Christmas Kudzu

Via NPR, Sunday Edition looks at Asiatic bittersweet, a very pretty fruit laden vine that has spread from New England to the South and Midwest.
Asiatic bittersweet has spread from Maine to Louisiana and the Midwest since it was introduced from Asia in the 1860s. It can climb more than 60 feet, spiraling up the trunks and branches of its host trees like a snake. And like a boa constrictor, it chokes those trees.
Widespread infestations of the plant are nearly impossible to eradicate without herbicides. It’s now illegal in many states to collect, move or sell Asiatic bittersweet.

Sure its a pretty plant, but its a biome wrecker. (Something we are very concerned with in Minnesota, with Emerald ash bores, invasive zebra mussels and other water species, and other exotic plants and animals). I think calling it Christmas Kudzu is entirely appropriate, don’t you think?

Chocolate Meltdown

Arthur Lebow, from NY Times Magazine, has an op ed in the NY Times today about chocolate. He laments the loss of quality of Scharffen Berger’s chocolate after being acquired by Hershey’s, and looks with concern at the attempts by Kraft (and possibly Hershey too) to acquire the British candy giant Cadbury.
He’s worried that the artisan chocolate Green and Black is going to be devalued and denatured, just as Scharffen was, if one of these giants wind up picking up Cadbury. I think he has, unfortunately, a very good point.
I like chocolate. I am a fan of good dark chocolate. I remember the days, and shudder, when I thought that Hershey’s “Special Dark” chocolate was the best thing on earth–because I just didn’t know any better. Throw in a visit to England to be introduced to real Cadbury chocolate, and my education in things chocolate proceeded apace.
Right now, for a “common everyday chocolate”, I rely in Ghirardelli dark chocolate. Lindt’s are more expensive, so I only get those on special occasions.
It would be a shame if Kraft or Hershey devalued British chocolate. There isn’t enough good chocolate in the world. There is already too much mediocre chocolate.

Ireland versus France, and the Fifth Down game

Soccer World In Uproar: Ireland Demands Rematch With France
French soccer … er, football … player Thierry Henry “has admitted handling a ball before a crucial goal that sent his team to the World Cup at the expense of Ireland.” Henry’s touch, by the way, is known now as “the Hand of Gaul” — a nice homage to the “Hand of God” score by Argentina’s Diego Maradona during the 1986 World Cup quarter final against England. Henry didn’t score the French goal in Wednesday’s match 1-1, but one of his teammates did soon after. The Irish argue that play should have stopped when Henry’s hand touched the ball.
As it so happens, the FIFA has decided that there will NOT be a rematch. The result cannot be changed.
This reminds me of the infamous college football game between Colorado and Missouriin the 1990 college football season when the Buffaloes, thanks to an error, got a “fifth down” at the end of the game (on which, they scored and won the game). Even more egregiously, this win allowed the Buffaloes to share the National Championship this year.
So, Missouri Tigers fans can sympathize with Ireland this week, especially if France goes deep into the playoffs at the World Cup this year.

“I’m mean, sour, nasty and cruel…”

I’ve mentioned Warner Bros’ practice of releasing movies in create-dvd-on-demand format before, with a number of interesting minor movies available (ranging from Doc Savage to She to even some failed Gene Roddenberry pilots.
Now, though, they have some new ones for the season, including one that has stuck in my brain because of one song.
Yogi’s First Christmas
I remember this movie because it was a musical episode of Yogi, with a number of songs, including the song that introduces the hermit antagonist. (The hermit hates Christmas, you see…) His song begins “I’m mean, sour, nasty and cruel. That’s my disposition as a general rule…”
Its not high art and I’m not really tempted to buy it, but its gratifying and amusing to see it come to DVD at last.

Football AND SF, what could be better?

One of the many things on my RSS feed is a football column, the Fifth Down, from the NY Times. They have a variety of things to fill the week, but today is “matchup day”, when Mike Tanier looks forward to Sunday’s games and how the teams stack up.
Imagine my delight, when reading todays column, when I came across this entry:
49ers (4-5) at Packers (5-4)
Sunday, 1 p.m.
Line: Packers by 6 1/2
The college coach Jeff Tedford drew inspiration from Isaac Asimov, programming Aaron Rodgers and others (Trent Dilfer, Joey Harrington, A.J. Feeley) with the Three Rules of Quarterbotics. Rule 1: Always hold the football directly under the chinstrap. Rule 2: Methodically read the defense, dumping to a running back if nothing else is open. Rule 3: Obey Rules 1 and 2 at all costs, even if it means washing out of the N.F.L. Pro scouts grew suspicious of Tedford’s automatons four years ago, opting instead for spread-option freewheelers like Alex Smith.
Rodgers abandoned Asimov for Philip K. Dick: like Roy Batty in “Blade Runner,” he rejected his programming. Rodgers is now the dangerous loose cannon, and Smith (drafted first in the 2005 while Rodgers sweated for the cameras and tumbled to No. 24) is trying to outgun him while chafing against a system that doesn’t maximize his limited talents. Smith found an origami swan in his locker after practice this week. It cannot be a good sign.

Football AND SF. What could be better?!

Coming to the SF Genre

Ecstatic Days on coming to the SF genres
As always, I have to give credit to my older brother, for inducting me into the secret society of SF readers. Martian Chronicles, I Robot, Heinlein, Zelazny, Vance…my brother taught me early and well. And I ate it all up and started seeking my own.
I do see Jeff’s point. Since we lived in NYC, we had easy access to lots of written SF. If we had lived elsewhere, it would have been more difficult. By no means impossible. My friend Scott, who moved around a lot in the heartland, and did not like visual SF much, fell into the F/SF reader genre on his own thanks to the mercies of public libraries ranging from Georgia to Montana.

Reimagined movie plots in terms of actor’s other characters

I’ve seen this idea somewhere, but I can’t tell you for the life of me where. But I am going to create a meme for it and let it loose for you the reader to play with in your blog, in your mind or wherever.
The idea is to reimagine a synopsis of a movie in terms of the other characters played by the actors in the movie. I think I came across this in terms of thinking about some of the high powered casts of Superhero movies, but you really can do this for any range of films.
So, a few examples for you to get started.
SHE
Grand Moff Tarkin explores the African desert, and find a city ruled over by Bond Girl Honey Ryder and her henchman Saruman.
KNIGHT’S TALE
In Medieval France, the Joker, Wash,and Silas the albino monk team up to win jousting tournaments.
INKHEART
Rick O’Connell gets the help of Silas the albino monk in taking on Gollum, who is seeking to bring an even greater evil than he into the world.
AIR FORCE ONE
Now President of the United States, Indiana Jones has a new personal terrorist enemy–none other than Sirius Black, seeking to hijack the titular plane.
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
Aragorn, living the life of a restaurant owner, reveals to his wife that he has secret skills in killing people when Major Koning comes calling on the behalf of Aragorn’s brother, Inspector Frank Bumstead.
INDEPENDENCE DAY
Agent J, Data, Lone Starr, Lester Marlow and Dr. Ian Malcolm take on aliens invading the Earth on the titular holiday.