Monthly Archives: December 2008

Just Silly – Hollywood often gives birth to twins

I was all set to post about how movies often come in pairs. That is, when a movie about a certain subject comes out, a movie that is very, very similar comes out soon after. Well, those professional bloggers beat me to it, further proving that there are no new ideas.

The list laden website Den of Geek compiled a list of its top 10 movie clones. 1998 was an especially good bad year for clones, with two movies about earth destroying asteroids and two computer animated movies about ants. Notably, both movies about mars in 2000 were laughably terrible. I for instances. Chuckled when a biochemist in "Red Planet" listed the four genetic base pairs as "A, G, T, and P". Generally, if two movies are about the same topic, neither can be all that good.

Den of Geek's list does not include all of the clone movies. I've noticed this trend since two Robin Hood movies came to theatres in 1991 and a year later when two Christopher Columbus movies that came out on the 500th anniversary of his most famous discover. Rounding out the biopics, runner Prefontaine also hit the movie clone jackpot in 1997 and then 1998. Now copies are routine, like the two movies about animals in a New York zoo escaping to the wilds of Africa in 2005 and 2006.

It just goes to show that creativity can't be learned but it sure can be borrowed.

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Rants – We would be doomed or saved if everyone was more like me?

Certainly my cheapskatery, a.k.a. frugalness, has been a constant topic of mine. Maybe I am frugal because I lived below the poverty line during a decade of my college and post graduate studies. When you have little spend, you learn how to get by with less. What if everyone was frugal like me, I used to think. Back in June, I ran across an on-line article that asked this very question: What Would Happen IF Everyone Was Frugal? This mental exercise was fun back in June but terribly relevant now. As credit markets collapse, jobs become scarce, and the future becomes undertain, more and more people are becoming frugal just like me! Sure, the economy will take a big hit as people save their pennies and drive their cars until they become scrap metal. Over time, though, we will all benefit from fewer bankruptcies, foreclosures, and disposing of piles of waste produced by our pre-economic metldown consumer driven society.

I wonder though, what if people were more like me in other ways too? Many industries would cease to exist. Say good buy to the alcholic beverages industries . . . and drunk driving accidents. The soda (or pop) industry would implode and with it a sizeable demand for dental work. Coffee and tobacco growers would need to find new crops to plant. Illicit drugs would disappear completely, and morticianers along on the Mexican/Amercian border would have to find new jobs. Green products would become the industry standard. Without early adopters, new consumer technologies will take longer to develop. Sales of used goods would spike. Medical costs would fall some as more and more people would only go to the doctor when they absolutely had to.

There would be massive cultural changes as well. Micheal Bay would stop making movies, no one would see them. The internet would become the primary means of all entertainment and non-internet based entertianment would be at risk of extinctions. Top 40 radio would stop broadcasting. Discs in generally will become a dead media. Comic books would move out of their niche. Videogames would continue their increasing domination of media. The term "literally" would be used in its proper sense. Saturday Night Live would be cancelled and thereafter made reference to in association with something that was meant to be funny, but is not. "That joke was SNL".

I would like to think that the rate of hear disease would fall, as all people would at least try to exercise. Organic and natural foods would supplant foods with chemicals like MSG in them. Sure, cookies would become a staple food but we would all at least try to have a vegatable course at dinner. Kids would spend more time playing outside. Crime would near non-existence, espcially violent crimes. Volunteerism and charitable giving, however, would reach all time lows 😦

Does everyone hope that they are good people making the world a better place to live? They would if they were more like me. At least, I hope so.

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Untimely Reviews – Iron Man

It sure is nice to see some 5 star untimely movies. After a series of barely watchable sequels I'm not sure how to react to a bona fide good movie much less a good movie about a comic book superhero. In 5 words, one for each star, "Iron Man" is the real deal. Here are five things I like about the movie "Iron Man":

  1. a good story.
  2. good actors
  3. great villains
  4. great action
  5. a female character who is more than eye candy

Certainly I'm no trained writer, but I also appreciated the subtle foreshadowing. I also have a large load of "Iron Man" comics and action figures that will increase in value, but that's besides the point.

An avid news watcher, I know that when "Iron Man" hit the theaters last spring, it was popular. Unlike most crash-and-burn movies, "Iron Man" stayed popular. It had something called word-of-mouth. I was certainly swayed when ordinary people, i.e. the 99% of the population that does not read comic books, recommended this movie. Of course, having just had a baby, I didn't have to see it. Thank goodness for fast turnarounds on rentals.

Because "Iron Man" is so special, I rented it through the new medium of digital downloads. After owning an Xbox 360 for over a year, I actually bought Microsoft Points, a.k.a. fake money, to rent "Iron Man" in stunning high definition. Well, to be honest, it was decent 720p content. If you don't what that means, you are going to be in for a shock on February 19th, 2009! My wife and then sat down to watch our first HD movie on my 22" monitor. We sat real close. "Iron Man" did not dissapoint. For the first time since "Terminator 2", I was actually impressed by computer generaged images instead of nauseated at obvious effects. Tony Stark himself could not have done better.

