Tuesday, May 27, 2008
At 2 am my cell phone decided to turn itself on and start beeping at me to tell me that it was running out of power. I heard it three times before my soggy brain was able to discern what it was and where it was coming from.
I find it very strange that the phone wastes battery power to tell me it is nearly out of power.
Unfortunately, I was unable to successfully get any more sleep after this. I tried for well over an hour, and then got up and did some things. Even chatted with my wife once she logged in at work. I then went back to the bedroom and tried for another hour to sleep, but failed.
I managed to nap a little, off an on, during the Memorial Day NCIS marathon on USA, but never slept for more than 1 episode. I have a splitting headache and an upset stomach. I have a sore throat. I think all of the sickly feelings are just from not getting my needed rest.
Hopefully I'll get better rest tonight and be up for the trip to Goodwill I plan to make. I also have some phone calls and some other errands to run.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
I have absolutely no problem with nearly any number of legal immigrants of any race, color, or creed coming to America. But I do have a problem with those who come here illegally. For me, I see it as a simple legal issue: if you break the law, you go to jail (or the equivalent, depending on the law). In this case, you get deported. If you are breaking the law, you shouldn't receive items and services that are intended for law-abiding individuals.
Why does my respecting the laws of this country make me racist in the eyes of those who support those who do not respect the laws of this country? I am respecting the laws of Canada in my attempt to get into, stay in, and get work in that country. Would the people who say I'm racist for my law-abiding ways here fight to protect my rights in Canada if I moved there illegally, took a job from a qualified Canadian at a lower wage, and took advantage of their medical services? Somehow I doubt it.
I will grant you that in my area the predominant number of illegals are Mexican. There is a small minority of Asians who come here illegally, and most other races and ethnicities are such a small percentage as to be negligible. However, I'm for all people of all races and ethnicities coming here legally, following the laws, and getting the advantages that those laws afford them. I continue to not be in favor of anyone breaking the law in general and this country's immigration laws specifically. I am not anti-Mexican. Nor am I anti-any other race or ethnicity.
I am, however, against anyone breaking the law. And, for me, this illegal immigration issue is simply that; people breaking the law. I do not consider the jobs that supposedly wouldn't or couldn't be done if those illegals weren't here. I don't consider how much we are allegedly spending on health care for illegals. I don't care about any of the other arguments, for and against, that many people make about this issue. Currently, how they are here is illegal, and I am against people breaking the law. Simple, straightforward, and with no deeper meaning.
I wonder how Jim Davis is spying on me and Liz. It is a little frightening. At least he is changing our appearance in his comic strip. I mean, anyone who knows us knows this is pretty much how all of our conversations about clothes go. ;-)
Because I didn't know.
For all the movies I have watched, and I have watched many movies, I do not have a character I want to be. For the next few days after that, I continued to regale her with possible characters I might want to be, but I never really nailed myself down to one in the end. I tried, but just couldn't do it.
I think she was expecting me to answer Superman. It is a true answer, and one I might give on a given day, but that is not a character I feel I could be. You see, when she asked that question, a whole host of qualifying questions and caveats immediately leaped to mind:
- Can I truly be the character in question?
- Should I answer who I think I can be or who I want to be?
- Is this my only choice, or can I say more than one?
- Do I only consider the character as a particular actor? If so, do I really want to be that actor and the character is superfluous?
- Am I just the actor in the movie, pretending to be the character for others to watch and get something out of the watching, or am I truly becoming that character?
I briefly considered Atticus Finch. However, while he suffers from some of the same issues as does Superman, he also has the problem in that there is only one person who is Atticus Finch in my mind: Gregory Peck. And, I am no Gregory Peck. To me, he is one of the epitomes of the acting profession and he just is Atticus Finch. I will always compare anyone who attempts to play the role to Peck and, frankly, they will fall short. This character has many traits and qualities that I aspire to, but I do not think I measure up well at this point in my life.
