Thursday, November 27, 2008

It just aint Thanksgiving without mah Snoops

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Do It Yourself, John

Years ago, Radio Shack was the shop for electronics geeks. I don't mean geeks like we need to go out and by the latest gadget and play with toys. I mean, build your own radio types.

You could get anything there and build any kind of electronic device imaginable for the time. As the home computer market grew, so did Radio Shack, its parent company, Tandy, introducing its own line of PCs.

My first computer was a Tandy. A 386 with I think a 20 mb hard drive and who knows how little memory. Didn't matter. It was top of the line for its time and ridiculously cheap. It was also so minimally tweaked by Tandy that I could do anything, add anything, shift anything and never once have a problem. It never crashed, never froze, never died.

Then, Tandy shifted and decided not to make PCs anymore and started selling Hewlett Packard, it also stopped stocking electronic doohickys galore. In essence, it stopped being Radio Shack and started being just another electronics retail store that will always be a pale follower of giants like Best Buy.

So...when my cable connection crapped out entirely last night and I was left today with very limited television and no internet access I hoped against hope to follow my theory to Radio Shack and find a solution. I was disappointed but not discouraged.

The problem, I surmised was the splitter. So the idea was to go to RS around the corner and get a broad band splitter. Not only did they not have it, they didn't know they existed. A far cry from the old days when a RS employee could tell you exactly how to build your own computer let alone not know something exists.

As it turned out a regular splitter works just fine while I wait for the Time Warner technician tomorrow. So all is well and I'm not all that worked up. But I do miss the more do it yourself nature of the store. And I am glad I got to create that sense myself and fix the issue without Time Warner's help.

Tweeners, Vampires and Mormons.

My internet connection was lost for about 18 hours yesterday so this is a day late.

I caught Twilight yesterday. I enjoyed it overall despite what I think are some rather insane casting choices and the fact that it took me about 20 minutes to block out the gaggles of giggling girls that surrounded me. Few things can make me feel creeped out by myself. After all I'm a man in my mid forties watching a movie adaptation of a novel essentially written for tween and early teen girls.

I enjoy the Twilight books. I don't think they are remotely as good as the Harry Potter books but Stephenie Meyer has an interesting take on vampire mythology and a refreshing take on teen romance. I was surprised to learn that Meyer is a Mormon until I started thinking seriously about the issues involved. Abstinence being the main one. Despite my distaste for the Mormon church, its stances on social issues, especially regarding their intense efforts against Proposition 8 in California, I can still be fascinated and entertained by how that religion informs the Twilight books.

That aside, I just want to talk about the movie.

Its over all a fun flick. Beautifully shot, with the camera work telling a story as much as the script, which is very well written. The books have a tendency to dwell on aspects of the characters that are intensly annoying. I've been known to espouse on what a jerk Edward actually is in many ways, controlling, self absorbed, arrogant. Bella a whining, careless and selfish girl.

These things are balanced in the movie by writing that stresses their intelligence and internal struggles. Bella is also played brilliantly by Kristen Stewart who I think may very well be a major Hollywood force in the coming years.

I wish I could say the same for Pattinson, who plays Edward as if vampires are in constant need of Ex-Lax. He's also about as one dimensional as is possible. Nor is he a particularly good looking fellow. Edward is supposed to be unbelievably beautiful. Pattinson just isn' fact he is rather funny looking under certain angles. In the end I was able to let that aspect go for the story and because Stewart's performance is so layered, so complicated, so deep that it mitigated his lack of anything interesting.

I was mystefied by the casting of Peter Facinelli as Carslisle as well. Facinelli is a very good actor, but he's not blonde and the dye job really didn't work. Same goes for Nikki Reed who plays Rosalie. Reed is a very beautiful actress with a great deal of talent. I've admired her work since seeing her in "13" 5 years ago. BUT...again the dye job is so unconvincing it actually makes her less beautiful, and Rosalie is supposed to be the most beautiful of all the Cullen family. However her performance is as layered and brilliant as Stewart's and easy to let go of.

The special effects don't work over all...which is weird when the job is done by ILM, the alleged gold standard. Low budget or not. They've done better.

