Saturday, January 31, 2009

Peeps - upscale!

A friend had mentioned that Lenox is coming out with a line of Peeps merchandise, which I find amusing to no end. They're pretty cute, though I'm happy to say that none of them scream "I HAVE TO HAVE THIS" to me.


This Peeps candy dish is pretty cute. That whole "fine china", "24 karat gold" thing kinda weirds me out though - I mean, that's fancy talk, and hey, this is a Peep!



This Peeps Easter tree is pretty cool with the different cute-shaped ornaments, but retail of $152? Are you kidding me?



The Peeps salt and pepper shakers are actually what I like best in the bunch since they're relatively simple but are, I think, the best use of the iconic chick and bunny, but $60 for salt and pepper shakers is just a bit too much for a cute joke, even for me.



Oh, and the chick tealight and bunny tealight? They look to me like they're bullet-ridden, and more than that, the bunny's belly is on fire internally. Just weird.


So, as much as I've liked Peeps, and I like the cool cheap stuff I've found at Target and Dollar Store and such, I think I'm going to pass on these much more expensive versions.

Friday, January 30, 2009

two totally different stories of family

and I thought the sister relationship in "Rachel Getting Married" was bad

Sometimes, there are difficulties and situations in families that result in relatives not being invited to a wedding. Some people don't take that very well, like this woman who wasn't invited to her sister's wedding reception and attacked her there. I'm thinking attacking her sister at the reception is not going to earn her any invitations to future family gatherings.


the best gift any kid could possibly want

If you were a six-year-old boy, what would you most want as a birthday present? Nope, not a bike or any other toy. How about your dad? That was such a sweet story. Can you imagine the look on his face when he saw his dad? And yeah, the last two paragraphs of the story made me cry.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

LegObama - The Inauguration

I've mentioned before that I like Legos, right? I've only been to Legoland in Carlsbad (near San Diego) once, but I'm hoping to go back this year. I had a blast looking at all the cool mini-land stuff.

Well, guess what I found today?

Legoland is replicating the recent inauguration!


One of the pictures from the slide show that shows the scene.



How frickin' cool is that?

Yes, in case you were wondering, they're all made of Legos. Well, except for the people looking at the display and the grass and trees around and such.


The official Legoland website says that the display will be up through Memorial Day weekend. I'm hoping I'll be able to make it down there while the display is still up.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

kittens cam!

So because friends seem to want to get me fired from work, they keep sending me links to cute animal cams. The latest one is a cute pile of kittens.





They are *very* rambunctious and so can provide hours of viewing enjoyment. Even when they're sleeping, they're really cute because they're just a pile of fur. And they don't seem to stay totally asleep for very long, because one will invariably get up to stretch or move to get more comfortable and then of course, the domino effect of the others awakening occurs.

I was kind of wondering about them being put in what looks like a play pen, with mesh on the side. Ummm, yeah, they know kittens can climb, right, especially with something so completely climbable as mesh? We used to have cats that would climb up our screen door to the back yard - drove my mother crazy. Cats are much harder to "pen up" than dogs because of that whole climbing and jumping thing. I have seen various of the kitties climbing out of their pen, so the people must not care all that much about absolutely keeping them inside.

I like the blue toy with the ball inside that the kitties can bat and then chase, and it's funny when they shove their paws through the opening, trying to get to the ball. It's even funnier when several of the kitties are engaged by the toy at the same time.

Of course, it's just as much fun to watch the kittens attacking and pouncing on each other!


If you get fired for watching this all day, it's not my fault.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

TCB = Them Chew Balls = boba drinks

Years ago, I remember seeing various restaurants and cafes and places where they advertised selling boba drinks. The menus would be ginormous, and I'd see people go in and order whatever and leave, and I had no clue what it really was. No one I knew at the time was really into it, at least to the point where they'd mention it or ask me if I'd had it, so I figured it was something like the shaved ice craze that had come before it. Yeah, I'd had shaved ice, but I didn't really get the excitement - it was good, but it was basically a high-end snow cone.

Cut to 2008. One of my friends would mention boba drinks periodically, and then came the occasion when boba drinks then became known as Them Chew Balls, forever after now to be nicknamed simply TCB.

When I was in her neighborhood one day, I decided to try it. The husband had had it before, so he kind of explained to me how it's ordered and such. We dropped into Aloha Boba, and he suggested that the best way to ease into it would probably be to get a slushie or a smoothie, I forget which, so I think I ordered the mango variety of one of those, with boba. The drink was pretty tasty. And it comes with a huge straw because the boba pearls have to be able to fit through them. So you're drinking liquid and periodically, you also suck in one of the balls. And then you chew them. Yeah, I know, simple. I don't really notice any particular taste associated with the boba pearls themselves. I thought it was a little weird to be drinking and then stopping periodically to chew. I enjoyed the drink but didn't really see what the fuss was about.

And then the incidiousness set in. I found myself wanting to try more boba. When I was at lunch at The Boat with a friend, she suggested having their lychee drink, which had lychee jelly in it, kinda like boba, but differently shaped. I love lychee, and the drink was very tasty indeed. That made me even more interested in boba again.

Another time after that when the husband and I were at Diamond Plaza, we went into one of the tea houses there. And I looked at the menu. And it had a ton of different drinks on it. And I was confused and rattled and frightened, and I decided it was too much to deal with, so we left without me getting a drink. Yeah, I know, I can hear you laughing. Especially YOU.

And then, I made another visit to Aloha Boba. And I read through their drink menu, and the one that caught my eye was the Almond Milk Tea, which consisted of almond, English Breakfast tea, creamer and sweetener. Mmmmm, I like almonds, and I *love* English Breakfast tea, so I ordered that with boba. The drink was YUM-MY. Here's a link with a menu that someone has put up.

Some random blog that I found includes Aloha Boba as one of the best boba places in Los Angeles. Pretty cool, even though it is a random blog. I like the little picture of the boba drink that it has at the beginning of that page as well. A few places I've been to have the domed cover, kind of like an icee, but more of the places have this thing where they hermetically seal a thin piece of plastic over the cup, and then you just poke through it with the straw, so the only opening in the plastic seal is the one you've just made with the straw, so your drink is still very protected. That's pretty cool.

I really like Aloha Boba because the people there are friendly and very nice. They also have free wifi, which the husband and I had noticed in case we have some kind of problem with our internet at home. I also like the many varieties of loose tea that they sell, but I don't think the husband is going to let me buy any more tea.

I think I'm even ready to go back to the place at Diamond Plaza that scared me enough to leave.


So, Aloha Boba is well and good, but I work on the west side of Los Angeles, so Aloha Boba isn't always very convenient. I oftentimes go to the area on Sawtelle Blvd. just north of Olympic for lunch since they have various ramen and tofu places and such. I noticed one little cafe that had tea drinks and figured they would have boba. I tried that out a couple weeks ago and was not impressed with the flavor of the tea. Disappointment.

Then yesterday, I was in the area again and noticed Volcano Tea - hey, they have TCB! They have a fairly large menu as well, but emboldened as I am now, I didn't let that scare me away. I simply took a few minutes to peruse the menu - and I ordered the almond milk tea. Hey, get what you know, right? They had the little plastic seal thing, and the tea was delicious. Their boba pearls are smaller, so they actually fit through the straw pretty good. The pearls at Aloha Boba are a bit bigger, and towards the end of the drink, the pearls are hardening from the ice and sometimes don't fit through the straw anymore, so I end up using the straw just to spear them. I am noticing that when I'm having TCB, I tend to end up finishing the liquid part before I finish the pearls, so I'll have pearls left over at the bottom of the cup that I just end up eating separately. Hmmm, I'll have to investigate and do some more experimentation to see if I'm doing this right.

