PORN MOGUL DEFEATS D.C. BASEBALL STADIUM: Roughly 20 percent of the $50,000 stadium opponents spent stopping The Team Formerly Known As The Expos from getting to home base came from Robert Siegel, whose business would have to move to make way for the stadium. Siegel owns 11 properties, several of which house gay nightclubs; he also owns a gay porn shop and adult theaters.
LOVE SHACK: Really hot as an oven. Left standing is the tin roof...rusted.
THE AVIATOR: I went to the sneak preview Saturday night, so here's some non-spoiler commentary. It's probably one of the better movies of the year, but this Scorsese biopic of Howard Hughes certainly is not in the same league as other Scorsese biopics like Raging Bull or Goodfellas. Indeed, I think this year's Ray may be a better biopic and I think I would say the same even if I were not a music geek. But Marty's campaigning really hard for his Oscar this time out, so I suppose he could get one on a lifetime achievement vote.
None of that sounds like a ringing endorsement, so why would I say it's one of the better pictures of the year? The competition, in part. But there's a fair amount to recommend the movie on its own merits when not measured against Scorsese's back catalog. Like Ray, The Aviator sugarcoats some of the Hughes biography, avoiding his morphine addiction entirely. Scorcese also embraces the ways in which Hughes's obsessive compulsive disorder also gave Hughes his relentless drive and ambition; he is clearly fond of Hughes as moviemaker: envious of the outrageous sum of money Hughes threw into making Hell's Angels, delighted with the manner in which Hughes took on the movie censors over The Outlaw (the latter sequence being one of the more amusing in the film). And Scorsese admirably depicts the way in which Hughes's near-truly-crazy style carried over into the then-emerging aviation industry, linking aircraft design to a future where air travel would become common.
Leonardo DeCaprio is also sympathetic to Hughes, knowing something about being in the middle of the most expensive movie ever made (and having it make a lot of money despite its mediocrity). This is one of his better performances, though that may be faint praise. Far superior is Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn -- so far superior that DeCaprio ends up suffering by comparison. Unfortunately, Kate Beckinsale's take on Ava Gardner is no threat to either. John C. Reilly and Ian Holm turn in their usual excellence in smaller roles; Alec Baldwin and Alan Alda serve nicely as the heavies. Fun cameos: Most will focus on Gwen Stefani, but check the bandleaders at the Coconut Grove, played by Loudon and Rufus Wainwright.
Like many biopics, the script for The Aviator occasionally feels like events are being rushed by the viewer too quickly. In this case, however, that's almost a compliment and a tribute to Hughes, given the movie's almost three hour running time. Those unfamiliar with Hughes's story should not be bored. I should also mention that I enjoyed the score and soundtrack also; stay through the credits for a Leadbelly ballad about the man.
STEM CELLS: Embyronic stem cells make paralyzed rats walk. Hans Keirstead and his colleagues are continuing to experiment with rats to ensure the injected brain cells do what they're supposed to without any side effects. "You don't want toenails growing in the brain," he said. Meanwhile, non-embryonic stem cells from a 7-year-old girl's fat help repair severe damage to her skull.
WASHINGTON STATE RECOUNT: Still going; newly-discovered ballots in King County (think Seattle) may swing the election to Democrat Christine Gregoire.
RINGO STARR is helping NORAD track Santa Claus this year. Merry Krimble to him!
(BRITISH) SISTERS ARE DOING IT FOR THEMSELVES: According to one study, 48 percent of British men and 31 percent of women aged 19 to 24 admit to having been blind drunk at least twice a month during the past year. But the girls are trying harder: teenage girls in Britain are binge drinking more than boys.
YOU LOSE SOME, YOU WIN SOME: National Guard recruitment numbers slip, in part because the active duty Army is growing. OTOH, the number of annual military desertions is down to the lowest level since before 2001, according to the Pentagon.
LADIES! It's pink. It's smooth. It vibrates! It's... a razor. Sorry. The silver lining is that, unlike many other products and services, the Gillette Venus Vibrance costs about the same as the equivalent razor for men. "Our testing indicated that there is an upside potential to penetrate more razors at a slightly reduced price," according to Peter Hoffman, Gillette's president for blades and razors. Hoffman seems to be referring to market penetration.
YOUNG(ER) DEMOCRATS want more of a say over the party's direction.
END OF THE WORLD UPDATE: As Aussies brace for the cane toad invasion, it turns out that their impact and infamy remains a matter of conjecture.
END OF THE WORLD UPDATE 2: Retiring veteran astronaut John Young says:
"The statistical risk of humans getting wiped out in the next 100 years due to a super volcano or asteroid or comet impact is 1 in 455. How does that relate? You're 10 times more likely to get wiped out by a civilization-ending event in the next 100 years than you are getting killed in a commercial airline crash."
NO KIDDING: Juveniles may find it harder than adults to foresee the consequences of their actions. One experiment suggests a possible biological factor.
DEAD SHRIMP BLUES: An unusual protest against religious intolerance. At least I think that's what it is...
FASTER...? FASTER...? The Pope honors carnies. What's next? A rickety Tilt-O-Whirl blasting out "Green River" in the Sistine Chapel?
COPY-PROTECTION: In early 2005, Sony plans to try a new form of CD copy-protection that could allow limited copying for personal use.