Monday, December 29, 2003

Since I don't know if I'll have a chance to post later today, and I'll not be online until next Monday, I wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a very Happy & Safe New Year. Despite what the folks at Homeland Security and Fox News are telling everyone, I think we have more to fear from drunk drivers and unruly bar patrons then from Al Queda. Still take care and we'll be seeing you over on the other side of the calendar! Best wishes!
Not a whole lot to report from the Christmas break, so far. Had a nice time with a from my step-daughter and her father for a few days last week. I think it's great that Donna and I are able to get along so great with Michael, since it certainly makes things easier for Kristina.

They got in late Christmas Eve, so we couldn't do much visiting that night. Christmas morning found us opening gifts and then enjoying a great dinner which Donna had been getting together for the past several days. The rest of the day we simply relaxed and vegged out in front of the television.

Friday we all went to the movies and caught SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE, with Diane Keaton & Jack Nicholson. Nicholson is great, playing himself basically, with Keaton absolutely wonderful as playwright Erika Barry. Both actors certainly deserve the Golden Globe nominations and I'd love to see Keaton take it, as this is one the best performances she'd given in years.

Everybody left on Saturday, so Donna and I were able to relax. After some shopping and lunch, we stopped by Tommy K's and picked up CHICAGO, which we'd been hoping to see since it was released. Both of us enjoyed it and can certainly see why it was nominated for so many awards. Gere was surprisingly good in the role of Billy Flynn, with both Zellweger and Zeta-Jones doing nice jobs as the female leads. Personally, I think the best performance in the film was that of John C. Reilly as the unfortunate Amos Hart, who is betrayed several times by Zellweger (as his wife Roxie), but still loves her inspite of everything. His single number 'Mister Cellophane' stands out after many other numbers fade.

A few months ago, Mark Evanier mentioned over on his site (link over on the left) a Game Show Network special "Big Bucks: the Press Your Luck Scandal about the infamous game show incidentl, involving Michael Larsen. The special was rerun last night and we had a chance to finally catch it. It is fascinating both showing how Larsen deciphered the 'random' system used in the games board and what happened to Larsen both before and after his big win. There are no real villains in the piece although Larsen comes closest, but more for his treatment of his family than for 'ripping off' a television network.

GSN did a good job putting this together, combining interviews with Larsen's family, members of the shows production staff and Larsen's fellow contestants that day. Larsen himself passed away a few years ago, but part of his last television interview is included so we get to hear 'his side' of the event. The actual programs are included, with special inserts letting us know what was going on behind the scenes and what the other contestants were thinking as the show went on.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Just want to once again wish a very Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, fine Winter Solstace and joyous Kwanzaa to one and all. Did I miss anybody?

I'll be back next Monday, since they have to have at least one Librarian on duty each day. Drive safely and be careful, if you are out celebrating. I don't think many folks actually tune in here, but I'd hate to lose any of you that do!
If you check some of the headlines over at World Press Review, you'll get different takes on the current Mad Cow Disease controversy. One thing I hadn't known before, but mentioned in the British paper The Guardian was that our Sect. of Agriculture was formerly employed by the cattle/beef industry as a lobbyist. Now isn't that an interesting tidbit?

Somebody on a network news show was saying that humans do not catch Mad Cow, which is technically correct, but they can become infected with a related illness which has caused over 130 deaths, most of them in Britain during their last crisis.

Already talked to one co-worker who has said she will not be serving beef over the holidays. The stockmarket seems to have the jitters with both Wendy's and McDonald stocks taking a hit just since the news yesterday. It will be interesting to see how things filter down.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

The fine folks over at the Center for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) have a page where you can get rid of those unwanted 'chain letters', if you feel uneasy about simply deleting them. Called "Chain Letters Anonymous" this site allows you to forward the chain letter to "ten of your friends" with a simple click & drag. :-)

Even though I hate the things, and don't believe a word in them, I have to admit that there's sometimes a little voice in the back of my mind that says I should be careful and besides sending it along won't hurt anybody.

While there check out the page on Internet Hoaxes and the general CSICOP pages. While I'm not currently a member of the organization I still like to keep up on what their doing. I really want to recommend an article on how Larry King books a number of psychics and UFO-ologists on his show, all but promoting their unscientific programs. It's all for ratings, naturally, but still sad that CNN allows this type of thing on a show supposedly part of their 'news' department.

If I have a chance later, I'll post my latest Joe Bob Briggs review. Frankly, that particular book (The Jesus Thief) inspired me to get back into the habit of checking out the CSICOP site on a regular basis.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Wonder if Al-Queda is responsible for the California earthquake? Better get Tom Ridge into body armor and onsite to check things out.

Honestly, does anybody but Mayor Bloomberg and several governors (looking towards re-election, or in the case of Connecticut's Governor Rowland possible investigation) really pay attention to those things anymore? I have a feeling that a check of Google's archives would find that the Dept. of Homeland Fear and Trepidation put out a similar alert the same time last year.

