Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Again

The FP Gal covered our trip to Austin well here.  Today we celebrated with our family in the Cities.  We hosted, which is often easier with our children.  It was low key, but that's a nice thing when it comes to traditional foods like stuffing and corn. 
In the past few days I've gotten to see tons of cousins, both parents and my lovely wife's family.  All that I've missed are my brother and sister and their families.  (And I have missed them!)  It's been very nice.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Comet ISON Revisited

Check out this video:




Late last night word came out that comet ISON was snuffed out by the sun.  Word this morning was that the comet may have survived.  You can see it approach in this video and then, it there's a big poof!  Watch the top and you see it reappear.
This comet is the most hyped that I can remember.  It would be an enormous shame if it just disappeared.  I don't know what this means in terms of future visibility but I hope that it's still spectacular. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving

It may be trite to say, but this year I'm most thankful for my family.  The kids sometimes drive me crazy but they also make me laugh and laugh and laugh. 

Relia has a book of Christmas carols and this morning she is walking around singing 'Deck the halls with broads of holly'.  I love that!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Comet ISON

Tomorrow, Comet ISON is due to swing around the sun.  This is the first trip the comet has made to the inner solar system and no one knows how well formed it is.  It could break up into pieces or it could come through unfazed.  Or even something in between.
Comets have been doing this for literally millions of years but we've got some new things in line that make this one special.  The big thing is that we have satellites that do nothing but look at the sun all day to monitor the solar weather.  They can see the comet approaching and will be able to tell how it comes through.  You can go to the SOHO site tomorrow to follow along.
If it passes without too much damage, we could be in for some special sights over the next few weeks!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Winter Storm Names

One of the few good things to come out of last year's awful winter was the decision from the Weather Channel to name the various storms.  At first, I was against it, but it turned out to be useful to have a name that travelers and airlines could use when talking about the horrid things.  Well, I'm late to this, but here is the list that the Weather Channel has picked for this year. 

Atlas
Boreas
Cleon
Dion
Electra
Falco
Gemini
Hercules
Ion
Janus
Kronos
Leon
Maximilian
Nika
Orion
Pax
Quintus
Rex
Seneca
Titan
Ulysees
Vulcan
Wiley
Xenia
Yona
Zephyr

The list was developed by a high school Latin class.  I've got some favorites.  It will almost be a joy to 'rocked' by Falco in a few weeks.  I have hopes that Ion will be a very small storm.  And let's all hope that Pax isn't too powerful of a storm, right?  

Cold!

The past few days have been very cold up here in the north woods.  The wind is mostly to blame.  It's been strong and cutting.  We don't have any snow on the ground.  The few dustings we've had have not lasted very long. 
But oh, this cold!  Makes me want to move elsewhere.  Tomorrow.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Coffee

I decided that after I've turned 40, I'm going to try and live a little bit better.  The first step is trading out coffee for pop.  This morning I bought a coffee maker and made my very own first cup.  It worked and nothing broke.
I looked at various flavors and decided that I'm just going to go with something regular for now.  I'm not a cream and/or sugar guy so black works for me.  It will take some time to get used to the idea of planning a drink instead of going to the fridge and opening one, but that's not that big of a deal.  And now we can offer guests coffee!
Now I just need to figure out how to order something else when I go out to eat...

Birthdays

(Well, crap, I missed a day yesterday!  I'll do two posts tonight and we'll call it even.)

The FP Gal and I finally got around to celebrating our birthdays yesterday.  On her birthday, my work schedule got in the way and on my birthday, her work schedule got in the way.  Both of us ended up having supper alone with the kids.  Oh well!
So we gathered the whole gang and met up at Fridays for lunch.  We've been going out there for years and it's kind of 'our' place.  It was the site of our second date so it has some nostalgia for us.  And the kids like their menu so it all works out.
Or almost works out.  By the time we were done eating, the kids were showing signs of rioting so we fled to the FP Gal's parents house and opened up gifts there.  I got a matchbox car from DF and a lego motorcycle from Relia.  Both of those gifts have been taken over by the kids, of course.  The FP Gal got me an automatic car starter so that I'll be saved on cold mornings for the next six months.  Yay!
It was a very nice time.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

40th

Today I turn 40 years old.  I'm moving into a new decade.  I want to look back at how much has changed since I turned 30. 
Back then I was living in Burnsville in a one bedroom apartment.  I lived with Roxane and Calypso.  I spent some weekends all alone. 
Now I'm in a big house with a wonderful wife and three wonderful children.  I've got two different cats and my weekends are very full.  (Sometimes I wish I could vacation back in that apartment for a day or two!)  I've created a family.  And that's a pretty good way to spend a decade.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Happy Birthday

Happy birthday to the FP Gal!  I hope that your 39th year is a wonderful one!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Skills of Our Grandparents

I can do five of these.  I'll make sure that my kids can do #6.  (The FP Gal will teach #5.)  I don't know about the other nine though...

