Monday, June 30, 2008

Spectrum: Wall-E edition

A couple of days ago, I came up with an idea about actor opposites. This is a continuation on that meme in honor of Wall-E.

The film is animated, of course, but there are some live actors. During the movie there are "holographic" sequences and the actors in those scenes are real. Kind of a play on the animated videos within an animated world, I guess. Some people didn't get it. I thought it was kind of neat. The main actor used in the live sequences was Fred Willard. So today's featured Spectrum actor is Fred Willard.

Fred Willard (clip from A Mighty Wind)

Fred Willard ... I mean, what can you say about the guy? You know, he's just this guy you like. His characters are always kind of disconnected, like a used car salesman trying to be hip, or the "cool dad" who lets you drink beer at his house but insists on hanging out and telling you stories about when he was a kid. Willard can't carry a movie on his own, but is wonderful in an ensemble cast (see every Christopher Guest movie). It takes a lot of comedic ability to come off as a guy who's trying to hard to be funny and yet still be funny. There are other folks who pull it off, but they tend to be from the same pool of actors from which Willard comes: Eugene Levy and Michael McKean are a couple. So, Willard's not unique, but he's memorable and always brings his considerable talent and likability to any project.

Is opposite to:

Keanu Reeves (clip from the funniest thing I could find him in on YouTube):

Keanu Reeves is not funny. I mean, not when he's trying to be anyway. I can think of few actors less capable of being funny when they want to be. I mean, they guy does what he does in movies OK enough, I guess. But even when he's in a humorous movie, funny things happen in spite of him rather than because of him. That said, Dogstar was a joke, right?

Wall-E: Preachy, but good

Took the family to see Wall-E Saturday. Overall, it was a very good film. Also, this marks the first time we've taken the youngest to a movie theater. He did very well and was entranced through the entire movie.

I think it speaks volumes that this movie was so good and yet the majority of dialogue in the film is between the robots and almost all they say are their names. In fact the first half-hour or so of the movie is pretty much dialogue free. Yet, the movie is so engaging. There's so much going on that you don't miss dialogue. In fact, not having characters swamp you with plot devices via spoken word is kind of a blessing.

In lieu of dialogue, much emotion is conveyed in the "eyes" of the characters. Very well done on Pixar's part. Once again they have proven that Hollywood isn't out of ideas. Just that most of the imagination has gone to the animation folks.

The only downside of the movie, to me, is that it had a pretty heavy-handed anti-capitalist message. But, with a lack of dialogue through most of the movie, you don't get sick of it. The message it just kind of put out there. It's the place from which the story is presented. What's going on here is the story, and it's good enough to make you forget the background message.

All in all, a solid effort from Pixar.

Friday, June 27, 2008

'Freedom of' does not equal 'freedom from'

I'm not saying that the ACLU shouldn't exist, but I sure wish they'd, you know, do more Constitutional stuff.

Their latest: ACLU threatens academy prayer lawsuit
In a May letter to Vice Admiral Jeffrey L. Fowler, the academy's superintendent, ACLU officials asked the institution to end the prayers on behalf of nine unnamed midshipmen who said the prayer made them uncomfortable and violated the Constitution.

The prayer occurs before the midshipmen eat lunch, when one of the academy's eight chaplains leads the brigade in prayer. The anonymous midshipmen and the ACLU said those who don't clasp their hands, bow their heads, and recite the prayer inevitably stand out and feel pressure to participate.

Wow. Nine whole midshipmen are bent out of shape that they have to bow their heads while others say a prayer. Golly, that must be hell.

Here's a beaut:
I hope the prayer is abolished. It's certainly unconstitutional

This from an ensign who says the environment at the academy is one of "play along or stand out."

Well, gee, does this potential Naval officer think that by bringing this to the attention of the ACLU that they might, oh, I don't know, stand out or something?

Also, God forbid that a an institution geared toward good order and discipline, where people's lives may depend on someone doing what they have to do, would expect people to "play along."

I fear for the future when these young snowflakes can't handle a little bit of prayer in the day -- something that isn't even required of them.

I realize that the courts generally don't agree with me on prayer, but the last time I checked, "of" and "from" have two entirely different meanings.

