Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year!

Yep, it's early, but I'm with the people of London. The blog goes a bit dark now as we leave for our honeymoon in the morning. Take care all!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Roxy update

She's doing better. We're giving her pills. We're (still) giving her fluids. We're giving her Procrit. And we're giving her lots of love. She's on a stronger antibiotic now. With any luck that'll knock out the infection and she'll get better.

1999 in review

Green Mile
Cider House Rules
Sixth Sense
The Insider
American Beauty

(Last one!) Kind of a mixed bag of movies for this year. One great one. One near great one. Two good ones and one that's only fair. Great acting throughout. Interesting stories throughout. American Beauty brought home the Oscar. I rated the Sixth Sense a bit higher, but I've got no problem with the way it went.
The only music that really stood out was from American Beauty. It stood out for being different but not necessarily great.
This was a pretty good year for movies. About a dozen or so that are good enough to be nominated. Some of my choices would be Fight Club, Being John Malkovich, Princess Mononoke and Rushmore.

American Beauty - 1999

"Both my wife and daughter think I'm this chronic loser. And they're right. I have lost something." That's the central insight of this film. The engine that drives it.
Kevin Spacey plays a man who is lost and unhappy in his life. He doesn't respect himself. He doesn't like who his wife has become. He feels alienated from his daughter. And he doesn't know how to change. Until two chance meetings kick him out of his rut.
The first meeting is with his daughter's girlfriend (Mena Suvari). He instantly falls in love with her. The film shows this in a series of fantasies involving rose petals. She's much too young for him (and this subplot is a little creepy). His desire to become attractive to her makes him want to improve himself.
The second meeting is with the new neighbor kid (Wes Bentley). He's incredibly self-assured. And sells pot. This meeting brings back memories of his high school years and triggers him to try and regain his golden years. This involves lifting weights, driving a hot car and working fast food.
There are interesting points of view and wonderful dialogue throughout this movie. The story is well paced and very well told. The music is...different. But not in a bad way. And the acting is very good.
The biggest flaw is the portrayal of the Marine Colonel living next door. He's a caricature of the worst kind of right-wing nightmare that Hollywood can imagine. Right down to sitting at home with his catatonic wife and watching Ronald Regan movies. He's disgusted by gay people and of course that's only because of his own repressed homosexual feelings. I'm guessing one of the deleted scenes has him twisting his moustache and tying women to a railroad track.
I'm conflicted on how to rate this movie. It's very, very well done. But the message is flawed. A very good movie, at least.

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Insider - 1999

I liked this movie a bunch better back in '99. Back then I still respected 60 Minutes and the idea of the hero journalist still had some credibility. It's much harder not to take sides in 2005 than it was six years ago.
The movie centers on Al Pacino playing a 60 Minutes producer as he stumbles across a former tabacco industry researcher. Russell Crowe plays the researcher. He's been fired from his position due to a combination of disagreement on research and an inability to control his temper. He thinks that Big Tobacco execs perjured themselves before congress when they testified that they don't think tobacco is addictive. He wants to tell his story but he has signed a confidentiality agreement and can't come forward.
Pacino helps Crowe to come forward. He urges Crowe to follow his consience. He manipulates a law suit in another state as a way to get his testimony on record. He brings security to his home to fend off death threats. He finally gets the interview and then runs into a wall.
CBS corporate is afraid of being sued for 'tortious interference'. The theory is that they have urged Crowe to come forward and break his agreement. CBS would then be liable for damages which could run into the billions. Corporate squashes the piece and what follows is a battle for the integrity of the journalistic effort.
I can't help but think that this movie was rewarded because it stuck it to Big Tobacco. The execs are cartoonish villans. The dramatic highpoints are mostly false alarms thrown in to break the tempo of the story. And the central point is that Tobacco execs lied (big surprise). The threat of 'tortious interference' is specious at best and you'd think the movie would have been happy to fight that fight. But it's hard to attack specious lawsuits and make a movie that's hard on tobacco.
I thought the movie was overrated. Fair at best.

Viking thoughts

And last night the Vikings season ended. Well, they play next Sunday but not for any purpose. Depending, they'll finish either 9-7 or 8-8. Which makes sense. They're an average team. Not bad, but not that good either. Middle of the pack.
Of course, middle of the pack is much better than anyone would have thought when they were 2-5. I'll take it.
The defense has improved quite a bit. And that's important. We've become defense starved up here after a near decade of ineptitude. Let's hope they can build on this for next year.
Speaking of, the number one thing they need to do in the offseason is make sure Ted Cotrell stays on as the defensive coordinator. Number two is to get healthy/add depth to the O-line. Number three is to figure out the QB and running back situations. The team is improving and a good draft could push them over the top. Let's hope that happens.
Tice? Did he redeem himself with this second half? Probably enough for the owner to keep him on. I don't really think he's the answer though.
Maybe next year 10-6.

Other football thoughts: Brett Farve is perhaps the greatest human being in the history of the world. At least you'd think so from the TV announcers. Seriously, has anyone ever had more excuses made for him than Farve? Every interception is the receivers fault. Any poor decision is blamed on the lack of talent around him. It's hard to listen to.
I expect he'll be back for at least one more year. And lead the Packers to a four victory year.

Sixth Sense - 1999

This is a great movie. If you haven't seen it, you should. ***Spoilers ahead*** You can't really discuss the movie without them.
The ending kind of overshadows the rest of the movie and that's kind of a shame. The movie is well written and very very well acted. Most people think of Bruce Willis as kind of a goofy guy that does action movies, but he shows quite a bit of depth in this movie. He plays a child psychologist who is beating himself up over a kid that he couldn't help.
Toni Collette is also very good. She plays the single mother of a troubled boy and she can't figure out why he's troubled or what to do about it. She's in an impossible position and does the best she can. Very good.
But the movie is stolen by Haley Joel Osmont. He gives one of the best performances by a child actor in the history of film. He plays a boy who is haunted. He can see dead people. They come to him at odd times and scare him badly. They don't understand that they're dead and he doesn't know what they want. He's trapped between wanting to avoid them and being afraid of being seen as a freak. It's a very demanding part and he does amazingly well.
This movie is probably (and rightfully) seen as a horror movie. It features dead people, many of them having died horribly. But the directing trandscends the horror genre. It builds tension masterfully. But it also tells it's story quite well. The emotional side is very well put together.
And the payoff is amazing. It got me completely. A great movie.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

In related news...

I wish Brooke Burke would stop leaving notes on my car. I'm married, lady. Get over it.

Strange story here. (h/t Volokh Conspiracy)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Quick update

It's really really cold here. -8 degrees this morning. A milder climate would sure be nice...

Roxane seems to have slipped a bit. She's hanging out in strange places. Like the bathroom sink. Or the pantry where the garbage bags live. We've got a theory about what's going on. We just switched to a more kidney friendly cat food and the cats don't seem to care for it. Stopping eating could make her act differently right? We're hoping that hunger gets the best of her and she goes back to her regular ways.

The FP Gal and I went down to Austin over the weekend to celebrate Christmas with my family down there. We got to spend time with my sister and my brother-in-law which was nice. We went to the mall which just about has tumbleweeds blowing down the hallways. Very sad. Good times with the family and Grandma got her traditional last minute gift. Boxing gloves. And she was tickled to get them.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Hollywood woes

Just ran across this article (h/t Instapundit) and thought it very interesting. It looks at the Golden Globe nominees for 2005 and wonders if they aren't emblematic for Hollywood's well publiczed box office drop off. The list is here and none of them would really appeal to red state America. Not that every movie has to or should of course, but it's been an awfully dark year at the movies, no?
I haven't seen any of these movies and none of them have really jumped out at me. (Well, the acting buzz from Brokeback Mountain might pull me in but that's it.) I'll be surprised if I've seen any of the Oscar nominees either. Most of the serious films of the year have been political thrillers from outspoken Hollywood actors. A film involving Sean Penn and the UN is a complete non-starter for many millions of people.
A few months ago, I ran across this article about Hollywood's down year. It compares 2005 to the last down year, 1985. It contends that it took Schwarznegger and 'Back to the Future' to stem the tide back then. Not sure that's what's needed now but it's an interesting take.
The two most appealing movies of the year (from advertising) were 'Wedding Crashers' and '40 Year Old Virgin'. Both looked like light, fun movies. Neither one will be get awards. But sometimes movies can just be entertainment.

