Sunday, September 30, 2007
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Aladdin - In the resurgence of Disney animation that probably began with The Great Mouse Detective in 1986, hit its stride in 1989 with The Little Mermaid, and broke into a full out charge on our hearts and minds with The Lion King in 1994, an important step was made in 1992, with the release of Aladdin. The addition of Robin Williams to the cast meant the addition of hundreds of little jokes and references that no child could possibly understand. Not since their golden age that peaked in the late fifties/early sixties had a Disney movie appealed as much to the parents as it did to the children. The success of Aladdin led directly to films such as Toy Story, and The Incredibles.
Rain Man - Tom Cruise has been much maligned recently, with good reason, I might add. However, we can't ignore his body of work. Just looking at the list leaves one amazed at the success he has had. Obviously he's doing something right. I mean, Risky Business, Top Gun, The Color of Money, Cocktail, Rain Man, Born on the Fourth of July, Days of Thunder, A Few Good Men... A Few Good Men. Damn, there's one that should be on this list and isn't. How did I forget that one? "You can't handle the truth!" What a great movie. Damn!
Anyway, Rain Man was more about Dustin Hoffman than Tom Cruise, and it was a great, great film. Totally deserving. (Did you catch what I did there?)
Victor/Victoria - Julie Andrews. Need I say more? OK, James Garner. Oh, yeah, Gay Paree (and I do mean gay). Andrews sings. Robert Prethton prantheth. It'th fabulouth.
The Fifth Element - This is an odd looking film, and it takes multiple viewings to really understand what's going on, but it's worth it. Bruce Willis reprises his usual role of the ordinary guy caught up in an extraordinary situation. Call it John McLane in space. Also, Milla Jovovich!
Frailty - You probably haven't seenthis film. You probably wouldn't like this film. This is probably the most disturbing movie I have ever watched. It certainly isn't my idea of a fun Saturday night movie rental. If I hadn't won this DVD in an online contest, I would never have watched it. It just isn't my thing.
Still, I'm glad I did. This is a very well made film directed by Bill Paxton, and starring Paxton, and Matthew McConaughey, and disturbing as it is, almost right from the start, I was completely unable to look away.
The Maltese Falcon - I've never thought this film deserved its reputation. It's not really all that good. By today's story telling standards it's rushed. Every line sounds to me like it was delivered too fast. But what do I know? Several sources list this as being one of the 100 best movies ever made (which, if you recall, is not what this list is about at all). It's here because I like how it defined a genre for the rest of time.
Star Wars - Has to be on any list made by someone even close to me in age. I first saw this when I was twelve years old, and it rocked my world. Looking at it with fresh eyes in light of the disaster that was the prequel trilogy, I can see its many failings. Nevertheless, I can (and do) watch it over and over again.
Castaway - More than anything else, the sound design of this movie drew me in. Yes, Hanks' performance was excellent. Yes, the direction was top notch, but the sound in this movie is intriguing. I like to go back and watch it again, just to hear new things.
The Bourne Identity - When this first came out, I worried how they would translate one of my favourite books onto the big screen. I needn't have been concerned. The basic premise of the book lends itself to a wide range of successful treatments, and the fact that the movie didn't really follow the plot of the book ended up not bothering me at all. And the momentum! I think this film defines the term.
The Legend of Bagger Vance - This is an oddity on my list. No big explosions. No one beating up bad guys. No multi-million dollar special effects budget. Just three great actors, a great story, and a director who has proven over the years that he really knows how to tell one. Two words I commonly use to describe this film: finely crafted.
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Monday, September 24, 2007
I used to average twenty to twenty-five blog entries a month. In the last six months, I have averaged just under nine, and only six each in August and September (well, seven in September now). This being employed stuff is time consuming!
Anyway, here's the deal. I volunteered for this at Dawn's blog, so she e-mailed me five questions. I answer them below. If you would like to be interviewed by me, say so in the comments section, and I'll e-mail you five questions, made up special, just for you.
1. What is one thing about being a dad that totally surprised you and would you say that being a parent has made you a better person?
One thing about being a dad that surprised me? That I don't suck at it. Has it made me a better person? Absolutely. I can't imagine it wouldn't. Sure, there are huge numbers of "deadbeat dads" out there, but the question wasn't about having fathered a child, it was about actually being a dad. At least that's the way I chose to read it. I suspect that, for most men, fatherhood is the first time they are forced to come to the realisation that they are not the center of the universe. That's a good thing.