Here's another page for Volcano Tea. I don't know what the deal is with their official website, but it doesn't work for me. Volcano Tea appears to be a chain as I've seen listings in other cities, though the comments for the other locations don't seem to be all that good. So now, I'm happy that I've found a location close to work where I can get my fix of TCB, though I think I'm going to have to figure out what else to order other than the almond tea. I don't generally drink a lot of things with sugar in it - I usually drink diet soda rather than regular soda, and I don't usually put sugar in my hot tea or iced tea. (That's not to say I don't get my share of sugar in other food items.) I may have to figure out if I can get the boba drinks with some kind of artificial sweetener rather than sugar - or maybe they're already using that, and I just don't know. Hmmm, more investigating and experimenting. There is one other danger about that particular Volcano Tea location. It's in the same mini-mall as a store that I found which could prove to be *very* dangerous. But that's a topic for another post.


I just had to point out that I'm loving the following sentence from the wisegeek article I included earlier.

While the idea of sweet, chewy spheres in one's drink may seem strange to the uninitiated, most newcomers to boba are pleasantly surprised.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Today marks year 4707 on the lunar calendar, the year of the ox.

I found a couple of websites with various information about Chinese New Year. I have no idea who runs each website, and I don't vouch for the accuracy of any of the information.

This is from infoplease with generic information.

This one looks a little more "authentic", and I would guess it's run by a travel company.

This one has actual Chinese writing on the page! No, I have no idea if that makes it more authentic.

And here's a news story about how Chinese New Year was celebrated (they are 18 hours ahead of U.S. Pacific Time) in an area of China hit last year by an earthquake.


Disney usually releases some kind of pin in conjunction with Chinese New Year. Since there's no famous ox in Disney lore, I guess they decided to just stick Stitch on a pin with an ox, since Stitch sells well. Hmmm, to me, it might have made more sense to put Mulan on a pin with an ox.





Disney also released another Chinese New Year pin, which I actually like better than the above pin, but it's for sale only to cast members, so I'm out of luck.





I think it would be a lot of fun to be at Hong Kong Disneyland during the Chinese New Year season, but with circumstances the way they are, that's not gonna happen anytime soon. The offerings at that park look pretty cool, though. Following are a couple of screen shots from their website.


The main page for the Chinese New Year celebration event.



I've seen pictures of Mickey and Minnie dressed up before but not Goofy. Pictures with them would be awesome. I'm not sure what Bolt and Mittens have to do with anything - guess they're just promoting the movie.



Parade looks like it would be really cool.



They have other Chinese New Year related celebrations as well, including dining and red packets and such. I'm going to assume there's no actual money in the red packets.

Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Disney: The Music Behind the Magic - new exhibit coming to Southern California

I found out about this exhibit from the discussion boards of a Disney-based website.

The exhibit is called Disney: The Music Behind the Magic and will be at the Western Center for Archaeology and Paleontology in Hemet, CA.





Here's some information about the exhibit from the website:

Discover the magic of Disney music at the Western Center Museum February 6th – May 10th, 2009. Disney: The Music Behind the Magic (organized by the Experience Music Project, Seattle) is the first museum exhibition to tell the story of how Disney has used music to engage audiences, drive its timeless narratives, and succeed in cartoons, television, theme parks, live-action films, on Broadway and the Billboard charts.


Here's a link to more information about the exhibit. Sounds cool, doesn't it? There is a lot in the description that interests me, but can you find the two magical words that REALLY caught my attention? Yeah, thought you could.

We're going out to the Palm Desert area in about two months for a show, and the husband suggested maybe going to see this exhibit on that same weekend. That might end up being too rushed, so we might just make a separate trip out to exciting, fabulous Hemet just to see this exhibit.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Disney offers free admission on your birthday

The Walt Disney Company this year has a promotion that offers everyone free admission on their birthday to either a park at the Disneyland Resort or a park at the Walt Disney World Resort. The admission is good only on the exact date of the person's birthday (valid proof of birthday is required), and if the person already has admission media (like an annual passport, for instance), then they can choose among a couple other offerings instead.

Here's a site where you can register your birthday with the Disney company. It's not required to register to get the free admission or other perqs, but it certainly doesn't hurt.

I've already decided that for my birthday, I'll be opting for the gift card in the amount equal to one day's single park admission. I haven't decided what I'm buying with it yet though.

Friday, January 23, 2009

"Pinocchio" spoiler movie review and El Capitan panel discussion

The El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood oftentimes does re-releases of classic Disney animated films, especially films that have been restored and will be released or re-released on DVD. Or sometimes, they just do it for the heck of it. We went to see "Oliver and Company" there a couple of weeks ago. When we heard about "Pinocchio" being shown, we definitely knew we wanted to go, especially with a panel discussion accompanying the film the day before the actual release date.





I parked at Hollywood and Highland last night, and one of the friends coming to the screening with us actually ended up parking right next to me. We then ran into the husband as we were walking across the street to the theatre. Pinocchio was in the lobby, and people were having their picture taken with him. We usually get VIP tickets, which include a reserved seat, a bucket of popcorn and a drink, so we picked up our snacks and then headed to our regular seats in the balcony. Our other friend who was attending that night was already in her seat.

Shortly after 7pm, the evening started. The moderator was Don Hahn, and whereas there's normally a row of chairs on stage for whomever is going to be on the panel, there were actually work stations and two lone chairs. Don announced that we'd be getting a virtual tour of the Disney Studios and that he'd brought along some of the artists who create the magic.

And the special panel guest for the evening was Dick Jones, the voice of Pinocchio himself. Even being in his early 80s, he still showed the spunk that Walt Disney himself must have seen when he hired Dick to voice Pinocchio. Don asked Dick about how he came to be the voice of Pinocchio, and Dick talked about the audition process and how he just thought Walt Disney was a very tall, nice man. At one point, Don made a comment about Dick being 10 at the time, and Dick said he was older than that. When Don asked how old he was, Dick said he was 11, which drew laughter from the audience. Dick talked about what it was like recording his lines and how Walt would interact with him when the reels had to be replaced. It was a lot of fun to listen to Dick reminisce about working on that film.

Don then talked to the artists on stage, including a sculptor who creates the maquettes that the animators use for reference with the characters (even though Don referred to the man as a sculpture - no, that's the object; the creator is the sculptor). Don then talked to an animator, who showed how animation is done page by page and what goes into animating a full length movie. Don also talked to a woman who did ink and paint, painting each of the cels of the film.

Don then said that one of the songs from the movie, "When You Wish Upon a Star", became the signature theme song of the Walt Disney Company, and that night, we'd hear a special rendition of the song. And then - the Dapper Dans walked on stage. No, I mean the REAL Dapper Dans, not the group at Disneyland that is now called the Dapper Dans. Yeah, they're ok, but they're a lot younger and not nearly as seasoned and personable (in my opinion) as the former incarnation. The Dapper Dans did a really nice version of the song, and it was really wonderful to be able to see and hear them. I haven't really felt the feeling of missing them until last night - I just knew they weren't at Disneyland, so I just never even think about looking for them anymore. But hearing them last night, I really know what I'm missing with most of them no longer a part of the group.


