Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Man in the Fedora

*a sequel to Exodus Lost

***

"Eyes on?" McGonigal asks into the headset. He's been in Los Angeles for over a month, leading a squad from Gabriel platoon on what was turning out to be a wild goose chase. Nobody had said anything, but it was becoming obvious that none of the men thought this target was ever going to show up... or even existed.

"Eyes on," comes the response. "Tango is wearing a gray fedora."

read more @ Panoramic Mindscapes

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***

*Continued in Garden of Fire

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Irreviews, 2010: Issue II

You might notice the lack of IMDb links in this edition of Irreviews. In all honesty, I decided that I'm too lazy to insert those links, so now Irreviews are link-less. Take that!

Armored (2009)
Director: Nimród Antal
Writer(s): James V. Simpson
Starring: Matt Dillon, Laurence Fishburne, Columbus Short
-----
A by-the-numbers action film that relies extremely heavily on cliché for both plot progression and character development. In a nutshell, a group of crooked armored car guards decide to rob their own payload, but the sudden appearance of a witness to the crime screws everything up. Naturally, the protagonist has a change of heart and chaos ensues. Not too bad as far as films of this type go, and the supporting cast (Jean Reno, Amaury Nolasco, Skeet Ulrich, Milo Ventimiglia, Fred Ward) lend it a certain level of legitimacy. Columbus Short is surprisingly effective as the main character, despite the aforementioned cliché, and is easy to root for.
Verdict: If you're into the genre, SEE it.

Avatar (2009)
Director: James Cameron
Writer(s): James Cameron
Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang
-----
Few movies can make my jaw drop. Fewer can keep me smiling for their entire run-time. Avatar did both (imagine how that must have looked). The hype is true: this is a movie that will change Hollywood forever. The storyline is mostly derivative of other, better film narratives, but it's a competent story that provides easy familiarity which (oh, by the way) lets the audience spend as much time doing what James Cameron actually wants them to do: sit back and be totally awed/blown-away/flabbergasted/amazed/stirred by the absolutely phenomenal and groundbreaking visuals. As far as the racism controversy surrounding the film: it's misguided. Those who are predisposed to look for and point out racism will find it; nobody else will.  
Verdict: SEE it. SEE it. SEE it. SEE it. SEE it. At least once. And make damn sure it's in 3-D (I'm going to see it again to see if the awe-inspiration, and perhaps the story, holds up).

Brothers (2009)
Director: Jim Sheridan
Writer(s): David Benioff, Susanne Bier (film: Brødre), Anders Thomas Jensen (film: Brødre)
Starring: Jake Gyllenhal, Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire
-----
Yet another Hollywood remake of a critically-acclaimed foreign film (the Dutch film Brødre), this one is pleasantly surprising. While it ultimately doesn't quite cut it as an effective war commentary, it is far more successful as a family drama. Unfortunately for the film, the narrative needs the war commentary to make the seamless transition into family drama. Still, there are powerful performances here, with Natalie Portman giving her first convincing performance as a mother, and Sam Shepherd providing his usual excellence as the Cahill family patriarch. Unlike in Jarhead, however, where the audience experiences that Jake Gyllenhal "gets" what it means to be a marine, Tobey Maguire doesn't quite reach that bar. All that aside, this is a very competently made film and worth a view.
Verdict: SEE it.

Couples Retreat (2009)
Director: Peter Billingsley
Writer(s): John Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Dana Fox
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, John Favreau, Kristen Bell
-----
Essentially a too-long version of a 30-minute television sitcom, this film would've been better served as such. Painfully shallow, I'm hoping it was just an excuse for Favreau and Vaughn to reunite on-screen, because there is no other substance to this unfunny comedy. Yes, there are laughs, but only in the form of punchlines. Some positives: Faizon Love steals every scene he is in, Jean Reno's appearance is a pleasant surprise (though even his character falls flat), and Malin Akerman proves that she does have potential as a legitimate actress (something she failed to do in Watchmen).
Verdict: SKIP it.

The Invention of Lying (2009)
Director: Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson
Writer(s): Ricky Gervais, Matthew Robinson
Starring: Ricky Gervais, Jennifer Garner
-----
Ricky Gervais is very much a one-trick pony. His style doesn't vary, and all too-often we're stuck with seeing Ricky Gervais playing Ricky Gervais. But, even a broken clock is right twice a day, and this is a very funny and enjoyable movie. Part criticism, part sit-com, and all satire, Gervais proves himself as a writer capable and willing of making fun of even the most sacred things civilization holds dear... and doing it with at least a modicum of respect. Playing a man who, in a world where everything can be accepted at face value, learns how to tell a lie, Gervais makes watching this story unfold almost comedic magic (I say almost because Gervais' craftsmanship clearly takes precedence over any attempt at being artistic). What can I say? I laughed my ass off at jokes I saw coming from a mile away.
Verdict: SEE it.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Keep It Simple, Stupid: An Adventure in Peanut Butter

When I was younger, definitely before I was 10, I read an article in one of those National Geographic kids magazines (it could've been "3-2-1 Contact," but I forget) concerning a child inventor and his invention that would solve a great problem in society: how to get the peanut butter that sticks to the bottom of the jar out of the jar.

