Saturday, December 04, 2010

Never Let It Be Said...

...that DreamWorks doesn't know how to run a thing into the ground.

Two more sequels in the awful, awful Madagascar franchise.

Two sequels to How to Train Your Dragon. I know that it's a series of books, but the first film was so special, it really didn't seem to me like it needed to say any more.

And six--SIX--more Kung Fu Panda movies. I enjoyed Kung Fu Panda, but I want to see it in six more versions about as much as I wanted to see Shrek the Third: not at all.

Anything original in the pipeline there, Jeff?

Meanwhile, the movie I'd like to see a sequel to, Monsters vs. Aliens, gets nothing but a (surprisingly fun) Halloween special...

Ron Santo 1940-2010

By the time I was born, Ron Santo was already finished playing. He retired from Major League Baseball two years before I was born. Still, Santo was a Chicago institution, even for someone like me, who isn't much of a sports fan.

The reason I wanted to mark the passing of Ron Santo is my grandfather.

My Grandpa Davis, who died in 1995, loved the Cubs. Iowa doesn't have an MLB team, and it used to be that a lot of Iowans--especially my Grandpa--thought of the Chicago's second team as their team. So I used to watch games, and even went to Wrigley Field to see some games, with my Grandpa. So I can't hear that Ron Santo has died without memories of my old man's old man coming up. Nice memories. Great memories.

I'm sorry that Santo, who endured so much, has passed away. And I miss my Grandpa, too.

Thanks for the joy you brought him, sir.

The Pundits Stand to Gain

MC linked me to this video, and I had to share it here if anyone wants to see it. It's Representative Alan Grayson addressing the House with some raw data about how much extra money the usual assholes (Rush, Beck, Hannity, Palin, etc.) stand to save every year with the extension of the Bush tax cuts. It always pisses me off that these rich fuckers are able to take to the airwaves and claim they're so concerned for the common people all while actually just defending their obscene incomes. The fact that they're able to fool people with it just shows how doomed this country really is.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Random Thoughts (and Links)

:: Message to the Tea Party - What took you so long to get angry?

::Okay, John McCain. I get it. You're a'scared a' gays. But that doesn't mean the country is then required to write your ridiculous fears into law. Every time you open your mouth, I thank the universe that you weren't elected president. Be as big a bigoted carbuncle as you want, just do it in your own home and keep it out of my country's governmental process, you ass.

:: I'm always amused to hear people lament that we live in the 21st Century and don't have jetpacks yet. I wouldn't trust two-thirds of the people I've ever met not to kill themselves on a skateboard, for fuck's sake. Same thing with flying cars. Like it's not bad enough living in a college town and seeing kids crash into each other or people on bikes or signs; why would I want to have to worry about them slamming into my third story apartment?

:: Watch Family Guy for a week. I think we can take it for granted that you're going to see an incredible amount of misogyny, but what does Seth McFarlane have against Asians? Boy, I never noticed until I ended up watching a couple of episodes this month that he's really got some kind of problem with Asian people. So many, many jokes about it...

:: A very interesting positive opinion on the Green Lantern trailer. It makes me rethink my first impression, actually.

:: NASA announced the discovery of an arsenic-based life form. That's just amazing.

:: Okay, so, Lady Gaga is great because she wears stupid outfits with heavy makeup, says idiotic and self-serving things that sound artistic, and rips off singers from the last 40 years of music, and Kesha sucks because she wears stupid outfits with heavy makeup, says idiotic and self-serving things that sound artistic, and rips off singers from the last 40 years of music. I think I've got it now.

:: I keep hearing about how a lot of Arab nations want Iran "dealt with." Well... go deal with Iran, then. Keep my fellow citizens out of your fight. I'm sick of money that could go to so many other things going to keep our oil guardians happy. Didn't we sell you all of those weapons so that you could take care of your own shit?

:: President Obama is pathetic for offering a federal wage freeze to the Republicans. Another fucking capitulation to these assholes? THEY DO NOT WANT TO WORK WITH YOU, BARRY. They are not interested. If you really think that, deep down, these motherfuckers have the best interest of the American people at heart, you are just cripplingly naive.

Christ, the official unemployment rate is almost 10%. The government is doing next to nothing to grow jobs, and now we have incoming Speaker John Boehner whining like a little baby that a lame duck vote to extend tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 a year--otherwise known as 95% of the country--is a dishonest, "chicken crap" move. Boehner is another squealing Republican liar; he says that what's important right now is not raising taxes, but fumes with butt hurt anger over the possibility that 95% of America will get to keep its tax cuts. The man does not believe what he claims. He won't even commit to extending unemployment benefits. They won't vote on it until they get their tax cuts for millionaires.

