Wednesday, March 03, 2010

After attending weddings on consecutive weekends in NYC and Jamaica, I can safely say that I never need to hear the following list of songs ever again:
Anything by Lady Gaga
Miley Cyrus - Party in the USA
Jay-Z - Empire State of Mind
LMFAO - Shots
Black Eyed Peas - I Got A Feeling

Additionally, thanks to the water aerobics DJ at the resort in Jamaica who would play these two songs following his class every day (I never attended, but could hear the songs from the beach or other pool), these songs are also hereby banned-for-life from my ears:
Tim Wilson - Booty Man
Mighty Sparrow - The Big Bamboo

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Forgot one more review I meant to put up in my last uberpost.

Sick Puppies - Dressed Up As Life
In case you haven't heard of the Free Hugs Campaign, I thought now might be a good time to plug it. And if you haven't heard of Sick Puppies, you should have. They're a rock group from Australia that somewhat defies classification, other than to say they're great to listen to. There's some influences from Linkin Park (sans turntables), there's a little Muse (sans fantasy themes and epic feel) thrown in, and stylistically they're probably most like Lovehammers, but with slightly more edge. Then thrown in the occasional passage that is reminiscent of another down under band - The Living End. This record runs the gamut from straight-up rock to ballads to really crunchy riffs with absolutely killer bass lines from Emma Anzai, one of the best young female players I've heard. Meanwhile, vocalist (and guitarist) Shimon switches seamlessly from a falsetto to a growl and overall has a very smooth timbre when singing in the middle of his range. Song lyrics trend towards the darker side of the human experience, but I think most people can identify with the feelings of emptiness, loss, or hopelessness being conveyed with some point in their own lives. Bottom line - this record is fantastic and one of the best albums I've picked up in a long time.
Rating: Lava

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Been meaning to post about a few things for a while, but it's a long post, so I keep putting it off. But welcome to more reviews!

After our first massive snowstorm of the winter, we dug out just in time for the holidays. Emily's parents and brother stayed with us for Christmas, and we had a great time with them and my family, both at my parents' house and at ours. Emily put together an amazing Christmas feast featuring roasted chickens that worked out perfectly. And who doesn't love chocolate pecan pie for dessert? We spent New Year's Eve at a friend's house who was out of town (under the auspices of dog-sitting). Everything was going fine until some total asshat showed up and ruined our party for everyone. After that it was off to Miami for the Orange Bowl, despite the loss, we had a great time doing some sightseeing and sampling local fare. Then it was snowstorm after snowstorm until today, when we're expecting another 10-20" of snow. Whee! Then we enter the busy part of the year. This weekend is Valentine's Day, next weekend we're in NYC for Meg's wedding, the following weekend we're in Jamaica for another wedding, and then it's Kristin's baby shower. And all of a sudden it's mid-March!

Jersey Shore
Some people insisted on watching this at our NYE party. There's a lot of things on TV I haven't watched, but I'm willing to say that this is easily the worst thing ever broadcast on TV. If I thought it was supposed to a parody or satire, it would be brilliant (though still painful to watch). But I'm reasonably certain it's just extending the stupidity of other MTV shows further into the netherworld of unfathomable braindeath. I'm not even kidding. I think I lost at least a few dozen IQ points watching an hour of this trash. Although, to be fair, after the first 20 minutes, my brain started replaying episodes of the Simpsons to prevent me from slipping into a coma.
Rating: arsenic

Despite near-record cold temperatures, 50 degree Miami with palm trees beats 20 degree DC with snow-covered pines any day. Monday night we had appetizers at a seafood place near the Grove and dinner at a Cuban place, then topped it off with a night cap at the illustrious Biltmore hotel lounge. Tuesday was gameday, but kickoff wasn't until 8 pm. We hit up a bay cruise that took us all around Biscayne Bay so we could see Star Island, Fischer Island, Palm island, and Hibiscus Island. A beautiful bright sunny day, but still a bit chilly, but it was nice to be out and about. After the cruise we drove over to South Beach and had a fabulous lunch at Caffe Milano. Then we walked along the beach for a while before heading out. We took in an amazing sunset on Key Biscayne at the lighthouse, then it was off to Pollo Tropical for a light dinner before trudging through rush hour traffic up to (what is now) Joe Robbie Pro Player Dolphin Land Shark Sun Life Stadium. Yeah, we lost the game, but had a lot of fun in Miami. Most of Miami is exactly what I expected: very spread out, very flat, very gritty but covered in bright paint. Certainly there are areas of tremendous wealth, but there are also areas of extreme poverty, just like any major city.
Rating: Aureolin

