31 January 2009

DVD: "Bandidas"

Bandidas
Directed by Joachim Roenning & Espen Sandberg
Written by Luc Besson & Robert Mark Kamen
Starring: Penelope Cruz, Salma Hayek, Steve Zahn, Dwight Yoakam, Denis Arndt, Audra Blaser, Ismael "East" Carlo, Carlos Cervantes, Joseph D. Reitman and Sam Shepard
DVD Release: 9 January 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Sexuality, Nudity, and Violence)
List Price: $14.98 - Currently Out of Print

The Film
First things first.  Not only is the only nudity in the film Steve Zahn's backside, but the leading ladies don't even appear in the costumes they're wearing on the DVD cover.

Bandidas is a comic book of a Western, chock full of gags from Cruz playing Tic-Tac-Toe with a horse to a Matrix-style shootout.  The stunts ruin any chance of taking the film seriously, but once you realize it's all played for fun, it's easy to go along with it.  The premise of the film is that a sneaky, no-good American banker (Yoakam) is swindling Mexico to take ownership of land needed for a railroad.  He betrays his own business partner, setting Sara (Hayek) off on a vendetta against him.  She unites with peasant farmer's daughter Maria (Cruz), who has suffered as well.  They distrust one another, but in true buddy comedy fashion, learn to get past that as they fight injustice and seek revenge.

The DVD
There are only three extras: the theatrical trailer, a brief featurette of the two leading actresses explaining the set-up of the film, and a feature commentary by them.  The trailer is simply obligatory and the featurette is entirely superfluous.  The commentary, though, is fun since this is apparently the first commentary track ever recorded by either Cruz or Hayek.  They tease one another throughout, but also come across as sincere friends.  
Bandidas's real premise isn't revenge against Tyler Jackson; it's about Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek wanting to work together.

The Recommendation
At 92 minutes,
Bandidas doesn't overstay its welcome as a comic book Western.  What Bandidas really does is make a compelling case that these two leading actresses should really be in a serious Western together sometime.  Also, Steve Zahn is an obscenely lucky actor.  I found this in the $5 bin at Walmart, and was entirely satisfied that I got my money's worth.  I would recommend it at that price; any more, and it's just a rental.

DVD: "The Good German"

The Good German
Directed by Steven Soderbergh

Screenplay by Paul Attanasio
Based upon the novel by Joseph Kanon
Starring: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Tobey Maguire
DVD Release: 22 May 2007

MPAA Rating: R (For Language, Violence and Some Sexual Content)
List Price: $19.97
Cinescope Personality Type: Courageous Detective

The Film
Not only is The Good German a period piece set in post-WW II Berlin, but it's designed to look and sound as though it were filmed then, too.  Not only is this reflected in the production design, but the film itself is shot in black & white, 4:3 aspect ratio.  American journalist Jack Geismer (Clooney) returns to Berlin for the first time since war broke out to cover the Potsdam Conference.  He gets caught up in a tangled plot concerning Lena (Blanchett), his ex who has since become a shameless prostitute involved with his ambitious and crooked driver (Maguire).  As film noir as it gets, The Good German has it all: a flawed hero, a believable antagonist, a beautiful woman in the thick of a plot with enough twists to not be predictable.

The DVD
Unfortunately, The Good German is inexcusably devoid of any bonus features.  Had the DVD not been released in 2007, or had there been another edition with features, perhaps this would not be so offensive.

The Recommendation
Because The Good German does not take any advantage of the DVD format, I cannot advise anyone to pay full list price for it.  I found it in the $5 bin at Walmart, and at that price I was more than happy with the film, and content with the DVD.  Otherwise, it is certainly worthy of a rental.  Fans of the cast will likely enjoy their performances (though Maguire's fans might be startled), as will fans of film noir.

DVD: "Secondhand Lions"

Secondhand Lions
Written and Directed by Tim McCanlies
Starring: Michael Caine, Robert Duvall, Haley Joel Osment
DVD Release: 3 February 2004

MPAA Rating: PG (For Thematic Material, Language and Action Violence)
List Price: $12.97
Cinescope Personality Type(s): Youthful Sage, Loyal Warrior

The Film
Walter (Osment) is dropped off by his transient mother Mae (Kyra Sedgwick) with his two uncles for the summer.  All anyone knows about the two uncles are that they disappeared for forty years and are rumored to have resurfaced with a fortune.  Hub (Duvall) and Garth (Caine) reluctantly take in the awkward boy, and over the course of a fascinating summer, the three find inspiration in one another.  The film could easily have become entirely too sweet for its own good, but stays grounded enough to simply be charming.  There are a handful of fantasy sequences that call to mind The Princess Bride, and since all three actors turn in top notch performances, the film becomes endearing rather than preachy, and fun rather than contrived.

The DVD
New Line believed enough in the film to produce it (as documented in the "One Screenplay's Wild Ride in Hollywood" feature), but were apparently disappointed by its performance at the box office because they have only released one edition on a double-sided disc.  These are always problematic.  Still, families with kids who do not appreciate the widescreen format will find the option of viewing the film in a pan & scan, 4:3 aspect ratio.  Director McCanlies also wrote the script, and provides an insightful commentary track.  He's clearly in love with Texas, his own script and Haley Joel Osment, and those passions are well documented throughout his commentary and the DVD features.


The Recommendation
This is another film that was not drawn to see theatrically because of its marketing.  The trailer and TV spots are included as bonus features, and they come off as generic and uninteresting.  Had Secondhand Lions been better marketed, I suspect it would have performed better at the box office.  Regardless, it is yet another film that has benefitted from endless TV broadcast.  I was greatly entertained by it when I caught it on TBS last summer, and very happy to find it in the $5 bin at Walmart shortly thereafter.  It would have been worth paying the full list price ($12.97).  It's a very intimate, yet enjoyable film that will resonate with most anyone who grew up with tall tales for entertainment and still wishes for something in which to believe.  You can catch it on either TBS or TNT fairly regularly, but if you can turn it up in your local $5 bin, do it.

30 January 2009

DVD: "No Reservations"

No Reservations
Directed by Scott Hicks
Screenplay by Carol Fuchs
Starring: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin and Patricia Clarkson
DVD Release Date: 12 February 2008
MPAA Rating: PG (For Some Sensuality and Language)
List Price: $19.96
Cinescope Personality Types: Vivacious Romantic

The Film
The trailer for No Reservations explained it clearly enough: Catherine Zeta-Jones's Kate is a New York chef who takes in her orphaned niece and has to work out working with Aaron Eckhart's Nick.  Naturally, the two clash at first and then later fall in love.  And the film delivered exactly what the trailer said it would.  There were no surprise plot twists, just these three characters coming together and going through the adjustments of living with one another.  Somehow, though, being a simple and obvious film doesn't make it unenjoyable.  In addition to Zeta-Jones and Eckhart, the cast includes Abigail Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine) as the aforementioned orphaned niece, Zoe.  The three of them are charming and enjoyable to watch.  Even if the film is paint-by-numbers, at least the picture is pretty.

