June 30, 2006

&#)@ You, Bill Simmons...

I swear that I actually had plans to accomplish things before I saw that Bill Simmons had posted his newest column. @&#( you, Bill Simmons.

Collected Collections Reviews

Four trade paperbacks in the past week or so, all of which are now back at the library (or at least they will be by the time this gets around to being posted)...

Let's begin with Daredevil: The Murdock Papers, an outstanding end to Brian Michael Bendis's and Alex Maleev's work (about fifty issues worth of it) on this excellent series. It's a run that's has returned Daredvil to being one of the best ongoing comics being produced by either DC or Marvel.

I've raved before in this blog about the spectacular work that Bendis and Maleev has done in this run, and I'm certainly sad to see the boys go, but at least they left us with a classic conclusion to the storyline in which they revealed Matt Murdock's identity to the public, married Murdock off, and dealt with so many of the ongoing problems that had begun to plague this series as various creators had Murdock revealing his identity, falling in love, and getting whomped by the Kingpin seemingly every few issues or so.

This final story arc - "The Murdock Papers" - sees the jailed Kingpin attempting to broker a deal with the FBI in which he will turn over all of his supposedly considerable evidence revealing Daredevil as Murdock in exchange for the FBI returning his seized assets to him and then setting him free overseas. The main plot sees Elektra, Black Widow, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and other friends of Murdock helping him in deciding whether to go after the papers himself or to simply cut and run, even giving us a shocking - and unannounced - dream sequence in which he makes a surprising choice with awful consequences.

To reveal more of the story - or its shocking ending - would be a crime as every reader of Daredevil deserves to enjoy it for him- or herself. If you're not one of the initiated, take some time and head back to at least Parts of a Hole in the line of trades before diving right in here.

This comic's review on Silver Bullet Comics might be one of my favorites of all time. It even quotes Abraham Lincoln with "[f]or those who like this sort of thing, this is the sort of thing they like." I liked JSA: Black Vengeance and haven't been reading JSA regularly, but I am - I think - familiar enough with the characters' backgrounds that I could read these two stories (not really connected at all which makes for an odd jump in the middle of the book) and get most of what was happening. If you don't know something about the characters beforehand, don't go for it.

The first story shows the current JSA team dropping back in time to the 50's where they have to prevent a bad guy from changing the past so that the heros of today never came into being. The current JSA saves the past JSA. It keeps a wonderful tradition alive of the old JSA teaming up with a current team (this time the JSA, other times the JLA, even Infinity Inc.) to save the world. It holds true to the spirit of the JSA which is that there truly is a familial feel to this book. Lots of members of the new JSA are children of or sidekicks of the older JSA members, and they all have close ties to the older members. It's an excellent idea and one that has been true throughout the history of the characters, through Infinity Inc. as well. That line of consistency and connection has kept the characters grounded through a number of series.

The second story is a tie-in from Infinite Crisis and needs way more understanding of the backstory even than does the first. Infinite Crisis continues to look like a bigger and bigger cross over event that is going to be amazingly tough for me to follow just through trade paperbacks. In this one, the Spectre - currently without a host and being lead by Eclipso posessing Jean Loring - comes to Kandaq (not Iraq, note the different beginning to the name) to punish Black Adam (family of Shazam and the whole Marvel family) for something. It's kind of hard to tell because a lot has come before this story (which involves the death of a semi-major JSA character).

My advice is to not start with this one. Go back and read some of the earlier JSA trades first. The feeling of connection to their history is both boon and bust. The art's good. The dialogue works, but it references older things. It's definitely not a self-contained storyline.

June 29, 2006

June 28, 2006

Can anybody help me?

Has anybody seen this movie? It's called Interstate 60 and the few reviews that I can find tend to speak pretty well of it, but I've never heard of it before.

It's currently on the WB, and it's the second time I've caught a few minutes of the film. I'd really kinda like to see the whole thing, and a personal recommendation would be much appreciated.

As would a source to get it other than through Amazon.

Be wary...

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

~Martin Niemoller

A number of major media outlets are NOT covering the story that Dick Cheney is angry at some media members for not staying quiet about a story that broke on June 23rd that our government has been monitoring an international banking database to check financial records (possibly yours and mine, included) in the "fight against terrorism".

Thankfully, a number of news sources have reported the story in various forms:

June 27, 2006

Because I can...

Because I can...because I feel like going back through Robert Altman's films...because I thought using the #5 on each list to start the next list was a cutesy thing to do...

My favorite Robert Altman films:
  1. The Player
  2. Short Cuts
  3. Nashville
  4. MASH
  5. Gosford Park
  6. (though Dr. T and the Women is close)
Favorite films with Clive Owen (who starred in Gosford Park:
  1. Sin City
  2. Gosford Park
  3. The Bourne Identity
  4. Croupier
  5. Closer
  6. (though Sin City 2 will likely move in once it's released)
Favorite films with Natalie Portman (who starred in Closer with Clive Owen:
  1. Garden State
  2. The Professional (Leon)
  3. Heat
  4. Cold Mountain
  5. Mars Attacks!
  6. (thought I've heard good things about Star Wars: Episode III)
Favorite Tim Burton films (you know, the guy who directed Mars Attacks!:
  1. The Nightmare Before Christmas (he produced it, shut up)
  2. Batman
  3. Pee-wee's Big Adventure
  4. Beetle Juice
  5. Big Fish
  6. (though it's tough to leave Edward Scissorhands and Batman Returns out)
Favorite Ewan McGregor films (which mightor might not include Big Fish - I haven't decided yet):
  1. Shallow Grave
  2. Moulin Rouge
  3. Black Hawk Down
  4. Big Fish
  5. Trainspotting
  6. (though I really want to see The Island)

June 26, 2006

Not great Company...

