Wednesday, August 31, 2011

We buy popcorn marked up 2000% and watch “Crazy, Stupid, Love”

We saw “Crazy, Stupid, Love” at the theater last weekend. We did not wait for it to go to the Redbox so that right there tells you that we were hoping it would be worth the money.

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It was a pretty good movie. The cast was likeable and it was toned down to fit the PG-13 rating except for one inexplicable and completely unneeded F-bomb. Maybe they added that to get the PG-13? I’m not sure if a PG-13 rating is more attractive than a PG rating or not but it could have been to set this apart as a romantic comedy for adults vs. a romantic company aimed at the teens. They can have “Twilight” – we’ll keep Steve Carell.

There was a twist in this movie that I was either too full of popcorn or enjoying the movie too much to notice before – wham! – it got me. It’s like a Seinfeld episode where it all comes together by the end. The subplot involving Steve’s son and his babysitter is quite funny also.

It’s a winner. It’s quite intelligently written and there are plenty of little personal touches you learn about each character that makes you really buy in to each of them.

The movie also had me analyzing the way I dress as I am not far from Steve Carell’s age and too often I throw on an old polo shirt, a “relaxed fit” pair of jeans, and tennis shoes. I learned that this combination is a no-no.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Redboxin’ : “The Beaver” and “Cedar Rapids”

From now on, I’m going to refer to the act of paying a dollar to see movies that I was unwilling to pay full price to watch in the theater as Redboxin’. As part of the review, I will also tell you how much of my dollar the movie was actually worth to me.
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First up is “The Beaver”. “The Beaver” is the kind of movie that makes me wonder what sort of people sat down with the synopsis or the entire script and actually agreed to give the green light to spending millions of dollars on something that would seem to me is an obvious flop from the get-go.
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There are two ways to think about this movie. One way is “Wow, this is a phenomenal turd of a movie”. The other way is “This is an incredible portrait of mental illness”. Unfortunately for “The Beaver”, it falls right in the middle of the two. I wanted to call Mel on the phone and yell at him after this because his character is so incredibly frustrating. But, maybe that is the point. The performances here are good but the story made me cringe the entire time I watched it.
What is odd is that the sub-plot involving the oldest son of “The Beaver” is more interesting than the main plot. Anton Yelchin shines as a high school student who makes money off writing papers for other kids at his school all the while saving up his money to get as far away from home as possible. He befriends a girl who wants him to write her graduation speech (played by Academy Award nominee  and future “Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence) while struggling with his own inner demons and the fear that he is going to end up just like his father. The story around their relationship could have carried the entire movie and it would have been a better movie if it had.
I give this one 60 cents out of my dollar. Mel owes me forty cents.
*****
The second movie we watched was “Cedar Rapids”.
This one is about an insurance agent who has to leave the insulated comforts of his very small home town in order to go to an insurance convention in the “big” city of Cedar Rapids. An award that the agency gets every year is on the line and it is up to him to get it.
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Ed Helms is quite likable and he plays the “somewhat innocent” role quite well. He is truly put out by the actions of his fellow convention goers at first but quickly embraces the insanity around them. He cuts loose and everyone has a better life for it by the end of the movie.
It’s also quite raunchy. It’s not a “Hangover” R but it does go for it at times. I guess that is the one problem with it – it can’t decide between being a movie with heart or being a movie with no morals whatsoever.
The cast is pretty good – they seem to gel quite nicely. Isiah Whitlock, Jr. is quite good as the insurance agent who appears to be shy and reserved but takes on a completely different persona right when needed. You’ll just have to see it to know what I mean.
This one was worth the whole dollar but you don’t want to watch it when the kids are around.
*****
We also made it to the theater and watched a movie that we paid full price for. I’ll try to get that one written up tomorrow night.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Science!

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Our first science project was completed last night! Fourth grade is going to be a lot tougher the second time around. This plant cell cookie took forever to make. My contribution is the labels. I also requested red mitochondrion. This better get an A.

