Friday, March 25, 2011

Some Reviews

If you read reviews on Doctor Who fan sites, "The Curse of Fenric" is remarkably credited as the 'best of the McCoy era' and 'excellent writing'.

Well, it doesn't take much of to be the best of Mr. McCoy's reign as the Doctor, and IMHO most of the reviews contain more plot and characterization than this clunker. It's WWII England. There's an Enigma machine, a paltry six man Italian invasion force, a Viking curse, a bitter old spinster, a nutty British officer, some sea monsters and chess sets.

McCoy is far, far more obnoxious as the Doctor than I recall, and Ace bored me to tears as his companion. Did I mention the special effects probably cost less than the tuna casserole I'm muching between paragraphs?

It is, in the words of Shakespeare, a turd of a story. Yeech.

Due Date failed to my hopes of a Road Trip/Hangover-esque comedy, but it had some moments. It could have used a good edit, if you ask me - chop out that Mexico bit and the story becomes much stronger. It was an OK way to waste a couple hours, but I wouldn't watch it again.

Rollercoaster is a '70's disaster flick about a domestic terrorist targeting amusement parks. I love the decade of my birth, so by default this earns one star; it earns two more by being a fun, rather coherent thriller. I do wish they'd spent a little time finding some rationale for the bomber. I didn't need to like him or even sympathize with the guy, but I'd have liked at least a teensy bit of an explanation.

Extra fun/brownie points: identify a very young Helen Hunt and Steve Guttenberg in bit parts. I don't think Guttenberg was even credited on screen.

SPOILER: there was no reason to bring the protaganist's family to the park at the end, not if they were just going to be sent home without incident. Why introduce them to the scene if not to add tension to the climax?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

How I Spent the Halfway Mark to my 74th Birthday

Thanks to everyone on FB for their kind Birthday wishes - believe me, they made me smile!

It was a damn fine birthday, although nothing exciting by most definitions of the word. I got up at 8, took YaYa over to a friend's house, stopped at Walgreens, went to the bank, and got an oil change, all before 10.

Then with the help of my friends Eric & Erv I repaired/replaced the busted gutters on my porch, and I also cleared the drainage tile of debris and widened its waste channel before stopping at a cookie sale for Grace's troop. While I was doing that Lisa went to the mall to get a bday cookie for me, and to have our wedding rings inspected (for the continuing warranty). It was important to me that I get something productive done to start the 'new' year.

(while it was pretty darn chilly outside today, the kids spent much of the day playing in the backyard and reacquainting themselves with the trampoline. Meanwhile YaYa was at a production of Annie at the Fireside for a friend's bday)

By then it was four-ish, and I sat down to enjoy my new toy - a Sony Blu Ray player SDP-380. It wasn't a bday gift per se, as I purchased it a week ago. But I finally had it up and running today, and it has already become one of my Favorite Things. I can stream Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, FearNet, some on-demand services, and more. I may never again leave the couch.

Tonight alone we (Lisa, me, and our friend Chris) watched:

Smokey and the Bandit - neat fact: you can learn geography from the Bandit. West to East, you traverse TX, Arkansas, Mississipi, Alabama and Georgia in order. Preferably w/ Sally Fields riding shotgun.

REC - the Spanish movie that seems to be the scene by scene, line by line inspiration for the movie 'Quarantine'. Although they are essentially the same movie, this version seemed much more powerful. Perhaps because, robbed of its American setting, the gov't quarantine seemed less an act of conspiracy than a rational reaction to a plague. I liked it.

Speaking of conspiracy, howsabout 'Paul McCartney Really is Dead' a "documentary" which claims to use secret tapes made by George Harrison to prove Paul died in 1966. Like most conspiracy theories, it loses credibility as it inevitably morphs into paranoia that turns anything into 'evidence'. Still, for the most part it was fun to watch, if FOS.

Don't Look Back - a French language pyschological thriller w/ a difficult to follow plot. For the record, I 'get' the ending, Mr.snooty smarty-pants; I just didn't like it. 90% of the movie was good, inc. all of the scenes of Monica Bellucci (natch), but I think they dragged the gimmick out too long. I would hesitate to recommend this.