More than a quarter of returned veterans are unemployed. The Republicans who want to throw us all in Gitmo for not worshiping soldiers as gods won't even help them get jobs when they get back from putting their lives in jeopardy for rich white people.

Rep. John Kline led a Republican charge to kill Michelle Obama's "Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010" legislation, which will pay for itself and which will provide $4.5 billion to school lunch programs. The bill passed, but Kline tried hard to destroy the thing, because he doesn't want your children to eat a healthy lunch at school--something the government should be providing, since public school is a government program--but he, like Boehner and the rest of them, think it's more important to whine about what the government should be spending, while hypocritically supporting tax cuts for millionaires, which will cost the government about 200 times more money than school lunches will.

These hypocrites, these two-faced liars, these reptilian pieces of filth, stand for nothing but themselves and money. And these are the kind of people Obama thinks we need to deal fairly with? It's maddening watching him extend his hand and keep drawing back a bloody stump. President Empty Suit, President Ineffectual, President Nice Guy... you are just fucking us over and over and over, and you don't even care. That'll teach me to vote for you, I guess.

:: Paul Krugman: "One would have expected a candidate who rode the enthusiasm of activists to an upset victory in the Democratic primary to realize that this enthusiasm was an important asset. Instead, however, Mr. Obama almost seems as if he’s trying, systematically, to disappoint his once-fervent supporters, to convince the people who put him where he is that they made an embarrassing mistake."

:: Why don't the Democrats have the guts to use ads like these?

:: Here, in a nutshell, is a great example of why I deeply hate the internet.

I saw, on Tumblr, a 1967 ad for Jim Beam that featured Sean Connery. It was a tie-in ad for You Only Live Twice. Underneath it, someone had taken the time to write a lengthy explanation about how they didn't, as a rule, care very much for Jim Beam, but preferred Jack Daniels instead, but that it was a cool ad, so they were reblogging it.

This is the kind of shit I get in my comments section all the time, too. Like, this person I've never heard of had to take the time to make sure everyone who ever saw that post would understand that his or her reblogging of a neat ad from the sixties would not be taken as his or her own personal endorsement of a liquor that they did not like. As if anyone in the history of time and space would remotely care what kind of booze they liked to down while cruising Tumblr.

People... I don't care. Either you like something or you don't. Or you share something. Or you don't. I don't need the constant disclaimers about how you don't generally like some chick, but that's a cool picture. Or about how you don't know who someone is--you're on a machine that retrieves information faster than ever before in human history, avail yourself of it. I'm not going to impeach your character because you posted a picture online and, horrifyingly, it might make me think you prefer Jim Beam. Get fucking over yourself.

EDIT 4:18 PM: Tax cuts for the wealthy! Because why not destroy the dream of economic stability for another generation, right? Damn it, rich people have more shit to buy and horde, and this somehow creates jobs or something, I guess. A couple of frank write-ups on Firedoglake here and here (the second one has some good numbers about what this is going to cost us all).

See, just to clarify, I'm not one of those people who is angry at President Unaccountable because he didn't magically wave a wand and fix all of my problems. I'm angry at him because he's actively making them worse.

Hell's Kitchen

What bugs me the most about the four chefs left on the show is that all of them have been willing to send food up that they clearly know is not ready. You don't have to be a genius to see that halibut isn't cooked. You have to be some kind of an idiot to cook risotto for weeks and then try to put up risotto that's barely even cooked. Come on, guys: you're all grown-ups, you need to take some kind of responsibility for the food you cook. I think, even though it hasn't quite been explicitly verbalized, this is the real source of Gordon's frustration: that even down to four chefs, they're still putting up undercooked food just to put up something, and then laying on him the responsibility of telling them whether it's acceptable or not. You know it's unacceptable, geniuses. When you put up unacceptable food, it makes you look inept at best. At worst, it makes you look like you're trying to put something over. Both are damaging.

Right now, all I want is for Russell to not win. Fucking mental patient, cracking his knuckles and telling Trev he's going to beat the shit out of him. I'm sick of his attitude. I don't want it rewarded. He's such a pussy; he just can't take being second-guessed or overlooked, he can't deal with people, he's an arrogant ass. I don't want to see him as one of the final two. And like everyone here, he doesn't own up to his mistakes. He's accountable for nothing because, I guess, he never makes mistakes and has nothing left to learn and eating anything he cooks is a privilege. Fuck him.