Now, this is going to sound silly, but to a kid who was less than 10, it was profound. Basically, this brat inventor in question developed a peanut butter jar that had lids on both sides of the jar. This, obviously, allows the sandwich-maker to get to the hard-to-reach sandwich topping.

Excellent solution to a clear problem, right? I thought so. And I thought so for damn near the next 20 years. In fact, I'd often mosey through a grocery store wondering why in the Hell these jars weren't on the shelves.

Leave it to my mother to burst my balloon (she does that... all mothers receive pre-natal instruction in bursting balloons, I think).

A couple of years ago I was home visiting the parents when I saw my mother making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for my niece and nephew (actually, she might've been making them for me, but I will never admit such a thing). I could tell by the sound of the knife that the peanut butter was almost gone, and the memory of that boy's invention jumped back into the forefront of my mind.

Hah, I thought, I bet mom wishes she had one of those jars right about now. Hehehe. 

Yes, you've interpreted the tone in that thought process correctly: secretly, I wanted to revel in the fact that my mother was about to suffer from the same bane that's blighted me for decades. A small one, sure, but a bane nonetheless (and never mind that she's, no doubt, been dealing with peanut butter jars a lot longer than I have... this is about me, dammit).

And then she did it. The unthinkable. She produced a solution right before my very eyes.

She used a spoon.

The moral of this tale is, well, simple. When we over-think things (cough, politicians, cough), we can wind up solving problems that didn't exist, or creating problems that won't get solved. Or something like that.

Nah... the moral of this tale is to buy peanut butter in pouches.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Irrewind, 20100123: History

I am, simply put, a history nut. I can't get enough of it. While I do have two favorite specific subjects of history (World War II and Classical Greece), I really do appreciate pretty much 100% of it. And I'm talking the good stuff and the heinous stuff. The old cliché is that those who don't study history are doomed to repeat it, and while you will find many who believe this as much as I do, you will find no one who believes this more  than I do. The major fault I have with history is that, well, I don't write about it enough, which is probably why my progress towards a PhD in the topic is at a standstill (and looks to remain that way for the foreseeable future). Perhaps this will change soon; perhaps not. And perhaps I'll take the time to write about it here a bit more often. Admittedly, the idea appeals to me.

Hmm...

Anyway, here's some stuff that I have actually written:

"World War II: Pearl Harbor"
Not too long ago (probably sometime in June or July), I had to listen to a rant by my roommate/landlord about how FDR knew the Japanese were going to bomb Pearl Harbor. This, of course, made FDR a complete rat bastard in the eyes of my roommate. However, while I can't lay claim to whether or not FDR was a rat bastard, I'm pretty... Read More

"Iran: The White Elephant That Probably Shouldn't Be"
...despite the probability that Iran does harbor terrorists (something our state department rather judiciously reminds us of), the man likely wanted to pay his respects to a tragedy that even his country felt was an extreme response to so-called American imperialism. After all, a little known fact of Iran is that damn-near the entire... Read More

"War: What is it Good For?"
My intent is not to get too political here, but as I'm head-first into a ton of history at the moment, I've been finding the liberal peacenik question "what is war good for?" a little odd. Not that I'm a war mongering conservative asshole, mind you, but it is definitely a funny question ask. Especially because the answer is, well, it's good for quite... Read More

"Divisions of the United States Army"
This list of United States Army Divisions is divided into three eras: 1911-1917, 1917-1941, and 1941-present. These eras represent the major evolutions of Army division structure (there have been several minor changes during these times). The 1911-1917 era lists divisions raised during the Army's first attempts at modernizing the division... Read More

"American Independence"
When great minds gather, things change. Academic and intellectual rebellion is a given. The status quo starts to bend. The pen, they say, is mightier than the sword, but without the gun, America does not stand. With the gun, the status quo breaks... Read More

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Just Desserts

She's caught. Red-handed and with no way out. No excuse, she knows, will be good enough to dispute her undeniable guilt. But what, she wonders, gave her away?