The DVD
The DVD release is completely disappointing, as the only special feature is an episode of Food Network's "Unwrapped" hosted by Marc Summers.  There are no other features, no commentary tracks, not even the theatrical trailer!  The episode itself is somewhat enjoyable, though by its very nature it doesn't go particularly into the movie-making.  Rather, it focuses on the behind-the-scenes training the actors received to play cooks convincingly.  The episode doesn't have enough material to justify its twenty-two minute running time, so it repeats a lot of film footage and interview statements.  Even accepting Warner Bros.'s desire to have this DVD released two days before Valentine's Day, 2007, does not justify such a bare-bones release.  Not only did they not release any kind of special edition, but the Widescreen and Pan & Scan versions are on the same disc!

The Recommendation
The only major flaw with this film is that Kate never really seems to have anything to say about her now-deceased sister.  She breaks down and cries shortly after the car accident that kills her, but beyond that we never hear her say anything to anyone about her sibling.  Not to her therapist, her grieving niece or to Nick, the guy to whom she finally surrenders herself.  At no point do we ever get a sense of what her relationship to her sister was, other than to know that their dad came apart at the seams after their mother died when they were young.  The potential heart-to-heart moments abound, and yet there are none.  Whether they just didn't want to bog down the pretty picture with such things, or whether no one thought to even include such scenes is unclear, but their absence certainly cheats the film of any emotional weight.  Fans of Zeta-Jones or Eckhart will likely enjoy their performances, but otherwise No Reservations is strictly a rental.  In fact, this might even be one to just wait for a TV broadcast.

29 January 2009

DVD: "Juno"

Juno
Directed by Jason Reitman
Written by Diablo Cody
Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney, J.K. Simmons
DVD Release Date: 15 April 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Mature Thematic Material, Sexual Content and Language)
List Price: $19.98
Favorite line: "I mean, I'm already pregnant, so what other kind of shenanigans can I get into?"

The Film
Yet another film that announced in its trailer exactly what it is about: Ellen Page's titular Juno is a pregnant teen who decides to turn over the baby to a young, yuppie couple.  Along the way, she's working out her relationship with her baby daddy, Michael Cera's Paulie Bleeker.  Juno marches to the beat of her own drummer, and yet discovers by the film's end that people and their relationships are much more ephemeral than she wanted to realize.  And, of course, that the opposite can also be true, if the people having the relationship are willing to work on it.

The cast is almost distracting for a geek, because half of them have recently been seen in one of the growing number of movies based on Marvel Comics properties: Ellen Page (X-Men: The Last Stand), J.K. Simmons (the Spider-Man trilogy), Jennifer Garner (Daredevil and Elektra).  Garner and Jason Bateman's couple, the Lorings, are the most interesting part of the film.  It's unclear at the beginning just what their motives even are, and when Juno catches Vanessa at the mall playing with a little girl, it becomes even more curious just what's up.  Bateman's Mark, on the other hand, is little more than one of Juno's peers who simply has another twenty years on her.  The ability to easily relate to him soon yields to seeing him for what he is, though: stunted growth as a human being.

The DVD
The single-disc edition (that I rented) is fairly short on features.  There are a few deleted scenes (with optional commentary), a gag reel, outtakes, screen tests and a "crew jam."  Being a rental, I did not play director Reitman's commentary track, though based on other films of his I suspect it's worth the time.  Reitman made some interesting cuts when editing this film.  The first time we would have seen the Lorings, it would be from Vanessa's vantage point, crying while looking down on Mark escorting a woman into a car driving off.  It might not have made sense then, but during Juno's introduction to the couple, we would have understood that Vanessa's anxieties stemmed from having a previous adoption deal fall through.  Instead, she's played as suspicious and Mark quickly becomes creepy in his efforts to hide hanging out with Juno while his wife is at work.

The Recommendation
Juno is sort of a teen version of Knocked Up.  Just as that film dug deeper than a superficial layer of humor to find a touching humanity, so too does Juno.  The pro-choice crowd dismisses it as anti-abortion propaganda, but as someone pointed out, they'd lose their entire premise for a movie if Juno simply had an abortion.  Besides, doesn't the term "pro-choice" suggest they should be in favor of a would-be mother making her own choices?  Anyway, this is definitely a rental and I would even suggest a blind buy if you can find it cheap enough.

There is also a costlier Special Edition with a few more featurettes and a Digital Copy of the film on a second disc.

DVD: "Waitress" - Widescreen Edition

Waitress
Written and Directed by Adrienne Shelly
Starring: Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Cheryl Hines, Jeremy Sisto, Andy Griffith
DVD Release Date: 27 November 2007
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Sexual Content, Language and Thematic Elements)
List Price: $19.98

The Film
Waitress was marketed as an independent comedy, but the truth is it's far more a drama.  For that matter, it's at least as much a suspense film as it is a comedy.  Keri Russell's Jenna has a talent for creating pie recipes (dinner and dessert varieties), which she employs daily at her job at Joe's Pie Place (owned by Andy Griffith's Joe).  She has the idea in her head that she will enter and win an out of town pie contest and use the $25,000 to leave her controlling husband (Jeremy Sisto's Earl).  Oh, and when we first meet her, she's just found out she's pregnant, courtesy of Earl getting her drunk prior to the events depicted in the film.  If that's not enough, she finds herself having an affair with...her gynecologist.

The cast is excellent.  Keri Russell is quite convincing as a small town woman in over her head in her own life, and Andy Griffith is quite entertaining as dirty old bastard Joe.  (It's still unsettling to hear him say certain things, as he does in this role.)  Far and away, though, the most eye-opening performance in the entire film is that of Jeremy Sisto.  Earl is a far cry from his new Law & Order role, and it goes beyond the scruff and redneck accent.  There is an animalistic intensity that he exudes in every scene that makes his Earl loom over every scene, whether or not he's even in it.  Truly, Sisto should have at least been nominated for something for this film.  There are suspense and horror films whose villains haven't been as menacing or as capable of sustaining such fear, and Sisto's twisted, dark Earl is the entire reason everything else in the film even matters.

