Thursday, September 29, 2011

50/50: 100% Great

This review is written about two hours after the we arrived home from seeing the movie.  Its a little scattered, because I'm sleepy and I'm also distracting by watching ESPN's "Catching Hell", a documentary about the Steve Bartman incident in 2003, which by the way, this doc is cotton picking awesome.  Anyway, hope you get the sense of my thoughts of this movie, even though its all over the place. 

Adam works for Seattle Public Radio, working on a piece about a volcano, living a humdrum life, dating the quite stunning Rachael, best buddies with Kyle and is simply enjoying his life as is.

(cue screeching record needle on record)

Until, of course, he discovers he has cancer.  A serious, excessive, painful cancer that will kill him without chemo and ultimately major surgery that may not even work.

And so is the story of "50/50", a film written somewhat autobiographically by Will Reiser, a guy who had, and beat, cancer.  He is also good friends with Seth Rogen, who stars as Kyle, along side of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's portrayal of Adam.

Adam and Rachael are together, but Kyle hates her.  So things
go bad fast.
Adam tries to keep his life in some semblance of order after he gets his diagnosis, which doesn't help when his girlfriend Rachael, makes some pretty bad choices... I truly don't think I'm ruining anything, because from the very beginning, you get an uneasy sense that this isn't going to go well, and Bryce Dallas Howard's performance as Rachael is just great.

Another surprise in this film is Philip Baker Hall (Alan) and Matt Frewer (Mitch), two That Guys that join Adam in chemo, and add humor, warmth and even more heart as they compare cancer notes and issues.  Their scene in the backyard, perhaps off putting by the weed going around, is still awesome.

The Lovely Steph Leann and I procured free passes to a special sneak of this film, meeting up with my buddy Mikey and my other buddy Shawn, and I gotta tell ya, this film was absolutely fantastic.

Kyle (Rogen) has a hard time adjusting too, but turns it into a positive after learning the cancer helps both of them get digits from chicks, get dates and meet lots and lots of women.  Seth Rogen's last leading role was a disaster ("Observe and Report"), but here in a supporting role in "50/50", he's perfect.

The duo of Rogen and Gordon-Levitt works really well, you believe them as best friends, and though you really don't find out how they became friends or how long, there is a line that tells you they've been friends since high school, giving you the indication that its been a while.  When Adam finally has a realization of what is happening to him, and what might happen to him once that surgery happens, its some of the finest acting on Gordon-Levitt's part that I've seen in a while.  Seth Rogen is also brilliant here, because as the dorky, skirt-chasing but big hearted best friend, he doesn't know what to do, he's just speechless.

Anna Kendrick is awesome.  She's no Amy Adams (whom I'm in love with)
but she is still awesome.
The only two predictable moments in the movie to me really was that Adam's relationship with Rachael would go bad, and that when Adam's therapist, Katherine (played by the wonderful Anna Kendrick), enters the picture, you know there is a spark there.  I won't tell you how, or even if, that spark is played out, but you know there is a connection there, predictably.

Adam's father, suffering from Alzheimer's, is being taken care of by his mother, played well by Anjelica Huston, who goes all emotional when she finds out, and becomes the smothering mother that he has to deal with, amongst other things.

The iconic moment of the movie,
or at least the movie poster.
  As Adam starts to shave his
head, he asks Kyle, "What
do you use this for?"  Kyle shrugs.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in a fair world, would be sniffing an Oscar nomination, at the least a Golden Globe nod, because his performance is awesome.  I love this guy in "Inception", as his character is one of the coolest cats out there, but he tops himself in "50/50".  I enjoy Seth Rogen being goofy in any number of movies, but his semi-serious turn that he couldn't nail in "Funny People" is nailed here.  Bryce Dallas Howard doesn't have a huge role, but does it right, while Anna Kendrick shines as Katherine, just like she does as Natalie in "Up In the Air", a movie which is quickly becoming one of my all time favorites.

Loved this film, one of the best I've seen this year... however, this movie is not for kids, as the language flows pervasive and free flowing, and there is a few uses of the Mary Jane plant... there is one sex scene, though you really don't see anything, and it ends a little different than you would think, almost in a sympathetic fashion.  Its about an hour forty-five or so, maybe a little less, but it is paced really well and honestly, its one of those rare movies that I didn't want to end.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The CD Adventures of Winnie the Pooh

First of all, let me say... "Winnie the Pooh" is wonderful.  I mean, absolutely wonderful.

For those fans of classic Disney Animation, or those of you who are fans of the old school Pooh, not this preschool abomination that is on Playhouse Disney, with that stupid Darby chick, where the animation is all computerized and clunky and the stories are on the level of a 3 year old... okay, well, I guess that's on purpose... but anyway, this is Pooh how he should be.  And Eeyore.  And Owl.  And Kanga & Roo.  And Rabbit.  And of course, Tigger... and Christopher Robin is back in his tussled hair, shorty short and yellow shirtyness.

Here's the trailer for "Winnie the Pooh", using Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know".  Even though this song wasn't in the actual film, its use in the trailer is brilliant.

In our story, Eeyore has lost his tail (again).  And so the gang goes on a mission to replace the tail, and Pooh just wants some lunch--that would be in the form of honey.  Along the way, though, due to a misunderstanding (and to Owl's pompousness--Craig Ferguson does a great job here), they end up preparing themselves for a scary creature named The Backson which brings in a memorable and fun musical number.

The characters also utilize the fact that they are in a story, namely in an actual book, as the letters on "the page" are acknowledged and even used in a desperate situation in the film.