Since I’m still exhausted from all of this learning, I’ll keep this short and go out by shamelessly plugging my Tumblr blog. Please have a look over at http://iusedtobebrilliant.tumblr.com/.

Blogger is a place for serious writing and Tumblr is a more artistic counterpart. It’s more like building an online portfolio or scrapbook. I’m still learning the art of creating decent GIF’s. The fun about tumblr is the ease with which you can share posts and pictures. Also, you can easily follow multiple blogs. The entries here get imported automatically with a 24 to 36 hour delay.

Most of my enjoyment is coming from searching for stuff from my favorite shows and reblogging the good stuff I find. Here is a GIF I made and just posted from Frasier:

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And that’s all for Wednesday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An Appreciation: Nick Ashford

Music lost another great yesterday. A lot of us remember Ashford and Simpson from their 80’s hit “Solid”.

Of course, their contribution to music is much greater than one song. They were one of the most successful writer/producer couples in music and they gifted us with an incredible list of classics. So many of my favorites came from their collaboration.

No one today sings like Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell did and they did it without any computer mixing or other trickery! And, all of these songs and so many more were written by Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson.

The soundtrack of our lives is better because of them.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Ugh Saturday

I’ve taken too many of these…

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…to clearly write a decent entry here tonight.

I did end up dragging through Walmart this morning but the rest of the day was made up mostly of sitting on the couch and watching episodes from the first season of Frasier.

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Friday, August 19, 2011

Fair Thursday

The kids love the fair. And, they love Christmas. I’m glad of this but I’m always a tad relieved when both are over.

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We hit the fair jackpot last night. The clouds moved in about an hour before we got there and the wind from dying thunderstorms gave us a cool breeze for most of the night. Last year it was hot as fire.

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Even better than the weather, the kids had friends there to ride with on everything so us old people didn’t have to ride a thing! I didn’t have to risk any of the motion sickness that I got at Beech Bend earlier this summer!

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We were also smart enough to stay away from all of the super-unhealthy fried foods. I really wanted a funnel cake but we skipped it. Our stomachs all benefited from this decision.

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A good time was had by all. We got home at 10PM and it was extremely difficult getting up this morning. I think I was in a fog from 6AM to lunch. And, thanks to the cold or sinus mess I now have, I’m back in the fog at 8:30PM and counting the minutes until I can slink off to bed.

Oh, here’s a bad picture (thanks, Blackberry) of the creepiest guy I saw at the fair last night. He was “manning” this ride by standing every still with his big cup and quite a scowl on his face.

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Finally, here was the most entertaining part of the night for me. This was some sort of amateur square dancing thing. The impromptu electric slide with audience volunteers to “Achy Breaky Heart” was the highlight of my evening. The guy staring at me as I took the picture brought me even more joy.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Anti-Social (Networking)

My interest in Facebook is continuing to fade away. I might check it once a day just because I have a nice button on my bookmark bar in Google Chrome. Sometimes, I go down the line clicking the buttons in order and quickly remember “Ugh, it’s Facebook” and I just click the next button before it even opens. I rarely update my status and when I do, it’s typically via Twitter.

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(I took this picture at sunrise this morning.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of my 244 “friends”, I think about 12 regularly update. The others are ghosts or lurkers or only update when they need to vent or celebrate. There are quite a few that I only “sort of know” – some are people I graduated from high school with who probably added the whole graduating class. I barely remember them and I am certain they barely remember me. I would leave Facebook but there are some people on there who I would completely lose track of if I left because I know them just well enough to give a comment or a like here or there but I don’t know them well enough to make the effort to sit down and write an email. That would be something I would have to work to maintain and I just don’t have that kind of energy.

I guess it all comes down to our “indirect” relationships vs. our “direct” relationships. If we are “indirect” friends, Facebook gives us the comfortable distance to successfully continue our “indirect” friendship that would most likely not translate into a “direct” friendship. I’m just too lazy to add any more people to the “relationship roster”. I enjoy my quiet time too much to try to invest in additional “direct” friendships. I have all of the facetime I need right now and sometimes it’s more than I need!