Maybe I'm crazy.

Louisiana no longer stuck on stupid

I moved out of Louisiana a little more than 3 years ago. Given the political climate, I never thought I'd be proud of what the state government there has done, but boy was I ever wrong.

Basically telling SCOTUS to suck it, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal sings a bill that authorizes the chemical castration of sex offenders.
SB 144 by Senators Nick Gautreaux, Amedee, Dorsey, Duplessis and Mount provides that on a first conviction of aggravated rape, forcible rape, second degree sexual battery, aggravated incest, molestation of a juvenile when the victim is under the age of 13, or an aggravated crime against nature, the court may sentence the offender to undergo chemical castration. On a second conviction of the above listed crimes, the court is required to sentence the offender to undergo chemical castration.

Man. I want this dude to be president.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

SCOTUS awesomeness

I was a bit disappointed with the SCOTUS over the death penalty for child rape ruling, but they redeemed themselves today.

The ruling:
Held:
1. The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.

Reform

I look back on the all the great fascists of history and I find myself wondering, is it possible to change? Can one move from such an extreme position and become moderate? I say, yes!

Why do I ask such things? Well, coffee, of course. I am a reformed coffee nazi, you see.

There were no earth-shattering epiphanies or anything of the like that changed my point of view. I just wanted to simplify my morning routine. I got tired of grinding beans. I got really tired of cleaning the grinder. And, when all is said and done, there are many quality pre-ground coffees out there.

The brand I consistently use is Community and I like their between roast blend, but my wife just picked me up some Archer Farms coffee (Target's premium brand). It's good stuff.

Looking back on my more retentive coffee days, I guess I wasn't really all that fascist. I was very conscious of my grind and how much coffee I liked, but I didn't use bottled water and I try to reheat old coffee instead of wasting it. So, I guess maybe I was more of a coffee conservative. I guess I'm a coffee moderate now.

I'll flip flop on coffee and keep my politics firm.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Spectrum

Monday, Sheila had a post up about the upcoming Coen brother's movie Burn After Reading. Somewhere in the comments, I got inspired. Not that uncommon, Sheila's got an uncommonly good blog.

Anyway, we went off on Brad Pitt and our likes and dislikes. Like I said, somewhere in there, I got inspired. I don't know what it was, but I started thinking about actors and how one actor means one thing to people (generally) and another means something else. Again I'm speaking in generalities here. For example, you may or may not like Tom Hanks as an actor but you have to agree that with few exceptions he plays the affable good guy. There are some actors who are everymen and some who are just themselves.

So, here's my exercise: Think of an actor. Think about who that actor is or what that actor means. Now, find that actor's opposite. And by opposite, I don't mean "This actor is good and this other one is bad." No, try and qualify your decisions. Here are a couple I thought of:

Gary Oldman (Clip from True Romance -- WARNING NSFW language, in case you haven't seen this):

Oldman is, in my opinion, one of the most fluid actors in film today. He can play anything, believably. Even when he's over the top, it's still just so ... enjoyable. He becomes his character. When I see Gary Oldman on screen, I often forget I'm watching Gary Oldman. I believe his character.

Is opposite to:

Bruce Willis (Clip from Death Becomes Her):

I love Bruce Willis, but I have no illusions about him being a versatile actor. No, Willis always plays variations of the same theme -- the affable everyman in extraordinary situations. Now, he might be a high-priced, hitman or mob enforcer, but somehow he still gets our sympathy or becomes the main character. That's because Willis is a real guy playing himself up there. He's who he is if he was who he is playing on screen. That translates to a likability even when he's the bad guy.

Another I thought of

John Wayne (Clip from The Green Berets)

I don't think I could write anything better than Sheila already has about the Duke. Suffice it to say, John Wayne personified machismo in a very pure way.

Is opposite to:

Nathan Lane (Clip from The Birdcage, yes that clip)

Because, while Wayne can walk like Wayne and look like he'll wipe the floor with anyone who crosses him, Lane can walk like Wayne and look fragile and demure.

Anyway, those are a couple I've come up with so far. Think about it, I'd love to hear everyone's ideas.

Just another manic suck-day

I normally look forward to three-day weekends. After this past weekend, I might be a little gun shy.