In honor of Robert Altman's newest production - A Prairie Home Companion, which I haven't seen yet - I picked up The Company, his preceding film.

Let me open by saying that I'm a fan of Altman and have been since I first saw The Player when I was at Wabash. Since then, I've worked backwards through much of his ouevre, and he has enough good karma (really dharma, I know) built up with me that I'm willing to give his films a lot of rope. At the beginning of each of them, I often find myself confused and wanting a more linear story told a little more overtly. His movies are often difficult to get into because of his style of verlapping dialogue that never seems to be quite high enough in the audio mix, but his finest films come together seemingly with no effort, producing a moving and engaging story.

Sadly, this film never did that for me. I started out confused as to what the storyline was and never quite figured it out. We see Neve Campbell - lead actress, producer, apparent driving force behind the movie - get a new beau, burn some toast, get her shot at glory, and injure herself - but she's not the storyline. Somebody names Justin complains and demands an apology, but we never figure out why or what his deal is. A clearly rookie character is introduced and focused on for a bit, suggesting that his story will move to the forefront, and it never does.

The best and worst reviews of The Company over at metacritic are correct. The best says that "[l]ike many Altman movies, this is less a dramatic story to follow than an atmospheric environment to visit", and the worst "[w]hen The Company owns up to what it is -– a performance piece -– it’s glorious. Everything else -– the window-dressing of a fiction film -– just gums up that gloriousness."

No review of the film, however, would be complete without discussing the performance pieces that both punctuate and interrupt the film. The entire film works beautifully with Chicago's Joffrey Ballet company, and the dance company is marvelous in performance. The performance pieces - only one of which are fashioned with Campbell in a dominant role - are the best part of the film. They are equisitely filmed and, at times, moving pieces. The problem with them is that few of them further the meandering and drifting storylines. As performance pieces, they are wonderful and richly deserving of documenting. In this way, the film reminds me a bit of Purple Rain - better as concert film than as film.

The film rambles - and I'm okay with that. The company dances - beautifully. The storylines never come together into anything more than the gossamer wisps that they appear to be - I'm not really okay with that.

June 25, 2006

New entertainment site out there...check it...

The tubby titan of terror has struck again with a new entertainment website called simply Quick Stop Entertainment and seems to have replaced Movie Poop Shoot - which I stopped following once Comics 101 parted way with the site.

The new site has a rotating lineup of columns reviews of comic book films, new DVD releases, and action figures; a blog from the cast of Scrubs; audio commentaries from Kevin; and loads more. It's certainly nothing that your life won't go on without, but it's a nice bit of fluff being added to the world.

Comics 101, on the other hand, is an absolute must-read every Wednesday morning when the new column comes out.

Rubber, glass, and screws - oh, my!

I'm a lazy homeowner. I'll readily admit that.

I would much prefer sitting on my backside playing on the internet than mowing the grass or painting the house or weeding the garden.

To that end, I was searching for links about the recently-developed rubber mulch. I'd heard that it was more expensive initially than wood but would last a lot longer and allow my laziness to take hold without comprimising the visual beauty that is my house's flowerbeds.

So, first to Consumer Reports and their review of rubber mulch. Sadly, blocked because I'm not a subscriber. Perhaps I'll check the May 2006 issue if I get to the library today (which I should since a CD's due and I can't renew it).

Next was to CBS 4's apparent apparent ripoff of the Consumer Reports story - or at least summary saying that the rubber mulch is just as good as the wood in the long run.

Not an easily-satisfied we searcher, however, I headed to the Star Tribune's article about rubber mulch which said pretty much the same thing and suggested that any rumored smell disapated pretty quickly.

Then to an FAQ from a rubber mulch seller that pointed things out a little more clearly to me.

There are still a few sites that I've found that suggest there are problems and concerns still to worry me about rubber mulch.

As an excellent landscape blog points out, there are other options out there to rubber mulch. There's glass mulch which looks really cool but isn't what I'm looking for - especially at the price - and metal screws which really isn't what I'm looking for to replace wood mulch outdoors.

June 24, 2006

Seriously...shoot the casting director...

The as yet unfinished movie In the Name of the King has a new trailer out, and in spite of the fact that I've blogged about it before, I just have to again point out that the casting director should be shot.

Because it it a bit of a repeat day, I'll throw out a few other quick hits that have been in my "to be blogged about" backlog:
  • I'm afraid that the new Superman movie will be awful. That hasn't stopped me, however, from already purchasing tickets - in IMax. Check out #40 for why.
  • Fluffernutters should not be sold in school. Nor, however, should they be the state sandwich of anywhere. It should, however, be required on every ice cream sundae.
  • Space Imaging does a great job of looking through the various satellite images and pointing out some of the most amazing stuff
  • MLB and the Washington Nationals had some copyright issues with a Cincinnati company.
  • You can watch classic tv commercials online.
  • in Marvel news, Spider-man unmasked himself in the Civil War ongoing event. I'm more than a little geeked to read this thing once it shows up in collected form. They've got a great wallpaper available of the image.
  • There are a couple of entertaining Cookie Monster videos out there.
  • Orangoo is an online spellchecker in case you haven't figured out how to use Google as such.
  • Google Video has the National Archives online now. There's some amazing stuff there and absolute pieces of history there.
  • There are lots of options for light bulbs out there, and we pretty much all need to switch from incandescent bulbs. Our house is well on the way, and every time an incandescent burns out, we swap it for something more efficient.
  • There are a lot of supposedly conservative rock songs out there, but I'm thinking that a lot of these on the list are a stretch. A number of them were overtly liberal or by liberal artists.
  • The new ad campaign of the Man Laws by some beer company is hilarious.
  • Proms are beginning to be endangered species in lots of places

June 23, 2006

Not necessarily an improvement...but neat...

