Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Lot Is for Sale in Downtown Green Bay

Shoppers could always count on finding stuff to buy in downtown Green Bay when I was growing up there. The giant Port Plaza Mall had book stores, music shops, video arcades, restaurants, and a ton of clothing stores. The grand old Prange's (Green Bay's locally owned version of Macy's or Marshall Field's) offered upscale shopping and was later replaced by Younkers and Boston Store. The mall was ringed by the classic shops and offices you'd find in any downtown: barber shops, piano stores, luggage stores, magazine shops, banks, etc.

On my visit to Green Bay last week, I walked downtown and saw there was still a lot of stuff for sale, such as, well, downtown. The mall is closed and partly demolished. "For Sale" signs are to be found on almost every block, and many buildings were empty or at least looked deserted.

The signs of desertion were somewhat misleading. Green Bay isn't one of those dried-up rust-belt cities that started dying out in the 1970s and never recovered. In fact, Green Bay has done fairly well for itself over the years, and there are thriving (and constantly spreading) commercial districts on the city's outskirts. It's downtown is responding by turning into a venue for condos (not sure how big the market is for downtown condos in a city where land is relatively cheap and driving conditions are easy – good luck with that). But I do miss the downtown that was walkable, where you could do your banking, catch a movie, have lunch (probably not in that order), buy a book and get your new pair of pants without getting into your car four different times.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

A White Sox Fan in a Strange Land

Today my company had a staff outing at a game of the San Francisco Giants. The visiting team was the Chicago Cubs. I went, took a bunch of photos (for more, see my Flickr page). The above photo shows a pitcher warming up in the Giants bullpen.

The Giants won 4-1. It was a good game, even though my own favorite team, the Chicago White Sox, was not playing. I will say that the Giants fans seem better behaved than home fans I've seen at Cubs, Yankees, or Athletics games.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Welcome to Packerland

Last week, one of my first greetings upon landing in the town where I grew up, Green Bay, is this sign atop the baggage claim machinery.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Stardust Review

Stardust (08.12.07): Based on a best-selling fantasy novel by the team of Gaiman and Vess, Stardust is the immensely entertaining story of a young man out to impress his love by bringing back to her a part of a fallen star. Much ensues. Impossible to relate here. (For example, Robert De Niro as as a tough-acting gay pirate captain of an airship. It just gets more complicated from there.)

Charlie Cox as the young hero, Tristan, has to carry the storyline on his shoulders, but he gets much help from De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Everett, Peter O'Toole, and a ton of others, all of whom appeared to have had a grand old time making the film. Often when the actor's enjoyment comes across on screen, the audience is left with a sense of wonder -- wondering why we're not enjoying it as much as the actors. But this time, that's not the case. Much fun.

For this and other movie reviews, see here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Dennis Kucinich on Gay Marriage

Kucinich, speaking at The Commonwealth Club of California today, gave a press conference after his speech. In this clip, he discusses gay marriage (and takes aim at my personal favorite candidate, Hillary Clinton; nonetheless, I appreciate his support and passion on the subject).

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Sports Heroes Pro and Con

So you've seen the news: Barry Bonds hit home run number 44,839,925,258 or whatever it is. (Though I'm a baseball fan, my team is the Chicago White Sox, so I don't follow the Giants as much as others do here in San Francisco, where I currently live). This has been the source of much hand-wringing from people in the worlds of baseball, sports in general, and non-sports.

It's made me think about growing up in Green Bay during the 1970s and 1980s, when our hometown team, the Green Bay Packers, was, well, less than stellar on the field and off. In high school, a common topic of lunchtime discussion was the latest arrest of a millionaire player on rape charges. When I moved to Chicago in the 1990s, my White Sox alternately soared and sucked, but they were mostly a group of seemingly good people. (Robin Ventura, Frank Thomas, etc.) But every so often, the team's owners would decide they were going to bring in someone who'd help revive the team – and they'd misfire so badly. One was an accused wife-beater. Another had thrown a baseball at some fans. Neither served to exactly deepen my love for the team. Luckily, those dark forces were only on the Sox for a short period of time before leaving for other teams, and eventually the Sox would soar again, all the way to the 2005 World Series championship.

I continued to follow the White Sox when I moved to San Francisco in 2001, but I also began watching some European soccer (er, football or fussball, if you're German), and names of players there began to mean more to me than baseball players here. Timo Hildebrand, Michael Ballack (pictured above), Miroslav Klose. And you know what? Being separated by an ocean and a continent has helped keep me largely ignorant of detailed news of these players' lives. I assume if any of them was an out-and-out criminal, I'd have heard about it. But I only check the German fussball reports to see how my adopted teams are doing, not to get that sort of day-to-day dirt dishing that we seem to revel in here.

Distance has its advantages.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

When Should You Be Scared to See a Polar Bear?

When it shows up in lands that have never seen a polar bear before, which means their Arctic home is increasingly inhospitable and they're going farther and farther afield looking for food and land.

That was the case with polar bears spotted by some local Siberians, who told a recent Commonwealth Club of California travelers group that they were seeing the polar bears where they've never seen them before. The photo above is from that same Club trip, though of different bears.