Update: And then I just ran across this one talking about the same thing from a different angle.

A blow for Private property rights

in Mpls. Who'd a thunk it? For the record, I'm a nonsmoker. Never smoked in my life. But I feel strongly that a bar owner should be able to decide whether to allow smokers or not. And that bar patrons can make their own decisions regarding second hand smoke.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Just for the heck of it

is this. And (an important building block in my early relationship with the FP Gal) is this.

Takes courage to wear a red hat

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Movie project

It seems like just a year ago that I started this project. I've only got two movies left and it's been fun. But I can't help but wonder what to do next year. I've got three real choices and I'd like some input from the five or six people that read this blog occasionaly.
One, I can continue the project until I reach the current year. That'd take until August or so. The list can be generated here. We own seven of the 30 films and I've already seen 16 of them.
The second option is to go back another decade and do the 80's. This would mean another year of movies, many of them good. I've seen 15 of the 50 and we own three of them.
The third option is to find something other than movies to write about.

Any thoughts?

Roxane update

She's getting better. We're still giving her fluids and she's fighting us more and more. She still seems weak. She's been given a prescription for Procrit. The FP Gal said that she's seen commercials where this drug causes old people to run on beaches and cancer patients to make pottery. She said we'll have to keep the doors shut and give Roxy access to clay.

Update: Her prescription is for Roxane C. Defor, which means they got one of her names correct. Her middle name is actually an unpronounceable glyph that looks like a tiger eating a chrysanthemum. But that's probably outside the ability of Target to put on a label.

Cider House Rules - 1999

This is the first time I've seen this movie. Good, but not really that great. It's based on the novel by John Irving and it feels cut down. The movie stars Tobey Maguire before he was bitten by a radioactive (er, genetically enhanced) spider. He plays an orphan who was never adopted. Instead he was trained by the resident doctor of the orphanage played by Michael Caine. The two have an ongoing discussion over the morality/necessity of abortion. The orphanage is something of a magnet for wayward girls and the doctor performs abortions regularly.
When Maguire's orphan comes of age, he leaves the orphanage to seek his fortune and see the world. He ends up at an apple orchard where he becomes a picker. His boss Mr Rose (Delroy Lindo) says that this is history referring to himself being the black boss of a white boy. Inside the bunkhouse is a list of rules. Maguire is the only one able to read them. Mr Rose says that the rules weren't written by the people who live in cabin and they're not going to follow them.
The story involves a love story with Maguire and Charlize Theron who sees him as a way to get past loneliness. It also involves incest and a conflicted Maguire performing the abortion.
The acting is quite good between Maguire and Caine. Their interplay is crisp. Especially with an exchange of letters after Maguire leaves. There's also dozens of cute orphans. Anyone who sees this and doesn't want to adopt three of them is heartless.
I puzzled over the title and it's emphasis. This is part of why the movie feels cut down. I think the message must be that rules made by people that don't have to live with them are suspect. The connection with abortion is then made somewhat clear. But the flaw in presentation is pretty obvious. The company policy at my job wasn't written by anyone in my office. But we don't just throw it out the window. Or follow it blindly. The abortion debate is more complex than office policy of course but I'm still far from convinced.
I read somewhere recently that movies from short stories feel stretched. I can't disagree more. 500 page books can't be cut down to two hours without suffering. I can only assume that this movie is an example of this. Good but not great.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

So long, Hurt

The White Sox are parting ways with Frank Thomas. A combination of injuries and age have led the Sox to look elsewhere. From a management standpoint, I can't disagree with them but as a fan it's very sad to see him go. I found this valentine (h/t Baseball Musings). It involves a bit of rebar and I've never heard this story before.
My favorite Frank Thomas story involved a game in August of 1993. It didn't figure big in the standings. It didn't involve late inning heroics. But it was the best game I've ever been to.
It was at the Metrodome, long before the Sox and Twins were rivals. Thomas batted third in the lineup. After two quick outs he came up and hit a long homerun to left center. That made the score 1-0 and that's how the game turned out. The Twins threatened in the middle innings with numerous runners on base but they just couldn't get them in. The differance had been Big Frank.
We can only hope that he lands somewhere nice. There's even the possibility that he'll land here in Minnesota. If he does, I hope he gets better treatment by White Sox fans than AJ has from Twins fans. And whenever he does decide to hang it up, I'll be marking my calendar for a five year wait for Cooperstown.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Christmas tree! (And Roxane)

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The Green Mile - 1999

This movie is one of the closest book adaptations I've ever seen. It's the second Stephen King story after 'Shawshank Redemption'. And it's the 37th movie starring Tom Hanks on this list.
The story is told as a very long flashback. It starts with a very old man named Paul Edgecombe (Hanks) in a retirement home thinking about his past. It turns out that he was the head guard on the Louisiana death row. His flashback involves a set of prisoners during the height of the Great Depression. The most notable is a giant man named John Coffey ("Like the drink, but spelled different"). Coffey is played by Michael Clark Duncan who is giant sized. He's been convicted of kidnapping and killing two twin girls.
But he has a very curious talent for a murderer. The power to heal. He first shows this by healing a urinary infection of Edgecombe's. He also brings a pet mouse back from the brink of death. Edgecombe becomes convinced of his innocence and eventually uses his healing talent to help someone else.
The movie has plenty of fine acting. Virtually all of the guards and inmates are very good. They each bring texture to a fine story. The execution scenes are very well done. But the movie falls short of greatness. The story doesn't have much punch. And the end has kind of a drawn out death wish scene that feels like it doesn't match the rest.
A good movie, but not great.

1998 - Review

Thin Red Line
Elizabeth
Saving Private Ryan
Shakespeare in Love
Life is Beautiful

This year's movies are either WW II movies or Elizabethan England. Three of them are great. 'Thin Red Line' is just a pretentious bit of navel gazing. And 'Elizabeth' is only slightly above average. As far as I know, Oscar doesn't report the vote totals, but I'd be surprised if either one of them was competitive.
This year is remembered as a big upset with 'Ryan' being more deserving but losing to 'Shakespeare'. After watching them many years later, I'd have to agree. 'Ryan' had problems, but it's clearly a movie for the ages. It's probably the most technically well made movie of the decade. In fact, I'd probably put 'Life' in second place. Still, it's not that big of an injustice. I still love 'Shakespeare' and probably will watch it more times in my life than the other two.
As I mentioned in the review, 'Shakespeare's score is probably tops for the decade. 'Thin Red Line' had a surpisingly good score of it's own. None of the other movies was notable for music.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Roxane update

She's doing much better. She's gained back much of the lost weight. Must have been the dehydration. Starting on Saturday, she started eating again. We don't know how long she'd stopped doing that. The little habits that make every cat unique have come back too. One of her habits is to stand in one place and march with her back feet while her tail jitters like a snake's rattle. That's back. Another vet visit comes on Wednesday, so we'll get their opinion, but we're very encouraged.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Life is Beautiful - 1998

Another great movie and the second one of the project in Italian. Really it sets up as two movies in one. The first part sets up as a love story. Set in pre WWII Italy, it has the feel of an older romantic comedy. Roberto Benigni plays a country bumpkin named Guido, who is coming to the big city to find his fortune. He's incredibly carefree and playful. And his sheer happiness is infectious. "Bonjourno princepessa!", still brings a smile to faces. The story involves him wooing a teacher (Nicolleta Braschi) who is out of his league. He pulls wonderful stunts and wins her in the end.
The second part of the movie happens a few years later. A son has been added to our hero's lives. We get a sense of what their everyday life is. And then father and son are taken to a concentration camp. Mom decides that she's going wherever they go and talks her way onto the train as well. Once they get to the camp, Guido makes elaborate attempts to sheild his son from the danger and horror that's all around them. He turns it into a giant game where the prize is a tank.
This movie is an incredible blend of sweet and sad. A very tough thing to do and it pulls if off beautifully. It may have set itself the most ambitious task of this whole project. A great movie.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Playing with floss

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Who can resist a broken kitty?

