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June 1-5, 1999

Nifty! It's a TV/VCR/DVD/CD/Clock/Radio. It'd look nice in my bedroom, yup. Or living room, for that matter.

FREE KEVIN demonstrations were/are being held today (Friday) at courthouses and other places across the country. Check out the coverage at 2600/Free Kevin and at HNN. And watch for mainstream media coverage, of course.

ZDNet coverage, salon coverage.

And there's always info on the Mitnick case at the main Free Kevin site.

I tried ICQ relatively early in the game (I'm user #509473 and I know that's my second number-- after I lost my first one). It's improved a lot since those days, plus it's available for more platforms and has more features. The multi-user chats can be fun, if you find yourself online with a number of friends who share a common interest. It's surely replaced IRC for me. Far superior to AOL Instant Messenger, though I still sometimes have the latter on as well.

If you've not checked ICQ out lately, give it a try.

Since TNT will be airing a bunch of Babylon 5 movies next week, as well as the premiere episode of the Bab5 spinoff Crusade, I figure it's a good time to link to The Lurker's Guide to Babylon 5. When I first got hooked on the show, 'twas indispensible. Heck, it's still a resource I visit often.

Babylon 5 reruns also start airing again on June 5th. New timeslot is Saturday mornings, 6am and 7am CST, on TNT. This week's 7am episode "And Now for a Word" is a groundbreaking episode (and a good one). Kim Zimmer guest stars in it.

You might also be interested in the petition to get Babylon 5 released in widescreen format on DVD and the Crusade for Crusade. TNT may say in their commercials that Crusade is a "limited run series," but actually it's a series that TNT cancelled (before the show ever aired). Some fans are fighting to get more episodes of the show made (13 were filmed).

Quentin Miller asks (at the Backfence):

What's up with Minnesotans writing checks? The other day I waited in line behind someone who was purchasing an 89 cent item -- and she wrote a check! The rest of the country uses a newfangled scrip called "cash." It's quick, it's accepted everywhere and you don't have to take a pen to it every time you use it -- the U.S. Treasurer filled it out for you already.

And Lileks answers:

Perhaps she was impressing a New Yorker. When I'm at the grocery store with a friend from a big city, I like to pay for gum with a check, and write it for $20 over the amount, just to watch the friend's jaw strike the floor. Of course, I want them to think we're all trusting and friendly, but out-of-towners just conclude we're morons. Well! I never. As if you can't be trusting, friendly and a moron. Some people.

Quoteland has a lot of quotations, well-organized. It's amazing (to me at least) that my weblog doesn't have rotating quotations or at least daily quotations on it, since I'm a sucker for a good quote. Hmmmm, perhaps when I redesign.

Calling weblogs "blog" confuses me mightily. As blog is a popular beverage at science fiction conventions (especially at Minicon). No grenadine is used in the creation of this b/l/o/g/ weblog.

Symbol's new Palm computer with wireless LAN support looks very cool.

Nana Visitor on being Kira (and how she feels about fan websites):

I appreciate that people like Kira, but I was just the person who delivered [the character]. I'm the pizza delivery guy, not the pizza.

Court TV has finally posted a list of the results of their Best Homicide episode poll. It's surprising, to say the least. I agree with the top choice (the pilot episode, "Gone for Goode") and I'm happy with numbers 2 and 3 ("Three Men and Adena," "Crosetti") though I might've put an episode or two above or between them. "Brotherly Love"'s inclusion is an abomination, it's only there because fans of Aerosmith voted for it because a bandmember made a guest appearance. Ack. One of these days I'll post my top 15 to (and link to it from here).

Kevin Poulsen on the Star Wars lines (and online SW fandom). I relate to this:

The fans in line, who work in shifts and generally have day jobs, are wired to the Internet 24 hours a day via a high-speed DSL line. Now that galls me. I can't get DSL in my home. These guys have it on a sidewalk.

Trust me, read this. Well, unless you're squeamish. It's Kibo recounting the experience of actually eating the Jar Jar Binks Monster Mouth Candy Tongue. Too funny (and frightening . . . )

Kibo on the evil that is the Jar Jar lollipop (from alt.religion.kibology, of course):

Which brings me to the "Jar Jar Binks Monster Mouth Candy Tongue" lollipop.

It's one of those modern rethinkings of the traditional lollipop, i.e. it's a lollipop with some plastic around it to raise the price to more than any human should have to pay for half an ounce of sugar on a stick. You know, these things are usually motorized and light up and talk and stuff. In this case, a large plastic plunger (looking exactly the same as the ones that two-part epoxy comes in) has a big head of Jar Jar Binks on the end. When you ram the plunger home, Jar Jar's mouth opens and his long red tongue protrudes.

And you're supposed to lick it. YOU are supposed to lick Jar Jar's tongue. His tongue is artificial cherry flavor.

