March 31, 2011

Translated Baby Conversation

I wouldn't have guessed the topic, but it's one well worth discussing.


Five by five: The Fighter

My favorite Mark Wahlburg movies
  1. Three Kings
  2. Boogie Nights
  3. The Italian Job
  4. The Departed
  5. The FighterHonorable mention: Saturday Night Live ("Say hello to ya mother.")
My favorite Christian Bale movies
  1. The Dark Knight
  2. Batman Begins
  3. The Prestige
  4. 3:10 to Yuma
  5. American Psycho 
My favorite Amy Adams movies
  1. Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
  2. Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
  3. Charlie Wilson's War
  4. The Fighter
  5. Catch Me if You Can 
My favorite boxing movies
  1. Raging Bull
  2. Rocky III
  3. When We Were Kings
  4. Rocky
  5. The Fighter 
My favorite Boston movies
  1. Blown Away (not so good, but I love it)
  2. Gone, Baby, Gone
  3. Good Will Hunting
  4. Mystic River
  5. The Town
In honor of that last part...

They'll never know...

I'm sure this list could be created every few years about the next group of folks...

Here's my list of things that new folks will never know and that somehow seems sad to me.

They'll never know...
  • ...that stamps had to be licked.
  • ...artists used to fret over the order of songs on their album.
  • to tell time on an analog clock.
  • ...the joys of being out of touch with the world.
  • ...what a dial tone sounds like.
  • to call up a library and ask a question.
  • ...why a library catalog used to be a card catalog.
  • ...the joys of traveling to Canada to buy a special release cd for Sarah McLachlan because it's not released in the US.
So, what else should be added to this list?

    March 30, 2011

    Senate Bill 5...bad for education...bad for Ohio

    Sorry, didn't know that the videos were auto-play.

    I'm putting them behind the jump, but the post is still here.

    Update: What a bunch of winners

    Hey, I know that guy.

    The media...the media...the media

    Winter's Bone - This is a rare film, one that drops us into a world entirely unknown and un-understood to most of us, uses an impressive economy of words, and communicates the reality of that world in absolute clarity.

    We find ourselves drastically out of our depth of understanding in the backwater world of methamphetamine cookers in the rural Ozark mountains. The lead character - portrayed masterfully by Jennifer Lawrence - finds herself caring for two younger siblings and a catatonic mother with her father in the wind after an arrest for cooking meth. She finds that the family home and timber land will be forgeit if her father doesn't show for his trial.

    The plot begins as a simple enough search by Ree, Lawrence's character, for her father gone missing. In the course of her search, we see the world of the Ozark meth trade - full of distrust, family, trickle-thin blood relations, unspoken threats, and absolute brutality when necessary. Ree had been backed into a corner by poverty, her mother's helplessness, and her father's abandonment, and she finds herself taking the absolute last chances possible, risking her own life to protect her ability to save her siblings.

    The film puts us in Ree's place with an almost wordless simplicity, letting us see the abject poverty in which Ree and her community members live and the rarely spoken rules - don't speak to the sheriff, keep your knowledge to yourself, back off when told - by which they survive.  Every actor - two of whom are Deadwood alums - is note perfect, and many were apparently found as the film was shot on location.

    I worried, initially, that I was in for a hopeless ride, and while there certainly were moments of desperation, the film actually is surprisingly hopeful as Ree's determination drives the action. If Jennifer Lawrence - a Louisville native, by the by - is really this good, we're seeing a star being sparked.

    Despicable Me - "Allergy pills in farmer's overalls..."

    I remember an NPR interview with Steve Carell just around the release of Despicable Me in which the interviewer referred to the 'minions' shown in the poster.

    The storyline of Despicable Me is simple enough - evil villain is past his prime, new rival is showing him up, villain adopts three moppets as part of evil plan, love ensues. There's really nothing much there of note, but the performances by the entire voice cast here turns what could be a very pedestrian movie into a total winner.

    The minions are brilliantly written, animated, and voiced, as are all of the characters really. The plot is almost a red herring to the movie's real exploration of family both real - Vector and his banker father - and improvised - Gru and the moppets, Gru and the minions, Gru and Dr Nefario.

    The film is a lot of fun and a nicely heartwarming tale that never wanders into saccharine territory.

    Let Me In - I have to admit that I haven't seen the Swedish film on which this movie is based. Most everybody I speak to who has seen this and that say the original Swedish is the better film, and if so, it must be a hell of a film, because this one is impressive.

    By the most basic genre definition, Let Me In is a vampire movie, but it's a whole lot more than that. It's a film about alienation and connection, and as such it's a masterful exploration of what it's like to be alone as a child.

    Owen, our main character, a twelve-year-old boy, is friendless and is being bullied at school. He spends most of his time alone - isolated from his classmates, his parents, his world. Into that world comes Abby, a young girl who doesn't seem to need shoes in the Albuquerque snow and who doesn't seem to have much interest in attending school or eating the Now 'n' Laters that Owen offers her.

    It quickly becomes obvious just what's up with Abby (I won't tell here, but it wouldn't be much of a spoiler as you watch the film - or probably as you read my review so far) but the movie isn't about what Abby is but rather about the bond between the friendless Owen and his new neighbor, Abby. What comes as the film develops isn't puppy love or a childish crush, but it's far, far more than just friendship. As Abby and Owen's friendship/relationship grows, they find in each other someone on whom they can depend as they reveal the full nature of who they each are.

    The film is a truly masterful exploration of the loneliness of childhood - the loneliness that many people feel throughout their lives - and what steps we will take once we find someone with whom we can truly connect. Along the way the filmmakers present us with all the trapping of a classic horror film but with a drastically impressive tale of friendship and love on top of it.

    The Fighter - There are a few really great boxing movies out there: Rocky and Raging Bull being my choices for the best.

    The are also a number of good boxing movies out there: Rocky III, Million Dollar Baby, Diggstown, The Hurricane, Ali.

    Now there's one more 'good' boxing movie out there: The Fighter.

    The story is, honestly, pretty pedestrian: down on his luck fighter falls a little more because of poor training/management/focus...cuts ties, gets a new girlfriend, gets some success...has to deal with the fallout when management/trainer/etc want back in.

