April 30, 2015

The math of Adam Sandler movies

That right there is the math of what I hate about Adam Sandler: the red and green clusters.

The yellow cluster, I'm all good with: Spanglish, Punch Drunk Love, Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer. (Admittedly, I haven't seen Funny People or Reign Over Me.)

As the Walt Hickey write on FiveThirtyEight, "Sandler was young and hungry, and his schtick was still relatively fresh — or at least it wasn’t 20 years old. When you watch the films, you can sense it: Sandler is trying. They are not necessarily great films, but they’re solid comedies."

Then came the green and red clusters, about which, "predictable product that will perform consistently and make money for its producer" (the green) and "most Sandler movies are bad...[s]ome have suggested that Sandler movies are going downhill, but his movies were never on a hill to begin with." (the red)

It's not that his bad and financially unsuccessful movies (the red) are particularly worse than the bad and financially successful ones (the green), it's just that some time around 1998, he stopped trying to make his comedies any good.

Punch Drunk Love and Spanglish are easily the finest of his films.

Hickey also did the same sort of analysis of Will Ferrell movies.

April 29, 2015

From this weekend's WHCD - whatever that is

The first three minutes are funny. At about 3:25, things get real, and I'm way more impressed from there forward. (YouTube link)

April 28, 2015

Happy birthday to me

This has absolutely nothing to do with today being my fortieth birthday, but it entertains the heck out of me, anyway.

April 27, 2015

Less than a week away

I've heard surprisingly little noise about the second The Simpsons collectible minifigure series, particularly since I assume that it's to be released on May 1 - following the pattern of the last few years (January 1, May 1, September 1).

But thanks to WhiteFang (and The Lego Group), I at least know which figures are most common and have a copy of the flyer to follow along and check off as I find them.

Now I just need to find the time to go searching - something unlikely to happen in the next week or so.

April 26, 2015

Stay off of the mountain

Stay the heck off of Mount Everest. (Warning: language very much )

Seriously, I know that an earthquake is an unpredictable occurrence and that the deaths are a tragedy, but this is yet another reason to stay the heck off of the mountain.

April 25, 2015

Cleverness is not wisdom.

  • Mitsubishi spiral escalators - The Girl and I rode these on Spring Break.
  • Carbon dioxide hits a new peak this spring: 404 ppm - That's a heck of a graph that figure 4 down at the bottom.
  • Magic is real, sometimes - I remember a story Penn and Teller told about a magician buying a truly new pack of cards and asking a person to think of a card. He then shuffles the cards and picks one at random and asks them if that is their card. He figures he'll be wrong a lot of times, but when he finally does hit, it will be glorious.

April 23, 2015

Thoughts on a Spring Break trip

I think this is the first Spring Break trip that The Girl and I have taken in a half dozen years, maybe longer.

It's also the first chance we've really had because Hamilton and Princeton (or UC and Princeton) have had consistently different spring breaks for most of those times.

Thoughts on a Las Vegas trip with barely any gambling...

April 22, 2015

Vonne Gut Reactions: Hocus Pocus

It's been a long while since I last reviewed one of Kurt Vonnegut's books, stopping a book and a half short of finishing his main fourteen novels. From there, maybe it'll be on to his collections, maybe not.

If Hocus Pocus is any indication, though, we are far from Vonnegut's prime, and it would be seven more years until he published his final novel, Timequake. From 1959 through 1990 - when Hocus Pocus was published - Vonnegut published a new novel every two to four years. After 1990 Vonnegut had only one more novel in him, and that one came out in 1997.