This is a picture of them from December 31, 2005.
The husband is pretty sure all four of them were there last night. The only one he's not 100% sure about is the gentleman in blue.



This is my favorite picture of them, taken shortly after the picture above. You'll have to read my trip report to find out the story behind the picture.



And with that, it was time for the movie. I'd never actually seen the movie before. Yeah, I'd seen scenes here and there but never the entire film. And there were scenes and story ideas that I never knew about. For instance, during the panel discussion, Don talked about the animation for the "Give a Little Whistle" song - a song and sequence I'd never heard of before. Given the Disney fan I am now, some people might be surprised that I've never seen this classic before. My Disney affection didn't develop until I was well into adulthood, and I didn't grow up in a household that included Disney movies. I have seen most of the films as they've been re-released at the El Capitan, and it's actually been nice to see them under such beautiful surroundings, especially when there's a panel discussion with some of the original people involved in the making of the film. To date, I believe the only classic Disney animated films (depending, however, on how you define "classic Disney animated film") that I have not seen are "Dumbo", "Robin Hood" and "The Aristocrats". One particular friend is especially perturbed that I've never seen "Dumbo", though she has graciously agreed to continue speaking to me and being my friend in spite of that particular shortcoming on my part. Of course, the really funny part is that the film was indeed re-released at the El Capitan in the last couple years - during the time when the husband and I were in Orlando and so were therefore completely unable to attend any of the screenings at the El Cap!

As for "Pinocchio" itself, I absolutely loved it. I can certainly see why it's a classic and the appeal it has to moviegoers of all ages. Figaro has been a favorite character of mine for quite some time anyway, but he is now even moreso since I've seen the film. He is a cutie - even if he is a brat.


Figaro with Cleo, Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio.



I didn't know that Stromboli had such a small part in the movie. I thought he was also the one responsible for the boys going to Pleasure Island. Of course, now I wonder why Disneyland previously decided to name a fairly nice Italian restaurant after him.

I didn't know that Jiminy Cricket started out as a vagabond. I'd only ever seen him in his new clothes. I also didn't know that he was that much of a lech, no matter if it was the Blue Fairy, a marionette or a figurine from a musical clock. I also didn't know crickets had round toes.

In these modern times, it made me uncomfortable that Geppetto was wishing so much for a little boy, and it made me even more uncomfortable when puppet Pinocchio was given life and Geppetto had him sleeping in bed cuddled up right next to him.

I asked the husband what kind of whale Monstro was. His response was "a fake one". I'm told there is no such whale large enough to be able to swallow whole a ship and where a man could live inside.

I had no idea that Monstro doesn't actually blow his tale off with his sneeze. During parts of that entire segment, I kept picturing different sequences from the Disneyland show Fantasmic. And I want to go on the Pinocchio ride again as well as on Storybook.

I didn't know that Pinocchio's nose grew only in one scene because of his lying.

When the boys are on Pleasure Island, and the boys were destroying the beautiful new modern home, I kept thinking about how they could recreate that sequence at Disneyland in Innoventions right now.

I loved the little sea horses that Jiminy encountered.

When Geppetto and Figaro were inside Monstro and fishing, and Geppetto was saying how there weren't any fish left, I kept thinking that yeah, there was one fish left, and she's right behind you. I would have been worried if I was Cleo - she might have made a tasty snack for Figaro. I thought it was odd that Figaro kissed and even licked Cleo but never felt the inclination to eat her. But then Figaro seemed to like his fish cooked and with pats of butter on top. And Cleo liked cake that didn't seem to get soggy in her bowl.

After Monstro attacked their raft, smashing it to bits with his tale, my thought was that the fish and the cat were dead. And then they washed up on shore right next to Geppetto, perfectly ok. This was totally unrealistic. Cleo even had water in her bowl. But was it regular fresh water or sea water, because that would seem to make a difference.

And we all laughed at the hippopotamus reference! I made a comment to everyone afterward that if a certain other friend of ours had been at the screening last night, at least one of us would have been hit really hard right after that line.


I had a terrific time seeing this movie.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

81st Academy Awards nominations

The nominations for the 81st Academy Awards were announced this morning, and the following are the Oscar nominees in the major categories.


Best Picture
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Frost/Nixon
Milk
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire


Best Director
Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Stephen Daldry, The Reader
Gus Van Sant, Milk
David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon

Best Actor
Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
Sean Penn, Milk
Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler

Best Actress
Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
Angelina Jolie, Changeling
Melissa Leo, Frozen River
Meryl Streep, Doubt
Kate Winslet, The Reader

Best Supporting Actor
Josh Brolin, Milk
Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
Philip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams, Doubt
Penelope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Viola Davis, Doubt
Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler

Best Original Screenplay
Frozen River, written by Courtney Hunt
Happy-Go-Lucky, written by Mike Leigh
In Bruges, written by Martin McDonagh
Milk, written by Dustin Lance Black
Wall-E, screenplay by Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon, original story by Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter

Best Adapted Screenplay
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, screenplay by Eric Roth, screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
Doubt, written by John Patrick Shanley
Frost/Nixon, screenplay by Peter Morgan
The Reader, screenplay by David Hare
Slumdog Millionaire, screenplay by Simon Beaufoy

Best Animated Feature Film
Bolt
Kung Fu Panda
Wall-E


Best Score
Alexandre Desplat, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
James Newton Howard, Defiance
Danny Elfman, Milk
A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire
Thomas Newman, Wall-E

Best Original Song
"Down to Earth", Wall-E, Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman,
Lyric by Peter Gabriel
"Jai Ho", Slumdog Millionaire, Music by A.R. Rahman,
Lyric by Gulzar
"O Saya", Slumdog Millionaire, Music and Lyric by A.R. Rahman and Maya Arulpragasam

Best Art Direction
Changeling
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Duchess
Revolutionary Road


Best Cinematography
Changeling
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
The Reader
Slumdog Millionaire


Best Costume Design
Australia
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Duchess
Milk
Revolutionary Road


Best Film Editing
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Frost/Nixon
Milk
Slumdog Millionaire


Best Makeup
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
The Dark Knight
Hellboy II: The Golden Army





The nomination that I'm happiest about is Robert Downey, Jr. as Best Supporting Actor in "Tropic Thunder". He was brilliant in that movie, and I loved the movie in general anyway, but I really didn't think he'd get a nomination for a role like that. Nice to see that they came through!

The non-nomination that I'm most unhappy about is "Rock Me Sexy Jesus" from "Hamlet 2" as Best Original Song. That really was an amazing song, and I would have loved to have seen them perform it on the show. I figured that since "Hamlet 2" got almost no buzz for anything, that would hurt the chances of the song being nominated. You really have to know the movie to know how well that song fits. I was also kind of hoping that "Dracula's Lament" from "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" might be nominated just because it was funny, but that wasn't meant to be either. I am happy that Peter Gabriel was nominated for "Wall-E" though.

Out of the Best Picture nominees, I've only seen one, "Milk". I have zero interest in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button", and I don't care about "The Reader". I will probably end up seeing "Frost/Nixon" and "Slumdog Millionaire" in the next month. Those are the only films nominated in categories that I am interested in seeing before the awards are presented.

It's amazing that all four major roles in "Doubt" resulted in nominations for each of the actors. As I'd mentioned in my review, it's definitely a performance piece. I knew Meryl Street would get nominated for "Doubt" rather than "Mamma Mia", so while I'm disappointed, it wasn't surprising. I definitely agree with the nominations of Anne Hathaway in "Rachel Getting Married" and Angelina Jolie in "Changeling". Both were stellar performances.