The sparkling doesn't work either. Edward looks awful in the sunlight. The sparkling is a hard thing to pull off cinematically and could have easily been shifted to more of a shining glow rather than it looking like Edward threw glitter on his face and did it badly. It's not enhancing, its downright ugly. Even the girls around me laughed out loud when Bella declares him beautiful as he glitters like a disco ball in the middle of the Washington woods. It just didn't work.

All that aside. Catherine Hardwicke really gets the material and is faithful to the spirit of the books if not always to story. The adaptation itself is very clever in what it moves around and how it introduces characters and what falls by the wayside, though I wonder if those that haven't read the books will understand some of what's going on.

This is a far superior adaptation debut than the first two Harry Potter films which managed to take a story about magical people and strip any sense of magic from it. Forks comes alive on screen as do the Washington mountains and forests. The movie never gets carried away with the scenery, but uses the scenery to enhance Bella's journey toward falling in love with Edward. It all gets bound together.

When the action hits later in the film the sense of danger is palpable and the entrance of the villainous trio is stylishly done without being overly cheesy.

I had a good time with this film. It is definitely over all a chick flick, as are the books, but this vampire fan still enjoys the story and even though I have strong issues with casting choices, there is no doubt there is beauty in the movie and that its well worth seeing. I look forward to more characterization and relationships and much much more Alice in the already confirmed sequel, New Moon.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday thump thump thump thump thank God it's FRIDAY....FRIDAY

Winter is setting in Gotham City...Fall has bid it's annual hasty, premature adieu and I am sitting in an overheated apartment with a fan running.

Classic New York City.

I spent a bit of down time at work browsing the web for apartments in a town in the Hudson Valley that I am in love with.

The likelihood of my being able to move at this point is pretty low. But a man can dream and I think its good to keep exercising the thought. You never know after all and they say that sometimes the universe opens a way. More and more I find myself wanting to be surrounded by more green and less grey, more quiet and less salsa, more above ground trains and less subway. More water pressure and less waiting 2 minutes from the time I turn my faucet to the time the water temperature actually balances.

There's a lot I have to fix still from the mess that divorce and stupid decisions got me into...but I sure could use a change of environment while I'm doing it.

In other news, Rachel Maddow is back from vacation. Alison Stewart was a great substitute for her, but I've missed her, so yay. I wonder if that means Keith is back too.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Developments looks very likely that I seem to be another addition to the list of people who have ADD.

I've done some small quizzes, read up on some other things and without the ability to afford an absolute clinical evaluation, it seems pretty clear that this is the case.

It sure explains a lot about my life and how things have always been almost in my grasp and then...well....not so much.

So this weekend I'll be reading some books by a few experts...maybe find some strategies.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Joe Lieberman, Professional Piece of Shit

So...Connecticut Independents for Lieberman Senator, Joe Lieberman gets off scott free for being a lieing scumbag.

Harry Ried has shown once again that he is a spineless lump of flesh.

I can only hope that the abysmal approval ratings that Joe runs in Connecticut will continue and the man can collect an unemployment check in four years. (Yeah I know, he'll just become a lobbyist/consultant/whatever millionaire when its all over.

This scumbucket lied about his intentions when crooking his way to re-election a couple of years ago, did nothing as Chairman of his vaunted Homeland Security Committee. Lied about Barack Obama, campaigned for Republican Senate candidates, whined about the possibility of a filibuster proof democratic congress when he fought to stop filibusters when the Republicans ran the Senate, repeated the Bush mantra of "we are comforting our enemies when we disagree" nonsense, said the question about Obama being a Marxist was a good one.

He has no character, no integrity, no honor and has the temerity to continue to talk about his faith and character in public.

He owes the nation an apology, not just his fellow clubmembers, and he should be required to specifically point out what it is he says he regrets saying in the past few months.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bond rethoughts

Something I neglected to bring up in my Saturday review.

What is very interesting is that the tradition of Bond films examining current events continues with the suggestion that the terrorist group MI6 is trying to find is actually more interested in water than oil.

I invite anyone to Google T. Boone Pickens and aquafer, or to read Dune to understand how spot on I think this is.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Things that make you go hmmmmm

I'm no expert, but....the price of oil steadily goes up during the Bush administration, reaching at one point over $100 a barrel, then sinks as the end of said administration approaches.