Then I thought of Chuck Nolan, the character Tom Hanks played in Cast Away. That is one great character; he is a survivor, overcomes his fears, and learns to take what life gives him and "who knows what the tide will bring". But this character led me to Saving Private Ryan and Captain Miller. And then to a few other characters that Tom Hanks played. Which leads me to think I wouldn't mind being Tom Hanks and that the characters are almost negligible.
Next are some other obvious ones that I think many people would pick: Captain Jack Sparrow, for his freedom and guile; Batman, for his ingenuity and resourcefulness (and his "wonderful toys"); John McClane, for his ability to overcome all odds, humor, and perspective; James Bond, for the gadgets, the cool, and the license to kill; Luke Skywalker, for the force or Han Solo for the cool; Indiana Jones, for his tenacity, intelligence, and morality. There are a whole host of characters that have good pieces, but could I be those characters? I just don't know. Each has an aspect or two that I respect, enjoy, or desire, but not a whole.
One that I thought I might like to be be is Lt. Exley, from L.A. Confidential. He's smart, egotistical, cunning-- all things I consider myself. He has a moral streak that is marred but strong. A strong possibility. Roux is another character I think I might like. A small character played by Johnny Depp in Chocolat, Roux is very comfortable with himself, assured, and knows what he wants. All attractive traits.
What about some of the flawed characters? Could I be Donnie Darko? V? Porter? Ripley? Leonard? Phantom of the Opera? Dracula? Lawrence of Arabia? Dirty Harry? While each character speaks to me in many ways, I just don't think I could be a flawed character like that. It doesn't speak to me, even if some of those characters are in some of my favorite movies.
So I continue my search. As you can see, I'm giving this question a great deal of thought and consideration.
I'm leaning toward a few right now:
- Bruce Banner/The Hulk: This character has always appealed to me. I like the dichotomy, as I am filled with them. I like that he is both a very smart man and powerful enough to affect changes. He doesn't have to take shit from anyone, which appeals to me on many levels, but is also kind, considerate, and able to create solutions. He has the two extremes of humanity in one package.
- Captain Jean Luc Picard: I personally find Picard the best of all Star Trek captains. He is smart, engaging, wise, a good warrior but a better commander, has a strong moral compass, but is flawed as well. I am thinking I may also be leaning this way because of Patrick Stewart, who is such a good actor, and because this character is bald-- as the sexiest of men always are. ;-)
- Dr. Archibald "Moonlight" Graham: This character has always appealed to me. He never really got his shot at baseball greatness and missed. So he became a doctor and helped his hometown for most of his life. Then, when given another shot at his baseball dream through Ray Kinsella, he takes it, only to be denied again when Ray's daughter is choking on a hot dog. He is so comfortable with himself and his decisions that he doesn't hesitate to stop being young and a baseball player to become old and a doctor. It is rare to find a character so at peace with himself and so sure of his place in the world.
- George Malley: I really like this character, even though he is played by John Revolting. He becomes smart, at peace, and accepting of his fate.
In the end, I guess the characters are part and parcel to the story for me. I get value and entertainment from the entire ensemble of the movie (direction, acting, story, editing, sound, etc.), so I find it difficult to put myself into the role or take myself out of the equation and become the character. I continue my search.
So, who would you choose?
Thursday, May 22, 2008
And it was then that the thunder started.
Normally, thunder is something that rumbles for a few seconds and fades, or cracks loud and grumbles slightly. However, this afternoon, I could hear the thunder rumbling from the north, heard it come directly overhead and it last over ten seconds (I had time to actually check the clock and count) and was low, loud, and close enough to shake the floor of my apartment. It then rolled its way further south, and lasted for another about 10 seconds doing that.
And then it did it again, about half an hour after that. And again, another hour or so after that. Each of these was not nearly as long as that first, long, rolling, loud one, but each was noticeable and distinctly longer than expected.