I added Google + and even invited several people and now I feel guilty about inviting people since I look at it like it is just one more social network to deal with.

So, I’ll just keep reading my favorite blogs and using Twitter and writing here and I’ll let the rest of it sort of just sit out there like a big virtual business card. If you need to get hold of me, just knock on my virtual door and I’ll do my best not to sit very still and pretend not to be home.

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(The birds got them a nice new birdbath)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Digital Magazines? No thanks!

I have a video game magazine subscription. It came with my Gamestop membership (we buy games used, play them for a while, the kids get sick of them, we trade them). Now they are asking me if I want to convert from a traditional magazine to digital.

Sure, it’s a win-win for them. They’ll save big time on printing and postage. For me, it’s a big NO.

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I subscribe to these traditional (tree killing) magazines: Game Informer, Sports Illustrated (which has the best writing you can find in a magazine), Bloomberg Businessweek (which I consider the best magazine in print today), and Entertainment Weekly. I buy Real Simple at Walmart every month (I clip $1 off coupons for it).

I also subscribe to one digital-only magazine - a radio magazine called Monitoring Times. I used to buy Monitoring Times in the bookstore each month but it is just a pain to find and the digital-only subscription was a huge savings. Unfortunately, I haven’t read my digital copies in three months. I keep downloading them but I find it annoying to read them on the laptop. They don’t look good on the e-ink Nook Classic. On the Nook Color, the print is too small and if you enlarge the page, you end up scrolling back and forth to read it all.

My verdict – eReaders are awesome for books and terrible for magazines. Maybe an iPad would provide a much better experience but it sure isn’t worth that sort of investment for a casual reader to go all digital.

I just prefer the convenience of a magazine. There is something about the glossy pictures and the portability that makes magazines the winner in the old school vs. digital competition for me. It’s also nice to have an escape from the whole “web experience” for a bit to go offline, grab your magazine, and concentrate on what you are reading without any digital distractions.

Here’s to old school magazines! May they stay around for many years to come!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

I Go to the Movies! : “The Help”

While everyone else went to Glee 3-D, I did the grocery shopping at Walmart and then headed to the movies to watch The Help.

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I just finished reading the book last week. The immediate challenge is that there is an awful lot of book here to try to cram into a movie and that is probably why this movie was a bit longer than some people might expect at 2 hours, 17 minutes. I guess since I just read it and have it fresh on my mind, I felt somewhat rushed. The result is that the depth we have with the characters in the book does not translate to the big screen with two notable exceptions – Aibileen (Viola Davis) and Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard). These two deserve Oscar nominations. While Emma Stone seems to be portrayed as the main star (and she is quite good in her role), Viola Davis carries the movie and flat out deserves the Oscar. Of course, I believe her character is also the main character in the book. Aibileen is the glue that holds it all together.

The ending is hopeful but still heart breaking. It is exactly true to the book and most of the audience was left in tears and this is all because Viola Davis is able to play the scene in a way that is so incredibly true (true being the only word I can think of to describe it) that you just can’t believe that people can be so incredibly wicked. (You’ll just have to go see it to understand what I mean.)

Most of the audience did not appear to have read the book. They gasped at the parts I knew were coming all along so the ending seemed to really hit them out of nowhere.

That is a point many of the reviewers miss on this movie (and the book). Hilly, in what will be Bryce Dallas Howard’s breakout role, does get taken “down again and again” but it only seems to make her stronger and more bull-headed and more tragic. She gets knocked down but always manages to win in the end. She is unwavering and nothing makes her change.

At the end, the full theater (maybe there were 20 empty seats) applauded. And, oddly, most did not get up and immediately leave. Maybe they were cleaning up after a good cry (and there was a lot of crying).  Sure, there was some comedy in there but for the most part it pulled no punches. I think most people were just stunned by the whole movie in part because things haven’t changed quite as much as we would like to admit.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Music for a hectic Thursday

My daughter, who is in fourth grade, described her day at school as “hectic”. “Social studies! Science! Math! It never stops!!”

Tell me about it.