Unusual Towers

I love this list.  I only wish we had something comparable here in Minnesota.  The last couple in Japan, look very cool.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Books You 'Must' Read in Your Life

Last week I linked to a list of suggested books that you really should read because they're life changing.  The idea has actually been flitting around in my head for some time now.  There are plenty of books that I want my children to read as they grow up.  Some of them are books that were important to me, some are books that I wish I'd read earlier in life.  Some are just books that I'll want them to read so I can discuss them with someone.  The following is an incomplete list:
  • 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World - All three of these books tackle similar themes and I think there's some benefit in reading them together.  Each one gave predictions about a bad future, but they diverged in how they thought we'd get there.  Probably the best book to follow these up with is 'Anthem'.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird - To teach them that you must try to have compassion and put yourself in the other person's shoes.  Also to show them how awfully unfair it is to judge people by color.  (Yes, they'll get this in school too.)
  • Various Heinlein - Oh, I'm sure they'll get heavy doses of the great man, but especially 'Starship Troopers' and 'The Moon is a Harsh Mistress'.  I'll leave 'Stranger in a Strange Land' up to them, but I'll be ready to discuss it with them if they'd like.
  • Sailing Alone Around the World - I very much wish I'd read this when I was younger.  The story is entrancing and so is the idea of finding grand adventure.  If they're interested, I'll follow up with 'A Voyage for Madmen'.  
  • Historical Fiction - Especially historical fiction set in United States.  I'm thinking about some of the great stories like 'Gone With the Wind' but I'd be flexible.  There is no better way to immerse a reader into a different world than with good fiction.  In theory, you could teach all of American history this way but I'm not sure what that list would look like.
  • Meditations, Analects, Proverbs - There is great benefit in dealing with bite sized philosophy.  Sometimes it comes out trite, but some well grounded bits of wisdom will always come in handy.  
  • Poetics - The book from Aristotle.  There may be no better way to understand how stories are told than through the words of the Scholar.  
Oh, and many more, I'm sure.

If you have suggestions, leave them in the comments.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Romeo & Juliet & Relia

The other night the kids found me listening to Tchaikovsky's 'Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture', my favorite bit of classical music.  Relia was trying to use the music to figure out what the story was doing ("now someone is running").  I told her that it had to do with 'Romeo and Juliet', not sure if she was familiar with that story or not.  As it turns out, she has seen 'Gnomeo and Juliet', a loose retelling of the story using lawn ornaments.  Close enough.
This morning in the car, I told her the actual story of R&J, or at least the high points.  As I got to the end, she laughed and laughed and laughed.  Apparently the idea of dying for love is hilarious to her.  (She also worked hard to avoid the 'S-Word'.  Which in her case is 'stupid'.)
As of right now, I'm glad that she thinks that letting romantic love overwhelm you is a bad idea.  I wouldn't be sad if she could keep that perspective a while, especially when she's a teenager.  I doubt that will happen.  The drama and tragedy of R&J is well established and universal.  She'll agree with that at some point.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Flirty Boy

This morning Relia asked if we could take the light rail.  We agreed and took the kids downtown.  The ride there was uneventful.  Relia and DF took turns pointing out landmarks and they were excited when we got to Nicollet Mall.  We got out and they enjoyed the tall buildings.  It was nice and cloudy and the top of the IDS tower was dramatically covered up.  I pointed it out and we made our way there.
When we arrived, they looked at the water fall in the lobby.  DF was especially enthralled.  He got loudly enthusiastic, so much so that we had to leave.  We went over a block to Panera to get some cookies and then back home.
When we got back to the train, I ended up sitting with LL.  Two girls in their twenties(?) sat behind us.  LL turned on the charm and if I hadn't been holding him back, he would have gotten their phone numbers.  They suggested that I get him a 'Lock Up Your Daughters' t-shirt.  I may have to, as a fair warning to other parents.
I think they enjoyed the trip.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Dinner

I just realized that with our crazy schedules, Thursday and Saturday nights are almost the only time that we all eat together.  Guess we'll have to make the most of them.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Great Gatsby - 2013

Continuing on with movies from my Netflix queue!