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Kidney

Haven't been sure how to write this post, but it's the biggest story in my life right now and I want to share it. We think we've figured out the sudden weight loss from our oldest cat, Roxane. She dropped about two pounds in the last few weeks. Yesterday she went to the vet. A physical and some bloodwork later, we think she has a kidney infection. The weight loss is due to dehydration.
This takes an enormous weight off of my mind. My brother and I got Roxane back in the heady days of '95. She was about six weeks old. Her extra toes made her paws look huge. She looked like she was ready to play firstbase. She stole my heart immediately. She's since had that effect on just about everyone else that's lived with her.
The good news is that we think she can be fixed. (Well, she was fixed years ago but you know what I mean...) I can only hope that she keeps up her kittenish, adorable ways for another ten years.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Shakespeare in Love - 1998

I love this movie and I'm not going to apologize for it. The idea of the movie is to show Shakespeare, the greatest of all playwrites, in the midst of creating one of his greatest plays, Romeo and Juliet. The earliest version being Ethel and the Pirate King, of course. The movie mixes Elizabethan England with Hollywood and the combination is genius.
This movie might have the most clever script in this entire project. It features jokes for Shakespeare fans like Ann Hathaway's property being described as 'a small cottage'. It also has wonderful explanations for famous Shakespeare phrases like 'a plauge on both your houses'. Maybe my favorite feature is the depiction of stage life. Henslow's repeated wisdom that the play will go on somehow regardless of problems is a literal truism amongst theater people. We can only imagine the same thing was true then.
The acting is good throughout. Joseph Fiennes is very good as Will Shakespeare. Gwenyth Paltrow does a serviceable job as a young lady who is held down by gender. Geoffrey Rush plays a theater owner and is quite good. Judi Dench won a Best Supporting Oscar for her (very brief) appearance as Queen Elizabeth.
One of the most winning pieces of this movie is it's score. Stirring strings and a good lovely melody. This is the best score of any of the movies I've watched in this project. (We even used a bit of it for our wedding video.)
A great movie.

Another Vikes win

With a 24-12 win over the Browns the Vikes have a winning record for the first time this season. Their record of 6-5 puts them in the squarely in the playoff hunt. Who would have thought that after they started 1-4? I certainly didn't.
The turnaround should be credited to the defense which has been playing very well. They've had timely turnovers of course, but they've also played strongly against the run and played well against the pass. The line is starting to get pressure on opposing QB's. Defense was a strong part of Viking heritage and we've been starved for it ever since Tony Dungy left. This is lots of fun to watch!
The offense is starting to turn it around, too. The running game is starting to click. Receivers are starting to get open. And most importantly, the O-line is giving the QB time. This is a much, much better team than the one that was playing in September. The next four games feature three teams with a combined record of 13-21 (and one against Pittsburgh at home). A record of 9-6 is a very real possibility going into the final game against the Bears. Those 1-4 Vikes could very well be playing for the divison in that game.
I'll admit it. They've sucked me in. I believe in them again.

Thanksgiving spread at the midpoint

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More personal stuff

It's been a busy week. What with the birthday stuff, Vikes on MNF and Thanksgiving the schedule has been very tight. Other highlights included seeing the newest Harry Potter movie on Wednesday. I liked it quite a bit. Maybe the best one yet. It's geared towards fans of the series. Virtually no time is spent reintroducing characters or previous story. The movie does a good job of making a long book into a watchable movie. The pace is very high in the beginning though it falls off about midway through. The FP Gal was somewhat bored and didn't like it as much as I did.
Thursday's events went very well. The food was wonderful and everyone had a good time. The evening was spent playing games. We played 'Apples to Apples', a game where you match nouns with concepts. This led to Lenin's Tomb being judged 'absurd' and a great name for a band, 'Frank Lloyd Wright and the Great Chicago Fire'. True fans will call them FLWGCG.
Friday was spent down in Austin. This started with a white knuckle drive through wind, snow and bulletproof (idiot) SUV drivers. We made it without incident. We spent time with two of my cousins and their 22 children. We showed them the wedding video and played card games. At night we went out for a drink and then back to Minneapolis.
The rest of the weekend was much calmer. Some movie watching. Some shoveling. Some bagel eating. Some football watching. I can only hope that everyone else had as nice a weekend!

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

to everyone. We're getting set to host the big meal at our place. The FP Gal and her dad are getting food ready as I type. Why am I not helping? To ensure a better meal. My talents around the kitchen are limited to bachelor food. And no one wants an all toast Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Year in review

Today is my birthday. The FP Gal and I have a pretty tight grouping as far as that goes. It’s nice to have them close together. It makes this ‘birthday time’. We spent Saturday night at my Mom’s and Sunday with her family. Both nights were very nice.
Two years ago I turned 30. That’s one of those milestone birthdates that some people fear. It was liberating for me. I was an actual real adult and able to live as such. My 20’s were basically an extended teenage decade. No longer. Sure, it was all in attitude thing, but sometimes that’s what makes the difference. A few months later I met the FP Gal and my 30th year was pretty nice.
But nothing like this last year. If you’ve been reading this blog since it last December you’ve read about some pretty big events. My desire to enforce order has led me to rank some of them. With apologies to David Letterman, here’s my top ten:

10. Jan 9th, Vikings go into Lambeau and beat the Packers 31-17. This was the game that made the last few miserable seasons worthwhile. The Vikes found a late season pulse and won a game outdoors on the road. That it was against their biggest rivals made it all the sweeter.

  1. My Oscar movie project. This has been more fun than I thought it would be. I’ve gotten to see some movies I wouldn’t have otherwise bothered with. And introduced the FP Gal to some others. The only downside has been sitting through Thin Red Line again.

  1. Back in February, I wad of unlikely money fell in my lap. I’d been agonizing over whether or not to order the baseball package and the FP Gal convinced me to go ahead and get it. Who knew that the White Sox would lead the division wire to wire? Who knew that they’d give me so many improbable comebacks such strong pitching?

  1. My sister eloped in February. It wasn’t really a surprise as she’d threatened to do so for quite some time. She then had a reception for family and friends. My family is kind of far flung so we don’t get much of a chance to get together. One of the highlights was having my brother, sister-in-law and very cute nephew stay at our place. (More from this weekend to follow.)

  1. Thanksgiving of ’04 was very nice. My sister offered to host us out in Seattle. I invited the FP Gal she graciously accepted. It was our first vacation away and it was a blast. The day after Thanksgiving, we borrowed her car and drove up to Mt Ranier. November is a pretty cloudy month in Washington, but we got very lucky and got a clear sight of the peak. Someday I’ll get her to move out there with me. (Bonus highlight, we found Smartfood.)

  1. My all time favorite band is U2. I’d never seen them in concert until this year. It was absolutely amazing. Bono was incredible. They played some of my favorite tunes. And I even love their new stuff. It’s a real testament to this year that this concert ranks this low.

  1. Through a strange combination of workplace tradition and product placement, I was able to take the FP Gal on a surprise vacation. We ended up in Mexico, listening to the endless surf. An additional surprise for her was the ring that I brought. She said yes.

  1. History buffs love old, important cities. Fortune smiled on me and gave me an all expense paid trip to Paris. I saw as many sights as I could in the five days I was there. Amazing sculpture, beautiful architecture and more gold leaf than you can shake a scepter at. C’est magnifique!

  1. I’m a wee bit of a baseball fan (no, really). I adopted the White Sox as my team when I was too young to know any better. Nineteen heartbreaking seasons later they repayed all of my hope and commitment. World Champs. Still brings a smile to my face.

  1. What else could it be? On 12 June, 2005 we surprised our families when a brunch became a wedding. We ambushed ‘em good and proper. To this day, her father is leery of the word ‘brunch’. The bride was very, very beautiful and we are very, very happy. Here's her version of the day. With many, many pictures and descriptions.