Neil deGrasse Tyson on How it'll All End

The great astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson spoke at The Commonwealth Club of California in early 2007, and in part of his talk, he describes the destruction that could be wrought by earth's collision with a comet.

Campaign Finance Reform Sanity

Monday, August 6, 2007

San Francisco's Easter Island Statue?

I'm pretty sure the Dutch weren't the original settlers of San Francisco. Nor the second or third settlers. In fact, they still might not have discovered this city. So why is there an ancient, wooden windmill a block away from the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco?

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Blade Runner, Redux

So the next issue of Starlog magazine will feature a report on Blade Runner's 25th anniversary and director Ridley Scott's final, final, final version. I'm actually excited about this.

And, okay, the new Flash Gordon looks cute, too.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Blog, Blog, Everywhere. Now Please Stop.

Sitting in the Metreon movie theaters waiting for the beginning of The Bourne Ultimatum (which I'll review on my other site, http://www.weimar.ws/kino.html ), and I notice someone a couple rows ahead of me has brought his laptop computer and is working or playing on it. I don't pay much attention at first, but later, out of sheer boredom (the movie started late, and the "pre-feature entertainment" was annoying), I glanced again at his computer screen and saw that he was blogging.

Blogging at the movie theater. Madness, isn't it? But then, if it means people will be blogging wherever they go and not talking inanely into their cell phones, I suppose I have to come out in support of the trend.

Free Robbie the Robot!

Robbie the Robot, star of Forbidden Planet and a subscription commercial by Starlog magazine (who says my references can't out-archane anybody?!?) (archania on the archane: that commercial also spurred a snarky negative editorial in Galaxy science fiction magazine at the time) ... er, where was I? Oh, yes, Robbie is imprisoned at the Metreon in downtown San Francisco, right outside the Things from Another Planet comics store on the second floor.
Free Robbie the Robot! August 4, 2007, photo by John Zipperer.

Perry Rhodan auf Deutsch and in English

I saw The Simpsons Movie the same day I watched an episode of The Simpsons, and frankly the blended together in my mind when I was later trying to remember what was in the movie.

A somewhat similar dissonance when I recently took a break from reading the German-language Perry Rhodan book, Kampf um die SOL, to read the English-language translation of a different Perry Rhodan book, Lemuria I: Star Ark (from FanPro, whose web site has since gone offline, so there may never be a Lemuria II). Having previously read a German-language Rhodan novel (Raumschiff in Fesseln, for you completists), so I knew what to expect when I read Kampf um die SOL, but it wasn't until I read the English novel that I learned how much of it I got wrong. (What? That character's not a robot? Huh?)

Goes to show how shaky my German still is.

Anyway, if you're not familiar with Rhodan and you're a science fiction reader, you should check it out – in some language (it's in German, English, French, Spanish, Czech, etc., etc., etc.). Begun back in the early 1960s, the Rhodan magazine, stories, and comics have been published ever since, making them the longest-running science fiction series in the world. Yes, longer than the Star Trek franchise. And it's still wildly popular. See the official German-language Rhodan site here [http://www.perry-rhodan.net/ ] and the English-language site here [http://www.perry-rhodan.us/ ].

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Host Comes to DVD

The superior Korean monster movie The Host is out on DVD now.

Here's the review I wrote on my film-review page [http://www.weimar.ws/wmrkino.html] after seeing this movie in the theater:

The Host (03.11.07): This fantastic balancing act of a monster movie from South Korea – wait, that gives away in the first sentence what I think about it. Let me be more circumspect. The Host is a Korean film about a family's struggle for survival against a man-made monster that is terrorizing the city and wildly entertaining the audiences. Hmmm, that also gives away too much. Let's try this: Balancing humor and horror is an act that Americans almost never pull off, but this Korean film does well, showing us endearing characters whose funny actions and reactions never sink to camp – even when they're rolling around on the floor fighting with each other at a little girl's wake.

There, that didn't give away the fact that I found this film incredibly endearing and immensely entertaining, did it? It's a difficult thing for a writer to do, at least this writer regarding this film. The Host is a B-movie, make no mistake. Though it makes some side-swipes at political allusions, it's really a film about a family trying to rescue a little girl from a monster. The actors do great jobs giving us characters who are imperfect yet for whom we root nonetheless (or even moreso, considering that they can be sort of stupid at times). And it's a pleasure to watch each of them on screen.

This fantastic balancing act of a monster movie from South Korea is awesome fun and shouldn't be missed. If a theater near you doesn't show it, then thank God for DVD.

Oscar the Deadly Cat

Editorial cartoonist Lyle Lahey is a 35+-year veteran of political cartoons, having been a daily cartoonist at the Green Bay News-Chronicle until its closure a couple years ago. His new cartoons can been see three times a week at his web site.

9-1-09: For an update on this cartoon's popularity, see this blog post.

Welcome to My Blog

Now that I've captured your attention, I can perform my crazy experiments on it! (Insert maniacal laughter here.)

No, actually this blog is a collection of -- and connection to -- my various other interests, web sites, online creations, and such. I'm sure this blog will evolve dramatically as I get into it, but for now: Welcome to my blog.