Saturday, July 30, 2005

Reasons why ESPN is going downhill

This could be a daily feature if I had the stamina to write about it everyday. First featured game of Sportcenter is Twins at Red Sox. The feature opens by recapping Manny Ramirez continuing tantrum and demands to be traded. When Manny comes to bat, there is a mixed reaction from the crowd. And by mixed, I mean someone somewhere is booing. Or maybe a microphone has been placed in any random public place. Hard to tell anything definitive.
The highlights also show an oh-by-the-way Torii Hunter going back for a fly ball, hitting the wall and injuring his ankle. Early reports suggest he'll be out 4-6 weeks. This is the heart and soul of a team contending for the Wild Card getting knocked out right before the trade deadline. Kind of a big deal.
The followup report? A lengthy comment from David Ortiz about the crowd reaction. Obviously the biggest story from that game.
ESPN is currently in the midst of 50 states in 50 days. This involves visits and reports from all of the states with recaps of their sports history, greatest players from, etc. This is probably positive as it may remind them that there are actual sports stories happening outside of the Bos-Wash area. Let's hope so.

Ten little Indians

Must have missed this news earlier. Wonder how high this number will be eventually? Guess at a name? Hespera, goddess of dusk or Pontus, god of the deep sea.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Il Postino - 1995

Never have seen this movie, but long wanted to. If you're in the same boat, my advice is to skip it. The story is slow. The acting is slow. The music is nothing special (even if it did win Best Score). About the only positives I can mention are the scenery (Italian coast) and the cleavage (Maria Grazia Cucinotta). And the movie isn't shy with either.
The story is of a small town man who isn't cut out to be a fisherman. A job opens to be a postman delivering mail to Pablo Neruda, poet in exile. They become friends and eventually Neruda teaches our fine postman how to make 'metaphores' and woo women. And then Neruda leaves, returning to his native Chile. Does he remember his Italian friends? Really who cares? This is mighty thin soup for a full length movie.
One other thing ruined the movie for me. Pablo Neruda is a communist poet (and politician). He is revered and honored throughout this movie. Apparently he was one of the top poets for the deadliest ideology of the 20th century. How lovely! Can you imagine a movie honoring the top artists of the Nazis? You'd want to shower afterward. And I wanted to after this.
I tried to seperate my communist revulsions from judging this movie on it's own merits. Not sure if that's possible or not but I really don't think this was a good movie. Probably the second worst one I've seen in this project.

Braveheart - 1995

My memory track of this movie went like this: thought it was great when it came out, later thought I'd overrated it. Having seen it again I'm back to thinking of this as a great movie. Epic in it's feel, the movie details the attempt of Scotland to gain their independence from England in the late 13th century and early 14th. Mel Gibson plays William Wallace, a Scotish commoner who rallied the people to oppose the English. Out of curiosity, I looked at a couple of histories to get a feel for this period. Churchill suggests that Wallace, not Joan of Arc, is the earliest major figure in history to urge nationalism. Who knew? (Churchill would also feel that this movie treats Edward 'Longshanks' unfairly.) The movie does play fast and loose with the details but it hits the high points fairly enough. And the overall message of 'Freedom!' is strong enough to overcome any such errors.
Gibson plays the lead and als directs this film. This isn't a valentine to himself unlike what some directors have done. The movie is quite bloody and I couldn't help contrasting the battle scenes in Braveheart with the ones in the LOTR movies (which I recently rewatched). The use of real people is more striking than the CGI ones. An axe to the wrist means more when it looks like real damage is being dealt. In contrast to the battles is the camerawork of the scenery. Scotland is just beautiful. And the movie captures that well.

Big Hurt is broken

Sad news today for the White Sox. Sad because they could really use his bat. But sadder because he'll miss out on one of the best seasons in White Sox history. And David is right here that it'll be a shame if he doesn't get another chance to win a World Series.
Thomas has long been one of my favorite players. (He's my sister's very favorite. Yes, she's got the White Sox bug, too.) Probably the best player in the history of the Pale Hose. He's been plagued by injuries over the last five years or so. Not nagging injuries. Unusual severe injuries. A seperated bicep. A bone spur the size of golf ball. And back to back seasons with stress fractures.
Very sad.