If you remember early Pooh stories, mostly from the compilation film "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh", they are simple yet smart, simply drawn yet beautifully drawn, with a story that's easy to understand, yet funny, warm and adult enough to keep the older folk entertained... that is, if you want to be entertained.

Don't go into "Winnie the Pooh" expecting a Pixar movie.  Don't think you'll see "The Incredibles" or "Finding Nemo" here, but in its own way, "Pooh" is just as good.  There's no CGI, though computers were used for some of the animation, but much of it is traditionally hand drawn--and this will grow into an absolute Disney Classic, as it should.  Its wonderful.

I loved this movie, and had this movie come out two years later, I could totally see this being the first movie for Lorelei Addision or Campbell Isaiah, especially with its short 65 minute running time.  And yes, we'll be purchasing this on home video when its available.

The other thing I enjoyed about this movie was the music... actress and singer Zooey Deschanel steps in to sing three songs, and is awesome.  I'm not that familiar with Zooey's music, though I do know she is in a musical duo called She & Him (her partner in S&H is M. Ward, who also helped with music for Pooh), who was featured on a previous episode of The Deucecast.

Anyway, she's great.  My favorite is "So Long", featured in the video, but she also does a super version of the Pooh theme song, and another song called "A Very Important Thing to Do"... and "The Backson Song" is so much doggone fun.  I know that we had a CD Purge a few weeks back, but darn it, I want this soundtrack for my very own.  I want this CD.

I'd been nosing around for it, usually when I go into Best Buy or Target or Wal-Mart, I'll step to the Soundtrack section, or Kids music, and have been doing this since mid-August, but alas, I've seen nary a copy.  Even at 2nd & Charles, my new favorite place to buy and sell used CDs and movies, there have been no sightings of it.  (just as an aside, its somewhat slightly surreal to see a CD that you used to own on a sale rack, with a price tag on it, knowing that since they are selling it for $3.49, you probably were paid about 36 cents for it...)

Tonight, The Lovely Steph Leann and I were enjoying a tasty dinner at Zoe's Kitchen (they returned my man card as I was leaving) at The Summit, and remembered there was a Coconut's nearby.  Coconuts used to be my home for used CDs, but all the locations I knew of closed except for this one single store.  After dinner, I drove over, parked and ran in quickly--The Lovely Steph Leann elected to stay in the car, as I could have run in and out in the time it took her to get from the car to the front door.

I finally found it.  But not used.  New.  And Coconuts, for all the great prices they have on used CDs completely sucks it up when it comes to new ones.  The price?  $17.99.  I cannot remember the last time I paid for than say, $14 for any CD of any kind, much less $17.99 for this.  Disappointed, I sighed and put it back and ambled back to the car.

"Didn't have it?" she asked as I started the car and backed out of the spot.
"No, they did, but it was $17.99, and I wasn't about to pay that for any CD," I replied.
"Can you download it on iTunes?" she asked.
"Well, yeah.. but... " I started... and I guess I should.  But I just don't want to.  I want the actual CD.

Do you know what I mean?  In this digital age where its easy to have 15,613 songs on an iPod (like I do), I sometimes lament the loss of the physical CD.  Not always, but sometimes.  In our CD purge, over 300 CDs lost their cases, with the jackets and the discs going in the CD book, the plastic cases being tossed and recycled.  But sometimes, you just want to hold the case.  While driving in the car, open the case, pull the disc out and insert it into your CD player.

Or, if you are old school, open that case, pull the disc out and insert it into a small stereo, or your computer or your DVD player for playing.  Certain CDs, you just don't want to scroll up and down on your circle pad on the mp3 player, or plug into the AUX port in the car or whatever.

I brought up the fact that The Lovely Steph Leann has a Nook, and she's mentioned before that she sometimes likes have a book in her hand, being able to bend the cover back, break the spine to show that its been read, to flip the physical pages and such... she sighed, and said, "Yeah, but I guess I've made the transition."

Perhaps its the same thing that our grandparents went through, watching our parents pass up vinyl for 8 tracks, or cassettes, or passing up .45s for cassette singles.  Watching some parents, maybe older siblings passing up or transitioning from those same cassettes to CDs.  And now, we are making conscious decisions to move from larger CDs and clunky, space consuming CD towers to music on mp3 players, saved on our computers, all on our hard drive, playable at the click of an iPod wheel or the press of a triangle in iTunes.

I hope that Lorelei and/or Campbell know what its like to put a CD in a CD player.  And if I'm lucky, they'll but putting their copy of The Winnie the Pooh Soundtrack CD in a CD player.

But not for $17.99.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Silliness of Star Wars

Friday, one of the most beloved--and criticized, perhaps even overhyped--franchises in the history of movie was released on Blu-Ray for the first time. And I though I didn't purchase it (oh, believe me, I wanted to, but I decided to make grown up decisions about my money), it still flew off of the shelves at Best Buy, Target and Wal-Mart, as I was greeted by empty spaces amongst those poorly constructed Empire or Jedi cardboard stands.

But to celebrate the Star Wars release date, I wanted to post the following... I took this from
Entertainment Weekly's Darrin Franich, about a love of Star Wars, yet a yearning to see all the hype about vitriol about George Lucas go away--not to defend the man, but to simply say, "Seriously guys... it wasn't that great of a movie..." Hurricane Rhett, this is for you... Franich writes:

When I say that it’s time for us to stop caring so much about Star Wars, I want you to understand: When I was a kid, my obsession with Star Warswas all-encompassing. I had the original trilogy memorized — not just the lines, but the sound effects. I had a massive collection of Star Wars action figures: the Ewok village, the Y-Wing fighters, the Empire Strikes Back-era rendition of Han Solo, when he was wearing that awesome blue jacket. I collected Star Wars comics, Star Wars fan magazines, Star Wars T-shirts. I lost track of how many times I played through Shadows of the Empire on my Nintendo 64. In fifth grade, I had only one real goal in life: To write a series of books for the Star WarsExpanded Universe. The books were going to star Davin Felth, the stormtrooper who says “Look sir, droids!” in the first movie. (I can’t tell you why, exactly, I was so fascinated by such a minor character. Maybe it was his initials.)

