Friday, March 31, 2006

At the zoo...

Saw an add for the Minnesota Zoo today. It has cute little farm animals tinged with color (the chick looks blue!). At the very end is...the Hormel symbol. Didn't know that Hormel has a relationship with the zoo. Um, do we know what's in Spam?

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Chariots of Fire - 1981

This is a movie about the British Olympic running team of 1924. Well, mostly it's the story of two of it's members and what drew them to run. Oddly, for a running film, it's largely about religion.

The film opens with the funeral of one of the men, Harold Abrahams, and quickly flashes back to his earlier days. He is a young man at Cambridge in the days after World War One. The film quickly notes that he is Jewish and an outsider. To prove himself he attempts a run through the courtyard, timed by the bells of the clock. No man has accomplished this in 700 years until he does it.

The other runner that the film focuses on is a Scottish rugby player named Eric Liddell who is deeply religious. He was raised in China in a missionary family. And the missionary zeal is strong within him. He sees his running gifts as a way to give glory to God.

One of the conflicts in this movie comes when Liddell refuses to run an Olympic event on Sunday. The obvious anguish is very touching. It's very hard to imagine this same scenario happening today. Has anyone since Sandy Koufax been in this situation?

The music was groundbreaking and enormously popular. To the modern ear it sounds…cheesy. Or maybe just badly mixed. Variations on it are used quite well during some flashback scenes.

I thought this was a great and touching film. (The FP Gal found it long and dull.) I was interested in the characters and what drove them. It was fascinating to see a very old Olympics. I think this movie is much more interesting of a period piece than many Jane Austen-y type ones. Very touching.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Random thoughts from the last few days

-Soup has some kind of liquid aspect. If it's just noodles and turkey, it's not soup. Without some kind of tangible sauce, it's not even hotdish.
-Reruns of 'Mad About You' in the morning? I'll take it. (Even if it makes me sound like Paul Reiser.)
-Recent favorite songs? 'Pretty in Pink' by the Psychedelic Furs, 'Turn to You' by the Go-Go's and the 7th track on the disc from my brother.
-Related to point two, Helen Hunt wears on me.
-Four days to baseball!

Spring weather!

It's supposed to hit 60 today. Very happy. I've taken the tarp off of my raised garden and I'm waiting for the tulips, etc. to come up. The FP Gal's tulips have already sprung. Open windows today and some fresh air in the house. As people that live with me know, winter isn't my thing. It's too cold for too long. But it does bring one large plus. The very first day of spring weather is like getting out of prison.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Random Monday night thought

'Pee Wee's Big Adventure' is a very funny movie. The FP Gal loves the 'Deep in the Heart of Texas' gag. My favorite is the 'Large Marge' segment.

News from Austin or 'The Claw'

Not much to say here except that I've eaten here hundreds of times and I know the fire chief personally. I'm getting 'Toy Story' flashbacks.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Warming up for the Season

Yep, I'm getting antsy. The Sox have the coveted Sunday night Opener this year so we're only six days away. (Opening night is a little special for us because I proposed to the FP Gal on that night last year. Hard to believe that was only a year ago.)
Anyway, I ran across this post from Scott Reifert, a member of the White Sox orginization. They were trying to put together a top ten list of moments from last year's season. They came up with 22. They joy is that most of them have video clips that go along with them. My favorite is probably number six, with Uribe diving into the stands to get the second to the last out of Game Four.
Six more days...