It was very unusual, and a little frightening. Thunder like that gives rise to the belief in God's or gods anger; Zeus quarreling with his brothers and sisters, Thor giving chase to the Midgard Serpent, Quetzalquotl taking his revenge. This was not, however, the most frightening thunder I have ever experienced. That is reserved for an evening in my college days when Chris and I were at the Stater Bros on Kendall and a bolt of lightning and a crack of thunder hit the same parking lot. We could feel the electricity in the air, feel the concussive force of the energy as it knocked us back a step and set off all the car alarms in the area, and were momentarily deafened by the huge crack of thunder. It was so strong that some carts left in the lot started rolling on their own.
It has remained overcast and a little damp, but for the last two hours or so it has not been rainy or thundering in this area.
So, I'm watching the series finales of many of my favorite shows. And I start seeing the same themes repeated:
- CSI - Warwick is shot in the head at the end of the show.
- CSI: Miami - New medical examiner gets all of three lines and then is shot in the head. The episode ends with Horatio Caine being shot and possibly killed. And Ryan seems to be involved (or maybe even the shooter). Just a few episodes earlier the original medical examiner leaves.
- NCIS - Jenny Shepard is killed in a fire fight in a diner and Gibbs' team is separate and sent all throughout the military and he is handed three new files for his new team.
- Bones - The big mystery of who Gormagon is is totally wasted on a horribly written episode that sees Zack turn out to be the Apprentice and some no-name guy who is easily taken out being the Master. Zack is sent to a mental hospital.
- House - Amber is killed and House and Wilson's friendship may be over in another horribly written show (well, the first half was awful and the second half was better -- and what happened to the strong characterization? Everyone, but especially 13, seemed to be acting totally out of the character set in previous episodes).
- Numb3rs - Megan leaves and Charlie loses his clearance and the ability to work on most FBI projects.
- Criminal Minds - Each member of the current team gets into an identical SUV and then we cut to an SUV blowing up. The cliffhanger is that we don't know which team member(s) was killed.
- Smallville - This soap opera has the apparent death or dismissal of most of its main characters (Kara is in phantom zone, Brainiac was apparently killed, Lana "went away" (yay, finally), Chloe is arrested as a terrorist, and Lex and Clark have the entire fortress of solitude fall on their heads). I guess they will change the name to "Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen"?
The most disappointing was Bones. This show is primarily about the characters, how they interact, and their chemistry. This season finale blew all that out of the water by having nearly every character except Booth acting in strange ways that were atypical for the character's development over the last three seasons. And to wrap up the entire Gormagon storyline in about 15 minutes at the end of one show and have it be Zack and some unknown guy? Dumb. Hopefully they were just either a) clearing the ongoing storyline so they could move on to better things or b) this entire thing is a red-herring and the very good writers will explain this totally stupid episode in a way that makes sense and will explain this aberrant episode away.
The best of these shows was the two-hour NCIS finale. This one involved all of the characters staying within character, had emotional depth, and made sense with the ongoing issues presented throughout the season. I fully expect the fact that the three main supporting characters were re-assigned and Gibbs has new "probies" to work with will be ameliorated next season.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
In a recent post on the movie Speed Racer I mentioned how poorly I thought the movie would do. Little did I realize how vastly overstated this very, very poor review and statement about how quickly the movie would be gone from the theaters would be!
Speed Racer managed to only bring in a little over $18.5 million on its opening weekend, and has tallied less than $1 million per day over the weekdays (for a comparison, Iron Man has been averaging between $3 and $5 million per day on the weekdays since release). In its second weekend, SR managed a little above a tepid $7.5 million. It currently stands at a paltry $24.3 million after two weekends and one week.
The production budget is claimed to be around $120 million for this movie, but estimates are as high as $250 million. The marketing money is estimated at between $50 and $100 million, so we're looking at this movie maybe having cost up to $350 million to make and release. They haven't even made 10% of that amount, if true.
I knew it was niche, I just didn't know quite how niche it was.