What could possibly top this year?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

And in other Japanese news

is this. A modern day hero. Or something.

Personal stuff

Had a request recently for some more personal posts (Hi Mom). And there's some stuff I've meant to link to for months now. So I'll start with some Japanese related things. My sister-in-law Rachael has started her own blog. It features pictures of the cutest nephew in the whole world. His most recent adventure has him kissing a goat.
Staying in Japan, an old high school buddy of mine is living in Okinawa. His wife, Micah, is keeping a blog of the experience. She writes about the challanges of raising their dozen or so children. Good stuff. The post about Steve's recent radio work made me laugh out loud.
And finishing the Japan theme, this is most recent favorite game. As enjoyable as Minesweeper or Freecell. Don't be cowed by the numbers, there's no math involved.
The FP Gal was kind enough to point me towards this article rating short men. Napoleon comes in at number two. The lead singer of from AC/DC takes the top spot. Maxim did not approach me for the article. (And, yes, I'm having flashbacks from 'Time Bandits'. "Alexander the Great, 4 foot 8 inches...".)
Recently bought the latest Depeche Mode album. The song 'Precious' reminds me of 'Enjoy the Silence'. The album is growing on me. Good stuff.
And finally, saw someone from here this week. Hope to get in for the spring, but summer is probably more realistic. And, yes, I'm excited.
More personal things to come...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Killer Death Storm 1

We've had the first in our series of near fatal winter storm (pictures below). It barely missed the forecast of 8in by a mere seven inches or so. Meterologists were calm and collected in their predictions of this traumatic event.
Seriously, I'm ready for snow. The world can throw as much snow at me as it needs to as long as it doesn't get too cold. Of course now that I've typed this, we'll be having one of the coldest winters ever.

And...snow!

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Study in contrasts

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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Saving Private Ryan - 1998

This is truly a great movie. This is another movie in the category of 'if you haven't seen it, what's wrong with you'. I'd like to break the review down into two categories, technical and story.
First the technical which is unbelievably good. The movie opens with the D-Day invasion and it's shocking in brutality. Vetrans groups hailed it as the most realistic approximation they'd ever seen. It's very difficult to watch but even harder to turn away. German machine guns make hamburger of allied troops as they leave the troop ships. One scene has a medic valiantly stop one soldiers bleeding only to have the victim take a shot to the head. Death sweeps up and down the beach. The opening half hour of this movie shows the incredible amount of respect we owe to those who risk our lives for us. (Belated Vetran's Day thanks!)
The movie is shot with a bleached out look that is very appealing. The destroyed French villages are amazing to look at. Spielberg has amazing technical chops and he shows them well here. He also has a penchant for creating tense situations. The movie involves several seperate occasions where the audience gets sucked in.
Ok, now the underlying story. Earlier this year, I read the only negative review I'd ever seen about SPR. It was written by Mark Steyn. Try as I might I haven't been able to track it down. The best I could find is an extended entry in this post. (The entire post is worth reading.) Here's Steyn:

Endeavouring to justify their mission to his unit, Hanks's sergeant muses that, in years to come when they look back on the war, they'll figure that `maybe saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we managed to pull out of this whole godawful mess'. Once upon a time, defeating Hitler and his Axis hordes bent on world domination would have been considered `one decent thing'.

And he's right. That part of the movie completely slipped by me. And it's kind of an important point. In some sense, this movie asks 'why do we fight?'. Hanks offers up a calculus about saving the most lives. The idea of risking the lives of 10 men to save the life of one particular one seems deranged to him. But if it gets him closer to home, then he's all for it. More from Steyn (found here):

He was the youngest of three brothers. The war ended for his older siblings when they were blown up, returning home with only one functioning leg between the two of them, while he made it back with both still working. If you gave that scenario to Steven Spielberg, he'd go off and make Saving Private Ryan's Legs. But what we Boomers, Gen Xers and all the rest can never understand is the quiet, routine acceptance of personal sacrifice -- the fact that you can be crippled, your life shattered, your prospects shriveled, and that it's OK, it was still the necessary thing to do. That's why every old soldier I've ever spoken to considers the premise of Spielberg's movie laughable. He can recreate everything about the look of a war -- the explosions, the severed arteries, the ketchup -- and miss entirely its pulse. Saving Private Ryan is a "realistic" war movie, only if you don't mind every character thinking in a wholly Oprahfied way.

And I think there's some truth in that. Which is a shame. The closest this movie comes to a beliveable reason for why soldiers go into danger is because of the bond of their mates. Early in the movie the squad's sniper (Barry Pepper) suggests that if he can get a clear shot at Hitler, they can all go home. Instead of agreement, there's kind of an embarassed silence that seems very modern. Too modern.
Still a great movie, but it does have it's flaws.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Monday, November 07, 2005

Honeymoon Cruise

After my post about Somali pirates, it's been brought to my attention that I haven't mentioned the honeymoon plans yet. We're taking a four day cruise to the Bahamas after New Years. Neither of us have ever been on a cruise liner before. In fact, I've never been out of sight of land before. We're very excited!

No More Steve Perry Psycheouts

Meant to mention this story back during the World Series. A chance meeting with a cover band in Baltimore led the Sox to adopt 'Don't Stop Believin' as their season's motto. They went so far as to invite Steve Perry to travel with them during the playoffs. This is one of those goofy stories that makes sports so wonderful.
Right after they won the Series, I went to Itunes and downloaded Journey's Greatest Hits. I got the idea of dedicating other songs to the rest of the season. You can find the results here.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Elizabeth - 1998

This movie is OK at best. Which is really a shame. Queen Elizabeth I is an important figure and the story around her is very interesting. She was a woman in a man's job at a time when women were little more than property. She inherited a kingdom that was torn apart by religious strife. She faced threats from the major powers of Europe. She faced near constant threat of assassination. And she came through with flying colors.
The movie compresses many of the trials in her life into a much smaller time frame. I've got no problem with that. Rewriting history for narrative sake has a long and rich history. Often it makes for a better movie. Braveheart took larger liberties than Elizabeth, but they served to better define the theme of the movie. In this movie, they serve to weaken it. Instead of seeing her playing her enemies off of one another, we see her refuse to take any of them seriously. Instead of showing her teach her subjects how to love England as she does, we see her putting on makeup to try and become a new virginal icon. In many ways, this movie represents a lost opportunity. Elizabeth I should be shown in all of her strength. Here, she comes off as a weak woman who can only survive if strong men help her out.
In it's defense, the acting is very good. Cate Blanchett kind of broke onto the scene here with some very strong work. Geoffery Rush is also very good. Joseph Fiennes plays the young queen's lover, which makes for interesting contrast with 'Shakespeare' in love.
A few other movie comments: This movie is gratuitously violent. Almost in a Bruckheimer sense. It also suffers a serious pacing issue. The movie sets the stage of conflicting intrests, French/Spanish, Catholic/Protestant and even Love/Politics. At each end we wonder what the resolution will be and how it'll turn out. And then Elizabeth tells her advisor to do what he must. What follows is Geoffery Rush killing everybody. This is the movie equivalent of Staples Easy Button. And it feels like a cheat.
An Ok movie. Not nearly Oscar worthy.