    Yeah, the boxing scenes are very well filmed. The director brought in the HBO fight film crew in to shoot all the boxing scenes. The performances by Amy Adams, Melissa Leo, and all the two leads' sisters are well captured, probably the most impressive female performances in any boxing movie that I can remember.

    Walhburg's performance isn't all that special. He effectively plays Mark Wahlburg here but an admittedly really ripped Mark Wahlburg.

    The real heavy lifting here comes from Christian Bale as Dicky Ware, Wahlburg's screw-up brother, a big deal in their hometown of Lowell, MA. Bale makes his typical transformation into the character, letting Dicky inhabit him enough that - according to the dvd extras, anyway - family members got Dicky and Bale mixed up from a distance.

    I don't see how this was nominated for best picture, but Bale's performance is worth a watching.

    Give it a try.

    Sigh No More by Mumford & Sons - I have to apologize to GRob and others who recommended that I check out Mumford & Sons. I didn't listen to your advice and clearly should have.

    I was shocked just now to read in the wildly negative Pitchfork review that the band is a quartet of West Londoners.  I would have absolutely sworn that the band had hailed from North Carolina, long steeped in the twang of the Avett Brothers but filtering that music through the spirit of Vampire Weekend.

    Loving the album...loving it...thanks to my student aide for giving me a copy to listen to.

    There have been an awful lot of absolute atrocious comics to come across my library account of late - Hawkman: Endless Flight, Astonishing X-Men: Exogenetic, Superman: Last Stand of New Krypton (vol 1 & 2), and so many more. I'm not going to waste your time or mine on the awful ones. I'll only be mentioning the

    Batman: Dead to Rights -There is always going to be a question as to whether we need another first Batman & Joker story. In general we don't because it's a tale that's been absolutely done to death.

    Luckily, this collection has a nice hook to it as it opens with Batman dragging the Joker into the police station. From there The Joker causes mayhem with the police officers booking and transporting him, the judge trying him (is that the right verb for a judge adjudicating a trial?), and the psychologist evaluating him, eventually pushing one of the officers over the edge into blaming and trying to kill Batman for bringing this destructive force of nature into the officer's life.

    It's, admittedly, a foolish premise, but it's one that works and that paints the joker as an agent of chaos but one who is more jovial than the understandably compared-to Heath Ledger interpretation of the character. This is a fun volume.

    My guess is that it's nothing that'll change the history of Batman or the Joker, but it's a fun story. I am kind of curious as to how busy Batman's first year was considering this is the umpeenth 'first encounter' story between Batman and the Joker.

    DMZ: Hearts and Minds - Brian Wood's DMZ seems to alternate between ratcheting up the tension for a volume or two and just calmly telling the tales of everyday survivors trying to make their lives a little more tolerable in the NYC DMZ.

    This volume contains each of those two feelings, and in the end, they're telling the same tale. The first tale shows the men of the Empire State Building, an almost entirely self-contained cult of former security guards/officers from the pre-DMZ days. We follow one of the men as he is inch by inch turned into a suicide bomber, as his titular heart and mind is manipulated with classic pushes and pulls of his superior. We don't know just where the tale is going until the very end, and even then the ending isn't revealed until the last possible panel. It's an impressively effective story that shows how rich a world Wood has created, rich enough that he can spend a few issues without ever showing where our protagonist, Matty Roth, even once.

    When, in the second tale, we return to Roth's tale and find him still deep in the loving arms of the new Delgado administration. He is the spokesman and not-so-reluctant leader of secret killing squads for the Delgado administration, something that Roth would never have dreamed of a few volumes ago, something that happened so slowly, in such tiny incremental steps that the readers are left wondering whether Roth has any idea how he got to this position.

    Throughout the course of Roth's Hearts and Minds tale, the tension throughout the DMZ get ratcheted up and up as the Delgado administration reveals to the world that they are in control of a fully-armed nuclear device and will set it off if either side - the Free States or the United States - steps into the DMZ in an action of hostility. This raises the stakes and seems certain to draw one of th sides into the DMZ, leaving the Delgado administration either in the position of martyr or trap-setter.

    As this volume ends, we still aren't sure which Delgado is, but we do know that Matty Roth's predicament looks so very much like that of the former officer-turned suicide bomber that we can be nothing but impressed with Wood's masterful storytelling.

    DMZ's an automatic read, and this volume does nothing to change that.

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season Eight - vol 1 thru 6 -Why the heck would I pick up Buffy the Vampire Slayer comic books?

    Shut up, I dug the television series and was admittedly a little sad when it flipped from the WB (which I got on my tv at the time) to UPN (which I didn't). Because of the network change, I didn't - and largely don't - have any real ideas as to what the heck happened in the last two seasons of the television show.

    All this made my first few issues of Buffy season eight (a comic-book continuation of the television series that ended after seven seasons) a little disjointed. All the sudden Xander had an eye patch, Buffy was leading a world-wide army of slayers, Giles was nowhere to be found, the Watchers had been decimated, and Dawn turned into a giant. This isn't a series that gives you a nice tidy recap even though it's been five years since the last episode of season seven was broadcast.

    These issues are written the same way that a single television series of Buffy would have been even though they're expanded to forty issues (with season nine in the planning stages and set to begin in a few months). We get a large-format story arc in which a Big Bad (whose identity has yet to be revealed in the volumes that I've been able to procure but who is easily revealed on Wikipedia, of course) has a plot to destroy Buffy and her army of slayers. In the course of the season, most every character from the show appears in one form or another, even bringing back Oz who had left the show early in the series's run.

    Because of the extended format of the comics rather than the twenty-or-so television episodes in a season, the writers (mostly Joss Whedon with some help) have a chance to explore the relationships among the reconstituted Scoobies and to include a number of world-spanning stories that would have been cost prohibitive on a television series. Whedon seems to be having a lot of fun being able to throw in thousands of Slayers and to bring in giants, Hindu gods, time travel, flight scenes for Willow and Buffy, flying submarines, and the kitchen sink, too.

    This is a fun read, and Whedon is doing the original series's legacy proud.

    White People by Handsome Boy Modeling School - So...How's Your Girl was an entertaining lark by Handsome Boy Modeling School (Dan the Automator and Prince Paul's light-hearted collaboration), and like so many second albums the ability to recapture the energy and fun of the first seems to have escaped the performers.