Sex and the City
Now here comes another niche-market movie. This one has three things going for it:
- Counter programming toward women in this male-dominated movie season.
- A set market of women to cater to.
- Women tend to be the drivers of the biggest successes in movie history.
Here's why I think this:
- While the idea of counter programming is a great one, you have to counter with a program that men want to see to. Women are a great key to making a movie a huge hit and making lots of money, but it has to be something that they can realistically drag their boyfriends and husbands to. This movie is tracking over 80% negative by males. Plus, when counter-programming, you have to post your movie against movies that skew only male. This one will be going against Iron Man, which has already proved that women like it; Indiana Jones, which has a very strong, universal appeal; is coming out after two already failed counter-programming movies (Made of Honor and What Happens in Vegas) didn't grab the same audience this movie is shooting for; and a few previously released and about to be released kids movies, to which it is typically the "mom's job" to take children, sucking at the movie budget of the family.
- The set market of those who liked the TV show of Sex and the City is incredibly small. It may be smaller than the niche market that likes Speed Racer (which has a base audience that is at least 30-years in the making), but certainly is not the basis for much more than a strong opening, and then a drop of 60% or more in week two. Sex in the City was on HBO, had good but not great numbers when compared against standard network hits, and continues to do mediocre on cable TV in reruns.
- While women tend to be the drivers of the movie business, it is typically men who make the decisions on what is seen. They make this decision based on the women with whom they are going to the movies, so it has to be something she wants to see and/or that he is willing to go see with her. Titanic, for example, was huge because women wanted to see it repeatedly and men enjoyed the effects and the action and the sinking of the boat. Spider-Man 1 and 2 became huge hits because men liked the character and the action/fights, while women could relate to Mary Jane and her unrequited love. Sex and the City was a show that few men watched and the numbers are tracking horribly for the movie when it comes to males.
- A lot of women don't like this show or these characters. My wife, for example, doesn't care for the show and hates Sarah Jessica Parker. Quite a few other women in my life either don't like the show, don't like the characters, or don't like the actresses in Sex and the City. So few of these women are going to go, cutting directly into the core audience the movie is shooting for.
- Sex and the City will open decently, at number 2 behind Indy's second weekend (I'm guessing Indy will make between $40-50 million second weekend), and probably in the mid-$30s from all the fans of the original show.
- It will quickly drop down the list as the following weekend Kung-Fu Panda opens and the children will want to see that and Indy will still be going strong after only two weeks in release (this one being the third weekend), so Sex will likely make about $10-12 million the second weekend.
- The weekend after that one sees The Incredible Hulk open and all the males will swarm in that direction, so I'd guess by that time Sex will be taking in scraps, around $5-7 million.
- All told, I would estimate this movie will pull in around $50-$55 million domestic.
Edit/Note: After writing this I went to RottenTomatoes.com and checked. There are only four reviews for the movie so far and three of them are negative and one a luke-warm positive. If this movie doesn't get very positive reviews, my estimates will be high in this post.
Now, the race is on to see how inaccurate John is on this movie estimate.
Some of my favorite bad movies are:
- Brewster's Millions: Fairly standard story of a man who offers his offspring a small sum of money in his will-- or a much, much larger sum if it he can spend all of the original amount in X number of days. The twist here is that the old rich white guy is giving the money to Richard Pryor. Pryor had better movies, but I just get a kick out of this one. I love some of the decisions Brewster makes in how he spends the money and the earnestness with which everyone plays their role. John Candy is very good in a smaller role here, as well.
- The Replacements: I'm not a huge fan of Keanu Reeves or most sports films. Both of them tend to be trite and simple. However, I simply like this film. It is a fictionalized retelling of the strike season in the NFL, with Reeves being a never-was college QB who proves capable of taking a bunch of rapscallions to the playoffs and turning them into a team.