The DVD
It should also be noted that one of Jenna's coworkers, Dawn, is played by director Adrienne Shelly.  Tragically, Shelly was murdered before the release of this film, and this permeates the DVD bonus features.  As a human being, her murder's effects can only be understood by those she left behind; as an artist, we can all recognize by this film's (admittedly predictable) ending that we have all been cheated of whatever work may have followed this fine film.  There is a commentary track featuring producer Michael Roiff and lead actress Russell.  On the list of heartbreaking missing features, a director's commentary for Waitress must surely be at the top.

The Recommendation
This was another Redbox rental, and I would highly advise it go to the top of your Netflix rental queue.  If you can find it cheap enough, it would even be worthy of a blind buy (say, in the $5 section at Walmart).  This is a compelling little film, and while it may not be a Favorite Movies of All Time entry, it's surely among the runner-ups.

DVD: "27 Dresses" - Widescreen Edition

27 Dresses
Directed by Anne Fletcher
Written by Aline Brosh McKenna
Starring: Katherine Heigl, James Marsden
DVD Release Date: 29 April 2008
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (For Language, Some Innuendo and Sexuality)
List Price: $19.98

The Film
First of all, kudos to Ignition Print for designing one of the most interesting movie posters of the last ten years.  In an era of computer generated images and Drew Struzan wanna-be's, it's nice to see some good ol' fashioned creativity at work.  Unfortunately, the same cannot necessarily be said of Anne Fletcher's film.

27 Dresses
 is one of those romcom's (that's 21st century lingo for "romantic comedies," don't you know?) that made no real effort to disguise itself.  From the trailer, it was clear that Katherine Heigl's character, Jane, has been cursed to a life of "always a bridesmaid, never a bride," and things get "complicated" when she's cajoled into service for her sister's wedding...to the guy she herself has secretly been in love with all along.  Naturally, a confrontation ensues in which Jane finally asserts herself, and in the span of about twenty minutes everything is wrapped up quite neatly in time for a feel-good ending.

Of course, the real reason to watch the film isn't for plot twists, but rather for the actors on screen.  Heigl and James Marsden just look like people you want to see together in a film.  So what if their characters have indespensible incomes and everyone is attractive in their world?  It doesn't matter that 95% of us can't relate to their world; we don't watch movies like this to relate to people.  We watch them to fantasize for an hour and a half (or two) about what life might be like without the mundane distractions of psycho bosses, bill collectors or ugly people.  (We also watch them because our wives rent them from Redbox.)

The DVD
The bonus features of this DVD are fairly generic, really.  There are three deleted scenes, none of which are mandatory viewing, and the while the four featurettes attempt to analyze different components of the film's origins, only one is even interesting.  That featurette, "You'll Never Wear That Again!" chronicles the wardrobe staff's efforts in building the titular collection.  As a Redbox rental, I did not have time to play the commentary track, and am not definitively sure it even has one.

The Recommendation
If you're not into chick flicks, the up side is that should you be compelled to sit through this, it's not so bad.  For those who are into the genre, it's certainly worthy of a rental and possibly even worth picking up on sale (or used).  I cannot advise anyone, even fans of Heigl, to pay full list price.

DVD: "Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997"

Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997
Directors: Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Michael Keaton, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Val Kilmer, Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman, Chris O'Donnell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, George Clooney, Uma Thurman, Alicia Silverstone
DVD Release Date: 18 October 2005
MPAA Rating: PG-13
List Price: $79.92 - Currently Out of Print
Cinescope Personality Types: Chosen Adventurer, Existential Savior, Loyal Warrior

Bat-fans need to own the box set, Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997, which includes Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997).  I can hear you already, "But I don't like all four Bat-films!"  That may be, but it's also irrelevant.  Sure, the four two-disc sets are available individually, but Anthology box itself looks great on a shelf.  Besides, if you buy them individually, you're likely to not complete the set.

The Films
Batman is one of the films that defined an entire generation; pretty much every boy in America dressed up as Batman for Halloween in 1989.  The script is pretty clear and believable, and the performances are rock solid.  Anton Furst's production design truly brought Gotham City to life, and the dialogue is immensely quote-worthy.  "What are you?" "I'm Batman."  "Wait'll they get a load of me!"  "Can somebody tell me what kind of a world we live in where a man dressed up like a bat gets all of my press?"  So on and so forth.  Critics feared Michael Keaton was horribly mis-cast as Bruce Wayne, but his performance resonates even today as a character an audience believes has psychological issues.

Batman Returns and faces three enemies: Danny DeVito's Penguin, Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman and Christopher Walken's Max Shreck.  The plot is more convoluted than that of Batman, with two parallel stories running: Shreck backs the Penguin's bid to become mayor of Gotham while Selina Kyle recovers from being pushed out a window by Shreck by becoming Catwoman.  The development of Pfeiffer's Selina is interesting, though the notion that she would go back to work the next day is absurd, even if it does offer an easy way to explain how she meets Bruce Wayne.  DeVito's Penguin has some good lines of dialogue, but his delivery gets in the way too often.  Of the two Batman films directed by Tim Burton, this one feels more like a Burton film; fantastic and grotesque.

Batman Forever bears virtually no resemblance to either of its predecessors, partly because of Barbara Ling's hyper and bright production design and partly because only Michael Gough's Alfred and Pat Hingle's Commissioner Gordon return.  Val Kilmer's Bruce Wayne is less of a recluse than was Michael Keaton's, though still a believable character.  Jim Carrey's Edward Nygma (who becomes The Riddler) is well developed, along the lines of Catwoman, though the film completely squanders the character of Harvey Dent (Tommy Lee Jones).  Many fans resent the inclusion of Robin, played by Chris O' Donnell, though that plot line is actually well handled.

Batman & Robin is little more than a glorified commercial.  Barbara Ling's production design is even more disorienting and distracting this time around, making viewers feel they've just been to a late '90s rave more than having watched a Batman movie.  Again, Batman faces multiple villains, though this time around none of them are particularly well developed and all the actors ham it up.  If Danny DeVito's delivery of lines in Returns got in the way of some good dialogue, then it's hard to know whether Uma Thurman's completely over-the-top delivery has anything to do with why her Poison Ivy is so annoying throughout the film.  Arnold Schwarzenegger has some horrible lines, but he almost celebrates how bad they are by getting completely into yelling things like, "Kill the heroes!" with conviction.  Where Chris O'Donnell's Dick Grayson was brought into the fold naturally, Alicia Silverstone's Barbara Wilson (later Batgirl) is rather gratuitous and completely incongruous with the rest of the movie.

The DVD's
Bonus features abound, from music videos and deleted scenes to documentaries and director commentaries.  One of the most interesting, for Batman fans, is a storyboard sequence of a scene that was planned for, but dropped from Batman.  Not only would the scene have touched on the character of Robin, but for the DVD they recruited Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill to voice Batman and the Joker, respectively.  (They voiced the characters on Batman: The Animated Series.)