    Where So... was fun and entertaining, using clips from The Chris Elliott Show as both their inspiration and their bumpers between songs. Here they replace that with skits recorded specifically for this album by Tim Meadows in the vein of The Ladies' Man, and they aren't funny.

    The musical tracks see Paul & Dan bringing in more guests, more people to fill out the tracks in a manner reminiscent of The Beatles bringing in Billy Paul so that everyone would be on their best behavior. Luckily - as they did with Billy Paul - things kind of worked with the guests. The RZA in particular adds a nice sense of levity to the proceedings here.

    It's not a great album, and it's far lesser than So...

    Seems we were lucky that Paul and Dan went their separate ways after this one.

    March 29, 2011

    Five by five: sports venues

    My favorite high school basketball venues
    1. New Albany High School, IN
    2. Southport High School, IN
    3. Seymour High School, IN
    4. New Castle High School, IN
    5. Harrison High School, OH
      Honorable mentions: Anderson HS, IN...
    My favorite college basketball venues
    1. Assembly Hall, Indiana University
    2. Chadwick Court, Wabash College (haven't been to new Chadwick)
    3. Nutter Center, Wright St University
    4. UD Arena, University of Dayton
    5. Cintas Center, Xavier University
      Honorable mention: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke - I've been inside the place but not ever during a game...same with Hinkle Field House, Butler
    My favorite MLB baseball stadia
    1. PNC Park, Pittsburgh
    2. Wrigley Field, Chicago
    3. Camden Park, Baltimore
    4. Miller Park, Milwaukee
    5. Citizen's Bank Park, Philadelphia
      Minor league honorable mention:
      Fifth Third Field, Dayton...Durham Bulls Athletic Park, Durham, NC...Victory Field, Indianapolis, IN
    Tennis tourneys I most want to see in person
    1. Roland Garros, Paris, France
    2. US Open, Flushing Meadows, NYC
    3. Wimbledon, London, England
    4. Australian Open, Sydney, Australia
    5. Hall of Fame Tennis Championships, Newport, RI, USA
    Baseball stadia I most want to visit
    1. Fenway Park, Boston
    2. AT&T Park, San Francisco
    3. Petco Park, San Diego
    4. Minute Maid Park, Houston
    5. Safeco Field, Seattle
      Honorable Mention: hypothetical Ray's Ballpark, Tampa...

    March 27, 2011

    Another tsunami video...

    There aren't words...


    March 26, 2011

    Wearing my Bellarmine Hat

    Congrats to Bellarmine on winning the D2 men's basketball national title.

    It was an outstanding first thirty minutes and a sloppy last ten, but it's awesome to see a local team from across the river from my hometown, where CoachSullivan works, and that's lead by a player from my hometown high school come out victorious.

    Happy Spring Break!

    We're expecting two inches of snow tonight. If that doesn't scream Spring Break!!!!!, I don't know what would.

    Watch the full episode. See more American Experience.

    Kind of an odd name to pick

    I teach some folks related to that name at 0:16.

    March 25, 2011

    Indian music...sort of...

    With apologies to Fritz Scholder, today's playlist is Indian, Not Indian

    March 24, 2011

    Pardon our ramblings: New Jack City (take III)

    We roll onward with more about New Jack City...

    Feel free to roll through the movie with us, but know that the clips are all . You have been warned.

    If you're following along at home, we're 45:40 into the film or right at the start of the above clip.

    Time has no meaning in this film. Pookie has been working in The Carter for like one scene, but now rich, upper class black guy (the computer expert and horrible actor) says..."You know, I told G-Money how good you been working out, right? And I told him how many customers you bringin' in. And you're just a lookout. ... We gonna get you a better position."

    Apparently Pookie has been working there for a while even though the movie doesn't do anything else to suggest this is the case.


    Ice T and Asian cop both start screaming "yes, inside!" when Pookie gets taken to see G-Money (apparently the name of Velour suit). I guess this isn't police work but rather a college basketball game.


    Mario Van Peebles is carrying his baby in a front papoose walking the beach between cigarette dangling (not smoking, of course, just dangling) Judd Nelson white cop; African medallion, African fabric hatted, dreadlocked Ice T uber-black cop; and Pookie saying that he doesn't know if Pookie is ready for this.

    Damn if this man isn't subtle.


    Wait, Ice T just revealed that a little junkie like Pookie killed his mother back in 1974. Mother wasn't in the game, just came up and shot her for no reason.

    Remember that for about an hour from now when Nino tells a story about his first kill as a gang member.


    Pookie's back on the pipe.

    He's beaming up to Scotty.

    It took all of one scene for him to slide all the way back.

    Seriously, if this were a season-long show, this would've worked because we would've gotten a couple of episodes with Pookie looking tempted then trying to resist and then finally giving in. Instead, we get "you owe a lot of people...don't screw it up" followed immediately by Pookie screwing it up.


    He's screwing it up wordlessly...with a massive, exaggerated look of anguish on his face and a wailing, electric guitar in the background.

    If Dave Chapelle taught us anything, it's that white people love electric guitar. Why does Pookie have an electric guitar playing behind him?


    White cop just called Ice T "Superfly"...that's not racist.


    When asked if Pookie's odd actions (viewed through a James Bondian belt buckle tv camera) were a cry for help, White cop said "no, it's a black thing."

    Ok, that might have been racist.


    At least White cop isn't a stereotype or anything.


    Pookie is about to blow it by revealing the belt buckle camera. Half an hour ago (in movie-watching time) he was coked out. Fifteen minutes ago he was rehabbed and got into the Carter. Now the undercover work is about to end.

    Give this a full season done up right like The Wire because compressing it this much doesn't make a lick of sense.


    Wait, did G-Money really just say "What, you Five-Oh?"


    The CMB is prepared. They have dozens of gas cans all around to burn the computers right up. I am impressed with their organization.


    The cops come in guns a blazin, M16s firing, black hoods pulled over their faces, plastique blowing up the doors.

    Where do they get all their fabulous toys?


    The computers which were just doused in gasoline and set on fire now seem to be totally unburned. Luckily the CMB ejected all the disks with the data on them so White cop couldn't find them.