Grace - a movie about a stillborn baby who returns to life w/ a hunger for human blood. Not as bad as you imagine, but if I had to guess I'd say the intelligent, nicely foreshadowed ending I saw coming was scrapped in favor of a crass, gross-out finale. Two stars.

UHF - I watched ten minutes, gagged, and stopped it.

I'm Still Here - the documentary/mockumentary? of Joaquin Phoenix. A very good film, if depressing.

Oh, and Erv made me sit and listen to twenty minutes of NPR, which is 19 minutes 29 seconds longer than I cared to listen to the unfunny, pretentious drivel.

Again folks - thanks for the well wishes!


Monday, March 14, 2011

FB thru Jan 22nd

Jan 16th

I'd give you my opinion of 'The A-Team', but I fear it was the vodka that made the flick even remotely watchable last night. Anyhow, Happy Birthday to Chris and Jaspare, and many more to them both.

Wow, what a coup for law enforcement {smirk}, bragging about finding a fugitive after thirty years. In 1980 Jackson McDonald escaped from custody on a weed smuggling charge, then lived a law-abiding life for 30 years. He even owned his own appliance store. But now justice is served, by golly, and the 72 yr old will be trotted out to justify the latest budget proposal from the Marshals office.

Jan 17th

Begin to be now what you will be hereafter - William James

200 cows mysteriously died in Portage County (Wisconsin).

Researchers claim they'll create living mammoths within five years.

Made an ass of myself this AM. On the flipside, when snow delayed me on the way to wrk I got the chance to listen to MLK's 'I have a dream' speech on the radio in its entirety. As powerful as its reputation, even 48 yrs on.

Jan 18th

RIP Sargent Shriver, age 95

Regis Philbin has announced his retirement. So long Reg. I've enjoyed your run.

Prince Fielder just signed for 15.5 million dollars.

Convey Calm

This should, if I did it right, link to my first paid writing gig - a $5 blurb in Boys Life 23 yrs ago.

We just finished 'Devil', a movie created (but not directed) by M. Night Shamalan. It's about 5 strangers stuck in an elevator. Sadly for 4 of the passengers, the 5th is the Devil. I expected cheese and instead found a suspenseful, entertaining horror film that was a teensy-bit short on the actual horror. {applause}

Just finished "Buried" w/ Ryan Reynolds, a film about a civilian contractor kidnapped & buried alive in Iraq. I think it would have made a suspenseful novel, but as a movie . . . well, to quote Lisa "it's about a guy in a box talking on the phone for two hours". I like how they tried to present a Leftist view of the war and the Iraqi 'insurrgents', then have the Iraqi's not only bury the guy but ask him to mutilate himself on camera for their enjoyment. i think the latter is the more accurate view.

YaYa's Junior trip went on a field trip to Petco, where they got to handle many of the animals in the store.

Jan 19th

Study finds oldest known domesticated dog in Americas (10,000 yrs) - and it was apparently tasty, too

Jan 20th

‎30 years ago today Sr Pat, my kindergarten teacher, took our class to the music room across the hall to watch Reagan's inauguration. At some point during the broadcast it was announced that the Iran hostages were free, and I've never forgotten the look of relief on her face. "Thank God!" she said. I think she spoke for a lot of Americans that day.

It's also the 50th anniversary of JFK's inauguration, and his 'Ask Not' speech.

Wind chills of -20 to -30 degrees F are expected tonight

*Unofficial* news today that I will be asked to stay on for a third year as a community columnist for the Journal-Sentinel. (There's a new editor in charge of the opinion page, so it may still be ixnayed.)

Here's two pics of our cat Angelcakes, and an old shot of Lauren that I adore. She's seated next to our friend Chris.

Jan 21st

Bundled Ginger up to brave the negative wind chill today and took her to school - only to realize MPS has a scheduled day off today. D'oh!

I greatly admire Rod Serling.