What I’m trying to say is that Star Wars simply was my childhood. I didn’t have many friends, and I couldn’t play sports, so my obsession was splashed with a massive dollop of yearning. I wanted so badly to live in the Star Wars universe. Which meant that, for a young me, George Lucas was more than just my idol: He was a walking representation of transcendence.

And, as it happened, I wasn’t the only one who felt that way: When I was an adolescent, the God-Cult of George Lucas was a massive cultural force. There was a Star Wars exhibit at the National Air and Space Museum. You couldn’t walk through a philosophy section of a bookstore without seeing at least five books describing how Star Wars was a modern myth, how George Lucas was heavily influenced by Joseph Campbell, how Carl Jung was all overThe Empire Strikes Back. Since the ’90s were a miserable time for sci-fi/fantasy movies —Lost in Space, Dragonheart, Wing Commander — the promise of more Star Wars films just over the horizon made Lucas seem (to my young, naive eyes) like the anointed savior of the cinema.

Like every other science-fiction-loving movie fan from my generation and earlier, I can pinpoint the specific day that I lost my innocence: May 19, 1999, the day Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace opened in theaters.

There was already an anti-George Lucas movement growing in the dark corners of the Internet after the 1997 Special Editions: You know, Greedo shooting first, that ridiculous Wampa costume, the bizarre choice to make the Sarlacc Pit look like a refugee from Little Shop of Horrors. But Episode I cemented a whole Star Wars counter-myth, best expressed in the eternal cry of the betrayed Star Wars fanboy: “George Lucas raped my childhood.” That’s a sentiment that returns to the spotlight every couple years, usually when a new version of Star Wars hits DVD with additional “corrections.” Certainly, it’s the most common response to the news — reported yesterday by EW — that the new Blu-ray version of Return of the Jedi will feature Darth Vader melodramatically screaming “Nooooo!”

Believe me, there is a big part of me that wants to join the chorus of betrayed fans. But why? Why am I so angry at the man who was responsible for some of the major formative moments in my existence? Studying various Star Wars encyclopedias was a gateway drug for enjoying actual genuine history books. Watching the films on repeat taught me basic film grammar. Star Wars made me love science-fiction, so I have to thank George Lucas for indirectly pointing me onwards to Philip K. Dick, to Iain M. Banks, to Robert Heinlein and Orson Scott Card and every other great S.F. author. George Lucas can’t ruin my childhood, because my childhood already happened.

And that, I think, is why all the George Lucas hatred is fundamentally misplaced — and, in fact, why my initial gut-reaction (“Screw you, George!”) reflects much worse on me. The reason why our first response is to hate George Lucas is not because Lucas is ruining our childhoods. Far from it. Lucas is, perhaps accidentally, forcing us to admit two things: First, that our childhoods are over; and second, that the things we enjoy when we are children tend to be silly.

Because make no mistake: Star Wars is extremely, extremely silly.

I want to stress: Silliness is not a bad thing. Silly things can be important, and even profound. The first Star Wars film is a near-perfect work of propulsive silliness: funny robots and ninja-priests who speak from beyond the grave and big scary space-weapons that can blow up planets. The second Star Warsfilm is a genuinely perfect Hollywood entertainment, a work of narrative schadenfreude that merrily chops our beloved heroes down to size. And then there’s Return of the Jedi, which is basically an extended episode of The Muppets.

I’m not insulting any of these movies, but you have to understand that Star Wars is the rare long-running science-fiction series that doesn’t really have any Big Ideas at its core. The whole Light Side/Dark Side dichotomy is so vague that it could essentially apply to anything: The Cold War, the American political system, Pong. Lucas famously attempted to sprinkle a Big Idea into the Star Wars prequels — the rise of reactionary fascism in a republican democracy — but the metaphor was simultaneously too on the nose and too cluttered by narrative doggerel. The early movies don’t need Big Ideas. They are fun, and fun can never be overrated. (I guess you could argue that the “Idea” of Star Wars is just very elemental: “You should be a good person, because good is more powerful than evil.” But that’s not an idea; it’s a Sunday School lesson plan.)

But we have to stop confusing the fun of Star Wars with the abstract notion of cinematic perfection. Unfortunately, we live in an era of nostalgia, and nostalgia makes everything look profound, especially the stupid things you enjoyed when you were a kid. Take Return of the Jedi. Jedi is a bad movie by every measure, but I loved it when I was a kid, because when I was a kid I was much stupider than I am now, because kids are stupid. When I saw the Special Editions in theaters, the only tweak that bothered me was the deletion of “Yub-Nub”from the film’s finale. “Yub-Nub” is a terrible song. Kids are stupid. I purchased every issue of Kevin J. Anderson’s “Tales of the Jedi” cycle, even though the characters were all lame and the plot was pretty dull. Kids are stupid. Once, I put my finger on a lit stove just to see what it would feel like. Kids are stupid.

I’m reminded of an incredible section in Sir Alec Guinness’ memoir, My Name Escapes Me: The Diary of a Retiring Actor, in which he describes his feelings on the Star Wars franchise:

A refurbished Star Wars is on somewhere or everywhere. I have no intention of revisiting any galaxy. I shrivel inside each time it is mentioned. Twenty years ago, when the film was first shown, it had a freshness, also a sense of moral good and fun. Then I began to be uneasy at the influence it might be having. The first bad penny dropped in San Francisco when a sweet-faced boy of twelve told me proudly that he had seen Star Wars over a hundred times. His elegant mother nodded with approval. Looking into the boy’s eyes I thought I detected little star-shells of madness beginning to form and I guessed that one day they would explode.

