Thursday, June 30, 2011

Denmark Loves Me (and other random thoughts)

So, watching USA Network's latest two-word-titled original series, "Necessary Roughness"... this, of course, follows "Royal Pains", "Burn Notice", "Fairly Legal" and "Covert Affairs"... yes, "In Plain Sight" has three words, but "Psych" only has one, so it averages out.

Powell, Dr. Dani, Nico and T.K.
"Necessary Roughness" is the story of Danielle Santino, a lovely 30-something wife and mother who is a licensed therapist, helping people to quit smoking, halting their addictions and generally helping those clients stop their own self-destructive behavior.

Of course, Dani's own family is falling apart when she discovers her hubby is a total sleaze, which is partly only that has her husband got him another woman, but also that he's got several another womans, her daughter is continually busted for skipping class and her son, though seemingly sane, is following after his dad with his own array of women that he's dating.

Enter Coach Powell (Marc Blucas), an assistant coach (and possible love interest) for the pro football team The Hawks (I missed the city, I think), who has a star player, Terrance King, who is paying tens of millions of dollars but can't hold onto the ball... so Dani is brought on to be T.K.'s therapist--who, of course, doesn't want a therapist. 

Now, Dr. Dani Santino is a therapist of the overpaid prima donna players of a professional football organization.  And that's where we start the storyline for the entire show.

I've tried to watch "Burn Notice" and "In Plain Sight", but ended up missing a few episodes here and there and just gave up, but I think the element of the unusual storyline (football therapist?) mixed with the football culture, which I enjoy, plus a strong cast (Callie Thorne is awesome)... and Nico (Scott Cohen), who's title isn't defined, but is somewhat of... security?  Agent?  Who knows, but Nico is pretty darn cool.

The first episode's main plot is somewhat wrapped up in the episode itself, but I'm hoping this won't be the case... I like procureal (that is, story per episode, very little bleeding over to next week) in "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" and "Law & Order", but when it comes to shows like this, I like the stories that continue... makes for interesting watching.

It's on DVR, and I didn't delete it, I'll just tell The Lovely Steph Leann to give it a shot.  Otherwise, I'm in.  At least til' I miss a few episodes and give up.


Now, here's a little shameless self-promotion... so, I'm huge in Denmark.  Don't ask me why.

On blogspot, you can actually check your stats and see a number of things... readers and page visits over different time periods, "most read" posts, and where your traffic is coming from.  Also, you can find out what countries are visiting your page.

It would make sense, and thus comes as no surprise, that this page is mostly viewed in the United States of America... but if you look at the country with the 2nd most loads its... Denmark?  Like, overseas, this page has been loaded and viewed almost 3,000 times. 

Now, I'm not under any illusions that there are a hundred people in Denmark that checks this page every day, or even a dozen, but I'm assuming that my page comes up under a various assortment of search terms, due to the wide variety of subjects that I talk about on Clouds in My Coffee... but hey, Denmark!  Go Danes!

Also viewed in the thousands would be the United Kingdom, Germany and Canada! 

Speaking of shameless self-promotion, you can also look at traffic sources, and where people are going first to find your website... for some reason, and keeps coming up, though after visiting both sites and looking around, I can't figure out why.

But... there is some user name Wilt that I must send a big thank you too... on the website, which I think is a site for the band Phish, they were discussing the concert dubbed "The OJ Show", a concert held on June 17th, 1994... and the message boards were tossing back and forth the thought of doing a show on that date, and how the band apparently had yelled to the crowd "Run OJ Run!"... and some user named Wilt simply posted "Crazy Day", and then gave this link:

How cool is that?  Thank you, Wilt, thank you.


Another source of referrals for this site is a blog called Happy Harper Stories, and this chick that goes to my church, Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship), writes it a few times a week, and truly, its become one of those sites that I routinely check.  Its a bit hypocritical to ask my own readers to check back every day, when I only check some blogs a few times per week, but I do look at that one.

I've discussed it before, and the Jamie, the author, and I don't really know each other beyond the blogosphere more than "Hello!" and "How are ya" as we pass by each other at Valleydale Church (an sbc fellowship), but we apparently have alot of the same readers, because I get more an a little traffic from her own site.

Her sight is definately a website with a chick perspective, but encouraging nonetheless.  I do think that she and I share a common bond, and that is we are known as "the blog people" at church.  That's not to say there aren't other blogs at church, but there are certain other people who are known for what they do, whether professionally or as a hobby--Sarah Cook is known as The Photographer.  There are other photographers, but I hear her name and see her pics on Facebook more often than not.  Hope is known as the Cake Lady.  Karin, and now Justin Fisher, are known as The Authors.   The Lovely Steph Leann and I have a reputation for being The Disney People (though that's really only within our circle of friends and a slight outlying layer--there are others that are as big of Disney fans as we are).    I'm sure there are others, but I would venture to say that Jamie's blog and my own blog are two of the most familiar to people at church.

Could be wrong.  I am jealous, though, of the layout she's got... not that I want an owl family in a tree with stripes for my sight--works for hers, not mine--but I do wish I were a little more astute when it came to web design. 


Random thoughts I'm having while watching "Inception" for what feels like the 400th time--and still loving it.

  • Ever wonder why the world "palindrome" isn't one? 
  • Just once, I'd like to hear the automated chick voice say, "Our options are exactly the same, so if you know what you need, just go ahead and press the appropriate button"
  • I feel like if milk came in a solid steel container, there would still be that random milk ring on the counter after I move the jug.  How does milk seep through anything?
  • Sometimes, when I'm in the shower, I toss my hand up on the glass and drag it down, leaving that weird, smudgy handprint... just like Jack and Rose in the backseat of that old car in "Titanic"
  • If you are in the Wal-Mart checkout line, carrying an iPad, talking on your iPhone with your hand that has designer nails, while your kids are holding Blu-Ray movies while wearing their own designer clothes, only to get into anything other than a hatchback or a car thats a minimum of 5 years old, you should not be allowed to use WIC or be receving a welfare check.

And finally... we have now begun the official process of turning The Cabana Extended Stay Suites and Resort Spa into The Cabana Playskool and Daycare.   The Lovely Steph Leann and I sat down in our expensively nice futon upstairs and began to make lists for our guest room into nursery process... what to do with the hundreds of CDs we have, the hundreds of books we have, cleaning out a closet and possibly trimming down my comic book collection by maybe half, and all the other stuff. 

First task?  Pull out the old computer, plug it in, fire it up and start deleting stuff.  This might take a while. 

The Summer of Blogging Day Twenty Eight

32 Things All Chicks Should Know

Found this little gem in a random folder in my computer... now, I'm not saying I agree with it... or all of it... or some of it... or maybe a few things... but I think its rather funny.  Okay, I agree with alot of it, but if you are a dude, so do you, so don't be all like you ain't thinking all that and such...

1) Learn to work the toilet seat: if it's up, put it down.  Or, if you'd rather, we can leave it down... all the time. 

2) Birthdays, Valentines, and Anniversaries are not quests to see if he can find the perfect present!

3) If you ask a question you don't want an answer to, expect an answer you don't want to hear.

4) Sometimes, he's not thinking about you. Live with it.

5) Don't ask him what he's thinking about unless you are prepared to discuss such topics as navel lint, the shotgun formation, and monster trucks.

6) Get rid of your cat. And no, it's not different, it's just like every other cat.

7) Dogs are better than ANY cats. Period.

8) Sunday = Sports. It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides. Let it be.

9) Shopping is not sport.

10) Anything you wear is fine. Really.

11) You have enough clothes.

12) Don't ever ask, "Do you think she's prettier than me?"

13) Crying is blackmail. Use it if you must, but don't expect us to like it.

14) Ask for what you want. Subtle hints don't work.

15) No, he doesn't know what day it is. He never will. Mark anniversaries on a calendar.

16) Peeing standing up is more difficult than peeing from point blank range. We're bound to miss sometimes.

17) Most guys own two to three pairs of shoes - what makes you think we'd be any good at choosing which pair, out of thirty, would look good with your dress?

18) Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers.

19) A headache that lasts for 17 months is a problem. See a doctor.

20) Your Mom doesn't have to be our best friend.

21) Foreign films are best left to foreigners.

22) Check your oil.

23) Don't give us 50 rules when 25 will do.

24) It is neither in your best interest nor ours to take the quiz together.

25) Anything we said 6 or 8 months ago is inadmissible in an argument. All comments become null and void after 7 days.

26) If something we said can be interpreted makes you sad and angry, we meant the other one.

