Monday, April 30, 2007

WKRP in Cincinnati DVD Season 1 Box

Well, WKRP in Cincinnati is finally out on DVD. I saw it in the store, and grabbed the box off the shelf before I even finished reading the title. I'm not given to impulse buys where DVDs are concerned, but WKRP was an old favorite of mine. I had to have it.

So, I sat down to watch the first episode. It was as funny as I remembered. Except . . .

I remember how the first episode was originally. Andy hands Johnny a stack of rock albums and tells him to change the program immediately. Johnny--awake and alive for the first time--enthusiastically reintroduces himself, picking his new name, Dr. Johnny Fever, apparently out of thin air. Then he goes off on a mini-rant, ending with a bold shout, "Give it to me straight, doctor. I can take it!" And then the song bursts in loud and strong, "Just take those old records off the shelf," like a prescription straight from the doctor's mouth. That scene had power and flair in spades.

Except the song is gone from the DVD. Johnny still does his rant, but instead of Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock & Roll” there is this painfully bland instrumental. It sucks all the energy right out of the scene. In fact, it just sucks.

Yes, it's true. The copyright beast has gotten its claws into WKRP and ripped it to shreds.

For a list of music replacements, see Jaime J. Weinman's blog:

Copyright serves a good and useful purpose. It protects artists from having their works stolen. I'm all for that. As a writer, I definitely want my works protected by copyright.

However, sometimes it just goes too far.

I honestly think that if a work including excerpts from other copyrighted works was produced within the boundaries of copyright law at the time, then that work should be able to be reprinted without editing in the future.

A sitcom, while not a record of factual events, still captures the attitudes and styles of the time period in which it was made. And thus, in its own way, it has value as a historical artifact. I do not like it when works--printed, visual, or audio--are expurgated or otherwise edited from their original published form.

Yes, I realize that there are lots of special circumstances regarding WKRP. It would have been phenomenally expensive to buy the rights to every song used. But it's like the people who made the DVDs didn't even try. Why didn't they pony up the money for important songs that are integral to various scenes, and replace only those that are more incidental?

So the WKRP DVD release is rather disappointing. I'll still watch it to enjoy the witty dialogue and antics, but the cut music does rather ruin some scenes. Your mileage may vary.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

More on Melamine

We're now up to six ingredients known to have melamine contamination issues: wheat gluten, corn gluten, corn meal, soy protein, rice bran and rice protein. And it's not just cat and dog food anymore, either, since it has been revealed that contaminated pet food was fed to hogs that were part of the human food supply. They think they caught most of the hogs before slaughter. They also think the melamine concentration levels are a low risk for humans. But still, it's quite disturbing to think about how poorly regulated the food supply is.

For those who haven't been following the news closely, the melamine was most likely added deliberately by the Chinese companies to boost the protein readings. See, the protein test doesn't really actually test protein--it tests nitrogen levels, which are considered an indicator of protein. So adding melamine boosted the nitrogen readings, which made it seem as though the ingredient had more protein, so they could sell it for a higher price. So they poisoned cats, dogs, and now people just to make a couple extra bucks. It's sickening.

At least the FDA is getting more aggressive about it. They've raided the offices of Menu Foods and ChemNutra. So the drama is still unfolding.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Happy Birthday, Will!

Today is William Shakespeare's (1564-1616) birthday. Probably. The exact date is unknown but inferred from his christening. But I've been marking his birthday on my calendar as April 23 since college, and I'm not changing it now.

Sorry for such a short post, but I'm short on time at the moment.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Contaminated Pet Food, the Saga Continues

Now its not just wheat gluten. The latest news articles talk about some contaminated rice protein in North American pet foods, and contaminated corn gluten affecting South African pet foods. All of the contaminated products contain melamine.

Pet owners in the U.S. should check the FDA's recall list every day or so.

But check the news, as well. I saw an article that said some Royal Canin products were recalled, which was confirmed on the Royal Canin website, but these are not yet present on the FDA list. Check also the websites of the companies that make every type of food you feed your pets.

Stay alert!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Stabbed by a Whisker

Okay, this is just bizarre. Walking barefoot through my apartment, I encountered something sharp in my carpet. Expecting perhaps a stray staple or splinter, I lifted my foot. There, sticking out of my toe, was a long, black cat whisker.

I never realized that a naturally shed whisker was so very sharp at the base. It didn't go deep enough to draw blood or anything, but it went through one or two layers of skin--just enough to stick.

I plucked it from my toe and looked closely, thinking that it was a bit like a quill. And as soon as I had that thought, I imagined tiny mouse-people or fairies dipping cat whiskers in ink and writing with them. Then I thought about the mouse-fairy whose job it was to go to places frequented by cats to collect shed whiskers, and what a dangerous job that might be.