Guinness was a real actor. He was in freaking Bridge on the River Kwai, a thrilling entertainment that is also a bitter, fascinating meditation on war. So we Star Wars fans should, perhaps, pay more attention to him than we typically do. Guinness begged the little fanboy to never see Star Wars ever again; when he wrote the memoir, he expressed his hope that the little boy, “now in his thirties, is not living in a fantasy world of secondhand, childish banalities.”

But in a way, that’s exactly what happened to popular culture. We’ve all become so obsessed with the notion that the original Star Wars films were perfect and wonderful and original, and mean old George Lucas just keeps on changing them. In turn, we all believe that the next great action-adventure franchise is just around the corner. When franchises disappoint us — when X-Men and Spider-Man and The Matrix and Pirates of the Caribbean all descend into big-budgeted inanity — we might be angry at the filmmakers, but we never stop to question our basic presumption: That big, dumb action trilogies can be anything more than big, dumb action trilogies.

I think that it is time to put away childish things. Time to admit that Star Wars — like fruit snacks and Nickelodeon — should perhaps be left behind in our adolescence. There is no shame in changing your mind about something, and come on, can you really trust someone who hasn’t evolved beyond a first-grade level? The reason why we hate George Lucas is because we are George Lucas: Eternally obsessed with putting a spit-shine on films from long ago, insisting that Star Wars is the modern myth, and so it can never stop evolving.

There will always be generations of children who love Return of the Jedi, but there should also be generations of adults who admit that Return of the Jedi is awful — yes, even without the added “Nooooo!” Star Wars was never perfect, and will never be perfect. That dream is already behind us. We will never be kids again, so maybe it’s time to just grow the hell up.

And that's Darren French. Enjoy.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

As It Happened

September 11th, ten years later.  I posted the following in 2009, and it was a hugely popular post, and a great reminder of the day.

Click here to go to the "As It Happened" post. 

Note to Facebook users, please click over to Clouds in My Coffee, as the videos will not show up on Facebook.  Thanks

Friday, September 09, 2011

The Eulogy for Mom

This is the eulogy, written by me in room 201 of the Opp Inn Best Western at 1035pm on Thursday, September 8th, for my dear mum, Velma Dollar.  Read at her funeral, Friday, September 9th, at 2pm.

Thanks to all the family and friends who have come out tonight... it's kind of a lose-lose situation for those of us who loved Mom, because while she'd be happy you were here, she would be irritated at all of us for causing such a fuss over her.

Jan asked me to write the eulogy some time ago, and even until yesterday, I was struggling with what to say.  But after talking with the family and the people that loved her yesterday, I was able to do it quickly.

I got the call Tuesday morning that Mom had passed away.

I work in a coffee shop in Birmingham, AL, where my wife and I live.  There had been severe storms in the area over those few days, and the power was out in many neighborhoods, making our little store the place to be for breakfast and coffee... meaning, we were quite busy all morning long.  So when my phone rang, I wasn't able to take the call.  I continued working, intending on checking the message as soon as I could.

But when the phone rang again... and then for a third, then fourth time in a row, I knew.  I knew it had happened.  I asked to leave the floor, and quickly went to call back.  And I heard what I knew I would hear... "Momma just passed away."  It wasn't unexpected, mind you, she had been sick for a while, had been in and out of the hospital for some time now.  But it was still painful.  I sat on the backroom floor, next to a grungy mop sink and I cried for a few minutes.  Because the woman who raised me was gone.

But oh what a life she lived.   At almost 80 years old, she lived a full life, perhaps a hard life sometimes, maybe an unexciting life but a full life nonethless.  But if I could describe her life in one word, and one word only, I would say this word.  Love.  Because, you see, its not a stretch to say she was our family matriarch, she was the center tree in a forest full of kids, grandkids, uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews and more.

She loved.

She loved many things.  She loved her NASCAR.  She loved watching racing on Sunday afternoons, watching grown men making left turns for three hours.  She had the opportunity to go to a race once, and she loved it so, so much, though she told me it was 3 hours of racing, and 3 hours of trying to leave the parking lot.

She loved her sewing and her gardening.  One of the jokes I told my friends was that she could make a stone grow into a beautiful plant, harvest those leaves and knit you a quilt with them, while turning the stems into a casserole that would melt in your mouth.  In her later years, she was unable to sew those quilts, those coasters, those pot holders, and kneel in her garden and it saddened her greatly... because she loved doing those things.

She loved her TV shows... as a kid, I remember sitting up late with her on the couch and watching Night Court, laughing at jokes that I didn't fully understand until years later.  She loved her Wheel of Fortune, she loved her game shows, she loved her country music, she loved her Phase 10 and her Skip Bo.  She loved those things.

She loved being real.  She didn't put up a front for anyone, she was who she was, and she didn't put up with anyone who did try to be fake.  Once, I brought home some friends from college and in a rousing game of Phase 10, one of my friends decided it would be a good idea to skip Mama Dollar--that's what all the friends called her.  She glared at him, then called him a Poop-Butt, only she had a more colorful term for it.  And in those two expletives, he felt love because she said it with such a friendly smile, and such a warm spirit.  She loved being real with people.