Here's to hoping that Kurt went out in a blaze of glory, because Hocus Pocus isn't that. (All page numbers refer to the edition seen above, that with the two white hands around a view of a park.)
  • p44 - Our main character, Eugene Debs Hartke, find time and again that his life is influenced by chance. Here Hartke bumps into Sam Wakefield, a military recruiter, entirely by chance. His life's path - on to art school before the meeting - is forever changed. Vonnegut often wrote of chance having a much larger influence on our lives than most people would care to admit.
  • p67 - Hartke meets Alton Darwin, a mass murderer in the prison where he would eventually work. He compares himself to Darwin thusly, "He hadn't killed nearly as many people as I had. But then again, he hadn't had my advantage, which was the full cooperation of our Government. Also he had done all his killing for reasons of money. I had never stopped to that."
  • p117 - "A normal tour of duty in Vietnam was twice [6 months] and 1,000 times more dangerous. Who could blame the educated classes with political connections for staying home?" - Vonnegut wrote a number of times that the wealthy didn't have to send their children to war, that wars were fought on the backs of the poor.
  • p137  - "He was a cuckold in the present, and crucifixion awaited him in the future." We've seen a number of Vonnegut characters described in a similar way, who they are and who they will be at the same time.
  • p137 - Hartke reads a 'remarkable science fiction story" called "The Protocols of the Elders of Tralfamadore." It's been far too long since I've heard anything about Tralfamadore.
  • p143 - Really, people were debating the realities of climate change as Vonnegut wrote this, too? Sheesh...
  • p154 - I think this is the only time that the phrase "hocus pocus" is mentioned in the book. "then my list of those whose lives I took shouldn't include possibles and probables, or those killed by artillery or air strikes called in by me, and surely not all those, many of them Americans, who dies as an indirect result of all my hocus pocus, all my blah blah blah."
  • p155 - Hartke is making a list of all the people he killed and women he slept with while he is in prison awaiting his trial for murders and kidnappings after the prison break. His lawyer asks him why. Hartke says, "To speed things up on Judgement Day."...his lawyer replies, "I thought you were an Atheist."...Hartke replies, "You never know." Vonnegut was a renowned Atheist, but he always held open the possibility that he might've been wrong.
  • p163 - The phrase "what's the hurry, son?" is repeated three times. Each time, it pulls Hartke into a totally different pathway in the world. Again, random chance, but this time with an echo throughout time.
  • p166 - A character relates a childhood story of being trapped in an elevator. He was panicked, but he assumed that the adults outside the elevator were focusing on this major event in American history, that even the President of the United States was being updated. Because of this, when the elevator doors opened, he assumed there would be a huge uproar when the doors opened. And there wasn't. There was nothing. Hartke asks, "You know what you have described to perfection?"..."What it was like to come home from the Vietnam War."
  • p176 - Vonnegut mentions the towns of Cairo, Illinois. Only, "he pronounced it 'kay-roe.' "...and Peru, Indiana pronounced "pee-roo" not "puh-roo"...and Brazil, Indiana being said as 'brazzle.' I know all of those towns...and Versailles, Indiana - ver-sales.
  • p185 - "I have looked up who the Freethinkers were...who believed...that nothing but sleep awaited good and evil persons alike in the Afterlife, that science had proved all organized religions to be baloney, that God was unknowable, and that the greatest use a person could make of his or her lifetime was to improve the quality of life for all in his or her community." - that sounds a whole lot like Vonnegut's humanism.
  • p200 - "The Protocols of the Elders of Tralfamadore" explains that the Earth was created in order to improve the space-travel-readiness of bacteria from Earth and that the words of the Bible were written down from those same alien bacterial engineers. That's about right for Vonnegut's beliefs about organized religion.
  • p238 - A Japanese man is discussing the parallels between war and commerce. "So now we count dollars the way you used to count bodies. What does that bring us closer to? What does it mean? We should do with those dollars what you did with the bodies. Bury and forget them! You were luckier with your bodies than we are with all our dollars." - Vonnegut has long had a disdain for commercialism.
  • p242 - "I think any form of government, not just Capitalism, is whatever the people who have all our money, drunk or sober, sane or insane, decide to do today." - Yup, vintage Vonnegut right there. The wealthy are running our world. The rest of us are at their whims.
  • p251 - Vonnegut relates the story of "a talking deer in the National Forest...who gets tangled in barbed wire during the summer months, trying to get at the delicious food on the farms. He is shot by a hunter. As he dies he wonders why he was born in the first place. The final sentence of the story was the last thing the deer said on Earth. The hunter was close enough to hear it and was amazed. This was it: 'What the blakety-blank was that supposed to be all about?' " Yup, Vonnegut.
The whole story, honestly feels like Vonnegut-by-numbers. All of the beats are there, even the occasionally humorous beats.

But the book feels flat, empty, like not much of anything.

The story of Eugene Debs Hartke isn't interesting. He seems to bop from pillar to post, to deal with women either as someone to sleep with (the majority of women) or to take care of (his wife and mother-in-law), and to drift from one job to another without any care or control of what he wants to do.

He seems a passive participant in his own story. Meh...

Hopefully I'll get something better from Timequake

April 20, 2015

Quick hitters comics I've read

Superman/Batman (volume 2) by Jeph Loeb & Ed McGuiness - easily the best read of the month...outstanding time-travel/alternative worlds story of three villains from the League of Superheroes time frame kidnapping baby Batman & Superman...lots of callbacks to various old-school DC history and a creative cross-over with alternative/parody versions of the Ultimates from the Ultimate Marvel universe...I'd read it before, and it's still outstanding...and then there's Superman/Batman #26 which wasn't collected in the original, smaller collections...touching story of Robin reflecting on how much he misses his friend Superboy...story written by Jeph's son, Sam, and drawn by twenty-six different artists in tribute to Sam who passed away before it was published...also has a shorter story of a young man named Sam who was Clark Kent's friend before he passed away from cancer...heartbreaking, touching, brilliant...easily five out of five stars...

Black Widow: The Finely Woven Thread - Good art, interesting story of character redemption, cliched use of main character's acceptance of a stray cat to parallel her journey of acceptance in finding a home...four of five stars...