Back in May I reread 'The Great Gatsby' and reviewed it.  This was somewhat in anticipation of seeing the movie.  Well, now I've seen it and I have a few things to say.  SPOILERS.  Back in May, I thought:
The most winning element of 'Gatsby' is the narration.  I'd read Nick Carraway's thoughts on just about anything.  He's writing here about the Jazz Age, but I'd read his thoughts on the Depression just as readily.  He is compelling and authoritative and always, always interesting.  If the narration wasn't as good, the book would have failed.  If narration of this quality was moved to a different book, that one would have excelled.
And that's really the big problem with filming this.  So much of it hinges on the great internal thoughts Nick, the narrartor.  When I was reading I would stop and rework my way through a paragraph, sometimes just savoring a turn of phrase.  That doesn't work with a movie.
They tried though.  It looks like Baz Luhrmann, the director, tried.  The novel is written after Nick flees the big city back to the small town midwest.  The movie is written from an asylum as a form of therapy.  Nick Carraway is writing down the events so that he can clear his head and stop drinking.  It's a noble effort but it falls short.
The one thing that really does work is when the film focuses on the great parties at the Gatsby mansion.  This isn't surprising as Luhrmann did similar great work in 'Moulin Rouge'.  He can just flat out create a party spectacle.  The music had its moments but didn't do much for me.  Guess I'm not a Jay-Z fan.  The one stand out song was Lana Del Ray's 'Young and Beautiful'.  Gorgeous piece.
I watched this with the FP Gal and she was struck by how much Leo DiCaprio resembled Robert Redford, especially as he played Gatsby back in the 70's.  I haven't seen that version but I could see the resemblence.  For me, I was distracted by a theory I heard that this was a sequel role of sorts, from 'Titanic'.  I guess Jack does survive after all, only to surface on Long Island with heaps of mystery money.  Once I had that in my head, it was tough to shake.
I had high hopes and I was disappointed.  This was just an ok movie.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

35 Books You Must Read In Your Lifetime

(Well, that's what the link says.  I'd replace 'must' with 'should'.  Or even the more Minnesotan 'We Kindly Think that Reading These Books Might Do You a Benefit, You Betcha'.)  A pretty good list here.  It sounds like the original list was created from Reddit.  As you may know, book lists are like catnip for me, so I thought I'd go through it. I'll remark if I have it, if I've read it and maybe a brief comment.

  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - I have it but haven't read it.
  • Watership Down - Have it but haven't read it.
  • The Last Lecture - I've never heard of this but it sounds good.
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything - Not familiar with this either.
  • Man's Search for Meaning - Another one that is new to me.  Sounds good.
  • The Forever War - I've read this and it's a good read though not life changing for me.
  • Cosmos - I've read other Carl Sagan, but not this one.
  • Bartleby the Scrivener - Excellent short story.  I have it and have read it.
  • Maus: A Survivor's Tale - I've never read this but I really should someday.
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls - Haven't read it but will someday.
  • Kafka on the Shore - Sounds really good but I haven't read it.
  • The Little Prince - Have it, have read it and I would highly recommend it.
  • The Road - Very good book, though incredibly dark.
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude - I have it but haven't read it. I thought 'Love in the Time of Cholera was very overrated.  
  • East of Eden - Haven't read it.
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People - I'd like to read it but I haven't done so.
  • Crime and Punishment - Have it but haven't read it.  
  • Brothers Karamazov - Have it but haven't read it.  It's on the Great Books list.
  • The Stranger - Have it but haven't read it yet.  High on my 'get to it' list.
  • Dune - Have it and read it.  Not my style but I get why so many people love it.
  • The Handmaid's Tale - Have it but haven't read it. I'm leery after hating 'The Blind Assassin'.
  • Anne of Green Gables - Haven't read it and never had much interest.
  • Fahrenheit 451 - Read it many times.
  • The Giving Tree - I've read it several times.  I go back and forth on whether I like it or not.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird - One of my all time favorite books.
  • Animal Farm - Very good book.  
  • All Quiet on the Western Front - Have it but haven't read it.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo - I have it but haven't read it.
  • Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep - Don't have it, haven't read it. 
  • Catch 22 - Have it, have read it.  I liked it but I didn't love it.
  • Slaughterhouse Five - I've never read this but I hear good things.
  • Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Have it and read it many times. Maybe the funniest book of all time.
  • Brave New World - Have it and read it. Very thought provoking.
  • Flowers for Algernon - Read it in high school but not since.
  • 1984 - Have it and have read it many times. There's a dissertation to be written comparing this and 'Brave New World'.
I've only read 13 though I own at least twice that many.  There was a time when this would have inspired me to read the rest in some methodical manner but I'm pretty busy these days.  Maybe I'll just peck around the edges.  