I don't think that this new desktop design will be taking over for the standard Windows desktop any time soon, but I do respect the designers' willingness to try something different with what has become the default mode for 90% of the computers in the world.

I am really intrigued by the organizational style and seeming naturalness of the piling options, but I think the learning curve of using the click and drag stuff would be pretty steep, and it looks like it might only work with a stylus on a pressure-sensitive screen.

Neat stuff, though...

June 22, 2006

A certain moral flexibility...

"Dad, can anyone be a lobbyist?"

"No, my job requires a certain moral flexibility that goes beyond most people."

Ah, back down to cheap Tuesdays at the Esquire ($5.50 all seats, all shows) for a showing of Thank You for Smoking.

I had heard that the film was a good one, but I certainly didn't expect the excellently funny film that we ended up with. Aaron Eckhart is a charismatic lead who describes himself by asking "You know the guy who can pick up any girl? I'm that guy...on crack." (I'm paraphrasing - it's not like I was writing quotes while watching the movie.) His character - Nick Naylor - is a fast talking, quick thinking, brilliantly prepared lobbyist for the tobacco industry's Academy for Tobacco Studies.

The entire film centers around Naylor as he meets with the last great tobacco baron, heads to Hollywood to get cigarettes into the hands of the sexiest stars in their sexiest movie scenes, brilliantly buys off the original Marlboro Man, spends lunch with his fellow Merchants of Death (the MOD squad), gets kidnapped and told that cigarettes saved his life, drops the ball while sleeping with a gorgeous Washington Probe reporter who doesn't quite specify when things are off the record, and finally redeems himself in front of a senate subcommittee hearing.

The heart of the story, however, lies in the relationship between Naylor and his son - played brilliantly by Cameron Bright (also seen this summer in X-Men: the Last Stand as Leech). Naylor takes his son with him to Hollywood to meet agents and muses on why he does his job while looking at his son asleep against the passenger seat window.

In the end, the film is a well-written examination of one man who is trying to do his best at his job and on the home front in teaching his son what it's like to be a man with responsibilities and am impressive array of people skills. He's certainly far from perfect - and the worst part of the film we saw was the low quality of the print, perhaps the fault of the filmmakers, perhaps the fault of the Esquire - but he's doing the best he can to casually navigate through an emotional minefield.

June 21, 2006

Watch TV

9pm on WCET (or your local PBS station, probably) is the film A Lion in the House about five families in the Cincinnati area and their stories of living with a child who has blood cancer.

If you get a chance to watch this film, please do.

I've already posted about the documentary, so I won't go through all of it again, but I will point out that the film was a front page story in the Cincy Enquirer earlier this week.

Nothing novel...congrats to Miami...

I'm not much on an NBA fan, admittedly. That being said, I tend to watch nearly every game of the NBA finals every year. Partially, this is because it's the summer and I can stay up as late as I want to. Partially this is out of duty as a sports fan because this is the championship, and I should just watch. And there's a bit of a trainwreck quality to the finals.

But I'm absolutely loving watching the finals for one simple reason: this Gatorade commerical. It's not new, it's nothing terribly fancy or hilarious, but I could watch it a hundred times through.

June 20, 2006

Playing cowboys and indians

Don't know if you've heard or not, but there's some sort of new Superman movie coming out in a week or so - something about Superman Returns.

And, of course, in the course of promoting the film, they've released a bunch of action figures. I've seen them in the local Target store, and I have a bit of a problem with the figures that they've released. It's not with the sculpts or the articulation or anything else, that all seems fine. My issue is with the strategy of releasing fourteen action figures only two of which are bad guys. Twelve different version of Superman and two Lex Luthors. C'mon, folks, if you want the kids to play with your toys, give them some bad guys.

Nobody played cowboys and cowboys when they were kids, especially if all the cowboys were the same.

We don't need forty-eight versions of Superman, just like we didn't need a dozen different Batman in the nineties - sky dive Batman, infrared Batman, lightning strike Batman, knight star Batman, highwire Batman, antifreeze Batman, power vision Batman, ground assault Batman, rapid attack Batman, tornado Batman, radar scope Batman, cyber gear Batman, combat belt Batman, and turbojet Batman - just to name a few from the B:TAS line of figures.

GI Joe wouldn't have worked without Cobra. Cowboys needed indians. The Super Friends needed the Injustice League. And Superman needs Brainiac, Bizarro, Lex Luthor, Mxyztplik, General Zod, Metallo, Doomsday, Darkseid. I don't care whether the movie has all of those guys in it or not, but to get a successful line of heroic toys, you need bad guys.

June 19, 2006

Anybody wanna dog?

Ah, bio-engineered pets from GenPets. They are the newest and most-impressive mass-produced bio-engineered pet option on the market, and even the packaging speaks to the quality of the GenPets. There are fresh strips, a heart monitor, and color-coding for GenPet personality.