So now you can see why I needed a photo of this for my Web site. Because I know that you're not going to believe my description of this candy -- WHICH REQUIRES THAT LITTLE KIDS FRENCH-KISS THE MOST ANNOYING CREATURE IN THE "STAR WARS" UNIVERSE -- without photographic evidence.


[Thanks to Dean Gahlon for mentioning this thread to me, I think . . . ]

Trust me on this, you don't want to think or talk about this Jar Jar lollipop for too long. I could comment more, but no, I refuse.

Neal Stephenson and Bruce Schneier will be autographing at the Barnes & Noble in Burnsville, Minnesota (14111 Aldrich Ave) on Friday, June 4th, from 7 to 9pm.

Stephenson and Schneier will also be signing books at Uncle Hugo's Science Fiction Bookstore (2864 Chicago Ave S, Minneapolis, MN) on Saturday, June 5th, from 1 to 2:30pm.

And there's a Minnesota Science Fiction Society (Minn-stf) party/meeting on Saturday afternoon/evening (as there is almost every 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month). Starting at 2pm (as usual) and going until people go away. Address in the June Einblatt.

Just ask me if you want to know more about Minn-stf.

If anyone out there watched the "best of" Homicide marathon on Court TV, you were probably puzzled (and rightly so) by the inclusion of "Brotherly Love," an episode that ranks about 125 out of the 133 episodes as far as I'm concerned. It's hideous. Well, Zabe solved the mystery and posted about it to

Yes, we all knew something was up when we saw "Brotherly Love" voted as one of the top 15 Homicide episodes ever. Ouch, that hurt my fingers to type. Doesn't it make you want to hurl? Anyway, I decided it was time to clear this whole thing up.

First, I visited the alt.rock-and-roll.aerosmith newsgroup. Nothing there but a couple of messages saying that Joe Perry did a great job as the narcotics detective. Yeah, and I'm the Queen of England.

You can guess that the trail led to a Aerosmith fan page (Joe Perry, of the band Aerosmith, had a guest starring role in this episode). . . with a direct link to the Homicide poll . . .

New York Post article on the possibility of Richard Belzer joining Law & Order: SVU as Detective John Munch (late of Homicide: Life on the Street).

In another article re John Munch heading to New York, Tom Fontana says a bit more about Homicide's cancellation:

"'St. Elsewhere' ended, 'Gunsmoke' ended," Fontana said. "I wish we could have written a final episode of 'Homicide.' I would have liked to see the show go for another year. I could have terrorized NBC for another season. I'm not happy the show isn't coming back."

A good salon piece by Sarah Vowell regarding the age of the VCR:

Just as our parents were the last generation to remember a time before the family TV, we would be the last generation to remember the first time we saw a VCR.

It would have enormous consequences -- personally and educationally. Television in general and video in particular have mostly deserved bad reps. But before the VCR, an informal film education, especially away from the cities, was impossible. And because my hometown had a wildly intelligent, revered video store called "Video Rodeo," which featured sections broken down by director or country of origin, my twin sister and I worked our way through Hitchcock and Scorsese and, for our 16th birthday, the scant four films of one James Dean.

For obvious and tragic reasons, electronic media are under fire for their undue influence over children. I understand concerns over the depiction of sex and violence, but I feel obliged to say that in my youth, cable TV and video were a good thing, a saving force. Even a moral one.

I grew up watching a lot of movies on videotape, taping a lot of TV shows to watch later (and now I wish I'd taped more, actually, way back when). In an age of cable where I could see certain favorite movies every couple of weeks. I have a hard time imagining not having access to certain films, I'm always pretty stunned when I find out something I want to see (for the first time or a repeat viewing) isn't available on videotape. And I'm genuinely aghast when I see films in poor state of repair-- classics that should be restored (and never should've degraded, darnit, I hate seeing art fade . . . ).

The Sopranos and The Practice get record 5 nominations each this year. Check out all the nominees for the TV Critic's Association Awards.

Maybe Richard Belzer will bring John Munch to one (or both) of next season's Law & Order series. He's mentioned it on his press tour, but according to Dick Wolf and NBC, negotiations are ongoing so it's not a done deal. I'm hopeful, though.

Good news: Henry Bromell and Michael Pressman named the new exec producers of Chicago Hope. If you missed the finale of Chicago Hope, it was absolutely wonderful. David Kelley wrote it, had Mandy Patinkin return as Geiger and fire more than half the characters. And it was as if Kelley, longtime fans, and critics were speaking directly through Geiger as he called everyone on the carpet for the stupidity of recent seasons. Talk about cathartic!

It was once a really good show, here's hoping with the cast changes, new exec producers, and a dash of involvement from Kelley that the show will be good again next year. Did I mention that Mandy Patinkin will be in 13 episodes next year? Cool.

Bromell used to work on Homicide, Pressman on Picket Fences and on the first season of Chicago Hope (among other things).

(Speaking of which, Lifetime just started airing first season episodes of Hope again at 7pm CST weeknights. Back when the show starred E.G. Marshall, Mandy Patinkin, Peter MacNichol, Thomas Gibson, Roxanne Hart, Roma Maffia, and others in addition to Adam Arkin and Hector Elizondo).

