self-righteous
indignation on this page, so I mention The Meatrix, an animated clip that will make
you think differently about eating meat -- and
about how you can get plenty of protein from good
old cancer-fighting veggies. Go veggie! Go
posted April 13, 2004 12:47 pm
I find it
interesting that Al Franken's book, Lies and the
Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced
Look at the Right
is the #2 best-selling book among the
U.S. Marine Corps right now, according
to Amazon's U.S.
Marine Corp military purchase circle.
posted February 16, 2004 10:17 am
of people to marry, whether or not
they're straight, should now be beyond serious
dispute, but in much of the United States, same-sex marriage is still controversial, in
exactly the same sense that
the right of people to drink at the same drinking
fountain regardless of their skin color was
controversial in the 1950's. Landing squarely on
the wrong side of the issue is the Republican
party, who, in their effort to enliven what one
must earnestly hope will be a doomed presidential
bid, rallied anti-gay conservatives yesterday to
take away the right to marry from gay people in
Massachusetts. With marriage affording at least 1,138 distinct legal
a list that includes the rights of hospital
visitation, inheritance, medical coverage, and
thousands of dollars of tax benefits, you can see
why gay people object to conservatives comparing
them to animals, refuse being segregated to
inferior civil unions, and with increasing voice
and clarity, demand the right to marry. Extending
marriage rights to same-sex couples won't
threaten our society, and may well strengthen it. Get updates on gay
marriage in America here.
posted February 13, 2004 9:13 am
It was twenty
years ago that one of the most powerful
statements against conformity ever made
appeared, ironically, in the form of a Superbowl
commercial for Apple's Macintosh computer. You
can see it here.
posted January 31, 2004 1:27 pm
high of the week
I found that curly
mustard clears your sinuses - it's like
light coursing through your body.
posted January 26, 2004 6:50 pm
moving near the speed of light
home with a sore throat this weekend, I thought
of trains moving near the speed of light,
a sort of mind puzzle that brings me peace. As
the train's speed approaches the speed of light,
its length is compressed and time dilates
(passage of time on the train slows), at least
relative to an observer, because the speed of
light is constant. University of Virginia
physicist Michael Fowler elaborates in his online
lecture series: "The Train and the
Twins" which you can read here. In case you think this is just
pretentious crapola, read about the Boston-based
Swinging Erudite's album, "Pretentious
Crapola", here instead. The Swinging Erudites have
been described as "the worst band in the
posted January 19, 2004 4:44 pm
for the new year
The best W.H. Auden biography by the amiable Humphrey
Carpenter, who is better known for his
iconoclastic Tolkien bio, is great fun, highly
witty, and available here.
Today I bring you Auden's
"Petition", an odd, Latinate prayer in
accentual meter, as Judson Jerome says
in The Poet's Handbook (from which this
poem is unauthorizedly reproduced), in which the
poet beseeches a merciful God not too permit too
much human weakness. Read more about my reading
posted January 1, 2004, 12:56 pm