Last notes: Nona's baby is adorable. And I loved Jillian's son asking if Gordon had called her a donkey.

TV Report: Last Night's Office

I've been complaining a lot about how fucking terrible The Office has been this season, so I thought I should point out that I liked last night's episode, "China." It was, so far, the lone good episode this season. There were a lot of factors contributing to it--especially, I think, taking a lot of the focus off of Andy and Erin, who are only funny in small doses as side characters and are not the new Jim and Pam, no matter what the producers think--but it really came down to the final moment, with Dwight's smile and humanity.

Before Dwight became a broad cartoon, there was an occasional humanity to him that made the character more real and easier to accept. Pam was one of the only characters who ever saw it and even attempted to bolster it, so that little moment when he gave Pam her victory was very nice. This was an actual episode that remembered when The Office liked its characters and wanted to make them human beings. And that was a very nice.

A rare good episode in this scattered season. I don't expect it to last, but what a nice bright spot it was.

Still didn't make Jim likable again, but it was nice to like Pam and Dwight again for a change...

Thursday, December 02, 2010

20 Questions About Star Wars

Via Star Wars Forever.

01. Who is your favorite character from the original trilogy?

02.How would you rank the original trilogy, in order from favorite to least favorite?
1. The Empire Strikes Back
2. Return of the Jedi
3. Star Wars

03. What are two of your favorite action scenes from the original trilogy?
The battle on Hoth and the duel between Luke and Vader at the end of Jedi.

04. What do you consider the most emotional scene from the original trilogy?
It's a tie... it's either Han's "I know," or Anakin's deathbed "You were right about me."

05. Do you have any favorite toys or collectibles based off the original trilogy?
All over the place. I'm especially glad to still have some of my original Kenner figures.

06. Which character had the most unsatisfying death in the original trilogy?
No one. I know people always cite Boba Fett, but I find his death extremely satisfying.

07. What’s your favorite ship or vehicle from the original trilogy?
TIE Fighters.

08. Who is your favorite character from the prequel trilogy?

09. How would you rank the prequel trilogy, in order from favorite to least favorite?
1. The Phantom Menace
2. Revenge of the Sith
3. Attack of the Clones

10. What are two of your favorite action scenes from the prequel trilogy?
The duel between Darth Maul and Anakin and Obi-Wan, and all the droid action in the opening theme of Sith.

11. What do you consider the most emotional scene from the prequel trilogy?
Another tie: either Anakin killing the younglings or Obi-Wan's impassioned "You were the chosen one!"

12. Do you have any favorite toys or collectibles based off the prequel trilogy?
I have a lot of R2-D2 figures. I also have some Jar Jar Binks toys Pizza Hut was giving away back in '99 that I dig.

13. Which character had the most unsatisfying death in the prequel trilogy?
Padme Amidala. That was pretty silly; just slips out two kids and dies of a broken heart. Oh, so dramatic. Why not just say she died of the injuries Anakin gave her?

14. What’s your favorite ship or vehicle from the prequel trilogy?
The Podracers.

15. If you could get a personalized Star Wars themed license plate for your car, what would it say?
Ha; in high school, I wanted a license plate that said Red 5.

16. Do you have a favorite Star Wars based video game?
LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy.

17. Have you read any of the Star Wars books (expanded universe), and if so, what are your favorites?
I read some of them back when they originally started coming out. They're all pretty lame, really. Probably The Courtship of Princess Leia or The Truce at Bakura were the ones I liked.

18. Are you a fan of the “Clone Wars” cartoon series?
Very much.

19. What (or who) do you hope to see in upcoming Star Wars TV series?
R2-D2. And Hoojibs! Damn it, they'll never have Hoojibs.

20. If you were stranded on a desert island with one Star Wars character, who would you want it to be and why?
R2-D2. Makes starting a fire much, much easier.

Joe Wight's Star Wars Alphabet

I found these pretty delightful. I had to share a few of my favorites; go see the entire series on Geek Art.

Irvin Kershner 1923-2010

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Your Yearly Reminder

There are more important things we should be spending our budget on, Congress.

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.