She loved walking up to the library and sitting and talking with Mrs. Susie... she loved talking a stroll to the IGA supermarket for some light groceries... she loved sitting on her front porch, waving at cars that would drive by as some teenager she didn't recognize would yell "Hey Mom!"... she loved having my friends like Chris and Greg and Tonya come over so she could laugh with them, sometimes at them... she loved going up to The Wrights for dinner... She loved them.


She loved her husband.  She loved John, my dad, with all of her heart.  They met later in their life, but she loved him with a ferocity that couldn't be matched.  Despite his flaws, despite his failures, despite his later years where he began to forget, where he began to end, she loved him until his dying day.  She would say that she dreamed about him coming to see her, to the point that she was convinced she was awake when he visited.  Who am I to tell her she's wrong.

She loved her brothers and sisters.  She loved Merva Lee and their days together, as they would ride up to the commissary to buy groceries.  She loved Hilda's singing and Ruby and Earleen, and were so glad when they moved here, so she could see them on a regular basis.  She loved her brothers dearly, too.  When Uncle Opal died and she couldn't be there, she sat in her room and cried for an hour.  She loved them.

She loved her girls.  Betty Joyce... Dinky... Nan... and Bug.  She loved them so deeply.  Perhaps she wasn't always the best mom.  Perhaps she didn't have all the answers.  Perhaps she made mistakes, sometimes big, sometimes small... but she loved Betty, Linda, Jan and Judy.  Maybe it was Mom who taught them to love as well.  She would defend her girls to her dying day over anything and anybody.  She loved them.  Betty, Linda, Judy, Jan... she loves you still, even as she walks streets of gold.

She loved her grandkids.  She loved Linda's girl, April.  She thought April was so beautiful and so smart and when I asked--and sometimes when I didn't--how April was doing, she would brag on April, and how she finished school and how she was working here and how she was doing this.  She loved you, and was proud of you.

She loved Betty's kids, Marty, Frankie Jr and Shannon.  Three separate children, three completely different personalities, but she loved them all just the same.  She loved Marty's ambition, she loved Frankie Jr's loyalty to his family, she loved Shannon and her goofiness.  She loved spending weeks at a time in Virginia with them, grandkids and great-grandkids alike crawling all over their Granny Dollar.

She loved Judy's boys, Steven and John.  She watched them grow up, she watched them become men, and she would tell me frequently where they were in the world, what they were doing, and how proud she was of them, often showing off the things that they would bring back to her from far away lands.  Steven, John... she loved you and was so proud of all you've done.

She loved Jan's boys, Shawn, Chris and Bobby.  She also watched them grow up, and she never judged them for any mistakes that were made.  Instead, she bragged how proud she was of them about what they came through, and what they were becoming.  And how much she loved her great-grandkids too.  Shawn, Chris, Bobby... she loved you three for the men you've become.

Our final picture together.  She passed a week later.
And she loved me.  She brought me into her home when it was just her and Dad, when they were done with kids, when their marriage was quiet and peaceful and they were fine... she loved me enough to take me in when, at the time, it was the only way to know I was being taken care of.  She raised me, she taught me responsibility, and taught me to respect and love as well.

I believe that there is a legacy left behind.  And that legacy is love.  If any of us could love our spouses... love our children... love our grandchildren... love those around us as much as Velma Dollar loved... we could consider ourselves blessed beyond measure.

She loved.  And I know that she would want you to do the same.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The BCS Spelling Bee

One of the funniest things I have seen in a long, long, looooong time... make sure you notice the background pictures, with "Craig Jams 4 Senautar Paid 4 by ESPN" and the little jabs like, "Would you like a Capital One Card?"

What If Everything Worked Like BCS: The Spelling Bee from sanjeev tandle on Vimeo.

If you can't see this video, then check out the original site

Viva la BCS!

Monday, September 05, 2011

The Close of the Summer of Blogging

This post has several links on it, so if you are reading this on Facebook, it might show up horribly.  So, do yourself a favor and click on over to Clouds in My Coffee, then bookmark it and check that page daily. 

Well, its over.  My little blogging experiment is coming to a close... not the whole blog, I mean--sorry for those of you who think I'm a hack (more than you'd think, really), I'm going to continue the blog. 

However, "The Summer of Blogging" has now finished.

My summer production (June, July, August) is about average for the rest of the year, with only 19 in 2005, 37 in 2006, 30 in 2007, in 2008 I managed 26, in 2009 I wrote 29, and last year I posted 29 times.  This summer, however, I hit the blog scene hard, with averaging sometime new every day and a half or so.  97 days, 69 blogs.  Not all were quality, but I will say I'm proud of others.  Some were re-dos of things I wrote long, long ago, others were quick hits, and still others were lengthy pieces that, with the structure of The Summer of Blogging, were probably lost in the shuffle.

So, what did we see here this summer?

Weeeel.... we talked about Disney... with the Pin Event in February... then what happens when HGTV gets ahold of your backyard... then taking a Magic Kingdom tour...

There movies galore this summer, including "Super 8"... "Crazy Stupid Love"... Grindhouse films... the career of Katharine Heigl... a slew of movies that will make you shout "U-S-A!  U-S-A!"... and not only do we cover the latest Harry Potter flick, we discuss all of them.

Life happened this summer too... from helping a 9 year old boy discover his inner gangsta to mourning the loss of a friend... from remembering the early days of college to the things our (upcoming) child should know.

And of course, there is love for our Creator... from card games with Him to a friendship with Peter to the joys of going Home

Heck, I even made my first real college football season predictions, then tried to solve the problems of the conferences!

Yes, there has been alot this summer... even with the week in the middle of the summer that I took off, and the few days I took after the death of our friend Rob. 

Thank you for reading this summer, and I have lots more to say... more movie reviews, the last three parts of my 2010 review, and more news with the anticipated arrival of Lorelei Addison or Campbell Isaiah, whichever decides to show up. 

