December 24, 2013

Armond on the Oldboy Remake

Armond White on Oldboy
Like the British filmmaker Steve McQueen, Lee is pledged to hipster art world cynicism, the liberal-academic-bohemian attitude that encourages Black artists’ commercialized rebellion–selling transgression, anarchy and anti-authoritarianism in the guise of Black political opposition and cultural privilege. Lee didn’t need to remake Oldboy as a Black man’s story because that phony rebellion is now cultural fashion–that’s why so many white hipsters embraced Lee’s fatuous The 25th Hour; it remade Do the Right Thing for wiggers.
When I watched the Korean version of Oldboy several years ago I was enthralled by it. The brutality of the story was so interestingly contrasted with the playfulness of the filmmaker. It was a film that I loved watching, but wasn’t sure if I would ever revisit.

December 18, 2013

Turbo the Snail

This past weekend we rented Turbo to watch with our daughter. I vaguely remember hearing from a few people that it was a solid Dreamworks flick, so I thought we would give it a shot.

Despite it being set in the exciting world of tomato harvesting garden snails it gets off to a slow start. About 20 minutes in my daughter proclaimed, “I don’t like this snail movie”. I pretty much agreed with her.

December 7, 2013

Disney's Frozen

We decided to take our daughter to the theater to see Frozen for her first ever trip to the theater. I was pretty sure she was going to like it because it has princesses and it has singing; two things she is a pretty big fan of these days. At one hour and 20 minutes Frozen was right at her limit of being able to sit still in her seat. Remember, you have to count the 30 minutes because Dad insists on getting there early, and 15 minutes of previews and the Mickey short at the beginning. Overall the trip to the theater was a huge success. Our daughter loved everything about the movie except for the monster. She wasn’t a fan of him, and at one point was ready to leave the theater. We made at through and overall she had a great time, and I had a great time taking her.

December 3, 2013


I started writing about movies on my MySpace page back in 2006. That was far from ideal, so I eventually decided to set up a blog. While that blog has changed names several times, and looks totally different every year or so, I keep on posting. However, if something like Letterboxd had existed back then I never would have set up this blog in the first place.

I heard about Letterboxd almost a year ago and created my profile. I then proceeded to never update anything on it. For some reason I have come back to it in the last couple weeks. It is fun to read through other people’s reviews and see what everybody else is watching. The list creation functionality is pretty cool also. It is a lot of fun.

I think Letterboxd is an awesome way to track what you are watching and share your thoughts. It has some really good summary reports too. Back in 2006 I watched a ton[1] of movies, and it would have been perfect for what I wanted to do. But I am glad it wasn’t around. I’ve had fun creating and writing on this blog.

  1. “Ton” is completely relative. I watched a lot more back then than I do now, but I follow people on twitter that watch more in a month than I did in a year.  ↩

November 25, 2013


My daughter loved the trailer for Planes. She could watch it over and over again. We thought about taking her to the theater to see it, but decided she wasn’t ready for the big show yet. As soon as it was available on bluray I reserved it at my local Redbox kiosk.

Like Cars before it, Planes looks great. The animation of the sleek aerodynamic metal looks cool. Planes also has some cool point-of-view flying sequences. The whole experience was improved by the fact that we watched it on a friend’s 120" projection screen. The movie looked awesome. But there is very little to Planes beyond the aesthetic.

Planes feels like they recycled most of the story from Cars. The whole reason it exists is to create a whole other set of toys that children will want to buy. The storyline of the film is harmless… and a little bland. Dane Cook does nothing to improve the film. Cars was a better effort as far as the story goes, and Cars had better characters, but both movies left me feeling similarly underwhelmed and unmoved. I would say that sentient vehicles were unable to elicit emotion from me, but the adorable robot WALL-E was able to do the trick.

Children who loved Cars will probably love Planes. Dusty Crophopper will replace Lightning McQueen on the toy shelf and Disney will rake in the dough.

November 21, 2013

What I'm Watching - NOV 21

I have what seems like a never-ending list of things I want to watch. I am adding to the list way faster that what I am checking things off. Here is what I'm watching.

Justified has been my show of choice lately. The first three seasons are available on Amazon Prime instant video. I am almost finished with season 2, which so far has been great. I'm planning to keep rolling on to season 3. I haven't decided if I will go ahead and buy season 4, or if I will jump on to something else and wait for it to be free.

November 14, 2013

The Heat

I haven’t been watching many movies lately. Well, this week I broke my film fast with the cinematic masterpiece starring Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock, The Heat. I had zero expectations for this movie and I probably wouldn’t even have bothered with it if my wife didn’t really want to see it. I laughed more than I thought I would, but I’m not sure if I was laughing at the jokes, or at how bad it was.