Monday, November 11, 2013

Football Magic Numbers

When we talk about magic numbers in sports, we're usually talking about how close a baseball team is to clinching their division.  But of course, the idea is easily translatable to other sports too.  The process is easy.  You start with the number of games in the regular season and add 1.  Then you compare that number to the number of wins a team has and the number of losses for the next closest team.  You can just reverse the wins and losses to figure out the elimination number.  Sadly, that's more important for this year's Viking team.
There are 16 games in the NFL regular season.  Add 1 and you get the starting number of 17.  Right now the Vikings are 2-7 and the lead team in the division is the Lions at 6-3.  So we add the Viking losses (7) and the Lion wins (6).  That gives us 13.  17-13=4.  That means that any combination of four Viking losses or Lion wins and the Vikings cannot win the division.  Since that number can only move two spots in a week, that means the Vikings could be eliminated in just two weeks.  And yeah, that sucks.
How close are other divisional winners to clinching?

AFC East - Patriots magic number is 6
AFC North - Bengals 6
AFC South - Colts 6
AFC West - Chiefs 7
NFC East - Cowboys/Eagles 7
NFC North - Lions 7
NFC South - Saints 7
NFC West - Seahawks 5

It's interesting that no team is all that close to clinching yet.  The Seahawks are the closest and it would take three weeks of everything going their way to do it.  Meanwhile, no team has been eliminated yet either.  Three teams could theoretically be knocked out next week (Raiders, Buccaneers and Rams).  But, mathematically at least, each team in the NFL could still qualify for the Playoffs.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Leaves

We raked up the yard today.  We really couldn't do it earlier than now because the trees around us were still full of leaves.  It's been an odd fall as far as leaves go.  They really didn't come down until about Wednesday.  I'm not sure why. 
Seriously, the weather has been pretty normal for the past couple of months.  Maybe a little cooler than normal but not drastically.  And yet the leaves were late turning color and then late falling down.  Is that because we had such a late spring?  Dunno.
Anyway, we had snow on Tuesday.  A real snow, though not the winter storm that we were warned about.  Come Wednesday, they started coming down as if there were people in the trees with leaf blowers.  I don't remember ever seeing that before. 
Anyway, we've raked and we're ready for winter.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

My Little Hams

Today we got together with my sister Heidi, her husband Chad and their wonderful (Star Wars obsessed) boy, Marshall.  He turns five next week so this was a birthday party.  We first got together at a play place called 'the Giggle Factory'.  Basically a playset like you'd find at a big McDonalds or Burger King combined with a coffee bar where adults can sit and watch their monsters angels play.  These spots are a godsend after the weather turns cold up here and the kids had a great time.
Then it was off to Chad's parents house which was filled with family, about half of whom I knew.  The boys decided to put on a show.  Right after Marshall blew out the candle, DF took advantage of the quiet room to loudly announce, "Time for cake!".  While the cake was being passed around, LL took the the floor and held court there.  He simply walked in circles and lit up all smiley to anyone that would smile back at him.
Later on, when the crowds thinned, DF decided that it was time to put on an actual show.  He quickly organized the players and told Relia that she would be the dancer.  Then he pulled up members of the audience to accompany him.  With some prompting, he finally got to his song, an impromptu number about fire.  Chad and the FP Gal did a kickline while LL and Relia spun in their own ways. 
DF just cracks me up lately.  He's at that wonderful stage where he has no artifice.  Everything that comes out of him is genuine and surprising.  He needs his own radio show.
Relia is at an interesting stage.  She's growing past that stage where she tries too hard and laughs at all of her own jokes.  At the same time, she's become more clever and is beginning to play with words.  She has a shyness now, that she didn't when she was younger but I have a feeling that it won't last.  She's finding herself and I'm not sure where she'll end up.  We're encouraging her to be outgoing but this is a place where pushing backfires. 
And LL is still adorable.  As in, you see him and want to pick him up and adore him. 