Heath Ledger's Best Supporting Actor nomination in "The Dark Knight" was not unexpected, but it was absolutely well-deserved. I'm a little surprised at the attention being paid to "Milk", with both Sean Penn and Josh Brolin receiving acting nominations (lead and supporting, respectively), but they both did a great job.

I'm pleased that "Wall-E" was nominated for Best Original Screenplay. I didn't expect that. Its nomination for Best Animated Feature Film was definitely expected, but I'm happy that "Bolt" was nominated as well. I'd really like "Wall-E" to win though. So don't care about "Kung Fu Panda".

Nice that Danny Elfman was nominated for Best Original Score for "Milk". In other categories, I'm happy that "Presto" was nominated for Best Animated Short, and I'm really happy that Ben Burtt received two nominations, for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing on "Wall-E".

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" leads the nominations with 13. "Slumdog Millionaire" received 10 nominations, and both "Milk" and "The Dark Knight" received 8 nominations each.

The winners will be announced on Sunday, February 22, 2009.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

"The Love Guru" gets five nominations

No, not Oscar nominations - those don't get announced until tomorrow morning. "The Love Guru" got five Golden Raspberry Award nominations - better known as a Razzie.

Here are the nominations in the major categories and my comments on the nominations.


Worst Picture
Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans
The Happening
The Hottie and the Nottie
In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
The Love Guru


I can happily say that I didn't see any of the six nominated movies. I read about "The Happening" - wow, what a stupid movie idea.


Worst Actor
Larry the Cable Guy, Witless Protection
Eddie Murphy, Meet Dave
Mike Myers, The Love Guru
Al Pacino, 88 Minutes and Righteous Kill
Mark Wahlberg, The Happening and Max Payne

I only saw one of the performances, and that was Mark Wahlberg in "Max Payne", and I actually rather enjoyed the movie and liked his performance ok, so I disagree with his nomination for that.


Worst Actress
Jessica Alba, The Eye and The Love Guru
The Cast of The Women (Annette Bening, Eva Mendes, Debra Messing, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Meg Ryan)
Cameron Diaz, What Happens in Vegas
Paris Hilton, The Hottie and the Nottie
Kate Hudson, Fool's Gold and My Best Friend's Girl

I had wanted to see "The Women" because I really liked the original, but I never got around to it. The movie did get panned, so it looks like they didn't do a very good job of remaking the film. Guess I'll just watch the original again.


Worst Supporting Actor
Uwe Boll, Uwe Boll's Postal
Pierce Brosnan, Mamma Mia
Ben Kingsley, The Love Guru, War, Inc. and The Wackness
Burt Reynolds, Deal and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
Verne Troyer, The Love Guru and Uwe Boll's Postal

I *so* agree with Pierce Brosnan's nomination for "Mamma Mia". I have not made it a secret in the least that I really didn't care for his performance in the movie, at least in terms of his singing.


Worst Supporting Actress
Carmen Electra, Disaster Movie and Meet the Spartans
Paris Hilton, Repo: The Genetic Opera
Kim Kardashian, Disaster Movie
Jenny McCarthy, Witless Protection
Leelee Sobieski, 88 Minutes and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale

I really disagree with Paris Hilton's nomination for "Repo: The Genetic Opera". I really liked the movie, and I think she did a terrific job. OK, so it was a bit of typecasting, given the character she played, but I thought she pulled it off really well, especially considering how off-beat and twisted that movie was.


A few other random comments about extraneous nominations:

Nominated in the Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-Off or Sequel were both "Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull" and "Star Wars: The Clone Wars". I know a lot of people didn't like either of them. I had my problems with Indy IV, but generally, I enjoyed it. And I *really* liked "The Clone Wars".

M. Night Shyamalan was nominated for Worst Director. I think they should just make that a lifetime award for him and be done with it.

And Worst Career Achievement is being given to Uwe Boll. No, I have no idea who he is. And yes, "achievement" is spelled incorrectly in one place on the website.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

"Gran Torino" - spoiler movie review

"Gran Torino" is the last of the movies that I wanted to see before the Academy Award nominations are announced early Thursday morning. I'd originally seen the one-sheet for the movie, but it didn't tell me anything about the movie, so I had no feeling for it one way or the other.





And then I saw the trailer, and I found it intriguing. I am neither a huge fan nor a detractor of Clint Eastwood's - I like him ok. I don't see movies just because of him, and I don't avoid movies because of him. The gruff old man he portrayed in the trailer seemed interesting.

I really thought the movie was simply amazing. I had noticed that the run-time of the film was just shy of two hours, which I thought was pretty long for the kind of movie this looked to be. For the most part, it's a very talky movie, but you don't notice the time going by at all. The characters are very well painted, and the time of the movie is well-spent in getting to know the characters. You can pretty much tell from the trailer where the movie is going to go, and you know that a very important lesson is going to be learned, and that there's probably going to be a showdown, and there's not too much that is really going to be a surprise. This movie is one of those cases, though, where it's not necessarily the destination that's the payoff - it's the journey. Yeah, I know, that sounds really cliche and trite, but in certain cases, this being one of them, it really is about seeing how the characters are going to get to where you know they have to get. If the development isn't interesting, the story isn't going to be interesting.

Similar to my comments for "Doubt", the highlights of this movie stand in the performances. Clint Eastwood is really remarkable as Walt, the racist grouch who displays a lot of the same qualities as Archie Bunker. Walt is unabashedly and unashamedly racist - but he's pretty much an equal opportunity racist. He becomes the unwilling hero of the neighbors next door on multiple occasions, but he finds that he has much more in common with them than his own estranged family. And like Archie Bunker, he never really loses his racism, but it's tempered by his interactions with them as he develops a relationship with them. When you first meet Walt, you see his racism and his bad disposition, and you hear his two adult sons talking, and you sort of feel for them that they have a father like that to contend with. And then you realize that with kids and grandkids like that, it's not all that surprising that he hasn't warmed up to them.

Christopher Carley is really terrific as the young priest who made a promise to Walt's dying wife that he would keep an eye on Walt, and his persistence ends up nurturing a begrudging friendship with Walt.

The two kids next door are played by newcomers it seems, but they were both terrific, so I expect we'll be seeing lots more of each of them. And grandma was an absolute riot. I loved her.

I had unfortunately come across a spoiler to the end of the movie beforehand - entirely my own fault. I knew that Walt committed suicide to help the kids, so as the movie approached its conclusion, I thought maybe he was going to blow himself up in the building and take out the entire gang as well. I didn't know that he pretty much committed death-by-gang so that all the gang members would presumably be prosecuted and taken away, saving the two kids next door. Yeah, ok, Walt dying in the Christ position was a bit cheesy and over-the-top. That was probably my only criticism. But otherwise, it's a wonderful, well-made film which hits a lot of different notes and emotions.

Monday, January 19, 2009

celebrating Rockapella style

Because someone I know is a huge Rockapella fan, I thought I'd focus on them as the topic of today. All of the following are from their September 2008 show in Las Vegas.


John (left) and Scott (right) audition a potential new band member.



Scott isn't sure if the new band member is ready for its closeup.
(Yeah, I wish the picture was in focus too.)



Scott looking dapper in his show-wear.



Here's the band's rendition of "Ain't Too Proud To Beg" with a very participatory audience member. Go Scott and John!