"Nothing shows more thoughtlessness than the idiocy that it makes no difference what you believe; it all depends on the way you live. On the contrary, we act on our beliefs; our ideas are motorsprings in action; if our thinking is bad our actions will be bad." Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Some pics of Ginger:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Moseing (is that the right spelling?) up to the middle of January

Jan 5th

‎'Dinner for Schmucks' was hit and miss, w/ a few laughs and not a whole lot more to offer. PBS's contemporary 'Sherlock' is grand and a credit to the character. And there's no loser on "The Amazing Race" as even the eliminated teams experience sights and experiences I can only dream about.

I have friends on FB who strongly believe otherwise, but I feel that the anti-vaccine movement is a serious threat to public health. To find that one of the cornerstones of that movement is not only a discredited study, but a deliberately fraudulent one, cements that notion. Sadly, as per a article "[believers are] not going to let the facts dissuade their beliefs that MMR causes autism"

Jan 6th

I rented 'The Last Exorcism' expecting a lousy film. I'm happy to say I was wrong. A disillusioned preacher asks a documentary crew to film him during an exorcism, so that he can reveal his profession to be a scam. Obviously it doesn't go as planned,but throughout you're never sure if the girl is possessed, mentally ill, crying out for help, a victim or a con herself. Very scary at times and solid throughout. Bravo.

Tomorrow, the two oldest start selling girl scout cookies, so let us know starting tomorrow how many cases you'd like, LOL. $3.75 a box this year, & worth every penny for the opportunities they allow girls locally and globally! Did you know that Thin Mints are 2nd only to OREOS in nationwide sales?!! Now imagine if Girl Scouts sold their thin mints more then just one month out of the year! Thin Mint domination!!

Jan 8th

U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has died after being shot during a mass shooting in a store in Tucson, Arizona, law enforcement source tells CNN. NOTE: the report was wrong. She survived. Many others did not, including the 9 yr old granddaughter of former MLB manager Dallas Green.

We watched SALT last night, and I liked it a lot. It was a fun and decently intelligent thriller. Angelina Jolie, while a blonde and therefore not as hot as usual, was great as a suspected Russian sleeper agent. She's earned the crown of best ever female action hero . . . although, come to think of it, I can't think of another candidate.

Jan 9th

No time to say this yesterday, as I worked 'til 10, but congrats to the Seahawks, my 2nd favorite NFC team. It was a pain to follow the game at work, gleaming bits of info from customers, but I can't argue with the result

Jan 10th

‎'Leaves of Grass' was a bore, a truly pretentious turd of a film. There was the woman who answered questions by reciting verses of poetry, the discources on philosophy, needless gore & 'Parent Trap' FX. That enough for ya? OTOH, "The Invention of Lying" was pleasant enough, it's atheist plot notwithstanding. How a man can work alongside Jennifer Garner & not believe there's a Creator at work is beyond me.

I learned that I shouldn't get high to come up with ideas. I should come up with ideas and then get high to reward myself. - South Park "A Million Little Fibers"

RIP Dick Winters, the WWII officer featured in the series Band of Brothers

Jan 11th

We couldn't find a babysitter (6 months today!) so we took Ginger w/ us to lunch at Olive Garden. Subpar service but good food, and Ginger was an angel. She's gone from Thug to darling over the last few wks, and right now she's the apple of my eye. BTW, thanks Pam & Tre for the OG GC.

A man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears. - Michel de Montaigne

MySpace has cut its staff in half

A 6,000 year old wine press has been found in Armenia

Jan 12th

Aww man. RIP David Nelson of Ozzie and Harriet

Jan 13th

I love Jimmy Stewart's office in the movie 'Bell, Book and Candle'

"I felt awestruck, affirmed in my belief that there were no bounds to ingenuity when it met the curve of need." - Keith Hollihan, 'The Four Stages of Cruelty'

Jan 15th

A friend just asked to borrow $ from me to get a tatoo on her foot. Correct me if I'm wrong, but we *have* met before right? Asking Dan Slap- to pay for a woman's foot to be marred is like asking the Pope to wizz on the Bible.

The tat in it's final location. Work by Zoe's Vicious Circle on Howard Ave.