This weekend turned out to be piss poor.

Friday and Saturday were decent enough, but I was working on a paper for class so that right there was a downer. Sunday, my wife had an early meeting at church, so I was going to take the kids to church at the normal time. I corralled the children and got them outside and as I walked over to our truck, I noticed that we had a flat.

You know those pit-of-the-stomach sinking feelings? This was one of those. If I couldn't take the kids to church it's not big deal. They could just stay at home with me and all would be well. Except I was still working on my paper and was counting on this quiet time to get it finished. I knew that with them home I wouldn't be able to get much done. Before my frustration could build up, I noticed my neighbor in his driveway working on a project. He has an air compressor! No putting on spares and just giving up on getting the kids to church! Five minutes later, I was down the road.

After dropping the kids off, I took the truck back home. I didn't want to risk the tire going flat while the family was at church. My current driving music is Clutch. And their 1995 self-titled sophomore album was in rotation as I cruised home. Apparently, I wasn't paying close enough attention to my speed though. I got about five minutes from my house and noticed the flashing lights. Shit!

66 in a 45 folks. I wasn't in a hurry. I just wasn't paying attention.

I tried not to think too much about the ticket as I finished up my paper. Which was hard. The paper was a review of the book we just finished in class: The New Media Monopoly. While the book does make some astute observations, it is very politically biased. Sections of the book - heck, the forward - made me very angry. Glad I got through it.

Shortly after I finished the paper, the family and I went over to a friend's house to look at some beagle puppies. They just had a litter and it looks like we're going to get one. They're not quite weaned -- July 5 is the day. Cutest little things.

We got back home from our trip and I walked to the back of the house and noticed an odd noise. I walked outside to the air conditioner and noticed that the fan wasn't moving though the compressor was making all sorts of racket. Great. A/C is broken. I called our A/C yesterday morning and he was able to come out yesterday evening. We replaced the capacitor for the fan motor and all seemed well. For about an hour. Then I noticed a noise again and the fan was dead. So, he's coming back out this evening to replace the fan motor.

Just not a great couple of days, you know.

But, even though things haven't quite gone my way, I have to pause and think about all the things I have to grateful for. Obviously, the fact that I have an A/C guy that can come out the same day instead of a week (or three! - I've heard horror stories) later. Heck, I'm thankful I have a house where I have to worry about these kinds of things. I'm thankful for my family that fills my house and wish I showed it a little better and more often. Lastly, I got a note that a co-worker from DC just lost her mother. I am thankful that I feel ashamed for my petty complaints.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Totally not unrelated to anything of inconsequence

Have any of y'all seen that new Cartoon Network show Total Drama Island (apparently only new to those of us in the USofA, guess they're on season 2 in Canada). Anyway ... it's funny and I find it to be OK for the family to watch.

Wednesday night the family is lounging in the living room watching Cartoon Network when the show comes on. I'm sitting on the floor and motion for my son to come over and sit with me. We're picking on each other and such during commercials.

Then, on the show (which is a parody of Survivor, by the way) they're in the "challenge" phase of the show. For this particular challenge they have to jump off a cliff into a circle of buoys in water of unknown depth. If the characters do not do this, they are branded a chicken and made to wear a chicken on their head.

It happens to one of the characters. Then my angelic son turns to me and says, "You chicken, daddy!"

I say with mock shock, "Why am I a chicken, Bo-bo?"

Without skipping a beat he turns points and laughs, "Ha-ha, you a chicken!"

That's my boy.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Take me out to the ball game

Spent yesterday here.

The Memphis Redbirds had a military appreciation day yesterday and all the military and civilian employees here were authorized to attend. I mean, we still had to pay for tickets, but the command said we could go without having to fork over any precious leave hours.

Not a big fan of baseball (although the game was interesting), but a bad day at a ball park is always better than a good day at work.

I stayed a bit longer than I intended and I had wanted to walk over to the Gibson guitar shop again and drool over some Les Pauls, but I gave a coworker a ride and felt a tad obligated to hang out there a bit longer.