The action was clean, wasn't it? There were no immediate witnesses, and the theft was quick and silent. The merchandise was left out in the open with no guard, no lock, and no key… read more @ Panoramic Mindscapes

***

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Storms of Dust, Part II

*continued from The Storms of Dust, Part I

***

Kolfrosta felt both euphoric and guilty from her experience with Áfastr. The euphoria, for obvious reasons. Áfastr was the man she loved, after all. And to share her very first sexual encounter with him was better than she had ever dreamed.

The guilt, however, was from the reason why the encounter happened in the first place. She didn't believe she could ever bring herself to tell Áfastr that, in some strange turn of events, the Hellenes identified Kolfrosta as an Oracle. Oracles, according to Hellenic belief, had… read more @ Panoramic Mindscapes

***


***

*To be continued...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Storms of Dust, Part I

*a sequel to A Dragon in Winter

***

Áfastr is, indeed, a long way from home. He's survived many a storm, flurry, and blizzard, of water, snow, and even ice. But this is his first time in a sandstorm.

Long separated from his brother, Afvaldr, and regretting the decision to not switch his horse out for a local dromedary, Áfastr sits nearly defeated on a small slope comprised of sand. He feels the loose earth beneath him shifting, but he doesn't care. With his back to the… read more @ Panoramic Mindscapes

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***

*continued in The Storms of Dust, Part II

Monday, January 18, 2010

On Haiti and the San Diego Chargers

Before I get started on a ridiculous rant concerning Haiti, I just want to mention that I'm going to delete the TypePad and LiveJournal mirrors for this blog by the end of the week. If anyone follows via one of those methods (let's see, that should be about... none of you), they'll need to switch to something else. Or just ignore me altogether. I'm used to it.

Haiti

Haiti's messed up. Long the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, there looked to be little hope for a so-called developing nation that wasn't, well, developing. Now they have a national disaster to deal with, and their outlook is much, much worse.

Yes, it's great that the international community is helping out (led by the United States... just thought I'd mention that) and, yes, there is a growing outside proliferation of Haitians attempting to help the disposition of their home nation (Wyclef Jean, etc.), but does anybody really see Haiti ever rising above and beyond their current status (earthquake notwithstanding)? I'm not claiming that such a feat would be impossible (nothing's impossible), but feasible? How does Haiti have any hope of being able to sustain itself? Even with the high probability (particularly now) of receiving debt cancellation, their reliance on imports and their relatively low amount of exports seems like it will keep them poor for a very, very long time.

So... why not offer them annexation? I mean, really... why not? I understand that it's en vogue to be an independent nation, but sovereign independence at the cost of economic dependence seems a bit empty to me. Haiti could become our 51st state, and as someone who sometimes reflects on the fact that I'm in danger of being part of the first generation of Americans to not live to see a new star added to our flag, I'd support it. And, let's face it, it won't hurt Haiti's standard of living.

Additionally, it would allow us to "politely" back out of Guantanamo Bay and establish not only a valid political and industrial presence in Haiti, but a military one, as well. And that it's closer to Venezuela is (for those who follow our government's strategic decisions) not a bad thing, either.

Do I see it happening? Of course not, but I figured I'd chuck it out there.

San Diego Chargers

The NFL 2009 Divisional Playoffs are done... and so are the Chargers. In a repeat of the 2004 season's playoff game versus the New York Jets, a misfiring Nate Kaeding doomed the Chargers to an early exit from the playoffs.

Kaeding, now the NFL's most accurate kicker in (regular season) history, went 0-for-3 in field goal attempts, leaving 9 points off the scoreboard for the Chargers... who lost 17-14. So, yes, I blame Kaeding. He is the San Diego goat until further notice.

It's generally accepted that the loss against the Jets is going to be LaDainian Tomlinson's last game as a Charger, primarily because he's due a nice paycheck next year, one which is essentially going to overpay him according to his recent output. LDT often claims he'd like to retire a Charger. So, LDT, if you're serious, renegotiate your contract and let the Chargers pay you less. You're already ridiculously rich... put your money where your mouth is.

A shout-out to a couple of bloggers I follow, Brian Miller and Tom, who are extremely happy that the Colts beat the Ravens.

I mentioned previously that I don't think the New Orleans Saints are going to be able to make it to the Super Bowl this year. After last Saturday's divisional playoff versus the Cardinals, I take it back. And, if the Saints make the Super Bowl, I will find myself in the unique position (for me) of rooting for an NFC team.

I'm gonna go sulk now.

Bleh.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

NFL Special: Divisional Weekend

No, you're not imagining things... there was an Irrewind scheduled for this week, but due to the NFL playoffs it's been moved to next Saturday so I can rant and rave about football. Many of you have already quit reading by this point, but for those of you who remain:

Let's go Chargers!