Superman/Wonder Woman: volume 1 Power Couple - pretty good read of two characters who are more new to the world than I'm used to them being and trying to find out how to have a private relationship when they're the two most powerful people on the planet...the cover, however, looks like soft core porn and embarrasses me to even have in my library stack...four out of five stars...

Wolverine and the X-Men: Death of Wolverine - Oddly, no actual death of Wolverine takes place in this issue, just lots of building up to Wolverine dying and the aftermath of Wolverine post-death. Feels very much like an ancillary part of a massive summer cross-over...three our of five stars...

Batman/Superman: volume 1 Cross World - moderately interesting story of Batman & Superman from New 52 Earth 1 meeting their counterparts from Earth 2. Fights and cooperation and then fights ensue. Horrible artwork from Jae Lee...every scene seems to take place in a fog bank where the characters are in perfect focus but they are against a blank background...three out of five stars

Batman Beyond 2.0: Justice Lords Beyond - revisiting of the revisiting of a story line from the Batman Beyond tv show showing what happened after the last time the Justice Lords appeared in the comic which showed what happened after the Justice Lords appeared in the tv series...hard to follow the fight scenes between characters from the two worlds because the differences in costumes are too subtle...three out of five stars

Justice League: volume 2 Villain's Journey - Jim Lee's art annoys me with everybody having far too many lines and always looking either asleep or angry with no middle ground...too much yelling when they should just be talking...interesting premise (man turns into villain when his family gets killed in a Justice League fight)...poor execution...threads leading to splitting off of Justice League and creation of Justice League of America...three out of five stars...

Justice League: volume 3 Throne of Atlantis - Ivan Reis artwork is a little better, but the characters are still always angry at each other and prone to fly off the handle at the smallest slight...seems poor characterization because they aren't getting any better as 'time' goes on...two stories here: Cheetah vs JL and Atlantis vs JL...neither are great...minor moments of relationship between Supes & WW are more interesting...three out of five stars

Justice League: volume 4 The Grid - here comes the cross-over fight with the Justice League Dark & Justice League of America...not interesting...seriously, these people seem to fight each other at the smallest little provocation...they're like children with superpowers...the infiltration from the Crime Syndicate on Earth 3, however, is more interesting...sadly most of that is coming in the next volume...three out of five stars...

Incredible Hulk: Past Perfect - boring, jumbled mess of a storyline when Bruce Banner had contracted cancer and was dying...but of course, gets saved - weirdly by the Leader. Lots of different characterizations of the Hulk - grey thug from the 50's, brainless green brute, smart green brute...two out of five stars

Ultimate Comics X-Men (vol 3) - some sort of war between mutants lead by Jean Grey and by Kitty Pryde including an apparently conscious, mutant seed...dumb...two out of five stars

April 18, 2015

Agility, clarity, stamina, and strength

April 17, 2015

And the first shall be last.fm

I've been hanging with Last.fm for about fifteen months now (since January 2014.) I'm not doing it because of the ability to listen to music via last.fm. I'm happy with iTunes and the occasional Spotify playlist. I'm hanging with last because a former student of mine suggested using its Scrobbling feature to track my musical listening habits.

Here's what I've seen after a year and a quarter...

From www.lastchart.com...

From last.fm's playground...

From My Music Habits...

From nicholast.fm, though those are only from 2014...I can't find a way to combine 2014 and 2015 on that service.

April 16, 2015

An inverted Grand Canyon

That happened back in December 2014, and the video was posted on the Grand Canyon's flickr account.

April 15, 2015

In tribute to Scrubs

I noticed recently that The AV Club has been doing episode-by-episode reviews of Scrubs. So far they've been through the first three seasons leaving like six or so more seasons to go through. Sadly they seem to have set the project aside, having not reviewed anything since August of 2013.

And I keep bumping across Buzzfeed articles about Scrubs: 27 Things You Might Not Know About Scrubs...23 Times Scrubs Got Way, Way Too Real...The Janitor's 39 Best Lines...The Cast of Scrubs Reunites on Cougar Town...

Of course there's a Scrubs wiki...

There might be a Scrubs musical...

April 14, 2015

April 13, 2015

Eight months of thoughts

I've been living in the new Princeton High School (at 100 Viking Way, a far more poetic and inherently false address than the old 11080 Chester Rd), and I have a few thoughts.

April 10, 2015

The keystone was dropped into place.

The Gateway Arch was completed in 1965.

I love the Gateway Arch.

April 9, 2015

You have the right to remain entertained.

The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Miranda v Arizona in 1966. There was a time when our rights were being expanded. Nice times, I'm sure.

April 8, 2015

Free Cassius

In 1967, Cassius Marsellus Clay was convicted of evading the draft. The conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971.

April 7, 2015

American Pie was about 1968

In 1968, the world lost a number of great people. In 1971, Don McLean wrote about some of them. In 2015, I made a playlist of songs from 1968.

April 6, 2015

And now we're working our way back through time

We start with the music of 1969, and we'll go backwards from there.

April 4, 2015

So, you're saying I should spend the whole night locked in a cage...with you?