27) If we don't look at other women, how can we know how pretty you are?

28) You can either ask us to do something OR tell us how you want it done but not both

29) Whenever possible, please say whatever you have to say during commercials.

30) Christopher Columbus didn't need directions, and neither do we.

32) Consider golf a mini-vacation from you. We need it, just like you do.

33) The relationship is never going to be like it was the first two months we were going out.

The Summer of Blogging Day Twenty Seven

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Subway Fresh Conversation

Walking into Subway, wanting to eat fresh, picking up a sandwich for myself and for my awesome manager...

Habeeb, in broken English:  Can I help you, sir?
Me: Yes, I need to get two sandwiches.

Habeeb, in broken English:  Yes, what two sandwiches would you like sir?
Me:  I need to get two sandwiches, both are six inch.  One is turkey on white, the other is chicken on parmesan oregano

Habeeb, in broken English:  Okay, turkey. Foot long or six inch?
Me:  Six inch.  They are both six inch subs

Habeeb, in broken English:  Okay, turkey on six inch.  What bread?
Me: White

Habeeb, in broken English:  Okay, cheecken?  Foot long?
Me:  Six inch.  Parmesan oregano bread

Habeeb, in broken English:  Turkey on white, cheecken on oregano.  Both six inch?
Me:  Yes, both six inch.

Habeeb gets bread and cuts.  He places chicken on one bread, turkey on the other.

Habeeb, in broken English:   Cheese?
Me: Yes, please.  Cheddar on both, please, and both toasted.
Habeeb, in broken English:  Okay, cheddar cheese.

Habeeb places cheddar cheese on the turkey.

Habeeb, in broken English:  Cheese on other?  What kind?
Me:  Cheddar.  On that one too.

Habeeb, in broken English:  You want toasted? 
Me:  Yes, please.  Both of them.

Habeeb, in broken English:  Cheecken toastes.  You want turkey toasted?
Me:  Yes, please.  Both of them.

Habeeb places both sandwiches in oven for 15 seconds.  Both sandwiches come out, looking fresh. 

Habeeb, in broken English:  Okay, what on turkey?
Me, speaking each ingredient slowly so as to allow him time to build the sandwich:  Mustard... Lettuce... Tomato... Banana Peppers... Oil & Vinegar

Habeeb, places all these things on the turkey sandwich.  I cringe as the same gloves used to pick up banana peppers with the juice dripping off are now placed on my own chicken sandwich.

Habeeb, in broken English:  Okay, what on cheecken?
Me:  Mustard...

I watch as Habeeb uses an almost empty bottle of mustard to squeeze a blob of mustard onto one end of the sandwich, accompanied by that farting noise an empty bottle is wont to make.

Me:  Mayo

I watch as Habeeb uses an overly full mayo bottle to squeeze out a line of mayo, from one end of the sandwich to the other, a line that looks about two inches wide.

Me:  A little bit of ranch

I watch as Habeeb squeezes the ranch bottle a little too tightly, giving an enormous amount of ranch on one side, then realizing his mistake, he uses just a trickle to cover the other five inches

Me:  Black olives

I watch as Habeeb grabs a few pieces of black olives and drops them right in the middle of the sandwich.

Me:  Would you mind adding just a few more?  Thank you.

I watch as Habeeb now grabs a handful and covers 94% of the sandwich in a inch and a half thick layer of black olives.

Me:  And just a few pickles

I watch as Habeeb then grabs all the pickles his hand will hold, and drops them onto my sandwich.  He's been burned already by having to go back to the black olive well, he's bound and determined to make this single pickle allotment the only pickle allotment needed.

Me:  And that's all. 

I watch as Habeeb folds my sandwich, using gloves that are drenched with banana peppers and black olive juice and pickle droppings.

Me:  Okay, just make one sandwich into a combo, if you don't mind.  Thanks.


Habeeb, in broken English, now standing at the register: Okay, what sandwiches you have again?

Anybody else? 

The Summer of Blogging Day Twenty Six

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Cars 2 Review

Its hard to know how I should feel about Pixar's latest, "Cars 2"... is it weird that an animated film can leave me so conflicted?

Here's the plot... "Cars 2" picks up where "Cars" left off... Lightning McQueen is off racing, winning multiple Piston Cups, and returns to Radiator Springs to his girlfriend Sally and his best buddy Mater, along with the rest of the gang from the first film, like Ramone, Flo, Red, Sarge, Fillmore and the others... wisely, Pixar chose not to replace Paul Newman as the voice of Doc Hudson, instead just giving the Hudson Hornet a glance and homage.

Finn and Mater... I've read the thoughts that Mater might be Pixar's
version of Jar Jar Binks... a much maligned characters that has somewhat
sullied a great movie series--or in Pixar's case, their movies in general
Through a wacky set of circumstances, McQueen ends up entered into the inaugural World Grand Prix, and brings along his "team", which includes Mater, and through an even wackier set of circumstances, Mater gets confused for an American spy by the good guys like Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (Emily Mortimer) and the bad guys, like Professor Z (Thomas Kretschmann).

So over the next 90 minutes, we are treated to a visually colorful and dazzling adventure full of explosions and big ships and crazy cars and fast racing and cool gadgets and funny sight gags and foreign lands and all that kind of stuff. 

What we aren't treated to is a great movie.  Its a fun movie, its a pleasant, amusing movie, but not a great movie.  This will, in my mind, go down as Pixar's worst film, and though the general consensus is that Pixar can do no wrong, this one is hard to defend.  If anything, Pixar's record is 11-1, or at best, 11-0-1... which, in of itself is still a stellar mark.

Don't get me wrong... I liked this movie.  Its got that Pixar flair with the jokes flying fast and free, and sight gags everywhere--watch the drive-in movie sign in Radiator Springs not long after McQueen makes his return... and its fun watching the change of cultures from a car's perspective when they tour Japan (the Japanese game show is a hoot) and other countries.
And cars "die" in this movie!  I mean, I hope I'm not spoiling anything for you, but seriously, there are at least four or five car deaths in this film, which is a bit... well, I say violent, but we're talking about cars being blown up, so judge that how you will.

Its the story, the kind that Pixar usually excels at telling, that is the weakest part of the film.  I found myself wondering if a six year old kid could follow all that was happening, and even if those kids would understand why the bad guys--Gremlins, Pacers and other "lemons"--were the bad guys... I mean, what kid under 15 knows what a "lemon" is?  I also found myself ready for the movie to be over towards the end, something I'm not sure I've ever felt in a Pixar film. 

Here's my conflict... what am I supposed to expect out of Pixar? I have been taught to expect masterful story telling like "Wall*E"... I have been taught to expect movies for children that are still made for adults, like "Monsters Inc"... I now expect to have toys make me tear up, like in "Toy Story 3"... but do I expect that because Pixar told me "We are going to make the best animated films you have ever seen in your whole life!"

John Turturro voices Francesco Bernoulli, McQueen's main rival.  Having
worked at The Happiest Place in the Mall for a time, all I could think
was "Wow, are they going to release a billion new Cars toys for this"
No, I expect such things from Pixar because that's just what they do. But this time around, it seems like they are just having a good time... they aren't trying to win the Oscar for Best Animated Film (at least I hope not, because it won't happen this time), it seems like they are just having a good time. And out of any studio out there, Pixar deserves to have a good time, at least once, and do a movie that is just full of goofiness and silliness and fun.

A few years back, when the rumor that "Cars 2" was being made, The Disney Channel released a number of "shorts" starring Mater, called "Mater's Tall Tales".  They all centered around Mater telling his friends stories, or tales, about his misadventures, the "tall" part coming in because he's exaggerating... Mater told of his adventures as a stunt daredevil, and as a fire truck, and as a matador (Materdor!)... after "Cars 2" ended, I looked over at The Lovely Steph Leann and said, "This was like a very long episode of Mater's Tall Tales".

I know, I know, I seem so up and down about it... I guess I'll say this about "Cars 2".  Don't expect "Toy Story 3", or "The Incredibles" or even "Finding Nemo"... expect a fun movie, one that is kind of forgettable.  Expect your sons to love the crap out of it, expect your daughters to... well, did she like this first one?  She will probably like this one.  Did you like the first one?  Yeah, you'll probably enjoy this one as well.

Oh, finally, if you don't like Larry the Cable Guy, you will have a hard time with this one, because Larry is all up in this film, pretty much from start to finish. 

2D or 3D?  Go 2D.  The only reason to see this in 3D is to see the Pixar trailer for the 2012 movie "Brave", which you can find online, and the 3D trailer for the upcoming "The Lion King in 3D" release.  I still say go see it in 2D, save your money.