    Apparently the CMB were prepared but their gasoline didn't actually burn anything. That's just bad luck there.


    White cop knows how to defuse bombs - like the one strapped to Pookie's chest. Lucky that, eh?

    Not that it matters because Pookie's dead.


    And Nino is in bed with the girl who would never come between him and G-Money.

    She seems nice.


    Whoever gave Wesley Snipes the chain is a genius. He uses it as a dog leash then as a jump rope then as a garrote. I'm not actually joking about this; Wesley Snipe is really acting here, using the prop to his character's full advantage.

    This may be the best scene in the movie.

    And the line "Sit you five-dollar a$$ down before I make change." is outstanding.


    Nino just stabbed upper class computer black guy in the hand with a sword from his cane, nailing the hand to the table. I've wondered before just how easy it would be to stab somebody through the hand because you see it in movies all the time, and it doesn't seem to take much effort.

    How likely would you be to hit bones and screw up the drama of the move?


    All of the flashy colors are gone from the wardrobes around the table now. Black tops, black slacks, black shoes. Apparently something went wrong.


    Wesley Snipe at 3:07 in the above clip nails the dismissal "leave me" of the emperor who is bored with the proceedings and wants to be left alone. I don't know why he would be bored at this point, but I love the line delivery none the less.


    G-Money has cracked. He's being filmed through a fish tank with the huge amounts of bubbles obscuring his face. He's delivering a soliloquy to a crack pipe. He's like some sort of demented MacBeth at this point.

    I know when actors have to fake drinking beer they use apple juice. When they have to fake smoking tobacco they use cloves. When they have to fake smoking marijuana they use (I assume tobacco).

    How do they fake freebasing crack?


    We've come full circle at Pookie's funeral. The minister is reading the lines from 1st Corinthians that were painted on the wall in the first scene (neither fornicators nor idolaters...shall inherit the Kingdom of God). That's beautiful symmetry...

    ...if this were the end of the movie. It's not. It's like fifty-eight minutes into a two-hour movie.

    This should be the end of the first season.


    Why does one of the gravediggers have a metal hook for a hand? Is that a joke?


    Why does Mario Van Peebles's character have his tie untied at Pookie's funeral? Nobody else is going casual.

    What decision did Van Peebles the director make to tell Van Peebles the actor that this was a good choice?


    Van Peebles says that he gambled on Ice T, and Ice T gambled on a crack head. Ice T starts to punch Van Peebles, but Judd Nelson stops him and says "that's enough, man".

    What bonding crap have we missed to make this reasonable? Judd Nelson's character hates Ice T's. Judd Nelson's white cop has done nothing but mock the choice of Pookie the whole time.

    Why the sudden flip?


    "Scottie, let it go, man. Operation's's over."

    For some reason, I'm actually thinking that it might not be over.


    Oh, wait. Ice T just came back with "it ain't over."


    Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?


    Oh, here's the bonding moment that apparently happened before hand. White cop and black cop are drinking together on a roof. Apparently Van Peebles is doing a Pulp Fiction and showing us scenes out of order.


    White cop delivers soliloquy #2...

    "This whole drug s***'s not a black thing and it's not a white thing. It's a death thing. Death doesn't give a s*** about color. [...] We're in this together now, partner."

    Black cop retorts...

    "You know, a drug dealer is the worst kind of brother, man. He won't sell it to his sister. He won't sell it to his mother, but he'll sell it to one of his boys on the street."

    I wonder how Van Peebles feels about drugs.


    I love the "jump a guy in the alley but only show the confrontation in shadows against a wall" technique. That's not used enough. (7:15 in the above clip)

    Where the heck is the light that bright shining into any alley to do that?


    Smooth, young Italian (who lost his ponytail earlier, who brought a lawn jockey with a noose to Nino) introduces G-Money to White cop and Black cop as drug dealers. Black cop has on a black, fur fedora and a leather duster that is resting on his shoulders, his arms not in the sleeves.

    And G-Money trusts Italian guy because of why again?

    Oh, and White cop doesn't say anything because he's "the main man".


    I love that it takes all of thirty seconds for Ice T to go undercover successfully.


    We're now in season two of the correctly paced television show New Jack City.

    And the Italian smoothy called somebody and said "Nino is about it ich."

    See, that's a reference to something that his Italian mobster leader said earlier.

    You have to be paying attention to this movie, I tell ya.


    The CMB are now paying a tense game of one-on-one wearing slacks, dress shoes, and no shirts.

    How times have changed.


    Van Peebles wisely chooses the subtle path in letting his message slip gently into the film again.

    At 0:45 the camera pulls back to show this...

    I wonder how Van Peebles feels about drugs.


    Upper class computer guy says he recognizes Ice T from somewhere. (remember the "well-dressed black man" who saw Ice T shoot Pookie and on whose face we flashed three separate times?)

    Subtlety, thy name is Van Peebles.


    G-Money is supposedly buying drugs 60% cheaper from Ice T.

    Um, where are the cops getting all the drugs to sell?


    Nino and Ice T are sharing a moment on the roof at night.

    No, not that kind of a moment. It's a bonding moment like White cop and Black cop had a few scenes ago.

    Nino is telling a story about his first time killing someone for a gang.

    I was wrong. You can stop thinking about Ice T's mother dying now.

    It was Nino who killed Ice T's mom.

    Isn't that a tragic coincidence?


    Wise old black man is back for his second appearance.

    He points out that Nino is an idol worshiper, an idolater.

    Where have we heard something about that before?


    This time the old man has a gun and draws it on Nino before Ice T takes the gun away to save Nino's life.

    Ice T is conflicted.


    Nino is hosting a wedding at a public the daytime.

    Bright, sunshiny daytime.

    At the same time, White cop is breaking into Nino's house to get something from his night.

    Dim, dark night.

    At the same time as the bright, sunshiny daytime.


    White cop can crack safes, too.

    Later in the movie, he's going to show us how to cook a three-minute egg in two minutes. He's just that good.


    The wedding is nearly over, but the entire CMB inner circle is still there...because apparently they're cleaning things up.

    Wait, the catering staff is all Italians.