Great kids.

From May 2013

(You may remember this series, where I store some of the things that were over on Facebook.)

It's snowing and they're testing the sirens in Minneapolis. The despair is palpable.

Last year, when we had a very mild winter, I distinctly remember a woman (friend of a friend) who was upset that her poor 2nd grader would 'never see snow again'. I've thought of her often over the last two months. The next time someone utters such an absurdity at a Minnesotan we should be allowed to smack them.

I predict that by the year 2025, we will officially change the name of clownfish to 'Nemo-fish'.

Car outside our house has been parked there with the bass ALL THE WAY UP for about fifteen minutes. I can't hear the song, but I assume it's something like seismic activity or magma movement.

Relia to me: Oops, I forgot you're a human.
That's kind of the slogan of my mornings.

Free idea for writers of children's movies: Make the villain be a corporation or a land developer. That way your story will stand out for originality.

Fwiw, I reserve the right to be grumpy at Minnesota temps that are too cold *and* too hot. If we're really in the 90's on Wednesday, I won't be happy about it.

Sarah just asked Relia where the 'summer shoes' go. She answered 'not in the living room'.

Watching some Veggie Tales with the kids for the first time in ever. After a good ten minutes, Felix had an epiphany and realized that Bob is a tomato.

Hating the hot weather already

Well, we can't say that a baby has never pooped on our Wii balance board anymore.

Dealing with tired kids is like reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book where you die on all of the pages.

Leo is methodically beating a little doll to death with a toy boat. He's like a cute little King Kong.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Not Giving Up

I've been meaning to tell more stories about LL.  He does one thing that I've never seen before.  If you take a bite of some food that he wants (his/yours/whatever) he will try to go into your mouth after it.  Sometimes this happens well after you've eaten. 
It's very cute and endearing (unless he won't give up...).

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Movie Idea

This one goes out to any low budget movie studio that would like to make a small film that would rake in the big bucks.  Ready?  The very first chapter of Victor Hugo's 'Les Miserables' is about a bishop in a small French town.  The bishop lives through several episodes that show him becoming as Christ-like as he can.  Going forth to his flock, trading houses with the hospital, things like that.  The entire section is beautiful and is possibly the best portrayal of Christian charity in all of literature.
The film would focus on this man.  The book includes his small back story and how a chance meeting with Napoleon gave him a church office.  It would continue through the various episodes.  In the last third or fourth of the movie, Jean Valjean would appear and their interaction would happen.  Then the bishop gives him the rest of the silver and bids him go.  Wrap it up and roll credits.
If this was done with a deft touch and some sensitivity, it would be a hit.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Daredevil

Our dear LL is something of a daredevil.  He just has no sense that his actions can hurt him.  His preferred method of coming down the slide in our front room (known as the 'office') is to take one step and then dive the rest of the way.  We have a mattress at the bottom so he comes through fine.  Mostly.
This morning I found that he'd pushed the coffee table up near the couch.  He would then climb on the table (keeping him off of tables is a major chore), and jump over to the couch cushions.  He has about a two inch horizontal leap so he does this mostly on faith.
We should probably start setting aside emergency room funds already...

Monday, November 04, 2013

Wii, Again

We've shifted things around in the house again and the Wii is again available for the kids to play with.  They seem to finally be at the age to really, really get it.  Well, Relia's been there for a while, but she now has access.  As recently as last spring, Relia was unable to really play Mariokart but now she can.  This morning she was playing and absolutely thrilled to be getting third and fifth places. 
Meanwhile, DF was teaching her a lesson in patience.  He can't help but steer into walls and has trouble going the right direction.  This is maddening to watch.  You want to jump in and take over so that he can be competitive.  But of course, he won't learn a thing that way.  So she gets to watch and bite her tongue.  (If she doesn't, then she gets scolded by daddy.)  I'm sure he'll pick it up in short time.
After we played for a bit, I decided to update the Miis and create a Mii for LL.  Here is is, 18 months old and the Wii doesn't know a thing about him!  So we worked at it and worked at it, with Relia offering helpful advice on the shape of his head and (hardest of all) which eyes were closest to correct.  Sorry, LL, it really isn't set up for babies. 
Next step?  Keeping an eye on Craigslist for extra controllers.  The day isn't far off when we'll need to have two more of them and a couple more steering wheels.  Don't worry, though, I'll find them.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Overheard

While driving DF to preschool this week, he asked me where LL got his name.  I tried to tell him that the FP Gal and I picked it out but he wanted a credit in there too.  I was almost to the point where I throw up my hands and tell him, fine, he helped pick it out, when he said this:

DF: When Leo dies and we get a new baby, I'll name that one.