Formerly known as "The Bear & the Bow", Pixar introduces its first fairy tale, "Brave".  And it looks amazing.

Worth the price of admission, in 2D or 3D, is the Toy Story short, "Hawaiian Vacation", coming on before "Cars 2"... when Barbie & Ken miss their trip to the Hawaiian islands, Buzz, Woody and the gang step in to give them the de facto vacation of a lifetime... and if you liked this one, then you'll be happy to know that there will be another Toy Story short in front of "The Muppets", coming this Thanksgiving.

And, you heard it here first... Tom Hanks says "Toy Story 4" is in the works.  Not sure how I feel about that, but until "Cars 2", Pixar has never given me a reason to worry.  Truthfully, I'm not worried.

The Summer of Blogging Day Twenty Five 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Seven Things

The Lovely Steph Leann and I have always been told, "You guys will be great parents!" in some form or fashion... either she was told she'd be a great mom, or I have been told how great of a dad I'd be, or collectively, as a parental unit, we've been discussed under the mantra of ideal parents.

When talking about this particular line of conversation that we keep having with people, and mind you this was some months ago, maybe even last year, The Lovely Steph Leann remarked, "Do these people even know us?"

Well, whether they do or not, she and I... we're going to be parents.  It's almost a big unnerving, and certainly is enough to weird both of us out.  I mean... a parent?  Like, there is a kid coming that will look to The Lovely Steph Leann as he/she's mommy?  Well, that is actually not a bad thing, and upon reflecting on it, its a great thing.  She's awesome.  However, that little mush of cells will call me daddy at some point, and that is kinda scary.

So anyway, rather than waxing poetic about finding out, and who knew and all that, I wanted to look ahead to our kid getting here... its been noted on this here website that we'll go with Campbell Isaiah for a boy, calling him "Camp", though I'm wondering if his friends like Will Fisher and Willy Roose and Colin Robinson, or his lady friends like Mattie Sherman or Clara Tuck or Sunshine Ray will call him Cam... for a girl, we'll go with Lorelei Addison, calling her simply Lorelei, and yes, that was the name of Lauren Graham's character on "Gilmore Girls", and yes, that is part of the inspiration, but no, our daughter will not be named after Lorelei Gilmore.

Looking ahead to Camp or Lorelei being here, I came up with a few things that we really want to instill in our child.  Obviously, like any parents, we want to make sure our kids understand things like responsibility, accountability, respect and the like... but also like any parents, we might place a higher value on some things than other parents would, and vice versa on other things...

So, I came up with a short list of things that, thanks to Daddy over here, Campbell or Lorelei (I say "or"... its really an "and" because we'll teach this to all our children) will be familiar with at the least, and deeply ensconced in at the most--Mommy will help with some, others I'm sure she'll leave to me...

That's any Christ Following family's prayer and hope, that their children will grow up recognizing the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  While we will never force God on our kids, we will make sure they are fully aware of Christ, His death and Resurrection and we pray that one day, Camp and Lorelei will decide for themselves that a life with Christ is immensely more satisfying than a life without.

We'll also hopefully engrain in them how wonderful and meaningful a church family and church fellowship will be, so when Camp is 14, he has somewhere to go for help after he comes out, and when she's 16, Lorelei will be able to minister to her prison boyfriend.  Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who has any knowledge of us and who we are... we will give our kid plenty of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, Pluto, Lightnin' McQueen, Mater, Belle, Hercules, Cinderella, Mulan, Rapunzel, Simba, Genie, Princess Gisele and so on and so forth.  I've already had people tell me that they are holding open debates on how soon Lorelei and/or Campbell will head to The Most Magical Place on Earth, and even though I always said we would wait until our kids are at least potty trained and able to walk on their own, who am I kidding?  We'd probably deliver the child on Main Street USA if there was a way to do so.

Gotta get Mike and Sulley into the kid's life early, and often
I have often said that The Lovely Steph Leann will be heartbroken if our daughter isn't into the princesses, or at the least, into Daisy Duck and Minnie Mouse.  I fear the day when our child declares that she loves Shrek and has forsaken The Mouse.  It is then that we will question our parenting, and perhaps will give the child up for adoption for fear that we can no longer raise them right.  Its the least we can do.

Actually, I think I'd like our kid to be exposed to "Monster's Inc" relatively early... monsters can be scary until you realize they are terrified by human kids... I plan on putting my stuffed Mike Wazowski with my child soon to let them know Mike & Sully are awesome. 

The moment I hear my own kid singing the words to "Hannah Jane",
my favorite Hootie song, that's the moment I know I did it right
I say "Hootie", but you can also add on Sheryl Crow, Blues Traveler, Boyz II Men, Pre-Skank Mariah, Pre-Crack Whitney, Journey and their ilk.  I will be feeding little Lorelei or young Camp a steady diet of 80s and 90s music all throughout their childhood. 

Yes, I know, I know, there will be Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in there, and I'm sure they'll pick up other kiddy songs along the way, be it The Imagination Movers or some crap on Nick Jr, but you are darn tootin' my offspring will know something about "Hold My Hand" or "Only Wanna Be With You", or how awesome "Motownphilly" can be at high volume in a Kia Soul. 

This is the one I get the most pushback on... but so?  I can't wait for that day when I curl up with mine own youngling in my arms, and we take in an episode of WWE Raw, and I let them know to cheer for John Cena and The Rock and to boo for the likes of The Miz, CM Punk and Sheamus. 

"I am not having my daughter watch the WWE," declares The Lovely Steph Leann.   I would guess that she'll want a night off at some point, and I'll do my best to make it Monday night.  But if its Friday night, then WWE Smackdown will suffice.

Another one that The Lovely Steph Leann is pushing back on, though perhaps not as hard as #4 above.  But as a young boy myself, Star Wars became an integral part of my life--I saw The Empire Strikes Back as a five year old, and from there on out, my childhood was partially defined by a love of not just Luke, Han, Leia and Vader, but also a love of the imagination, creativity and passion that came behind it. 

Kids love Jar Jar.  My son will probably dig Darth Maul too.  A dad
can only hope, anyway.
Ten years ago, I was afraid Star Wars might become irrelevant.  It would be the loved and influential movies of the 70s that only people who are around my age would value and cherish... but with the three prequels and now the award winning The Clone Wars: The Animated Series out, there's no reason for Star Wars to fade as a memory.  It is prime to influence mine own children with the likes of George Lucas' fine creations.

Now, I'm not saying that I'm going to bust out some dark "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith" fresh out of the womb (that one might be a decade down the road), but "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace" or "Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope" isn't out of the question in the first six months of life.  Kids love Jar Jar.  For that matter, kids love Ewoks, so "Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi" might also be an option.

Never too young, I always say.  Okay, I don't always say that.  In fact, I just started saying that.  In more fact, I just said that really for the first time, "never too young", at least in reference to the starting age of Dave Ramsey's financial peace.

I want Lorelei and Camp to both grow up never knowing debt.  I want them growing up not only know the value of a dollar, but the value of earning it.  I want them growing up thinking that if they want something, they have to do what they can to get it, and never expect things to be handed to them. 

Now, I'm not saying that we won't give them gifts, or buy them things all along, I mean, there are things I'll see all the time I'll want my kids to have... but I don't want them ever expecting things to just be handed to them all time.   I like th FPU way of teaching your kids chores--some they do because they live there are are expected to do, and some as a way to earn money... and out of every dollar, 10 percent of that goes into a jar that say "Giving", another 15 percent goes into a jar that says "Saving" and the rest can be used for whatever. 

Wish someone, anyone, had taught me the discipline of Three Jars. 

Going along with the above "Dave Ramsey", I just want my kids to be responsible.  Responsible for their own actions.  Teach them how to give, but to take care of their own house first.  Teach them that the government is not the answer, they themselves are.   Teach them that this is the great country in the history of the entire free world, teach them that this country is the good guy.  Teach them that not everyone in the world, or even this country, will be nice to them, teach them that some people will be downright mean and hurtful, teach Lorelei that not all guys will be good and teach Camp that chicks can be overwhelming and over-dramatic, teach them that a life as a Christ Follower, things won't necessarily be easy, and sometimes might downright suck (though I'll try to use another word) and teach them that you know what, life just isn't fair...

...but also teach them that God is a wonderful God, and He has a created a beautiful world around us, teach them that there are great people in the world, and teach them that those people are created in God's image and that everyone deserves respect (until they don't) and everyone deserves for someone to be nice to them (until they don't). 