Why we chose the Bahamas

You must be careful when you select your cruise region. Stick to well traveled areas. Or travel armed. Or make sure your life is really a Disney movie.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Investigations

Anyone who thinks that a full scale investigation should be launched to find out how Bush and Republicans twisted inteligence about WMD should read this here. Maybe we should also launch investigations into how Bush twisted UN findings to find similar results. And inteligence agencies throughout Europe.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Pompeii

Just finished Pompeii by Robert Harris. A very enjoyable novel set in the first century, right before Mt Vesuvius did the big Jiffy Pop. The first I'd heard of it was from a James Lileks review. For those keeping score, that's two volcano books we've had in common. Don't know what the odds of that are. I'm still hoping for a good book on Mt St Helens. No doubt he'll review one in the next few months.
And since I'm talking about volcanoes, this is one of my favorite volcano pictures.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Thin Red Line - 1998

Let me start by saying something nice about this movie. It's beautifully shot and the score is very nice. Thus concludes the compliments. The listed time for this movie is just under three hours. In reality, the movie seems to last forever. And not in a timeless way but more of a "What day is this and how long have I been stuck in here" kind of way.
Thin Red Line tells the story of the taking of Guadalcanal. If it was taken by the Army Corps of bull session philosophers and not by actual soldiers. The men seem taken with trying to figure out what life is all about and why go through all of this dirty war business. They're also driven by a lieutenant colonel (Nick Nolte) who seems driven to promotion through a bloody frontal assault. In the tradition of well regarded Hollywood war movies, Nolte's character is insane and can only command through bullying.
The cast is deep and performances are solid, but the movie itself is very weak. Much of the movie is told through voiceovers where it's very difficult to tell who is speaking. Flashbacks abound and it's difficult to keep each characters story in order. And, worst of all, the movie doesn't go anywhere.
This movie deserved nominations for cinematography and music. The best picture overvalued it greatly. A bad movie.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Champs!

Day after thoughts

It hits me out of the blue at different times today: World Champion White Sox. Driving down the street and it hits me again. Sitting at work and there it is again. And this grin is pretty firmly in place. Nineteen years is a long time, but it was very much worth it.
Spent the last few innings of the game last night pacing back and forth and throwing off waves of tension. The FP Gal won't miss that one little bit, I can tell you. The cats either. They'd get settled into place and I'd start yelling. Everyone in the house (and maybe the neighbors) are glad this is done.
The White Sox run last night was in typical manufactured fashion. A single. A bunt attempt (failed). Moving the runner over on a groundout. And a seeing-eye single up the middle to score him. The Sox relief pitching was also (sadly) typical. Lots of opponents on base. Kept there only by superior defense. Uribe's two defensive plays in the ninth last night were both amazing. Diving into the fans behind third base to catch a pop-up. And going to the second base side of the mound to get a slow roller and get the runner at first. Typical top-notch defense.
When the out was called, I didn't know how to react. A high pitched yell and then some jumping around finally happened. Then the FP Gal shared my happiness with a kiss. My sister called immeadiatly and we shared a quick few minutes. Then a glass of brandy. And for the first time in my life I kind of wanted a cigar. (Good thing I hadn't thought of that earlier in the day when I could have gotten one.)
I watched some of the celebration in Chicago but I felt strangely detached. Loving a team from far away has it's downsides. Long distance relationships are never easy. Everyone at work was pulling for the Sox because they know how much I love them. Living in 'Twin's Territory' that meant alot to me. Everyone was very happy for me.
How do I feel right now? This might be a slight case of euphoria. Ask me in a few weeks and I might have a handle on it. Oh and I ordered this one.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

World Series Champs!

Yep, all 14 innings

But I had to be careful not to wake the FP Gal. At 1250a. The game went even longer, but Geoff Blum's homer in the top of the 14th was the backbreaker. In his first ever postseason at-bat. Truly amazing story.
But that's one of the charms of postseason baseball. Every October has a dozen or so amazing stories. Close calls, records and unexpected heroism fuel these stories. The baseball playoffs are (IMHO) the best sports tournament.
Couple of other things to say about Game 3. If the Astros want the roof open, leave it open. Unless weather interferes or something. (Last night's weather in Houston was in the 60's and it looked pretty brutal. Fans were in their winter gear. Seriously.) MLB's policy is that they have the final say on the roof during the World Series. I really wish they'd explain their policy more fully. That might quiet the people who were using it as an excuse for losing. A full 24 hours before they started the game.
And speaking of complaints and conspiracies, the close calls in Game 3 went the Astros' way. Not complaining about it. Close calls can go either way. Some teams take advantage, some teams stand around and pout (yes, I'm looking at you, Angels). I'd love for every game to be called perfectly, but that's a foolish dream. Human error is part of the game.
Specifically, the home run/double that went Houston's way was almost impossible to call. It hit about two feet to the double side of a yellow line in center left. You'd have to station an ump next to the centerfielder to see that accuratly. I really, really enjoy Minutemaid Park, but their outfield homerun 'line' could use some help.

Mostly, I feel great. This feels very unreal. World Series champs? Still having trouble getting my mind around that.

I bet it'd feel pretty good.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

For the FP Gal

This one. This one. This one. And I'm hoping for another style to come available later in the week.

Monday, October 24, 2005

1997 in review

Good Will Hunting
As Good as it Gets
LA Confidential
Full Monty
Titanic

Three great movies and two OK ones. 'As Good as it Gets' won the most acting awards, but had serious flaws. 'Full Monty' was good but very light. It was nice for both of them be nominated, but they're not really in the same league as the others.
'Good Will Hunting', 'LA Confidential' and 'Titanic' were all great but in different ways. 'Hunting' is probably the most feel good and down to earth. 'LA' has the most complex and involved plot. 'Titanic' had the most sheer impact of story. 'Titanic' won the Oscar and I can't really disagree. A pretty good year for movies.

Titanic - 1997

I'll assume anyone reading this post has seen this movie, so I'll skip the synopsis. And if you haven't seen it, you probably should. I mean, it's part of our cultural heritage, so what's your problem?
Firstly, I'm a sucker for love stories. And I fell for this one. There's nothing quite like young love. Fierce, idealistic and uncompromising. The idea of a penniless artist and a beautiful society girl falling for each other isn't new, but it is quite effective here. DiCaprio and Winslett are very cute together. And they're both better actors than they are given credit for. (The FP Gal thinks DiCaprio looks like Steve Buscemi. I thought she might be the only woman in the world to think so, but one of the ladies at work agrees. I don't see it all.)
This is a great movie. The combination love story/action flick/disaster movie works very well. The early story is interesting as you watch the lovers come together. The stage is set well with the enormous ship. And knowing that it's going to sink brings a deadline. The first time I saw it, morbid thoughts about who would make it and who wouldn't kept creeping into my mind. Once the iceberg hits, the action part begins. Watery escape sequences interchange with shocking scenes of the ship sinking. It holds your interest.
Does it hold up over time? I think so. The key to understanding the general feeling to this movie is to remember how successful it was. It was enormous. It was record breaking. It topped the box office charts for seemingly ever. And it created a backlash. Critics dismissed it's popularity as being fueled by teenage girls with crushes on Leo. It became a symbol of low (American) culture. It was criticized for mixing disaster with a love story.
The most interesting angle on this movie is the intention of director James Cameron. He wanted to make a movie that highlighted class distinction. The Titanic was used as a metaphor for overbearing invincible wealth and the folly and fragility of same. I wonder if he was disappointed that almost no one cared about this part of his story. Class distinctions were simply much more important in 1912 than in 1997. The idea of being locked into societal position by birth is as alien today as it was commonplace then. At most people shook their heads over how bad things were then.
But a funny thing happened while Cameron was telling this story. He went out and made one of the most expensive movies in history. And, even worse, made a pile of money out of it. And Hollywood turned against him. Ironic, no?
The other wonderful thing about this film is the music. Haunting and lovely. It was capable of bringing tears to people even out of context. True story, when this movie came out I was working at a B&N in Colorado Springs. They sold out of the soundtrack by midafternoon of opening day. Two months later, you still had to be on a waiting list to get it. Very good stuff.