I finished Keith Hollihan's 'The Four Stages of Cruelty', a novel about the CO's & inmates of a max security prison. It's a good story, & Hollihan is a talented stylist. IMO the bks biggest handicap is its cover, styled to look like the panels of a comic bk. It gives a completely wrong impression of the contents & I'm sure many people have walked on by it w/out a second thought.

"Bad temper is an indication of a man's character; every man can be judged by the things which make him mad." Archbishop Fulton Sheen

One Brett Favre stat no one ever talks about: in his career Farve has put his hands under another man's ass over 20,000 times. (h/t Mick Lexington)
For dinner I made a huge pot of Zuppa Toscana from a Olive Garden knock-off recipie I found online. I tweaked it by adding chopped fennel and using half and half in place of 2/3rds of the required heavy cream. Quite deeelish. Now Lis and the newly tattooed Chris are out celebrating the latter's bday w/ a mutual friend, & I'm sitting down for the Packers playoff game vs Atlanta.

Tramon Williams' is gonna have to change his name to Sherman, 'cuz he done burned Atlanta!

[The Pack won and advanced]

Thursday, March 10, 2011

New Years Day thru January 4th

Jan 1st 2011

May I just say - The Big Bang Theory is one heck of a funny, well done show.

In the news: The Pope rallies Christians to not despair in light of recent attacks, and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson declines to posthumously pardon Billy the Kid.

We're 10 days shy of going 6 months w/out a single day w/out kids - or for that matter, so much as 4 hrs (!). Haven't seen a movie in close to a yr, haven't gone out to dinner alone (w/out a curfew) for months. Typical for some families I guess, but Lisa & I enjoy our time together more than most. I think some parents keep their kids on their t*t so they won't notice how little they like their spouse.

Jan 2nd

Hot damn, the Packers win and advance to the playoffs! Who-hoo! Two other reasons to be happy for the win: a) it came at the expense of the FIB Bears and b) it eliminated Tampa Bay, thereby making Carlos' life just a little less grand. Triple-win for Dan-Dan!

Jan 3rd

An incident at Mayfair Mall, allegedly planned via social networking sites, had the mall on lockdown. According to a witness (and who knows how reliable they are), the incident was not 'isolated' as claimed, and involved as many as 100 youth.
They knocked over merchandise, screamed and yelled, and there were reports of shots fired in the parking lot.

Aside from complaining about the babysitter situation, it was a pretty good New Years wknd. Alcohol helped, of course, but for the most part it was a relaxing wkend full of excessive amts of TV & homemade pizza. Sunday was a little more productive. I watched 9 hrs of football, helped Lis carpet the back stairs, hung a closet rod for Smiley & tracked down a new phone on Craigslist for our friend Chris.

Zsa Zsa Gabor will have a leg amputated

Jan 4th

‎'Knight and Day' was a fun but forgettable spy flick, at least worth a rental from Redbox. What made it rise above its tired plot? A) Tom Cruise's character was genuinely LOL as he prattled on, oblivious to the situations around him and B) Cameron Diaz has gorgeous feet. That alone would sell the movie for me.

Facing multiple lawsuits over sexual abuse, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is filing bankruptcy. This is a shame, and IMO, a victory for the devil. Literally. My own opinion aside, Archbishop Listeki's statement is very well done, admitting the wrongs of the past and laying blame on those responsible (priests). Either he's a gifted writer or his copywriter deserves a raise.

‎'Jaws', the novel by Peter Benchley, was largely a waste of my time. Speilberg was right - in the book you wind up rooting for the shark because all the humans are a*holes. There's not much to say about his style either. The film is infinitely superior, although I will say that the opening sequence of the book is both well written and suspenseful.

The son of the former Shah of Iran has committed suicide. RIP.

I have a column in tomorrow's (Wed) Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Kindly pick up a copy if you can.

The words 'injun' and 'ni---er' will be purged from a new edition of Twain's classic Huckleberry Finn. This is, w/out question, censorship and political correctness masked as an attempt to 'widen the reading audience' of the book. "Think of the children!" Yeah, think of them listing to the N word in every other rap. An acquaintance of ours nicknamed his son 'chigga' from a song that rhymes it with the n-word. And Twain is what we worry about?