Spent the past weekend finishing up our Christmas shopping and preparations. Donna had a bit of last minute shopping for her mom and cooked up a huge pot of sauce for Christmas dinner. We're having lasagna this time, along with antipasto and salad. Seems weird for me, since I grew up having turkey for almost every holiday, save Easter, but then I wasn't Italian. :-)

Meanwhile, here at UNH, the IT folks have been busy since last week updating our computer system. Naturally, as always happens, I've now lost a number of files and several programs that I requested never seem to have been saved. It's going to take me several days (at least) to get everything back up, so I'm not sure if I'll have a chance to post again. If not I hope that everybody out there has a joyous holiday!

Maybe Santa will bring you all enough duct tape and plastic wrap to survive into the New Year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

I'm sure I'm the last guy to post this, but you really should see "The Lord of the Right Wing". Brilliant animation spoof on both LotR and G.W.

Monday, December 15, 2003

While the rest of the world was transfixed by FOX News, CNN and MSNBC I was actually watching E!. Sad that I found "Celebrities 101 Biggest Oops!" more interesting then the discovery of the Ace of Spades, but that's just me. :-)

Later we watched the "The Osbourne Family Christmas Special" repeat on MTV. Now that's serious entertainment, in my book! Topping off the night watching MEET THE PARENTS (Robert DeNiro & Ben Stiller), which we'd seen in the theatre and enjoyed just as much this time around.

Nice, non-stressful weekend and I wish I had more like that.
Like other folks over here on the Left, I suppose I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. First off, I'm surprised that the troops didn't blast Saddam to Kingdom Come (not copyrighted by DC comics), but took him alive. It will be fascinating to see where/how he is finally tried and what the CIA (among others) will be squirming about should SH's testimony become public.

If this allows the coalition forces to pack up and come early, then I'm in favor of it. If it saves the lives of any of the troops then I'm also happy to have it come to such an end. If showing the examination and humiliation of the former leader of Iraq on television increases the danger, than the administration has only itself to blame. No matter what we may think of him, or what he might/or might not have done he was the head of a nation and should be shown some respect for that fact alone. If any American soldier was shown being given a physical exam, and appearing in such a state the American media would be up-in-arms decrying his humiliation before a world wide audience.

Anyway, I really don't think that this will effect the coming elections greatly. Those already predisposed to G.W. will use this as more justification for their belief. Those, like myself, who wouldn't vote for the man if he was the only one on the ballot in all fifty states, believe that there was still no justification for sending troops to begin with and the GOP is bringing this country way too far to the right.

To be honest, I didn't even know about Saddam's capture until hours after it apparently happened. Donna and I were wrapping X-mas gifts and playing with our new cell phones. For my b-day (53rd on Saturday) she got me my own phone and switched hers so we have matching ones. I actually spent more time playing Blackjack on the thing, than inputting phone numbers. :-)

Thursday, December 11, 2003

The fine folks over at Whitehouse For Sale post on the Supreme Court decision regarding the McCain-Feingold bill. Also, they have a nice piece about an Arab-American waiter in Baltimore, who didn't quite meet Secret Service criteria for keeping the President safe & sound, or at least that's what the SS says now. This site primarily covers those folks who donate (and otherwise influence) the White House and like-minded Republican politicians. Always fascinating, if you're at all interested in who is behind the GOP's large warchest.
Things were dead at the Reference Desk earlier, so I had a chance to write up the following review. As per usual, I'll be reprinting this in my Capa-Alpha zine, but since only one or two folks in that apa have mentioned reading the blog I don't think I'll spoil anything.

I've tried not to give anything away, just in case folks might be interested in catching it over the weekend.
THE LAST SAMURAI Well, if you've ever seen SHOGUN, the mini-series starring Richard Chamberlain years ago, you'll have an idea of what you're in for with film. As a fan of that particular made-for-TV epic, I'm not slighting this new feature at all. I'm simply warning you that if you were expecting anything different or new then you would probably be better off saving your money.

Tom Cruise plays former Army captain Nathan Algren, a bitter veteran of the western campaign, including a number of massacres of innocent Native Americans. Algren suffers from nightmares about his past exploits and tries to keep them under control by drinking heavily. After violently ending his career as spokesmen for a firearms manufacturer, Algren is approached by his former Sergeant (portrayed by Billy Connolly) who has found a possible way for both of them to make some money. The Japanese emperor faces a rebellion by former allies and desires both arms and training for his fledgling army. Algren's military record seems to make him the ideal candidate. Hoping to escapes his current situation, and possibly his haunting memories, Algren agrees to travel to Japan and take up his position as advisor.

Of course, if everything ran smoothly you wouldn't have much of a movie here, so incidents occur which brings Algren face to face with the emperor's former teacher, the rebellious samurai, Katsumoto (with Ken Watanbe, the best thing about this movie, in the title role). Captured after a disastrous military misadventure, created by Algren's former superior officer (played by Tony Goldwyn) Colonel Bagley, Algren is the prisoner of Katsumoto and finds that he will be a generally unwelcome guest for the next several months. The two leads eventually learn to respect each other and, as was the case with Richard Chamberlain's John Blackstone in SHOGUN, Algren comes to embrace the samurai code and joins Katsumoto in his ill-destined quest.