We love laundry

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Please, let there be another mouse! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Vikings beat Packers

Something dangerous has been happening in the Twin Cities over the past couple of weeks. Oh, no one's life is in danger (though fairly serious charges might still be filed). I'm speaking of the danger that the Vikings were in of losing their fan base.
In 1998, the Vikes turned this town into a football town. Minnesota has been crazy about the Vikings before, but the combination of a Twins team going nowhere and a second tier basketball team (sorry KG) made the 15-1 Vikes easy to love. Just take a moment and remember that team. They didn't just win games, they blew the opponents off of the field. Rookie Randy Moss set the league on fire with a neverbefore seen combination of speed and size. The image of Randall Cunningham's slingshot deepball is pure poetry.
They broke our hearts (of course) but we still loved them. Not even the 2000 Championship game spoiled them for us. Finishing 5-11 two years in a row was tough, but the corner seemed about to be turned. A good start and subsequent collapse in 2003 also took a bite out of our love but wasn't it just another chapter of Viking disappointment. When the same thing happened in 2004 it hurt again. But...beating the Packers in the playoffs makes up for a lot of hard times.
The offseason saw Moss leave and the arrival of a slate of new defenders. Hope was high. ESPN picked the Vikes to win the Superbowl. And then the season started. This team wasn't good. They weren't bad. They were cover-your-eyes awful. Culpepper couldn't keep from turning the ball over. The offensive line couldn't protect. The receivers were invisible. The running game was feeble. The defense couldn't catch their breath. Or stop the run. Or stop the pass. The best player on the team was the punter. Seriously.
And then came the 'Love Boat'. Players who were bad on the field were depraved off of it. The orginization was embarrased. The coach looked like he'd lost control of the team. 1-15 seemed like a realistic possibility. Empathy set in hard. Facing their biggest rivals, no one talked about the game. Another embarrasing defeat looked likely. All of the good will from 1998 seemed just about gone.
And then the game started. And that embarrasing defeat started to happen. Farve looked unbeatable. The offense couldn't get on track. The Vikes were down 17-0 at the half. And then a funny thing happened. Suddenly, some first downs went our way. And some incompletions for Green Bay. And some scoring for the Vikes. And (amazingly) a Viking lead occured. A small 20-17 lead, to be sure. And with just enough time for Green Bay to go downfield and score again. Which they did, tieing the game with a field goal.
The script for the year would have Culpepper throw another INT, probably a tipped ball. But...fate saw it differently. The Vikes lined up for a 56 yard FG and hit it. And maybe saved the season. If they can play like they did in the second half of the game, they can win some more games. Their division is weak and the hole isn't too big yet.
Will it be enough to make people care again? Get back to .500 and we'll talk. But I suspect they can. And I suspect the apathy will disappear.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

World Series of Misfit Toys

Probably the most striking thing about the White Sox and Astros is the combined record of futility. This is the Astro's 44th season and their first World Series. The White Sox have been there before but not since 1959. A full fourteen years before I was born. Nearly half a century. I guess it's obvious why Chicago is excited.
Just wanted to put something down in pixels before the Series so I could point back and gloat. Or be horribly wrong and be on record. Postseason baseball is almost like a series of coinflips. The teams are so good that it's not a surprise when any of them win. Some years pitching wins. Other years hitting wins. And some years games are decided by close calls and close plays.
Who knows what will win it this year? Both of these teams are very similar. Good defense and pitching. Average to poor offense. Both teams feel like no one gave them any chance to be here.
I'll pick with my heart: White Sox in six. They'll do just enough to win a few games. And they'll get just enough breaks. And there might be a big homerun in there too.

GO GO SOX!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

World Series!

I don't even know what to say. This feels unbelievable. As in, is this really happening? I love this team!
I've been following along with some other Sox fans here. What makes this extra special is that Ozzie Guillen was my favorite player while growing up. To see him manage my team to the World Series is nothing short of incredible.

Bring on the NL!

Viknigs!

Thought I should say something about the Vikings little pleasure cruise on Lake Minnetonka. Who amongst us hasn't had some friends out on the boat and had an orgy break out? Hmmm, almost certainly everyone who reads this blog (and the author!). Can't say I'm really surprised at their behavior. Being a serious sports fan in today's world means rooting for some bad people. The combination of insane money, fame and receiving constant special treatment doesn't really go far to building character. We should almost celebrate the exceptions for turning out ok.
What happens from here? The answer lies with what really happened. So far we've allegations and protestations of innocence. If the cruise was just a case of men with strippers getting lap dances, probably not much happens. If 'sex acts' were happening, the story takes a darker turn. We also don't know which players were doing what. Part of the story line is that there were two boats and the bad stuff was only happening on one of them. Until this is all sorted out, I don't know how any kind of meaningful punishment can be given.
What happens in the meantime? From a strictly sports related standpoint, I can't think of a worse thing to happen during a bye week than to have a scandal possibly effecting large numbers of the players. Think that might have hurt their concentration? I think it just might. The flip side of the coin is that the team could pull together and lose themselves in the football work. Take out their frustrations on the field and blow the Bears off of the field today.
I don't see it. My guess is that the Bears blow out the Vikes today. And we get one loss closer to getting a good coach.
In personal news, I've traded Culpepper away from my fantasy team. If he turns the ball over, he'll only hurt the real team now. If (hostile sports universe theory) this means that he now turns it around, all the better. For those picking games, I've picked up Eli Manning. Expect the Giants to nosedive.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The Call

A piece of baseball history happend on Wednesday night. Video here. The critical play of the White Sox/Angels game was an umpire decision. Description found here.
Just thought I'd offer some thoughts of my own. First, let me say that I thought the umpire blew the call. It appears to me that Paul caught the ball to complete the strikeout. Others have differing opinions. The play was close and the umpire is in a particularly bad spot to make that call. Reports are that the 3rd base umpire didn't see it clearly either. Which shouldn't be a surprise. Any play that is disputed during frame by frame replays would be tough for someone 90 feet away.
The real problem is what happened next. The umpire's 'mechanic' had a sideways motion that apparently means 'no contact'. He also has a fist pump that means both 'strike' and 'out'. He used the fist pump and mass confusion occured. But...the replay shows that Paul rolls the ball back towards the mound before the fist pump. And most of the Angels position players move when Paul reacts. Clearly, Paul thought he'd caught the ball and the inning was over. But...the umpire never called the runner out. AJ had been behind the plate all night listening to the umpire. He reacted differently. Quite the heads up play.
So, if you think the ump blew the call, the situation has given the White Sox an extra out. With one runner on first and two outs. If the Angels can get one last out, the game goes on to the 10th. Bad calls happen in baseball. Earlier in the game, the Sox had a runner doubled off of second in a call I thought was horrible. With perfect umpiring, maybe that run scores. The human element is part of the game.
In any case, I'll take it.

"Who doesn't love a sunbeam?" or "Roll me back into the surf!"  Posted by Picasa

Full Monty - 1997

This is a good light movie. The movie centers on a group of men who are out of work and hopeless. The steel industry that drove their economy has gone away. Prospects for a new job are few and far between and below their dignity.

Enter the Chippendales. When a group of male strippers plays the local club, the men get the idea of raising money by become strippers themselves. They figure that if women will go crazy over those other men, they'll go even crazier over them. Then reality sets in. As they audition for a full set of dancers, they realize what a sorry lot they are. But each one has good reasons why they must go forward and they eventually do.

This movie does a very good job of giving each man a different motivation and story. One does it for child support. One to recover money that his wife has been spending. The most compelling is a self described 'fat bastard' who does it to feel like a desireable man again.

A good movie. I remember comparing it with 'Waking Ned Devine' and thinking that it came off second best. I still feel that way. Not nearly at the same level as the rest of the competition.

LA Confidential - 1997

This is a very complex well done story. Set in LA of the 50's, it's basically a gritty police drama. The movie follows three very different cops, Kevin Spacey, Guy Pierce and Russell Crow.

Spacey is part of the LAPD/Hollywood overlap. He works as a consultant to a TV show. The fame and the bright lights are very important to him. Pierce is a climber, looking for ways to burnish his career. He's an intellectual type who is constantly told to take off his glasses so as not to project the wrong image. Crow is perhaps the most interesting of the three. He's a brutal man who believes that being a cop sometimes means breaking the rules about police brutality. The first scene with him shows that he's deeply concerned about violence towards women. He knows that he's not the brainy type but he strongly believes that his type of effort is needed to maintain law and justice.

All three are very good actors and they each do very well in very different roles. Other notables in the film include Danny Devito as a tabloid publisher and James Cromwell as the police captain. Also should mention Kim Bassinger who won an Oscar for her role in this film. She plays a high priced hooker who has been 'cut' (surgically altered) to look like a hollywood actress. Her role is utterly forgettable. This might be the least deserving acting Oscar of any of the movies I've seen.

