Archive for December, 2007

The Water Horse
31 December, 2007

My munchkins wanted to see Alvin and the Chipmunks but, after reading some reviews, I managed to convince them to see The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep instead. This was a good decision.

While similar categories have not always succeeded, I have an “Anything with Brogues” must-see category. The Water Horse was chock full of brogues. For the most part the dialogue was accessible to the American ear, but I did enjoy the Sassonach drop.

The film was very well done. I haven’t read the book on which it’s based, but I liked the fact that the plot wasn’t all sunshine and kisses. Even though some Sassonach were cast as a whole the casting was superb, Brian Cox and Alex Etel in particular. The film was beautifully shot, although I noticed a few color timing problems. The special effects were virtually seamless and never took you out of the film.

It feels strange to quibble about the physics in a movie about the Loch Ness monster, but one action scene in particular stretches physics a wee bit even for a fantasy. Predictability is a good thing in a children’s film and this film keeps to that formula without falling into the saccharine Hollywood ending. I recommend The Water Horse for kids, Loch Ness monster aficionados, and anyone who loves a brogue.

Waitress
26 December, 2007

We watched Waitress recently on DVD. Since Mal was in it, it fell into the “Anything with Firefly Cast” must-see category. Alas, neither Nathan Fillion nor Andy Griffith couldn’t save the thing.

We didn’t watch the whole thing per se: we fast-forwarded through the last act. Pacing problems in part prompted that but the script as a whole struggled. Keri Russell‘s character was completely unsympathetic. I didn’t really care what happened to her. The film gave no explanation for why she put up with her abusive husband or for why she suddenly didn’t.

I really like the idea of phenomenally-good pies. I have no idea why the movie is rated so well by both my friends and IMDB. Maybe Adrienne Shelly‘s tragic death affected some viewers. Not to speak ill of the dead, but to me Waitress is a must-miss film.

Hobbes Is Real
20 December, 2007

Speaking of Calvin & Hobbes, I am reminded of another of the myriad ways in which I am different from almost everyone else: they seem to think that Hobbes is just a stuffed animal.

I, of course, know that Hobbes is real even though only Calvin can see it; everyone else in the strip is benighted. That this is as self-evident to me as its converse is self-evident to everyone (but one) of whom I’ve posed the question is quite interesting. Perhaps it’s just an indictment of my sanity, but it’s perfectly reasonable to me that there could be an aspect of reality that only one person could perceive.

Why not? Is reality any less real if no one perceives it? If you were surrounded by morons who were too stupid to understand it, would shooting yourself in the head be any less fatal?Of course, if you were the delusional one, your unreality would feel pretty real to you, too. You would be incapable of determining whether you were the only one with understanding or the only one with misunderstanding. Ironic, eh?

But Hobbes is still real.

Bravo
19 December, 2007

On the way to work I noticed a pickup truck with a white-outline decal on the rear window. I assumed that it was a urinating Calvin, but when I got closer I saw that the decal was a rodeo rider of some wort. Above that was the single word, “Bravo”.

Since the business painted on the door had “Juan Gonzalez” in its title, I assumed that it was part of latino culture. A little googling implies that it is either a nightclub in Leon, Mexico or a line of Western wear. Either one would make sense given the imagery.

I still get a kick out of the juxtaposition of a word most often associated (at least in these United States) with an English accent and a stage performance with the rough-and-tumble world of rodeo. What’s next? A decal of a Phantom mask underneath “Yeehaw”?

Fred Claus
18 December, 2007

A couple of weeks ago we went to see Fred Claus. To me Vince Vaughn excels at the fast-talking wise guy and I didn’t know how that would play in a holiday or kids’ film. I was pleasantly surprised at the film.

The script cleverly weaves the story of the golden boy Santa Claus with the eponymous, black sheep brother. Both characters suffer and grow throughout the film, something I didn’t expect. Vaughn is perfectly cast as Fred Claus and Paul Giamatti and Kevin Spacey live up to their reputations. The DP did a good job making some regular height actors look like elves. The soundtrack seemed a little jumbled. But Sinéad O’Connor‘s heartbreaking rendition of “Silent Night” makes for a poignant scene at the end of the movie.

The film’s message of “even naughty kids deserve love, too” makes it appropriate for all ages, although it is a little long for the younger ones. If you liked the original The Santa Clause, you’ll probably like Fred Claus.