November 7, 2013

New Fall TV: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Of all the network tv shows, the classic half-hour sitcom is probably my favorite. They are low risk, mostly harmless, and sometimes result in a laugh or two. More often than not sitcoms are bad, but those tend to go away pretty quickly[1] and there is no harm done. Lately shows like The Office and Parks & Rec have defined sitcom success. With those shows going away we need some new ones to step in and fill the void. Modern Family started with a great first season, but is now faltering. I’ve only seen the first couple episodes, but Brooklyn Nine-Nine seems like it is going to be a winner.

October 22, 2013

Radiolab - Quicksand!

Radiolab is amazing.
For many of us, quicksand was once a real fear – it held a vise-grip on our imaginations, from childish sandbox games to grown-up anxieties about venturing into unknown lands. But these days, quicksand can't even scare an 8-year-old. In this short, we try to find out why.
As soon as this episode started all these memories of quicksand came rushing back to me. At one point in my childhood quicksand was one of my biggest fears right along with Freddy Kreuger and the critters from the movie Critters. Up to this point in my life I haven't encountered nearly as much quicksand as my younger self imagined I would. In fact, I haven't even thought about quicksand for years, but thankfully Radiolab was there to remind me.

➔ Quicksaaaand! - Radiolab

October 21, 2013

Parks & Rec To Go On Hiatus

It looks like Parks & Recreation is getting put on hold for a bit this fall, but should be back again in 2014.

Why shuttle Parks away? It seems that NBC’s goal is to boost the ratings for Sean Hayes’ much-hyped, little-watched Sean Saves the World; specials may be able to do what Parks — a comedy with loyal core viewers but little power as an anchor — couldn’t.

I don’t necessarily have a problem with them putting Parks & Rec on hiatus, it has been pretty rocky so far this season. However, I am in favor of nothing that is done in the interest of a Sean Hayes television show.

➔ NBC has put ‘Parks and Rec’ on hiatus | Inside TV | |

October 20, 2013

New Fall TV: Sleepy Hollow

Over the last few days I’ve been checking out some of the many new tv shows that came out this fall. There is no way I will watch them all, but I try to at least catch the pilots for all the brand new stuff. First up, Sleepy Hollow.

Sleepy Hollow is an ambitious show. They are essentially telling the same old story of Ichabod Crane, but setting it in modern times. They didn’t take the easy way out of just making all the characters from present-day. They went to the trouble of having Ichabod and the Headless Horseman travel through time from colonial Sleepy Hollow and appear again in modern-day Sleepy Hollow.

October 16, 2013

Justified Season One

Over the last couple years I have heard a lot of good things about the FX show “Justified”. I wanted to check it out. When I cancelled cable last year I was even considering using some of that money I saved each month to buy the series on dvd or iTunes. I had enough other stuff to get caught up on and I didn’t pull the trigger. I’m glad I waited because seasons 1–3 of the series became available on the Amazon video streaming service for free with a prime membership.

I finished up the first season last week, and it is good. Timothy Olaphant does a great job as Raylan Givens. He is at the same time badass and broken. There were plenty of interesting supporting characters as well, but Raylan is what makes the show so good.

October 9, 2013

Field Notes Drink Local

I grew up on a dairy farm in Indiana. My father would get these little notebooks from various seed companies or other farm related products and services. He'd carry them around in the truck and use them to write things random things down. As a kid I'd take some of the nobooks and draw my little pictures.

Oliver Stone on the Breaking Bad Finale

Oliver Stone on the Breaking Bad finale…

Nobody could park his car right then and there and could have a machine gun that could go off perfectly and kill all of the bad guys! It would be a joke,” he insisted. “It’s only in the movies that you find this kind of fantasy violence. And that’s infected the American culture; you young people believe all of this shit! Batman and Superman, you’ve lost your minds, and you don ‘t even know it! At least respect violence. I’m not saying don’t show violence, but show it with authenticity.

One thing I always loved about Breaking Bad was how the universe felt… real. It was an insane story, but it was believable. They seemed to go to great lengths to make sure their science was accurate and it all made sense. As the series went on we got further away from that attention to detail. We used to get to see the entire process of how Walt got things done.

By the end of this final season we were all over the place. One minute we were bored to death in a cabin and the next minute we were procuring weaponry and affixing it to garage door motors and rigging them to oscillate. Things got to be a little much, and we didn’t get to see the details. I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy the finale, but down the stretch Breaking Bad seemed to become a little full of “shit”.

➔ Oliver Stone Calls The ‘Breaking Bad’ Finale ‘Ridiculous’ - Forbes

October 8, 2013

A Generation of Yuppies

As as a member of Generation Y, I am working every day to lower my expectations for myself.
“Sure,” Lucy has been taught, “everyone will go and get themselves some fulfilling career, but I am unusually wonderful and as such, my career and life path will stand out amongst the crowd.” So on top of the generation as a whole having the bold goal of a flowery career lawn, each individual GYPSY thinks that he or she is destined for something even better…"
I actually feel like I’m a little older than the people this article is talking about. Or maybe that is just another delusion I am creating in my head and this article is pointed squarely at me. Either way, I don’t think we should take anything it says too seriously. I mean, how can you criticize and entire generation of gifted individuals?