The Museum of Television & Radio has a good Gift Shop with a better than average selection of video and audio tapes.

L.A. Times piece about the end of Deep Space Nine:

"As a body of work, the show dealt with many very human attributes, much more than the original 'Star Trek' shows," says Armin Shimerman, who portrays the space station bartender Quark. "We were looking not for answers but for serious questions."

And here's another good quote:

"When people watch TV, they basically tune in to see the same comforting show every week, and that's not what we did," says Ira Steven Behr, another of the show's executive producers. "We mixed it up--drama, humor, battles, space opera--and I think some of the fans are resentful of that."

This fan isn't resentful, this fan is really really going to miss the show. I'll admit that the first season was weak, other seasons had weak spots. But overall, I think it's the best Star Trek series. Largely because of the things they did different-- having the politics be such a big part of things. Having conflict among the regulars and supporting players. Letting characters change, evolve, from week to week, year to year. When Roddenberry and others were around, they wouldn't stand for change or conflict and that's really what makes good drama. It's not fun if only the guest stars get to change or fight.

jjg links to a page about that old Star Wars anti-smoking PSA. I vaguely recall seeing it air in theaters, not just on TV, but I might be conflating it with another PSA (remember the Terminator one for not smoking in movie theaters?).

"What is" defines "Weblog [via Camworld].

What the? There's actually a Darth Maul Estrogen Brigade [via memepool]. They're serious. Er . . . I could understand the stupidly-named brigades for various X-Files stars, Babylon 5 stars, etc. I could even understand if this was a site for female fans of the guy inside the Darth Maul costume-- but of Darth Maul himself? Talk about a cardboard cutout villain . . . Um. I guess I can safely say that Darth Maul is not my type. Not even as fictitious characters go.

I'm only about 1,000 messages behind on Bad on me. Nevermind newsgroups like rec.arts.sf.fandom that I've neglected for a couple of months (I don't even want to think about the messages I've missed there, I can't bother trying to catch up or I'd drive myself mad).

Mike Musgrove on his beloved PalmIII [via rc3:

People fully expect computerized devices not to work the way they're supposed to, and they aren't disappointed often. Not to get too gushy about it, but the wonderful secret to the Palm's success is nothing more than the fact that the thing actually works right. It comes on instantly. The operating system makes sense. It's easy to learn how to use.

Story mentions the fab Pilot Was Here page (but it's not linked to within the story-- boooooo, hiss).

Richard Shindell is one of my favorite songwriters/performers . . . I've never managed to see him in person (sigh), so I was particularly happy to find a webcast of one of his concerts available online. It's from late 1997, recorded in Chicago.

The first song in the show is one of my all-time favorite songs ("Are You Happy Now?"), give it a chance if not the rest of the recording. Second song is "Nora" made slightly famous when it was recorded by Dar Williams. I prefer the third song, which is more typical of Shindell-- "Fishing" (and no, it's not about fishing, but immigration . . . er . . . sorta). "The Next Best Western" is another fave that's in this show. Requires RealAudio, natch.

Huh, cool. Whump links to Andy Hooper's columns re toys at the collecting channel. has funny (yet sad and true) rundowns of the new fall seasons for the various TV networks online. One has to laugh about it or one would cry at the stupidity of the folks in charge of network television-- and the shows that are created or renewed (as opposed to the good shows that are never given a chance or are unjustly cancelled).

I still need that Wookiee Cookies book. Here's a fab page full of Star Wars books from Chronicle Books.

Excellent piece about Baltimore, Homicide, and a little piece of home when one's away from home:

I missed home.

So every Friday night, I tuned in at 10 p.m. to get that shot in the arm that would take me through the next week. "Homicide: Life on the Street" was the television incarnation of the David Simon book about Baltimore homicide detectives. To me, the book represented the power of journalism and the reason I got into the business.

When I lived in Baltimore, the show seemed an honest portrayal of Simon's work. In Providence, it was a time machine. It took me home.

Most nights I would steam up a batch of shrimp with Vidalia onions, garlic and Old Bay seasoning and invite my new friends over to see and taste my hometown. The show had a small following here, despite being exiled to a horrible time slot. But the promise of food, drink and an hour of good entertainment was enough to coax folks to my apartment almost every Friday night.

Ty Burr on why guys like Notting Hill:

Here's my thinking on this: While "Notting Hill" is being marketed as a swoony chick-flick, it actually taps into a time-honored fantasy and tells it from the man's point of view. Said fantasy being that you (average schmoe) meet a famous person (movie star, singer, politician, whatever floats your boat) and somehow strike it off, leading to friendship, romance, marriage, cheap motel sex -- whatever floats your boat.

You're telling me you've never indulged in this fantasy on a long, dozey plane ride or standing in the check-out line? I am telling you that you are lying. Admit it: It's human nature to peer under the coverlet of celebrity and wonder about the actual person beneath.

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