They're wonderful and guaranteed, and make perfect friends for anyone from the youngest, energy-filled child to the eldest, most infirmed octagenarian.

Be sure to get yourself in on the GenPet phenomenon right now before they're all sold out near you.
Oh, and Phil Mickelson peed down his own leg today, and Tiger didn't even make the cut.

June 18, 2006

Superheroic religiosity...

Wow, wow, wow. I'm amazed at what people will take take the time to work through and post on the web.

Today's amazing use of bandwidth is a site that gives (and provides evidence for) the religious affilitions of comic book characters.

And it's not just the simple ones - Wonder Woman believes in the Greek Gods, for example; Ben Grimm's Jewish; Zauriel (the angel) is Christian). No, they go into exactly which denomination each hero is - from the complicated (Dr. Druid from Marvel Comics is believes in "Tibetan buddhism/Iamaism; Celtic Druidism".) And they provide tons of evidence for each one with the most deailed probably being the big ones (Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, Captain America, but they're totally stumped with Plastic Man.)

Some of the predictions are a littler easier than others, of course.

And freakishly, when searching for pictures to post next to this blog entry, I found a company that can make you your very own superhero costume if you wanna drop a few bucks. Be warned, however, that's it's just a quick hop and jump from a superhero costume to a fetish costume. luckily the website's G rated.

June 17, 2006

Singularly Singleton

Inadvertently, last night became a little bit of a John Singleton film festivel. Sadly, we didn't have Boys in the Hood. I checked, and there are only eight copies in all of the PLCH system, so that might be a tough one to hunt down - especially since I can't request a feature film.

We closed the evening with Hustle and Flow the better of the two films. It's a film that received a ton of critical praise last year when it came out, and I think that it deserved every bit of that praise.

In the extras on the DVD, John Singleton says that everybody involved treated the film as a kind of Summerstock, taking on a job that they hadn't done before because they loved the story. Singleton himself produced the film amd bankrolled it himself because they couldn't get funding. Anthony Anderson and DJ Qualls both played dramatic parts instead of the broad comedy for which they are known. Terrence Howard - typically cast as an educated, soft-spoken supporting actor - took the role of a rough, foul-mouthed pimp in his first major leading role. Even the director, Craig Brewer, was helming his first film.

The story - a pimp rediscovering and then chasing his dream with amazing tenacity - is a simple enough one that seems predictable at first but that takes a very different turn from the expected one. DJay (Howard) turns a room in his duplex home into a studio, and he begins to turn his focus from just trying to hustle "a dollar from a dime even though [he] ain't got a cent" into trying to make something that will last, that will allow him to elevate himself from the hood where he pimps girls out of the back seat of his run-down Caddy. The recording of his tracks comes in fits and starts as does the progress of Howard's dream. Clearly leading to a climax that certainly doesn't turn out as many movies would've taken the easy path.

It's that change that truly turns the film from a good one to one worthy of sticking in the collective consciousness. DJay's success - which becomes a success of an entire group of people who have gathered around him - isn't one that comes without a price, but it is a success and one that viewers take easily and readily with him.

The film is excellent and has such echos from the director's life - check the DVD extras, primarily the one titled "By Any Means Necessary" for more info there - that there is an extra poinency to the film.

Four Brothers is another John Singleton film, this time directed by Singleton. The film has a visual style that works - Singleton said in the DVD extras that he aimed for an urban western with wide shots of the four brothers walking down the street together. The acting is good - with Marky Mark going nearly monosyllabic and thugging to good effect. If only the story and the characters weren't two-dimernsional, it might be a good film.

The bad guy, for example, is a little too bad - petulantly throwing the food of his top leutinant on the floor and making him eat like a dog, flipping out and making his bribed councilman sit at the kids table, even wearing a fur coat for the ultimate showdown. Wahlberg's lead character doesn't give us any glimpses into his background. He simply lives in the moment, purely id as opposed to Andrew Benjamin's more seemingly-innocent character (who supposedly has darkness in his background, though we never get a glimpse of it).

It's not a horrible film. That cast is good, the director is good, but it's predictable and lacks the shading and richness of characters that Singleton's best work.

June 16, 2006

More hero worship issues...

A couple of days ago, my post was about why people root for Phil or Tiger in Golf. Today's post is about why people root for ALbert Pujols in baseball.
Bonds is everything Pujols is not: Barry hawks autographs on his website; Pujols promotes his charity on his. Bonds attacks his critics and tries to prove his superiority at every turn; Pujols just laughs and moves on when asked if he's actually older than he claims. Bonds is a cheater in sports and in life; King Albert is clean as a whistle. And yet, Pujols isn't quite the king without Barry.
Bonds makes Pujols. When Bonds was winning all those MVPs, we really just wanted to give them to Albert. Barry was too good not to vote for and too unpleasant to see win. Bonds kept losing MVP votes, and King Albert kept gaining. Writers were still voting mind over heart, but the fight grew more intense with each season as the steroid whispers around the Giants slugger grew louder and Bonds grew more and more unbearable.

And then it happened. It finally happened. Bonds cracked. Well, it was just his knee that felt apart, but it incapacitated him nonetheless. Pujols finally had it, he finally had a shot to take over the MVP award that everyone wanted to but couldn't give him the past few years. All he had to do was seize the moment, and King Albert responded—he responded with his same consistent performance. He didn't make any leap—as if he could go much higher—but he did enough. He justified the selection. He let us reconcile our hearts with our minds. And that's all we asked.
I have, admittedly, been accused of having some sort of man-crush on Albert Pujols. And I'm sure there's some sort of Barry Bonds backlash there, but it doesn't matter to me. He's a quiet, understated star who (from everything we know) deserves to be a superstar much more than does his yin - Bonds. Part of my enjoyment of Pujols's career is hope that the person who appears to deserve fame will get and it will continue to deserve it.