UPDATE: I almost forgot about this ... yesterday morning, getting ready for work, I was watching the news on a local station. The anchors were talking about yesterday's game and about how it had become a double header because the opponents, the Albuquerque Isotopes, had got stuck in Dallas Tuesday.

The male anchor, after the female anchor read the news brief, then says something like: "Isotopes, what a neat name."

The female anchor: "Yes very unique. I wish I'd paid more attention in high school."

Male anchor: "I think it was something to do with geology."

The did read the correct definition after coming back from commercial, but the damage had been done. I mean, everyone knows that ISOTOPE is the organization that issues standardizing qualificaitons for industries involved in the production of lutefisk.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

This day in history: Into every government a little rain must fall

On June 17, 1972, Five burglars are arrested in the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate office and apartment complex in Washington, D.C. James McCord, Frank Sturgis, Bernard Barker, Virgilio Gonzalez, and Eugenio Martinez were apprehended in the early morning after a security guard at the Watergate noticed that several doors leading from the stairwell to various hallways had been taped to prevent them from locking.

The entire Watergate situation is fraught with irony. The most apparent is the name of the organization that handled much of the underhanded dealings -- the Committee to Reelect the President (CREEP).

On the upside, on this day in 1885 the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York's harbor.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day Butt

Over at ALa's she had a food discovery post. In the comments, she challenged her readers to cook an area specialty, cook, e-mail it to her and she'd post it. Well, I had been planning on smoking some pork butt and was going to e-mail it, but I decided to go ahead and post it here.

While pulled pork is not a Memphis-only specialty, this area has had put its own twist on the meal.


So here's the butt about to come off the grill. This is the one area where I wasn't able to really able to prepare the meat the way it should be done for true Memphis style BBQ. The three elements for good Memphis BBQ are time, hardwood smoke, and sauce. I gave plenty of smoke and have the sauce, but with my grill I can't keep the heat low enough and seal the environment off well enough to get the length of time I need for complete smoke penetration. Instead of a 10-to-13-hour cook time, I get a 4-to-5-hour cook time.

In the near future, I'll be putting together a flower pot smoker a la Alton Brown.


Here it is fresh off the grill ready to rest for an hour or so.


After cooling down a bit, get a couple of forks (or just use your fingers) and start to pull the meat apart. This is where the faster cooking time is really evident. The outer crust is a bit harder and the smoke flavor doesn't quite penetrate all the way into the core. But it's still very good.


And this is the execution phase. True Memphis style calls for you to add the BBQ sauce only at the end and the sandwich should be covered generously with slaw. I like my slaw dry, but that's me.

So, although I could have gone to Rendezvous or Interstate, sometimes I like taking things into my own hands. Happy Father's Day to all you other daddies out there.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Easy post day

blog readability test

Movie Reviews



Via Nightfly who is a fellow high schooler.

AND:


Find out Which Marvel Superhero Are You at LiquidGeneration.com!


Also from Nightfly. Now, let me get my affairs in order before Iron Man stabs me in the back.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

We have lost

OK, so McCain has a comment taken way out of context and it blows up in his face.

But when I read this:
The McCain campaign is arguing that he wasn't saying that the act of bringing the troops home is not too important; merely that the timing is.

That seems like a distinction that isn't terribly meaningful, but nonetheless one worth noting, because it's true that McCain was answering a question about the timing

It just pisses me off. It's this rather blasé "our troops need to come home" attitude that's bothering me. God forbid we actually try and finish what we've started. Nope. It's a foregone conclusion that we have failed.

I have said it before, I was no fan of going into Iraq from the beginning. I had my doubts. The arguments for going in just didn't seem justification enough for invading another country. But NONE OF THAT MATTERS NOW. We are there. We are doing good things. If we do not continue to do good things a there will be a power vacuum that could only be filled by Iran.

"Bring the troops home now" is an action without a conscience and what is ironic is that it is probably the most un-liberal thing to do. What will happen to the people of that country if we left today? How could that possibly be ethical? None of those supporting our immediate withdrawal seem to care. Honestly, anti-Iraq war advocates don’t care about the people of Iraq or our military. They only care about supporting causes that are in direct opposition to the current administration.

Ugh. I’m sorry to rant on like that, and I know that I'm generally preaching to the choir. I realize the futility of sounding off in an echo chamber, but this is my place to rant.

