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Thursday, November 25, 2004
Rather Admits He Was Forced Out?

How else to read this article?

"Somebody said to me the other day, ‘Well, weren’t you trying to get to the 25th anniversary?’ And I said, ‘Truthfully, no, I was trying to get to the 35th anniversary.’ But life’s not like that."

Mr. Rather said he’d consulted with CBS president Les Moonves, his agent Richard Liebner, his wife Jean, and even his daughter and son when he made his choice. But in the end, Mr. Rather listened to what he described as a "wee, small voice" when he decided to exit the position much earlier than his contract allowed for.

Read it down to the bottom for Olbermann's comments about the recount in Ohio. Nice to see that the "reality-based community" still believes in the Tooth Fairy.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
The Legion of Super-Heroes

The first comic series that I really got into as a kid was the Legion of Super-Heroes in Adventure Comics. Through the wonders of abpc, I have read in the last couple of days the first 22 issues in that series, from Adventure 300-321. Here are my general impressions:

There were several recurring plotlines during those issues. Perhaps the most important was the death (and later resurrection) of Lightning Lad. In Adventure #304, Saturn Girl assumed leadership of the Legion through trickery. Once in charge, she became a despot (a frequent theme; see Adventure #318), and forbade all the Legion members to use their powers for minor infractions. She was also stealing their powers secretly. It turns out that she has learned that a computer predicted the death of a Legion member using his or her power to repel an invasion, so she wants to make sure that she is the one to die. However, at the last moment, Lightning Lad disobeys her and dies instead.

This is a very significant issue in the history of DC comics. Lightning Lad was, as far as I know, the first recurring non-villain character to die in a DC story and not come back to life by the end of that story. However, they did hold out hope that he could be revived in the final panel.

"Or is it possible that the super-science of the 30th century can restore his life? See forthcoming issues of Adventure Comics for the surprising answer!"

For the next several issues, there would be a brief mention or two or Lighting Lad. In Adventure #305, where Mon-El finally leaves the Phantom Zone, the first two panels and the last one contain mentions of Lightning Lad. In Adventure #308, Lightning Lad apparently comes back to life, but it turns out to be his sister, Lightning Lass. In Adventure #310, when Ultra-Boy is (apparently) killed, Saturn Girl mentions that he is the second Legion member to die. He comes back to life at the end of the story, however as it is revealed that his death was just a trick by a descendant of Mr Myxptlk.

Finally, in Adventure #312, the Lightning Lad saga is brought to a temporary climax. The Legion resolves to dedicate itself to finding a way to revive him. Eventually a way is discovered, but it requires one of the existing members to die. Apparently Saturn Girl is the one chosen by fate, but she turns out to have been mimicked by Proty, a shape-shifting pet of Chameleon Boy's. Proty dies a hero and Lightning Lad returns to life.

There were two loose ends to this saga. First, Proty was honored with a special plaque and statue in a ceremony in Adventure #316. And Lightning Lass was redundant now, so in Adventure #317 her powers were changed to making things light, and she became Light Lass.

The other major story was the Legion of Substitute Heroes. This group was comprised of Legion rejects who still had super powers but were flawed in some way. They first appeared in Adventure #306, returned in a major role in Adventure #311 and were finally discovered by the real Legion in Adventure #315. In that issue the original Legion had a contest to see which member of the Substitutes would be allowed to join. In an upset, Stone Boy won, but declined membership preferring to stay with his old group. The highlight of the Substitute Heroes subplot came in Adventure #319 when they managed to defeat a threat that had beaten the Legion (thanks mostly to Night Girl).

There is a conscious effort to highlight the uses of the powers of the superheroes, even those with the lamest of abilities. Matter Eater Lad's super power might seem pretty pedestrian, so we see him eating his way out of a prison, and in another episode eating the inside of a meteor so that it can be used to disguise a spaceship. Bouncing Boy defeats the mighty earthquake beast in Adventure #309 by bouncing around and getting the monster to quake a mountain down on itself.