There's always sadness if and when your heros end up not deserving to be such.

June 15, 2006

Diamond Dave Destroys his Dignity

Oh my dear schweet lord...I know that I've pledged to not link from things that either transbuddha or technically overboard have, and linking to something from Dan Century is probably no better, but some things just defy explanation and rules...

June 14, 2006

Let's try this again...

Ok, so my last blog about a sports rivalry didn't exactly work out, but I'm not one to be detered (or to look up how to spell detered - take that, Mrs. VanOsdol)

Today's post points you toward a great article by Skip Bayless about Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. In it, Bayless discusses his hopes that these two players will both play up to their best at the same time and give us a truly great golf spectacle.

The article's a good one, but the part that really gets me is about a third of the way down:
Which brings me, like their drivers colliding with their golf balls, to my point: Most fans root for Tiger or for Phil for some reason other than their games. Rivalries do that to humans.

Come on, admit it.

Tiger last won a U.S. Open in 2002 -- when Phil finished second.You like Phil because you're tired of Tiger's winning all the time. Or you like Phil because you think he's always a candidate for Father and Husband of the Year. You like him because he's always smiling on the course and he's always so likeable in interviews. You like him because you'd like to live next door to him and play golf with him on Saturdays.

Hey, let's be realistic, maybe you like him because he needs to wear a lot more sun block than Tiger does.

Or maybe you're a Tiger fan because you're a dad and you think you're training your son to be another Tiger. Maybe you like him because you're a mom and Tiger seems like such a nice young man in commercials and interviews. Maybe you like him because you're a minority or -- let's be honest -- because you're white and you don't think Tiger "acts black." Or maybe you like him because you're his age or younger and he's like watching a thunderstorm when he hits a great shot or a bad shot.

Can Phil follow his Masters title with another major victory?The truth is, that side of Tiger is the only real side either of these guys shows in public. The Tiger you see (and hear) on the course is the real guy. He can be a spoiled, temperamental fit- and club-thrower whose language can be as foul as his father's (who taught him). But the intangible greatness of Tiger Woods is that he can channel that anger into heightened concentration and resolve.

So the Tiger you see in front of a microphone or camera is basically acting. That goes double for Phil. Both are basically playing a highly trained role to give you, the upscale, golf-watching consumer, what you need: The confidence -- or illusion -- that you can trust the products they endorse because they're nice young men.

They certainly can be.

But the gut feeling here is that most Tiger fans or Phil fans would be shocked if they could become invisible and follow these two around in their private lives. This certainly isn't to say either of these guys has committed an unsolved murder. No, it's just that neither could live up to the image they've created with the media's help and many fans' gullibility.
In particular, it's the first part of that, the boldness of Bayless to say about Phil...
Hey, let's be realistic, maybe you like him because he needs to wear a lot more sun block than Tiger does.
...and about Tiger...
Maybe you like him because you're a minority or -- let's be honest -- because you're white and you don't think Tiger "acts black."
Wow. Those are very powerful and honest and amazing statements to see a major sports writer put into print.

I am floored.

And my honest feeling is that he's absolutely correct when he write that...
Most fans root for Tiger or for Phil for some reason other than their games. Rivalries do that to humans.
I'm not sure it's rivalries that do that to humans, I think it's just who we are.

I hate the Yankees, well, I dislike the Yankees, well, I kind of casually root against them. They're not bad people from what I've ever known, but they just win too much for my tastes. The team has too much money and spends it. It gets old. It's classist, I know, and I'm okay with that.

It's true of us all. We have biases...Bayless does a great job reminding us of that...

And let's, be honest, you're totally welcome to root against either Phil or Tiger because of who they each married...

June 13, 2006

The BBC rocks...further...

Ok, I was trying to hunt down video of the Beckham goal against Paraguay on Sunday (eventually found via YouTube, thank you, internet community). In the process I found the BBC's virtual highlights of the match.

They apparently don't have the rights to put the actual highlights online, but they've gotten somebody to make animations of all the shots (just the shooter and the goalie in the nicely rendered stadium), any cards (just ref and offender), and of one or two key plays in each game. For the key plays (click on Highlights in Detail) you can see every player on the field, what he did during the play, where the ref was, and it can all be done from any of dozens of different camera angles. You've got the ability to zoom in and out and to speed up and slow down the virtual highlights.

Fabulous stuff...

June 12, 2006

I am a binball GOD

I am among the ten finest binball players on the planet.

Bow down before the binball GOD.

No one here can ever better me!

John Mayer tried to lick me...

Ok, so John Mayer didn't actually try to lick me, but I watched him on Austin City Limits last night, and I swear that either he was having some sort of epileptic fit or he was trying to lick the camera when he was singing.

There was definitely some sort of throw-the-lower-jaw-to-the-right-stick-the-tongue-out-and-look-like-a-special-kid thing goin' on.

I tried to find video of the Austin CIty Limits performance and haven't been able to, but I did find a few other John Mayer videos to back up my assertions:In all honesty, I kinda dig John Mayer. But seriously, that thing with the mouth kinda freaked (and freaks) me out...