And thus ends The Summer of Blogging, Day Sixty Nine. 

Saturday, September 03, 2011

If I Ruled the College Football World

I'll be straight up and honest... I'm not a fan of Texas A&M joining the SEC.  I can understand both sides of it... A&M sees the University of Texas Longhorns create its own TV network, and stand in front of bajillions and zagillions of dollars and decide that Texas is going to have all the money, which to A&M just ain't fair.  As far as the SEC is concerned, with the addition of Texas A&M, they'll have an arm into the largest state in the Great 48.   Of course, the SEC is saying they are happy with 12 members, but do you think Texas A&M would be ready to sever ties so quickly with the Big XII if the SEC wasn't a huge, huge possibility.  You don't break up with Kate Upton, unless you know you have a more than better shot with Brooklyn Decker, even if Brooklyn Decker has said she's quite happy where she is.  Do you get me?

I don't like it.  Nothing about Texas A&M says "Southeastern" to me.  Sorry.  Don't buy it.  Then again, nothing about "Vanderbilt" says "Conference of champions".  And now, I read Oklahoma is looking around?  The Big XII can, and probably will, survive if A&M bolts.  There are several teams from non-AQ conferences that would be willing to join up, and they might even find a few disgruntled BCS teams that are unhappy with where they are.  But if Oklahoma bolts, its over.  Texas will possibly go independent (another bad idea, in my own (un)humble opinion), and the conference will buckle, sending every other team scrambling for a home.

The Big 10 will welcome in Missouri, Iowa State and possibly one, or both, of the Kansas teams.  The Pac 10 will lap up Oklahoma State quickly, and maybe even Texas, if the SEC doesn't take Texas first.  That leaves Baylor looking for a home, and Texas Tech trying to squeeze into the SEC or the Big East.  Thus, the era of the Superconference is upon us.

And I just think that's a bad idea.  So here's my idea... let's just take one offseason, maybe in a few years, maybe before the start of the 2014 season, and let's just revamp our conferences.  No, I'm serious.  Let's pretend all the school presidents get together, along with the coaches and the athletic directors, and they meet up in Atlanta, Georgia (hey, if its good enough to produce the BCS national champion five years running, its good enough to host a College Football Revamp Summit) and they hash this stuff out.

By the way, my conference realignments pays no attention to money, which is probably the first problem, but also I don't move any current BCS conference team down to a non-AQ conference, though I do move some teams up.

So here's what happens... starting with...


Staying put... Louisville, Rutgers, Syracuse, Cincinnati, UConn, West Virginia, South Florida and Pittsburgh.  Your right, that's the entire 8 team current lineup of the conference.  But let's add four more, give this conference a championship game and give the Big East some credibility.

What happens when the Vandy of the Big East (Syracuse) plays the
Vandy of the SEC (Vandy)?  They score.
Here's who they pick up...
Vanderbilt...  Let's be real.  This is where they can compete.  They'll go from an SEC doormat to a mid-card Big East member.  Can you imagine dropping a schedule that includes Georgia, Florida and South Carolina, and picking up one that includes Syracuse, Rutgers and UConn?  Go 'Dores.

Notre Dame...  Listen, they have had their day, their decade, their generation to be high and mighty.  But this is now, in a college football climate that doesn't care about the tradition of Knute and the Irish.  Especially when the Irish have stunk it up for the better part of 15 years.  Notre Dame, you need the Big East, and the Big East needs you.

Boston College... They should have never left.  The Golden Eagles were like the McLovin compared to the cooler guys of FSU and Miami when the ACC came calling.  The ACC didn't want BC, they just wanted someone to even up the divisions, and BC said, "Okay, we'll come."  Go back, BC.  Go back.

Miami... Let's be real here too--this ACC/Miami partnership has been a disaster.  They were supposed to, along with Florida State, be the Michigan & Ohio State or the Texas & Oklahoma of the ACC, as in, the dominant forces that, with a few odd years, would be constantly battling to the end for a championship.  But nay.  Its been one problem after another.  Miami should go back.


Ah, but now that we've stripped them of two of its members, what do they do?

Well, first, they lose Virginia Tech, which we'll get to later.

This leaves them with 9 members, that being Clemson, Florida State, Maryland, NC State, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Duke and Virginia.  What if we add...

Navy... currently independent, it makes perfect sense to join a conference, especially being located right there in Maryland, central to the ACC geography.  They are year in and year out a fairly decent team, and this would benefit not only the Midshipmen but also the ACC as a whole.

And with 10 members, they lose their conference title game... which is okay.  I can't remember the last time I saw an ACC title game that was even interesting.


First, I have no problem with The Big Ten having more than ten members.  In fact, I am used to them having 11, now they have 12, and I really don't have a problem with them getting 14.  I know, I know, slippery slope to a super conference, but hear me out...

Everyone in the conference stays put, especially with the Nebraska move, it makes a strong conference.  But let's add two more...

Missouri... Just makes sense, really.  I think they fit better here, both geographically and rivalry wise.  I'm glad they didn't come to the SEC.

Iowa State... This sets up a perfect rivalry between the Hawkeyes and the Cyclones, and not just in-state, but also, inter-conference.


Well, TCU is jumping over to The Big East in 2012, but in my conference lineup, they stay put.  And they want to stay put, because in my lineup, The Mountain West is solid enough to at least warrant BCS consideration.

We know that next year, Hawaii and Nevada are jumping to The Mountain West next year, leaving behind the Western Athletic Conference.  Fresno State is also leaving the WAC for Mtn West, but not in my system.  Put them aside for now.