My cousin Mindy stopped by w/ her son Isiah:

Obama's staff is rumoured to be due for a few roster changes. This is typical at the midpoint of a President's first term. However, when a President is *perceived* to be struggling it is often misinterpreted as a sign of panic and lack of faith - note Carter's disastrous cabinet shakeup in the wake of his 'malaise' speech.

Ouch! I just burned my stomach taking cookies out of the oven. Yeah, I shouldn't be baking sans shirt, but I can usually count on my thick manly belly hair to protect me. Oh well. At least the inevitable scar will blend in with the stretch marks.

Remember, I'm in the paper today. As of now, there are 11 comments about it on the JSOnline site, 2 of them full of angry liberal CAPS and !!!!!! marks. Which is odd, since it has nothing to do w/ politics, left or right. Thank heavens JS didn't have comment capability when they published the gay marriage/concealed carry/Catholic Church columns. I had anonymous hate mail sent to my father's house after one of those.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Some short (and I mean short) reviews of TV & Movies

We recently watched the movie "Never Let Me Go", a movie based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro. Although the plot is nominally sci-fi, it is so understated as to nearly escape the attention of the viewer. It is moving, beautifully acted, and heart wrenching. SPOILER: I do wonder if the Donors were indeed 'souless' in the sense it as used in the film, as the 'beautiful' art Tommy creates looks like infantile scribbles to me. Was that the intention of the scene?

After a long day at work Lis & I watched "I Knew it Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale" (aka Fredo from The Godfather). It was an entertaining tribute to him as an actor, but little else. As to Cazale as a person, we learned he was born in 1935, smoked a lot, died young . . . and that's it. The filmaker could have done a lot more with the material.

We also finished "The Ghostwriter". It would be a dang good movie if the plot made any sense. A former PM of Great Britain demonized and branded a war criminal for having 4 known terrrorists kidnapped & waterboarded? The UK allowing a PM to be brought up on charges by the (ridiculous) internation court? A consistent anti-American plot thread (literally)? Meh. Bleeding heart politics masquerading as art.

On the opposite end of the entertainment spectrum, we finished watching Survior: Pearl Islands. While we wanted Rupert to win it all, we were pleased that his pal Sandra took home the million dollar prize.

We also watched The Bachelor, Season One. Odd how the 'rose ceremony' had yet to earn its moniker (it was called 'invitation night' instead). Even more noticeable compared to this season (which we also watch): the average physical appearance of both the bachelor and the women has soared over the years. The 'winning' woman was yummy, but the majority . . . yikes.

Our love of The Amazing Race continues, although we've now run out of DVD's. To compensate we started Season One of The Mole. It's a great concept but executed a little sloppily. I hope in later seasons they've learned from their errors.

I've started watching The Streets of San Fransisco and have come away quite impressed. Ditto for the few episodes of The Phil Silvers Show (aka Sgt. Bilko) I've watched. Unlike many older sitcoms it seems well written and the humor is still fresh.

That's it for now. Tune in next time folks.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Finishing 2010 on Facebook

Dec 29th

We watched 'Barry Munday' last night, an indie comedy about a man who loses his testicles and then learns he knocked up one of his last conquests. It's a very sweet but dry film, w/ a few scattered LOL's, and Lisa liked it a lot. I wasn't as thrilled, but it was OK. Of course, the subject matter begs the question: would they make a comedy about a woman who loses both breasts to cancer? Same diff right? Ah, the double standard at work.

Bleepin' kids are all over me while Lisa's at the mall. No, you can't go on the computer. No, you can't watch a movie down here. You have the entire 2nd floor, TV and all. Use it. And don't complain. You are a guest here. That's right, a guest. A guest for 18 long years, but a guest all the same. It's my house & my toys, so pbbbt!

Dec 30th

Two pics of YaYa's new perm:

NY Eve
Fyi Adalbert alum - I just saw Sr Kathleen. She says Sr VIrginia's lung collapsed yest. She is in St Lukes but not doing well.

Here's some photos taken during a recent Girl Scout tour of Palermo's Pizza factory.