I love this idea. I may have to use it in a story.

Sweet Vintage Diablo

I have a new (used) laptop--a very nice G4 Powerbook, a hand-me-down from my stepfather who needed something more powerful for his work. It's sweeeet. This is the first laptop I've ever had, and I am enjoying it very much.

Of course, I should be using it to go sit in coffeeshops and work on my novel. And I will, I'm sure, as soon as I figure out what the heck I need to be doing with the current chapter. (Scraping it and starting over comes to mind, but I digress.)

In the meantime, I've been taking advantage of the laptop's OS9 shell (something my desktop Mac lacks) to play Diablo--the classic, 1996 vintage. Blizzard ported the more popular Diablo II to OSX, but not the original. There's something delicious about revisiting an old favorite game, especially one you haven't had the proper operating system to play for a long time. It's like reminiscing with an old friend.

Besides, every time I went through the ruins of Tristram in Diablo II, I found myself struggling to remember exactly what the town and people were like before. So it's nice to see them again.

From late Saturday night when I re-acquired an original Diablo disc through this evening, I ran through the entire game from start to finish with a single player rogue. Of course, there were quite a few breaks for work, sleep, laundry, cooking, a nice walk in the spectacular weather, a couple episodes of Monk on DVD, phone calls to friends and family, and in general various periods of putting the laptop to sleep to let the hot little battery cool off. So it really wasn't all that long of a game. But it's still grand fun. Every bit as fun, I think, as its more massive and complex successor.

I think I'll start over with a warrior and do it all again.

Or am I just avoiding writing?

Saturday, April 14, 2007


In the news this morning, a poll mentioned that 54% of people are now filing their taxes electronically, and that the number is growing every year.

Me, I'm one of the backsliders. I did my taxes electronically last year. The length and excruciating detail of the H&R Block "free file" form, coupled with the slowness with which my 56K modem resolved each page, resulted in taxes becoming an all-evening event. It took two and a half hours.

I do not own a house. I have only one source of income, with a nice, tidy W-2 to go with it. The interest from all of my bank accounts adds up to pocket change. My taxes are not complex. It takes me ten minutes to fill out the 1040EZ form.

Two and a half hours vs. ten minutes. Hmm . . . how hard of a choice is that?

So I did my taxes on paper this year. And unless they make an EZ electronic version, I'm likely to keep doing them on paper in the future.

Thursday, April 12, 2007


It's way past my bedtime, but I can't stand to leave something unfinished. I had the devil's own time installing the drivers necessary to make my "new" (used) scanner work.

The installer CD that came with the scanner, a CanoScan LiDE 30, claimed to work with Mac OSX native, but it LIED. I found drivers online, but that alone didn't work. I needed to install the Toolbox, as well. So I downloaded and installed the Toolbox. And then when I tried to scan, it told me, "scanner plug-in was not found." The Canon website didn't say anything about the plug-in, and when I clicked on their FAQ, it didn't take me anywhere.

As it happens, the scanner's "driver" is really the plug-in. So I plugged it into the Toolbox, rebooted, and . . . finally . . . am able to scan. Hooray! Life is good!

So here is my first scan, with my new scanner.

Forgive the low image quality. This is a little doodle I sketched with a cheap ball-point pen, no more than an inch wide to start with. This creature is called an amphisbaena, and you may sometimes encounter it in medieval bestiaries.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Lost Time

I really hate being sick. As much as the actual pain and misery, I hate that feeling of lost time. It's like an alien abduction. Suddenly, a whole day or more is simply gone, and I'm disoriented for the rest of the week.

I was out sick from work all day yesterday. Today I tried to go to work. I really felt better at the beginning of my workday, but after about an hour, I started feeling queasy. I figured I could ride it out, but an hour later, my stomach lost containment. (How embarrassing, to have that happen at work!) So I came home and proceeded to spend the next several hours in bed or in the bathroom.

Although I'm well enough now to sit up and write checks to pay my bills and write this short, lame blog post, I doubt I'll accomplish anything productive today. So that's two days of lost time. I'll wake up tomorrow, and I'll be doing Tuesday's work on Thursday, and my mental clock will probably be out of whack until the weekend.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Double Feature

I saw Happy Feet twice this weekend--Saturday with friends, Sunday with my mother. Had I realized Mom wanted to see it, I wouldn’t have returned it to the video store. As it was, I rented it twice.