    Oh, there are two little girls still there. They're needed to have to run back across the screen before the shooting begins.

    It worked in worked in Battleship'll work in New Jack City...


    Where did all the fifteen degree camera angles go? I kinda miss them.


    The Italians ?!?!?! are really bad shots.


    Ice T has his first moment of conflicted conscience - he has a clear shot at Nino while the shooting is going on and decides to pass.


    Suddenly Nino's girlfriend (not the one who came between the 'brothers', she's apparently mysteriously gone) says Nino is a murderer...that she's seen him kill too many people.

    Um, have you not been watching the same movie as the rest of us?


    The CMB are back in the muted primary colors again. Apparently things are going well again.


    3:34 - three Italians playing cards at a street-side trattoria that isn't under a bridge.

    Except in the next cut, it is.

    At 3:38 I think Judd Nelson might be one of the Italians.

    At 3:40 I think Paulie Walnuts might be one of the Italians.


    Driving a motorcyle in a hood with eyeholes that small must really cut down on your peripheral vision.

    Plus the guy doesn't have a helmet.


    Worst drive-by shooting death scene ever. Check the guy in the orange shirt at 3:47.


    The final drug buy, sting scene is here. Nino Brown is "Mr Untouchable" as we just heard, but it's taken about fourteen movie minutes for him to trust Ice T enough to buy drugs directly from him in a warehouse.

    That's about right.


    Oh, and the warehouse has an Asian cop leaning into the window with a camera and a big zoom lens.

    Nobody notices that even though we're about to see that the warehouse has dozens of CMB henchmen throughout the rafters and catwalks.

    Apparently Asians are invisible...must be magic.


    We flash on the upper class computer guy's face. He's remembering something.

    Wow, it's a most un-opportune moment for that.

    Apparently Washington (Ice T) is Five Oh, man.


    White cop drives his car through the warehouse door.

    The car breaks though about three feet above ground.

    Apparently the road outside is at the height of plot.


    Step one, White cop saves the briefcase full of money.


    And apparently White cop is wearing black face.

    'Cause he's not racist.

    Seriously, 6:50 in the above clip, you tell me Judd Nelson isn't wearing black face makeup.


    At 7:01 could they not afford to use the Wilhelm scream?


    Did you know that when a guy gets shot from above, he flies backwards - even if there aren't any signs of the bullets hitting him?

    Oh, and he flies into empty cardboard boxes which break his fall.


    Nino hangs upside down to surprise a cop and slit his throat. Luckily the cop and Nino wear exactly the same size uniform.

    Nino is now wearing his worst outfit of the movie.

    Instead of running, though, he lies in wait and kills Asian cop without Asian cop making a sound.


    8:59 would also have worked for the Wilhelm scream.


    Seriously...look at 9:04 and tell me whether you think White cop is wearing black face makeup for the raid.


    I can't take this anymore. I'll be back next week to wrap up the last fifteen or so minutes of New Jack City complete with the final fall of Nino Brown, the show of restraint from Ice T, Wise Old Black Man's third and final appearance, and Nino Brown's soliloquy.

    March 23, 2011

    The Silent Man

    How can this be true?

    Clarence Thomas has been on the Supreme Court since late 1991. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of Tomas's appointment to the court.

    At some point this year, Clarence Thomas may step up and ask a question during oral arguments. When he does, it'll be his first question...his first question in five years.

    C'mon, seriously?

    Five years and absolutely no questions asked at all...none...not one? And one question in the past thirteen years?

    The Supreme Court is absolutely the coolest part of our government. These are people appointed for life...forever...for always. They have no checks and balances in the least at all. These people are in control of enforcing that everything that we do in our country follows the Constitution. They are the defenders of our most sacred document.

    And this man doesn't think that he has anything to ask...anything...nothing at all?

    That's a joke.

    March 22, 2011

    Top five by five: comics edition

    My five favorite non-cape series
    1. Planetary
    2. Sandman
    3. Fables
    4. DMZ
    5. Ex-Machina
      Honorable mention: Starman (there aren't a lot of capes there)
    My five favorite Superman stories
    1. Secret Identity
    2. All-Star Superman
    3. Supreme: Story of the Year
    4. Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow
    5. Action Comics #776 
    My favorite Batman stories - as an aside, I am amazed that this list was hard for me to come up with. I would've sworn that coming up with five awesome Batman stories would've been far easier than five Superman stories, but that wasn't the case. And it's not because there were so many...nope, it was harder for me to come up with five great Batman stories.
    1. Dark Knight Returns
    2. Hush
    3. The Long Halloween
    4. JLA: Tower of Babel
    5. Year OneHonestly, you could throw #2-5 into a hat and pick 'em at random. They're all very good, but I would probably put every Superman story in before #2-5 on this list.

    My favorite Marvel trades
    1. Eternals
    2. Wolverine: Enemy of the State
    3. Astonishing X-Men: Unstoppable (or anything in the Whedon/Cassaday run)
    4. Ultimate Spider-Man & his Amazing Friends
    5. Old Man LoganHonorable mention: Hulk: The End
    My favorite stand-alone graphic novels not already mentioned
    1. Watchmen
    2. Pride of Baghdad
    3. Kingdom Come (though it's kind of been brought into continuity)
    4. Superman: Red Son
    5. Marvels

    March 21, 2011

    Rob Neyer's new home

    I'd mentioned before that Rob Neyer had found a new home at He's apparently their National Baseball Editor, whatever that title means.

    What we can see him doing is writing a column or so a day and posting a number of quick comments about baseball articles around the web.

    Here are some of the more interesting that I've noticed him post of late...
    I don't know that Neyer is doing anything with nearly the level of analysis that his Sweet Spot columns had, but it's a start to have him still writing.

    March 20, 2011

    Good news, Bat Fans!

    It has been revealed in Variety (and posted to me via TDW Geek) that Joseph Gordon-Levitt's role in the upcoming third Christopher Nolan Batman film will be...

    Alberto Falcone!

    If you don't know who that is, go out immediately and find yourself a copy of The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, and maybe Catwoman: When in Rome - all of which are excellent.

    Rest assured that this is better news than any of the other rumors we had heard about Gordon-Levitt's possible roles.