So, last week I was 2 for 4 in my picks. I picked both games on Saturday correctly (Cowboys over Eagles; Jets over Bengals), but blew both games on Sunday (Patriots lost to the Ravens - in spectacular fashion, I might add; Packers lost to the Cardinals - in a nail-biter).

This means that the Cardinals play the Saints today at 4:30 Eastern, and the Ravens play the Colts at 8:15 Eastern. Tomorrow, Dallas is at Minnesota (1:00 Eastern) and my beloved Chargers host the New York Jets at 4:40 Eastern.

Granted, I was hoping the Patriots would've beat the Ravens, because that would've resulted in the Patriots at San Diego, and the Chargers certainly owe them one (actually two... the Patriots have been responsible for two of the Chargers' last three exits from the playoffs). But it's not so bad, as the Chargers still owe the Jets for being knocked out their first game of the 2004 season Wild Card game (an overtime loss, I might add).

Anyway... enough whining. On to my picks!

Which are easy, as I'm picking each home team (Saints, Colts, Vikings, Chargers). The Saints will win in a nail-biter, while the other three teams will win very convincingly.

NFL Musings

As much as I can't stand the Rooney Rule regarding coaching hires, I understand its intent. That stated, I wholeheartedly believe that both the Redskins and the Seahawks made a mockery of the rule, only interviewing minority candidates to satisfy the rule stipulations, and not with any real intent to hire a minority.

Pete Carroll's off to the Seahawks, eh? Does he really want another shot in the NFL, or does he just want to get away from USC before the shit hits the fan regarding various NCAA rule violations? I'll be fair: both.

Charger Musings

Even though the underrated Malcom Floyd is wearing the number, I really think that the Chargers should retire #80. Kellen Winslow? C'mon, dudes... there aren't a whole lot of players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame as Chargers. Winslow's one of them; let's give him some respect.

On that note, the Chargers should retire #18, too (Charlie Joiner... who also happens to be the current wide receivers coach for the Chargers). And #74 (Ron Mix). And maybe even #71 (Fred Dean... although I'll accept arguments against this one).

Once again: Go Chargers!

Friday, January 15, 2010

An Open Letter to Pat Robertson

Okay, I know that I've stated that Fridays would be a day off from posting things, but I'm having a hard time holding my tongue.

Dear Pat Robertson,

You are a fucking moron. I'm probably a fucking moron, myself, but you are clearly and without doubt a fucking moron. Just so you know, I'm agnostic. I don't know if God, gods, or ethereal flying spaghetti monsters exist, and to be honest, I don't even care. But you claim to believe in a One True God, a Loving God, and a God that masters all Creation.

Sir, with all due respect (translation: none at all), you're full of shit.

Because of the existence of voodoo, you claim that Haitians once made a deal with the Devil in order to secure their independence from France? Really? Or are you just a racist idiot who finds it hard to believe that a culture of blacks managed to oust a Caucasian world power (and a Christian one at that)? I'm betting that's what it is, because you, sir, are a douchebag.

Maybe our Founding Fathers made the same deal, eh? After all, we whooped the British. Oh, wait... the French helped. Hmm...

Some things for your dumb ass to sit on:

1) Even if some of those estimated 50,000 Haitian casualties practice voodoo, I'm willing to bet that not all of them did. Further, I'm willing to bet that many of them were tried and true Christians. You're really suggesting that your God, as omnipotent as he may be, would punish those for merely being in the proximity of descendants of those who supposedly made a deal with the Devil?
2) And who the fuck are you to claim that voodoo is "evil," anyway? Didn't you once say that Methodists were manifestations of the Antichrist? Where's the great Methodist earthquake of the southern United States?
3) Doesn't your Bible clearly state that, "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself?" So why would your God punish "sons" over 200 years after the fact?

I'm no fan of Keith Olbermann, but he hit the nail on the head when he said, "... you are the Devil."

I hope St. Peter takes one look at you and points downward.

Sincerely,
JeffScape

And now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Surface

*Follows Gateway

***

Matt feels like he's swimming, though he knows that's impossible. He's unsure why it's impossible, but he knows it is. He almost drowned once, a long time ago, but never developed the fear of water that his parents thought he would. They even went around for a time telling friends that little Matt was afraid of water because of the incident, and though Matt knew he wasn't, he played along. He was a good little boy, after all. But he never stopped swimming… read more @ Panoramic Mindscapes

***


***

*Followed by Equation

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Noah's Ark? Not Exactly... Part II

Way back in July of 2006, I criticized the Christian fundamentalist group Bible Archaeology Search and Exploration (aka: BASE) when they announced their "finding" of the remnants of Noah's Ark in Iran (for those interested in that criticism, you can read it here). I called BS back then (and I still call BS) primarily because of the existence of two previous flood-ark stories, one Sumerian and one Greek.