Happy Feet is a very cute, but very strange movie. It’s like they put March of the Penguins, Moulin Rouge, and Footloose in a blender, then added a cup of Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the obligatory dash of preachy social commentary. (No recent American children's movie seems to be complete without the latter.) I obviously liked it, or else I wouldn’t have watched it twice. The penguins are so incredibly cute!

Mom and I also watched Pelišky, a Czech movie I first saw two years ago on a rainy day in Moravia, when we rented videos and stayed inside. It’s set during the Prague Spring, a brief period of about eight months in 1968 when a kinder, gentler form of Socialism (“with a human face”) took root in Czechoslovakia. The movie focuses on the love triangle between a group of teenagers and the (in my opinion) infinitely more interesting relationships among their parents. It’s a comedy right up until the end, when the truth of history puts a tragic cap on the story. The hardline Communists of the Soviet Union and other Warsaw Pact countries invaded Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968, to force their particularly nasty form of Communism onto the Czechs. The movie ends with a dedication to the effect of, “To all those whose friends, lovers, and families disappeared overnight, while they remained behind.” The first time I saw it, I was with several Czech people, and watching it now, I can still remember one of them nodding during the invasion scene and saying, “I remember that.” I cried during this viewing just as I did then.

Although I really enjoyed both movies, I have to admit that Happy Feet and Pelišky make for a really bizarre double feature.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter!

This morning, just before sunrise, I stood in my sun room and sang my favorite Easter song. (I confess that I often sing it at times other than Easter, whenever my heart is filled with great joy.) Here are the lyrics. (I hope the copyright police don’t come after me.)

This is the day that the Lord hath made!
Rejoice! Rejoice! And be exceeding glad!
This is the day that the Lord hath made!
Rejoice! Rejoice! Hallelujah!

Christ has conquered death at last!
Left the tomb that held him fast!
Gone the sorrow, gone the night.
Dawns the morrow, clear and bright!

This is the day that the Lord hath made!
Rejoice! Rejoice! And be exceeding glad!
This is the day that the Lord hath made!
Rejoice! Rejoice! Hallelujah!

I’m sorry I can’t remember who composed and/or arranged this particular version of the hymn, and casting about on Google brought me no answers. Otherwise, I’d gladly give credit where credit is due.

Anyway, a blessed and joyous Easter to you all!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Some Pretty Pictues

Since I’m sick today and won’t be able to go out for a walk, I thought I’d make myself feel better by posting pictures from some of my recent walks.

I love this view of downtown Omaha through this old arch.

The Qwest center has got several new pieces of art out front. Life sized, realistic bronze sculptures are my favorite style of public art, actually, so I like this array. They seem to have a mardi gras theme going, with some of the figures being jazz musicians and others carnival performers.

And at the zoo, look at the cute little fangs on this tufted deer.

And check out this bongo’s daintily crossed horns.

That’s all for now.

Friday, April 06, 2007

More recalls

Now several types of dog treats made by Sunshine Mills have been recalled as well. (Read the news article.) How many other types and brands of pet treats will follow?

Menu Foods continues to expand their list of recalled pet foods.

So now there have been instances of contamination in wet foods, dry foods, and treats. Is there nothing safe to feed a pet? It may be best to avoid anything with wheat gluten.

Here's the link to the FDA's resources on the recalls. I think this is more comprehensive than any one company's site.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Pet Food Recall, Again

It seems like every time I check the list of recalled pet foods, the number has increased. So if you have previously checked the list of contaminated pet foods, you might want to check it again.

And one type of Science Diet DRY cat food (Hill’s Prescription Diet m/d) has also been recalled.

I keep checking the lists periodically because I’m afraid that the stuff my cats eat will show up. I don’t think this is over.

Monday, April 02, 2007

What Kind of Meow is That?

This morning after my shower, my cats--as usual--were gathered by the bathroom sink. Their goal, of course, is to get me to turn on the water so they can drink. However, the bathroom sink is presently broken (leaving me washing my hands and brushing my teeth in the kitchen, but I digress), so they have not been getting their flowing water lately. (Horrors! They must be content with the filtered water in the bowl.)

Well, impatient with what he must have perceived as my senseless cruelty in not turning on the water, my little rumple-furred baby let loose this incredibly bizarre, off-key, low, warbling meow. The closest thing I can use to describe it is a sheep’s baa recorded and played back through a distorter, or perhaps some kind of freaky ray gun from a 1950s B-movie.

Although it’s rare, this isn’t the first time I’ve heard him do this. He only does it in the mornings right after my shower, while he’s waiting for me to turn on the sink faucet. I’m not sure if it’s cat for, “Hurry up, already!” or if he’s just meowing and yawning at the same time.