And yes, when they get older, if Lorelei and Campbell want to be Democrats, that's fine... but they had better be able to tell me why they believe that way.  They need to know that  Rush Limbaugh can be believed (mostly because if they pay attention, it makes sense) Keith Olbermann is full of crap (mostly because if they pay attention, he makes no sense) and finally, yes they will get spanked on the backside when they are bad, regardless of what is politically correct.

I think I'd also like Lorelei to be familiar with Audrey Hepburn movies, and Campbell to know about DieHard, but that's later. 

I'd like to say we're going to be great parents, but The Lovely Steph Leann would say, "Have you met us?"

The Summer of Blogging Day Twenty Four

Friday, June 24, 2011

Your Friday Evening Post

The Summer of Blogging is in fact time consuming... and I'll have you know that I've started about six different posts, and are all in the half-written to pre-proofread stage...

I went to a wedding earlier this evening, with a guy from our store getting married to a chick he met at our store, but ended up moving to a different store.  The Lovely Steph Leann wasn't feeling good at all, so she stayed behind, leaving me to enjoy a fun evening at the wedding with Melanie, her hubs and the Z Children. 

I got home around 9 and sat down to finish up the post titled "Seven Things", which was a short, somewhat comedic list of seven things I wanted my upcoming kid to know and know about.  I was actually done with the intro and explanation, and am a paragraph into #2, when The Lovely Steph Leann expressed her hunger.  She hasn't been feeling good all night--nay, for fourteen weeks--so I did my husbandly duty, changed out of my shirt and blazer, put on some comfy shorts and tee, then hopped in the car and headed to Target to buy her some Kraft Mac and Cheese.

Got back, cooked the Mac and Cheese and gave her a bowl ful as she sat and watched "Valentine's Day", a movie that I've somehow avoided, if not for the large reason that I think I'd actually kinda like it. 

So, before I go to bed, I want to toss something up online, at least some to read on your Saturday in passing... I'm guessing I'll be back on Sunday with new stuff (I might do a "What you missed" post tomorrow, recapping the last two weeks), so have a great weekend...

And by the way, thank you guys for reading, and check the page daily, or even every few days.  Means alot. 

The Summer of Blogging Day Twenty Three

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The 100 Coolest Things of 2010... #50 to 41

And we continue with the longest running list, not counting The Dave100, on this blog site... that being the 100 Coolest Things of 2010.  I won't bother with the recap just yet, you can find it to the right under archives...

50... Harry Finds a Hallow
After what I considered to be a disaster, though one I can still bear to watch, of the last movie (the post I wrote, by the way, "A Letter to Steve Kloves" is one of the most read posts on this here bloggy site), my expectations for "Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part I" were lower... but still slightly high, nonetheless.

Here's what I wrote on November 30th, 2010:

First and foremost, it holds a huge, huge advantage over any of the previous six films, and that is simply that this movie covers only half the book. The reason "Goblet of Fire" and "Order of the Phoenix" cut out almost half of their respective books is simply a time factor... you would have a six hour movie to cover everything ("Goblet of Fire" skipped the S.P.E.W. subplot, and was one of the few things I enjoyed about the movie versions over the books).

Essentially, the film version, at least Part I, of "The Deathly Hallows", is a little like a table of contents. You see a live action snippet of each scene that is fully fleshed out in the book itself, something is allowable because the 140 minutes of the movie covers only about 300 pages, not 500 pages.

You can read the full post here, but it continues to talk about the movie, first spoiler free, and then second, spoiler filled (though there are several alerts to tell you to stop reading if you haven't seen it).  I finished the post by saying, "Anyway, I really enjoyed the film, and have intentions on seeing it again. I said before my favorite movie character is Luna, but my favorite book character is Ginny Weasley... but I'm not sure I dig Bonnie Wright. I also think Fenrir Greybeck is fantastic in the book, but in the movie he's so marginalized and relegated to a second tier character.  Go see the movie, irregardless of whether you've read the book."

49... Via Napoli
Don't let the angle fool you.  This pizza is a monster, and this is taken
after four adults had just about had their fill...
What can I tell you about Epcot's newest restaurant?  Its in Italy, its authentic Italian, and its delicious.  I've eaten there twice, and its got some of the best pizza I've ever had, not to mention some of the best desserts I've eaten in a while.

Their food is a little pricey, but let's face it, its Disney, and all prices are a little higher than normal.  They ph-balance the water to match that of water found in Italy, as well as authenticate other ingredients to give you the freshest, purest form of Italian food... and their large pizza, $40 as it may be, will feed at least six people, if not more.  Its pretty awesome. 

48... Christians Like Stuff
So, Jon Acuff writes this blog, aptly titled Stuff Christians Like about being a Christian, and he asks tough questions like, what to do with the Christian version of "Freebird", or the problem with unrated movies on DVD... he's the author of several books, including one named after his website, and its a great read pretty much every day. 

47... Little Sister Ashley Gets a Ring
What can I say... my own adopted little sister (I got the looks in the family) got a ring on her finger from her hometown sweetheart, Brandon.  Apparently, he'd pined for her for years and years and years, and she gave him the cold shoulder... but one day, she woke up and said, "Whaaaa...?  I... like this guy!  No!  I love this guy!"

At top, its Brandon and Lil
Sister Ashley.  The bottom pic
features The Honorable Rev'rn
Ty "Sharpton" Coffey and Lori
Anne, bride to be.
She stopped by my store and flashed the ring, then I immediately commanded her to go to The Cabana and show The Lovely Steph Leann, which she did. 

And this past May, we were able to attend the wedding, which I'm sure you'll read about in The 100 Coolest Things of 2011... at this rate, some time around September 2013. 

Which leads me to...

46... Ty Gives a Ring
Here's another engagement that rocks, and gets the slight edge over Little Sister Ashley's big moment if only because I was involved in the proceedings...  The Honorable Rev'rn Ty Sharpton called me up and asked if I would participate in his little engagement get-together, which involved me taking the ring from him and setting it up in Samford's chapel. 

It was a little intimidating, holding a ring that cost more than Toni Rocki Honda, my little car at the time.  He asked me to not open it, not to look at it, he wanted Lori Anne to be the next one to see it, and I obliged.  I was to place it on the podium of the chapel at a certain time, then hide when Rev'rn Ty and his bride-to-be, Lori Anne, came in. 

While I was waiting for the word from Ty, people came in and out of the chapel--Samford had a football game going on in the stadium across the street at the same time--and I sat off to the side in a pew, probably looking like an old creeper.  I held the ring box tightly until I got the text that said, "In chapel yard".  I was nervous about letting the ring leave my sight, but I put it on the podium then slipped out a side door.

I walked around the student break area until I finally got a text that said "ITS DONE"... upon my return, there was a big smile from Revr'n Ty, and a bigger smile from little Lori Anne, and the ring almost blinded me.   And I was also able to not just attend, but be a part of their wedding, which you'll probably see in The 100 Coolest Things of 2011 as well.

45... B.o.B. Professes His Love
By the summer of 2010, there weren't a ton of songs that had really piqued my interest, especially in hip-hop areas... cause really, they all kind of sound alike.  So, here comes "Nothin On You" by B.o.B. featuring Bruno Mars, with this profession of love for his boo, telling her that there are chicks all over the place, and that sure, they might be cute or he might say hello... but ain't none them ho's got nothin on you.  Nothing.

"Beautiful girls, all over the world, I could be chasin', but my time would be wasting, they got nothin on you baby (nuh nuh nuh nothin on you... nuh nuh nuh nothing on you)... they might say hi, I might say hey, but you shouldn't worry about what they say cause they got nothing on you, baby (nuh nuh nuh nothing on you... nuh nuh nuh nothing on you)... nothing on you baby..."

Keep in mind, this was the summer that both B.o.B. and Bruno Mars emerged, so I don't feel bad in telling you that for the longest time, I couldn't tell who was rapping and who was singing.  Perhaps I'm still not sure.

44... The Books Get Read
My love of audiobooks is well documented and deep, with probably 100 or more in my collection... I keep most of them, about 110 gbs worth, on an external portable hard drive, but on my iPod that I have with me about 97% of the waking hours of my day, I have at least 30 or 40 that I take with me, just in case I might want to jump into a random book, be it Kristen Chenoweth's biography (or Andre Agassi's) or maybe some Glenn Beck, or even a chick lit novel by Emily Giffen...