Yesterday, when perusing the Internet, I came across news reports concerning the finding of yet a third flood-ark story that predates the Judeo-Christian story. This one, perhaps unsurprisingly, from the Babylonians.

Apparently, while a certain Leonard Simmons was serving with the Royal Air Force in the Middle East after World War II, he came across a Babylonian tablet that he gave to his son, who ultimately brought it to one Irving Finkel. Finkel, a British expert on Ancient Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), then translated the tablet and came up with some startling discoveries.

The first discovery, obviously, is this Babylonian version of the Noah's Ark. The second discovery, one that the other Ark stories in question all lack, is that the Babylonian version actually describes what the Ark looked like. What's so surprising about this? Well, it appears that the Ark was a circular vessel, and that an overwhelming amount of archaeological evidence supports this likelihood.

In other words, another nail in the coffin for the BASE team.

Some Notes From the Babylonian Tale

"Noah" in the Babylonian version is named Atram-Hasis, who in the story is a Sumerian king (there's those blasted Sumerians again).

The flood is the result of various gods screwing with each other, and the god who sympathizes with the humans who are going to be killed by the flood is named Enki (strange, too, that a character named Enkidu plays heavily in the Sumerian version of the tale, The Epic of Gilgamesh... then again, as the Babylonians basically took over from the Sumerians, this probably isn't strange at all).

In the Babylonian version, the main boat-builder is left to die (he has to stay outside to seal the ark) while Atram-Hasis gets all the glory.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Murder Mystery: An Exercise in Plot Creation

What does he do when he can't write? Be it from the so-called writer's block that he doesn't believe exists or the lack of writer's mood that he does. The answer is simple: he writes anyway. Usually it's crap, but sometimes there's a forced breakthrough in a creative process most claim is all too reliant on "flow." But he knows that's bullshit, too... even the naturals have to work at it. They all say so. Then again, there is the possibility that those naturals are just being polite, smiling to his face then laughing at him as soon as he turns… read more @ Panoramic Mindscapes

***

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Oscars: Best Picture is Best Director

We are into Award Season for the various entertainment industries; Hollywood in particular. And, since I'm who I am, I figure I'd preempt the Academy Awards by, well, criticizing them a bit.

Don't get me wrong: I am a fan of the Academy Awards. And while the "casual fan" doesn't want to sit through more than three hours of award show, I'm totally fine with it. That stated...

It's long not made sense to me that "Best Picture" is awarded solely to producers. Yes, unlike most, I understand the role of the producer and why they are the ultimate "boss" for a given film production. But film is collaboration, is it not? And the entirety of a "picture" requires so much more than just the hands of its producers.

So I propose one of two solutions. The first solution, being the simplest, is to give producers some sort of "Best Producer/Producing/Production" award to recognize their value to the industry. And then award "Best Picture" to a conglomerate of sorts... the producers, the directors, etc. (maybe even the executive producers and/or the studio responsible for the film). Unfortunately, this would add an award and a few minutes to the telecast.

The second solution, somewhat related, is to get rid of the "Best Director" award and simply add a film's director as a recipient of the "Best Picture" award. I mean, why not? This would eliminate an award (which usually goes to the same film anyway) and shorten the telecast.

Some Background:

Since 1962, when the name of the award was changed from "Best Motion Picture" to "Best Picture," there have been only 8 instances (out of 47 award years) when the Best Picture and Best Director awards were given to separate movies:
  • 1967 - Best Picture: In the Heat of the Night; Best Director: Mike Nichols, The Graduate
  • 1972 - Best Picture: The Godfather; Best Director: Bob Fosse, Cabaret
  • 1981 - Best Picture: Chariots of Fire; Best Director: Warren Beatty, Reds
  • 1989 - Best Picture: Driving Miss Daisy; Best Director: Oliver Stone, Born on the Fourth of July
  • 1998 - Best Picture: Shakespeare in Love; Best Director: Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan
  • 2000 - Best Picture: Gladiator; Best Director: Steven Soderbergh, Traffic
  • 2002 - Best Picture: Chicago; Best Director: Roman Polanski, The Pianist
  • 2005 - Best Picture: Crash; Best Director: Ang Lee, Brokeback Mountain
Going back to 1944, when the award switched to "Best Motion Picture" from "Outstanding Motion Picture" and the number of nominees dropped from ten to five, there have only been a further 5 discrepancies (out of 18 award years):
  • 1948 - Best Motion Picture: Hamlet; Best Director: John Huston, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • 1949 - Best Motion Picture: All the King's Men; Best Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz, A Letter to Three Wives
  • 1951 - Best Motion Picture: An American in Paris; Best Director: George Stevens, A Place in the Sun
  • 1952 - Best Motion Picture: The Greatest Show on Earth; Best Director: John Ford, The Quiet Man
  • 1956 - Best Motion Picture: Around the World in 80 Days; Best Director: George Stevens, Giant
Including 1944 to 1961, the percentage of films winning both awards is 80%. If you start from 1962, the percentage is just under 83%. And until the aberrant run of four discrepancies in eight years (beginning with Shakespeare in Love), the percentage had increased to nearly 89% (or over 83% if including '44 to '61).