Friday, March 24, 2006

Sweet Curly Kitty

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Raiders of the Lost Ark - 1981

Was surprised to see this on the list. Not that many action movies are nominated for Best Picture. Not that it's undeserved. This is probably the most perfect action movie ever. From the first shot of Harrison Ford (from behind and turning to profile), to the soundtrack (some of John Williams best work), to finding the perfect villains (Nazis), this movie clicks perfectly.
This is another one of those movies that if you haven't seen it, you should have your citizenship revoked so I'll assume you've seen it. The action sequences still hold up. The humor still works. It's a great movie.
(The FP Gal insists that I admit to falling asleep while watching it this time. In my defense, Calypso was sitting on my chest telling me to sleep. She does that.)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Cuddled up

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On Golden Pond - 1981

This is one of my Mom's favorite movies, so I've seen it a dozen times or so but not in the last fifteen years. I hadn't realized that it's based on a play but watching the dialouge and interplay, I can see it. It would stage extremely easily.
It's the story of a couple in their twilight years, Norman and Ethel Thayer (Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn). They arrive at their summer cabin to spend another year. Norman is about to turn 80 and he's falling apart. Memory trouble mostly, but also a weak heart. Ethel is unflappable.
The real story begins when their daughter Chelsea (Jane Fonda) shows up with her boyfriend and his 13 year old son. There is enormous tension between Norman and Chelsea leftover from her childhood and time has done nothing to soften it. (No mention is made of her time in Vietnam but you can't help but think that had something to do with it too.)
The 13 year old is left for a month while Chelsea and her boyfriend go off to Europe. This turns out to be just the tonic that Norman needed. He teaches him how to fish and they become very good friends. Their closeness is highlighted by a boat wreck that leaves them clinging to a rock for hours.
Some things struck me from my more adult and married perspective. I hope that when I turn 80 I still have the FP Gal around to stand up for me and excuse my behavior. I hope my relations with my future children are not marked by the kind of hostility seen in this movie. I hope the FP Gal never has the type of relationship with loons that Katherine Hepburn does.
This movie is funny and touching. It's got very good piano music. It's got outstanding acting. It's a great movie.

Atlantic City - 1981

I'd never heard of this movie before this project. Now that I've seen it, I'll let it slip back into the mists of time. It's a story about an old former mobster (Burt Lancaster) who suddenly gets hold of some coke at a time when it's a seller's market. He sees a chance to relive the glory days and once again be someone.
The drugs came from a casino waitress' (Susan Sarandon) runaway husband who shows up with her pregnant sister in tow. It's a screwed up family situation to say the least. The trouble comes when it's discovered that the drugs were stolen and the rightful owners show up looking for blood.
The story is mildly interesting. The camerawork is ordinary. The acting is ok, but nothing special. There are about three sensual scenes with Susan Sarandon that are quite good (if you're into her).
This movie is ok, and I can't really recommend it. This is probably the epitome of movies that time has forgotten.

Capote - 2006

Had some time last weekend so I finally took in a new movie. My friend had already seen my preferred choices (Brokeback or Munich) so we went to see Capote. The movie opens with the discovery of a murdered family in a farm house in the middle of Kansas. One morning Truman Capote reads about this quadruple murder in the Times. He wants to write about how it's effecting this small town and so he hops a train and goes for a look. Accompanying him is Harper Lee(!).
When they arrive in Kansas, Capote decides that this would be the good basis for a book. He uses his fame to gain access to the evidence. After the killers are caught he gains access to them too.
The movie details the evolution of the book as the case continues. It paints a very unflattering picture of Capote. He's a loathsome narcissist. He cares more about his story than any aspect of justice.
Hoffman won Best Acting for this and he is impressive. There are some very good long shots of the open farm land. The long shots are contrasted with some gorgeous shots of New York City. The storytelling is good. didn't really hook me. Ok at best.

1980 in review

Coal Miner's Daughter
Elephant Man
Raging Bull
Ordinary People

And the first year is in the books (or at least on the blog). This year features three biopics, a movie version of a classic and a slice of life movie. There is quality throughout the list but two of them really stand out. 'Tess' is easily the weakest of the bunch. 'Coal Miner's Daughter' and 'Elephant Man' are both good but not historic. 'Ordinary People' was the 'American Beauty' of it's day and that's not a bad thing. 'Raging Bull' is one that they study in film classes. If I was voting I'd have gone for 'Bull', but 'People' is a fine choice.
Best music? Probably 'People' but nothing that really stood out. (Country music really ain't my thing.)