And then, I finally joined Audible dot com.  The way it works is, you pay one price per month and you are given "Credits".  Then, you can download audiobooks for a credit, or for larger audiobooks (like the Walt Disney biography I initially got, which was 35 hours--it was two credits, but I got it free for joining).  Every month, for $14.95, I get another credit...

Essentially, its buying an audiobook for $15 per month, but when you consider they are running anywhere from $25 to $50 per book, its a pretty good deal.  Also, for members, you get special discounts on books, sometimes half off, sometimes huge percentages off, sometimes free... I just downloaded "Go the Heck to Sleep" children's book (warning:  NOT Emmy Turnbow safe), narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, for no charge whatsoever...

And the selection is pretty great too.  I managed to get The Pixar Touch for less than $7, I got Patton Oswalt's comedic book for about $6 and downloaded "ESPN: Those Guys Have All the Fun" for May's selection for one single credit... regular price, $26. 

Randomly, just for thought, here's my current wish list, or, books I'll end up downloading or purchasing if they go cheap--in the order I'm going to get them:  "The Men Who Would Be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and a Company Called Dreamworks" by Nicole LaPorte... "Decision Points" by Dubya... "Bossypants" by Tina Fey... "Without You: A Memoir of Love, Loss and the Musical Rent" by Anthony Rapp... "Your Only As Good As Your Next One: 100 Great Films, 100 Good Films and 100 Films For Which I Should Be Shot" by Michael Medavoy

And if you think this was just a reason to go all Ron Burgundy and say, "Hey everyone!  Come look at the cool stuff I've been reading!"... well, you may be right.  Though if anyone has thoughts on any of these books, then I'd love to hear them--besides the predictable recoil by Brad Latta, Atty at Law, at the mention of Glenn Beck or Dubya. 

43... A Dragon Gets Tamed
Here's what I wrote about "How To Train Your Dragon" on June 6th, 2010...

"How to Train Your Dragon" follows the story of Hiccup, who lives in a Viking village where the life of a Viking is to hung and kill dragons of every size--and they are aplenty in this movie. Hiccup is a loser that is made fun of by most of the clan, mostly because his heart is not into hunting anything, much less dragons, but to please his father--who happens to be village chief, no less--he does what he can.

Hiccup ends up taking down a rare Night Fury dragon, but upon finding it in the woods, cannot bring himself to finish him off... and there, the adventure takes flight, pun intended.

I loved it. I loved every single second of this movie. I loved the main character, Hiccup, I loved his love interest, a spry pixie named Astrid, I loved the dragons, including the main one nicknamed Toothless, I loved the setting, I loved the creativity, I loved the story... I thought this movie was brilliant. This was the first time I'd ever seen a non-Pixar animated movie and thought, "This should have been a Pixar film."

The Lovely Steph Leann loved it too. As the credits began to roll, she piped up and said, "Wow. DreamWorks finally got it right." (full review is found here)

By the way, I watched this movie a few days ago on cable... it is just as good, great even, as the first time I watched it.  And that is a true test of a good movie.

42... A Town Gets Covered
Wow this is a big book.  Perhaps Stephen King likes to release a 1000 page behemoth every year, or maybe I just tend to read one--in 2009, it was "It"... and in 2010, it was "Under the Dome".

In the fall of some year after 2012, Dale Barbara, known as "Barbie", is trying to leave the small town of Chester's Mill.  Before he can get very far, however, something odd happens.  An invisible, indestructible barrier--a dome, per se--is dropped over the town, keeping everyone who's out of town out of the town, and everyone who is in the town, in the town.

Big Jim Rennie, second selectman, takes over the town, appointing his corrupt friends and sick, twisted son Junior as town officials, and does his best to try and contain the opposition, which includes Barbie and newspaper editor Julia Shumway.   Slowly but surely, the town's government falls apart as Big Jim's rule becomes more and more stern, and as his ego--and paranoia of losing control--spiral out of control.

Efforts to destroy the Dome fail one after the other, and everything from civility to law to just common sense begins to fall apart, piece by piece, little by little... its not a slippery slope so much as a straight up and down cliff. 

While the Dome is the central key to the novel, it is what happens to the town that becomes the book's plot.  The breakdown in civilization, the loss of respect and democracy... that's the book's central storyline.  When Big Jim realizes that not everyone sees it his way, its then that he begins doing whatever, and I mean whatever, is necessary to ensure his own rule is followed. 

King stated in an interview that he thought of Dubya when he was writing the character of Big Jim, but honestly, all I could think of was He Who Must Not Be Re-Elected... who gives a rip how it affects anyone, this is what I think is best, so this is the way we are doing it. 

Anyway, its a huge book, but I'd rank it up there as one of King's modern classics, and one I'll probably read again in the next year or two (it stays on my iPod just in case...)

41... Z's Serves the Burgers
Sometimes the best food you can find is in a nondescript hole in the wall place you've passed by a thousand times but never noticed its existence... and that would be Chris Z's to a tee

Nestled on a corner near St. Vincent's hospital, sharing the same block, if not the same wall, with the empty building that used to be Golden Rule BBQ (take a left off of Red Mt Expressway/Hwy 31 as you are facing St. Vincents), it doesn't have very much parking, and in fact, the best way to get to it is to drive past it, turn left at the light and come around the entire structure.

Walking in, you can see immediately that its family owned and operated... covering the walls in almost every space are frames, frames with single pictures of family, frames with duo photos of more family, large frames with collages of a dozen or more pictures of family and friends.  Being my close friend Melanie's husband, you'll see pictures of Melanie and Chris together.  You'll see the Z kids, Jay Z, Special K and The Zach Attack.  You'll see lots of people that sort of look like their family, and you'll see friends that you might recognize... or not.  

The cafe itself is set with not more than a dozen tables, mostly because there is no room.  Come at lunch time, you'll be hard pressed to find an open chair, but if you are an experienced Chris Z eater, you'll know this and will plan for it--either come earlier or later, or get it to go, or just stand and eat like many patrons do.

The menu is typed out in a familiar Comic Sans font, with some scribble with a marker and some tape over certain things, those manual corrections that the owner doesn't have time to make in the form of a new menu... no, there is too much food to make.  And the food is aplenty.

Hot dogs cooked to perfection, topped with everything or nothing at all, your request.  And the cheeseburgers are fantastic... my personal favorite is a Chris Z burger with mayo, mustard and ketchup, and cheese splashed all over the fries.  The Chris Z burger was actually recently named by a local magazine to the be the best burger in town, and its a well deserved distinction.

And then there is dessert... a family owned recipe for cheesecake pie.  That piece of pie kinda deserves its own ranking among the coolest things of the year, almost like a #40 1/2 spot... its amazing.  I've had cheesecake in six different states, ranging everywhere from the Carnegie Deli in Manhattan to the Baltimore Harbor... and its the best cheesecake I've ever had.

Anyway, if you are in the St. Vincents area, and you find yourself hungry--or even if you just want to find something new, check 'em out.  They also serve breakfast, which is excellent too... and that's not to mention their Middle Eastern menu they have the first Friday of every month.  Its good, good stuff.  (you can click here for more info)

Coming up... Hide yo' kids!  Hide yo' wife!  Its more of the best of 2010, now that 2011 is half over!  Yeah!  More Disney!  A DFC Champion!  And startin' fires...
The Summer of Blogging, Day Twenty Two

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Jars and Jewel

This week's entry from the random emails of encouragement archives... I get inspirations for stuff in the weirdest places and at the weirdest times.  I guess that is what appears to be the randomness of God in my eyes, but is actually the plan of God coming to fruition.  How he can use a song on the radio and the desire to hear that song to eventually lead to the writing of a piece of encouragement is beyond me, but hey, He’s God and He can do that. 

This was written on June 22nd, 2001, ten years ago to the day, back when Jewel was relevant, Jars of Clay was popular, and Coconuts was in business...

So, here is "Jars and Jewel"...

Yes, I did end up finding this CD.  Ten years later, I think
I've listened to it... once?  Maybe twice...
So, let me preface this story to tell you why I was looking for "Pieces of You", the cd by Jewel in the first place... a few days ago, before I started my new job, I was lying in bed about to get up for the morning. It was around nine or so, when on the radio comes "You Were Meant for Me," by Jewel. The song makes me sigh, and brings back memories. I like the song, can't help it, plus, its been stuck in my head for a week. So there. That's why.

Now, the real story...