Miami International Airport
And you thought Newark was bad... Okay, to be fair, Newark is much much much worse. But on such a relativistic scale, the much much much isn't really important. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the nicest airport in the world, Miami is a 1.0001 and Newark is a 1.0000000000000001. See what I mean? When we arrived, we needed to find the hotel board to summon the hotel shuttle. We eventually found it in the ticketing area (not the baggage claim or ground transportation area). Except that the phones had all been removed the board was stripped completely bare. We also noticed walls throughout the airport with bare wirings hanging out that had once attached to monitors. No signs notifying us of construction or "please excuse our mess" or that kind of thing. Lots of signs in Spanish though. When it comes to food, maybe it was just the terminal we were in, but there was nothing hot or fresh to be found. Nearly everything you could buy to eat there was pre-packaged and sold out of a fridge unit. Additionally, the terminal just looked dirty and had poor natural lighting, was laid out terribly, and was entirely too small for the number of people in it. All around a completely terrible experience at MIA. Avoid at all costs.
Rating: Myrtle

Iowa Hawkeye Fans
The thing about U(sic)GA fans is that they're just a bunch of dumb hicks, most of whom never even went to the college they root for. But at least they're unapologetic about it, and they know how to mock opposing fans. Most of the Iowa fans we went en route to or in Miami were very pleasant and friendly, although it was hard to strike up a conversation with them that didn't revolve around tractors. No, I'm not kidding. But after our bay cruise, populated entirely by friendly Iowa fans, we got booed by another fan waiting to board. Literally, booed. That's the best you've got? Booing? I wasn't upset as much as embarrassed for this poor Hawkeye fan. Later, in South Beach, we got drive-by booed by some giggly middle-aged women, only, in SoBe, you can't really drive-by anything because traffic is moving at a crawl. Pathetic. Only later did we realize that Iowa fans saved their real heckling after the game, once they've gotten good and drunk. Their best jeers: As a group walked up to us, they yelled Ga Tech, then under their breath mutter sucks. And another group told us to go back to Atlanta. Yikes, watch out. Here's the thing: I would never mock a stranger in passing just because their team lost and mine won, no Tech fan would, not even U(sic)GA fans. So the small handful of classless Iowa fans kind of ruined my impression of the entire group. But even more so, if you're going to mock us, be original or at least malicious, and do it to my face. Like "that's the country's #2 rushing offense?!?" And I hate to break it to you, but Atlanta is waaaay nicer than Iowa City. Overall nice people, but lousy as fans.
Rating: Puce

The stage musical, not the monthly payment to a landlord in exchange for lodging, although, I suppose technically I'm talking about both. We saw it at the Keegan Theatre's Church Street location, which is a converted townhouse near Dupont Circle which seats maybe 100 people. I firmly believe that all live performances (of pretty much anything) should be in such settings. You really get immersed in the performance and can see the facial expressions and feel the emotions being conveyed in a way that is impossible in a setting like most modern performance spaces. At any rate, using a single stage setup with a few moving tables, and a fantastic cast, this performance of Rent was amazing. I've never seen it before, so chaulk some of that up to first-time newness, but I've seen La Boheme and SLC Punk (no matter what James Merendino says, I think it's loosely based on the opera) before, so I knew what I was getting myself into. (Unless you count my previous knowledge of Rent - Homer Simpson playing the landlord Mr. Stingly in Rent II: Condo Fever - "Where is the rent/I must have the rent/dollars dime and nickels/I need them all right now. ... I literally chewed the scenery") All the performers were micced, although with their powerful voices, this was almost unnecessary. This is the second Keegan performance I've seen, and was equally impressed with the first. I would recommend Keegan to anyone, and if tickets hadn't already sold out for Rent, I'd have recommended it sooner. One other mention, Roger was wearing a God Forbid shirt featuring the State of Liberty with the slogan "In Greed We Trust". Loved it, except that Rent is set in 1994 and God Forbid didn't form until 1996.
Rating: Palatinate