    Thirteen minutes of Lego

    I'm a little bit bothered by the fact that they have to cheat from time to time, but it's still pretty amazing to watch this Lego contraption. Wonder how many Lego soccer and basketballs the builders have in total.

    What to do...what to do?

    You know, just yesterday morning I was thinking "now that we've fixed Iraq and that we have this huge pile of money in our budget surplus, what can we do to start a new war and spend some of that money?"

    Problem solved...

    March 19, 2011

    Huge new moon tonight

    The voice is a little lilting and all, but the info is kind of cool.

    tldw: Tonight's moon will be really big and bright.

    Let's get teaching again, eh?

      March 18, 2011

      The word...the spoken word...

      Today's tunes take a turn...they're not really songs.

      Rather they're songs by popular music artists but done to a greater or lesser extent in a spoken word style.

      Give 'em a try...

      March 17, 2011

      The 90's

      Just because...

      Happy St Pat's

      Enjoy the day, folks...

      Source: Flickr

      March 16, 2011

      Senate Bill 5...bad for education...bad for Ohio...

      Add "Kasich's proposed budget" to that headline...

      I wonder why Fox 19 couldn't find a cameraman who knows how to take a level shot.

      Pardon our whinings: Senate Bill 5 and my confusion

      I didn't do anything wrong...

      That's the phrase that Calen used to me last week when she and I were discussing Senate Bill 5, and I think that encapsulates my biggest problems with Senate Bill 5: I didn't cause this...I didn't do anything wrong.

      Bear with me a for a second while I do a little bragging. I apologize in advance.

      I was pretty much a straight A student in high school (at least about five or so A's every grading period with maybe a B here or there), finished fifth in a class of four hundred or so. I rocked the PSAT and was a national merit finalist, with a full-tuition scholarship to Wabash. At Wabash I did pretty well, graduating magna cum laude, and earning two awards at senior chapel (for the top student teacher and for outstanding leadership among our chemistry students).

      I chose to teach high school chemistry.

      I had a job before I got my diploma. I lived frugally in Terre Haute and waited a year for The Girl to graduate from IU. I got a job in Cincinnati, and we moved and lived within our means in an apartment near UC. The Girl worked two jobs two years to make sure she would have insurance. We've bought two houses and two cars and paid for two masters without taking any loans. All the while we set money aside for retirement.

      I didn't take exorbitant bonuses.

      I didn't take government bail outs.

      I didn't buy homes I couldn't afford.

      I didn't ruin the economy.

      But I'm apparently paying for the people who did.

      Since the law changed to allow collective bargaining in 1983, school districts have been making themselves as attractive as they could so as to bring in the supposedly best teachers so they could provide the best education for their students. Since then teacher salaries have, admittedly been increasing, as have the costs of benefits like health insurance. I wasn't the one negotiating for the vast majority of those twenty-eight years. I did, admittedly, take advantage of those higher salaries when I came to Princeton from Mount Healthy (I didn't move for the money, but the money certainly was better at PCSD than at MHSD).

      I've taken my classes dutifully, gotten my masters degree, and I did it while spending hours far beyond those required by my teaching contract. I've taken on extra duties - the website, Pasta for Pennies, the newsletter - some of them for pay, some of them not so much.

      And the state wants to strip my collective bargaining rights because I've...

      Because I...

      Apparently because the downturn in the economy that's putting my school district in tough financial straits is my fault.

      To make that even clearer, lemme say this again...

      March 15, 2011

      Senate Bill 5...bad for education...bad for Ohio

      I need some help here.

      An Ohio state Senator, Shannon Brown, has introduced a bill, Senate Bill 5, that will drastically change the landscape of education and public service in Ohio. Feel free to take a while and read the full text of the proposed bill here. Then call OEA' action line to be connected directly to your Ohio senator's representative's office.

      I headed down to Fountain Square today to join in a protest against Senate Bill 5.

      According to the Fountain Square folks, about 3500 folks joined me. I'm hoping we can bring a few more Princeton folks with me next time.

      With 0:36 left in the clip, I'm visible putting a button on my collar just above the microphone.

      In other exciting news...

      Some days

      Sometimes you just need to see stuff like this at the end of a day...

      The media intaken of late


      Get Him to the Greek - This is not a good film.

      It's a road movie with two load characters who aren't buddies and don't ever build the cliched 'grudging respect' for each other in any organic way. Yeah, by the end of the film they're apparently buddies, but there's really nothing in their actions along the way to suggest that the friendship is actually growing. They treat each other just as badly from the first scene where they meet to the penultimate scene where they part ways. The final scene, of course, lets us see that they really are friends now and that everything has worked out for the best, but there's nothing authentic or organic in the progression of the tale to make that happy ending even remotely believable.

      Oddly, none of that means that Get Him to the Greek isn't a hell of a lot of fun.

      The Russel Brand character, Aldous Snow, is such an over-the-top caricature of rock god excess that he's hilarious to watch for pretty much the entire film. He's a man child trapped by his own fame and unable to articulate what he wants - the drugs and the partying that carry most of the film's gags or the quiet life that he occasionally shows glimpses of actually desiring. No matter his true desires, he comes across as also unable to make any steps toward either life, finding himself hopeless but hilariously trapped in a permanent state of filthy rich adolescence, a fully grown boy needing a minder to drag him toward anything even remotely productive.

      The film is rife with thoroughly entertaining performances surrounding Jonah Hill's slobby main character (the weakest character in the film, honestly, there mostly to be the straight man hopelessly trying to keep up with Aldous's excesses and keep Aldous on the somewhat straight and narrow.) Sean Combs, in particular, nearly steals the show as Hill's boss, a record label executive who is willing to put up with any excess of his artists as long as he is able to keep his four children in string cheese and mansions, whose disembodied face haunts Hill in the midst of a drug-induced freak out.

      This is an hour and a half of pointless entertainment.

      The Disappearing Spoon: and other true tales of madness, love, and history of the world from the periodic table of the elements - How could I not love a book with a title like that?

      It's all about the stories behind the discoveries of and uses of the elements on the periodic table - everything from personal anecdotes about Fritz Haber whose genius lead to the production of cheap fertilizer from ammonia sequestered from the atmosphere one element at a time to the brutal slights of Rosalind Franklin and her contributions to the discovery of DNA's structure.