Far and away, though, the most compelling bonus feature for Batman fans will be the Batman & Robin documentary, which includes Joel Schumacher outright apologizing to fans for the film.  Chris O'Donnell complains of how the toy designers from Hasbro were more prevalent than filmmakers on the set.  For those who recognized the film for what it was (an effort to make money completely regardless of having a story to tell), it will be satisfying to hear such confessions and apologies.

The Recommendation
Warner Bros. did not skimp on bonus features for these films; even the music video for Prince's "Batdance" is included.  Burton's commentaries sound like a guy being asked to talk about an ex, and Schumacher just gloats about being surrounded by beautiful people, but they still periodically offer some insight into how and why these particular tales of the Caped Crusader came to pass.  It would be far easier--and cheaper--to content yourself with just the '89 original, but this hefty volume deserves some of your shelf space.

DVD: "Sex and Breakfast"

Sex and Breakfast
Written and Directed by Miles Brandman
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Kuno Becker, Eliza Dushku, Alexis Dzeina
DVD Release Date: 22 January 2008
MPAA Rating: R (For Sexual Content and Language)
List Price: $14.98

The Film
Two couples, who do not know each other, are drawn to a sex therapy seminar.  The speaker of the seminar is a sex therapist (duh) who advocates "group sex therapy" to rehabilitate stale relationships.  As a therapist, she's clearly horrible, choosing to advance her own beliefs even in spite of the reservations expressed by Macaulay Culkin.Both couples are young, but headed in opposite directions.  Heather (Alexis Dziena) is clearly restless; it comes out in a therapy session that she has already pushed James (Culkin) to experimenting with an "open relationship" with which he clearly is uncomfortable.  Meanwhile, Ellis (Kuno Becker) and Renee (Eliza Dushku) are thrillseekers who have elected to explore group sex therapy in lieu of skydiving.  Renee is less interested in being with another man than she is in exploring a same-sex experience, and turns her attention to Betty (Jaime Ray Newman), their regular waitress at a diner where both couples eat breakfast.

The film's title refers to the two experiences shared by the couples: sex and breakfast.  They are unaware of one another at the diner, though they are all established "regulars."  Prior to their rendezvous in an arranged group sex therapy session, it is James and Ellis who briefly meet in the diner's restroom.  They quietly and awkwardly make recommendations to one another about the menu, but James confesses he's something of a one-trick pony.  By the time the even more awkward group sex therapy session is over, it's clear that the breakfast menu was a metaphor for their sexual selves, as well.

If the film has one failing, it is that it is entirely too preachy about the subject of alternative lifestyles.  Dr. Wellbridge (Joanna Miles) does little to comfort her patients who express reluctance to experiment with group sex, instead adding pressure.  By the film's end, only Heather seems to have enjoyed the experience.  There is a "lesson learned" feel to film's finale, as though writer/director Miles Brandman has taken it upon himself to write an Aesop fable about sexual experimentation.

Still, the reality is that, statistically speaking, few people in our society actually engage in such experiments.  Many who do often feel the conflict of negative emotions that sweep James, Ellis and Renee.  It calls to mind a statement once made by Spock on Star Trek: "You may find...that having is not so pleasing a thing as wanting.  It is not logical, but it is often true."

The DVD
The DVD release is extremely spartan, containing only the film and a handful of trailers.  There are no featurettes, and I don't think there's even a commentary track (though, because it was a one-night rental and we were kind of rushed to watch it and return it in time, I can't swear to it).  Some insight, especially for an artistic/independent film written and directed by the same person, would have been nice.

The Recommendation
Sex and Breakfast is not a film that lends itself to a group viewing--there are simply too many invitations for commentary, especially if your group includes couples.  This was a Redbox rental, and at that price it was well worthwhile.  By now, your best bet for rental will be Netflix, where it will help diversify your queue.

How I Spent My Winter Vacation

Tuesday, we were iced in but had power.  Rachael and I got in some Mario Kart Wii on wi-fi with friends.  It didn't last long, I think mostly because our friends had already been playing for a while by the time we hooked up online.  Anyway, it was a regular snow day as far as I was concerned.  I went to bed and read more of Ronald Reagan's An American Life: The Autobiography until 1:30.  I was just starting to drift off to sleep when my brother called at two in the morning to ask if we still had power, because they had lost theirs.  I was up for another hour, talking to him and trying to get back to sleep.  Rachael got little sleep because ice was bringing down trees by this point, and each one spooked her.  She woke me around six to tell me we were without power.

To be honest, it's just as well that I was exhausted, because I was asleep until well into the early afternoon yesterday.  I got up and started going through old Disney Movie Club fliers.  We're way too poor to be ordering anything from them anytime soon, but I still decided to while away some time by making a list of all the titles they sell that remotely interested me.  The list included the last few Pixar films absent from our library (including Cars), some classic titles (such as The Sword in the Stone) and some live action films made by Disney subsidiaries (like O Brother, Where Art Thou?).  I even whimsically added The Great Mouse Detective because I remember seeing it in the theater as a kid and liking it.  It's not like I was actually ordering these things, you know.

Sometime around 3:00, I decided to try my battery powered CD boombox.  It only plays CD's when it's plugged in, but the radio will work with batteries.  I have no idea how old the batteries are that are in it, but I can't seem to recall having changed them since we were in the apartment in 2007.  Anyway, I was able to tune into AM 84 WHAS in time for a press conference with Louisville Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson and Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear.  Based on the information they shared, I suspected we would not go an entire 24 hours without power, and I was right.

Food was the main issue, and my having Crohn's disease only complicated matters.  When you have no power, you have to be careful about eating foods that are no longer being kept cold and you obviously cannot heat items that ought to be served warm.  Most of the foods that can be kept--and eaten--at room temperature are not necessarily Crohn's friendly (such as chips).  My industrious wife was able to rig a caterer's set-up and heat up beef stew (which I couldn't eat because I couldn't see well enough to ensure I wouldn't swallow something I shouldn't).  My cousin and her step-mom, who live literally across the street, came over and brought still-cold lunch meat.  I had a roast beef & ham sandwich (okay, I had two of them).  Afterwards, we played some cards by candlelight.  A few hands later, and the last vestiges of daylight were long gone and candlelight simply wasn't enough to keep us playing.

I've gotten pretty good at reading by little light over the years, so we spent some time with the ever-popular Cinescopes book.  We determined my new aunt is an Enlightened Healer, my mom is a Dedicated Idealist (as is my wife), and my grandmother is a Passionate Maverick (like me); we had already determined days earlier that my cousin is an Invincible Optimist.  We even had to resort to pulling out Leonard Maltin's 2006 Movie and Home Video Guide to find the title of one of my grandmother's top ten movies.  Several of hers weren't given codes in the back of the Cinescopes book, so she substituted until we had ten with codes.  I wish they would release a supplement, maybe a .pdf file online or something, with an expanded list of 'scope codes.