But what's your point? Christopher Eccleston straddles the line between impression and performance as John Lennon, primarily between 1967 and 1971, the time his marriage to Cynthia was falling apart and he was falling in love with Yoko Ono. It's an emotionless film, and off-putting because of it. I applaud them for showing us the side of Lennon that most people want to gloss over--in his later years, Lennon admitted he was a selfish asshole during those years, a terrible father, a drug addict who was angrily searching for something to be. This movie sticks with his father issues, showing a son with an absent father who grew up to become an absent father. But I don't buy the film's notion of triumph, with John leaving London to go to New York. The film seems to want to paint this as Lennon's liberation, but it's really just him leaving his son behind and fleeing all sense of responsibility. He's leaving his country--the ultimate father--to assuage his ego. It doesn't make sense without the rest of Lennon's journey, in which he tries to redeem himself after years of alcoholism and selfishness. This movie is fitfully interesting, and provides glimpses of what a more honest and brave movie might have done. *1/2 stars.

I adored this one. I've given DreamWorks a lot of shit over the years, but this film is the best thing they've ever done. It's the story of Hiccup, a timid viking boy in training to fight dragons. He manages to down a Night Fury with an invention--a dragon no one's ever seen before and live to tell about--and slowly, cautiously, befriends it as he nurses it back to health. He's unable to kill it, because it looks frightened and helpless. He names the dragon Toothless (it can retract its teeth) and in the process of caring for it, learns as much as he can about the true nature of dragons and the folly of an endless war between dragons and vikings. Everything works in this movie--the humor comes out of the characters, the actors are excellent, the animation and character design are appealing and expressive. The design of the dragons is wonderful, especially Toothless. He doesn't speak (and thank you for that), but his round eyes and head movements are emotive and communicative. The animators have made a great decision by making his movements very catlike; he stalks, watches, and sits expectantly like a feline. His friendship with Hiccup grows organically and naturally. That friendship--which grows out of compassion and curiosity--is the heart of the movie for me, and Hiccup's desire not to let his father down feels more real and moving than in a lot of animated features today. Definitely the best animated film of 2010, and one of my favorites of all time. Just a wonderful film. **** stars.

TV Report: Such and Such Else

Not much new television lately, what with the holidays. I do like to get caught up in complete seasons on DVD, so I've been streaming Friday Night Lights through Netflix. A lot of people have told me they like it, so I thought I'd give it a chance.

I'm actually a little disappointed. The first season was fantastic; just an excellent season of television. The disappointment stems from the third season. With the second season truncated by the writer's strike, the third season--which I've nearly finished--feels like it dropped nearly every storyline from the second, then rolled back a lot of the changes to the characters without even addressing them. Suddenly, Lylah's not a born again Christian anymore? Suddenly Smash is recovering from an injury? And what happened to the girl he was dating? Suddenly Tami is the high school principal? And what happened to the volleyball team she was coaching?

The third season feels like we're coming in from an entire season that's taken place offstage, and then we're just sort of catching up. It's trying--and failing, I think--to start new storylines while capping off characters like Smash and Street that it's just sort of getting rid of. They make some comment on this in the first episode when Coach Eric Taylor says that this season isn't a rebuilding season, but maybe that's the problem. Maybe the show needed to rebuild itself instead of trying to go on after developments that have just popped up out of nowhere.

Too bad, because it was really shaping up to be one of my favorite shows of the decade. That first season is just excellent.

(One thing I like in season 3: Jeremy Sumpter is a great addition to the show.)

A couple of other thoughts on TV:

:: I don't know if anyone else here watches 16 and Pregnant, but what is with the parade of unsympathetic families on the last couple of episodes? Jesus; is getting pregnant as a teenager now so blase for parents and grandparents that they don't even bother trying to help anymore? It's hard to watch these unsupported girls just get abandoned to watch their lives crumble by parents who just don't care anymore.

:: Modern Family has been terrific this season, building on a strong first season and getting better and better. It's probably my favorite sitcom airing right now. But last week's episode, with Cam's mother being too handsy, was awful. Probably the worst episode ever. That was disappointing. Just a blip, probably--they can't all be winners--but I'm looking forward to better.

:: Oh, I still love you, Hellcats, but watching Marti and Dan Patch (why is he named after a champion racehorse, damn it?) make out made me lose all of my respect for Marti. Gone. You've got work to do to earn it back, Hellcats. And then keeping it a secret from Savannah after you nearly destroyed your friendship with her because of secrets? Classy.

:: Loved Keith Carradine on The Big Bang Theory, but I still don't want Leonard and Penny back together. And more Bernadette, please! (It's never enough.)