So, I'm in Coconuts today at lunch. I go there every two weeks or so, and flip through their used cds. Let me just plug them and say they have the absolute best used cd prices in town, better than CD Warehouse, better than Replays... you can find new and old stuff there cheap! Okay, back to my cd flipping. My main goal is to find 2 cds--Goo Goo Dolls "Dizzy Up the Girl", and Jewel's "Pieces of You". Why the Goo Goo Dolls? I love "Black Balloon", one of the saddest songs I've ever heard, plus its a really good album. Why Jewel? Well, you should have read that by now. I find "Dizzy Up the Girl" pretty quickly, for 6.99 mind you, and I go on a hunt for Jewel. I have seen "Pieces of You" there for as cheap at 3.99, so when I find it, that's what I'm expecting to pay for it. Maybe less. I told you, Coconuts was cheap.

Anyway, as luck would have it, the one time I actually AM looking for a Jewel cd, they don’t have it. Unbelievable. So I flip through some more cds and come across a cd that makes me shriek. I shrieked, in fact, loud enough for a Coconut's worker to turn to me and say, "Did you find anything you like?"

Speechless, I nodded my head to affirm. I picked up the cause of my joy, and was holding, with a mere 7.99 price tag on it, a cd by the band Jars of Clay. The cd was The White Elephant Sessions.

Let me explain. Jars of Clay, first of all, is a great band. Yeah, I know, I know, their first cd was the best, and I agree, but because Free at Last was dcTalk's best, that didn’t make Jesus Freak and Supernatural inferior products... same thing with Jars of Clay.

If you are a Jars fan (like Death Cab for Cutie, real
fans call them just "Death Cab"... real Jars of Clay
fans call them just "Jars"), then you need this in
your collection
The White Elephant Sessions is a cd they put out for promotion when they released "If I Left The Zoo", their latest album, back last year. On this cd is a few raw demo cuts of stuff that have appeared on their last two cds, Zoo and "Much Afraid". It's got some stuff they did in college, some early studio works they have done, and songs you wont find on anything anywhere else. Maybe Napster.

I've been searching for a year for this cd... on eBay, I bid on it once, but when the price got to be over 25 dollars, I gave up. Its not a spectacularly good cd, but its just hard to find. You gotta work to get it. Anyone can walk up to Lifeway, Wal-Mart, even Coconuts (their first cd was 3.99, Much Afraid was 5.99) and get any of the other Jars of Clay stuff... but you gotta work to find The White Elephant Sessions.

Same thing with God. Wait, I know I just lost some of you, but here me out.

I don’t want to minimize the importance or the experience, but face it, it's not that hard to become a Christian. But, as I have often said, there is a difference in being a Christian and being Godly. Christianity requires a belief that Jesus died on that cross for the fact you and I are a couple of schmoe sinners. But to be godly, to be a true man or woman of God... well, that requires a Christian that is disciplined, obedient, evangelistic, grounded in Scripture, faithful and prayerful.

Anyone who believes that Jesus died for them can walk up and get the CD of Grace and Peace that God has for them. But you have to take the extra effort to receive the Box Set of blessings God has for the godly. Do you see the connection I'm trying to make? I'm not saying God loves the godly more than the lukewarm Christian... but the godly will have more blessings because God promised them to those who follow Him.

Don't just settle for the Jars of Clay cds that everyone has... or the blessings that come with being a Christ follower... hunt, search, seek, find that White Elephant cd... and the treasures God has for you in being not just a Christian, but a Man or Woman of God.

Besides, God is tells us in His Word...

Sing with me...

You were meant for Me... and I... was meant for you...

Sorry, couldn't help it.

He will save your soul

The Summer of Blogging Day Twenty One

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Condor, Elevator Drama and a God of Thunder

So, here are some random films I've seen that I wanted to review...

Personally, I was not excited to see this movie.  I just wasn't.  In Marvel Comics, I'm a huge, huge X-Men fan, and I love The Fantastic Four.  I also enjoy The Avengers (thus, a love for Iron Man) and I dig Spider-man as well... but even though Thor is a member of The Avengers, I wasn't really pumped for this one.  Never been a big fan of Thor and his mythology...

That being said, I did enjoy the puddin' out of this movie.  Taking place on the mythological realm of Asgard, King Odin (Anthony Hopkins) is protecting the Nine Realms of the Universe, of which Earth is one.  Thor, Odin's son, is set to ascend to the throne when all sorts of things go bad, including an attack of The Frost Giants (a name so stupid its actually kinda cool, no pun intended) and a set-up for failure by Thor's brother Loki.  Anyone who knows the comics at all knows that Loki is bad news, so I know I'm not ruining it for anyone really. 

Thor ends up getting banned, and through a porthole in space (perhaps the best way to travel through dimensions), he ends up in New Mexico, right in the backyard of scientist Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) and her fellow scientists Darcy (Kat Stevens) and Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard).  Of course, all sorts of comic booky things ensue, and if you don't like X-Men, Spidey or Iron Man, you won't like this one...

However comma

Its a great movie.  Chris Helmsworth is fantastic as Thor, and Tom Hiddleston is perfect as the weaker, yet smarter Loki.  The effects are quite stunning, with the color and splendor of Asgard, the superhero explosions and superpowers you'd expect to find in a super hero movie, and to top it all off, the story is solid too.  Again, I wasn't expecting nearly as much as I got out of the movie. 

Even Natalie Portman was good--yes, we know she's a good actress, yes, we know she won an Oscar for "Black Swan", but in movies that aren't serious, she tends to mail her performance in (see:  prequels, Star Wars), but she actually isn't that bad.  Of course, there is stuff at the end of the credits, so stick around for that...

Something fun too, if you see the very end scene after Iron Man 2's credits, you'll see Thor's hammer, and if you look close, there's a little red truck.  You'll be able to spot that same red truck in a fun little scene near the beginning of the film--and there is even an Avenger cameo (look for the guy trying to take out Thor in the rain).

Bottom line... if you liked Iron Man and the Marvel Comics stories, you'll enjoy this one as well.

M. Night Shimalamala is at it again... this one, from the "mind" of M. Night Shimalamala, though directed by John Dowdle (who also directed the epic Quarantine, sarcasm included for free).   Now, after "The Village", I am a little wary about anything that M. Night Shimalamala comes up with... granted, "Lady in the Water", while no masterpiece, was actually a decent film, I will say "The Happening" should have never happened.  That movie was an atrocity of American cinema, so bad that its star, Mark Wahlberg, denounced it. 

One of the five is The Devil in human form.  Can you
guess who?  If you watch the movie, you kinda figure
it out.
Of course, "The Last Airbender" was also a commercial failure, and I personally have no interest in seeing it... but then, there's "Devil".

The premise is, five people are on an elevator when it stops... they each have a past, they each have sins they either are committing or have committed and haven't atoned for... the movie actually starts out with a narration that tells you that when he (the narrator) was a kid, his mama would tell him the story of The Devil.  The Devil would seek out individuals who have sinned on Earth, and take the form of a human, make his presence known by a death (the suicide at the beginning of the movie), then trap these individuals in a confined space (an elevator), make them turn on each other, and kill them off one at a time.  The last one to die will die in front of a loved one, but in the end, everyone dies. 

Thus begins our story... five people get into an elevator, and it gets stuck.  A detective is brought in due to the suicide, but he gets sucked into the elevator drama when bad things start happening in the elevator car.   And bad things start happening to the people who get sucked into the elevator drama.  Bad times all around, bad times indeed.

The movie itself isn't bad.  Its a tense film, with its suspenseful moment, though half way through I had deduced how it would probably turn out... moviegoers not as smart as I happen to be (wink wink) might not get it until closer to the end, but if you pay attention, you will figure it out long before the final moments.  Of course, the detective has his own backstory, and I just don't feel like I'm spoiling anything if I tell you that that backstory will intertwine at some point with the elevator drama.  It has to. 

Anytime one of the lead characters has something tragic happen to them in their lives, but happened to them before the movie takes place, more often than not that tragedy will directly affect their interaction with someone in that movie... sometimes even across multiple movies (as described in "Kung Fu Panda 2")
That's the way it works.

So, if you enjoy a suspenseful film with bad effects, kind of a hokey plot and a decent cast (I forgot to mention, the cast is actually solid... a bunch of no names and That Guys, but Bokeem Woodbine, Matt Craven and Chris Messina lead a great group), and a willingness to forget that according to The Word, this ain't how The Devil operates, then you might enjoy it. 

Just close your eyes when the words "PRODUCED BY M. NIGHT SHAMALAMALA" appear, and you'll feel better.

Don't ask me why I watched this movie.  And don't ask me while I took the time to actually get it delivered on Netflix... I think I just heard it was good, and I put it in my queue. 