➔ Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy | Wait But Why 

October 3, 2013

Breaking Bad - Felina

I tend to have problems with the ending of shows. I get so invested into the story line that my expectations of the themes and characters can never be satisfied by the actual outcomes. To a certain extent, this was true with Breaking Bad. I really enjoyed the last episode, but I can’t help but feel like we should have gotten something more. Considering the themes of the show and the “lessons” we are supposed to take away from it, I perceived some inconsistency. Whether we are supposed to believe in karma or not, the tide changed for Walt, as shown by his prayer at the beginning and the appearance of the car keys in the visor. For some reason, things started going his way again… up to a point.

September 28, 2013

Breaking Bad - Granite State

“Ozymandias” was beautiful; cinematic. It got me so amped up for the final two episodes. I couldn’t wait. Then we had the huge come-down. “Granite State” was not horrible, but it was bland. The entire episode felt like it was just laying there on the screen asking you to care about it, but doing nothing to elicit the feeling. I didn’t hate it, but overall it was my least favorite episode of this 5b season.

I might view “Granite State” unfavorably just because of how great the directing was last week. Rian Johnson took the great Breaking Bad storyline and created art. “Granite State” not only had a much weaker storyline in my opinion, but it was completely devoid of the artistic flourishes that make Breaking Bad so interesting.

September 24, 2013

Breaking Bad - Ozymandias

I was busy last week and I didn’t get a post up about “Ozymandias”. Now that we have seen “Granite State” it seems pointless to write at length about it. “Ozymandias” was directed by Rian Johnson and it was one of the best hours of television I’ve ever seen. I love Breaking Bad and this might have been the best episode in the entire series.

I really have no negatives with “Ozymandias”. The cold open was amazing. It felt so strange to see Walt and Jesse out in the desert on their first cook. Everything was so simple back then. It was great to see them acting like “friends”. I was amazed to hear that sequence was the very last thing they shot on the entire series. They needed the actors to grow their hair back and for Walt to shave his goatee, so it was the very last thing they shot. I would have thought they shot that way back in the pilot and was saving it. It bookended the series beautifully.

September 12, 2013

Breaking Bad - To'hajiilee

More than anything else, this is a list of disconnected thoughts. Based on some of the things I write, it might seem like I didn't like this episode all that much. I actually did. It was intense, but there were a few uncharacteristic moves that I found off-putting.

Breaking Bad is one of the best written and well-acted television shows in history. They have never relied on tropes or gimmicks because they have never needed to. This past episode had more of that “junk” than the entire series to this point.

Huell is usually a man of few words, but in this episode he gave Hank the exact data he needed in order to make the fake photo. In the process of the show it seemed believable for the most part. The interaction with Huell seemed contrived, but not horrible. I'm not sure what it was, but I didn't think he was legitimately distressed when he saw the fake dead Jesse photo. Then he proceeds to spill the beans, which I found confusing right at first. But then I understood that he was supposed to be genuinely under duress. After the episode was over I realized the information Huell gave to Hank was unprompted and oddly specific; giving them the exact amount of detail they needed to get the fake money photo. Hmmmm…..

September 7, 2013

Breaking Bad - Rabid Dog

I’m going to start out by saying that I enjoyed “Rabid Dog”, but I feel like it is the weakest episode of the season so far. I don’t have a good reason for saying that, it just felt like it focused on a lot of the same character beats as the last episode. I’m not saying it was a bad episode, but it definitely felt like they pumped the brakes a little bit and slowed things down. The way “Confessions” ended it felt like we might be getting things rolling and I was ready for a frantic pace to the finish.

We start out the episode with Walt breaking into his own house looking for Jesse. There is a very tense sequence as Walt stalks through the house checking all the rooms, only to find out Jesse isn’t there. We don’t know where he is until act two of the episode when we see Hank come in and take Jesse away right before Walt shows up. It was a little strange to go back in time; something Breaking Bad hasn’t done very often, but in this scenario it worked well.

September 5, 2013

Bullet Journal Analog Note System

I am a note taker and a list maker, but my analog notes are an unorganized mess. Bullet Journal is not a product, but a system for keeping your notes organized. I’m not sure if it will work for me, or if I’ll have the discipline to keep up with it, but I’m going to try it out.

For the list-makers, the note-takers, the Post-It note pilots, the track-keepers, and the dabbling doodlers. Bullet journal is for those who feel there are few platforms as powerful as the blank paper page.

Even if you don’t care about organizing notes, the website is pretty awesome. It’s design alone is worth checking out.