      In addition to the human stories - which are fascinating, there are a number of stories of the elements themselves, their discoveries, their namings, their cosmic origins.

      This is a treasure trove of information that I think will make my chemistry teaching richer - perhaps richer with trivia but richer none the less.

      One of my favorite reads in a long time...

      Exit Through the Gift Shop - I don't care whether Exit Through the Gift Shop is a real documentary or not. The movie is an outstanding exploration of what is or isn't art, and the veracity of the story involved wouldn't affect that exploration one whit.

      The tale opens with Banksy - deep in face-shading hoody, voice morphed to unrecognizability - explaining that the movie was supposed to be about him but that he ended up being far less interesting than Mr Brainwash who ends up being the subject of this film, supposedly directed by the mysterious Banksy.

      Our story begins with Thierry Guetta, the eventual Mr Brainwash, filming a very amateurish documentary about the culture of street art around the world. In the process Guetta films the working process of a number of guerrilla street artists, eventually filling thousands of hours of videotapes until he feels he has filmed every artist other than the most famous of the street artists, Banksy.

      By a stroke of luck, Banksy contacts Guetta through mutual friends and brings Guetta into his inner circle, one of few people who actually get to work with the mysterious artist. As Guetta documents Banksy's process, Banksy finally asks Guetta to edit together the film that Guetta has supposedly been working on for years. When Guetta produces an unwatchable film, Banksy takes over the project and turns the filmmaker into the subject, documenting Guetta's growing predilection for his own street art.

      In the process, Banksy captures the creation of an entirely new street artist, one who reaches the public consciousness fully grown, fully formed, and entirely and fully fabricated, an artist who buys his art show and his publicity, purchasing the kind of history and attention that most artists come about organically.

      The third act sees Mr Brainwash outsourcing the creation of his 'art'; buying himself a 'gallery' for his first. hugely massive show; and focusing far more on the pomp and the publicity than on anything remotely artistic, and here is where the movies veracity stops mattering.

      Whether Banksy really did set up everything to create Mr Brainwash for the sake of the film...whether he faked Mr Brainwash out of whole cloth...whether he is Mr Brainwash in an alter ego...whether he made up the entirety of the film...Banksy has made a film that brilliantly explores what is and isn't art, whether we appreciate art because of what it is or because of the furor surrounding it, and how easily the art world is to manipulate with a little money.

      American Vampire -A solidly good start...Let's see where the series as a whole goes from here.

      American Vampire tells the tale of  vampire for the American crowd, born in the Old West, mutated spawn of the old vampyre that have been around since days of old in creepy, Eastern European castles but now inhabiting curtained train cars and playing long-term investments in the railroads. Our titular American vampire is born of Skinner Sweet, a railroad robber who has chosen the wrong train cars to rob, those of the European vampyre.

      Sweet, of course, is turned into a more modern, sunshine-tolerating American vampire, and in the other half of the tale, he passes he newfound abilities on to a 1920's starlet who has run afoul of these same European vampyres as they have continued to build their media/economic empires.

      The two tales intertwine well, revealing details about each other while producing enough excitement to keep my interest. The framing device of the two tales is that of a writer who saw Skinner Sweet turned and who has now come out to reveal that his 'fictional' account of that day isn't quite as 'fictional' as he might have portrayed things.

      The interplay from Stephen King and Scott Snyder's two tales make for engaging reading, and the concept of an American vampire is one worth exploring, seeing how his pursuits and attitudes are so drastically different from his European forebears. These first five issues - largely becoming the accepted length for a hardback collection but feeling a bit scant in my frugal thoughts - make for a great read and set up the series for a very rich possibility of further tales.

      If those come to fruition, this will be one well worth following.

      Showroom of Compassion by Cake - A new album by Cake is reason for celebration around The Homestead. It's been a seven years since the band released anything new, and in that time they've not toured, not recorded anything (until this album), and generally laid fallow.

      Following that long a layoff, one of two things is pretty likely: the band comes back making music identical to what they were making, largely aping who they were and showing little growth or turning out something totally new, something that is less Cake and more the product of some new band. Cake doesn't exactly hit the former, but this new album would fit very squarely into their previous catalog.

      There are a few catchy tunes - "Sick of You" and "Federal Funding" being my two favorites so far - but there are a lot of songs that sound like vintage Cake songs that wouldn't stand out on most of the previous albums. John McCrea's delivery is still suitably ironic and barely qualifies as singing in any fashion, and the instrumentation continues to provide surprises from moment to moment as the band picks up odd synthesizer tones on many of the new tracks. The lyrics are undeniably Cake as there still isn't a band out there that writes like these guys do, but this album makes me wonder if the layoff wasn't more because the band just didn't have much new to say rather than because they've been so durn busy on other projects.

      It's a solid 3.5/5 stars, and I'm still looking forward to seeing them in May.

      You can stream the full album over on the Rolling Stone site and can check out a few of the vids via YouTube.

      True Grit (1969) - Occasionally, a film should be remade because it wasn't made right in the first place.

      In the 1969 version of True Grit, John Wayne plays he part for gags, hamming up the screen and going from sober and cantankerous to drunk and cantankerous after just one side-sip from his jug of confiscated whiskey. The roll of Mattie Ross is reduced to almost a red herring, providing Marshall Cogburn a reason to head into Injun territory in hunt of Ned Pepper rather than to drink himself to death with his 'family' of the Chinaman who rents him a bed in his storage room and a cat who has no reason to be in the film.

      We do get a fine turn by the slightly suave Glen Campbell as the Texican ranger LeBoeuf and by Robert Duvall as the chased and doomed Ned Pepper, but this is Wayne's film, and his performance just isn't nuanced enough to have stood the test of time. There are dozens of greater westerns, and dozens of greater films showcasing The Duke in his prime.

      Pass this one by and go with the 2010 version by the Coen brothers.

      Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader - How have I not reviewed this before? It's the third or fourth time I've checked it out from the library, and I've loved it every time.