And.... it was pretty good.  Story goes that Robert Redford is a CIA Researcher in New York who returns back to his office to find everyone there has been killed... and had he not taken a back way out of the office to avoid traffic, he would have been one of them.  Suddenly, he realized he can't trust anyone, and everywhere he turns, people are dying.  The only ally he ends up with is a woman he befriends, Kathy, played by Faye Dunaway. 

Released back in 1975, it was directed by the late Sydney Pollack, who also directed "The Firm", "Tootsie" and "Out of Africa", and it does have that very dated feel to it.  The movie seems like it drags on a bit too long, perhaps 20 minutes or so, but overall, not bad.

So, to sum up, if you are looking for a great flick to catch at a matinee, then go check out "Thor"... and if you are looking for anything to watch and find "Devil" on Starz, or "Three Days of the Condor" on AMC, then give it a few minutes.

The Summer of Blogging Day Twenty 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Super Movie

In a few words... best movie I've seen this year.

(don't worry... I wouldn't dream of spoiling this film for you, because if you haven't seen "Super 8", I truly want you to go see it for yourself... so most of what you will read below you can learn from watching the trailer...)

"Super 8" tells the story of Joe, a 13 year old kid who lost his mom in an accident, son of Jackson, who is a police officer in their little town of Lillian, Ohio, and is also grieving the loss of his wife, Joe's mom.  Quickly, we meet Joe's friends Charles, Preston, Martin and Cary, all--like my friends were and your friends were at that age as well--with their different characteristics and personalities, some good, some bad.

We also see that Charles is directing a film, using a Super 8 camera, and the movie kind of jumps right in the middle of the production of the kid's movie, and Charles has taken the gumption of bringing on one of the cutest girls in the school:  Alice Dainard.  And Alice's past and present are somehow intertwined with that of Joe, who really is the star of this movie.  Elle Fanning plays Alice, and she's awesome, leading to this exchange on The Deucecast Ep XI: The Lion, The Witch & the Podcast:

Me:  Elle Fanning was great in this part
Mikey:  Elle, I dare say, the better Fanning
Me:  Elle yes. 

Charles (far left) directs, while Alice (the only girl in the photo), Joe
(the kid next to Alice), Preston and Martin follow
So, while out filming a night scene in a location that they would be in extreme trouble for being in, not to mention the transportation they used to get there, there is a huge incident, things go horribly awry, and since by now our characters are established, the story takes off like a roller coaster who just crested a hill and is about to fly at 60 mph+.  (stick around long enough and you'll see the film they made in its completed form... and it might be better than "The Green Lantern" will be... just saying...)

The villain character comes in the form of Colonel Nelec, portrayed brilliantly by Noah Emmerich... Nelec is not a bad guy because he's evil, greedy or conniving... no, he's a bad guy because he just doesn't care, as long as his mission is accomplished--and by utilizing his "not caring" attitude, a lot of bad things happen to a lot of good people.  Emmerich is a character actor that you probably recognize from "The Truman Show" as Truman's best buddy, with a very distinctive face and voice, and though he's been in lots of other stuff you may or may not have seen him in, I am hoping this turn will give him more visible roles.

So, that's all the details I can tell you without giving away too much, and potentially spoiling the surprises and the genuine film "moments" in the movie.  When I say "moments", that's something that so many movies today, good and bad, fail to have.  Moments are those scenes, lines, or things that really just stand out, that make you smile, that make you think, "That's good..."  There are good films, even great, that lack "moments", but this one has several.

Another great thing about this movie is that you care about the characters, you truly give a darn.  You want the movie the kids are making to be good, if not cheesy and corny, you want Joe to figure out how to deal with his mother's death, you want father Jackson to treat his son better and be more understanding, and you want to know what was in that train.  You want to know what that camera saw.

"Super 8" is fantastic storytelling, it unfolds the drama piece by piece, solving one question while at times, asking another... its tense at times, but never scary, its a sci-fi movie at times, but never leaves its relational core.  The movie isn't about what was on that train... the movie is about the friendships of Joe, Charles and other kids and how they react to what was on that train, and as they all deal with their own lives, especially Joe's tragedy, and Alice's family dysfunction. 

One of the comparisons I hear is "Stand By Me", and that is a smart parallel, but only because of the relationships of the friends involved... you care about Teddy, Chris, Vern and Gordo more than you actually care about the dead body, even though the dead body is the reason you care about the four boys--"Super 8" has the same dynamic, even with a chick thrown in.   

Ron Eldard, left, and Noah Emmerich, the other side, will
hopefully be bigger stars than they are.
By the way, that's Ron Eldard as the dad to Alice, a guy you might have seen as one of the shuttle pilots in "Deep Impact", but like Noah Emmerich, his other work may not be as familiar ("Drop Dead Fred"?  "Ghost Ship"?  Seriously, can you tell me you honestly saw "The House of Sand and Fog"?), and I'm hoping that this will raise his stature.

There is some language in it, much of it by the kids being... well, kids.  There is an F-bomb right in the middle of the movie, though its kind of comical by who says it, and the violence is really just sci-fi violence.  I'm afraid to use the word I'm looking for, which is "alien-violence", because I don't want you to thinking, "Whatever, I'm not going to see some alien movie..." because its just not that... I mean, it is, but its not. 

To sum up, I loved the movie, as did The Lovely Steph Leann.  Go see it, in the theaters, don't wait for the DBDB release.  Get a big bag of fresh popcorn, a Co-cola and a pack'a Twizzlers, and enjoy a movie that was made for the movie-going experience... you might not have another movie all summer to give you such an opportunity.

The Summer of Blogging, Day Nineteen

Friday, June 17, 2011

Girls, Guys and ATMs

Here's something funny for the weekend... remember when we used to forward funny stuff to each other? 

1. Pull up to ATM

2. Insert card

3. Enter PIN and account

4. Take cash, card and receipt

5. Drive away


1. Pull up to ATM

2. Back up and pull forward to get closer

3. Shut off engine

4. Roll down window before you realize...

5. ...You are too far from the machine so you have to get out of the car

6. Hunt for card in purse

7. Insert card

8. Hunt in purse for grocery receipt with PIN written

9. Decipher PIN written messily on grocery receipt

10. Study instructions.

11. Hit "cancel"

12. Reenter correct PIN

13. Check balance

14. Look for envelope

15. Look in purse for pen

16. Make out deposit slip

17. Endorse checks

18. Make deposit

19. Study instructions

20. Make cash withdrawal

21. Get in car

22. Check makeup

23. Look for keys

24. Start car

25. Check makeup

26. Start pulling away

27. Stop

28. Back up to machine

29. Get out of car

30. Take card and receipt

31. Get back in car

32. Put card in wallet

33. Put receipt in checkbook

34. Enter deposits and withdrawals in checkbook

35. Clear area in purse for wallet and checkbook

36. Check makeup

37. Put car in reverse

38. Put car in drive

39. Drive away from machine

40. Drive 3 miles

41. Release parking brake

The Summer of Blogging, Day Eighteen

Thursday, June 16, 2011

June 17th, 1994

(I actually wrote this last year on this date, but didn't finish it... so I had to wait an entire year for this to be relevant again...)

I'm sitting and watching one of the most fascinating documentaries I've ever seen, and its something I didn't think about today until I saw it... "June 17th, 1994" is the name of show, part of ESPN's 30 for 30 series--that's 30 documentaries by 30 filmmakers celebrating the last 30 years of sports stories...

Anyway, this particular show is directed by Brett Miller, and it chronicles one of the most famous (infamous?) days in sports history, Friday, June 17, 1994... here's what happened on that one single day:

Arnold Palmer, one of the legends of golf, one of the pioneers of the game as we know it today (I don't follow golf, yet I know about Arnold Palmer) played his final round of major golf on June 17th, 1994.  Clips show him moving slowly, as he misses a three foot putt near the end of the round (he played on the senior tour until 2005, which he retired from pro golf altogether)

Ken Griffey Jr hit his 30th home run of the 1994 baseball season, a shot over the right field wall off of Kansas City's David Cone, tying the record for most home runs before the end of June set by Babe Ruth.  Griffey had potential to become one of the greatest of all time, before injuries slowed his career.  He retired last season as an almost surefire Hall-of-Famer.  The 1994 season ended in a baseball strike.

The New York Rangers had their Stanley Cup Parade on June 17th, 1994.  They had defeated the Vancouver Canucks (who, incidentally just lost to Boston in the only other finals they were in) in a seven game series to win their first Stanley Cup in their until-then 54 year history.  It remains their only one to date.