So, remaining in the Mountain West are Colorado State, New Mexico, San Diego State, Wyoming, UNLV,  and Air Force, with the return of TCU, the new addition of Boise State, and the upcoming Hawaii and Nevada.  That's 10 teams.

I'm going to go on a limb and say the WAC will fold, which is fine, because... well, frankly, its useless.  So the Mountain West absorbs those teams, including San Jose State, New Mexico State, Utah State and Idaho.

Yes, I know, I know, you've got several crappy teams here, but really this was more about keeping TCU where they belong, giving Boise State somewhere where they can be challenged, giving Hawaii more presence and chunking the WAC.


This one is simple.  There are 11 current members that stay put--USC, UCLA, Stanford, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington, Wash State, Utah, Arizona, Arizona State and California.

Colorado goes back to the Big XII where they belong, but joining the PAC 12?

What happens when Pat Hill brings his 'stache to The Pac 12?  The Pac
12 gets a little more awesome.
Fresno State.  That's right, Fresno State.  I frikkin' love this idea.  Their motto is "anytime, anywhere" and they are moderately successful playing in the WAC, which we know is going away.  Give them the money of a BCS conference and who knows what they will do, right?  Okay, we do know... they'll average about 4 to 6 wins per year, but still, wouldn't it be awesome to see what they might do?  And heck, Colorado is going to win about 5 games per year for the foreseeable future, and the Fresno Dawgs are much more fun.


Stays intact, and by the time 2013 rolls around, when The Summit happens, UMass will be a full member.  I mean, do you know enough about The MAC to discuss realignment and expansion?  Did you even know they were the only conference to have 13 football schools?  Me neither.  

After all the moving and switching I did, the only independent team I had left was Army.  I guess the MAC would take them, but that would give them 15 teams and somehow, 14 is fine, 15 is too many and then we start all over.


The teams in now are Florida International and Atlantic, their bands, Arkansas State, Louisiana Lafeyette and Monroe, Western Kentucky, North Texas and Middle Tennessee State.  Troy drops them like a bad habit, leaving an 8 team conference


All the teams stay the same, including East Carolina, Marshall, UAB, Central Florida, Southern Miss, Memphis, Rice, Tulane, Tulsa and UTEP.

Con-USA loses two members, that being Houston and Southern Methodist.  But the teams they gain?

In my plan, these two teams really never have to
play each other again.
LA Tech... Who in the blue blazes decided it was a good idea for LA Tech to join the WAC?  Its like the "Grocery Bag Conference", as in, they just hold the bag under all the other conferences and whichever teams filter through, they catch in their bag and go with it.  At first, I had LA Tech in the New Sunbelt, but Con USA needed 12 teams, plus it helps distance them from the other two LAs, that being Monroe and Lafeyette.

Troy... This is where they should be.  Heck, they are 2-0 in Big XII games at home.  They need to move beyond the Sunbelt and get into a conference with a title game.  One that me and my best mate Wookiee could attend.  It would rule.


Again, an easy conference, because they keep everything status quo, with Auburn, Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Arkansas on one side, and Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina.  Vandy defected and is now in The Big East, and is enjoying 6 and 7 win seasons on a regular basis.  But filling that final spot?

Virginia Tech... Yeah, I know, VA Tech?  Really?  But seriously... it gives the SEC another market, it gets VA Tech out from under Miami and FSU and lets them really test Frank Beamer's teams with the best in the SEC East and replacing Vandy with VA Tech on a schedule would be another nail in the awesomeness house that the SEC has built.


This is the conference I had the most trouble with.  I went back and forth, I had both Air Force and Boise State in here at one time or another, I dabbled with the idea of Utah coming here, I even thought of TCU joining the Big XII... but decided on adding four teams to bring it up to 12 total, making it... The Big 12.

Remember, we lost Missouri and Iowa State to The Big Ten earlier.

So, let's keep Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor, Texas, Texas Tech, Kansas, Kansas State, and yes, Texas A&M here.  Let's add the following...

Southern Methodist... They are still rebounding from the death penalty from the 80s, and frankly, I think they'll benefit immensely from this move.  They want back in, too, and I think they would be a great addition.

Houston... I figure Case Keenum will stay for another 3 to 8 years, so they'll continually be good.  I think Houston is like Baylor, one of those teams that when they are on, they are on.

Colorado... Another "shoulda never left" team.  They are going to get eaten alive in the PAC.

Brigham Young... Yes, they are independent.  But they shouldn't be.  BYU needs to be in a conference, and I think they are a little too big for the Mountain West.  Stick 'em in the Big XII, the Mormons will join the Sooners, and it will be good times all around.

So there ya go.  This is a perfect way to solve all the BCS mess and the NCAA problems, to get LA Tech playing games not in Pacific islands, to keep A&M where they belong, to get Vandy to a place where they can actually win back to back games and to rid us of the ACC title game.

THIS will work.  I promise.

The Summer of Blogging, Day Sixty Eight 

Thursday, September 01, 2011

The College Football Preview Post

College football season has now officially started... I meant to blog and post this earlier today, but I got kinda busy, then I meant to post this earlier this evening, then I got dragged to Buy Buy Baby to help with the baby registry and, holy crap, I'm not sure I even understand the purpose of what half the stuff we registered for is.  What the heck is a drop-in when it comes to baby bottles?  I'm sure I'll find out, but not tonight.

Lots of media have already given their picks for the titles, the conference championships, even the Heisman, but they did it weeks ago, which means they couldn't account for the brouhaha in the bar for LSU, or the Tressle Messle, or the Miami Booster Bust... but not me.  I waited until College Football Day One.  So I can be objective.