Big Hurt signing autographs Posted by Picasa

Roxane wanting to eat the bouquet. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, July 21, 2005

And a picture of me at Como park in February wearing a snakehead mask. When do you think Milan will make these fashionable? Posted by Picasa


Gotten into a discussion here with an old high school buddy and thought I'd share it over here along with some general thoughts.
This case is very complicated and if you've only read headlines or opening paragraphs of articles, you're not up to speed. I've been going here and here for commentary from both sides. The most reasonable course, IMHO, is to calm down, take a breath and see where this goes. (This is the same type of advice given here by Sen Coleman.)
I suspect that this will come to nothing. As a scandal, this may be one of the biggest flops in scandal history. (Title comes from here.)
UPDATE: And this is what I mean about not having all the info yet. Who knows where this thing will end up?

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Apollo 13 - 1995

A great movie. Top notch cast. Groundbreaking effects. The space physics are very good (but not quite perfect). And, oh the story! I'm a bit of a space nut so the appeal may have been stronger for me but this one has it all. A true story of man against nature.
This is also the ultimate celebration of geek engineers. The scene of them heroically putting together an air filter out of materials is a classic. As is the shot of them pulling out their sliderulers to verify an equation.
The other thing that stands out for me is that this may be one of the most Romantic (in the objectivist sense of the word) movies of the decade. As Lovell says of the moon landing, it wasn't wishful thinking or clean thoughts that got us there. We just decided to go.
After we finished watching the movie, I turned to the FP Gal and told her I thought the same guy did the music for 'Titanic'. Turns out I was right and James Horner did them both. (And I've since discovered he did the music for 'Braveheart' too. Who knew?)

Happy anniversary!

36 years ago, we landed on the moon. It's almost unconscionable that we haven't been back recently.


Doubtlessly, the handful of people that read this blog are wondering what my thoughts on Bush's Supreme court pick. This man has done some research and I find his variety of life experiences reassuring. I'm looking forward to the woodcarvings of the other justices.
The difficult part of determining the qualifications of judicial nominees or candidates is that the layman can hardly judge. Without swimming in the legal pool it's tough to know who's a fool and who's a genius. And we can look forward to very little help on this matter as doubtlessly he'll become embroiled in 'scandal' sometime soon.
I'd like a strict constitutionalist who doesn't find otherwise hidden rights or create policy. Policy should be left to legislatures. Someone who recognizes that there's a difference between a bad law and an unconstitutional law. That's what I'd like.
What I expect is that this summer will soon become a circus. Wheee!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

A Tuesday Post

Because the FP Gal says she wants one.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Babe - 1995

A very cute movie. And one I was surprised to see on the list. Basically a live action cartoon of a farm story, the moral being that you should follow your own beat, or never let someone tell you what you can or can't do or something along those lines.
'Babe' features a young pig named Babe who has been won in a contest and is being fattened up for Christmas dinner. At the farm he is adopted by the mother sheep dog named Fly. She takes him under her wing (paw?) and tries to steer him in the right direction. Babe also befriends the sheep and later acts as a bridge between the world of sheep and sheep dogs.
Two things elevate this movie. On the farm is a duck that is trying to be a rooster. He thinks that being useful on the farm will spare him from the dinner table. Unfortunately, his attempt to steal the mechanical rooster (alarm clock) makes him public enemy number one.
The thing that makes this movie for me though, is the mice reading the chapter titles. It kills me! And I'm not sure I understand it. But follow me a second with a thought experiment. How many other movies could use this technique to good effect? Imagine Pulp Fiction with the mice reading the chapter breaks. "The Bonnie Situation, hee-hee-hee-hee!" Or the opening scrolls of the latest Star Wars movies. It'd be perfect!
A good movie.