By this point, it was nearing ten or so and my wife was exhausted.  We came downstairs and I turned on the radio again to find out what was going on, and what was expected in the coming days.  I was having a cupcake when I looked up and saw the green light of our TV antennae illuminate and, mouth half-full of cupcake, I shouted, "We have power!"  I then placed a phone call I'd been waiting all day to make.

Like most people, my friends and I quote from our favorite movies whenever the opportunity arises.  Our landline was operational all day, but we have a cordless phone that obviously doesn't work without power.  Referring to a film that will be 16 years of age this year, I dialled Matt and said to him when he answered,
"Mr. Hammond, the phones are working."

23 January 2009

President Obama Needs a Hat

President Obama has taken office amidst an economic collapse potentially on the scale of the Great Depression and two unpopular wars as potentially divisive as Vietnam.  What he needs to do is reassure us and lead us through these events while maintaining an aura of calm and self-assured strength.  What Mr. Obama needs is a hat.

The hat is an essential part of any gentleman's wardrobe.  It suggests something about the man wearing it.  Remove hats from Indiana Jones, Dick Tracy, Sherlock Holmes or The Man in the Yellow Hat, and what do you have?  Those characters are intrinsically linked with their iconic headwear to the point that most people are unaware that Sherlock Holmes was never described by Arthur Conan Doyle as wearing a deerstalker cap.



Our new president cuts a stylish figure--he proved that definitively as he and First Lady Michelle Obama appeared at all ten inaugural balls.  He evokes confidence like John Wayne and cool like Frank Sinatra.  Both men regularly wore hats, both on screen and in life.  No president in my lifetime was regularly photographed wearing a hat--in fact, I can't picture any president in a hat, save Dwight Eisenhower in his military uniform.  President Obama has already set a historic precedent by becoming our first African-American president (fun fact: he is also the first person ever to win a Grammy Award and the presidency in the same year).  Why not bring a hat to the Oval Office?

I'm thinking something that fits this criteria:
  • It must be short-brimmed, because a large brim can quickly look cartoonish.
  • It must not have any feathers or other such decorations.  He's the leader of the free world, not A Pimp Named Slickback.
  • It should be a solid color, not plaid or striped, and preferrably either black, brown, gray or navy.  Those are conservative colors, and they convey class and strength.  Plus, they will match well with most of his wardrobe.
  • It must not be a bowler or derby.  The President cannot wear those hats.
  • The President must look comfortable wearing it, like he's sat up all night playing poker in it.
Be sure to post remarks, including any suggestions!

20 January 2009

The Inauguration of Barack Obama

"We have never seen anything like this," said  the commentator on CNN just as I began to type this.  I have nothing to add that hasn't already been said by someone else, and likely better than I could have said it.  Instead, I am essentially writing this blog entry for myself.  This is to help me remember what I was thinking and doing on this historic day.

Yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and I blogged about our society's journey from the horrors of the slave trade through, well, yesterday.  At night, Rachael and I have gotten into the custom lately of watching movies in bed with commentary tracks playing.  In the spirit of Dr. King's legacy and the inuaguration of Mr. Obama, last night I selected Glory, the 1989 Civil War film about Col. Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachussettes regiment.  Director Ed Zwick spoke several times of how the film only got made half as well as it was because so many talented people took pay cuts or even outright worked for free because they believed in the film.

Denzel Washington earned an Academy Award for his performance.  Zwick described the infamous flogging scene (the only blatantly inaccurate scene of the film, as the military had already abandoned such means of punishment) as saying that it made pretty much everyone on set uncomfortable.  Zwick basically kept the camera rolling and had the actor whipping Washington keep going until he called "cut."  This was to give Washington time to really go into character and deliver the powerful and moving moment that is on screen.  Even with Zwick talking over the performance of an actor I've seen countless times, I was still touched by it.

After the movie was over, I tossed and turned for an hour or more.  I kept thinking about Winston Farrell.  Winston is a world-class poet from Barbados I met in May 2000 during a cross-cultural studies course taught by Professor Morgan Broadhead.  I've kept in touch (off and on) since then, and I was excited to find him on Facebook a few days ago.  I sent him a message that has so far gone unanswered.  I'm sure he's busy with more important subjects than checking his Facebook messages, so I'm not taking it personally.  I remember in 2002, I suppose it was, that Winston came to Louisville.  He seemed to enjoy being here--with the notable exception of the cold weather--but became homesick near the end of his stay.  He composed a poem, "The Rock," about his home country.  The Broadheads (Morgan and his gracious wife, Ann) had invited past students to their home, and I remember Winston disappearing to finish the composition.  He then debuted it with a recitation in their living room for us, and I remember the sheepish way he began, and the sincerity of his voice as he expressed his adolation for Barbados.

I asked Rachael to get me up when she left for work today to make sure that I was awake for today's coverage.  Josie was particularly vocal this morning, and apparently Muffin was trying to shut her up by biting her throat and pulling her down.  I didn't see any of this, but for at least an hour I had to contend with him belligerently chasing her non-stop.  Right now they're both tired, but eyeing one another warily.  I hope they don't become too much of a distraction.

CNN keeps showing clusters of people in our nation's capitol who have gathered for today's events.  I'm not sure how I feel about the two young women who were just bragging about having circumvented the security checkpoints.  I mean, should we really televise that security could be so easily breeched today?  And laugh about it?  It just seems boneheaded to me.

I remember previous inaugurations.  I didn't watch George H.W. Bush's ceremony, though I've seen the swearing-in itself.  I can't honestly recall how much of Bill Clinton's inauguration I watched live, and how much I saw taped, but I recall the sense of excitement and optimism surrounding it.  Boy, that didn't last long, did it?  The only sense I really have about Mr. Clinton's time in office was him being incessantly hounded by Republicans and the media--hardly the spirit of hope that welcomed him to the White House.  George W. Bush's inauguration was divisive because of the nature of the 2000 election.  I, too, felt it was poorly handled, but I accepted it and was ready to accept Mr. Bush.  His attitude in 2004, insisting that the American people had given him a mandate, and that he had "political capital" he intended to spend, came off as snotty to me.  It was even moreso given that the election was close enough that it came down to the state of Ohio.