Jan 1st

A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it - Samuel Johnson

Monday, March 7, 2011

Happy 6th Birthday Smiley!

The title of the post says it all. Happy Birthday Smiley, and may God bless you with as much love and happiness as you've given this family over the last six years. I love you Little Man!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Chuck E Cheese Christmas Party 2010

On December 28th we all gathered at Chuck E Cheese for my mother-in-law's annual Christmas party. Here's a good handful of pics taken that day with my cellphone (so apologies for the quality). The kids had a blast!

Our friend Chris' daughter, Meadow.

and her oldest, Faith

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Packers Win the SuperBowl

The picture says it all, doesn't it? A few weeks ago the Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl XLV, bringing the Lombardi Trophy back to where it belongs - my home state of Wisconsin.

I felt a special affinity for this year's team. The win back in SuperBowl XXXI was grand, a welcome return to glory after thirty years of mediocrity. Yet this championship was more than a mere sports victory. It was the culmination - the definitive 'The End' - to years of Favre induced agony. I am old enough to know that the good guys don't always win, and that sometimes even the right decisions turn out poorly. For three years the right/wrong of the Favre fiasco has been up in the air. So it was a relief to me - and I'm sure, to Ted Thompson, Aaron Rodgers, and much of the Packers nation - to finally have proof that yes, we did what needed to be done with Favre, and yes, it was the right call. Speaking just for myself, it feels like a literal weight has been removed from my shoulders.

I'm also happy for two more reasons: One, I asked off for the SuperBowl long before it was even a certainty that the Packers would make the playoffs, and Two: I had the opportunity to contribute, in my small way, to the historical record of this Championship. The following column was published in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel in the lead-up to the game (by the way, I detest the headline. That was soley the creation of the editor):

Why Pack's success means so much

Here's something you won't hear every day from a Wisconsin native and self-professed Green Bay Packers fan: A lot of the insults other NFL fans toss at us? They're true.

Put otherwise reasonable Wisconsinites within sight of anything green and gold, and they lose their ability to reason and act rationally. Guess what art project my kids did in school this week. Did they paint a still life? Sculpt? Discuss art theory and history?

No. They made their own cheeseheads. Say that aloud, and just try not to wince with embarrassment. They had to make their own cheeseheads in school.

So I can understand why some people are annoyed with the ever-present Packers coverage as we approach Super Bowl XLV. I can empathize with the friends on Facebook who complain that our priorities are skewed, and I am tolerant of the people at the water cooler who - in hushed tones, lest they be discovered and ostracized - say they don't see what all the fuss is about.

I can empathize with these people and I can tolerate their views, but I cannot agree.

I don't care whether you've watched every down or never seen a game - whether you live and breathe sports or view it as no better than an ancient city, states sending out their armies to settle grudges. Either way, acknowledge this fact: For one day, the Packers will have the attention of the largest audience imaginable, and for many of those viewers, Wisconsin and the Pack are one and the same.

If Grandpa Joe hates abstract art, but an exhibit brings that much attention to Wisconsin, I expect him to brush up on Jackson Pollack and put a smile on his face. We should expect no less for the Pack.

(And, honestly, the anti-football crowd should rejoice. This season should - cross our fingers - finally put the kibosh on the lingering Brett Favre-Ted Thompson-Aaron Rodgers triangle that's dominated the past few years. It's over folks. Time to move on.)

Besides, you never know when it will happen again. I was 22 when the Packers won their first championship of my lifetime. Now, as I near 40, decades pass in the blink of an eye, but back then I remember comparing the wait to an eternity in limbo (there's that rationality clause again).

Even worse: Both my grandfathers were within shouting distance of my age when Vince Lombardi walked away from Green Bay. I'm sure, even in the worst-case scenario they could imagine, they didn't think they'd pass away as old men without ever seeing another Green Bay team crowned as champions. I hope I have better luck, but just in case the drought is even longer this time around, I keep telling my kids to soak it all in and appreciate the moment.

Here's hoping they also get to appreciate a Super Bowl win on Feb. 6.

One more thing: I love Rodgers, but Nick Collins [INT for a TD] should have gotten the MVP trophy. I'm just sayin'