- The Saint: Movie version of the TV show of a Bond-like super thief who uses disguises and subterfuge to get what he wants. This one stars Val Kilmer in a role I thought he was perfect for; engaging, used his talents as an actor, and showed very good chemistry with Elizabeth Shue. I think this one would have done much better had it been released at a different time.
- Groundhog Day: I'm not a fan of Bill Murray or Andy McDowell, but both hit just the right notes in this movie about a guy who lives the same day over and over.
What are some of your favorite "bad" movies?
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Of course, until it was too late.
The signal imparted a need to break free and attack their captors to the zombies, and we went from overcoming and enslaving slow, shambling zombies to fighting large packs of intelligent zombies that worked together. People were not used to this, so the initial onslaught caught many humans unaware and they were ripped apart.
I had to run around, hide, and occasionally fight for my life. Running and hiding were difficult because the zombies were smart and were hunting the humans using the same reasoning skills as the human beings were.
I was rudely pulled out of the dream when the stupid moving people arrived this morning, bright and early, to start moving one of my upstairs neighbors. I had just been found in my current hiding place by a female zombie whom I knew, vaguely, and was fighting for my life, beating her over the head with a stout stick that I found nearby.
Friday, May 16, 2008
When I got to work the next day, I had to go through orientation again, just in the building he worked in (which was across the quad from the building I had worked in). The woman (seemed to be played by Brooke Shields, only she could really act) and her assistant worked there and she was not happy to see me there. However, I had a legit job so there wasn't much she could -- for the moment.
This is where it got weird. While helping the scientist out (who looked a bit like William Hurt), his burst sending system started acting weird. While we troubleshooted the problem, people started winding up missing. Then they would return acting differently. I saw one of them and it was a techno-organic replica of the original person. I warned the scientist and he started organizing a resistance to these creatures. He asked me to help out with the resistance and go get the building's security. I found a couple who were on their way up and convinced them to help me. They told me all the other guards were either dead or turned. For defense we had specially designed lances that were the equivalent of arc welders that burned at around 4500 degrees Kelvin on the tip (this temperature was specifically stated to me by one of the guards right before he was disemboweled by a tech-org thing and we all had to fight it off and kill it) -- to which I said the ultra-heroic "well, that aught to melt through those soulless bastard's hides."
Then began the cat and mouse game of trying to determine who were techno-organic beasts and who weren't, killing those who were, and getting up from the ground floor back to the highest levels of the building where the scientist was trying to work on some things he felt would turn the tide and shut them down.
At one point I ran into the woman and her assistant (who was played by Brent Spiner), and I managed to, very graphically and in a lot of detail and slow-mo work, shove my hand and arc-welder rod/torch up into his chest cavity and ram the burning tip into his brain. This was very Manga/Anime inspired, with tons of cords, wires, plates, and writhing, moving parts inside. He was able to detach and transform his lower jaw for some reason I didn't immediately identify. While I did this, the woman got away. I woke up as I stood in the large atrium on one of the upper floors as I was deciding whether to go after the woman or continue on to find the scientist and hope he survived and had figured out what was going on.
I woke up a little out of breath and a bit tired. All that running up and down the staircases and through hallways of this large building tuckered me out. I feel almost like I need a nap to recover from my night's rest.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I have done some new research into my father's family. I recently rediscovered some of the information provided to me by an aunt (or a second, or third, cousin or some such) who had looked into it.
- It appears the "Z" was, in fact, intended to be there. The way my great grandfather signed his name has it in every case. There have been some rumors/stories that it was possible the Z was a mistake, added due to my great grandfather's flowery way of signing. Doesn't appear to be true from the copy of the wedding license and naturalization papers I have.
- The accent appears to be over the E. It is an acute accent.
- My family has a patent. My great grandfather patented an Acetylene Torch Generator to help his work in the coal mines of Pennsylvania. I have a copy of the patent.
- There is a story that my great grandfather bought his and his family's freedom from the near indentured-servitude of the coal mines. The info I have says he contracted Black Lung disease and retired to Michigan on disability.