I think I would have to say The Popeil Pocket Fisherman. The Pocket Fisherman was one of the first hugely successful "as seen on TeeVee" products, and spawned a television culture in which virtually everything we currently watch on TV is an infomercial - even those shows we don't recognise as such, are hawking something. Hopefully, by bidding goodbye to Ron Popeil, we can avoid having late night TV littered with Anthony Robbins, Kevin Trudeau, and "Hot Talk" phone line ads. Who am I kidding?
Home made bread
Vanilla ice cream
This is the first question I'm tackling, because it's the easiest to write something flip and nonsensical about. The rest of them are gonna make me think! What state do I hope itis least? Texas. Really, I'd want to avoid anywhere the temperature goes above 100º in the summer, so pretty much the southern half of the country is right out. But specifically Texas. Let's be honest, the whole bible belt is gonna be a problem for me. But Texas, oh Texas, has historically been the ego of the United States. They tried to secede, fer chicken's sake.
I did some googling for this, and found some interesting stuff. You know how states have official symbols? Most of them have state flowers, and state animals, and state birds. Some of them have state minerals, or gemstones. A few of them have state songs and state colours. Did you know that Texas has an official state gemstone cut? Not just the gemstone (blue topaz), but the actual cut must be the "Lone Star cut" in order to be an official Texas jewel. And a state animal isn't enough for them. They have an official state insect, and official state reptile, and an official state mammal. And an official state small mammal. And an officialstate flying mammal. I'm not kidding. In addition to their official state flower, they have an official state tree, and an official state plant. They have an official state pepper. Yeah. If it ain't a jalapeno, it ain't a Texas pepper. They have an official state grass. Grass! These people are just far too full of themseslves.
So Texas, if you've got any high paying jobs for experienced bankers, keep them to yourselves, OK? Actually, I hear Austin is nice. They apparently have quite a reasonable, secular community in Austin. But, then again, there's the whole summer heat thing.
Now, Oregon, on the other hand, is a nice place to live (so I hear). It's not too hot, or too pretentious, like California. Nor is it too cold,and wet, and entirely boring as Washington. It's right in the middle, both literally and figuratively. It's not in the bible belt, so people aren't insane there. It doesn't border on Utah, which is always good. It's on a similar latitude as I am right now, so the climate would be similar, but somewhat moderated by the Pacific ocean. Neither quite as hot in the summer, nor quite as cold in the winter.
The official state beverage is milk. Milk, for the love of pretzels! I like milk. I'll bet they have cookies, too. Oh, and their official state nickname? The Beaver State. Yeah, Oregon I could get used to.
"Pete! Buddy, pal, how the heck are you? Man, those are some nice wings. How do you keep them so white? And those teeth! Man, they're like pearls. Get it, pearly? Heh, heh."
"So, anyway..what? Defend my unbelief? Naw, man, I'm just wasting time. I figure if I'm experiencing this hallucination, then I'm not completely dead yet. I'm just trying to stretch it out as long as I can, to give the doctors as much time as possible to save my life. To perform a "medical miracle" as it were (heh, heh). What, it's not a hallucination? Prove it. Tell me something I couldn't possibly know. Then send me back to find out if what you told me is true, or not. If I find out that you imparted to me knowledge that I had know way of knowing in advance, I'll take that as a sign this is all real, and I'll come on over to your side. If I find out that whatever you tell me right now is nonsense, or something based on knowledge I already have, then I'll knowit really is an hallucination. Sound OK, Pete? Pete? Buddy...?"
Oh well. He turned tail and ran just like every other person confonted with a real world test of their superstition. No surprise here. I mean, it was my hallucination, right?
Listen. Did anyone else notice how three of those five were doubled questions? I think that's cheating, Dawn. Also, the last one wasn't even a question. Sure, I assumed a question mark, and answered it anyway, but rest assured, if I interview you, there won't be any low shenanigans like that, OK?
Went and saw the latest Harry Potter movie with the family last night. Probably caught it on the last chance weekend before it leaves the theaters for good. Not to worry. It'll be out soon enough on video, and we'll add it to the rest of the Harry Potter DVDs on our shelf.