The World Cup's opening ceremonies were on June 17th, 1994, at Soldier Field in Chicago, IL.  It was the first, and to this day, only World Cup to be held in America.  Germany beat Bolivia 1-0 in the first game, but Brazil defeated Italy in the finals to become the first country to win four World Cups.

Tied 2-2, the Houston Rockets and New York Knicks had Game Five of their seven game final series on June 17th, 1994, and for anyone who is a fan of the NBA, it was a monumental series.  Patrick Ewing, in his first NBA finals, looking to get the Knicks their first trophy since 1973, while Hakeem Olajuwon was in his prime.  The Rockets won this series 4-3, and would go on to sweep Shaq's Orlando Magic the following season for back-to-back titles.

And... there's OJ Simpson.

On my previous 9/11 posts, I've mentioned that there are certain moments in time, in the world of entertainment, history and the like, that you'll always remember where you were.  I'm too young to remember JFK's assassination, or even Reagan's assassination attempt (the former being 12 years before my time, the latter happening when I was only 4 or 5), two "Where Were You When...?" moments in history, but I remember four major events...

  • I was in Mrs. Wikel's class when the Challenger exploded in January 1986 (and I was driving back from my very first day at Starbucks when the Columbia exploded in 2003, though that's not talked about a lot)
  • I was at the beach with Darlene Bledsoe, Eddie Hamner and Margaret Dorman when Princess Diana was killed.
  • I was working at WBPT, 106.9 The Point, with Rob & Shannon, when we discovered the World Trade Center was on Fire
  • And, finally, I was working as a waiter between the summers of my freshman and sophomore year in college at The Wright Place in Samson, AL, set to turn on Game 5 of the NBA finals to play in the background while the diners ate, when CNN Headline News (my news channel of choice being a young Democrat at that time), announced that NFL Hall of Famer, Heisman Trophy Winner and movie personality Orenthal James Simpson was in the back of a white Bronco, being driven by who is thought to be friend and teammate Al Cowlins, and is on the verge of suicide--a warrant had been issued for his arrest that morning for the murders of his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. 
In this TMZ influenced, interweb crazy, know-anything-about-anyone-the-instant-it-happens Twitter kind of society that we live in, people who are say, 25 and under, don't get it.  They only know of OJ Simpson by what the interweb and Wiki tells them happened, but back on June 17th, 1994, when there was no interweb accessable, when there was no Facebook and Twitter to immediately let you know things as they occurred, what happened that evening with OJ was... surreal.  Unthinkable.  And like an overturned 18 wheeler burning on the side of the road, you couldn't not watch it, even though you know you had so many other things to do.  Let me tell ya, this was crazy stuff. 

Now, OJ Simpson is a punchline.  Everything from "Yeah, he's searching every golf course in this country for Nicole's killers!" to "I hope he knows how to do that Hertz airport thing in prison" is what you hear when OJ's name is brought up, but back then?  He was beloved.  No kidding.  Its kinda like the difference in Michael Jackson then (biggest pop star in the entire world) and now (freak of nature, not to mention dead). 

For today's culture, it would be like hearing the news that Kobe Bryant had committed rape and... wait, what?  Okay, um... it would be like hearing the news that Tom Brady had committed two homicides... golden boy, talented, loved and adored, and completely shocked that he'd do that.  (Had I written this post two years ago, on June 17th, 2009, "Tiger Woods" would have been the easy choice in that analogy, but now, not so much).  OJ played at USC, then was drafted by the Buffalo Bills, and later played for the San Francisco 49ers.  In addition to becoming the first player to ever run for 2,000 yards in a single season (finished with 2,003 in 1973) he did it in a 14 game season, as opposed to the 16 game season we have now.  OJ is also the only player to rush for over 200 yards in six different games in his career.  Because his nickname was "The Juice", the Bills offensive line was known as "The Electric Company".  They weren't very good, but that's a cool, cool nickname.  And in 1985, he was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame... the same year he married his second wife, Nicole Brown (they divorced in 1992)

He started his entertainment career even before he was done with the NFL, starring in such movies as "The Towering Inferno" and "Capricorn One", and in the miniseries "Roots", he hosted Saturday Night Live once, he was in a memorable and legendary spot for Hertz Rent-a-Car, and of course, he was the one and only Nordberg in all three The Naked Gun films.   Bottom line is, this guy was awesome.  OJ was the man.

And then, June 17th, 1994 happened. 

A few days before Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman were found guilty outside of Brown's condo, apparently stabbed to death.  Police suspected OJ Simpson, and gave him until 11am, Friday, June 17th, to turn himself in.  By 2pm, the police had issued at APB for OJ, and at 5pm, Robert Kardashian...

(remember the days when Kardashian was somewhat of a respectable name?  At least it meant "lawyer".  And yes, he is the biological father of Khloe, Kim and Kourtney, with ex-wife Kris Jenner.  Where was I?)

Oh yeah.. Kardashian read a rambling letter issue by OJ, which sounded like a suicide note to many people.  At 645pm, police spotted OJ's white Ford Bronco traveling down I-405, but when they tried to pull it over, the driver--Al Cowlings--yelled that OJ had a gun to his own head.   They backed off, but continue to follow at around 35 miles per hour.  And so began this slow chase across Southern California, one that was picked up by just about every network, and cut in on all programming.   So here I am, 18, going on 19, waiting tables at a small, podunk restaurant, and every eye in the cafe are glued to the television.

The white Bronco continues, and people began gathering along the side streets and bridges, waving, cheering and holding up signs.  There were phone calls made from the SUV claiming there were guns, claiming there were death threats, and OJ yelling that he didn't do it.  The Bronco stopped in front of his Brentwood, CA, home where we watched it sit there for 45 minutes, we watched OJ go inside for an hour (and apparently spoke to his mother and actually drank a glass of orange juice), then come out and surrender to police.  Inside the Bronco, the police recovered $8,000 cash, some clothes, a passport, some pictures.... and a loaded .357 magnum and a fake moustache and gotee.   Thus ended a news story and low-speed chase that was watched by NINETY FIVE MILLION PEOPLE.  That's almost the amount of people who came to the first DeuceFest!

If you don't remember the results, the trial captivated the country a few years later, mostly because it was a ridiculous circus type event that Judge Lance Ito lost control over within the first few days.  And then on October 3rd, around 10am, the verdict came... I remember this day vividly too, because I was hanging out in the BCM when Joey Hinson, who lived in the apartment downstairs with Tad Roose, came out and yelled to no one in particular, "Hey!  The OJ verdict is about to be announced!" 

Several of us ran downstairs to hear the verdict, and all of us groaned.  Not guilty.  He got away with it.  I won't go into it here, but there is a mountain of evidence that was never even presented in the trial for one reason or another (like the contents of the Bronco), plus a whole lot of goofs by both sides.  Some years later, he was sued by the Goldman family, and a verdict of guilty was returned, with a penalty of $33,500,000 against OJ, but California law prevents pensions, like the his from the NFL, to be used in judgements, so all the Goldmans got was about $500K from the sale of OJ's estate and belongings.

When doing the cover art, The Goldman Family
had the "IF" reduced, so "I DID IT" would be
the only words you'd see clearly
After a 2000 Rolling Stone article was released revealing how much money OJ was making from signing autographs, he moved from California to Florida--where the law prevents an estate from being taken to collect a debt... OJ gets away again.

He skirted another judgement in January 2007 when a restraining order was dismissed, one that would have prevented him from spending any advance money from a cancelled book deal... one that had its rights auctioned off later that year, and was then awarded to the Goldman Family... the book was called "If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer". 

After all the skirting and escaping he had done legally, you'd think OJ would buy a house on the beach somewhere and settle down, maybe just be quiet.  But OJ strikes again--in September of 2007, a group of men led by OJ stormed into a Vegas hotel room and robbed the occupants at gunpoint.  He was arrested, and after all the other defendants turned on OJ and confessed against him for reduced sentences, OJ was convicted in September of 2008.

And in a huge "MY BAD, DAWG... HERE'S THE MAKE UP" from the United States Justice System, OJ Simpson was sentenced to 33 years in prison, with the possibility of parole in 9 years (2015).  He's in the Locklove Correctional Center in Nevada... inmate #1027820.

And thus ends the long, strange saga of OJ Simpson.  I'm afraid that nowadays, there are people out there who probably think he was railroaded, and completely innocent, not because of their beliefs in the evidence and trial, but because... well, so much time has gone by, its becoming a faded memory.

But not for me.  I'll remember June 17th, 1994. 

The Summer of Blogging, Day Seventeen