The boy who made "Swingers" did good. "Iron Man" is so money. No spoilers here, just a simple recommendation that everyone see it. Some of the content is definitely not suitable for kids, and watching soldiers get cut down in a fictional Afghanistan was extra shocking because my big brother is serving in Iraq. For teens and adults, he violence is worth it. The message of being responsible with your life is done well. This is certianly the highest rated untimely review ever to appear on this blog.

Huzaa to "Iron Man" the movie!

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Unpaid Advertising – My wife’s iPhone is the second coming

After months and months and months of prodding by me, my wife bought an iPhone. Technically, my wife and I bought an iPhone because we are married and our money is in a joint account. But technically it is her iPhone because it has all of her e-mail settings and her applications for posting on LiveJournal. Besides, I owe her. Long ago she was promised a new iPod. She bought one, engraved and all, only to be dissapointed when a week later Apple released the video iPod. Apple kindly lets users return their items when one of their secret upgrades hits like a laser guided smart bomb in the night within 2 weeks of purchase. My wife did return her now obsolete music and pictures only iPod, but never bothered to buy the video iPod in its place. Years later, she buys the iPhone.

The iPhone has been touted as the Jesus phone because it appears to do everything you want with only one device. Ever since the dawn of cell phones, the internet, mp3 players, digital cameras, and touchscreens, mankind has dreamed of creating a Frankenstein device that includes all of these functions and fits in a shirt pocket. So basically our society has been waiting for the iPhone for about five years. Five long years of backwardly using 5 devices or more to live our digital lives.

The fairest way to praise critique my wife's iPhone is to compare it to the device that preceded it, in our house. That device is a Blackberry Curve that I use for work. Both devices are roughly the same size, as shown in these blurry photos taken by my unsteady hand with the other device.

Clearly blurrily, both devices are close enough in size. The Blackberry is wide while the iPhone is tall. Both are pretty thin too when compared to the awful bricks that are their smartphone ancestors. Both have wireless internet, cameras, video, music, push e-mail and syncing, and are also phones. They are both on AT&T's crappy network (although my wife's phone gets lighting fast 3G data). I would say the really big difference is the iPhones GIGANTIC TOUCHSCREEN.

This is the real deal: the iPhone's touchscreen is Godlike in its ease of use. The Blackberry seems like an old arcade toy with its scroll ball and buttons. The button with all the dots on it really doesn't make any sense. What are all those dots anyway? The iPhone says "Slide to Unlock". Seeing that phrase alone is like moving out of an asylum featured in "One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest". Smartphones had been so bad for so long that the original iPhone was so far advanced it seemed like something sent back through time by Captain Picard to save mankind from Romulan invasion. I feel like I live in the future every time I pick up my wife's iphone and flip though the screens. Webpages scroll smoother than on my thumdrive driven laptop. And the iPhone is a kickin' game machine to boot.

The Blackberry Curve itself is a response to the iPhone. RIM, the maker of the Blackberry, added a pretty cool multimedia player and decent camera to its boring smartphone. But these are just add-ons. The Blackberry has like 64 MB of storage, a.k.a. a laughable amount of storage. You can add a micro SD card, which I did, but it fits under the battery in some kind of mouse trap like holster.  Everything about the Blackberry seems like an afterthought, i.e. a thought that came up after the iPhone. To be really fair, RIM has released updated models like the BlackBerry Bold and the Blackberry Storm. But the Bold has the same old scroll wheel and the Storm is like the iPhone with its big screen but the same bland Blackberry software.

The big draw of a Blackberry over an iPhone is the actual keyboard. The Blackberry is easer to get carpal tunnel syndrome on than the iPhone. Here I thought my bony fingers would come in handy, but even I had trouble hitting the keys. Seriously though, its a phone. messages work best. It's also a phone so I guess you could just call people and talk to them instead.

Huzaa to Apple, maker of the Jesus phone!

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Untimely Reviews – Die Hard already

Thinking back to the 1980s, there were a lot of great action movies. In an age before computer graphics (except "Tron" and the "Last Starfighter", like they even count), stunts and explosions had to be real. These ancient action films were more humanizing, because the danger was real. These movies brought me into the action. They made me root for the hero and hate the villain. None did this better than "Die Hard".

If there were a hall of fame of classic action films, "Die Hard" should be number one. It has a regular looking guy, no, scratch that, a little balding guy going up agaisnt European hit men armed with automatic weapons and anti-tank missiles. And the hero doesn't even have shoes. We watch him get beat up, blown up, shot, cut up with glass, and berated by the authorities that should be helping him. The villains are savvy and smart, which makes their comeupance all the more satisfying. It doesn't get any better than this. (A staple phrase from the 1980s).