Revelations

Added to the list of things I never thought I’d be doing but actually kind of enjoy and am good at:

- Speaking with military retirees and spouses about different retiree issues.

Weird.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Damn tour

Friday night, J-Mom and I went to the Memphis Gibson Guitar Store. They give factory tours. I was very psyched to go. To me, it's one of the absolute best things about living in Memphis.

We got there, walked into the retail store to buy tickets for the tour and ... they were sold out. Last tour of the day. All filled up. To say I was disappointed is an understatement. But, we hung out in the guitar store for a bit. It was cool to be surrounded by all those Gibson products. I plucked a few different Les Pauls, an ES-335 and a Lucille.

Of course I tinkered with the higher-end stuff, but, I tell ya', the Les Paul BFG is a really neat instrument. Try one out the next time you're at a store with a decent Gibson selection.

Since we didn't get to go on the tour, instead we crossed the street and went to the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum.

It was $10 a pop for the tour and that's a pretty fair deal. You watch a short film at the beginning that talks about the history of Delta music and the Memphis scene. Then you go on a self-guided tour through the museum. They have these earphones with a device that hangs around your neck. The device has a number pad on it and the displays are coded. When you get to a display, punch in the number and you get a little talk about it.

The idea is sound and pretty cool. My only complaint is that they spend a long time on the share-cropping era. The displays don't have too much going on, but they drone on a bit. Once past that and into the country-western and blues era, things get going.

Quite a worthwhile stop next time you find yourself in Memphis.

Monday, June 09, 2008

A little negative

Something to post on my day off:




You Are a Little Negative...



You can be negative from time to time, but you rarely go overboard.

You have a realistic view of the world, and most people appreciate your honest insights.



Like everyone else, you have your darker moods.

But when you're feeling super negative, you keep your feelings to yourself.



h/t Wordgirl.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Thought for the day

Why does the world not like us? Because they think we have the same prejudices and attitudes they do -- just from our perspective.

Holy crap I hurt

One day of intense yard work and three days in the gym and I'm sucking wind.

It's been a long time since I've been in any kind of decent shape. I wasn't in the best conditioning when I got out of the Army, but I was infinitely better than I am now. That was five years ago and yet, when I get on an the elliptical machine or start lifting weights I still measure myself against standards I held when I was active duty.

"How can I not be running on a higher level than this?"

"UGH! I can only lift this much weight?"

I know that I've been sitting on my ass for five years and of course I shouldn't be able to do what I used to. But it's still disheartening. What's cool though is that one of the Army's guiding PT principles is: "Pain is just weakness leaving the body!" So, feeling sore is a mixed blessing. I know it's good for me and that makes me happy. Walking up the three flights of stairs to my office does not.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Sorry, but you’ve got to do your own livin’

I'm, once again, trying to get back into eating healthy and exercising. This has been a bit of a recurring theme for me the past couple of years, but it seems that I keep picking myself up just to fall down again.

I have an addictive personality. I'm not saying I have a disease. I'm not saying anything that puts the blame onto some kind of something I can't control. What I'm saying is that I have a gluttonous personality.

When I drank, I drank epically. When I smoked, I smoked like a Chevy Nova's exhaust. But when I gave these up, I gave up the bad habit but not the bahavior. Food became the new object. This isn't anything new to anyone who's given up an addiction, and unlike smoking or drinking, you can't quit eating.

I have a very hard time sticking to eating healthier and exercising more. I know what to do, but the bad habits come back easily. I don't know how to overcome lazy.

This probably applies to almost everyone, but I want to be comfortable in my own skin. There's no switch. How long do I have to do something for it to become routine?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Out of shape math

Here's a bit of truth I discovered last night:

How out of shape you are = (The amount of yard work done) x (How little you can move at the end of the evening)

I'm not as sore today as I thought I'd be, but I could barely move last night. Think there was a little bit of heat exhaustion going on too (or close to it). I believe we fat folks are more prone to heat injuries anyway. Oh well. At least my yard's finally cut.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Who do you love

Man. A depressing couple of days. First we lose Harvey Corman and now Bo Diddley.

Bo knew.