➔ Bullet Journal: An analog note-taking system for the digital age

September 3, 2013

Breaking Bad - Confessions

Going into these last eight episodes Breaking Bad is my favorite television show of all time. This title was previously held by LOST, which totally broke my heart in its final season. I had a little bit of concern that I had built Breaking Bad up so much that is couldn't do anything but let me down. “Confessions” was proof that the Vince Gilligan and the other writers knew what they were doing. This was an amazing episode. I can only hope the last 5 are as good as “Confessions”.

First off, the “confession” was nothing close to what I thought it would be. I loved the call back to the pilot episode. If you don't remember that, Walt thinks he is going to be caught so he records a confession video back then, starting it off the exact same way. I genuinely thought Walt was going to confess everything he did in that video. When he handed over to Hank I didn't know what was going on. Then when Hank & Marie stood there and watched it I was floored. I doubt Walt had been planning this, but it sure did work out well.

August 31, 2013

Breaking Bad - Buried

It would seem not a lot happened in this episode. If you really want to know the details, there is a listing of recaps here. For me it was the Skyler episode that we have been waiting for. Skyler has been a controversial character in the series from the beginning. Anna Gunn even wrote this a few days ago about the Skyler hate she has experienced. As the one of very few women in the show Skyler has been put in a strange position. She is trying to do the right thing, but everybody hates her for it, and there is no way around that. The writers put her in this spot, and viewers are extremely unsympathetic.

Going into “Buried” I had no idea if Skyler would spill the beans on Walt if given the chance. It wasn’t that long ago that she told Walt she wanted him to die. In this episode as she going into the restaunt meeting with Hank she has no idea how much info Hank has. For all she knows he could be going there to slap the handcuffs on her. She quickly realizes that Hank doesn’t know much, and she makes the decision that she is going to keep her mouth shut. For the first time Skyler also learns about Walt’s cancer returning, and it solidifies her choice to stay quiet.

August 24, 2013

Breaking Bad - Blood Money

It is amazing how much I forgot about this show after 9 months away. I forgot how tense it made me even when nothing was really happening on screen. I forgot how big of a jerk-face Walter is. I’d liked him and rooted for him for so long that I forgot I started hating him last season. I forgot how much different Jesse is now compared to the kid who started cooking meth with Walt a few years ago. Well, it feels like a few years, but that probably isn’t true in the Breaking Bad timeline. I’ve lost track of how long this whole thing has been going on at this point.

August 23, 2013

Like a Gentleman, I Bought Breaking Bad

I finally made the decision to buy the final season of Breaking Bad on Amazon instead of iTunes. That night we sat down to watch “Blood Money”. I was so excited. About 15 seconds into the episode it froze, and we got an error that our bandwidth wasn’t high enough to stream at this time. I busted out my phone and did a quick speed test on our 18 Megabit Uverse service. We were getting less than 1.

I reset our router and it was no better. I tried watching it on the iPad, no dice. It was a frustrating experience. We were on the cusp of watching this show that we had waited so long to see, and then our internet service takes a major dump.

The whole time I was kind of wishing I had decided to buy the season on iTunes instead of Amazon, but I don’t know if it would have been any better. We finally got it working but the quality was horrible. I purchased the HD version, but what we got was less than standard definition for sure. I’m really hoping it will be better for the final 7 episodes.

I’m thinking about writing a post on each episode this season. Hopefully I will have my “Blood Money” post ready in the next couple days.

August 19, 2013

Editorial on the iPad

Federico Viticci has an great review of the new iPad text editor “Editorial” over at Macstories.
Workflows are at the heart of Editorial: they define the app’s nature, its automation and inter-app communication capabilities, and its unique proposition for iPad users. Workflows are deeply intertwined with Editorial’s feature set and they’re completely open to user customization.
Even though I don’t post to my blog nearly as much as I would like to, everything I write is written on my iPad. When I first got the iPad a couple years ago I wasn’t sure exactly what I would, or could, use it for. Early on I got a wireless keyboard and the iPad became my blogging device of choice. Things just keep getting better when it comes to writing on the iPad. Byword had been my go-to text editor for a long time. I was overjoyed A couple months ago when they added the ability to publish directly to my blog. i no longer had to copy and paste into another app. That always felt nasty. Now a new app has come out that raises the bar even higher, ensuring I will never have to copy/paste to get stuff from one app to another.

August 17, 2013

Breaking Bad Download Decision

Last December we got rid of cable. I haven’t really missed it that much except from a few sporting events.[1] With all the money we saved from not paying for cable we planned to buy seasons of shows every now and then. We hadn’t really decided if we were going to do DVD’s, iTunes, or Amazon… and that is the problem. We haven’t bought anything yet. Mostly because Netflix and Hulu + has kept us plenty busy, but also because we haven’t decided where we want our content to live.