My review? I really liked this movie. I had goosebumps from the opening scene, and alternated between sadness and delight throughout. The film really got across to me the weight Harry is carrying by now, and how it causes him to pull back from those who care about him.
The darkening of the films continues with Order of the Phoenix, and director David Yates had a lot of fun using fascist imagery in his 1984esque depiction of the Ministry of Magic. I wasn't as enamoured of the ending of the film as I was by what had led up to it, but part of that had to do with the necessary pruning required to reduce the behemoth of a book it was down to a useful movie length. I was able to accept it, anyway.
It was a shame we waited so long to see it, as it was the kind of a movie that calls for applause at the end. That, however, would have seemed silly in a theater containing all of thirteen people.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Now, don't go trying to remedy that last. If you've put my email address on your bulk forwarding list without first asking my permission to do so, I don't want to get to know you, because I only hang out with considerate, polite people. If I have ever received an unsolicited email from you, even though we've never met, then you're a rude pain in the ass, and I don't want to get to know you. Well, unless you're as stubborn as Andi, but that's too long a story for here.
There's another category of bulk e-mail forwards that steam me more than any other: the religio-political rants. Did you really think that I, a centrist Canadian atheist, wanted to read the intolerant, Republican, Christian extremist, bigoted, hate mail you received? Well there's the problem isn't it? You didn't think. You never think. You just mindlessly click 'fwd' and send to: 'entire address book' and never think about what you are doing. Stop it! Just stop it. I don't want to get any more pages of stupidity from you.
Even my best friends stopped sending me every forward they get. Oh, sure, I get a few, but usually they're somehow on topic for me. My friends have thought about it, and decided I might be interested. And usually they're right. That's why they're my friends.
Here's the latest moronic screed to grace my inbox, followed by the reply I sent to the mindless forwarder.
Subj: This woman should run for president
Written by a housewife from New Jersey and sounds like it! This is one ticked off lady.
'Are we fighting a war onterror or aren'twe? Wasit or was it not started by Islamic people who brought it to our shores on September 11, 2001?
Were people from all over the world, mostly Americans, not brutally murdered that day, in downtown Manhattan , across the Potomac from our nation's capitol and in a field in Pennsylvania?
Did nearly three thousand men, women and children die a horrible, burning or crushing death that day, or didn't they?
And I'm supposed to care that a copy of the Koran was 'desecrated' when an overworked American soldier kicked it or got it wet?...Well, I don't. I don't care at all.
I'll start caring when Osama bin Laden turns himself in and repents for incinerating all those innocent people on 9/11.
I'll care about the Koran when the fanatics in the Middle East start caring about the Holy Bible, the mere possession of which is a crime in Saudi Arabia ..
I'll care when these thugs tell the world they are sorry for hacking off Nick Berg's head while Berg screamed through his gurgling slashed throat.
I'll care when the cowardly so-called 'insurgents' in Iraq come out and fight like men instead of disrespecting their own religion by hiding in mosques.
I'll care when the mindless zealots who blow themselves up in search of nirvana care about the innocent children within range of their suicide bombs.
I'll care when the American media stops pretending that their First Amendment liberties are somehow derived from international law instead of the United States Constitution's Bill of Rights.
In the meantime, when I hear a story about a brave marine roughing up an Iraqi terrorist to obtain information, know this: I don't care.
When I see a fuzzy photo of a pile of naked Iraqi prisoners who have been hum iliated in what amounts to a college-hazing incident, rest assured: I don't care.
When I see a wounded terrorist get shot in the head when he is told not to move because he might be booby-trapped, you can take it to the bank: I don't care.
When I hear that a prisoner, who was issued a Koran and a prayer mat, and fed 'special' food that is paid for by my tax dollars, is complaining that his holy book is being 'mishandled,' you can absolutely believe in your heart of hearts: I don't care.
And oh, by the way, I've noticed that sometimes it's spelled 'Koran' and other times 'Quran.' Well, Jimmy Crack Corn and-you guessed it-I don't care !!
If you agree with this viewpoint, pass this on to all your E-mail friends. Sooner or later, it'll get to the people responsible for this ridiculous behavior!
If you don't agree, then by all means hit the delete button. Should you choose the latter, then please don't complain when more atrocities committed by radica l Muslims happen here in our great Country! And may I add:
'Some people spend an entire lifetime wondering if they made a difference in the world. But, the Marines don't have that problem.' -- Ronald Reagan
I have another quote that I would like to add AND.......I hope you forward all this.