So the action continues in the third sequal to this movie, "Live Free or Die Hard"? 20 years later we have computer graphics and internet inspired plotlines. This update gives us the hero jumping on fighter jets, launching police cars, blowing up stuff with fire extinguishers, driving through elevators, wait a minute, what? It definitely gets better than this.

While the first "Die Hard" was ingenously filmed in an office building turned prison turned maze of death, the latest sequel has the hero driving from all over the east coast. And instead of blowing up said office building as a snide dissing of the worship of corporate excess that pervaded the 1980s, the sequel takes down every institution that we take for granted yet reminding us that the internet is still cool. I was also annoyed by the resilience of the bad guys. Sure, the hero takes a licking and keeps on ticking (another stape phrase from the 1980s), but do we need to see the same bad guys keep coming back. Who needs more bad guys when you have two unkillable kungfu experts?

Perhaps the most telling moment in the sequel is the use of social hacking to jumpstart a car. The cell phone network has been destroyed by hackers and the hero is unable to warn the FBI about an attack on a power plant. He has to steal a car and starts fiddling with the wires. His hacker buddy, the Mac from the I'm a Mac commercial has a better idea. He triggers the air bag and then convinces the On-Star rep that she needs to start the car so he can get his dad to a hospital. That plan has a huge problem, On-Star uses the cell phone network, which is down. Also, why do movies try to impress us the acting abilities of its characters? All of the characters are played by actors, who are necessarily already good actors.

Sigh, perhaps a timely showing would have been more exciting. When the audience is cheering and the screen is as tall as my house, every movie seems better. Alas, on my standard definition TV, "Live Free or Die Hard" was neither alive, free, dead, or hard.

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Personal Stories – An ode to my little man

My little boy will be 3 soon, and in the last 3 years I have grown quite fond of him. The other night I was reading him a story about Thomas the Tank Engine and Thomas mentioned the time he fell into a mine. My little guy asks me, "What's a mine?" Then he says with emphasis, "WHAT IS IT!" All this time hearing about mines and he finally wanted to know what it was.

To give my wife and baby a break from a screaming, wiggling toddler, I often taken little man out with me. We go to the playground, the grocery store, and now that the weather is frigid, the mall play center. Often we just walk around the block or play in the backyard. He has no qualms about playing in the dark which is good because night hits us at 5:00 these days.

One time I was walking with him and he was holding my hand. I thought about how fast he's growing and how I should savor these moments, because someday he won't want me holding his hand. Until then . .

Who neds quartersElmo lives!Soccerball run with Little Man

Noa loves to just run and run at stores and the mall. He's getting too fast; I can barely catch up to him! At play centers he is oddly sedate. He will stay put and protect his turf from other kids. When he's been out for a couple of times in a row, he starts talking to and running around with the other kids.

And of course I love to have our big baby girl with us, but she has a special relationship with Mom that I just can't replicate (if you know what I'm getting at.) So baby girl excursions are family events.

Huzaa to gratuitous pictures of my children!

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Personal Stories: Let the X-mas season begin

"X-mas" to me means eXtreme Christmas and yesterday was the first day of the X-mas season. This year the season began with with my singlemindedness, my wife's practical decorating, my boy's wide eyed enthusiasm, my baby girl's "I'm just 8 months old leave me out of this" look, and my parents' practiced humoring of me. Let the season of miracles reign.

At my house, the X-mas season truly begins with the unboxing of the artificial tree. Last year, the tree was prelit and light strings kept dying like asian beetles in our effectively plantless house. Rather than throw away a perfectly good artificial tree, I performed a post X-mas miracle and removed all 600 dead lights, clip by ubiqitous clip. 4 hours later, we had a perfectly good unlit tree. Now, instead of a boring perfectly lit tree with white lights, we have kid lovin' tree with irregularly arranged colored lights; another X-mas miracle.

The first gift placed under the tree was a set of fake vegetables my wife and I had bought at Creative Kids Stuff. The store wrapped the gift for only a dollar, so we didn't have to hide this one from little man. Time is meaningless to a near 3 year old, and he almost opened the gift within a milisecond of us handing it to him. The first gift was thus placed under the tree with much goading on our part and excitement on his part. Of course, our 8 month old is also gunning for that gift, not for its mysterious contents, but instead for its very rippable paper. To protect the innocent, we surrounded the gift with an assortment of decorative tins collected over several X-mas seasons; another X-mas miracle.

My wife queued up some sesonal music while we decorated. Then the snow began to fall. Snow, in Iowa, in November; another X-mas miracle. The X-mas season just isn't the X-mas season without snow, which is why southerners celebrate just plain ol' ordinary Christmas.

The start of the X-mas season is important because it means I can finally go to stores and actuall look around and take my fingers out of my ears. Christmas creep, as some call it, spoils the X-mas season like someone telling you the secret of "The Crying Game". Now I can soak it in. I can also start showing goodwill toward man rather than just neutral will. And then there are the cookies.

Huzaa to X-mas!

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