Winter 2010
Snow, snow, and more snow. The snowstorm in mid December dropped about 2 feet. Then it was so cold for weeks that it stuck around forever. Finally it had nearly all melted just in time for the 6" we got in later January. Which was followed a couple days later by another 3-4", and then a couple days later, we got 32". Roads are still a mess, some basic services aren't operating, and we're due for more snow this afternoon in the 10-20" range (although, the current radar images look like we might luck out and most of the storm may miss DC). Seriously, who pissed off nature this year? 2/25 cannot possible get here soon enough - get me out of here and off to sunny warm Jamaica please!
Rating: Liver

HaloScan's datacenter is fried, so they're discontinuing their free service and requesting that user upgrade to something that costs $12/month. No thanks. So I'm removing the embedded HaloScan comments and turning on Blogger's comments instead. Alas, this means you will no longer be able to go back in time and re-read the old comments, but I've got them exported in an XML file if you ever get weepy over days long gone by. Anyway, let me know if you have any issues using the new comments. It should work for anyone with a Google or OpenID account.

Monday, December 07, 2009


Orange Bowl, here we come! Get ready to get Wrecked Hawkeyes!

ACC Championship Game Recap
Orange Bowl Announcement
Scott Blair (SB14) - One Man Clemson Wrecking Crew

Friday, November 13, 2009

Typically, strange dreams (for me) are caused by eating too much delicious delicious garlic before bedtime. However, two nights ago, I didn't have anything garlicy and still had very bizarre dreams. The most memorable one occurred right before my alarm went off. I was officiating a CAN flag football game. The opening kick-off went out of bounds, so I explained to the receiving team that they could either have the team re-kick 5 yards back, take the ball where it went out of bounds, or take the ball at their 35. The ball had gone out only 10 yards from where it was kicked, so you'd be stupid to do anything besides take it where it went out. But they wanted them to re-kick for some reason. At this point, the game was outside, but bounded by woods. Later on, the offense was near the goal line and committed a flag guarding penalty. When I marked off the 10 yard penalty, I ended up in the opposite endzone. The field is supposed to be 80 yards from goal line to goal line. At this point, the game had somehow moved inside into a large room vaguely resembling our bedroom. So instead of 10 yards, I ended up marking the penalty half the distance and then trying to explain that the home team had set the field up wrong.
Other than typical dream weirdness (like outside turning into a bedroom), this dream brought up two things. 1 - I am entirely too preoccupied with flag football. This is something I have becoming increasingly aware of, and I feel like this really drives home the point. This may in fact be the final justification for me not coaching again next season. 2 - How sad is it that in my own sports dream, I'm a referee and not the game-winning quarterback or (more realistically) game-saving defender knocking down a hail-mary pass?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Several people here and on a few message boards have pointed out that this particular problem is a lot less straight-forward than I had initially hoped. Even still, I think I want to play around with it a bit and see what there is to see.

Here's a couple of links to some software that other people/companies have developed that attempt something similar.
Audio to MIDI conversions

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I had a new project idea while I was in the shower this morning. Basically, it would take in a music file and output the musical notation. Or at least something reasonably approximating it. There may already be software that does this, I really haven't checked. But this doesn't seem all that complicated to do. You basically take a digital sound sample and FFT it like crazy. This gives you your frequency response at periodic intervals throughout the sound file. Since your sampling frequency is locked-in by the sample rate of the digital audio, you can vary the output interval by changing FFT size and overlap. Obviously this impacts your resolution, but even with a 1 Hz resolution, this is theoretically more than adequate to differentiate even between natural and accidental notes on the lowest end of a piano. We're talking about frequencies around 30 Hz here, and much below that, human hearing drops off and the "sound" you hear is really more of a full body vibration than anything your ear is picking up specifically. Anyway, so my plan is to take the FFT of each periodic sample and identify tonals that stand out. These should be identifiable as musical notes with some reasonable degree of accuracy (given some wiggle-room to account for variance in tuning). After that, you've basically got a chart of musical notes across time. Then I just need to plot them onto a musical scale. This doesn't identify specific instruments, but if you tried to play it, it should be fairly obvious which instruments play which parts. Other potential problems are dealing with effects processors. Chorus, reverb, wah, distortion, etc all add elements to the final sound that the original instrument did not actually play. But those are the kinds of things I'm curious to see if this process can isolate and weed through to find the original music underneath.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Last week was the first relaxing vacation I've had in years. I think since I spent the week at Edisto Beach before my cousin Brian's wedding. Sure, Emily and I have been some great places for a week's vacation since then (Malta, London), and had several long weekend vacations (Stanardsville, Cleveland). But those vacations have always been full of sightseeing and so much to do. No doubt they were fun vacations that I wouldn't trade for anything, but I didn't realize what I was missing. This past week I had no plans and no timetable at all, save for watching the Tech/Clemson game and having dinner with Emily's grandparents. It was nice to just sit back and a take a deep breath and not have to go anywhere or do anything with any real urgency. We spent some time on the beach a couple days, went to the sea turtle center, toured a civil war era fort, and generally just relaxed and did things at a very leisurely pace. Definitely something I need to keep in mind next time I'm thinking about a vacation.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