'If we ever forget that we're One Nation Under God, then we will be a nation gone under.' Also by.. Ronald Reagan
One last thought for the day:
In case we find ourselves starting to believe all the Anti-American sentiment and negativity, we should remember England 's Prime Minister Tony Blair's words during a recent interview. When asked by one of his Parliament members why he believes so much in America, he said: 'A simple way to take measure of a country is to look at how many want in... And how many want out.'
Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you:
1. Jesus Christ
2. The American G. I.
One died for your soul, the other for your freedom.
YOU MIGHT WANT TO PASS THIS ON, AS MANY SEEM TO FORGET BOTH OF THEM.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
Weekend Assignment #183: Make up a poll for people to play with. The poll can be on any subject you want -- it can be serious or funny or silly or whatever (although funny's always, you know. Funny). If you're not on AOL Journals or for some reasons you don't want to use AOL's poll function, there are other poll options for your blog; here's one, for example.
Ah, polls. I love polls. They're so seemingly scientific, while in fact being virtually useless as a means of gathering meaningful information. I believe the poll has at last found its most suitable home: the Internet. Consider this a short tutorial in the creation of Internet polls of great political and philosophical import.
The poll answers you offer your readers need not all be obviously on topic. In fact, it is common practice to include at least one non-sequiter option, ostensibly for comedic effect, but as will be explained, there is a very good reason for doing so. The following pol makes use of the most popular version of this feature: the 'pie' option.
Yeah, so it would have been a little more topical a couple of days ago. How about this one?
This one uses the alternate 'Planet X' option, which may be included if a 'pie' selection is not desirable. The 'pie' and 'Planet X' options are an important part of any poll. They allow the voters a selection that says, "your poll does not address my feelings on this issue. In fact, I think you are an idiot." Failing to include one of those two options usually indicates a frighteningly bad case of takingmyselftooseriousitis. Or, sometimes it reveals a case of tryingtoartificiallyskewtheresultsosis.
The above poll uses a less common double-non-sequiter system, in which one option is usually an in joke that very few people will recognise. The use of an in-joke non-sequiter in no way frees the user from including a 'pie' or 'Planet X' option. However, if as a pollster, one can invent another, more universal nonsense selection, one may feel free to use it in place of the others. 'Kitten' might be usable...unless the poll is about cats...or pets...or busty actresses.
Avoid creating, and participating in polls in which there are only two options. Most will make use of a false dichotomy to attempt to lend credence to a particular position. Especially avoid any poll that asks for a simple 'yes' or 'no' answer. It is almost certainly a form of a "have you stopped beating your wife yet?" question. Take, for example, this poll:
Does it matter how you answer that one? Not to me it doesn't. Herewith ends your short, introductory tutorial on Internet polls. Go forth and pollify.
Extra credit: Have you ever participated in a political poll?No.
I know you are, but what am I?
When I first decided to do this (about halfway through reading Jaq's first ten), I thought it might be hard to come up with 100 movies that qualify. Having spent twenty minutes on Google I am now faced with the unenviable task of paring about twenty titles off my preliminary list.
Jaq, and Tosy before him, numbered their lists, in reverse order; starting at 100 and working their way down to 1. Because I am not going to even try to rank these movies in any way, I'm not going to do that. I'm just going to present them, in blocks of ten, with a little bit of commentary. In fact, I am going to number my rough list, from one to one hundred, and then use a random number generator to select what order they are presented in. Just because.
OK, here we go...
THE AWV LIST OF 100 MOVIES I REALLY, REALLY LIKED
The first 10...
The Rock - Sean Connery, Nick Cage, a bunch of really big guns, and a yellow Ferrari. What's not to like?
The Last Temptation of Christ - It's a shame so many Christians condemned this film without ever actually having seen it. It's nothing like they said it was. If any of you Christians out there had a problem with this movie, I'd be interested in hearing what it was.
Stargate - Kurt Russell rocks! Always has, always will. How many men do you know who are banging Goldie Hawn? Huh? Yeah, I thought so. Suck it, Chuck Norris!