Happy Birthday, Sherry!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

hoping for a Pennsylvania civil war on February 1

Today is final playoff day in the NFL to determine which two of the four remaining teams will be playing in the Super Bowl on February 1, 2009. I'm not as excited by the game as I might be if any of the teams I really like were going to be there, but there's at least still some interesting things that could happen.

The first playoff game is between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Arizona Cardinals.


vs.


I'm rooting for the Eagles because I like Donovan McNabb, and I like the Eagles ok as a team. (And, really, a mighty eagle should have no problem taking down a tiny little cardinal, mean look on cardinals face nothwithstanding.) I won't be super disappointed if the Cardinals win, though, because Kurt Warner being their quarterback has its own entertainment value, but in addition to that, I'd also know that Matt Leinert is in the Super Bowl but is going to be spending it watching the game from the sidelines. That would just be funny enough to sacrifice having the Eagles in the game itself.


The second playoff game is between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Baltimore Ravens.


vs.


I'm rooting for the Steelers because they've been a great team, and it would be nice to see their resurgence. And I like Ben Roethlisberger, even if I can't spell his name. I really, really don't like the Ravens, so I will be really disappointed if they end up winning this game. (And yeah, ravens are powerful and mean, but up against steel - they should be out cold.)


So if everything turns out the way I want, that will set up the February 1 Super Bowl as a Pennsylvania civil war - Philadelphia vs. Pittsburgh. McNabb vs. Roethlisberger - how awesome a matchup would that be!


vs.

Here's hoping this is what the Super Bowl matchup
will look like this year.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

who needs a speech writer - just use MadLibs!

President-Elect Barack Obama is approaching one of the most important days in his political life - being sworn in as the President of the United States. He is going to have to make quite the impression when he makes his inauguration speech.

I thought I'd give him some help. Do you want to help write his speech too? Here's your chance. I'm providing a little spoiler space to give you a chance to write his speech before I show you mine.


















Here's my recommendation for his speech.

My fellow Americans, today is a heavy day. You have shown the world that "hope" is not just another word for "alligator", and that "change" is not only something we can believe in again, but something we can actually run.

Today we celebrate, but let there be no mistake – America faces depressed and orange challenges like never before. Our economy is rancid. Americans can barely afford their mortgages, let alone have enough money left over for gnats. Our healthcare system is congenial. If your liver is sick and you don't have insurance, you might as well call a plumber. And America's image overseas is tarnished like a table diamond. But squawking together we can right this ship, and set a course for forest.

Finally, I must thank my purple family, my asinine campaign volunteers, but most of all, I want to thank Weebles for making this historic occasion possible. Of course, I must also thank you, President Bush, for years of selling the American people. Without your gracious efforts, none of this would have been possible.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Is that made out of Legos? Yep, 500,000 of them.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of Legos last year, the world's tallest Lego tower was built, beating the record set the prior year in Toronto by 4 feet.

I'd like to know how long it took them to put it together. And how many boxes they had to buy. ;)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

the little blue lines don't mean what you think they mean

Some people don't understand why people drink decaf coffee. I will on occasion if I want the taste of coffee and want to make sure that caffeine doesn't affect my sleep like it seems to do now on occasion whereas it never seemed to have that effect before. I'm also not a coffee snob, so the taste of decaf coffee doesn't bother me.

But, I'm not really sure I understand the need for caffeine-testing strips. I mean, if you don't trust the people you're buying coffee from to give you what you've actually ordered, then I'm thinking you should buy coffee from someone you don't actually think will screw you over. And, really, let's say the strip detects something - what are you going to do, show the little strip to the business owner? What's that going to get you? They might just congratulate you. Or think you're hitting them up for a paternity suit - I like one of the comments on the article that the strip looks like a pregnancy test. And, it does have blue lines to show positive.

Well, you could always name the baby "Joe".


Here's the entire comment I mention above just because I think it's so funny. Yeah, so the person can't spell, doesn't do caps and is missing some punctuation, but funny trumps all that.

btw whos gonna sit around a cafe sticking home pregnancy tests into there coffee?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

the correct way to peel a banana

Here's a decent presentation, but I mostly just like the background music, even though it's not apropos to bananas, the peeling, eating or cooking of them, or really, anything to do with bananas, unless you think bananas are gold-colored or you think they grow in fields.




OK, I don't agree with the "f'in' retarded" comment, but otherwise, I think his explanation works. Good demo, even showing the one-handed trick.




This is my favorite - short and sweet and no dialogue to boot! WINNER!!!!




Class dismissed. ;)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Disney isn't the salve for everything

The LaughingPlace.com daily Disney newsletter had a link to this article which tells the story of a 20 year old man who was killed in late October 2008 by an officer of the Anaheim police department. The police were chasing burglary suspects, and the man was an innocent bystander. The family of the man is suing the city of Anaheim for wrongful death.

The man had a wife, and she was pregnant with their child, a daughter who was born in early December 2008. The man's death is tragic, especially given the circumstances of his death, and I can't imagine what his widow and his parents and family must be going through, and that poor little girl who will never know her father.

There is one wrinkle in this story, though. Even though Disneyland and The Walt Disney Company are not connected in any way to the matter of the man's death, the parents of the man, in conjunction with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, are asking Disneyland to put up a statue on Main Street to honor their son. The family's lawyer says that the statue would "serve as a message of healing and reconciliation to the community and a reminder that deadly force should be eliminated from the streets of Anaheim".

I am having trouble seeing how Disney putting up a statue would be any kind of reconciliation with the community since Disney wasn't involved in the shooting at all. And would a simple statue actually do anything to heal the hurt and anger and pain that the man's family must be feeling? I also find it hard to believe that a statue would be any kind of reminder about eliminating deadly force. Do most people go around thinking that deadly force on a regular basis on the streets of Anaheim is ok? And no matter what happens with the lawsuit and what determination is made regarding the actions of the police officer, it wasn't like the police were just wandering around the neighborhood looking for someone to shoot. They were in pursuit of suspects who had committed a robbery. If they really want to eliminate the need for deadly force to be used, how about putting together a neighborhood group to watch out for crime, so that the citizens and police can work together to curtail crime in the area.

The attorney goes on to say about the statue that "it's about honoring a man who didn't deserve to die and preventing it from ever happening again". With all due respect to the man killed and his family, he is unfortunately not the first person or the only person nor will he likely be the last person who "didn't deserve to die". I'm also unclear why Disneyland would or should choose to single out this one person for a memorial statue - what about the countless victims of crime in Anaheim? They didn't deserve to die either. Should they each be memorialized with a statue on Main Street? And how on earth is having such a statue going to prevent a senseless death from ever happening again? Anyone who is contemplating a crime that might result in someone's death is going to see that statue and then change their mind?

I would think that the memorial at best would be something that the family might want to look at. How are they going to be able to see the statue when it's placed on private property that requires an entrance fee and is only open during certain hours? How callous would it be for Disney to say, "Sorry, I know you want to see the statue dedicated to your son/husband/father/family member, but you have to pay the admission price to be able to see it"? So, Disney has to also provide free admission to any family or friend of the man who would want to see his statue?


I am going to give the parents the benefit of the doubt that they are in so much grief that they don't see how inappropriate their request is, but shame on the SCLC for being party to this and using the demand to Disneyland as a publicity scam. I have a hard time believing that the family came up with the idea themselves. I'm not even sure where the idea would have come from. There is no mention that man was a fan of Disneyland or that he and his family enjoyed spending time there. Even if they had, it would be an outrageous request, but absent that connection, the demand makes even less sense. Figuring out what really happened in this man's death, and regardless of the outcome, how best to provide for the widow and daughter is what's most important, not some stupid statue at Disneyland that will do nothing to help anyone.