      This volume collects the two-issue, Neil Gaiman-penned 'final' tale of Batman, an imaginary tale of the Caped Crusader's final bow, his curtain call. The story was published in conjunction with the 'death' of Batman/Bruce Wayne at the end of Final Crisis (which was an awful mess, by the way). (The Bruce Wayne character has, of course, subsequently been returned to the DC universe as is he had never died/been sent through time/eaten a bad bit of beef.)

      Here Gaiman has the titular Caped Crusader witness his own funeral as disembodied narrator accompanied by a mysterious female figure. The funeral begins with his friends on one side of the aisle and his rogues gallery on the other, each telling the tale of how they saw Batman die. None satisfying the true Batman who watches the proceedings. Alfred's tale is the most fascinating as it turns the entirety of the Batman mythology on its head and postulates that perhaps Alfred created the whole thing to draw a despondent Bruce out of his depression.

      The heart and common thread of all the tales, however, is that of the eventual fate of the Batman figure, not even of Batman himself. Batman is at its core a revenge fantasy, our solitary light against the darkness that he has known. As such, Batman cannot fail, cannot ever be less than perfect, because we depend upon him. But he isn't allowed eternal success, either, because we recognize that he is just one man whose efforts hold back an unstemmable tide of darkness. We hold our fictional ideal of the Batman as both perfect and eventually doomed, knowing that his death may come from a random bullet (a la Omar) or from a meticulously planned out trap from one of his most worthy adversaries, and yet we know that neither ending will satisfy us because we cannot bear to see our Caped Crusader, our knight in kevlar armor ever fail.

      Heroesonline postulates an further reading of the book thusly...
      Regardless of how many times you re-invent the character, one thing will always remain: Batman is at heart a boy’s revenge fantasy. He must always succeed because he is stronger and smarter than every other human. He can overcome any adversity and win the day for the greater good--just like a hero should.
      But Gaiman is reaching for something more, something richer, something darker and something that is NOT happy. Batman is the absolute dark reflection of the Christ figure. Instead of dying for our sins—which the previous 40 odd pages publically offered the readers—Bruce Wayne is destined to remain alive in tragedy and torment to entertain us over and over and over.
      No matter who is drawing him, no matter who is writing him, no matter who fights temporally for the right to wear the cowl, Bruce Wayne will always be the little boy kneeling in a filthy alley surrounded by blood and bodies and a broken strain of pearls. Forever.

      Bruce Wayne is in hell and God help us, as readers of his exploits, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
      That's about right. We wouldn't have it any other way.

      The filler of this collection isn't much to mention, but the main story is every bit the equal - if drastically different - from its spiritual predecessor, Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?

      A few quickies...
      • Batman: The Widening Gyre - horrible...embarrassingly bad Batman comic that entirely misses the character of Batman/Bruce Wayne...thank you for pooping on my favorite comic character, Kevin Smith...
      • Starman Omnibus, Vol 5 - I loved, loved, loved the first four volumes of this tale. This one not so much. The main character goes into space, and all of the air gets sucked out of the tale. Where Opal City and her history was as much a part of the tale as was the cosmic rod, the trip into the blackness of space is just of no interest to me. Blech...but I'll be back for the concluding volume 6 and the eventual Grand Guignol storyline.
      • No Ordinary Family - still grooving to it...

      March 14, 2011

      Senate Bill 5...bad for education...bad for Ohio

      I need some help here.

      An Ohio state Senator, Shannon Brown, has introduced a bill, Senate Bill 5, that will drastically change the landscape of education and public service in Ohio. Feel free to take a while and read the full text of the proposed bill here. Then call OEA' action line to be connected directly to your Ohio senator's representative's office.

      The following was sent to me from our union rep. It certainly does suggest that Senate Bill 5 might not necessarily be what's best for public employees, particularly teachers...
      The Fordham Institute recently sponsored a survey of Ohio school superintendents.  When afforded the opportunity to speak out, this group generally expressed the view that labor contracts and government regulations serve as impediments to their managerial authority.  Removing these barriers would allow superintendents to more completely exercise their judgment and wisdom, which, in their view would lead to a better management of resources and a measurable improvement in student achievement.
      Data from ODE show:
      • Eighty-four percent of the superintendents of Ohio’s K-12 school districts are male.
      • Seventy-four percent of school teachers are female.
      • Ninety-eight percent of male superintendents are white.
      Supporters of SB5 seek to replace a democratic and representative process with one where power is concentrated among a small group of 54-year old white males.  The evidence suggests that the first item on this group’s agenda is the protection of their own economic interests.

      The joint testimony of OSBA, OASBO and BASA offers strong support of SB5.  The only concern expressed by this group has to do with the proposal to prohibit public employers from paying the employees’ share of retirement.  Since this benefit is universally applied to superintendents and treasurers, this position is not surprising.

      Only about five percent of OEA local CBAs provide for a pick-up-on-the-pick-up.  Since this provision is found in mostly small school districts, it is reasonable to estimate that only one to two percent of OEA members enjoy this benefit.  Moreover, only a handful of the CBAs that provide payment for the employees’ retirement, pay the full employee share.  Full payment of the employee share is the industry standard for superintendents and treasurers.

      In calling for the elimination of the single salary schedule for teachers, OSBA, OASBO, BASA and other supporters of SB5 are seeking to dismantle an objective and predicable pay system that has served to effectively remove gender-based pay inequity from public education.  As an institutional norm, training and experienced-based pay ensures comparable pay for comparable work.

      The Economic Policy Institute reports that teachers are paid less than those employed in comparable professions.  However, within the teaching profession, the average pay of male teachers exceeds that of female teachers by about six percent.  Among non-teacher college graduates, males out-earn females by 32 percent.

      The passage of SB5 would constitute a 27-year step backward in terms of the rights of all public employees.  For females, the potential harm is much greater.  Advances made over a century’s-long struggle for equal rights could be undone by the single stroke of a 58-year old white male’s pen.
      Normally, I'm all down with anything that benefits white males, but in this case, I'm thinking it might not benefit this white male.

      What's a meltdown?

      With all this talk about a possible meltdown in Japan, it's pretty probably that there are folks out there who don't know just what a meltdown really would be.

      Sure, I could explain it to you, and you'd understand it marvelously because I'm just that awesome a teacher. I've got a few other things to do, though, so let me recommend the NYTimes's outstanding interactive infographics specifically about the Japanese reactors.