It's funny; as I finished that paragraph, people on CNN began running down recent inaugurations and the attitudes that welcomed Presidents Reagan and Clinton.  "The national mood begins to change today," said the commentator.  It's hard for me to keep a focus running throughout this blog because mornings are especially rough on us Crohnies and today has been no exception.  I can't imagine braving the crowd in D.C. just to see Mr. Obama on an outdoors monitor screen.  I'm grateful to live in a small town in Kentucky, because it means I'll never be inconvenienced by such events!

I remember in 2001, when the Clinton staff looted and trashed the White House as President Bush was sworn in and I can't help but wonder what Mr. Bush and his staff are doing at this moment.  I sincerely hope that when they eventually build the George W. Bush Presidential Library that they sell The Pet Goat in the giftshop.  I will make the trip just to buy a copy there.

Speaking of presidents, I should really get to either finishing or at least returning Ronald Reagan's An American Life to the Oldham County Public Library.  I believe it was due back 12 January (last Monday).  I remember his administration, and have since studied it to some degree.  Reading his own account of how he came into public office--and his attitudes about it--has really shed some light on his administration for me.  I used to think of Mr. Reagan as uncaring about the poor, but I have come to believe that he did not see the potential cruelty of his domestic policies.  I have come to think, instead, that he sincerely believed he was acting to spur people to dig deeper and work harder for themselves, not to fuel the greed that dominated the 1980s, but so that Americans would get back to the work ethic of his father's generation.

David Gergen was on staff for Mr. Reagan (as well as Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton), and now he's on CNN covering Mr. Obama's inauguration.  I found a copy of his Eyewitness to Power on clearance at the University of Louisville bookstore when I was a student there.  I'm glad I bought it, because I greatly enjoyed his perspective on those recent presidencies.  The pre-inauguration sermon should be concluding momentarily, and then Mr. Obama and his entourage will move to the White House for the swearing-in ceremony.  Speaking of which, Mr. Obama is now leaving the church, pausing to hug Pastor T.D. Jakes.

I love that we have such traditions as our presidents attending church prior to the inauguration, or using the same Bible that was used to swear in Abraham Lincoln.  Gergen is now praising Mr. Bush for a classy hand-off, and rightly so.  Unless, of course, as all eyes are on Mr. Obama, he and his staff are stealing things from the White House.  I think if it were me, I'd have to at least prank the incoming president somehow.  Maybe I'd leave nothing but empty pens on the desk in the Oval Office.

The Bidens have arrived at the White House, and the Obamas are next.  Mr. and Mrs. Bush are greeting the Obamas now, and are expected to have coffee together.  Wow, how fortunate to be the two marines posted outside the White House!  They're clearly flanking the Bushes and Obamas in what is already a historic photograph.  The Bushes and Obamas are expected to share coffee now, and the wicked part of me is wondering if perhaps Mr. Bush has snuck a laxative into Mr. Obama's coffee.  That would be a hell of an Inauguration Day prank, wouldn't it?  While they do that, I think I'm going to sneak into the kitchen and scramble some eggs.

I'm back.  I wonder how much it cost to buy advertising time for inauguration coverage today.  I see Dustin Hoffman in the VIP section on Capitol Hill.  Anderson Cooper is asking why and how Hoffman got to be there.  It's a good question, but it sounded like he was upset.  I just learned from Gergen that it was Ronald Reagan who moved the inauguration ceremony from the East Side of the Capitol Building to the West Side "so he could look toward his beloved California."  I find this kind of minutae fascinating.

I could use a shower.  I think I have time to get it in before Mr. Obama arrives at the Capitol Building.  Somehow, though, it seems appropriate to hold off until we have our new president.  It seems symbolic.  (You'll know, though, that I also held off because I'm lazy.)  I forgot to mention that when I started eating my eggs that both cats stalked me all the way to my chair.  I broke off a piece for each cat, both of whom sniffed and subsequently snubbed them.  Sometimes I think they just want to prove that they can get me to give them food.

CNN just ran a commercial for themselves that they'll "be there to keep [the new administration] honest."  It was followed by a commercial for T-shirts for sale commemorating their own coverage of today's events.  Somehow, it seems disingenuous to make such an objective promise a moment before trying to make money off the same man.  The members of the House of Representatives are filing in now.  Eight minutes from now, the outgoing and incoming presidents are expected to depart the White House.  It might take more than that just to get all the representatives to their seats!

I'm left-of-center; I identify myself as liberal, but the extremity of many on the left make me wonder how liberal I really am.  In my own taste and decision making, I'm actually right-of-center; I just happen to believe in the freedom to make choices--even those I wouldn't make, myself.  I was born near the end of the Carter administration, so I have no recollection of his presidency.  My first president, really, was Ronald Reagan.  For all the criticisms I have of his domestic policies, he will always be my standard of a president.  He always seemed reassuring to me, and in control.  I know, it's easy to characterize him as Mrs. Reagan's puppet, but he always came off to me as a man in charge.

He set the tone for the entire country, and while I recall public criticism of Mr. Reagan, I only recall professional criticism; it never seemed to be personal with him.  Gergen described how Reagan would regularly meet after business hours with many in Congress for drinks at the White House, even those he had fought with all day long.  Come 5:00, it was time to relax and set aside the business of the day.  Somehow, that attitude disappeared during the Bush administration that followed it, because anti-Clinton attitudes seemed to be round-the-clock.  I hope that Mr. Obama can resurrect some of that Reagan-era civility in D.C.  Our politicians have gotten ahead in their campaigns by demonizing their opponents, and so long as they stick to professional criticisms I think that's all fair.  It really needs to end on Election Day, though, because it seems to distract and interfere too often with getting things done.

There's a moment.  Who would have ever suspected we'd see Arnold Schwarzenegger--as governor of California--attend the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as President of the United States?  My country has come a long way, even just in my lifetime.  Seeing Ah-nold has somehow personalized this unique moment for me.  In my childhood, Arnold was an action movie star and the president was an elderly white man.  Today, Arnold is governor of one of the largest states in the Union and we're little more than an hour away from inaugurating a young man of mixed racial heritage as president.  Truly remarkable.

I just watched Barack Hussein Obama take the Presidential Oath of Office.  He struggled with the words.  I smiled, because I remember how nervous I was when I took my wedding vows and I suspect butterflies very similar to those were swarming the President's stomach.  He is now giving his first address to the Union as President, "humble...grateful...mindful of the sacrifices born by our ancestors."

CNN asked us to photograph the exact moment that President Obama took the oath of office, so I did.  I look horrible, from needing a shower and taking the photo myself, but there it is.