Movie reviews

A friend saw Big Fish and really liked it. A very beautiful and touching movie. One of the few cases where a movie surpasses the book that it's based on. (The classic example being Jurasic Park.) Highly recommend Big Fish. Well worth watching.
And there's probably some other movies I should mention, too. I've (mostly) stuck to reviewing the ones that are part of the movie project, but the FP Gal and I see other ones too. Don't think I've mentioned any since Million Dollar Baby, but I probably should.
One of the better movies I've seen this year was a film called Millions. A movie about two young brothers that find millions in illicit cash. The older brother is very worldly and wants to spend the money. The younger one, though, is different. His world is populated with saints. He's studied them very carefully and they appear to him and guide his way. The idea of patron saints is odd (to this non-Catholic) and the movie plays that oddness very well. Saint Peter for instance is fasicnated with keys. A wonderful movie.
Star Wars III, of course. (No spoilers.) If you've seen the other five, you have to see this one. It does the absolutely necessary work of tieing up all of the strings and presenting them well. But...I wasn't overwhelmed. Some of the major flaws of the first two (well fourth and fifth) remained here. The dialogue was still poor, especially the love stuff. The characters were almost utterly humorless. A Han Solo character would have been manna from heaven. And the complex politics behind all of the conflict were still very murky. One problem this one had in comparison is that the rest of the movie world has caught up with the special effects and it had a tough row to hoe. Not a bad movie by any means, but I really wish Lucas had only been the producer instead of writer/director. Still, a must see.
War of the Worlds, too. (Spoilers, sorry!) Was quite excited to see this one. Speilberg is a very good director and this should have been a very good film. really wasn't. Tom Cruise is very two dimensional and I've always found him good or at least serviceable. The technical part of the movie is excellent, but didn't have nearly the punch that 'Signs' did as far as inspiring fear.
The most disappointing thing was the huge plot holes. If aliens visited millennia ago to bury machines under the ground, why didn't they just attack then? Wouldn't stone age man have been an easier opponent? And if aliens are attacking population centers, why would you flee to a different major city? And was it one plane that crashed or several? The wreckage seemed to imply that a whole fleet had dropped on that one suburb.
And the ending wasn't satisfying either. I know that it's true to the book, but what was a twist ending 100 years ago is cliche now. And it made the rest of the movie seem pointless. Was the theme of the movie really that nature will somehow take care of it all? Really? Or was it just an excuse to show big alien machines and blow stuff up. Expected better of Speilberg.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Bastille day celebration with Calypso playing the part of the prisoner. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Baseball at the break

Here we are at the midpoint of the season. What to expect in the second half? Firstly, if the White Sox stay healthy, they're money. I'd expect them to win the division easily, probably by double digits. Who finishes second (and possibly in the Wild Card)? The Indians have a much easier second half schedule than the Twins. They've played well of late but haven't been able to close the gap on Minnesota. I expect them to remain close. My guess is that Cleveland will edge them at the end, but it'll be close.
Elsewhere, the Angels should be in the playoffs this year. They'd have to collapse for that not to happen. And who gets the other two spots? The AL East winner will either be the Yankees or the Red Sox (my guess is the Yanks).
That leaves the Wild Card between five teams. Cleveland, Boston, Minnesota, New York or... Oakland. And frankly, they're the one team I don't want to see in the playoffs. Let's hope they get a stake through the heart and falter.
Guess this is just going to be AL based. Not surprising as I'm mostly an AL fan. That's one of the beauties of baseball, the seperation of the leagues.

(Don't tell the FP Gal, but I've started to want football too. Yep, I've got an addiction.)

Saturday, July 09, 2005

She Can't 'P'

Difficulties with her laptop led the FP Gal to send it in for repairs this week. The good people of Apple were able to repair the thing in record time. This was paramount because we're not a one computer family. Between the two of us (and the cats) we're often online.
One big problem though. When the laptop came back, the letter 'P' wouldn't work. Calls for service and a new keyboard didn't help. Great fears of having to send it back again.
And then her brilliant hubby jumped into the fray. I emaild her a P and p and she was able to cut and paste her way to happiness.
(And eventually service was able to figure out how to get everything in running order.)