One year ago today, I handed in my resignation at GD. Well, handed isn't really the right word. More like marched down to my program manager's office and told him flat out that I was quitting. It's normally kind of a rough conversation to get started. Fortunately, my manager's manager also was leaving, and gave me a good segue: "Hey, I heard Barry gave his notice today. I've decided to do the same." I had to resist the urge to skip down the hall and do a jumping heel click as I walked out of his office. Then I was giddy for about a week. Then the panic set in. The "oh god what did I do" thoughts started swirling. I knew something had to change at GD, and that meant either the workload and company needed to change (fat chance), or I needed to leave. So leave I did. But I was concerned that I wouldn't be able to hack it at my new company, going from a hotshot to bottom rung experience-wise. Almost a year later, I still have days where I spend all day struggling with something that ends up being really stupid. But I take comfort in having eventually solved it on my own. In any case, it was definitely a change for the better to join team Sedna. And though there are stressful days, I'm certainly much happier here. I've gotten the increase in responsibility and pay that I wanted but without all the GD baggage!

Monday, August 17, 2009

The heat wave that hit DC last week and is still in full effect, plus the power outage we had last night got me thinking about a couple projects I've been mulling over for a while. Both of which involve some kind of backup power solution and/or house monitoring. The main thing I'm concerned about is the temperature sensitivity of our chinchillas, so keeping their room nice and cool at all times requires a separate air conditioner. But when the power goes out, so does their source of cool dry air, and during the summer, it gets steamy in their room quickly. So I'm looking at some way to make sure their A/C stays on and also a way to monitor the room remotely.

Project 1 - Backup power source
Option 1 - UPS - This is the "simplest" solution. Plug a UPS into the wall outlet, plug the A/C into the UPS and you're good to go. Any UPS large enough to support an A/C should also handle a florescent lamp and whatever monitoring device I come up with in Project 2 without breaking a sweat. However, UPS's aren't really designed to handle large inductive loads (like motors), so I have some doubts about how well this would actually work. They also are generally only meant to provide enough juice for a few minutes to shut down all attached loads when the power fails, so one large enough to run for say, an hour, is going to mean a huge battery and that means huge $$ as well - something in the range of $2500 by my estimation. They do have the nice feature of providing a near-seamless transition from wall power to battery power that other devices can't match, though power being off for 15 minutes honestly isn't going to hurt anything. We're more talking about outages that last longer than an hour.
Option 2 - Gasoline/LP/NG Generator - This is certainly more complicated no matter how you do the installation, but also provides a lot more flexibility. This requires getting some kind of generator, portable or permanent, finding a place for it in the back yard, possibly building a shelter for it, keeping it in working order, and ensuring that it has plenty of usable fuel. There are a lot of sizes and options out there, but if we're going to go this route, rather than having to run an extension cord across the house (bad idea) and up 3 stories (worse idea), we might as well get one we can patch into the house wiring, which means more complexity, but higher reliability and more flexibility. We could use it to provide backup power to other appliances as well, such as the fridge/freezer, internet router (we could still access internet via laptops), maybe some basic lighting, maybe even the central A/C if the genny's rated high enough. Obviously, cost and size go up as capacity increases, so we'd have to find a good balance between necessity and convenience. Between generator and installation costs, this is likely to be in the $2k-4k range. Generators can often be setup to start automatically when the power goes out, and can provide power directly into the existing wiring system, so you can pretty much whatever you want depending on which circuits have the backup wired in. Long-term, a permanent system is less hassle free, but those generally require a gas line connection, and since our house is 100% electric, we'd have to have a gas line run in from whereever, if that's even possible in our neighborhood.