Mr. Obama has given us an amalgamation of Lincoln's "A House Divided" and Roosevelt's "Walk Softly but Carry a Big Stick" remarks, updated for the 21st Century.  This was no ordinary Inaugural Address.  This was a call to action, the kind of pep talk a coach gives the team at half time during a championship when they're down, but within striking distance of victory.  Mr. Obama has effectively called on us to dig ourselves into the trenches and fight for the peace and prosperity we so desire.  Mr. President, lead and we shall follow.

19 January 2009

The Dream

Today, we observe Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  Tomorrow, we inaugurate Barack Obama as President of the United States.  Perhaps we're not just yet standing hand in hand singing that old Negro spiritual Dr. King envisioned, but we're much closer than I think most people anticipated.  It seems appropriate, therefore, to pause and reflect on how far we've come.

The Peculiar Institution
As was the case in most of the world, Africans had their own model of slavery.  When Europeans arrived, wanting a work force to supplant the natives in the "New World" (whose constitutions did not permit them to survive the brutal demands placed on them by their Portugese and Spanish overlords), Africans were only too happy to oblige.  Kidnapping and selling into slavery their rivals was commonplace, and they naively thought that the European brand of slavery was as benign as their own.  They were wrong, but no one ever returned to Africa to warn them of this.

Thomas Jefferson likened slavery to holding a wolf by its ears--you may not like it, "but you dare not let it go."  In the 1800s, as the Great Awakening spread a renewed interest in spirituality throughout America, the moral implications of "the peculiar institution" challenged Americans.  At the same time, the capitalist model began to demonstrate its appeal, and wage-earning workers came to see slavery as a competitor, unfairly depriving them of jobs.  Stories from escaped and freed slaves began to circulate, most famously Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass and the fictionalized account of Uncle Tom's Cabin.  If anyone ever doubts the potential power of art, they need look no further than the reactions to those publications.

"The Great Emancipator"
President-elect Obama has frequently invoked the legacy of Abraham Lincoln as he prepares to take office.  Yes, Lincoln preserved the Union, but it should be noted that this was Lincoln's objective all along.  Had it been an option, he would have sacrificed the abolitionist movement entirely and left enslaved human beings in the hands of their cruel masters.  After the war, Lincoln himself actually favored re-colonizing the liberated African-Americans to Liberia, rather than integrating them into American society.  Moreover, the Emancipation Proclamation was little more than a war tactic.  It declared that the Union would recognize as free anyone held in bondage in states not already under Union control.  Slaves in states that had already fallen to Union soldiers remained slaves.  By war's end, it had become apparent that the abolition of slavery was the only way the North could justify the loss of life, and this was reflected in the post-war Thirteenth Amendment.

"Separate but Equal"
Following a series of federal blunders and sabotaged efforts, an agreement was reached.  Slavery was a thing of the past, but segregating the races would be the order of the day.  Beyond being legally freed, African-Americans had little legal standing.  Whites terrorized them for any reason they could think of, leading to a recorded 4,730 lynchings between 1882 and 1951.  The color barrier was solid, but many brave souls chipped away at it.  The heroic efforts of African-American soldiers in World War II (including the famous Tuskegee Airmen) earned respect, even if not love, from their white companions.  The jazz music they spread made them beloved wherever they went in Europe.

In 1944, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. was elected to the United States House of Representatives from his home district of Harlem.  Powell was unafraid of his white colleagues, and regularly combated racism with Congress.  He stymied many legislative efforts by tacking on the Powell Amendment, which would have denied federal funding to any school system that segregated its students.  Powell helped wear down Congress to the point that, combined with external pressure, it became possible for the civil rights movement to succeed.

Dr. King
Besides convincing Nichelle Nichols to remain on Star Trek, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s greatest contribution to mankind was his role as civil rights leader.  Dr. King's legacy is known throughout the country, but since it's his day and all, it seems appropriate to note some of the highlights of his work.  He led the boycott that ended segregation on buses in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955.  Dr. King led non-violent demonstrators in Birmingham and Selma, Alabama, St. Augustine, Florida and Albany, Georgia, culminating in his historic 1963 march on Washington, D.C.  At the Lincoln Memorial, where in 1939 Marian Anderson had famously given a concert in defiance of segregationists, Dr. King told the world of his dream.  Yesterday, on 18 January 2009, the site bore witness to a concert held in honor of the forthcoming inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Marching Forward
We must never lose sight of how much farther we must yet travel before we can say we have truly buried the last vestiges of racism and other prejudices.  Still, for the moment, we as a society have earned a pause to feel good about ourselves.  Many of my generation supposed we would one day see a non-white president, but did not suspect it would be so soon.  Most from earlier generations doubted it would ever happen, and certainly not within their lifetimes.  Those who voted in the 2008 presidential election demonstrated that we will no longer discount a candidate for what he or she may be, and that we will recognize only who he or she is. 

17 January 2009

Barack Obama: Passionate Maverick

Screenwriters Risa Williams and Ezra Werb identified twelve personality types based upon people's ten favorite films in their Cinescopes project.  In addition to a website designed to help you determine your own cinescope, there is a book that offers in-depth analysis of each type.  (Full disclosure: the book is a bit disappointing because it does not elaborate on their process for determining why each film appeals to a particular 'scope.)  Anyway, I recently became a supporter of Barack Obama on Facebook, and noticed that he lists five favorite films.  This is only half the number used to "accurately" identify a person's cinescope, but it's the only available information.

The President-elect's self-identified five favorite films are:
  1. Casablanca
  2. The Godfather
  3. The Godfather, Part II
  4. Lawrence of Arabia
  5. One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
Based on this information, Mr. Obama is a Passionate Maverick.  Ironic, considering that his opposition in the presidential election was the self-identified maverick Senator John McCain, is it not?  Here's what Williams and Werb say about Passionate Mavericks:
Passionate Mavericks are like fish swimming against the current.  The masses may be telling them what to do, who to love, or how to behave, but these rebels choose not to listen.  They're dissatisfied with the status quo, and, on behalf of the meek and the voiceless, they want to change the world for the better.  Mavericks don't follow trends--they set them.  They're cool without even trying.  They have hordes of people who fear and admire them, but they're loners by nature and often keep their distance.  In the end, Mavericks must realize that accepting help from others only makes their mission stronger.  In the words of Passionate Maverick William Wallace in Braveheart, "They may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!"

Things about Passionate Mavericks
Among the film quotes cited as a "quintessential statement" for a Passionate Maverick is Michael Corleone's, "It's not personal, Sonny.  It's strictly business."  Air Force One is listed as a typical mode of transportation, and cigarettes as a culinary favorite.  (Not sure what to make of quintessential behavior including "running for public office as a joke," though.)