June 11, 2006

Don't call Sunday morning...I won't answer...

Is it wrong that I'm sort of unnaturally excited about the Roland Garros men's final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal?

This is probably the most-hyped match that I can remember. Let's face it, it's the only match (on the men's side, anyway) that anybody's cared about all tournament long. These are the two best players in the world, and the gap between them and the rest of the field is HUGE!

Just taking a look at some of the numbers for a moment...
  • Federer is 44-3 this year, with all loses at the hands of Nadal
  • Federer is looking to become only the sixth man to complete the career grand slam, by finally winning Roland Garros
  • Federer currently holds the other three grand slam titles and would be the first to win four in a row since Rod Laver in 1969
  • Federer has a twenty-seven match Grand Slam win streak on the line (second to Laver's twenty-nine)
  • Nadal currently holds a 5-1 edge over Federer
  • Nadal is on the longest clay-court win streak ever with fifty-nine straight wins
  • Nadal is perfect at Roland Garros (13-0 in his two years)
  • Sunday would be Nadal's 100th clay-court victory as a professional
Seriously, I am so geeked about this match.

If you'd like to know a little more before watching...check these resources. I did.

June 10, 2006


Somehow along the timeline, Karlen and I seem to have adopted a personal charity. This spring she ran the Flying Pig Marathon for Team in Training for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She's also in charge of her school's Pasta for Pennies campaign. And I've mentioned my co-chairship of Princeton's phenomenal Pasta for Pennies campaign before, and I think this fall will be my first honest run at their Light the Night walk.

It's sort of become our charity. It wasn't anything particularly intentional, and we haven't - thankfully - been personally touched by leukemia or anything, but it just sort of happened.

Today's post isn't about our choices, but I thought a little background was in order.

Today's post, rather, is about the film A Lion in the House. It's a documentary following five Cincinnati-area families whose children have been diagnosed with blood cancers (leukemia, lymphoma, and other blood cancers). The film follows them through six years of their journeys, documenting every up and down moment from the most hopeful to the most heart-wrenching.

On Wednesday night, Karlen and I (along with Becky - my PHS co-coordinator) were invited to see a seventy-five-minute version of the documentary down at the Aronoff Center. Wisely, the LLS put boxes of Kleenex in every row, because it is a hard watch. At the same time, it's an incredibly hopeful watch, too, and one that makes me want to work even harder toward the LLS's mission of curing, educating, and helping.

The full documentary will be shown on PBS on June 21st and 22nd (in two two-hour parts - check local listings for times). I would highly recommend it to anybody.

I'm also going to recommend the website MyLion.org as a way for people - particularly young people - to become more involved after seeing the documentary. It's a website set up by people associated with the filmmakers of the film. The site just went online today and is still getting some bugs worked out. Hopefully our Pasta for Pennies committee will be helping them test the site and get it fully operational.

If you would like to know more about A Lion in the House, please leave a comment and I'll email you back or check out any of the following websites:

June 9, 2006

X-Men: Their Last Stand with my money

It's a simple premise. Kill off some of the most important characters, don't develop any characters, throw in a couple of red herrings of development that you don't then develop, and add a whole lot of special effects to replace any real plotline.

There ya go, a second sequel in a money-making line.

So, if you couldn't tell already, I didn't much care for X-Men: The Last Stand. Two of the major characters from the previous movies are killed off in the first twenty minutes and another couple bite it at the end. Of course, we see that two of the four are kinda back (or at least you will if you hang out 'til after the credits roll). Even the developments are hedged.

The fight scenes (which seems to take up about two-thirds or more of the movie) are decently well done with the special effects clearly making up the lion's share of the budget. Storm leads but doesn't really do much other than show some pretty cardboard resolve in the face of about thirty whole seconds of the cast in dispair. Wolverine broods and refuses to change his clothes. Rogue also broods then mostly disappears.

The first X-Men movie was crap...the second was pretty good...this is, sadly, more of the first...stear clear...

June 8, 2006

So many comics...so much fluff...

It's summer, so I'm reading comic books...and 'round noon I'll be watching the new X-Men movie...review to follow tomorrow...

I made a run on the X-Men TPB at the local library branch, grabbing a dozen or so trades. The first one on the top of the stack is Uncanny X-Men - The New Age: On Ice. The art style from Alan Davis is one that bugs me. He did some work for Justice League Europe back in the 90's, and it drove me nuts back then. Don't know exactly what it is about his style that drives me so nuts, but I just can't stand it.

The story's not too bad, though except for the absolutely attrocious pseudoscience (I know I shouldn't complain when a movie or comic book has bad science, but this one presented itself as being kinda scientific). X-Men end up kidnapped to the Savage Land (again) by a race of mutant dinos who have super powers. It's nothing great, but it's a decent little lark. The more interesting story here is the rebirth of Psylocke. There are hints that something bigger is coming with her story, and I don't follow the dozen X-titles regularly enough to know what's coming there. Overall judgement - interesting, quick read...far from essential.

Next up is the Black Panther/X-Men crossover Wild Kingdom. This collects four issues and contains an entire storyline which is always a bonus in any of these trades. There's a definite starts, middle, and end. And it's a pretty good tale with a credible villian (who I hadn't seen before), talking (arguing, joking) monkeys, and a decent selection of X-Men to follow along. This one's better than the Uncanny title.

I think I've finally figured out which series of the X-Men I actually enjoy. It's Astonishing X-Men by Wheedon and Cassaday - the second trade of their run Dangerous is another gorgeous run that mines some territory that's been mined before. Hopefully they'll keep Wheedon and Cassaday around for a while longer so I can get a couple more trades before they disappear.