Project 2 - Room monitoring
This one I'm much more excited about. Here's kind of what I had in mind: A device that has temperature and humidity sensors and potentially a camera. It would have a configurable timer and warning/critical threshold for each sensor type. And then some kind of network connectivity, preferably wifi just to make installation easy. Every 10 minutes/hour/whatever (depending on timer setting), it would poll the sensors and, if available, do a camera capture. Then it would upload this information and its timestamp to a website where I could monitor this data from anywhere. This could be as simple as leveraging the Twitter API to post the info as the amount of test should be very small. Depending on the complexity of the camera capture software, it could also do an overlay of the image with temp/humidity/time and just dump that to Flickr or Twitpic or whatever. Then the second piece to this is an alert system. Whenever the temp/humidity approaches the set threshold, it would set a warning and when it exceeds it would send a critical alert. These alerts could be the same posts, but with higher frequency and perhaps a prefix like WARN or CRIT, or they could be emails or text messages to a location I specify. All of this would ideally be configurable through a web interface, though I'm not personally above having some separate configuration software that downloads to the module via USB or something.
I know there exist standalone cameras with their own webservers built in that you just put on your network and they do their thing. And there are modules for several home-security products that have cameras and various other environmental sensors. But I'm not aware of a product that does all the things I've just described. I've been scoping out information on the Arduino and it's extension boards, which seems like it would meet most of my needs in this particular area. I think I would have to write most of the code/interface myself (which would be fun), but I think pricewise this Frankenstein is going to get out of control pretty quickly (I'm thinking in the $400-500 range when all is said and done). Anyone know of any other product that does anything even close to what I described that I might be able to re-purpose?
Temporary solution might be to go with an existing webserver camera and just point it at the Oregon Scientific weather station sitting in the room. This still has the limitation of not being able to post updates when the power goes out due to power loss in the camera and router. But hopefully that will be resolved in some manner by Project 1.

Anyway, some more things for me to start considering and researching. By the time I come up with something, summer will almost certainly be over and then I'll start worrying about how to keep the house warm instead of cool when the ice storms roll around in about 6 months.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Because it's Friday and I want to play too:

Using only song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. Pass it on to people you like and include me. Even if you don't like me. You can't use the band I used. Try not to repeat a song title. Repost as "my life according to (band name)"

Pick your Artist:
Toss up between Sabbath, 'tallica, and Bad Religion, but I'm going with BR.

Are you a male or female:
21st Century Digital Boy

Describe yourself:
The Dichotomy

How do you feel:
I Want To Conquer The World

Describe where you currently live:
Flat Earth Society

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
Fertile Crescent

Your favorite form of transportation:
The Streets Of America

Your best friend(s) is(are):
The Gray Race

You and your best friends are:
Stranger Than Fiction

What's the weather like?:
Heaven Is Falling
(I think Fuck Armageddon... This Is Hell needs to be reserved for natural disasters)

Favorite time of day:

If your life was a TV show, what would it be called:
Struck A Nerve

What is life to you:

Your relationship:
Sowing The Seeds Of Utopia

Your fear:
A World Without Melody

What is the best advice you have to give:
The World Won't Stop Without You

Thought for the Day:
The Positive Aspects Of Negative Thinking

How I would like to die:
Victims Of The Revolution

My motto:
There Will Be A Way

You know that:
The Empire Strikes First

If you could change your name, what would it be?
A Streetkid Named Desire

Something you are looking forward to:

My soul's present condition:
Atheist Peace

Monday, July 27, 2009

I started watching Discovery's new show: The Colony. It's interesting, but I feel like I've been there before. I mean, anyone who's been through Boy Scouts has gone through water filtration and sanitation issues and foraging for food and battling the elements and divvying up responsibilities among group members. Obviously traipsing around the woods is vastly different than getting placed into a controlled experiment where you live in a fairly well-stocked warehouse. Anyway, I'll give it another episode, but it just feels too contrived for me so far.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The last time we were at the movie theater (I think for Terminator), in the pre-movie trivia, there was a screen that said Harrison Ford was the only actor whose top 10 grossing movies all earned over $100M. Or something to that effect. Numbers and gross/net may may not be exactly right, and surely the verbiage was different. But I'm positive it was Harrison Ford, top 10, and only actor. I wasn't shocked that the only person to achieve this would be Mr. Ford. But at the time, I had kind of a "really? just him? no one else has managed that?" moment. It's actually kind of incredible when you think about it. Especially when you consider the time period that his biggest movies were released in. It's got to be easier to gross $100M when a movie ticket costs $12 than it was when movies cost $4 (like when I was a kid) or a quarter (or whatever they cost when my parents were younger and Star Wars first came out).
Certainly Harrison Ford has benefited from being involved with a couple of huge franchises - Star Wars and Indiana Jones, and I suppose even the Tom Clancy movies (Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games). There's 8 huge movies right there, and 9 if you count the new IJ & the Crystal Skull (haven't seen it, sounded terrible, couldn't possibly count). Anyway, it got me thinking - surely there must be other people who are really really close to cracking that threshold. Sitting in the theater, we started throwing a few names out, immediately coming up with Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise. So below is my list of actors/actresses I think must be at least in that ballpark, and the top movies I could think of that they appear in. Keep in mind that this involved zero research or fact checking of my part, so there's a good chance I'm way off base here.

  • Harrison Ford - original Star Wars trilogy, original Indiana Jones trilogy, Air Force One, Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger, The Fugitive

  • Tom Hanks - Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, Philadelphia, Apollo 13, Cast Away, Sleepless in Seattle, A League of their Own, Davinci Code, That Thing You Do, The Green Mile, Big

  • Tom Cruise - Top Gun, Days of Thunder, Mission Impossible trilogy, Minority Report, Jerry Maguire, Interview with the Vampire, Born on the 4th of July, Rain Man

  • Johnny Depp - Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, Edward Scissorhands, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Benny and Joon, Corpse Bride, Sweeny Todd, Public Enemies, Sleepy Hollow

  • Will Smith - Men in Black 1/2, Independence Day, Bay Boys 1/2, Ali, Wild Wild West, Hitch, I Robot, Hancock, The Pursuit of Happyness

  • Nicholas Cage - The Rock, Con Air, Adaptation, Matchstick Men, Gone in 60 Seconds, Face Off, National Treasure 1/2

  • Julia Roberts - Pretty Woman, Erin Brokovich, Steel Magnolias, The Pelican Brief, Oceans 11/12, Charlie Wilson's War, Sleeping with the Enemy, Mystic Pizza

  • Denzel Washington - Crimson Tide, Malcom X, The Siege, Bone Collector, Remember the Titans, Man on Fire, Inside Man, John Q, Manchurian Candidate, He Got Game, The Pelican Brief, Philadelphia

  • Brad Pitt - Fight Club, 12 Monkeys, Snatch, A River Runs Through It, Seven, Oceans 11/12/13, Spy Game, Legends of the Fall, Seven Years in Tibet, Interview with the Vampire, Sleepers, Mr & Mrs Smith, Benjamin Button, Troy

  • Angelia Jolie - Gone in 60 Seconds, Tomb Raider 1/2, Gia, Hackers, Wanted, Bone Collector, Girl Interrupted

  • Mel Gibson - Braveheart, Mad Max trilogy, Lethal Weapon quadrilogy, Forever Young, Maverick, Conspiracy Theory, Payback, Signs, The Patriot

Others who I don't think are there yet, but well on their way:

  • Orlando Bloom - LOTR trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, Kingdom of Heavan, Troy

  • Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson - Harry Potter septology

  • Leonardo DiCaprio - Titanic, The Aviator, Romeo & Juliet, Man in the Iron Mask, Gangs of New York, The Departed

  • Christian Bale - Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Terminator Salvation, 3:10 to Yuma, Equilibrium, Public Enemies

  • Hugh Jackman - X-Men trilogy, Wolverine, Swordfish, Van Helsing, the Prestige

Honorable Mentions: Cameron Diaz, Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Jodie Foster, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Keanu Reeves, Tommy Lee Jones, Jack Nicholson, Ewan MacGregor, Helen Hunt, Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Eddie Murphy, Bruce Willis, Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino, Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Ben Stiller, John Cusack, Ian McKellan, Sean Connery, Heath Ledger, Tobey Maguire, Elijah Wood, Sandra Bullock, Viggo Mortenson.