What We Can Expect from a Passionate Maverick in Office
Williams and Werb offer words of encouragement for a troubled nation looking to its next president:
Mavericks' behavior at work will vary depending on the circumstance.  When they believe in the values of the company they're working for and feel useful to the world at large, they are the hardest workers in the world.  They demand that their job contributes to bettering other peoples' lives in some way.
Memo to Mr. Obama
Having read these reassurances, it is fitting to end this with a message to Mr. Obama.  I, too, am a Passionate Maverick and I know there to be truth in the authors' words of advice:
Sometimes, being uncool can be fun.  Channel your inner dork once in awhile: Play board games, read a comic book, or embarrass yourself on the dance floor.  Unwind and enjoy life more.  And don't worry; everyone will think you're the coolest person in the room anyway.

14 January 2009

Midnights at the Baxter

Cinephiles living in or near Louisville ought to take a moment to give thanks for having Baxter Avenue Theaters.  For two full years now, they have run a biweekly midnight screening of cult favorites and this continues into 2009.  I will update their schedule in this blog, but you really ought to become their friend on MySpace.  (Sorry, they're not on Facebook.)  The lineup so far:

10 January The Crow
24 January The Road Warrior
31 January The Shining
14 February Amelie
28 February The Blues Brothers
14 March Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
11 April The Adventures of Buckaroo Bonzai Across the 8th Dimension
25 April Being John Malkovich
9 May The Shawshank Redemption
30 May Double Feature: Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller's Day Off

More as they're announced, but I have a sneaking suspicion I know where I'll be come midnight on 14 March....  Cowabunga!

Thanking Larry Hama

If you were to track down former classmates of mine (and I, for one, have little interest in doing so), they would very likely recall me as having an expansive vocabulary.  I was often accused of reading the dictionary for fun.  Confession: I did, at least indirectly.  I got into comic books because Marvel Comics published titles based on G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and Transformers.  I was literate, and my mom encouraged me to expand my vocabulary, but I was six years old.  How much exposure was I likely to really have to non-pedestrian words?

Enter: Larry Hama.  Hama served his country in Viet Nam and had pursued a career in writing.  His military experience was largely responsible for his hiring to oversee Hasbro's complete renovation of the G.I. Joe brand.  He named many of the characters for them, scripted the basic premise and was tapped by Marvel Comics to pen the comic title.  He also named many of the Transformers, since Hasbro's adaptation of them coincided with their Joe relaunch.

The G.I. Joe cartoon was often guilty of being little more than a glorified toy commercial that pandered to six year old boys like me, but Hama's comic title took itself seriously.  Where possible, Hama referenced real-life military protocols and his equipment was often real, or at least designed to approximate real weaponry.  Whereas the cartoon characters shot laser guns at one another and no one ever bled or died, Hama's troops fired real ammo, were frequently injured and often died.

I was absorbed by the comic, and found it infinitely superior to the cartoon.  I was not content to simply read or even re-read the issues I owned.  I would often trudge out the family's dictionary and look up words Hama used for code names, or even just in dialogue.  I found out, at six or seven years old, for instance, that a dirge is a mournful song.  Once I looked up "mournful," I understood these were sad songs sung at funerals and memorial services.  Now, I not only knew something I didn't know before, but I was smugly satisfied that few other six-year-olds thought of it as anything other than a Decepticon.

Today, whilst perusing Facebook, I began typing in random names of authors, actors and recording artists of whom I am a fan.  Lo and behold, I found Mr. Hama.  I figured the least I could do was thank the man for his role in expanding my vocabulary, so I did.  I was excited to read a response from him 91 minutes later, and it reads:
You're more than welcome. I am always surprised and puzzled by the notion that somebody on the Internet might be pretending to be me. It seems ludicrous on the face of it.
Larry Hama
Maybe Mr. Hama doesn't know just how special he is.

Some Free Music for the Ladies

Scorned ladies will appreciate this pair of free downloads.  First up is a Christmas mix of Joey + Rory's "Cheater, Cheater."  Yeah, I know I'm late bringing this to your attention, but it's fun and it's free--file it away for Christmas '09.  Click here to get it.

The second download is limited to the first 10,000 people (and I have no idea how many have already participated), so act quickly.  It's the album version of Miranda Lambert's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," courtesy of Seventeen Magazine.  Click here to get it, and to read an interview with Ran.

01 January 2009

New Year's Scavenger Hunt

Well, the subscription drive was a resounding success.  And by "resounding success" I mean it failed almost entirely.  My new aunt has made an effort to subscribe, but has so far been thwarted by the trickery of the Interwebs.  Anyway, for those who do keep up with this blog, I have decided to run a little scavenger hunt.  Hopefully, I will get new readers sometime soon, and I understand that this is not high on anyone's priority list anyway, so the tentative deadline will be 31 January at 23:59 (that's 11:59 PM for those who don't use military time).  Everything on this list can be found in past blog posts, so hopefully new readers will come along and benefit from this as well.

Prizes will be chosen by me, and awarded to the first three participants (if I even get that many) will win a prize for earning the maximum number of available points.  To win, you must be one of the first three participants to earn all 31 points.  A bonus prize of lesser value will be awarded to anyone who subscribes during this scavenger hunt.

1) Name one song and its performing artist on my Playlist.
2) Name one Mii character I have created for the Wii.
3) Which picture from the LIFE photograph archive did I post?
4) Before Blogspot, I maintained a blog on another site.  What was it?
5) Name three movies I saw in 2008.
6) Name at least one book I read in 2008.
7) On what date did I see Hal Morris hit his fourth homerun of the 1990 season?
8) Who was the subject of my first Blogspot post?
9) I use the hygiene products of which company?
10) Which of Elvis Presley's albums has the highest certification from the RIAA for sales?
11) Where was I twice hospitalized in 2008?
12) Which combination of Major League Baseball league and U.S. political party have won the most World Series and presidential elections in the same year?
13) Because I have Crohn's disease, I have an especially vested interest in what President-Elect Barack Obama does with which government agency?  Bonus: What is he rumored to be expected to do with that agency that will potentially benefit those like me?
14) Name three things I checked out from the Oldham County Public Library's Duerson branch in 2008.
15) Not every blog was originally published here.  Where have some of the others originated?
16) How many of my predictions came true for the 2008 Country Music Association Awards?
17) I made it to one concert in 2008.  Who performed?

The final three questions come from the MySpace Blog Archive, so you'll have to link over to that to finish the hunt.
18) What was my recently discovered regret in early 2008?
19) Why did I find the Shrek Trilogy DVD box set disappointing?
20) Name at least one comic book/graphic novel I reviewed in 2008.

Happy hunting, and thanks for reading!  By the way, you will get a bonus half-point for posting feedback to any entry you read in the process of finding answers, up to a total of 10 points.  That means there are potentially 31 points to be earned.