Breaking form the X-Men saw me taking a quick run through Space Ghost by Kelly & Olivetti. It certainly wasn't what I expected from what's turned out to be a jokey character. This series wasn't played for laughs, though, which is a welcome improvement. We get a pretty dark backstory on the titular Ghost, and he's got some very dark motivation. The artwork's nicely pulpy, and the journey of the character from hero to martyr to vengeful angel to hero again makes for a decent little journey. I doubt there's much of a future here, but it's a good six-issue run that touches on all the key points of the character (introducing the necessary supporting characters) but giving the whole of the story a totally different feel from the comedic Space Ghost: Coast to Coast that most of us know him from. Good stuff and probably the best that I read through this review cycle.

Another non-Marvel story was the dual Wonder Woman trades of Gods and Mortals along with Beauty and the Beasts. These are the first and third volumes in George Perez's semi-legendary run restarting Wonder Woman after Crisis on Infinite Earths. Perez started the whole idea afresh, introducing Wonder Woman to the world for the first time. She doesn't know English, doesn't understand the chaos of the modern world, and she's a near-perfect woman that everyone either idolizes or envies. Perez's greatest step was the tight tie to Diana's Greek god(ess) heritage. The gods are the major movers and shakers in these stories as their machinations are the driving forces here.

This was a revolutionary change and one that's been improved upon only by Greg Rucka's run on the series. Perez's run is outstanding, and I'll be hunting down the other two collected volumes, but I'll admit that his art style (he both wrote and drew these issues) isn't quite for me. It's a little too clean at times, too classical, and I don't care for the sometimes cluttered with crosshatching and pencil shading on what could be shown more simply. He's a classic, but he's not quite my tastes as an artist. As a writer, he has almost no peer from the mainstream superhero runs. For anyone who wants to know the history of the Wonder Woman character, this run is an absolute must.

Spider-Man: Wild Blue Yonder sees Webhead as part of the Avengers initially having to deal with a bit of a rivalry with Wolverine who doesn't understand how a geek got the girl. It's a bit of a red herring as a cover subject, but the rest of the story does turn out to be pretty entertaining. There's not one storyline that maintains the entire time, so it's not a perfectly unified trade, but the two main stories are pretty entertaining - a Superman-esque farmboy from Kansas shows up in the newsroom and is assigned to Peter to show the ropes and Absorbing Man gets mixed up with a crime kingpin and gets a little hacked off at the Avengers. We also get three or four flashbacks in different art styles making this a trade worth flipping through. Fun stuff, good story, decent art.

The last of the X-stuff that I grabbed was the first three volumes of New X-Men: Academy X - Choosing Sides, Haunted, X-Posed, and House of M. I'm a little surprised that I enjoyed this series. It's written to a younger audience than most of the X-books with the main characters being teens just finding their way in the X-world. It's a fun run and one I can recommend for any Marvelites out there.

Finally was the second reboot of the Legion of Super-Heroes first two collected volumes Teenage Revoluion and Death of a Dream. The old idea of the LSH being a grouping of teens who have tapped into the heroic ideals of the heroes of the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries has always been a great one, and they managed to hold together in spite of so many characters with so many different powers and back stories. This rebooting of the series is outstanding. There's a major villian and thread to hold the storyline together, and the motivations of the main characters are nicely revealed a bit at a time.

I'm amazed and surprised at how good this series is. It's one that should be followed tightly, particlarly since they've recently introduced Supergirl into the timeline post Infinite Crisis.

Wow...lots of fluff crap into my brain today. Good to know summer isn't hitting me too hard...

June 7, 2006

Possible Score Indicator 97

It's a simple concept. You go to Criticker.com and you rate some movies (minimum of ten, I'm up to just over 400) on a scale of 0-100, and then your rankings are compared to other peoples' rankings creating a possible score indicator (PSI) for lots of movies you haven't seen yet.

So far, surprisingly, it's been pretty accurate as to what I would likely like and what I'd not like so much.

As an added bonus, it can occasionally lead you to freaky films like this one.

June 6, 2006

Sending you transbuddha's way...

I've mentioned them before, but the videos over at Transbuddha.com are great stuff. Today's gems are about extreme skipping, a beer can cannon, a revamped video of "It's the End of the World", and a great fusion Pachabel's Canon in D.

You really should be checking them our pretty much every day.

Gonna have a hot time tonight...

Ah well, the day of the beast is supposedly upon us...

Happy 6/6/06, everybody...

Try to celebrate in your own little way today. Perhaps you could go to Michigan. Maybe you could go see a movie. There's always the option of buying a new video game. You could vote in a poll to see if the end truly is nigh. There's always the option of reading a magazine. You can look for other signs. Ya might want to get a little light reading in before the apocalypse. Or you could just debate the philosophy.

Of course, we could still have another six or so years.

So, you know, take all of this with a grain of salt.

I'm not sure I understand what just happened...

Have you seen Momento?

If so, do you remember how confusing that film was throughout much of its run and how you probably watched it a couple of times (if you had it on video or DVD) before you could really figure out what was happenning?

Well, the same kind of feeling comes from the movie Primer, but I'm only one viewing in at this point.

I think I know what happened, but I'm not entirely sure I could explain each twist and turn to you.