The plot is fairly complex, with lots of twists along the way. About twenty minutes in I asked the FP Gal is she remembered the storyline and we both had to admit that we didn't. It's a very well made movie. In fact, I'll put it into the 'great' category.

Light posting

Sorry about that. Expect a flood this weekend. I've gots stuff to say.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

White Sox win ALDS

Couldn't get time off of work to watch the game yesterday, so I followed it online. Very frustrating as I was watching two different sites and hitting 'refresh' constantly. But also very exciting. The White Sox went into Fenway and beat the best offensive team in the AL 5-3. For the series they outscored them 24-9. This gave their first playoff series victory since they won the World Series in 1917. Yep, 1917. A mere 56 years before I was born.
Not used to playoff victories and ultimatly believe they'll kill me somehow. But for the time being, I love this. I'll take it.
After last night's game, the Angels are up against the Yankees 2 games to 1. Not sure who I'd prefer to play against. Guess I'm cheering that series goes five games. If I had to pick, I'd rather play the Yankees. We've seen what the White Sox do against poor pitching. I'd rather see some more of it.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

White Sox 2, Red Sox 0

Hard to believe that my team is up two games to none in this series. This is completely new territory for me. Feels pretty good.

Morning drama

Mouse in the house this morning. Great fun! All ended well as it was rescued and released into the backyard. (Pictures below.)

Quite a mouthful Posted by Picasa

Mighty hunter Posted by Picasa

Vikings problem

After the Vikings first loss, I gave a few thoughts on what went wrong. Later, I realized the obvious problem, it's Bush's fault. Just for laughs, of course. I thought that the play of a football team would somehow be beyond even Bush's powerful reach.
The ability to bring every problem in the world to W's feet is becoming more and more bizarre. The term Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) is being bandied around on the right to try and describe what's going on. Overreaction? This letter was in the Strib today. I'll reprint the whole thing, because I don't think they archive these for long.

The curse of the Bush

Coincidence or curse? Vikings fans, you be the judge.

On Oct. 29, 2004, Minnesota Vikings had a 5-1 record. Head Coach Mike Tice was on top of the world, feeling confident, virile; no one could touch him.

That day in Minneapolis he introduced President Bush and presented him with a personalized Vikings jersey with the number 1 on the back.

Since then, the Vikings have gone 4-10.

Coincidence or curse? Vikings fans, you be the judge.

K. John Bradley, Minneapolis.

Look, I know that Clinton drove the right crazy, but we never, never, never blamed him for football loses. The Vikings problems start with a horrible coach. And Tice's problems are big enough to overshadow whatever else is wrong. Until he's gone, it's hard to tell what else needs to be done.
And if anyone reading this has BDS, get a grip, please.


Tuesday, October 04, 2005

As Good as it Gets - 1997

This movie is filled with good acting, a few memorable lines and a weak story.
Jack Nicholson plays an OCD writer. Which means Jack playing Jack, but with some quirks. Like only using new soap bars and never stepping on cracks. He's about the meanest person alive. Racist and homophobic and just plain ugly to people.
Greg Kinnear plays his neighbor, a gay painter with a little dog. Unable to stand confrontation and trusting to a fault. His agent picks up a model off of a street corner for him to paint. The models friends break into rob him and end up beating him savagely.
Helen Hunt has the other sizeable role in the film. She plays a waitress with a sick boy. She's also the only person that can control Jack. When she misses work to tend to her boy, Jack hires a doctor to look after him so she can go back to work.
When Kinnear is beaten up, Jack looks after his dog. And falls in love with it. In fact the dog gives him some humanity by falling in love back. When Kinnear heals enough to return, the dog creates a bond between them. The combination of dog and doctor opens Jack up and makes him connect with other people.
The turning point of the movie comes when Jack is talked into driving Kinnear down to Baltimore to ask his parents for money. Jack insists that Hunt come with and our three protagonists all come together. Jack (finally) moves to spark a relationship with Hunt and gets some traction before screwing it up with his mouth. The rest unfolds and there's your movie.
Some good acting in this movie, but seriously flawed, too. Nicholson really doesn't act here. He's just himself. And Hunt works very hard. Maybe too hard as I wasn't even a little convinced that she was really a waitress. She comes off as harsh instead of strong. Kinnear really does the best job. He comes off as earnest and innocent.
The biggest flaw is the love story. I never believed that Hunt could fall for Nicholson. Even worse, I never believed that Nicholson actually fell for Hunt. That's kind of hard for a love story to overcome.
This movie is OK at best.

MLB Playoffs

Just wanted to get a few words in before the game starts. I won't be surprised by any outcome of the upcoming all Sox games. I can see the White Sox superior pitching and defense will winning out, probably in four games. But my years of being a cursed sports fan (22 with the Vikings, 19 with the White Sox) have me prepared for being swept.
The last time we were in the playoffs was in 2000. The White Sox finished with the top record in the AL and promptly lost three straight to Seattle. Their starting pitching had a horrible rash of injuries. It wasn't pretty. This time around the starting pitching is very good. The only injury concerns are with the closer, Hermanson. The offense is average and that's a concern.
Who wins? I don't know.

Play ball!

UPDATE: Ok, I didn't expect the Sox to put a five-spot in the first. But I'll take it.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Love this story

about Frank Thomas. He's been mislabeled a problem in the clubhouse and this should show how much he cares about his teamates and vice versa.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Brilliant

Ran across this, this and this tonight and thought I'd share. Very nicely done. The last one is the best.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

2005 AL Central Champs

Your Chicago White Sox. This season has been a blast to watch. Good pitching, timely hitting and one of the better defensive teams that Chicago has fielded. The Indians made it close by playing .700 ball for the last two months, but today's victory gives the Sox the division. Very happy.

Flying the colors Posted by Picasa

Wow

Heard on the radio today that Smokin' Joe Frazier of boxing fame was blind in his left eye for a significant portion of his boxing career. I'd never heard that before.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Good Will Hunting - 1997

Will Hunting is a genius. He's also troubled and adrift. He's capable of understanding math that only a handful of people in the world can understand. And picking a fistfight with someone that pushed him around in kindergarten.
This movie was co-written by Matt Damon and Ben Afleck. It's the movie that put them on the map. The dream of writing and then starring in a movie is pretty well universal in the acting world. These two went out and did it. The story is interesting. The acting is very good. And the dialouge is brilliant. The only other movie from this project (so far) that even comes close is 'Pulp Fiction'.
But what really sells the movie is Robin Williams. He plays a counselor that tries to heal Will and help him direct his life. Williams plays a shrink with a sad past, having a buried a wife who died young and slowly. He's authentic and insightful. The 'cure' is a bit quick, but very touching. Some of Williams best work.
Minnie Driver also does a fine job. She's a Harvard student who gives Will a reason to straighten out his life. Her part is brief, but she does well with it.
Matt Damon is also very good in this movie. I've never understood why his career has been calmer than Afleck's. He's clearly the better actor. Maybe he's just not dating the right people.
This is a great movie.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

U2 Concert Review

In a word, awesome. For more words, let me point you to this review from the Strib. Of interest is that this concert produced an arena record large crowd. And they could have sold twice as many tickets. About the only empty spot was a section of seats behind us and over about three where a patron barfed about half an hour before the concert started. Cleaning crew came and wiped it all up. My lack of smell worked in my favor. The FP Gal tells me that it lingered.
Despite that, it was still a wonderful concert. We had upper deck seats. We could still see and hear without problem. The stage was at the other end of the basketball court with a long looping runway forming a ring out into the crowd. Their previous concert had a similar runway in the shape of a heart, while this one was smoothed into a ring. The inside and outside of the ring was lighted, sometimes solidly, sometimes chasing. The lighting colors changed from song to song. A bank of monitors hung above the main stage, usually split into four screens with a camera on each band member. Set list and reviews can be found here.
The played a good mix of old and new songs. My personal favorites were 'Electric Co.' (complete with 'Send in the Clowns') and 'With or Without You'. The only one that underwhelmed me was 'Elevation'. At one point, they dedicated a song to the Mayo Clinic and all that it does. Bono joked that they had taken the Edge there for study and had been told his brain is 'impossible'. He also proclaimed that Edge was from the future. (Which would explain the guitar playing...)
Loved it.

