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.