Joe the plumber says welfare is socialism, yet has received welfare with the rationalization that he's paid into the system, yet has at least one tax lien against him.

Bank of America is actually doing very well, because they decided to steer clear of the whole sub-prime stupidity, yet got bail out money.

AIG wants more money after Executives go on spas and say its all part of doing business.

My landlord does not answer phones because they have too many buildings to be able to answer individual tenant calls. Also can't seem to pay the electric company in time in order to keep the hall lights on.

The Democrats have won majorities in all branches of government. Will essentially run things for at least the next two years, yet all the news talk shows had Republicans on as guests.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Made you feel it, did he?"

In the 2006 movie of Casino Royale, James Bond reveals to his target that he has already made the first of two required kills to become a double O agent thus acquiring a license to kill. We are shown in fast, grainy flashbacks, that it was a hard kill. Violent, painful, hands on.

The second target, a British agent selling intelligence secrets, asks Bond the question above, moments before Bond shoots him.

In Quantum of Solace, it is the audience that is made to feel it. Every crash, every punch, every kick. This Bond gets the shit knocked out of him since Casino Royale and there is no simple smirking and wise cracks and all is well. Bond is bruised and cut through half the new film though he never needs hospitalization as he does in the previous one. He is gritty and pained on the outside just as he wrestles with the bruises and cuts on the inside.

Quantum of Solace is the second in what seems to be gearing to a trilogy of sorts. And it shows. It's a strong film in many ways, but like most 2nd parters (Empire Strikes Back, Godfather II being among the exceptions) it falls a bit in complexity and relies too much on chases rather than story.

It also suffers from the director's (the for the most part terrific Mark Forster) penchant for quick cuts and shaky cameras during action sequences that make it impossible to follow the sequence of events. Boats suddenly crash into other boats without us having an inkling as to how the they got so close, a fist lands on a face we don't recognize, cars chase through roads and avoid crashes but we can't tell what car is what, so we don't know which is a crash we should feel good about or not, because it seems more important for the camera to shake harshly and telegraph the chaos of violence. The result is a confusing mish mosh that robs the audience of the ability to follow along. It seems more like a way of covering a lack of coherent cinematic choreography than a style. As I said, we feel it, but we don't follow it. It is more Daniel Craig's excellent performance that allows the pain to go deep for us.

Forster chooses an interesting stylization during one sequence that alternates between the action of a modern staging of Tosca to the chase backstage between the villain's henchman and Bond. It is well done, smooth and tense and yet very self conscious.

Despite these faults, Quantum of Solace, in my opinion, (and this is MY blog after all. :-) )is still one of the best Bond films of the series. Paul Haggis, the main screenwriter, clearly knows the Bond of both film and book and he has taken elements of each to build the rebooted character. He has, thankfully, done away with the plethora of gadgets, relying on only a single, very souped up mobile phone. Gone too are the annoying SONY product placements that riddle the otherwise excellent Casino Royale. Much has been made in some reports about the lack of trademark Bondisms. To my surprise and pleasure, I didn't miss them and one trademark is given to us eventually.

I don't do spoilers but you will know what I mean when and if you have seen it, that in this film there are events with clear elements of Goldfinger, The Living Daylights, License to Kill and From Russia With Love, among others. Haggis takes key events in these stories and gives them a deeper emotional impact in Quantum. Bond feels these events to the point that it lasts and colors his actions.

Since we can presume there won't be remakes of the previous Bond films, Haggis has chosen to incorporate these events, bit by bit into building Craig's Bond. A kind of parallel universe that will be a combination of stories from the Connery/Moore/Dalton/Brosnan incarnations with the Craig take that is in many ways closer to Ian Fleming's original characterization. Though here we seem more focused on elements of Connery and Dalton (who happen to be my personal pre-Craig favorites...well Sean Connery will forever be Bond for me, but Craig's films have to be taken on a completely different level)

I do find myself hoping for some kind of remake of On Her Majestys Secret Service, a great Bond film with a weak Bond (The underexperienced but not untalented George Lazenby) and even weaker Blofeld (Telly Savales plays Blofeld as a common Mafia hood).

The consequences of Bond's seductions are driven home to him by a stern and tough love mothering M, once again brilliantly played by Judi Dench. The decision to keep her in the series after releasing Pierce Brosnan for the reboot remains inspired. It gives us a new relationship that neither book nor film has ever really explored.