Several years ago at a home theater seminar, the presenter used a scene from the movie Just The Ticket, in which Andy Garcia uses a Stargate LaserDisc as demo material to sell a big screen TV and surround sound stereo set. Comedy gold! The rest of it pretty much sucked, I understand. Still, I enjoyed the metaness of the demo within a demo.
The Transporter - Jason Statham kicks everybody's ass. Over and over again. About now you'll be beginning to detect something of a pattern in my selections, I think.
The Road Warrior - Pattern confirmed! Besides, there had to be at least one Mel movie on this list, and it sure as hell wasn't going to be Forever Young.
The Hunt For Red October - You might suspect you sense another pattern forming here... I will neither confirm nor deny the allegations. Have you seen this movie? They make a submarine jump out of the water fer chrissakes!
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - Here lies proof of the random nature of this list. Had I been ranking these in any way, this would most likely have been number one, and the last movie I listed. The random number generator says I put it here. Not much to say here but the fact that Peter Jackson did a remarkable job with these films. The entire trilogy really belongs together as one movie, but being forced to break them up, this one is my favourite of the three.
This is Spinal Tap - Any old, dyed-in-the-wool rock 'n' roll fan has to love this movie. I'm a fan of all of Christopher Guest's oeuvre, but this one is the funniest to me, because I recognise myself in the absurdity of the rock 'n' roll posturing they lampoon. As mock documentaries go, this one goes to eleven.
Ghostbusters - Who you gonna call? Um...this'll come up again, as well. The only thing funnier than Murray, Ackroyd, and Ramis fighting the 'Stay Puft Marshmallow Man' is the fact the Ackroyd actually believes ghosts are real. "Nice thinking, Ray."
Beverly Hills Cop - Eddie at the top of his game...before his game got old. Nowadays, the best he can do is talk like an ass - I meandonkey.
There you have it, the first ten films on the list of movies I really like. What are your thoughts?
next ten >>
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Monday, September 3, 2007
It was a comment on that entry that first brought to my attention the phrase, "dark night of the soul," described by the commenter as "a time in the lives of saints where they don't "feel" the consolations of the faith. It is considered a trial and not an actual lack of faith. It forces the soul to rely upon the rational basis of the faith and not mere feelings and emotions which are fleeting and often deceptive." (We'll just leave aside the irony inherent in the use of the word 'rational' in that sentence for today.) In the next day's National Post newspaper, religious columnist Father Raymond J. DeSouza expanded on the idea in his article, "Mother Teresa's darkness."
It is a form of agonizing spiritual purification, in which the soul draws very close to God. Yet God is infinite, and infinitely beyond our finite senses, so He appears as nothingness -- hence the nada, nada, nada refrain of St. John of the Cross. It is not that God is nothing, but rather that infinity appears that way to the souls who see deepest. It is something like a powerful telescope; the greater its range, the more empty the heavens appear to be. It is only to those stuck on Earth that the skies seemed crowded with stars.This is, of course, spin doctoring of the highest order. It is the "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence" mantra of the woo-woo community pushed to its most extreme. The fact that one cannot feel the presence of God, the theologians would have us believe, is proof that one has approached him more closely than the average person. Absence of evidence, they tell us, is, in fact, evidence of presence. And they say it with a straight face.
I am in awe of their fortitude in the face of such silly rhetoric. Reading Father DeSouza's column, I find myself giggling upon discovering such statements as, "To be sure, she knew [the absence of God] as only those closest to God know it," and flat out guffawing over, "[n]ow we have discovered that her realism was borne of daily contact with God as He really is..." Um, absent?
I wish to point out to Reverend DeSouza the point at which his argument completely fell apart for me. It was his use of the analogy of a large telescope looking at the sky. That analogy reveals that Father DeSouza, like so many of his colleagues, has willfully kept himself blind to the realities of our universe, and the science that reveals them, in order to protect his God Delusion.
Ray (can I call you Ray?), when you train a powerful telescope on a small section of sky that, to the naked eye, appears devoid of stars, do you know what you see? You see more stars. And if you choose a small section of that small section, and zoom in again, do you know what you see?Uh huh, more stars. And you can perform the same exercise over and over again with the same result. Eventually, what you begin seeing are not individual stars, but crowded fields of galaxies, composed of billions of stars each. And when you zoom in on those, even more galaxies are revealed beyond them.
This, Ray...Raymond...Father DeSouza, is the true nature of infinity. And it's far, far larger than any God you can imagine.