I am going to assume that the SCLC actually does some good somewhere. From their website, they appear to have a good history, but being involved in this kind of ridiculous request sure calls into question any credibility they would have developed over the years, which is a real shame. I hope they will channel their resources to actually helping people rather than simply as a means of shining the spotlight on themselves.


After I read the news story, my thoughts were as I've set them forth above. But many hours later, a realization came to me - I'd already heard about this story previously, about the man who was accidentally killed. The story had been told to me by a friend - who has a friend who is peripherally related to the man who was killed. I remember thinking of the pregnant widow at the time, and what she must be going through and feeling sad that the man was never going to know his own daughter.

Remembering that I know someone who knows someone connected to the situation doesn't change my feelings any, though. I still give the parents a pass because of the pain they must be in, and I still fault the SCLC for taking advantage of the situation.

Monday, January 12, 2009

"Doubt" - spoiler movie review

There was a long period in my life where I was wrong. So utterly and completely wrong.

The first thing I saw Meryl Streep in was the 1978 TV mini-series entitled "Holocaust". That was one hell of a series, and she certainly had a stand-out performance among many stand-out performances in the series. I then thought she was terrific in movies like "The Deer Hunter" and "Kramer vs. Kramer". But then, there was all this praise shovelled on "Out of Africa", which didn't actually do that much for me, and I think that was the beginning of the downslide. I really liked her in "Death Becomes Her", but otherwise, I was tired of the overwhelming praise heaped on her and the nominations tossed on her every time she did anything. I was MerylStreepedOut. And then I saw "The Devil Wears Prada", and I discovered that I liked her again. She was fabulous in that movie. I was happy that I liked her again so that when I heard she was going to be playing the mom in the film version of "Mamma Mia", I didn't immediately roll my eyes. And it's a good thing I didn't, because she was spectacular as Donna Sheridan. And in a 180 degree turn from Donna Sheridan, she was just as spectacular as the head nun in "Doubt".

Yes, that's my long, circuitious route to my review of "Doubt". I was not familiar with the stage play, so my first exposure was from seeing the trailer to the film, which immediately grabbed me, and seeing the film did not disappoint. Yeah, ok, the people to my left and the people behind me in the theatre were a little louder during the earlier parts of the movie than I really would have liked, but everyone soon quieted down, and it always amazes me to sit in a near-filled theatre that's deathly quiet because everyone is so focussed on the film being shown. And this isn't one of those shoot-em-up exploding movies so there's a lot of just talking - and still, silence in the audience.

There was so much that was just incredible about this movie, from the storyline to the script and dialogue to the performances all around and the direction as well. There were some funky directing/camera moves, but I understood where he was coming from, so I didn't mind that too much.

But the jewels are in the acting, especially with the trio of Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams.

Meryl Streep paints the perfect picture of a very, very, VERY old-fashioned nun, one who decries even the use of ball-point pens. But her character is softened by her tender attention to one of the aging nuns, who she protects. And her conviction is strong that she's doing the right thing in bringing down a priest that she believes is hurting children - but there's a hint to something in her past that has damaged her and makes her more susceptible to believing something like that.

Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a more modern priest who doesn't think fire and brimstone is all that will bring people into the fold. He believes in a more human, caring approach, even coaching the boys' basketball team. But how do you know when the line is crossed between being genuinely affectionate and caring and taking advantage of a young, lonely, outcast boy? An action can easily be misconstrued either way.

Amy Adams is perfect as the Pollyanna young nun who gets her innocence stripped away by being drawn into what might be a very disturbing situation. She doesn't want to believe the worst, so she is easily convinced that nothing is going on, but there's still another part of her that can't help wondering if she's doing the right thing.

Viola Davis is also very good in a smallish part as the mother of the boy that the priest is accused of being improper with. Her memorable scene is with Meryl Streep, when the head nun is trying to tell the mother that something bad may be happening with her son, but the mother has other concerns about her son, and while her attitude shocks the nun, it's a matter of choosing the lesser of all evils when it comes to what to do about her son's predicament.

I like that there is no absolute answer about whether the priest has done anything wrong. It would appear that he has because when the nun lies about calling his prior parish, he backs down. But we're not sure exactly what's in his past. There's no absolute proof. Is he a man who has gotten away with a lot because of his priestly robes and who keeps getting rewarded and promoted for his unspeakable betrayal, or is he a good priest who is able to rise above the unfounded suspicions and circumstances that those with darker minds might think up?

It's my understanding that the play is structured so that only the four characters I mention above are represented. I'm very interested in seeing the play sometime to see how it plays out on stage. I would imagine the tension would be even more palpable with that minimalist staging.

And just as a bookend, Meryl Streep's next movie is called "Julie and Julia", where she'll be playing Julia Child. She'll be reunited with Amy Adams, who plays the Julie in the title, and Julia Child's husband is being played by Stanley Tucci. Oh, and Mary Lynn Rajskub, Chloe of "24" fame, is in the movie as well. I can't wait.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

"The Big Bang Theory" - December 8, 2008 and December 15, 2008 episodes

December 8, 2008 episode

Sheldon says he keeps hearing a tone in his ears, so Stephanie agrees to examine him, but she can't find anything wrong with him. Sheldon later confronts Leonard to say that now that Leonard has a live-in girlfriend, a particular addendum to their roommate contract is now being enacted, but all the while, Leonard denies that he has a live-in girlfriend.

Penny wanders over in her nightgown to get some coffee, and Stephanie wants to know who this woman is who feels comfortable enough to do that, especially since Leonard has never mentioned her before. Uh oh. After Stephanie leaves for work, Leonard is still denying that Stephanie is living there, so Penny goes into his room with him and finds Stephanie's stuff (clothes, slippers, candles, bed sheets) everywhere, even having moved some of Leonard's stuff to put her stuff there.

At work the next day, Howard can't understand why Leonard would settle for having just one girlfriend rather than being able to have any girl he wants like Howard - that is, any girl that would be willing to have Howard. Yeah, dude, you're a stud.

Meanwhile, Sheldon is still pestering Stephanie and has shown up at the hospital, having already further examined himself, and he wants Stephanie to authorize a number of further tests, which she refuses.

Penny encounters Leonard in the laundry room, and Leonard says he needs to wash some pants so asks Penny if he can borrow some of her fabric softener. She says yes, and he dumps the entire contents in, which prompts Penny to ask "What are you washing, a crocodile?" Leonard explains that Stephanie bought him some pants that are really itchy, so he's hoping washing them will make them better. Penny then cautions that those pants aren't supposed to be machine washed and could be ruined if they are, which Leonard decides to pretend to not hear and turns on the washing machine.

Leonard admits to Penny that he's not very happy about the fact that he and Stephanie are de facto living together, that it all seems too fast for him. Penny encourages Leonard to talk to Stephanie about his feelings, which Leonard says he will. (I was sitting there hoping Leonard wouldn't tell Stephanie that he's talking to her because Penny suggested it - I've been in a similiar situation like that on the "Penny" side, and my friend "Leonard" was an idiot for telling "Stephanie" that his call was prompted by my suggestion. Ugh.)