:: I wonder if it's even possible that The Office could make Jim likable again. I'm only watching it now because it's Steve Carell's last season. I want to see how they mature Michael. After that, I'm done. I'm sick of this cartoon version of what was, at one point, my favorite show on TV.

:: Bring back Parks and Recreation, damn it. I don't care what you have to cancel, just bring it back.

:: I'm really wrapped up in Boardwalk Empire. The show took me a few weeks to really get into, but once it started really rolling, I was just swept up (and so was Becca, to my surprise). This is Steve Buscemi's great role, and Michael Shannon has been incredible. Knowing it's coming back next year is going to get me through what will probably be an excruciating final season of Big Love...

:: I'm looking forward to A Game of Thrones, but I'm not as excited as I thought I'd be, even with Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage in the roles I always knew they'd be perfect for. Maybe it's because my enthusiasm has waned so much on the books in the five years since George RR Martin has had any of them out. Even if the series is a hit--which I kind of doubt, based on past HBO excursions with fantasy--they're still going into adapting a series which will probably never be finished. I wonder how much they're adding into it as far as characters and storylines...

:: Batman: The Brave and the Bold has been EXQUISITE.

:: Saturday Night Live... jeez, what can you say? Not even Anne Hathaway, who was hilarious the first time out, could salvage an episode. Jon Hamm, one of the best hosts they have, just barely managed to. Really, it's just time to cull the writer's room and the cast. I'm thinking Fred Armisen is the first to go.

The 2010 Christmas Banner

We're getting our first snow of the season today, and we put up the tree over the weekend, so it seemed as good a day as any to put up this year's Christmas banner. It's a little on the stark side, but I like it that way.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy Birthday, Cherie

Monday, November 29, 2010

Willie Nelson Arrested Again for Possession

A 77 year-old celebrity and marijuana advocate arrested for possession of weed? Come on, police, now you're just being lazy.

Kristen Bell Mondays

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Song of the Week: "Since I Lost You"

My friend John reminded me of this song this week. It's from 1991's We Can't Dance, which will always be the last real Genesis album to me, and it's a beautiful song about heartbreak and loss. Say what you will about the man, Phil Collins has always been a great conveyor of grand emotions, which is why I've always been a Genesis fan.

Hell's Kitchen

You really can tell a lot about a potential chef when Hell's Kitchen does a challenge like it did this week. This week, the contestants had to operate food trucks during lunchtime in downtown Los Angeles. You know going into that--or you should have an idea--that you're going to be serving people working in an office all day. What do you do? Well, if you're smart, you make something that, stereotypically, people working in an office all day in LA would want to eat.

They've done this kind of challenge in the past--every cycle, whether it's kids on their lunch in an elementary school or whatever--and there's always the one person who makes the gigantic mistake of not giving a shit about who the customer is. Unsurprisingly, it was Russell this time around. He made octopus. Octopus. Because when I'm walking out of an office for my one free hour of the day, my first thought is how awesome it would be to choke down some rubbery pseudo-squid.

Of course Gail won. She made a salad with sweet potato chips. I love how angry and surprised everyone was that the contestant who served salad and sweet potato chips to a bunch of West Coast office workers won the challenge. I called that before lunch was even being served. She read her customers exactly right and gave them what they wanted--something healthy with just the right amount of guilt-free sweets. Russell, meanwhile, came in last, because he didn't care what the customers wanted and gave them what he thought they should want, which was some sort of fine dining experience in the middle of a long work day. And he even said he didn't care, which doesn't seem like great qualification to manage a restaurant. His approach to customer service--when he's not flipping out and screaming at high school kids like a touchy little diva--is to assume that people are privileged to get whatever he feels like serving them. And obviously, that went over like the ego trip it is.

Too bad Gail completely shut down during service. Another excruciating service of yelling, raw food, and total lack of coordination. I enjoyed it when Gordon and Scott walked out to get some air. Never seen Gordon do that before, but everyone needed that moment. It's like kicking the baby birds out of the nest. Seriously, down to 5 chefs, and the kitchen still can't run smoothly. It's utterly pathetic. Whoever wins this year is really just going to be the one who is the least disaster. It's sad. This is the first Hell's Kitchen cycle I'm just watching and have no real stake in. I'm not behind anyone. They all suck. Jeez, people are still getting kicked out of the kitchen. At least service was completed this time.

Well, farewell, Gail. Four more baby chefs to go.