I was holding out for an announcement from Netflix on Breaking Bad similar to what they are doing in the UK. Alas, it doesn’t look like that is going to happen, so I decided to buy it. That was the easy part. Now I have to figure out where to buy it from and this I cannot decided. It is between iTunes and Amazon, but both have their advantages and drawbacks. We have an Apple TV on our main television, so iTunes seems like the logical choice. However, we also have a PS3 on there that allows me to stream Amazon video. Other than the purchase process, I think Amazon video offers the better experience for viewing on an iOS device.

July 26, 2013

Who's That Girl

To me, Zooey Deschanel’s facial expressions are like “quirky” little nails on a chalk board. I had to leave the room when her Siri commercial from a couple years ago came on the television. There was no way I was watching New Girl. No way at all.

I’m not sure how or when my hatred for Zooey started. I thought she was fine in Elf, but I could barely stand 500 Days of Summer. So I guess it happened somewhere in between there. I have actively avoided anything she has been in ever since.

July 24, 2013

The Awl - Weird Politics of Parks & Rec

I have watched all five seasons of Parks & Rec compressed into the last 6 weeks. There was a clear shift from season one to the rest of the series. I noticed it mostly in the characters, but it was in the politics too.

I’m not sure what the writers envisioned when then started the show, but it is clear that vision changed by the end of season one for whatever reason. It went from a pseudo-realistic look at small town politics to a (arguably better) show that lived in a fantasy world where nothing really mattered and smiles and sunshine got the job done.[1]

I’m not sure you can fault a sitcom for not showing a realistic look at what it takes to navigate local government. Nobody wants to watch that. Maybe not nobody. Mike Barthel at has an interesting take on the series that I mostly agree with except the whole part about wanting a more realistic depiction of local government.

“Parks and Rec” presents a provincial utopia of philosoraptor-kings in which there are never competing legitimate interests, never hard choices, and never any need to engage in political maneuvering. Between seasons one and three, Leslie Knope’s fiefdom transformed from a recognizable example of small-city politics to a kind of put-a-bird-on-it polis where decisions are made not on the basis of power (or analytical rigor) but out of authenticity, whimsy and friendship.

I enjoy Parks & Rec in spite of its subject matter. I liked all the first five seasons and the article above was clearly written before the 5th season aired. Season five dives more into the adversity involved with politics, in my opinion, to the detriment of the show. They’ve also marched out characters like councilman Jamm and Mona Lisa which further remove Pawnee from any real life Indiana town. Parks & Rec hasn’t jumped any sharks. Not even close. But It might be getting its life jacket buckled. I feel like they have put themselves in a weird spot going into season six.

➔ The Weird, Frictionless Politics Of ‘Parks And Recreation’ | The Awl

  1. The ├╝ber-niceness of the show and characters made their cruel treatment of Jerry so effective. It has always been one of my favorite running gags.  ↩

July 23, 2013

Parks & Rec Politics

A few days ago I got all caught up on Parks & Rec. We watched all five seasons over the course of a month. It is such a fun show. It has great characters and great writing, but as the seasons progressed there was one thing that started bothering me.

Parks & Rec is 99.9% harmless fun. However, there were several times through the series where I hesitated to laugh at a joke because I wasn’t sure who they were making fun of. The people of Pawnee are fat, and they are portrayed as idiots. Maybe the show is making fun of people from Indiana. Maybe it is making fun of the Midwest in general. I don’t know, maybe it is making fun of all Americans. Early on this “joke” was mildly funny, but they continually returned to that well. By the fifth season the joke was barely above the level of pointing and saying, “Look, these people are fat and dumb. Let’s laugh at them.”

The fat jokes in-and-of themselves were unfunny, but were still mostly harmless. But I think the show writers got themselves into a weird spot when they had Leslie Knope evaluate her first year as a city council woman. I’m not sure if their rhetoric is supposed to be satirical, but the show was basically saying…

These people are too stupid to make decisions for themselves so it is the duty of the government to make the correct decision for them, even if it goes against their will.

That is how I took it, and if that is what the writers were conveying, then that is territory a sitcom usually wouldn’t touch. It might be about “Paunch Burger” and over-sized soft drinks, but they are still saying it. I’m interested to see what they do with it next season.

July 18, 2013

Giant Robots vs Giant Monsters - Our Eyeballs Win

I made it out to the theater last weekend to see Pacific Rim and that turned out to be a great decision. It is one of the best action movies I’ve seen in a long time. The fight sequences between giant monsters and giant robots were visually impressive and easy to follow. It might be a sign we have reached a sorry state when the ability to tell what the heck is going on is considered a positive, but this is where we are, and Pacific Rim does a great job.

