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By Samuel Stoddard

June 1999

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Wednesday, June 30, 1999

Have you ever cooked on an outdoor grill in the rain? I cooked cheeseburgers in the rain last night, complete with honey barbeque sauce and toasted buns. (Why skimp just because it's raining?) I was just wondering if I was crazy. Check that. I was wondering if I was crazy for doing that.

Monday, June 21, 1999

From reader Scott W., regarding the previous journal entry: "I didn't have too many violent disagreements with the contents of the list (although the idea of ranking them is, of course, absurd). No, what made the show almost unwatchable was the parade of nobodies they chose for presenters. If they do a similar show in another fifty years, I doubt that half a dozen of those yahoos will make the first cut."

Friday, June 18, 1999

Without going into the detail I did in discussing the AFI Top 100 Movies list, which was a long-running discussion in this journal last month, I would like to take a moment to comment on the AFI Top 50 Greatest Stars list, which were announced in a television special last Tuesday. The 25 supposedly best actors and the 25 supposedly best actresses were compiled in two lists. This is an even sillier exercise than the Top 100 Movies project. It's one thing to rank art (which I believe is at least theoretically possible), but quite another to rank people (which can't). My favorite actor of all time is Spencer Tracy. I can say that. I have a personal, subjective liking for his acting, screen presence, and easygoing demeanor. But how could I possibly declare his objective superiority over another? It would have been more acceptable for the AFI to rank the greatest performances -- performances are works of art and can be critiqued and evaluated. People can't.

I highly recommend Roger Ebert's two articles on the subject, one written before the show aired, entitled Stars' Ranking Really Rankles, and one written after, entitled Grading Greats Really Grates.

I welcome discussion.

Wednesday, June 16, 1999

Well, I got far more answers to last week's reader question ("Which is better, bicycle tires or horseshoes?") than I could possibly print. So unfortunately I can only print a representative sample, and that means several good answers didn't make the cut. I was pleased with them all, and I hope the turn-out is as good for the next reader question.

Thursday, June 10, 1999

Today's reader question: "Which is better, a bicycle tire or a horseshoe?" I know you have an opinion. Let me hear it.

Sunday, June 6, 1999

A number of people have asked me about the release date for The Game of the Ages on Adventure Games Live. It won't be for at least another two months, but beyond that, you know as much as I do. The game will be out this year -- December 31, 1999, is my deadline -- but beyond that, I couldn't tell you. I will say, however, that the game is progressing nicely, and I am very excited about it how it's shaping up. It's distinctly more plot-oriented than Fantasy Quest and seems to be quite a bit more complex.

Saturday, June 5, 1999

I'm pleased to report that last weekend, Yahoo! added It's a Bad, Bad, Bad, Bad Movie to their listings. Since then, we've received a substantial increase in the number of reader review submissions. So, for the next few days at the very least, we'll be posting reader reviews more frequently than usual. I'm hoping it keeps up.

Friday, June 4, 1999

Last weekend, my wife, brother, and I took a three day canoeing trip down the Saco River, from Center Conway, New Hampshire, to Hiram, Maine. The first day, we covered the popular stretch of the river, which had lots of people, many of whom were annoying, though they were far from ruining the day. We had a great time, and at the end of the first day, we left the bulk of them behind.

But it made me realize how many people there are out there who don't know how to enjoy the outdoors. I don't know. Maybe the people that do go down less popular and less populated rivers. But the vast majority of the people we saw during our trip clearly had no idea of the beauty and serenity of the world they were seeing, touching, breathing, but not experiencing. It was sad. And while it wasn't exactly astonishing, it was eye-opening. I saw firsthand how far removed from our roots the human race has become. We're so far removed, we can't recognize the intrinsic beauty of God's creation even when it's right there in front of us. I asked myself why most of the people we saw on the river even bothered. They appeared to have brought their indoors with them, so that even while physically outdoors, for all intents and purposes they were still indoors -- or at most in their backyards.

If you go on a canoeing/camping trip with a stereo, radio, CD player, or any other instrument designed to play back prerecorded music, you don't get it. If you play music on these devices at volumes loud enough to overcome the sounds of nature, you really don't get it. If you bring beer, you don't get it. If you bring cigarettes, you don't get it. If you carouse loudly, you don't get it. If you float down the river facing inward, to the other members of your party, rather than outward, to the beauty around you, you don't get it. If you bring a chainsaw to cut firewood, you don't get it. If you bring a generator, you don't get it. If you bring any other kinds of noisy machinery, you don't get it. I'm not saying technology is inherently obstructive to the enjoyment of nature -- we'd have had a lot less fun without sunblock and bug dope -- but to indulge in it to the exclusion of all else, or to permit those products of technology that override the sights, sounds, and smells of what you're theoretically out there on the river for, that's just ignorant.

On our trip, we snuck up on a pair of Canada geese who were wading on the shore. Later, we canoed up as close as we could to another pair, these with six goslings whose heads were still yellow. We took time out to explore the home of a flock of bank swallows, who live in holes in the dirt on the side of river banks. We took note of a couple of squirrels on shore, who chattered at us until we paddled by. We listened to the relentless sounds of the running water, the plethora of birds hidden in the trees, and the droning of the frogs. And we passed by a lot of people who weren't.

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