On the soap opera front, we learn in Adventure #306 that Night Girl has her eye on Cosmic Boy. And in Adventure #316 we discover that Phantom Girl is sweet on Ultra Boy. Already established long term is that Saturn Girl will marry Lightning Lad (previously shown in a Supergirl story in Action Comics). And in Adventure #317, Star Boy makes obvious his affection for Dream Girl. Not surprisingly the women admire from afar, while the men are more likely to make their interests known (although amusingly, at first all the male legion men appear interested in the platinum blonde Dream Girl).

In an interesting twist, the ground is laid for the Legion's major villain, the Time Trapper in Adventure #317. The story (and the one in Adventure #318) mentions the Time Trapper as if we have already met him, but he does not actually appear until Adventure #321.

One thing that I had not noticed reading the stories as a youngster was the special problem posed to Legion writers by the characters of Superboy, Mon-El and Ultra Boy (and to a lesser extent Supergirl). Their tremendous powers make it difficult to maintain the illusion of danger to the other Legion members. As such, the writers frequently had them responding to some other emergency. In both Adventure #317 and #318 they are shown attempting to break through the Time Trapper's barrier. It's very likely that the villainous Trapper was developed to give them a continuing reason to be away from the Legion.
Why Do the Power Ratings?

The simple reason is that they work. I looked at the ratings as of Week Three. If you had just ranked teams based on Won/Lost Percentage at that time, the correlation between that ranking and the teams' Won/Lost Percentages since then was 32.5%. If you ranked the teams based on power ratings, the correlation between that ranking and the teams' Won/Lost Percentage is much higher--50.2%

I then did the same calculation for my rankings as of Weeks 4-7, summarized as follows:

Week 4: Win% Correl: 32.6%
Week 4: PWRR Correl: 42.2%

Week 5: Win% Correl: 31.5%
Week 5: PWRR Correl: 33.5%

Week 6: Win% Correl: 22.6%
Week 6: PWRR Correl: 31.9%

Week 7: Win% Correl: 28.9%
Week 7: PWRR Correl: 30.8%

As you can see, in each case, the Power Ranking correlation is higher than the ranking based on prior winning percentage.
Power Ratings for Week 11

Comments: Indy slips ahead of Philly on the basis of its crushing of the Bears at Chicago. San Francisco gets a firm grip on last place in the Power Ratings; a loss this weekend at Miami would probably clinch it for the '49ers, who have probably not been the worst team in the league this late in the season since 1979, Joe Montana's rookie year.

The AFC continues to dominate in interconference games at 27-17 and are now collectively 10 games above .500. This means that some good AFC teams will not make the playoffs. If the season were to end today, one of the AFC teams at 7-3 would be out of the picture, and a 5-5 team in the NFC would be in the Super Bowl tournament.

The average home field advantage remains at about 2.8 points. Only eight teams this season have played worse at home than on the road, with oddly enough three of them in the NFC North (Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay). Is this some indicator? Doesn't look like it, because last year those three teams all had positive home field advantages, with Chicago and Detroit well above average.

NE 110.8
Ind 110.2
Phi 109.7
Pit 107.8
SD 107.1
Bal 107.0
Den 104.7
NYJ 104.3
KC 104.3
Atl 103.1
Sea 101.1
Min 100.5
GB 100.5
NYG 100.5
Cle 100.3
Jax 100.2
Buf 99.1
Cin 99.1
Ten 98.6
Hou 98.3
TB 98.2
Car 97.3
Chi 97.2
StL 96.7
Det 96.6
Was 95.4
Oak 94.6
AZ 94.0
Mia 93.6
Dal 91.4
NO 90.9
SF 86.8
Monday, November 22, 2004
Movie Review: National Treasure

The Good: Solid acting, entertaining film. Good chemistry between the stars.

The Bad: Some rather large plot holes, and an anti-climactic ending.

National Treasure is fun, if a trifle ridiculous. The basic plot (revealed in the film's opening scenes) is that the stupendous treasure of the Knights Templar has been hidden away by the Founding Fathers with clues located in historical sites and on the back of the Declaration of Independence.

Nicholas Cage plays Benjamin Franklin Gates, apparently the seventh generation Gates to search for the treasure. He is assisted by his buddy Riley (Justin Bartha) and the Director of the National Archives, Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) as they race against bad guy Ian Howe (Sean Bean).