Turns out I just got bored of thinking up movies for all these people. My brief brainstorming turned up a lot of other actors with tremendous qualifications. Check out Box Office Mojo and IMDB for all your research needs.

Monday, June 29, 2009

After having slammed We Are The Fallen, my journalistic integrity got the best of me and I decided to actually listen to their music. Turns out, I was completely right. You sound exactly like Evanescence. My wife agrees with me. Score one for the music critic. All those years of practice writing half a review based solely on the cover before listening to them for are finally paying off! Although, strictly speaking, no one is paying me anything for being right, or even for being wrong, so um, yeah. There's that. Also, I'm demoting this we're-not-a-knockoff knockoff band to feldgrau. I should have done all my reviews with colors...

At long last, and after many (one) requests, I finally got around to finishing off that Terminator review I promised Matt. It's been a while since I posted a review of anything, so I figured now might be a good time to do so. And to make up for lost time, here's a whole slew of them:

Terminator: Salvation
Preface: When T3 came out, Brian and I went to a midnight showing on opening night. We waited in line with 3 other people. At showtime, the theater was maybe 1/4 full. I was supremely dissapointed by the showing, but really liked the movie. It demonstrated the inevitability of J-Day and helped sew up that you can't really change the future. I felt like it was a good conclusion to the Arnold-era Terminator franchise.
Sidebar: If you could alter the future by changing the past, you'd never know that the past needed to be changed because you would have already done it. Time travel makes for some great movies, so long as you don't think too much about what's actually going on.
Review: I know Christian Bale got top billing and he was the pretty-boy star, but Sam Worthington absolutely crushed him in this film. He was the better actor and had the better role. He went through more of a character transformation (literally and figuratively) and I was really disappointed that he died at the end. Having watched the Sarah Conner Chronicles, I was a bit worried where the movie might be headed, but fortunately, it opted to neglect the TV show and stay truer to the history of the original trilogy (for example, there was no mention of Derek Reese). Some things I thought were extraneous: the little kid with the star hat, Bryce Dallas Howard, super-muscley CGI Arnold. I also thought they missed an opportunity to reconnect with some history by having a dog (instead of a landmine) identify Marcus Wright as a machine. On the whole, the story didn't advance much, except for barely telling the story of how John became the leader of the resistance, and giving some back story to why Skynet began using human tissue on top of metal for later terminators. In hindsight, the movie was somewhat slow for what was ultimately accomplished, but in the theater, I didn't feel that way at all. I left feeling energized (even at 1 am) and excited about the franchise again. I'm still not 100% sold on Christian Bale as John Connor. I know he's "so hot" or whatever, and he makes a great Bruce Wayne/Batman combo, but I dunno, I'm just not seeing him channel an older version of John. I feel like the writers put the pieces in for him (listening to his mother's tapes, hacking that bike, befriending a terminator), but he just failed to put them all together for me. Maybe my expectations are too high, and I don't know who else I would have cast instead, but he just wasn't John Connor for me. And if you're not going to have Sarah, you have to have John right. Despite Mr. Bale's failure (in my eyes), I still really enjoyed the film. I've heard complaints that not enough backstory was explained, but that's part of what I liked about it. It didn't treat me like a first-time Terminator viewer. It assumed I knew the basic story and got on with its business. If you went into this movie expecting a franchise recap, I can see why you'd be disappointed, but that would have made the movie uncomfortably long or awkward from working the information into all the necessary scenes. Highlander failed miserably at this, so I'm pleased Terminator avoided the minefield. I'd give the movie a solid B, bordering on a B+.