Update: Here's another review with some pictures of the concert.

Mea culpa

In this spirit, I'd like to apologize for a couple of things.

Firstly, I'd like to apologize for the abysmal play of Duante Culpepper. His last two starts have accounted for 37 turnovers (an NFL record) and it's all my fault. When I drafted him for my fantasy football team (first round no less) I didn't realize that I'd be killing any chance of the Vikings winning their first two games. He'll be benched for this coming week in favor of Matt Hasselbeck. Seahawk fans are warned. I also drafted Michael Bennett, therefore endangering the lives of all Minnesota lineman. I've since released him to alleviate this problem.
Secondly, I'd like to apologize for the storm that hit the north metro area this week. The FP Gal and I have taken to watching the summer reruns of 'Lost' on Wednesday night. We've grown to enjoy it and look forward to each episode. In a classic example of a hostile universe, Wednesday nights have produced repeated storms throughout the state. Local weathermen have taken their duty seriously to breathlessly warn of any thunderstorm in the six state area. Thunderstorm warnings are then shown in an unimportant 2/3 of the TV screen, making normal broadcasts difficult to watch. With the season premiere, this past Wednesday, events were taken to an extreme. The loss or power and property damage are regrettable.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Blog posts keep getting chewed up...grrrr

1996 in review

Fargo
English Patient
Jerry Maguire
Shine
Secrets & Lies

This year goes in the books (and I finally write about it!). English Patient was clearly the best film of this year. And Jerry Maguire should get some credit for originality in the Oscar film. The other three films are very arthouse. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Not an especially strong field of movies. There were a number of films that year that could have been popped into the Best Picture slot. 'Courage Under Fire' and 'Trainspotting' were both very good movies, for instance. My memory is that this trend continues for the rest of the decade, with 'very good' and 'great' but not unforgettable movies.
Guess I'd have to give 'Shine' the edge on music. Can't imagine running out to get the soundtrack, though.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Scored some tickets

Through a chance bit of conversation at work, and a little extra green in my pocket, I bought me some tickets to see my all-time favorite band. Eight days from now the FP Gal and I are going to see U2. A little bit excited? You might say that.
The beauty of it is this: most bands with their mileage would play some new stuff that's kind of ok and maybe sprinkle in one or two of their good (old) stuff. But U2's latest album is very strong. 'City of Blinding Lights' and 'Yaweh' being my favorites.
Very excited.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Secrets & Lies

The setup for this movie has lots of play. A young black woman in London discovers that her biological mother is white. She tracks her mum down and reveals herself. What she discovers is that her mum is a deeply unhappy woman who already has a deeply unhappy daughter at home. Mixed into this is a brother/uncle who is living very distantly with his wife. Also deeply unhappy.
When the secret of the hidden daughter comes out, the rest of the 'secrets and lies' that make up the title come out.
Some interesting characters and the story is interesting as well. But the movie didn't capture my interest at all. At nearly two and half hours, it just went too long. And even though it's billed as a comedy, it really only qualifies in the Greek drama sense that the protagonist doesn't die at the end.
Can't really recommend this film either. It's OK at best.

From opening day of the 2004 season. I'm the one without the braids. Posted by Picasa

Opening Sunday

Finally the Vikings play a real game. Well, so to speak. The defense looked very good. The offense looked out of sync. The defense did very well even when put into bad spots. The offense had continual problems with the Bucs front line. The running game was very bad. And the breaks went the other way.

UPDATE: I forgot the obvious reason for the Vikings bad offense. It's Bush's fault.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


So sleepy! Posted by Picasa

FP Gal and I at Mt. Ranier (this one's for you, Carrie) Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Mike Cameron

is the Mets center fielder. Earlier this season he suffered a truly horrific outfield collision. Cameron suffered extensive fractures to the cheekbones and nose. Surgery followed and titanium plates (permanent, I'm sure). This is the story of him dropping in on his teamates.
I noticed this for two reasons. He used to patrol the outfield for my beloved White Sox. Never a superstar, he seemed to get by on hard work. Especially defense. Modern sports seems to demand that you hate players that are no longer on your team. For instance, AJ Pierznyski gets booed at the Metrodome for the terrible sin of having been traded away to the Giants. But I've never felt that way about Cameron. Always glad to see him gliding around in New York.
The other reason is that I've been in almost the exact same spot that he's in now. He's not kidding that having your jaw wired shut is the best diet out there. And I can completely sympathize with his plans for pizza. For about two weeks, I dreamt about cheeseburgers!
Good luck to you Mike.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Shine - 1996

The biggest flaw with this project is that sometimes a movie comes up in the rotation and I'm not really in the mood for it. This might be the best example of that. As a result, this review is probably more negative than the movie deserves.
Shine is the story of a brilliant pianist, David Helfgott. He's a prodigy that grows up with a very stern and notional father. The father's upbringing helps focus the piano playing but restricts the choices of the boy. And when David is recognized for the talent that he is, the father won't let him leave to a prestigous music school. David leaves anyway and is cast out of the family by his father.
The story finds David in London being taught music and preparing for a concert. David has selected Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto, one of the toughest pieces around. He plays magnificently. And immeadiatly collapses following the piece.
The movie isn't very clear, but shock treatments come into play. They only intensify the growing eccentricities that David is suffering. He returns home, but has no home to return to. He disappears.
Flash forward a number of years and David is in an asylum. He's very manic and has a strange facsination with water. He wanders into a club and plays an astonishing 'Flight of the Bumblebees'. Recognition of who he is follows.
Geoffery Rush plays David Heffgott and he's amazing. The manic chatter is very difficult and completly convincing. The piano playing is nothing short of stupendous. But...the movie didn't really move me. As I said, it may have been just when I watched it, but there it is. The best I can really say is that this movie is Ok.

Football pool

Just a note here, I've finally gotten the football pool put together. Been doing this for almost a decade here and it's something I really enjoy. Go here if you'd like to join. Click on Create or Join group. Then select to join an existing group. The group ID is #29110 and the password: football.
Pass the word if anyone you know would like to join up.

Jerry Maguire - 1996

Loved this movie when it first came out. Was curious to see how it stood up. In some ways, this is the most modern movie of this project so far. This current era of free agent sports is unlike the past in some important ways. The rise of the star agent is fairly new. And (to my tastes) repugnant. Ignoring the money side is my way of enjoying sports without the awful side stuff. This movie seems to agree with that. (That it spawned an HBO series on the life of a sports agent is the fault of HBO's vision, not this movie.)
The movie opens with Tom Cruise as sports agent Jerry Maguire. He suffers a crisis of conscience and writes a mission statement/memo to his company about the need to rehumanize, to accept fewer clients for less money. This leads him to be abruptly fired. In the race to see which of his clients he can keep he only ends up with two. The likely first pick of the NFL draft and a receiver for the Arizona Cardinals, Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr). His mission statement has also inspired one of his coworkers to go with him, the adorable Renee Zellweger. She's a single mom with one of the cutest kids in movie history.
The movie centers around two different relationships, Cruise and Zellweger and Cruise and Gooding Jr. Zellweger finds Cruise to be very pretty and a possible replacement for her dead husband. She manipulates him into feeling lonely and getting romantic with her. Out of fear that she'll leave, Cruise proposes and they become a family. Notice I didn't say a happy family. Father bonds with new son, but not really the mom. She eventually asks them if they can take a break from each other. He does and has an emotional response and returns. This is the "You had me at hello," scene. Only in this last viewing was I completely underwhelmed by this. They still have divorce in a year written all over them.
The friendship with Cruise and Gooding Jr, is much more interesting. It's part agent and client, part guy friends. Gooding Jr is very, very good. His memorable line here is, of course "Show me the money!". But the one that stuck with me was "You think we're fighting here, but I think we're finally talking!".
This is a very good movie. Great in spots and weak in others. Gooding Jr won for Best Supporting Actor (I agree) and Cruise was nominated for his acting (bit of a stretch). It should get some credit for being different than most Oscar noms.