Rather than becoming politically correct or having M call Bond and misogynist dinosaur as she does in Goldeneye, she simply forces him to face the consequences. And he takes it and learns from it.

Quantum is a vengeance story and like most of its kind asks the question whether vengeance doesn't ultimately leave you empty, but it goes a step further in suggestion how one handles that emptiness in the end when Bond consoles the girl who is his parallel (again, no spoilers, so giving you little to go on).

Quantum of Solace is rough around the edges, a bit of a loose cannon, like Bond. Too many chases, but even these lead to important story elements and so are forgiveable. I enjoyed this movie immensely. I was not disappointed as some recent reviews seem to be and I am as anxious for the next Bond film as I was after Casino Royale.

I have been a lifelong Bond fan, both film and Fleming books, but for awhile I went to the movies more out of loyalty than passion.. The vast majority of the Moore films annoyed me to the point that I never bothered to see View to A Kill until it was on network television. Living Daylights gave me hope. A pretty tight script, Tim Dalton's very excellent take on the character. Then a long gap and the ridiculous License to Kill. The Brosnan films had decent elements, but they started making Bond into Superman (diving after falling airplanes, swimming so far deep into the sea that any human being would be killed by the pressure, but not our Pierce)which undermined the characterization Brosnan was trying to give. For me his work started to come together in Die Another Day, an overall silly if reverent script with some excellent elements taken from Kingsly Amis' Colonel Sun. But Pierce was starting to feel like Bond to me, and not like someone who was almost Bond. So I was actually disappointed when they decided to not give him one more. Casino Royale changed that for me, Quantum solidified it. The passion is back.

Oh...and the new trailer for the new Star Trek film is making me rethink my hesitations about it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

California's split personality

I had a kind of rant I was going to write today about Proposition 8.

Then Keith said it better. So...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Some election day fun

You Should Be Allowed to Vote

You got 14/15 questions correct.

Generally speaking, you're very well informed.

If you vote this election, you'll know exactly who (and what) you'll be voting for.

You're likely to have strong opinions, and you have the facts to back them up.

My favorite ad with a favorite American Tune.

The big day

Here in New York, the sky is clear, the air crisp, the leaves turning. It is a perfect day for voting or really just about anything you might do mid fall.

The kind of day I want to vote for Obama and then go upstate and pick apples for the last time this year. BUT...I must go to work in a few so the apple picking is out.

I've never been one of those people with a continual sense of being an American. I have it, to be sure, that sense of pride in the country I was born to and live in. I feel it at certain times in especially strong ways. July 4th is an obvious one. Martin Luther King day is another.

But Election Day...that's the one that just makes me beam. Even when it looks bad for my candidate or days like today when I am wavering between confidence and fear. I do truly dread a McCain/Palin administration. Not only because of my political philosophy, but because I think Sarah Palin is a dangerous human being and that McCain's picking her indicates a very very serious lack of judgment on his part.

But I digress.

Election Day is when I walk down the street with extra verve in my step. I live in a nation where every 4 years we have the right to control the course of our nation. We send messages to our leaders. Often the message isn't heeded. But its true that in other nations they don't even have that.

We've come a long way, we have a long way to go. There's still shenanigans on both sides, though mostly on the Republican end in the last 20 years. But I believe, deeply in my heart, that we are still a beacon for many in the world. We have faltered of late, but its not TOO late. We can stand up again, we can be proud of what we stand for. In Florida alone they estimate that 85% of eligible voters will show up today. Florida alone. Something like that just makes me beam all the more. Showing up to vote is not only a right in this country, it is an obligation in my less than humble opinion.

Twice we blew it. We voted for an Administration that has no care or respect for the Constitution or the Bill of Rights, all the while whining about "activist Supreme Court Justices" and supporting "Originalists", a ridiculous and intellectually lazy pseudo philosophy.

We do seem to be waking up though.

In my neighborhood they expect to have to keep the polls open later than the 9pm appointed time (NYS allows this for up to an hour after official closing).

Clearly I hope to finish the night with the promise of an Obama administration and I fear the opposite, but I will remain proud to be a citizen of the United States of America either way and I'll fight like hell for 2012.