Gates and Howe originally team up to search for the treasure, but their partnership is terminated when the former refuses to go along with a plan to steal the Declaration of Independence. After fruitlessly trying to warn authorities (including the gorgeous Dr Chase) about the impending heist, Gates decides that the only way to save the precious document is to steal it himself. From there, the treasure hunt is on.

The chemistry between the stars is excellent, although Harvey Keitel is largely wasted as an FBI agent chasing Gates, and Jon Voight phones in his 100th performance in a row as Gates' father. There is some excellent cinematography throughout and lots of wonderful historic locations.

There are also lots of plot holes. At one point the characters need to look where the shadow of Independence Hall falls "at 2:22 PM", with no apparent recognition that the shadow would fall in different places at different times of the year. Despite its apparent fragility, the Declaration ends up getting rolled up and unrolled many times during the course of the movie.
1970s Movie Trivia Answers

1. What business is Ned Beatty well-respected in during the movie "Deliverance"?
Beatty's character was well-respected in the insurance business.

2. What advice is offered when playing a Wookie in a game?

this is an audio post - click to play

3. What brand of chewing gum does Jack Nicholson offer to The Chief in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"?

Juicy Fruit

4. (Jeopardy-style): Gene Hackman, Red Buttons, Roddy McDowell, Leslie Nielsen and Pamela Sue Martin.

What actors were featured in the movie, The Poseidon Adventure?

5. This dark comedy featured Walter Matthau marrying a shy but wealthy botanist with the intent of murdering her to pay for his excessive lifestyle.

The New Leaf

6. In this 1974 film Warren Beatty tries to track down the conspiracy behind the assassination of a US Senator at the Space Needle in Seattle.

The Parallax View

7. What was Donald Sutherland and Elliot Gould's second picture together, after M*A*S*H*?


8. What recommendation does Roy Scheider have about shark hunting?

this is an audio post - click to play

9. What crime did Popeye Doyle claim to have a witness to a small-time criminal committing in the opening to "The French Connection"?

Picking his feet in Poughkeepsie.

10. Name Steven Spielberg's first movie. It was made for TV and featured Dennis Weaver battling a huge Ford truck.

Berkeley Bananas

Richard Baehr looks at the Berkeley "paper" on the results in South Florida and comes to the same conclusion I did; that if you get enough sociology students together, they may "prove" to their own satisfaction that Kerry won, but they will never prove it to our satisfaction.

He proceeds along the same lines as my analysis, but I did like this bit:

Finally, let us not forget that these three counties are in Florida, a state that consistently votes more Republican in Presidential elections than the nation as a whole. Starting with 1952, there have been 14 Presidential elections, including the 2004 race. In 12 of them, all but 1964 and 1976, the Republican candidate for President has outperformed in Florida compared to his performance nationally. This has occurred now in 7 consecutive elections. This year, Bush won Florida by 5%, and won the popular vote nationally by 2.9%. In 2000, Bush won Florida by 0.01% (call it a tie if you like), and lost nationally by 0.5%. In 1996, Dole lost Florida by just under 6%, but lost nationally by over 8%. In 1992, Bush’s father carried Florida by 2%, while losing nationally by 5%. So it is no surprise that Bush won Florida this year, or that he won it by a bigger percentage than his national margin.


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Brainster in the Media

Howard Kurtz's Media Notes: May 27, 2005

Slate Today's Blogs:

March 16, 2005

May 9, 2005

June 3, 2005

Cited for Breaking the Christmas in Cambodia story (at Kerry Haters):

Hugh Hewitt: KerryHaters was on this story a long time ago. How could the elite media not have asked these questions before now?

Ankle-Biting Pundits: Our friends Pat and Kitty at Kerry Haters deserve the blog equivalent of a Pulitzer for their coverage of Kerry's intricate web of lies regarding Vietnam.

The Weekly Standard

Les Kinsolving

Greatest Hits

What If the Rest of the Fantastic Four Were Peaceniks?

Lefty Bloggers on Gay Witchhunt (linked by 16 blogs including Instapundit)

Kitty Myers Breaks Christmas in Cambodia

Brainster Shows Brinkley Says No Christmas in Cambodia

Explanation of the Blog's Name

Power Ratings Explained

blog radio

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