Meanwhile, back at the apartment, Stephanie tells Sheldon that he has an inflamed larynx and that he needs to stop talking completely. She's totally making that up just so Sheldon will stop bothering her, but Sheldon buys it completely. Sheldon is going back to his room as Leonard walks in, and Stephanie tells Leonard that she just performed a Sheldonectomy.

Leonard starts trying to talk to Stephanie, but things don't work out. He returns to the laundry room, and Penny looks at him saying that didn't take very long, and he says they had sex instead, to which Penny just looks at her watch. He goes back up to try again - nope, sex again, although afterward, he still has his shirt on, and she has her camisole on, and they both have their watches on. She's clingy and afraid of being dumped, and he doesn't have the heart to say anything about what he really feels to her, so he gives in. And pays the price.

She's now dressing him in clothes she buys and likes, which is totally not his style. She's getting new curtains for his room and redecorating his entire room. He's finally had enough. But he takes the cowardly way out - he texts her to move out. But she still wants to have sex, so I guess all is ok.

Sheldon still can't talk, so instead, he uses a voice synthesizer on his laptop to do his talking for him. He goes over to Penny's, knocking on the door and using the laptop to call her name. When she answers, he asks if she has any herbal tea, which she says she does and goes to get some. He then says he'd like a little hiney as well, to which she turns around and stares at him. He then fixes his typo - he was really asking for "honey".


December 15, 2008 episode

At work during lunch, the boys are having a discussion about how Superman cleans his outfit. Sheldon then goes on about Kryptonian condiments. There's a new guy named Dave Underhill who has received some amazing grant, and Leonard is just falling over himself.

Later at home, they're playing Wii bowling, and they're all wearing bowling shirts, but Sheldon even goes as far as to chalk his hands.

They're talking about Christmas, and Sheldon explains the development of Pagan traditions into Christmas, but he's completely thrown when Penny says she got both Sheldon and Leonard a gift, and Sheldon says that he's now obligated to buy Penny a gift as well. There ensues a discussion about who is going to be saddled with taking Sheldon to the mall. Why didn't they use "rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock" to decide? Maybe they'll have a "non-all-Spock" outcome by now.

Leonard was out with Dave and hurt himself on Dave's motorcycle, so when Dave is taking Leonard back to his apartment, he ends up meeting Penny. Later, Dave is supposed to have a meeting with Leonard, but Dave blows him off to have a date with Penny instead.

Howard and Raj have both taken Sheldon to the mall, where they're in a "Bath & Body Works" kind of place, and Sheldon is trying to figure out what kind and size to get because he doesn't know what Penny got him, so he doesn't know what a reciprocal gift would be. Sheldon ends up admitting that he's afraid of bears - guess he wouldn't be very happy with Gloomy. Sheldon's solution is to buy a bunch of different sizes of gift baskets, which Howard and Raj help him carry into the apartment and room. He figures that once he sees what Penny has given him, he will excuse himself to his room and pick out the one that most appropriately matches the worth of what Penny got him and then he'll just return the rest.

Leonard goes over to see Penny, who is depressed and mad. It turns out that Dave is married, and Penny says that one should delete the pictures of their naked wife from their celphone before trying to take pictures of their naked girlfriend. Of course, Leonard picks up on the fact that Penny was naked, not that Dave is married.

Penny then comes over to the apartment with the guys' gifts. She gives Sheldon his present first - which Sheldon is stunned to discover is a napkin signed by Leonard Nimoy, and he's even more shocked when Penny says it's a little dirty because Nimoy used it. Sheldon comes to an amazing realization - "All I need is a healthy ovum, and I can grow my own Leonard Nimoy." Ummm, yeah, Sheldon, it's not a chia pet. Penny then says that she's only giving him the napkin. I didn't get the implication, but the husband did, that she's not giving him the ovum as well. Sheldon is about to cry, and the facial expressions during this whole segment on Penny and Sheldon were just priceless. Sheldon then excuses himself to his room.

Penny gives Leonard his gift - which is motorcycle lessons, because of his mishap with Dave's motorcycle. Leonard gives Penny her gift - which is a science set for kids, because Penny had pretended to Dave that she was totally into science.

Sheldon comes out of his bedroom and brings every single gift he bought. (I *knew* that was what he was going to do.) Penny is shocked, and Sheldon says yes, he knows it's still not enough, so he gives Penny a hug instead, which amazes her, but which she's happy about.

My only question was - after the previous week's episode about Stephanie, why was there zero mention of her at all in this episode? Are she and Leonard totally kaput? He didn't want to break up with her, just have her move out. Guess we'll see.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

at least they didn't go through the drive-thru

I know some people like fast food a lot. I make my occasional visits, and when it comes to fast-food Mexican, I usually end up at Del Taco mostly because there's one not too far from my house. But Taco Bell is pretty popular too. However, I'd be surprised if I walked into a Taco Bell and realized that a wedding was taking place.

I know there are offbeat weddings, but I'll admit that I'd find it really odd to be invited to a wedding at a Taco Bell.

Would you toss salsa at the newly-married happy couple? Or chips?

Friday, January 9, 2009

"Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" trailer

I'm feeling a bit out of sorts today, so I thought I'd post something happy. In the theatres recently, I saw the new trailer for the third "Ice Age" movie, called "Dawn of the Dinosaurs". It's actually more like a short than a trailer, and it made me laugh. I hope it makes you laugh too.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

kitten fix

Feeling a bit uninspired to write much today and needing a kitten fix (as Orkid sits here screaming at me), so I decided to wander YouTube for some more kitten videos. Enjoy!


Now, I did discover that Orkid likes cooked cabbage, but I'm not sure how she feels about watermelon. She's definitely not getting one as a toy though.




When I used to have baby kittens, I'd take them out to play with them, and then they'd cry, and their mother would come get them. This mother cat is very protective of her baby, but hey, mom, don't try to grab her by her ear. OWWWWW!!!




It's like being your own evil twin.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

"The Tale of Despereaux" - spoiler movie review

I'd seen the trailer for "The Tale of Despereaux", and it looked really cute, and it had Matthew Broderick in the lead role to boot. OK, I'm in.

So, how'd I like the movie? Well, Despereaux is really cute. See?


Despereaux as a baby.



Despereaux as a child - adolescent?



There's a big division in the film about the difference between a mouse, who are all nice, and a rat, who are all bad, but even in the mouse world, Despereaux is the cutest of them all. He's got the round face and big eyes that are used to depict a more lovable demeanor, so you know he's the star of the show. That is, if you didn't already figure that out from the title of the movie.

But really, what did I think of the movie? Did I mention, Despereaux is really cute? I said that already, huh? Hmmm, ok, well, he is really cute.

Yeah, that's the best thing I can say about the movie.

I really wanted to see the movie that was in the trailer. Unfortunately, the tale of Despereaux was really only about half the movie. I thought it was going to be about Despereaux learning his way in the world, a world where a mouse is supposed to know his place and be scared of humans and their things and to stay away from them and such but instead, he loves all that - kind of like Ariel.

What I didn't expect was a movie about the two-class society and how the upper class oppresses the lower class and how if the upper class doesn't pay enough attention, the lower class is gonna get pissed off enough at some point to rise up against the upper class. Oh, and rats are bad, nasty creatures, the lot of them, whereas mice are civilized and smart and nice.

And of course, soup is the magic elixir that saves the world - it will bring rain and then sunshine, and it can penetrate through fog and clouds, and it will make sad people smile and mean people nice. If only people would fixate on soup, all would be right with the world.