July 17, 2013

Keep On Trucking

I've been writing on the Internet for a while now. It seems like every couple months I get it in my head that I want to delete everything I have ever written and start fresh, or even stop writing altogether. I'm rarely happy with the things I write, and I hardly ever go back and read the stuff after I post it.
“If your old work doesn’t shame you, you’re not growing.”
I might be a little hard on myself, but reading Shawn Blanc's post made me feel a little better. At least this is one sign I might be improving… maybe

➔ Here’s to the Future | Shawn Blanc

June 29, 2013

Three Seasons Into Parks & Rec

A few weeks ago my wife and I started watching Parks & Recreation[1] from the beginning. I’ve spent three seasons in Pawnee, IN now, and I’m having a great time. I’d never watched the show on television. People seemed to like it, but I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything by not watching it. I’ve been surprised by how much I’ve enjoyed the show to this point, and how much I’ve laughed.

My experience with Parks & Rec reiterates my feeling that shows are better when compressed. I seem to always enjoy a series more when I can watch them one after another. I can’t explain why, and it might be a personal thing, but for comedies especially I get more out of them when I can watch them in chunks of 3 or 4 episodes at a time.

June 27, 2013

New & Improved Ballpoint Pens

Ballpoint pens are probably the shittiest writing pens out there. Still, ballpoints are the most commonly used pens. You will see them everywhere. As I have become more and more of a pen addict I’ve distanced myself from any type of ballpoint. But lately I’ve had a hankering to use ballpoints, and it turns out there are some pretty good options out there. Here is a rundown of what I’m using.

June 24, 2013

Back To The Wet Shave

This winter I started shaving like my grandfather. I liked it, but on a whim I grew out my beard in March. This past week I decided to get rid of it and bust out the safety razor and badger hair brush again. I’d definitely missed it. My face feels so much better when I use my old-school shaving setup.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a badger. It made me wonder how they are getting all this hair for shaving brushes. Is there a badger farm where they sheer them like sheep and then set them free again? While I’d like to believe that is the case, my curiosity got the best of me and I had to turn to the Internet.

“Because badgers are a protected species in North America[5] and most of Europe, virtually all commercial badger hair comes from mainland China, which supplies knots of hair in various grades to brush makers in both China and Europe. In rural Northern China, badgers multiply to the point of becoming a crop nuisance…”

Turns out, like most everything else we use, the brushes come from China. I wish I had a picture of the cute little weasel that made my shaving brush possible. For now I’m going to pretend it is Friar Tuck from Disney’s Robin Hood (1973). He was old anyway so he probably died from natural causes.

➔ Shave brush - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

June 13, 2013

iPad Babysitters

How much should a child be allowed to use an iPad? Is it okay for them to use it if they are reading a book or playing a learning game? For a child, is reading a physical book better than reading an ebook?

Parents with tablets and smartphones have yet another glowing screen to worry about frying their kid’s brain with. It isn’t just the tv anymore. If we are keeping score, is watching television shows on the iPad doubly bad? Cause I might be in trouble.

A 2011 study found that while more than half of children younger than eight have access to iPads, smartphones or other tablets, their usage was still relatively low: five minutes of daily use compared to 29 minutes of reading or being read to.

I bet if they conducted this study in 2013 it would be more than 5 minutes per day. There were probably a lot of Kindles in that 2011 study, and what kid wants to play with one of those.

➔ Parents aren’t relying on iPads and smartphones to babysit their kids | Quartz

June 12, 2013

20 Years Since Jurassic Park

I remember June of 1993 for only one reason. It is the month I went to see Jurassic Park twice. It remains one of, if not the best, movie-going experiences I’ve ever had. It is crazy to think it has been 20 years since my 10 year old self sat at The Strand Theater and witnessed Spielberg’s masterpiece.

Back then I was a wimp when it came to movies.[1] I remember being concerned that the dinos would scare me and I’d look like a baby in front of my friends. I didn’t have to worry. None of them were paying attention to me as I sat clutching my arm rests as the raptors stalked around the kitchen. It was an amazing feeling of exhilaration when the helicopter took off and the music rose. Nothing like it since. There may never be.

I love reminiscing on my JP memories, which is why this post from Scott Mendelson was so much fun for me to read. It provides a perspective on how in hindsight the film was on a pivot point that led us to the modern blockbuster. Jurassic Park is a near perfect film that happened at a perfect time.

Jurassic Park is perhaps a defining example of the perfect combination of newfangled and old-school blockbuster film-making. It represented both a preview of what was to come and the last gasp of traditional mainstream movie-making in one glorious concoction.

➔ The box office legacy of Jurassic Park, 20 years later… | Mendelson’s Memos

  1. Okay, I still might be.  ↩

June 11, 2013

The New iOS 7

Yesterday we got out first peek at this year’s new and improved iOS. It has been 7 years since iOS hit the scene and the “world’s most advanced” mobile operating system was starting to feel stale. Apple had iterated iOS to the max and it was time to re-think how we use our iPhones. I don’t think they achieved it. It still feels like the OS, just prettier.