Ordinary People - 1980

This is a movie about in family in turmoil. A family of four, the older brother dies in a boating accident leaving his younger brother (Timothy Hutton) wracked with guilt. The movie takes up about a month after his suicide attempt. His parents (Donald Sutherland and Mary Tyler Moore) deal with the problems in different ways. The father tries to be supportive but doesn't really know how to do so. The mother decides she can't deal with it and shuts off her feelings. Everything except shame as she's clearly embarrased by the whole situation.
It's very interesting to see Mary Tyler Moore in a negative role. She plays against type and is very very good. Her coldness is amazing. Donald Sutherland is also quite good. As is Timothy Hutton. In fact, why didn't his career take off?
One of the reasons for this project is to see how well these nominees have aged. The fashions in this movie look outdated, but the story is maybe more relavent now than it was in 1980. A very good movie.

Roxy again

Well, she's better. A couple of weeks ago we were pretty sure that it was time. We decided to give it a couple more days and then we'd see how she was. And she perked up a little. And then she started to eat. And then she got a little frisky. And she's better.
We're still giving her fluids and I don't think that will stop until she does. We're hoping we can step them down because it's a little pricey. It's so wonderful to see her little kitteny ways. She loves to rub her head against rugs, the coarser the better. She's doing that again.
I probably won't update again until she takes the Long Sleep. For all of those who sent prayers and well wishes, thank you!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Minnesota update

(for those traveling or living out of state).
Kirby Puckett died last week. Even though he was a sports hero and probably the best player in the history of the Twins, the media coverage was a little much. The analysis at the FP household is that this is a slow media month.
A very big snowstorm hit Monday morning. We got about 10 in. here in Mpls. Some areas got a foot or more. One notable traffic accident caused a backup of 32 miles. It was the biggest blizzard in some half dozen years.
Duante Culpepper is no longer a Viking. He was traded to the Dolphins for a second round draft pick. Too little? Culpepper was a big question mark from his play of late to the terrible injury he suffered. Throw in that he didn't want to be here anymore and I think that's about the best that could be hoped for. What that means for the future of the Vikes is anyone's guess.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Soon to go...

Many years ago in some long forgotten grocery store I ran across the perect ice cream. It was from Edy's Dreamery and was a combination of chocolate, peanut butter and banana. In short, it was heavenly. I would pick up a pint, whenever, safe in the knowledge that the next time I went to the store I could get more.
And then they stopped making it. At first I just thought the store was out but they never got more of it in. A good friend found some at Byerly's. She bought out the supply for my birthday. I've never found it again.
I mention this because I've become involved with a food item again. And I'm desperatly afraid that they'll discontinue this too. To the people of Old Dutch, I make this plea: never, ever discontinue your Parmesian and Garlic kettle chips.

Thank you.

Thursday, March 09, 2006


These are my some of my favorite books in no particular order:

Time Enough For Love - Robert Heinlein, novel about love and wisdom involving a man who has lived for thousands of years

Starship Troopers - Robert Heinlein, novel about the military and why it's important and noble to be a soldier (not to be confused with the dreadful movie of the same name)

The Name of the Rose - Umberto Eco, medieval mystery set in a monastary

War for the Oaks - Emma Bull, fantasy love story set in the Twin Cities of the 80's

Les Miserables - Victor Hugo, epic story about crime, redemption, love and poverty

Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand, opened my eyes to the greatness of man (and, yes, her other works are better written)

The Armada - Garrett Mattingly, wonderfully written history of the Spanish Armada with full background on Europe at the time (if Hollywood is looking for an epic movie, this'd be a good one)

The Long Walk - Stephen King, brutal competition/metaphor as young boys compete for a prize and the losers don't go home