If I were the type to give "star" ratings I'd probably give this film a solid three out of four. Sadly, both Cruise's low key acting style (except in a few notable scenes) doesn't really bring to the movie the sort of emotional impact that it needs. Also (and I'm not going to give away anything here), the ending is a bit too "Hollywood" for me and I have to wonder if there was another ending which will be made available on the inevitable DVD release. For what it's worth, the battle scenes and individual fights were nicely handled by everyone involved, including Cruise, who has already proven himself to be a decent action star.

Two final things before I end this review. Sadly, Billy Connolly doesn't have nearly as much screen time as I'd have liked. It would have been very interesting to see why there was such a bond between his character and Cruise's. Again, something that might have ended up on the editing room floor, but we'll see in the DVD edition. Lastly, I was surprised and actually pleased that a romantic sub-plot in the film was handled so nicely

Caught the trailer for RETURN OF THE KING again, which I'm really looking forward to seeing in the first week of release. Donna bought me the 4-DVD edition of TWO TOWERS for our anniversary and I've been slowing going through all the documentaries and assorted goodies. My plan it to try and re-watch both FELLOWSHIP (which I have in the 2-DVD set) and TWO TOWERS prior to seeing the new film. Yeah, I know that I'm not going to be surprised by anything in the third film, but I do expect to be as amazed by Peter Jackson's vision as I was the first two times.

They had the trailer for TROY, which I'd already seen on ET, but it's pretty cool up on the big screen. The image of the Trojan fleet is pretty nice and Brad Pitt is damn buff in his Achilles armor. :-)

Also, saw a promo for MIRACLE, which features Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks, who coached the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team. Based on the actual events, it looks to be one of those 'feel good' movies that might bring in some boxoffice, depending on what premieres the same weekend. I remember vividly sitting in a bar with my college roommate, Brian, cheering along with everybody else watching the game. Drape me in a flag and call me sentimental, but I might actually be tempted to check this out with it comes to the local cineplex.

Just a quick post to let folks know that I'm still around and survived the Blizzard of 2003 (or whatever your local news anchors dubbed this last snow storm). Wasn't quite as bad here in southwestern CT as it could have been, but still caused a number of changes in plans.

Donna and I were actually enjoying ourselves at the Mohegan Sun casino, last Friday when it hit. Her company was having their annual holiday get-together (last year it was at Foxwoods, the other casino here in Connecticut), when around 4:00pm we took a break from the slots to say goodbye to those folks who had taken the charter bus. Lo and behold, we discovered that the storm had begun about 15 to 20 minutes earlier and everything was already covered in white.

It generally takes us from less than an hour to reach either casino, but we spent over three and a half hours slowly working our way back to West Haven. We passed at least a half dozen abandoned/stalled cars and three actual accidents, plus some poor souls who actually found themselves completely turned around and facing on-coming traffic on the highway (while their rearend was lodged in the drifts created by the snowplows). We spend about fifteen minutes 'parked' because part of Rt. 95 was closed. Needless to say we were very happy to finally get home and couldn't have been happier with the way the new car handled. :-)

We're in the midst of final exams here at UNH, so you can imagine that things have been pretty hectic. Haven't had much time to catch up on my e-mail, let alone posting a blog. I'm hoping that, since I'm working the next couple of nights, to post a bit more frequently, including a review of THE LAST SAMURAI, which I caught yesterday.

That's it for now, unless something catches my attention later.

Monday, December 01, 2003

I don't know why I bother talking about what my plans are, since something always happens to change them. It looked as though Donna and I were going to be spending Thanksgiving alone, since she wasn't feeling well, but by Thursday morning she was feeling much better so we went into Brooklyn, as we had initially planned. Had a nice time with her family and went way beyond Wieght Watcher limits. We plan on rejoining after the holidays, but hope not to have gained too much since we'd been doing really well for the twenty weeks we'd been members.

Commercials fascinate me and (as others have said) can often be the most enjoyable part of some programs. Last night saw a fascinating cross-over, with the guy from Sprint appearing with the Pillsbury Doughboy. Loved when he asked to poke the little guy and the Doughboy, sort of with resignation in his voice, says something like, "Go ahead, everybody wants to." Not as bizarre as the STAR WARS tie-in with Burger King, Taco Bell and KFC, but it was certainly unexpected.

Oh, caught another one of those made-for-TV Christmas movies last night. Donna and I had seen "The Town That Cancelled Christmas" last year, so were surprised to find Peter Falk reprising his role as 'Max' in this years "Finding John Chrismas." This time out it's Valerie Bertinelli (looking a bit bloated) as a nurse searching for her long-lost brother (William Russ). Last time out Max aided Patricia Heaton (of EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND) to 'discover the true meaing of Christmas'. I admit that I'm a sucker for this type of thing and can sit through some real drivel. Falk is the real reason to watch this, of course, and I expect (if his health remains good) that we'll see him pop up again in this role next holiday season.