It's not a lock for a film to take home both awards, to be sure, but is an 11% to 20% occurrence rate enough to warrant separate awards?

More Oscar Musings

There should be an Academy Award for Best Stunts. Yes, there should be. Don't argue with me about this.

There should also be an Academy Award for Best Casting. Now, unlike in television, the directors of film like to take credit for most of a film's casting (and rightfully so), which is the primary argument as to why there is no award for Best Casting. However, I propose that (like the Best Picture idea above) both the film director and casting director receive this award. Why not? Oh, wait... telecast.

You wanna shorten the telecast? Get rid of the musical numbers. Keep the opening act, yes, but ditch the five songs throughout. Just play snippets of them when it's time for the category to be announced... you know, like all the other categories do it?

I'm willing to bet that increasing the Best Picture field back to 10 will have no positive effect on the ratings for the Oscars telecast. Whoever came up with that idea is, well... hmm... let's just say that it wasn't thought through.

I have a solution that might work, regarding award presentations and telecast length and ratings... but that can wait for another day.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tenth Daughters of Memory, 2009

As some are aware, in September of 2009 I co-founded (along with my buddy over at Caffeinated Joe) a writing/blogging group called The Tenth Daughter of Memory. There's nothing much to it, of course; it's just a bunch of writers motivating each other to write by way of "friendly competition." Obviously, there's no cash prize, but the "winner" of a particular topic or theme (there's a voting process) gets to pick the follow-up topic or theme. And because of this, in my humble opinion, there is some seriously high-quality stuff being submitted.

Anyway, if there are any budding (or already budded) writers out there who are interested, feel free to check it out. Below are the topics/themes and my entry for each. There is, I can safely say, quite a variety of work from the participants. And if you're curious of how the name of the group was chosen, read this: Irreverent Irrelevance: The Tenth Daughter of Memory.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Amid Hints of Sensation

Natalie stares at the dress as it lies on the floor. It is a reflective and questioning stare, and one unlikely to ever provide a satisfactory answer. A piece of woven evidence to what transpired the night before. Still stunned and lacking any other reaction, she picks it up and examines it.

The stain on the dress is not hers. Hidden amid the black and white polka dots, Natalie can only imagine what her roommate might say… read more @ Panoramic Mindscapes

***

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

To the Chargers: Norv Turner, I'm Sorry

Norv Turner, your second and third-string players succeeded in defeating the first-string players of the Washington Redskins, thereby giving the Chargers their second-best season finish in history (13-3). And even though the Chargers might lose to whomever they play in the divisional round of the playoffs, the fact remains that you got them there. I mentioned a while back that I'd call myself out and apologize to you, so here it is:

All Apologies to Norv Turner

I'm sorry. I was wrong. You, sir, are a pretty good head coach.

I was wrong when I suggested that your 11-5 finish in your first year as coach of the Chargers was merely part of the hangover left by the 14-2 Chargers of Marty Schottenheimer.

I was wrong when I implied that you were not a disciplinarian and could not hold a team together for an entire season.

I was wrong when I hinted that, as a head coach, you were too far removed from the quarterback position to be able to turn Philip Rivers into a true bad-ass.

I was wrong when I theorized that your hire was based on being a false figurehead with which A.J. Smith could play the entire team as pawns.

I said at the beginning of the 2008 season, after the Chargers lost to the Panthers in the season opener, that I would consider you a good coach should you have two more winning seasons. And despite 2008's regular season record of 8-8, you won the AFC West and beat the Indianapolis Colts in the wild card game, so I count that a winning season (Chargers great Leslie O'Neal said it best: "No season's a winning season if you don't make the playoffs.")

On November 17, 2008, I wrote that you should be "kicked to the curb."

I'm sorry. I was wrong. Here's hoping you, Mr. Turner, get a kick-ass extension!

*I just have to mention that I also initially opposed the hiring of Marty Schottenheimer, who (say what you will) was responsible for the Chargers' elevation out of the NFL's basement. What's my point? I guess I should shut up about coaches.