Why Time Begins on Opening Day - Thomas Boswell, collection of baseball articles

There are others that should be mentioned, but most are too new to really count as favorites. 'Snow Crash' by Neal Stephenson was excellent. I've liked most everything I've read of Salman Rushdie with 'Midnight's Children' probably topping the list. 'Kennedy and Nixon' by Chris Matthews is some of the finest political biography I've ever read. 'Witness' by Whitaker Chambers is incredible autobiography from a former communist. And the 'Phantom Tollboth' by Roald Dahl is easily my favorite children's book.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Tess - 1980

This is the movie adaptation of Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. A movie set in the late 19th century, it deals with a girl from a poor family (Nastassja Kinsky). Her family becomes convinced that they're decended from a noble family and they send her off to their cousins for money. Her 'cousin' Alec takes a fancy to her and eventually seduces her. She heads home and has a baby. The baby dies shortly thereafter and she leaves again. This time she ends up at a dairy farm where she falls in love with a man named Angel.
Even though their classes are very different, they are soon married. On her wedding night, Tess confesses her past and Angel is shattered. He leaves her and goes to Brazil. She's shattered. She returns to her family and they take up residence in their old family church (seriously). Alec finds Tess and she goes off with him.
Meanwhile, in fine romantic fashion, Angel returns and tracks her down. This compels Tess to kill Alec. She and Angel run off trying to flee the law. They end up at a Celtic ruin (think Stonehenge) and are finally cornered. The final lines tell that she is hanged for murder.
Not having read the book, I can't comment on how true it was to the story. I can tell you this though, if you want to see authentic scenes with old threshers and period farm work, this movie has it. It also has a long shot of cheese being made. The story is ok, but nothing special.
[Yes, I'm behind in these reviews. Sorry!]

Oscar Broadcast

Of course I watched it. Thought about live-blogging it but we had company till 8p. My overall impression was that it was lacking. John Stewart seemed a little out of his medium. He's the type of comedian that needs something to work off of. He didn't seem alive until the 36 Posse won an Oscar. A few things stuck out though:
Who wrote the introductions for the presenters? They were dreadful. Meaningless and possibly created with magnetic poetry. Hollywood still has writers, right? It's even surprising that the actors didn't revolt. Seriously, you have weeks to prepare a 20 second intro. Make it good.
I always love the montages that they show during the Oscars and this time we got three. (Stewart's best line - Next a montage to montages!) The first was for film noir and it was the usual very good honoring of a genre. The next was for Hollywood's message movies, like Philadelphia and Norma Rae. What surprised me was how impotent those movies have actually been. Has Hollywood really moved anyone since the heyday of the civil rights era? The biggest thing Philadelphia did was to reintroduce Opera. (The best of this, was a short clip from 'The Day After Tomorrow', an incredibly bad movie that probably set the anti-global warming side back twenty years.) The third montage was nothing short of confusing. It was billed as a tribute to 'epics'. Among it's movies were Ben Hur and Braveheart. And also Back to the Future and ET. Um, time to tighten up that definition.
Not having seen many of the nominated films, I can't judge their quality but the major awards fell largely along predicted lines. There's quite a bit of discussion already if the academy was too homophobic to vote for 'Brokeback'. That's a problem with message movies. They can't be judged solely on their quality. For what it's worth, I've heard enough good things about 'Crash' to think it was probably deserving.
Highlight of the night? Selma Hayek. Stunning.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

And a lighter note

finally some good advice on port security:

* Just because someone went through all the trouble of painting "Not WMDs" on a crate, doesn't mean it's true. You might want to consider inspecting that one.

The whole thing is pretty good.

Muddle through

Just ran across this wonderful post from Tom McMahon (h/t Instapundit). It's about his lessons from 15 years of helping his brain injured son. The whole thing is worthwhile but this was the bit that stuck with me:

  • Muddle through

    I've never seen a self-help book with this advice, but really it's some of the best advice I can give somebody going through a difficult stretch. Sometimes the absolute best you can do isn't that pretty, or elegant, or graceful, or frankly all that inspiring. When you're in one of those stretches, stop worrying about it. Nobody else could do that much better in your position either.
Good stuff.