Apple mostly made a side-step today with iOS 7, but it feels like they put it on a better path with more room to move forward into the future. It is fresh and “modern”, though it seems to borrow a lot from the aesthetic of Windows phone, and even Android. Which, one could argue, is a circular reference.

June 5, 2013

Blog Format Changes

If you have followed this blog for any amount of time you have probably noticed the layout and design have been in an almost constant state of flux. In the most recent iteration I have simplified; eliminated everything other than the posts. I like the extremely basic design and I like that it is easy to read.

A couple weeks ago I learned how to render an iPhone specific view, so now it should be easy to read on the small iPhone screen as well.

I’ve also added the ability to post quotes or short blog posts that don’t have a title. These type of posts have no link that would allow you to click into them to leave a comment so at the bottom right-hand corner of every post I added a little link icon that will take you to that individual post.

For now I am happy with the site. I wish there was a way to put the search box near the top of the page without making it look dumb, but for now it will be stuck down at the bottom. I’m going to try to leave the site alone for awhile… until I decide to change it again.

June 4, 2013

iOS text editor nerdery

As evidenced by the existence of this blog, I enjoy writing from time to time. However, I rarely have motivation to get home from work1 and sit in front of the computer. I found myself writing on the iPhone and iPad more and more. I bought a few different iOS text editor apps, but nothing offered a good way to post to my blog.

There were options, but it always required multiple steps. I usually wrote in markdown, so I had to convert it to html, then I had to copy and paste it over to a separate app. I used Blogsy on the iPad and the Blogger app on the iPhone. Most of the time I just didn’t post from my iOS devices because it was messy and prone to formatting errors.

This week one of my favorite iOS text editors released an update that added lots of nice features. In addition to bug fixes and formatting options they added an in-app purchase2 that allows you to publish your text file directly to your Blogger, Wordpress, or Tumblr blogs. This very post will be my first test, so we will see how it goes.

I like writing everything in plaintext using markdown3 to format all the links, footnotes, and annotation. It is simple to use and powerful once you get used to it. The only missing piece was being able to post that txt file to my blog. Hopefully Byword has solved that problem.

➔ Byword • Simple and efficient text editor for Mac, iPhone and iPad.

  1. Work, where I sit in front of a computer all day.  ↩
  2. The in-app purchase is $4.99.  ↩
  3. Technically I use multi-markdown.  ↩

June 1, 2013

Some Thoughts on Silver Linings Playbook

When a film gets Oscar buzz I am immediately wary. Ever since Crash won the best picture I cannot trust anything the academy exalts. However Silver Linings Playbook actually looked good, and I heard a lot of good things about it from people who had good taste in movies. I went in with pretty high expectations.

The film is mostly about mental illness and dealing with life when things don't go your way. But at some point it changes to be about family and love and hope. At some times it is a comedy; sometimes a drama. It tries to make light of some heavy stuff, and asks a lot of the actors when they are not merely shouting at one another.

Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence give us characters that are interesting to watch, but I never got past the feeling that both of them were playing at something. I was never convinced that either of them were actually crazy. They were merely actors trying to act crazy. I am not one to judge what a crazy person has to act like. I mean, I don't think anybody can say for sure what truly makes somebody crazy. In the scope of the narrative. I didn't find them to be crazy enough for my liking. They did shout a lot, so if that means one is crazy then they nailed it.

May 28, 2013

This American Life | Trends With Benefits

This weekend I spent a lot of time in the car, which gave me a good opportunity to catch up on a few of my favorites podcasts; This American Life, Radiolab, and even some Roderick on the Line.

This American Life and Radiolab are great programs I am usually not interested in government and politics, but when they choose to tackle it, This American Life does an excellent job at making the subject matter interesting and easy to connect with.

A few years ago their episode about the banking crisis called Bad Bank. It was excellent. A few weeks ago they had an episode about the growing problem of people drawing disability payments from the federal government. One thing I didn't realize is that when somebody starts getting disability they don't get counted in the numbers for well-fare and unemployment. Since states pay a large portion of the well-fare payments and none of the disability it is definitely in the states' best interest to get residents off of well-fare and onto disability. And of course, lawyers and companies in the private sector are taking advantage of the rules to make money for themselves. This episode is worth a listen...

➔ Trends With Benefits | This American Life

May 22, 2013

Life has been busy the last couple months. Several weeks ago my wife and I found out we were going to have our second child this fall. Shortly after that, after searching for a few months, we bought a new house. In the past 6 weeks I have moved into our new place, traveled for work, and got our old house ready to sell. It has been hectic. I haven't been watching movies and I haven't taken time to write.

I just wanted to let you all know that I am still here. Hopefully things will calm down a little bit as we get settled into our new place and I can get back to it.