The basic set-up is that four engineers are working on a project in one of their garages after work hours. It's nothing special - making and selling circuit boards or something. Two of the guys have a separate project in the same garage, however, that just might be the biggest invention/discovery that mankind has ever worked out. It allows them to alter the past and the future with all but absolute knowledge.

And if they could only trust the other to not use it alone, they'd be okay...which is, of course, where the idyllic plotline goes haywire.

It's a quick film - seventy-seven minutes according to the DVD back (with supposedly only eighty minutes of film actually shot for the movie - so you won't be investing too much even if it doesn't strike your fancy, and I'll warn you that the initial parts of the movie are a little hard to follow because of the filmmaker's style of recording the main characters, but don't sweat that. The opening stuff is just the character intro, and once the plot gets moving along in earnest, things are a little easier to follow.

The science is atrocious and glossed over, but that's cool because the movie is really about the extremes to which two friends would go to make sure that their world is as perfect as they want it to be. Not necessarily as perfect as the two want it to be, but each making decisions to make sure the world is their own, personal version of perfection.

And it takes some following to get what's being done through each cross and double cross, but Primer is well worth trying to figure it all out.

June 5, 2006

Perhaps this is better...

Perhaps a nice little link to an extreme version of Mentos in Diet Coke will be a little more appropriate for me to link to rather than the EatPES website to which I had linked earlier today.

Not that Mentos and Diet Coke is anything less than fun, you understand...

June 3, 2006

Extreme houses...

As a dweller in the land of suburbia, I get to enjoy seeing the new developments popping up with bigger and bigger houses on smaller and smaller plots of land, complete with three-car garages, two-story foyers with giant chandeliers, and automatic sprinkler systems to grow back the sod that was peeled off in the first place. A term for these sorts of houses has come into being: McMansions, and there is a growing backlash against them.

Which is where the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company comes into the story.

Karlen found their site thanks to an NPR story about the houses being used as homes in the Katrina-devistated areas of the Gulf Coast.

The houses are from a designer who lives in one of his houses, all of which are between 100 and 500 square feet and - according to the company's website - can meet the fulltime living needs of anyone interested in providing a smaller environmental footprint. Or, as suggested, they could be artists studios, weekend retreats in the country or just about anything else that people could want from a smaller residence.

Karlen's talked a number of times about getting a retreat in the country with a little trailer on the land, something simple. In my mind, these would be much better than any trailer.

Honestly, I'm amazingly impressed and kind of tempted by the houses. It's probably an extreme that I won't be pursuing, but the mere presence of people working at these extremems remind the rest of us that we need to keep our footprint as small as we can manage.

June 2, 2006

Let's get a little graphic, folks...

As the school year draws toward a close, I've been reading a little more here and there. I'm not yet ready to review Stephen King's Insomnia as I'm only about 2/3 through that one - maybe the end of next week will see that. But I am ready to take a quick run through some of the Marvel comics that I picked up this past week. They're going back to the Sharonville branch this afternoon, so if you're interested, they'll be there for you...

I've never been a huge Hulk fan, and Prelude to Planet Hulk isn't going to draw me into the fold. So many writers have had so many different takes on the Hulk, trying to find some interesting take on the Jeckel & Hyde/Ego & Id combination that is the big green guy and weakling Banner. For a few issues, Hulk is mindless, rampaging across the world. Then, without warning, Hulk has some of Banner's intelect, and then the Hulk's a calm, reasonable killing machine who happens to enjoy smashing things a bit.

This run is nothing more than a brief scene in front of the traveler while the Hulk writers get set for the supposedly big event Planet Hulk - a Hulk as Gladiator/Spartacus story (you know, slave becomes gladiator becomes leader, blech). There isn't anything particularly revelatory or exciting happening in these issues, but it gets the Hulk from Alaska - where Banner has holed up to avoid the world - to Planet Hulk, wherever that is. Every story needs a set up, and this is it.

Skip this trade and just assume that the Hulk somehow got to his next stop. This isn't exactly a great road movie. Bing, Bob, where have you gone?

Then there was the Amazing Spider-Man: New Avengers. Don't know that I'm sold on the concept of Spider-Man being a member of a super team. It's an interesting idea - bringing a loner hero who's always been a bit of an outcast with the press into the fold of the greatest super hero team in the Marvel universe. it certainly cements the growing relationship between Peter and Tony Stark that is being painted as a major plot point in the Civil War storyline of this summer, but it seems to sap a little bit of the uniqueness of web head for me.

This trade isn't a bad one. It shows Peter and his crew joining Avengers' Tower when their house burns down, and the big guy gets to fight and defeat a repowered Hydra organization. Nothing awful, but nothing great either. One thing I've never understood is that there are a bunch of different Spider-Man titled (Amazing, Spectacular, Spider-Man, Uncanny) - admittedly I don't know which are being published still - but I don't know the differences. I've read a few things here and there that suggest that each has a different mission - to show the people side of the story, to show slightly more supernatural storylines, whatever. As an infrequent reader who pops in and out via trades, I don't get the commonr threads, but this and the other threads I've grasped kind of make me curious for the Civil War trades that I assume will eventually come out.

Oh, and in researching these reviews, I ran across a blog that looks pretty fun. It's called NoSheep.net and is one that's at least going to get a brief stop into the rotation. Might earn a permanent place, might not.

More reviews to come - another Spider-Man, new LSH, Wonder Woman. But it's off to start the last day of school. The students (for the most part) left yesterday, but I've paperwork to finish up.

Enjoy the day, everybody. Hope you got to sleep in...