For me, the movie was very "beat you over the head" in its storytelling, and there were many cases where the dialogue, or more specifically, the narration was just incredibly trite. There's one point where the narrator talks about a princess being locked away in a prison, but as long as you have hope, you're never really in prison. Puh-leeze.

And when the story wasn't being obvious and trite, it was boring. I didn't really care about the division of the classes, and there's a whole other side of the story involving Roscuro, some rat who isn't very rat-like but more like a mouse, and he's the whole other half of the movie, but you never hear anything about him in the trailer at all.


Roscuro looking a bit like Rat Sparrow.



The story being told above ground - with the king and his daughter the princess being the upper class and the servant girl Miggery Sow being the lower class - has its parallels below ground - with the mice being the upper class since they're eating good things like cheese and have access to books and such and like the light whereas the rats are the lower class because they have to scrounge and eat bugs and worms and rotted things and they prefer to be in the dark. Sweet Miggery Sow seems to turn on a dime against her mistress the princess just as Roscuro turns on the same dime against Despereaux and all that Despereaux stands for.


Doesn't Miggery Sow look like she should be in a Shrek movie? Or maybe I'm thinking of "Where the Wild Things Are". Or something else entirely.



The whole thing with the cooking and mice being around it so reminded me of "Ratatouille", and it reminded me that I'd much rather be watching that film.

Speaking of cooking, they never explained how the magical Vegetable Man was conjured to appear to help make soup and then enlisted for battle duty.


Despereaux goes to rescue the princess - better bring vegetables.



I really didn't care for the look that was used to portray the royal family in the film, with their elongated faces and REALLY LONG noses that connected the top half and bottom half of their faces after they had been pulled apart.


Princess Stretched Face.



And similiarly, I didn't care for the animation style of the story-within-a-story segments with the knight and such. That bored me too.


But it was cool to see the imprisoned cat eventually get a meal.


The voice-overs were all generally good. Matthew Broderick tried to be as interesting as the story would let him be. I had no clue Dustin Hoffman was in this film, but then Roscuro wasn't in the trailer at all, was he? Kevin Kline was good as the chef, Stanley Tucci was good as Vegetable Man, and Frank Langella was unsurprisingly excellent as the wicked mayor of Ratworld. Oh, and Sigourney Weaver was good as the narrator, even though her lines were bad and I'd rather she were on the Axiom telling its captain about all the wonderful things that used to be on Earth like pizza.


I guess for animated movies, I need to pretty much just stick with Disney and Blue Sky.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Topsy Turvy Day



In honor of the sixth of January, otherwise known as Topsy Turvy Day, I'm including a bit of the Festival of Fools show that was previously performed at Disneyland. I spent many happy hours there, though I think the following video was shot way before I started going, since I don't recognize many of the performers. But I do believe I recognize Clopin! ;)





Need more of a "Festival of Fools" fix? You're welcome.

Monday, January 5, 2009

magical memories - The Cheesecake Factory

The Cheesecake Factory is a restaurant that I tend to associate with a particular friend because we would go there together, and we'd have a great time.

The visit I remember in particular was something I mentioned a bit of in my review of the restaurant chain itself. We had each ordered some kind of cheesecake for dessert, and at the time, the slice of cheesecake came with a large dollop of whipped cream on top and another large dollop of whipped cream on the plate next to the slice of cheesecake. Really, do you need that much whipped cream in addition to the cheesecake? Well, I proceeded to make a snowman out of my double dollop of whipped cream, and I recall giving it a face and using pepper to give it hair or something, and I used toothpicks to give it arms and legs. I was very happy with my creation, and my friend laughed while I worked on it, even as I tried to keep it from melting with all my messing around with it. I was hoping the server would appreciate my artwork, but when she came to take my plate away, she didn't even seem to notice. I was disappointed.

This is a friend I've known for almost 30 years now. She called me today about getting together for dinner, and when I went to pick her up, she suggested The Cheesecake Factory, which turned out to be quite fitting.

She'd been to a Cheesecake Factory about a month ago, and someone else had the Luau Salad, which she'd had a chance to have a taste of, so she was craving a bigger taste. She asked if I'd heard of it. I told her I was well acquainted with it and loved it. Once at the restaurant, we decided to share an appetizer and then we ordered the Luau Salad and the mahi mahi special that day (cooked mediterranean style with sun-dried tomatoes on a bed of mashed potatoes), both to share as well, and we ended the evening by sharing a slice of the tiramisu cheesecake.

She and I haven't been to a Cheesecake Factory together in some time, but we'd spent a lot of time at them before, chatting, laughing, having a good time. She's been going through some difficulties of late, so it actually worked out that we were able to talk and share all kinds of emotions and feelings with each other over dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. We've been friends for a long time, but the difficulties she has faced have actually brought us closer together, for which I am thankful and grateful, and we've exchanged thoughts and information that we've never even talked about before, and, most happily for me, she said she knows exactly how much she means to me because of an offer that I'd previously made to her.

I don't think we've ever shared tears before at a Cheesecake Factory, but this particular visit is definitely one I won't ever forget.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

"Milk" - spoiler movie review

I found out about the movie "Milk" from seeing a one-sheet when I was in a theatre for something. And then I saw the trailer. I have vague memories of hearing about this story when I was a kid, though I didn't remember that this was the case where the "Twinkie defense" originated from.

I didn't cry as much during this film as I thought I might, knowing the basics of the outcome of the story, which I guess is a tribute to the film focussing on the positive. I had known that Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were both shot and killed, and the name Dan White sounded familiar to me, but I hadn't remembered that it was Dan White who had actually killed the two of them.

Since the movie is dramatized, I'm not sure what aspects were true and what aspects were manufactured. The first meeting between Harvey and Scott is a bit jarring, but it was interesting that something so casual turned out to be the most important relationship in Harvey's life.

The timing of the release of this movie was interesting. The film was released shortly after the passing of Proposition 8 in California, which made marriages between people of the same sex to be declared invalid. The passing of that bill disturbed me greatly as I really thought that at least in California, people were more open-minded than that, and it was really surprising to find out that even in this state, so many people still have such biases about who can be in love and count as a couple. But seeing the struggle that Harvey Milk went through in trying to get himself elected to office as an openly gay candidate was very interesting. It took him multiple attempts to finally get elected, and with each election, he got more and more votes. He tried to focus on the commonalities that he had with straight people without ever hiding the fact that he was gay. I see that the fight for equal rights when it comes to marriage is just the latest in a line of things that gay people have to fight for. And I think that numbers indicate gay marriage will eventually be legalized in California, and the best way to do that is to use the same strategy Harvey Milk used - to focus on the sameness between straight people and gay people, especially in terms of marrying the person you love.

When I first saw that Sean Penn was going to be playing Harvey Milk, I was surprised to say the least. It's not the kind of role I would have expected from him, and he also changed his physical appearance quite a bit to play this role. He was absolutely phenomenal, and while there isn't any explicit sex in the film, there are quite a number of intimate scenes between Harvey and other men, and Sean Penn doesn't seem to have shied away from that at all.

It's a bit difficult to really single out any performances, because pretty much everyone was good in this film. You see the development of how each person became associated with Harvey, and how they went from being just a bunch of guys to being a part of a movement that grew and grew. The last shot of the miles of people holding candles in silence in tribute to Harvey Milk was incredibly moving.

I know there are a lot of people who will refuse to see this film simply because of the subject matter. They're missing out.