Star Trek
Who is this Chris Pine and why have I not heard of him before? He's like the spitting image of Kirk in the early years before Shattner got all pudgy. On the whole, the Star Trek movies have never failed to captivate me. Because they don't wind a coherent tale, I still can't put them above Star Wars or LOTR in my pantheon of epicly awesome nerd movies, but taken as a whole, it's a fantastic collection. This latest installment was a faithful rendition of the Trek franchise for a younger generation, and even for us long-time fans, it was really a treat to see the cast come together so well as the characters we know and love. I felt Spock was a little off, but given the plot of him struggling with his humanity, I didn't feel like it really hurt the movie. My only other complaint was that Bones perhaps said "damn it" a couple too many times. Okay okay, we got the reference, don't over do it! The Uhura/Spock relationship was probably unnecessary, but an interesting wrinkle. I loved Kirk hooking up with a green space alien chick, the appearance of Nimoy, and Chekov trying to give his voice identification. Kirk realizing his potential and confronting Spock to live up to Capt. Pike's challenge was perfect. Hell, I even liked Winona Ryder as Spock's mother because you never got a long enough good look at her under her hood to be sure that's who it was. Unlike Jennifer Morrison as Kirk's mother - that just seemed like they were trying to cram one more star into the movie for no reason at all. Only other complaint I had was the Romulan characters didn't look like the Romulans I'm familiar with, but if the Klingons could change completely and "don't talk about it," so can the Romulans I suppose. This was an amazing addition to the Trek franchise, and I give it a "live long and prosper" split-fingered greeting.

Meet The Robinsons
Just watched this on Saturday night. It was rather predictable, but entertaining nonetheless, and with a certified Disney Happy Ending and Disney Positive Message. I've decided my new favorite villain is Goob. He's the perfect level of incompetent, self-loathing, and hair-brained. Who else would think to steal a T-Rex in order to place a mind-control hat on him to capture a child? And Lewis/Cornelius didn't end up looking anything like Tom Selleck, but I love that he was voiced by Tom anyway. And anything Adam West touches has to be good, right? If I had kids, I'd let them watch this. And it was amusing to me, so it gets two thumbs up in my book.

Everyone's been raving about it for the last couple years. I finally had a chance to see why when we were in New York for my birthday. I said at the time that it was superb. Actually, I didn't, but that's besides the point. The Broadway production really was superb, and at the time, I really thought that my mom and Emily were just being picky about things that didn't match up in the stage production vs. the book. However, I now see why they were irritated. I'm halfway through the book, and I feel completely deceived by the musical. I realize I'm not done with the book yet, but I already know the ending is different (just not how it ends), and there's a ton of other things that don't even remotely match up. The characterization of some of the main characters is way off in the musical, some major plot elements are completely changed. They've invented relationships that didn't exist, overly simplified, and softened events that were meant to be harsh. If I hadn't just finished praising a Disney movie, I'd say the musical is a greatly Disnified version of the book. I dunno, the book is fantastic, and I'm tearing through it. I can't put the thing down! I just can't help but feel a little betrayed by the stage in this case. It's really less an adaptation of the novel than a loosely related story somewhat based on facts from a similarly titled work involving some of the same characters. I'd liken it to historical fiction. The musical is to the novel what Indiana Jones was to real-life archaeology. I give the musical a 8.5/10 (assuming no previous knowledge of the Wicked story). I give what I've read so far of the book a 92%. I give the franchise synergy two points of a star without the middle pentagon (which is less than half a star, for those keeping score at home).

We Are The Fallen
Speaking of reviewing things that I haven't finished yet, here's a review of something I haven't even heard yet. "We're not Evanescence 2.0, we swear!" We're just 3/4 of the backing band with a new lead singer who writes, sings, and dresses like Amy Lee. If you don't want to invite those comparisons, maybe you shouldn't have taken up with her old band and named your new band after their original debut record, played similar music, and kept a similar graphic style. I'm just saying. I give this a rating of gray-asparagus.

June 22 - June 28
It was a bad week at work, which would have been enough all by itself, but then there was the Red Line Metro accident last Monday that left 9 dead and many more injured and certainly will put a huge dent in DC's image for years to come. Then we were hit with the deaths of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Billy Mays, and Fred Travalena. Terrible. And that's before we even get into what's going on in Iran and Honduras. Can we all collectively agree to roll back the clock a week and have a do-over? Can we erase a few tragedies? Or if they must occur to balance out the universe, can we at least space them out better? Straight up terrible.

Yes, I realized I used a different review method on every single review above. Yes, I know the three movies I reviewed all involved time travel. Sorry, as Popeye said, I am what I am. I like what I like. And while spinach is fine and dandy, outer space, time travel, magic, and technology are what really floats my boat. That and Oxyclean. So long Billy.

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  • I'm Rev. Adam
  • From Oakton, Virginia, United States
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