... nah...

Charger Musings

In all likelihood, neither LaDainian Tomlinson nor Shawne Merriman will be Chargers next year. Let's face it... Philip Rivers notwithstanding, LDT is the face of the San Diego Chargers offense, if not the the Chargers as a whole. Merriman, on the flip side, is the face of the Chargers defense (despite being outperformed by other Charger defenders this past season). I get that A.J. Smith prefers business being cold and hard, and it does seem to have worked out for him so far, but part of the front office side of football is marketing... so is it really a good idea to let either (or worse, both) LDT or Merriman go?

Speaking of "cold" and "hard" (feel free to roll your eyes now), Vincent Jackson saved his job as a Charger this season... because you know A.J. was gunning for him after that second DUI. Funny how success makes bedfellows.

Ron Rivera, the Chargers defensive coordinator whose attitude (if not scheme) helped save the Chargers defense from Ted Cottrell's ineptitude, might be the next head coach of the Buffalo Bills. That would suck (for us), but I think he's shown that he deserves a shot at being the guy.

Can anyone imagine how devastating the Chargers defensive line will be if Jamal Williams makes a successful return to form? Holy cow.

And, in all my fearlessness, I will predict it now: The Chargers will win the Super Bowl. And while I would love for the Saints to be their opponent (Rivers vs. Brees... how cool would that be?), I don't think the Saints are going to make it. That stated, I shall reserve my NFC prediction until after Wild Card Weekend.

Speaking of predictions:

Wild Card Predictions for the 2009 Season Post-Season that actually plays in 2010:

New York Jets over Cincinnati Bengals, barely.

Dallas Cowboys over Philadelphia Eagles, barely.

New England Patriots over Baltimore Ravens, strongly.

Green Bay packers over Arizona Cardinals, barely.

(yes, I'm thinking this upcoming weekend will be packed with close games)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Uriah and Uriel: A Dialogue

At first the rain was useless to Uriah, because it didn't wash the blood off of his hands. But as the flooding started, he was able to cake himself with mud, hiding the crime. No evidence remained but a buried body unlikely to be found and a broken heart unlikely to be revealed. Surely, Uriah thought, his broken heart wouldn't betray him when they come to question him. It had been broken a long time, after all; this was just the first step in its mending… read more @ Panoramic Mindscapes

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Irreviews, 2010: Issue I

And here it is, the "all new" One-Line Movie Reviews, henceforth known as "Irreview." I don't know why that title didn't come to me sooner, but it didn't (and was defeated to the punch by "Irrewind," no less) so there's no reason for me to harp on it. Then again, there's no reason for me to do much of anything, but I do stuff anyway, so...

Ah, forget it. Away we go!

2012 (2009)
Director: Roland Emmerich
Writer(s): Roland Emmerich, Harald Kloser
Starring: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor
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Ugh. I didn't think it possible, but Roland Emmerich makes another bad movie that is worse than his previous bad movie (10,000 BC), which was worse than his previous bad movie (The Day After Tomorrow), which was worse than his previous bad movie (The Patriot). Seriously, the man should've stopped with Stargate, and I think it's safe to assume that Emmerich has devolved himself into the category of film directors that includes Uwe Boll and Paul W.S. Anderson. The actors are clearly only around for the paycheck and the exposure. Bad script accentuated by implausible storyline accentuated by ridiculously inept science and an already debunked "prophecy" makes for a most irritating and unenjoyable movie.  
Verdict: SKIP it.

(500) Days of Summer (2009)
Director: Marc Webb
Writer(s): Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel
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"This is not a love story," the film's narrator warns. Oh, but it is, and a damned good one. The best funny movies are funny not because they try to be, but just because they are, and (500) Days of Summer just is. Similar to the brilliant Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this film is more grounded in reality and, while not as remarkable conceptually, it is arguably a better narrative. There are directing tricks which would seem cliché in other films, but Marc Webb utilizes them so naturally, one can only smile when watching.
Verdict: SEE it.

The Box (2009)
Director: Richard Kelly
Writer(s): Richard Kelly, Richard Matheson (short story)
Starring: Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella
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There are films that try to be "too much." This is definitely one of them. Ostensibly a drama concerning a moral question (would you kill a complete stranger for $1 million?), it is actually a B-grade science fiction movie that tries way too hard to be a thought-provoking reflection on the dark side of the human condition. Now, if you properly interpret the previous sentence as bloated superficiality pretending to be something deeply analytical, you will understand the tone of this film. Painfully predictable (though with an ending that almost works well) and all too reliant on deus ex machina gimmickry, The Box reeks of a story whose source material succeeded where its film adaptation failed. And Cameron Diaz gives one of the worst performances of her career.
Verdict: SKIP it.