Thy Name Is Mudd
15 December, 2007

In this article an unnamed knucklehead called Harvey Mudd the #14 ugliest campus in the United States. I suspect said knucklehead is a jealous CMC  alumnus given the ratings of Pitzer as the #10 ugliest and Scripps as the #9 most beautiful. (Still trying to flatter the Scrippsies…) 

The author admits to having seen Pitzer through videos on the web. Such does a disservice to the ladies of Pitzer who are quite fetching. (To be fair, I am somewhat partial to tie-dye and Birkenstock‘s.) Which is not to say that the ladies of Harvey Mudd do not beautify their own campus, but they tend to be known more for their intelligence than comeliness. 

For full disclosure I must mention that, even though I didn’t graduate from HMC and didn’t really belong there, I still remember it quite fondly. I liken it to Pat Conroy‘s relationship to The Citadel as I understand it from The Lords of Discipline in that I met some good people in a difficult and ill-fitting place. My spouse referred to it as a foreigner in a foreign land and I think that perfectly captures the essence of my time at Mudd. It’s hard to think of how I could have possibly been admitted, let alone graduated, from Mudd given what the years have taught me about my talents. 

That said, I must beg to differ with the assessment of Mudd’s campus as ugly. For example, the Hixon fountain is quite beautiful and who can overlook the almost-octagonal dorm and cannon? The buildings may have a few wartsbut ugly? I think not.

Get Over Your Damn Self
13 December, 2007

Developers and marketeers have a long and often adversarial relationship. I think some of that is a natural consequence of the differences between their roles and their rewards. But I think a large part of it is due to the personalities called to each.

Our admin put a sign printed on legal paper on the whiteboard using magnets. This morning I watched a marketeer walk down the hall and knock the sign off the whiteboard. I then watched him stop, turn around to see what he’d knocked off, and then keep walking, leaving it on the floor for someone else to pick up.

I’m glad they moved all the marketeers to another hall. Now if we could only put a locked door at the end of our hall. Or an ogre. Or maybe a stone giant. Do stone giants each marketeers?

The Shiner
8 December, 2007

While Christmas shopping the other day my cashier was a cute, red-haired lass … with a massive black eye. You don’t really expect a shiner in the service industry. Maybe at Team Quest, but not at a consumer electronics store.

Not only is it unexpected, but it’s kind of awkward, too. As brawling is more of a male pastime, a gal with a shiner is more likely to be punched than to do the punching. So you’re concerned that she might be the victim of domestic abuse.

On the other hand, her business isn’t really my business. She didn’t whisper a plea for help, slide me a note with the receipt saying she was being held against her will, or even try to communicate only with crazy eyebrows so her captors wouldn’t see. If anything, she seemed like she didn’t want to talk about the black eye.

In the end, I said nothing about the eye. I thought it was the appropriate, polite approach. But maybe I was wrong. I don’t know.

Front Sight, Front Sight, Front Sight
7 December, 2007

I just read the review of Kane & Lynch: Dead Men that allegedly got Jeff Gerstmann fired. One particular section caught my attention:

Unfortunately, even when you’re aiming, hitting your targets is more difficult than it should be because your automatic fire has a wide spread on it. Kane is supposedly a badass arch-criminal; he should be able to hit his targets with short, controlled bursts

While that may be unbalanced in the game if the opponents are better shots, it is in no way unrealistic. Shooting a target with a firearm is not as easy as it looks on the screen. Keeping the weapon aligned with the target is key and is made harder by moving the weapon around, either by the shooter running or by the recoil of fully-automatic fire. Those who can shoot accurately rapidly in realistic situations, whether practical shooters or soldiers, practice daily to keep their skills sharp.

A criminal coming out of prison couldn’t be that sharp simply due to lack of practice. Despite the portrayals on big- and small-screen, almost no criminals go into prison with those skills in the first place. Criminals are lazy and it’s much easier and cheaper to intimidate with a junk gun than it is to train with a high-quality gun.

Certainly the willingness to hurt others that defines the criminal would make it psychologically easier to shoot someone. But when it comes to the physical acting of shooting, it’s still going to be spray-and-pray.

You Gotta Have Your Priorities
3 December, 2007

This morning I heard that Chinook Winds had lost electrical service due to the winds. The casino was lit with alternate power but the adjoining hotel was without power. It’s good to see their priorities in order.