- It appears the family comes from Aosta Valley in what is currently Italy. Here is a link to a Google Maps page of that valley:
View Larger Map
- More on the Aosta Valley.
We don't know much of anything about the family before my great grandfather came over at the turn of the 20th century. We know that my great grandfather had a brother who went back to the Aosta Valley shortly after the family came here. We have first names on my great grandfather's mother and his mother's mother, but nothing more than that. It is like we don't exist prior to his coming to America!
I need to contact my Uncle Martin on my mother's side and see if I can get a copy of his notes on the other half of my family lineage. He's done extensive work on that and has it going back for hundreds of years, I've been told.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
So, here I am, blogging. Can't tell you the number of errors I've made and corrected so far (that fuzzy brain again). Hopefully this will be at least a little coherent when others read it or when I read it again.
I imagine I'll fall asleep sometime morning-ish. Usually happens when I least expect it. Of course, when this happens during a work day, I have to persevere and work through it, which is hard. And gets harder with each passing year. I'm 37 now; staying up all night is not really on the agenda like it was in my 20s or Teens. Don't have the worthwhile reasons or the stamina of youth on my side. Matter of fact, there were multiple times in college where I was awake for upwards of 72 hours straight before crashing and I didn't think much of it. I was one of the most coherent and functional ultra-tired people you would run across during those stints. But these days I need my sleep. Still only really need between 6 and 8 hours of sleep, with 7 seeming to be about optimal for me most nights.
My head feels about 10 lbs heavier and my eyes are droopy and feel gritty. I'm exhausted. Why can't I fall asleep?
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
I make this statement for a few reasons:
- Speed Racer is much more of a niche movie than even comic book adaptations are. I know a lot of cartoon/comic book lovers who are not fans of Speed Racer, and very few fans of Speed Racer outside of this niche. I don't see it having broad action appeal like other movies may have.
- It is primarily CGI. And this CGI is garish, bright, and "cartoony," which the public has pretty much snubbed its nose at every time it has been released.
- It is made by the Wachowski Brothers, who are not good writers or producers. (Their best work, The Matrix, is still being fought in court against plagiarism.)
- People like "live action" action scenes more than CGI action scenes, given a choice between the two.
- People are already complaining online of headaches and worse while watching previews and advance screenings. People don't like their movies to give them headaches.
Yet, now that I am packing up to move, I am finding I have a lot of stuff. I have packed 8 boxes of books so far, and likely need one, possibly two, more. and these aren't small boxes. I have one 18"H x 18"W x 16"L, four 12"x12"x12", one 12"x12"x16", and two others of odd sizes. That is just books. My DVDs should compact down into a few boxes, but I do have over 200 of those. Of course, the single biggest quantity of things that I have are the around 50 of the smaller comic book boxes filled with comics. Each of those is approximately 12"x8.5"x17". The lids on those, as any comic collector knows, makes them even longer, higher, and wider, as the lids are made to be thick (to support stacking).
Add onto this the size for my 27" TV, the other electronics, CDs (two smaller boxes), VHS (two boxes+), my La-Z-Boy recliner (the one piece of furniture that comes with me), all the kitchen stuff I plan to bring, board games and other knickknacks that I may want to bring, and my clothes, and it adds up really fast. I'm actually a little surprised at how well it all fits in my apartment as it is!
Time to go get some more boxes and bags....
Sunday, May 04, 2008
At about 10:15pm the lights started flickering and sputtering, but wouldn't stay on for long. I hurriedly switched off a bunch of things, which I hadn't thought to do earlier, and then waited. About 5 minutes later the lights went back on and stayed on. I waited a few more minutes before blowing out the candles. I got my PC running again, but alas my friend had logged off (probably irritated with me joining a group and then immediately logging out!).
Not sure what caused it, or if it was a standard blackout that we get all the time here during the summer happening a little early.