So, here is the first official Clouds in My Coffee College Football prediction post.  Your winners--bank on 'em--for each of the Division I-A FBS football conferences...

Let's kick off with the minor conferences...

Con-USA... Houston defeats East Carolina in the title game.  Houston has Case Keenum, who has been playing for what seems like 7 years.

Go Troy!  Go Troy!  Go Troy!  Go Troy!
The Sun Belt... Troy Trojans.  Duh.  8-4.

The MAC... The University of Ohio over Toledo.  I think Frank Solich is experienced enough to be huge at Ohio this year.

Mountain West... Tough one, as its the only season where Boise State (who just left the WAC) and TCU (who is going to the Big East in 2012) will play in the same conference.  Even if Boise State loses to Georgia this weekend (which won't happen), the Broncos will more than likely run the table afterwards, win the conference and at least be in the hunt for a BCS at-large berth

The WAC... The loss of both Brigham Young (went indie) and Boise State this season (and Fresno State, which I believe joins the Mountain West, next year) leaves this conference floundering.  It does open the door for someone besides the Broncs to win, though, and I'm guessing Nevada or Fresno, though I'll lean Nevada.

And now, the big boys...

The ACC... Everyone is hyping Florida State like crazy, like Jimbo Fisher has created a monster in the offseason. Personally, I think the whole "Miami & FSU become the ACC tentpoles" expirament has been a fiasco.  However, looking at the ACC as a whole, I can't argue too much with the FSU hype, as there aren't many other teams that are going to be worth much.  Still, I'm picking Virginia Tech over FSU in the ACC title game.

The Big Ten Eleven Twelve Ten... The new blood is Nebraska, giving us the 12 team Big 10, and I think out of all the offseason moves, the best one has been this Husker transition.  With Ohio State a shell (good), this is as good a season as any for Nebraska to dominate--and face it, don't you miss the days when Nebraska, Notre Dame and Penn State were always good enough to hate?  Anyway, I think Wisconsin will roll this season in the conference, and will knock off Nebraska in the Legends vs Leaders title game.

Landry Jones coming back for one more year
The Big XII... XI... X... IX... XII... As far as conferences that won't exist in three years go, Oklahoma is the national darling right now.  But Oklahoma has burned me before... aren't they always supposed to be good, and end up sorta kinda sucking a little when it matters?  But Texas is still solving their problems, teams from Iowa (which should go to the Big 10) or Kansas or Missouri just ain't gonna do it, and neither is Oklahoma State.  I think Texas A&M, in what will likely be their final season before a possible SEC union (cue frowny face) will contend, but due to lack of good competition, I say Oklahoma.

The Big East... If you can explain to me why this is still a BCS conference, and the Mountain West isn't, then you are a better man than I.  Sure, they've got UNLV, New Mexico and Wyoming, but you can't tell me those teams are any worse than The Big East's Syracuse or Rutgers, or Cincinnati in the post Brian Kelly years.  But, in 2012, TCU joins and makes this a much better list.  Oh, I dunno... West Virginia?  Louisville?  Nah.  South Florida, your Big East champs.

The Pac 12... I like this conference, because they went with "Pac" and not "Big", so they can change the numbers as needed.   I feel like this conference mirrors the SEC, only if the best teams are in one division--the North--like the SEC West.  That leaves the title game with only one of the two best teams playing in it, and the other team being the 3rd, maybe 4th best, but yet a division winner just due to how its lined up.  Anyway, Oregon... believe the hype.  Stanford... don't.  Watch the Ducks dominate Arizona State in the Pac 12 championship.

Go Gators!  Go Gators!  Go Gators!  Tim Tebow... come back.
The SEC... Ah, the Southeastern Conference.  How you can even come close to suggesting that there is any conference close to the SEC?  I don't say that as a homer... just a fact.  Heck, the state of Alabama alone has given us two national championships and two Heisman winners in two years.  Georgia is the media love this go round, at least in the East, though South Carolina is getting a lot of love.  However, I'm going Florida.  Why?  South Carolina always falls apart at the end of the year.  Always.  Georgia is... well, Georgia.  Good team, not great.  That doesn't mean Florida will be that great, but they'll be good enough to back into the SEC Championship Game only to get steamrolled by Alabama by about 38 points.  Does Tennessee still have a team?

LSU is going to suffer because of what they've gone through, Arkansas is good, but not great, and Mississippi State is almost good, nowhere near great.  Either way, I'm guessing Alabama will win the SEC, while Auburn gets to a 6-6 record.  Just too many losses in the offseason.

THE HEISMAN... Oh, who the heck knows.  If 364 days ago from today, you said Cam Newton would win the 2010 Heisman, you'd be laughed off the planet.  But, I'll go with the Kool-Aid and say Andrew Luck.

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP... Another shot in the dark, because again, if you said 364 days ago that Auburn would win the BCS, again you'd be laughed out of town by all by the most diehard of Aubies.  However, it pains me to say it, but I'm picking Alabama over Oregon.  I don't think Oklahoma will have the BCS points to make it--if only because the Big XII is down, and Oklahoma's strength of schedule will take a big hit.

And here's my Top 25 to start the season...
1) Alabama
2) Oregon
3) Oklahoma
4) Boise State
5) Texas A&M
6) LSU
7) Wisconsin
8) Florida State
9) South Carolina
10) Troy
11) Oklahoma State
12) Nebraska
13) Stanford
14) TCU
15) Virginia Tech
16) Georgia
17) Mississippi State
18) Florida
19) West Virginia
20) Arkansas
21) Notre Dame
22) Texas
23) South Florida
24) Michigan State
25) Auburn

Bank on it.  Place your bets

The Summer of Blogging Day Sixty Seven