1994 in review

Quiz Show
Pulp Fiction
Four Weddings and a Funeral
Forrest Gump
Shawshank Redemption

Quite possibly the best set of movies in the 90's. 'Quiz Show', though good, is probably the least of these movies. Good, but standard. 'Four Weddings' is superior comedy, one of the best of the decade.
But the gold standard movies here are the other three. 'Gump' won Best Picture. 'Redemption' is very well remembered. And the film study favorite would be 'Pulp Fiction'. After watching them all in the same month, what do I think?
'Gump' and 'Pulp Fiction' both were great from a technical standpoint. The special effects in 'Gump' weren't flashy but they were groundbreaking. The groundbreaking element in 'Pulp Fiction' was the dialouge. But...the story in 'Redemption' is what sets it apart. I'd award it Best Picture today if I could.
Two great soundtracks from these movies. 'Pulp Fiction' is undoubtably hipper and more cutting edge. It manages to make (mostly) 70's music sound good which is no mean feat. 'Forrest Gump' is more of the boomer soundtrack. Perfect match of music to era (also no mean feat). The song that sticks in my mind is 'Running on Empty' while Forrest is running.

Probably the best set of movies in the decade.

Shawshank Redemption - 1994

The last of the great '94 movies. As with the others, if you haven't seen it, you should. Some of Tim Robbin's best work. Also some of Morgan Freeman's best stuff. You really can't go wrong with Morgan Freeman doing voiceover work. He's just very very very good at what he does.
The story concerns a man (Robbins) convicted of murdering his wife and being sent to prison for life. "Life is what they give you and that's just what they take", as the movie says. The story details his struggle with prison rape, prison food and the dealing with life on the inside of a prison.
The turning point of his time inside is when he convinces the guards that his skills from the outside can be of use on the inside. The rape stops and he's given special treatment. He uses his status to improve and expand the prison library and helps cons with their high school diplomas. Through the library he meets someone who can help prove that he's innocent. Something which angers the warden to no end.
The most touching part of the movie comes when Robbins talks to Morgan about hope. And the importance of keeping hope. Especially in as bad a situation as prison. "Get busy living or get busy dying". The rest of the movie flows directly from that conversation.
Hope is the theme of this movie and it plays it well. The story is very well told and very well acted. A great movie.

Few (and spare) Posts

Sorry! Will try to do better.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Deep Impact

Space probe hits a comet. Tonight at 1252a CDT. View from Kitt Peak can be found here.

Mosaic from Kitt Peak Observatory Posted by Picasa

Kitt Peak, March 2004 Posted by Picasa

Friday, July 01, 2005

State gov't shutdown

Minnesota is shutting down non-essential services as of today. Not sure how this will effect me, but I'm not worried. I know that this will create a hardship for some and I don't mean to minimize that hardship. My expectation is that this will be a short shutdown. Be very surprised if it lasts even a week. The pressure to get something done is going to be quite intense from the media with their fluff story focus on those hardships. The absense of hard news about what the actual fighting is over will also help pols come to a solution.
The most irritating part is the public reaction in the letters sections and yesterday at my work. The letters have concentrated on calling both sides (or the other side) childish. Or hinting that they're drawing this out for the per diem. The per diem! As if a couple of bucks a day would be worth the political fallout of a shutdown.
The buzz at work yesterday was that if we'd cut the Govenor's pay (and some of the legislators) we could bridge the gap and be done. Yep, throw a couple of hundred thousand on the pile and the budget evens out. And these are adult people!
Here's the deal. We have a very evenly divided legislature here in Minnesota. We also have an ideologically divided set of parties. Both parties are afraid that their voters will crucify them if they cave in. And voila, a budget impasse. Seriously, who doesn't understand this?