Coraline (2009)
Director: Henry Selick
Writer(s): Henry Selick, Neil Gaiman (book)
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Keith David
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An interesting adaption of Neil Gaiman's children's story, this one offers quite a bit of unusual visual interpretation, which is entirely appropriate for its tone. Story-wise, it borrows heavily from the classics and offers little new, but the concept provides enough to make it worth your while (though, in my opinion, it misses out on being "must see"). Interestingly enough, this film probably would have been better served as a live-action film (and probably would have been held in as high a regard as Pan's Labyrinth), yet remains enjoyable in its animated incarnation.
Verdict: SEE it. The character of the Cat is worth the viewing alone.

Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
Director: Spike Jonze
Writer(s): Spike Jonze, Dave Eggers, Maurice Sendak (book)
Starring: James Gandolfini, Forest Whitaker, Chris Cooper
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A long-awaited adaptation of the classic children's book. While maintaining the essence of its source material, the film takes great liberties with it (for obvious reasons). Purposefully vague, subtle, and more than a tad depressing, this is a brilliant, brilliant film. Spike Jonze, the quirky director who gave us Being John Malkovich and Adaptation., outdoes himself by utilizing a deliberate style and by letting a "grown-up child" sensibility take over the storytelling. Despite what you might have heard, this is not a movie that will frighten kids, but is certainly a movie that children will not be able to appreciate (save for the ugly-cuteness of the monsters); the nuance is too much limited to the realm of adult comprehension. Max Records gives an excellent performance as Max.
Verdict: SEE it. And make your young children see it when they get a bit older.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Irrewind, 20100102: Poetry

Someone recently asked me if she could call me a poet. The answer to that is a resounding, "no." I write some poetry, to be sure, but often it's bad and needs heavy editing before even having a chance at publication (two poems that I have had published, for instance, were both heavily edited before making the cut... and neither one was over five lines, if I recall).

But, I still write the stuff, usually out of boredom or some substance-induced mood swing (no, not those substances) that briefly inspires an unusual train of thought.

Anyway, see for yourself:

"Bonus Track"
Life's one sad song after another
as if there's a rhythm to shedding tears
dance the night, unaware the sun is on its way... Read More

"Piano"
"Sit. And think." - Auguste Rodin

So sit and think
imagine voices, once calm and strong... Read More

"Neverland"
Teach me to ride the wind
and away we'll go
my shadow is lost this close to the sun... Read More

"Once a Time"
dust covers the house you grew up in
the street you grew up on
winds of change kept nothing clean... Read More

"Tabula Rasa"
a blank page
like blank mind
instinct formed between the covers... Read More

Friday, January 1, 2010

Hello, 2010

It's the New Year and I've a question to ask of it.

2010, are you gonna suck? Because if you are, I'd rather just keep living 2009. Actually, I'd rather keep living 1987, but at least the San Diego Chargers are a good team now. Anyway, please don't suck... I'm gonna be too busy to deal with too much adversity. Leave that shit to 2006, if you don't mind. Thanks in advance!

Let's see... resolutions for 2010... quit smoking, get published (not counting the three pieces in January, since those were commissioned and sold in 2009), and... no, that's about it. Same as every year.

Calendar Musings

Why do seven calendar months have 31 days, but February only has 28? Why not cut a day each from July and August and give February an equal shake? Sure, the knuckle trick won't work anymore, but we're long past honoring Roman Caesars.

Besides, those two bastard Romans are the reasons that September, October, November, and December aren't the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth months of the year, as their prefixes clearly imply. So how about that? Let's ditch July and August completely and go back to ten months in a year! Five months with 36 days and five with 37! No? Too much?

How come the calendar year isn't tied in to the solstices and the equinoxes (is that the plural of equinox?)? Why not make the winter solstice fall on January 1 and the summer solstice fall on July 1? Is it too much to ask for civilization to have some logic?

Can we please, PLEASE get rid of Daylight Savings Time?

There's a lot of hubbub concerning when the new decade starts. Some claim that today is the first day of the new decade; others claim that January 1, 2011 is the first day of the new decade. Well, to be technical, every January 1st is the first day of a new decade, depending on how you're counting your years... but, for the sake of argument: if you're counting cardinal decades, then 2011 is the correct starting year (and is the first year of the 202nd decade). If you're talking about the colloquially accepted "2010s," then, duh, of course it's 2010.

The same thing goes for centuries. The 21st century didn't start until January 1, 2001. But, again, the "2000s" started in... you can figure it out. Millennia  follow the same rule set.

Anyway, Happy New Year. Hope it becomes a Happy Old Year.