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Kong, The Eighth Wonder of the World
December 16th, 2005

Sandra and I decided that King Kong was the one film we had to see together this holiday season. Then, like a jerk, I decided I couldn't wait until next Thursday when we can both find time and a babysitter, so I went and saw it alone yesterday.

You need to see this film in theaters. I probably didn't need to tell you that. I mean, come on... GIANT GORILLA.

You've seen the trailers, I'm sure. Often with trailers that good, I'm worried that they've shown me all the best parts of the film. Not so with King Kong. They've shown you tiny snippets taken from some of the best parts of the film, and they've very thoughtfully NOT shown you some of the VERY best bits.

I remember reading "Liberty Meadows" one day, and Frank Cho had drawn a gorilla fighting a bunch of velociraptors. The caption was along the lines of "Sorry, no story today. I just wanted to draw a monkey beating up on a bunch of dinosaurs." Now, students of Cho's work will likely tell you that this was a dig at the syndicates, because "monkey-boy" Frank Cho was sometimes at odds with his employers, the "dinosaur" syndicate editors. Regardless, I like to think that he really DID just want to draw a monkey fighting with dinosaurs. And if I'm right, Frank Cho will weep tears of joy while watching King Kong, because it will fulfill his darkest monkey-punching fantasies.

(Yes, I know, Kong is an APE, not a MONKEY. Understand, however, that "monkey" is a funnier word by several orders of magnitude. If Charlton Heston, in Planet of the Apes had said "Get your hands off me, you damn, dirty monkey," the film would have been a smash-hit comedy.)

King Kong is just over three hours long. Don't buy a drink at the theater unless you've got great bladder control, because I can't think of a single place in that film where it's okay to miss a few minutes. Just hold it in. And do go before the movie starts, kids.

Some will say that the film COULD have been shorter. Peter Jackson COULD have just given us two hours of eye-candy, with none of that bothersome STORY or CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. Thankfully, he's a better director than that. Even when Kong is not on the screen, your eyes will be. You'll care about ALL these players, and you'll keep watching to find out how their epic adventure changes them (hint: at least one of them becomes monkey-chow).

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December 15th, 2005

So... I'm over at reading some cool news -- apparently another Kuiper belt object has been discovered, but the tilt of its orbital plane (47 degrees tilted from that of our Solar System's planets) and its nearly circular orbit are playing havoc with existing theories for how the Kuiper belt formed and evolved.

Several words in the article appeared to be hyperlinked, and the first was the temporary name of the 500-to-1000 kilometer object: "Buffy." I expected to be linked to articles about how temporary naming took a fun spin with "Xena" recently, but no, this was a sponsored link, and mousing over it gave me a pop-up about buying Buffy The Vampire Slayer on DVD.

There were other words in the article that were similarly linked -- "remote," "coax," and "computers." Each was pointed to a page that had absolutely NOTHING to do with Kuiper belt objects, or even astronomy. Go look at the article and see those words in context, and you'll see what I mean.

I love HTML. I love the way the appropriate use of anchor tags and hyperlinks allows us to deepen our understanding of subjects by connecting words, terms, and phrases to articles that provide further information. The Astronomy Picture of the Day and Wikipedia both do this really, really well.

I also like Internet advertising. I have to -- it pays my bills. But it's getting better and better at connecting me with products, services, and information germane to what I'm reading about, or otherwise closely related to my own interests. Mind you, I block pop-ups, and scan pages for content before granting an eyeball to the ads, but it's nice. If I'm in a hurry, the ads don't slow me down a bit. I've designed my own site with this principle in mind.

But the method of inlining the ads used at PhysOrg hijacks the reader, confounding attempts at deeper understanding. PhysOrg just trained me to keep my mouse the heck out of that window while I'm reading -- I can't trust their hyperlinks.

Besides, I already own all seven seasons of Buffy on DVD.

10:00am, December 14th, 2005

Six years ago, almost to the day, I had a heart attack. It wasn't much of an attack, as cardiac events go -- it was myocarditis, after all. It wasn't caused by blockage, or high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, or any of the USUAL things that trigger arrests in 31-year-old males. I spent three days in the hospital being very bored (and a little scared, yes), and came home fit as a fiddle. Well... the strings needed to be tightened a bit, because the drugs they wanted me to take were worse than the myocarditis, but as soon as I ditched the battery of useless meds (including a blood-pressure regulator that prevented me from running up stairs, doing more than a couple of push-ups, or getting anything else up, if you catch my drift) I was fine.

They measured my cholesterol while I was in the hospital, and it was around 100. I was spectacularly healthy, and the ratio of HDL to LDL supported that. I'd been low-carb dieting at the time, and exercising upwards of 10 hours per week. Then I caught the "Luke Skywalker" flu -- the virus made it all the way to the reactor core, and my heart muscle swelled up. That's what myocarditis is: a viral or bacterial infection and resulting inflammation of the heart muscle.

Understand, though, that my Dad spent at least two decades being obese, had myocarditis in his 40's, and then had a massive and quite fatal coronary at age 56. Regardless of how healthy I felt back in 1999, I also felt that there was this hereditary sword hanging over my head, and if I couldn't move out of the way, perhaps I could put on a helmet.

So ever since 1999 I've been interested in my cholesterol levels. Some of you may remember the "guess Howard's total cholesterol level" contest I ran for three or four years in a row each winter. Sadly, I've never dieted-and-exercised as effectively as I did back in 1999, so the levels have been as high as 235. Back when I was twenty-five years old I had my cholesterol measured, and it was around 200, maybe 205. The few times I've been tested while low-carbing, It's been down around 150 to 175.

As far as I can tell, then, my cholesterol levels are high when I'm on the high-carb, high-junk, 21st-century fast-food-forager diet, and healthy or low when I'm doing some variant of the low-carb thing.

The latest round of results bear that out. I've been low-carbing, working out at least twice a week, and enjoying staple items like bacon-wrapped grilled chicken breast, butter-fried cheese, bacon and eggs, and ham-and-egg-drop soup for 16 days now. This morning I took a home cholesterol test, and was almost off the chart... on the low end. The chart only went down to "21 = 119" (a reading of "21" on the chart-calibrated device corresponds to a total cholesterol level of 119) and the fuzzy purple line generated by a few drops of my blood only went up to about 20.5. Eh. Call it 21. That puts my total cholesterol at or just south of 119, which is the lowest measurement I've had since 1999.

Needless to say, I'm pleased. My weight may have plateau'd for the last week, but I feel great, my clothing fits better, and now I know that my cholesterol has retreated from the borders of the Undiscovered Country.

The Street Value of Uncut Cheese
December 14th, 2005

At almost the precise moment my "Cheeeeese" blog entry aired, a Schlocker emailed me with what sounded like an anecdotal or urban-legend-esque tale. Supposedly there was this young woman who saw a block of queso blanco on a neighbor's table, decided it was uncut cocaine, and hired a hit man to kill everyone in the house so she could steal the coke and resell it.

To her misfortune (and to the good fortune of everyone in the home) the hit man she hired was an undercover police officer. And the cops searched the house, having reasonable cause, and determined that the queso blanco was not, in fact, cocaine.

A little googling pulled up the original article. Here it is, from the Washington Post. The article aired on December 6th (here at Schlock Mercenary we're less than 10 days behind the rest of the journalistic world) and at that time Jessica Sandy Booth remained in jail, with bond set at a cool million dollars, on four charges of attempted murder and four counts of soliciting murder.

All over a block of queso blanco. I think I'll go fry some right now, and get my buzz on.