Um, not quite, buddy.  To add a little context, it might be helpful to know that our neighbors recently had to put down their beautiful boxer dog.  They had a new puppy a few days later.  Anyway, DF is figuring out both mortality and the cycle of life. 

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Life of Pi - 2012

I remember the first time I saw the book 'Life of Pi'.  It was in a Barnes and Noble, and the cover featured a boy in a lifeboat with a tiger.  I quickly judged that cover and was hooked.  It looked like some sort of fantasy.  What I didn't know is that the story would play it straight.  (I have a brief review of the book here if you're interested.  Short story, I highly recommend it.)
A few years later I heard that there was interest in turning it into a movie.  The story largely takes place as a narrative of a boy in a lifeboat with a tiger so it was hard to see how they could possibly make a movie work.  And boy howdy, the record of books to movies is not very good.  But the reviews were positive, so I thought I'd give it a chance.  (Which I did last March when I found that a) I had a day off and b) it was in the theater some five months after it was released.)
I came away impressed and wanted the FP Gal to see it.  I thought she might miss out from the big screen but what can you do?  (I've been told that it used 3D very well, but, being a cyclops, that wasn't an option for me anyway.)  This was the second movie that I put on the Netflix queue.

What did I think?  It's really quite fantastic.  The cinematography is fantastic in both senses of the word.  The script did an excellent job of conveying the story, both the internal dialogue and the action.  Pi seemed like he was in constant danger from the tiger.  This is quite a feat since we rarely honestly fear for the protagonist.
One thing that really strikes me upon rewatching, is how deft a job 'Life of Pi' does with traditional religion.  Early in the story, Pi becomes enraptured with Hinduism, Christianity and Islam.  The story treats all of them with genuine respect.  (Note to non-religious: the movie doesn't hit you over the head, so don't be put off by this.) 
I haven't seen many of the Best Picture nominees from last year but I can easily say that 'Life of Pi' deserved its nomination.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Les Miserables - 2012

I used to go out to the movies all the time, but now that I have young kids, it's really tough to do so.  This has been more of an annoyance than a problem for the past few years because frankly, there haven't been that many movies I've wanted to see.  Last year was different.  There were a bunch that actually looked good, especially late in the year but I missed them.  Anyway, this is a long way of saying that I finally upgraded the Netflix account to have them send me DVD's.  Which means that movie reviews are a'coming.

For years I wondered why it was taking so long to make a movie musical version of 'Les Mis'.  It's been popular forever.  It's epic in a way that translates well to the big screen.  And my guess has been that various rights have kept from being produced.  (And that might even be true!)
I was excited when I saw the first trailers last fall.  Then the reviews came out and they were lack-luster.  I chalked some of that up to that perverse human desire to trash popular things.  In any case, I missed it in the theater and was excited to finally watch it.  This was literally the first thing that went into my Netflix queue. 
And wow, was I disappointed. 
The singing is awful.  Not all of it, but some of the key parts are just wildly miscast.  Russell Crowe (who has been great in just about everything else I've seen him in) is simply terrible.  He looks good and can't sing a lick.  I've got to believe that there are at least 1000 actors out there who would have made a better Javert. 
Hugh Jackman is better, but still fails on some pretty important levels.  He can sing, and his singing doesn't offend the way that Crowe does.  The problem is that he's all anguish and very little beauty.  In fact, that's the problem with most of this movie. 
In most musicals, we accept that people break into song to express themselves.  We accept that the singers are above average so that they can make the most of the music that they've been given.  Not so here.  In this movie, if there was any kind of choice between showing anguish and showing musical talent, the talent lost big time. 
This works in places.  Anne Hathaway is quite good as Fantine.  The Thenardiers don't call for beauty, they call for character and their parts worked.  But just about everywhere else it failed. 
Just a huge disappointment.