December 2005 Archives

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December 29, 2005

As I get older, there are side effects of age with which I am not particularly thrilled. My knees and back, much abused in my younger days [the "jumping out of helicopters" years], continue to give me grief. I'm only 43, but some days my knees feel like they're 90.

On the other hand, there are things for which I am very, very glad. Much of my hair, for instance, has migrated from my scalp to other regions... but I consider it to be my great good fortune not to be in competition with this guy.

Not yet, anyway.

Posted by Russ at 11:44 AM | Comments (1)
December 26, 2005
Boxing Day

Mycah didn't get much into the spirit of the holidays this year.

Not, that is, until someone told her about Boxing Day.

Posted by Russ at 11:43 AM
December 25, 2005
You Know (Part 11)

You know it's really and truly the 21st Century when:

- you have to put your phone on "mute"
- so that you can gobble down microwavable Thai food
- and not offend the people you're talking to in England
- while you troubleshoot a router in Poland
- on Christmas night.

Update: But... where are the flying cars?

Posted by Russ at 08:58 PM | Comments (1)
For unto us a child is born,
unto us a son is given:
and the government shall be upon his shoulder:
and his name shall be called



The mighty God

The everlasting Father

The Prince of Peace

Isaiah 9:6

Posted by Russ at 12:00 AM | Comments (3)
December 24, 2005
Lou's Present Creed

This is my present. There are many like it, but this one is mine.*

You will visit the Friday Ark! And you will enjoy the Christmas Carnival of the Cats! Clear?

Lou, like Bubba, wishes all the cats and their bloggers a very merry Christmas!

Posted by Russ at 02:07 AM | Comments (2)
December 23, 2005
Quote of the Day - Technology Department

Truth, from Scrappleface:

A spokesman for Microsoft said it would phase out of the television news venture [MSNBC] in order to focus on its core business of providing free security patches for its popular Windows software.

[Emphasis mine.]

Posted by Russ at 03:47 PM | Comments (1)
Bubbas and Bows

Merry Christmas, catbloggers!

[Bubba has a sense of humor about these things... otherwise, he might kill and eat someone.]

Don't miss the Friday Ark. And be sure to visit the special Christmas edition of the Carnival of the Cats.

Posted by Russ at 12:45 PM | Comments (1)
December 20, 2005
One-Hit Oneders

Suppose you're a young but solidly established — indeed, award-winning — star in Hollywood who, as many actors are wont to do, would like to direct movies yourself. You have a few TV projects under your belt, but the silver screen is where you'd like to go next. What would you pick for your first film project?

An edgy thriller? A schmaltzy romance? A crime drama? When Tom Hanks directed his first film, we can all be glad it was none of the those, but rather a tribute to the spirit of a time when no dream seemed unattainable.

1996's That Thing You Do! will not go down in history as a great film, but it deserves to be remembered as a good one — a simple tale told in a straightforward and engaging way, about people just like people we all know, getting a shot at greatness.

In short: an early-60s going-nowhere garage band makes a change, which leads to their song becoming a hit locally, and then nationally. The film follows The Oneders from their humble beginnings in Erie, PA to their peak of success as The Wonders and thence to their ultimate destiny as a group and as individuals.

This isn't High Art, folks — just the telling of a story. The characters make mistakes big and small, achieve successes big and small, and are variously cruel and kind. You know — just like real people.

Unlike much of real life, however, this movie is almost entirely suitable for family viewing. Very little bad language — none "blue" that I can recall — and no sex or drugs, despite the rock-and-roll.

There's drama, albeit not terribly heavy. This isn't a film that requires deep thought; you might be disappointed to find that the most profound point of the movie is that sometimes people use other people for their own ends. Which, come to think of it, is pretty much like real life.

There's a fair amount of humor as well (much of it inspired by the bands poor initial choice of a name) but it goes by so quickly that it seems to have been included in the movie in order to set a general light-hearted tone rather than to inspire laughs... but I laughed often enough to want to see it over and over.

This is a movie that is simply made to be enjoyed for itself, and I certainly did.

Some notes:

* Tom Hanks, fresh from Forrest Gump and Apollo 13, is the big name on the playbill, but he's not the lead. The part of Mr. White, the agent, could have been filled by many people. Hanks works so well in the role because when the character has anything to say, you have to pay attention to him — his interjections are often important to understanding where the movie is going.

* The cast rehearsed as a band for weeks before performing on film, though most (if not all) of their performances were dubbed. Nonetheless, the members of the band clearly loved what they were doing. I suppose it could have been good acting, but I don't think anyone is that good an actor. Seeing the band onstage in their suits, singing and playing their hearts out, the one emotion that came through clearly to me was Joy.

* I don't imagine the big record labels are much different today than they were in 1964, in the way they treat people.

* Liv Tyler's role as Faye could have been played up a bit more, but she made good use of the part. There was one point at which Faye becomes ill, and I expected there to be a hard choice to be made along the lines of "if you stick by your girlfriend and get sick yourself, you risk your career." The setup was there, but the script took a different direction. Tyler, however, did a rather good job for an 18-year-old. Oh, and yeah — she's totally cute in the part.

* Charlize Theron made one of her first appearances in this film. Brief, and ultimately forgettable.

* The four main cast members have all been working steadily since TTYD, but I don't think I've ever seen any of their other films. Sahara, which co-stars Steve Zahn (guitarist Lenny), is in my NetFlix queue.