Here are a couple of songs to help you wind down after a hectic day.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Pepto Tuesday

Something has been “disagreeing” with my stomach all day long. I finally had to give up and drink some of the dreaded pink Pepto Bismol tonight just to try to regain some control over whatever craziness is happening to the internals. I don’t think I’ve used Pepto for many years but I’ve always kept a bottle for those special emergencies and mainly for the kids. As nasty as it tastes, it does work. What I hadn’t noticed is how fun they’ve tried to make the bottle look.

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That super fun font and those graphics can’t hide the fact that it still tastes the same way it did 30 years ago when the bottle looked just like it tasted:

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See – it just looked nasty. We need more truth in advertising and we need to stop dressing up products to give us a false expectation of fun and joy. Drink Pepto Bismol – it’s the fun exciting medicine for the new generation of people with the craps!

Just as I suspected – there is a tiny boat inside my stomach. That explains all of my troubles!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Money-day

Sure, it’s Monday. But it’s also the day that I went to my daughter’s dentist and had surgery. He extracted the money from my wallet after he explained how much her braces are going to cost. Even after insurance, I’m in it for about $4000. Yep – four grand. I don’t have four grand in plasma to sell so I guess I’m going to have to join the Chippendale’s Chubby Dancer Program. Or, I can mow all of the lawns in the neighborhood. Maybe I can sell lemonade in my driveway. Hmmmm.

In Nook news, I finished The Help this weekend.

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It’s quite a story. It’s actually downright scary in parts when you think of the danger these maids are in when telling these stories. It’s disgusting when you read about how they are treated by the people they work for. Sure, some of the nastier of the people in this book get their comeuppance but it’s still not enough.

Now, is it the best written book I have ever read? No. It moves far too fast. It glosses over a lot. One of the three main characters has a mother who appears to be deathly ill by the middle of the book (even the doctor seems to give her just weeks but maybe months to live) but it still hanging on without explanation at the end (when this main character appears to be about to move hundreds of miles away while leaving her still dying mother behind). The author loves to stir up drama for drama’s sake and then just yank out the rug and move on with no explanation. Also, a lot of history is mentioned but sort of glossed over.

What really gets me is the apparent backlash by some in the African-American community over this book because they don’t like the fact that a white woman was the catalyst behind the black maids sharing these stories. In the most recent Entertainment Weekly, author Martha Southgate wrote, “Minny and Aibileen are heroines, but they didn't need Skeeter to guide them to the light. They fought their way out of the darkness on their own — and they brought the nation with them.” I don’t think the book hides the fact that Minny and Aibileen are doing the “heavy lifting” when it comes to telling these stories. I don’t think the book hides that they are the heroines. But, if you go into this book (and through life) with the idea that everything has an agenda (Martha seems to believe that the agenda here is to convince us that black people can’t do anything without a white person leading the way), then you’ll come out of the other end of the book with the same idea.

I believe that there were a lot of Minny’s and Aibileen’s out there and the risks they took everyday just to provide a roof over the heads of their families was quite incredible and inspiring and I’m looking forward to seeing how it ends up looking on the movie screen this weekend.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Enjoy this video while I take a small blog break

I’m buried in work this week and have had to ignore the blog for a bit. Maybe something exciting will happen in the next day or so that is worth writing about. Until then, watch this really odd video for a pretty good song.

Monday, August 1, 2011

First Day of School

Another school year has begun and that means another picture out in front of the school.

I took today off so I wouldn’t be so rushed. It’s weird to see all of the kids who come in alone – no pictures being taken or anything. Maybe I’m just weird and I should just drop them off at the door like it’s no big deal. But, I can’t. And I can’t help being a tad sad on the first day since this means they are growing up so fast. It’s amazing how fast it all flies by.

Sara starts fourth grade today. I made her pose next to the pencil sharpener.

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Lindsay is in third grade and she was ready to go gossip with her friends about everything that happened over the summer.

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I had to go to Walmart after I dropped them off. Next, I will mow the yard thanks to the rain we finally got last week. I can’t think of a more exciting way to spend my 96 degree day off.