* One of the main reasons I wanted to see this film was for the music. I enjoy early-60s music, and got quite a good dose of it in the movie. That none (or very little) of it is authentic product of the 1960s is of little consequence to me. Good is good.

* I wonder if the cast might have thought they were being set up to be a retro version of The Monkees?

* The DVD is nearly devoid of extra features, though it does include music videos for the title song and a second Wonders song, Dance With Me Tonight. Both are quite enjoyable.

* The title song, had it been written and performed by an actual 1964 band, could indeed have propelled that band to stardom. It's catchy, memorable, and tight — not a wasted note. Funnily enough, the song did indeed propel a band to a certain degree of stardom, more about which later.

I enjoyed That Thing You Do! quite a bit, and though it is not going to go down in film history as a classic, Tom Hanks nevertheless deserves credit for directing this little gem. I highly recommend this movie as an addition to your rental queue or even to your DVD library.

Posted by Russ at 07:36 PM | Comments (1)
December 18, 2005

I work evenings/nights. I go to bed around 4 or 5 a.m.

I really wish people would stop phoning me at 8 or 9 a.m.

Posted by Russ at 12:58 PM
December 15, 2005
Reviews and Recommendations

[Updated and revised.]

One thing those of you who have read my occasional TV, DVD, movie or music reviews might have noticed is that I don't do in-depth reviews of anything after viewing or listening just once. Usually, that's because I don't partake in entertainment in order to write a review. I simply try to enjoy it.

Add to that the fact that I rarely actually go to the movies, and I don't buy, willy-nilly, every CD that comes out, nor do I watch the "popular" TV shows. Most of them are utter dreck. (Well, I do watch NCIS and CSI and its variants. Good stuff, but I don't ever expect to write reviews of them.)

Nonetheless, there is quality entertainment to be had. One aspect of quality, per se, is the ability to stand the test of time. Perhaps that's why the CDs I occasionally buy were usually released a few years before I buy them.

Sometimes, however, the label "instant classic" really does apply. Something need not be twenty or more years old to have demonstrated qualities that will let it hold its own in the future. By way of example, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which is now just two years old, is one such film. I recommended it here, and received some very good feedback. It is, I think, a film that will be eminently watchable for generations to come.

So if you see an in-depth review of mine, it will probably not be something that aired on TV last night, it probably won't be something you can still go see in the theaters, and it probably will not be something currently on the Billboard top-100 list. Probably not.

Furthermore, I don't intend to review too many things I would not recommend. My time is too valuable to me to waste becoming familiar enough with something I don't like, just to write a full review. If there's something don't like, I'll say so and move along.

Rather, I intend my reviews to be justifications for my recommendations. (Again, refer to M&C.) If I recommend something, you can be sure I either already own it, or it's in my shopping basket — putting my money where my mouth is, you might say.

All that having been said, I expect my next reviews to be of the 1996 movie That Thing You Do! and the CD Welcome Interstate Managers from 2003. Both, as you might expect, will be recommended.

Posted by Russ at 04:05 AM | Comments (3)
December 13, 2005

Dear Betty,

I have two vacancies — will you please be my grandmother?

Posted by Russ at 10:46 PM
December 12, 2005
Quote of the Day

Playah Grrl, in response to a feminist blogger:

Have you ever been discriminated against? I never have. Iíve been discriminated for. And Iíve seen women play the gender card when they got a bad PAR (Performance Appraisal Review), or didnít get the raise or promotion they thought they should have. And we all knew they sucked at what they were doing and didnít deserve any better.

Itís over, babe. Weíre liberated.

You're dismissed.

In comments at Protein Wisdom

Posted by Russ at 09:06 AM
December 09, 2005
Friday Catblogging

Someone got a new scratcher... and loves it.

If Mycah looks a bit spaced out, well, the catnip might have had a little something to do with that.

[Don't miss the Friday Ark, or the Carnival of the Cats.]

Posted by Russ at 10:35 AM | Comments (6)
December 07, 2005
Pearl Harbor, and a Lesson - 2005 Edition

Today is Pearl Harbor Day.

This is the battleship U.S.S. Arizona in the 1930s:


And this is the U.S.S. Arizona and 1177 of her crew today:


It would behoove our enemies — actual and potential — to realize that when the United States went to war after an unprovoked attack in 1941, it ended in fire.

America has a long memory.

Others posting:

Right Wing News
Michelle Malkin
Pirate's Cove
bRight & Early
Mr. Minority
LaShawn Barber's Corner
Dean's World
Speed of Thought
John of Argghhh!
One Hand Clapping
Llama Butchers (and here and here)
Cold Fury
Florida Cracker
The Politburo Diktat
Patriette (and here)
Memento Moron
Ace of Spades (and here)
Winds of Change
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler

[This post is now officially an annual feature here. Never forget.]

Posted by Russ at 09:00 AM | Comments (4)
December 06, 2005
You Know (Part 10)

You know your medical condition is either disfiguring or embarassing — or both — when the treatment consists of a mix of antibiotics and prescription ointment.

And when the ointment tube has a prominent reminder not to get it in your eyes? Trust me on this: they mean it.

Ugly photo follows.

It's a good thing I work second shift — that thing shouldn't be allowed to see the light of day.

Keep your John Merrick jokes to yourself.

Posted by Russ at 05:40 PM | Comments (2)
December 01, 2005
The Gift

The following exchange took place earlier this week between my sister and my young niece.

Sister: "So, honey, what would you like for Christmas this year?"

Niece: "World domination."

*sniff* She makes her uncle so proud.

Posted by Russ at 04:31 PM | Comments (6)