March 22, 2013

"Flattery won't charge these batteries civilian."
-Sergeant Calhoun in Wreck-It Ralph

Satirical Retro Video Game Adventure

I'd heard an awful lot of good things about Wreck-It Ralph, so I made sure to check it out on bluray the first chance I got. Our daughter is at the age where she has the attention span to watch a full movie and she was pretty excited by the prospect of having a movie night. We all settled in and our hopes were high for this kid-friendly satirical retro video game adventure.

The beginning of the film has a lot of video game references. I was a little surprised that it went that obscure right off the bat, but it was done really well. I got a lot of joy out of the first 20 minutes.

The feeling of the film drastically changes when we get into the Sugar Rush game. It throws out the retro video game references and goes with a more convention kid’s film and the video game references are replaced with candy references. It wasn't bad, but for the record I liked the first act much better.

February 22, 2013

Netflix and the House of Cards Release

Earlier this month Netflix released House of Cards. It is by far the highest profile original content Netflix has in its video streaming selection. They are pioneering the next generation of media consumption, and they are doing it in their own way. If you have 13 episodes of a show that you want the word to see, most networks would go about it just like it has been done for years; one episode a week. Netflix took a different approach. They put it all out there on day one and let you decide how to space it out.

There are probably positives to unleashing the House of Cards firehose in one big burst. For one, it feels different. Netflix doesn’t want to be thought of as just another network with decent content. They want to be original. They want to be new. Releasing an entire series at once is definitely new, and appeals to the subscriber who is going to sit down and binge on video content all weekend. We’ve all sat down and watched 5 episodes of Friday Night Lights in a sitting, and by flipping the switch on House of Cards they allowed some people to experience it that way if they choose.

Still, I would have loved to be in the meeting at Netflix HQ where they argured how they were going to put the series out there. There had to have been a pretty good justification for doing what they did, and I’d like to hear it.

February 15, 2013

The movie for the Wallflower in us all

At this stage in my life I have a house and a wife and a kid and a soul crushing corporate job and an iPhone and a thinning head of hair and a Toyota Venza… and it is pretty hard to remember what it was like to be in high school. There are a lot of films that attempt to tackle the teenage angst of going into the 9th grade. High school dramas are my favorite sub-genre of the coming of age film category… which is one of my favorite types of films altogether. Most miss the mark for me at capturing that genuine feeling of fear and excitement of entering the world of high school. The Perks of Being a Wallflower did not miss the mark.

I loved this movie. I had a genuine emotional response to it, which doesn’t happen very often. It isn’t perfect, and it goes to darker places than I ever had to deal with in my high school career, but it is so good. And while I never would have classified myself as a wallflower, I felt totally invested in the main character's plight.

The ending caught me off guard a little bit, but it was really well done. It made me feel hopeful and depressed at the exact same time. It was an end and a beginning, and you weren’t really sure that everything was going to be okay… but you wanted it to be so bad, and deep down you felt like it was going to be.

February 9, 2013

A self-proclaimed hater of horror watching Cabin In The Woods

I’m not a big fan of horror movies, and I don’t watch all that many of them. I am not the target audience for Cabin In The Woods. There was so much talk about the film when it came out that I didn’t want to pass it up. I had to know what was so special about it.

Cabin In The Woods is based on a premise. If you buy into that premise it could be a very rewarding film. If you do not, there isn’t much there for you. I don’t think it is a binary “love it or hate it” type movie. I definitely fell somewhere in the middle. While it offers a fresh (or at least meta) take on the horror genre, I'm not sure it was enough to make it worthwhile for me to see it.

It starts out like any other horror film, setting up how the standard cast of college coeds are going to find themselves in a secluded wooded area. However, early on we find out there are other people pulling the strings. The rest of the film we are left to figure out what the heck is actually going on.

February 8, 2013

American Idol is Uninteresting Again

I am almost ashamed to admit that I watched the first few weeks of American Idol this year. Back in the fall I said I wasn't going to watch any reality tv. I made it up to the point where we cancelled our cable. When that happened we got in the habit of turning on the antenna and flipping through the local channels at night. It is difficult to avoid watching reality tv when you do that. I've seen a little bit of The Biggest Loser, and the new cooking show The Taste, and I was too intrigued by the audition episodes of American Idol to look away.

I couldn't keep myself from watching Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey display their expertise is judging singers. There was too much potential for comedy. I was also curious to see if there was a tiny glimmer of life behind the dead eyes of Nicki Minaj.

I got hooked into the audition shows. I was worried I was going to get hooked into the whole thing and I'd be stuck watching it the entire season. I turned it on the other night to see Hollywood week and I was happy to find that I once again had zero interest in the show. I don't plan on tuning in anymore this year. I dodged a bullet for sure.

January 29, 2013

The Indie Time-Travel Movie Paradox

Looper is a time travel movie that really isn't about time travel. It is a sci-fi film that probably won't please hardcore sci-fi fans. It is marketed as an action film, but plays more like a drama. It is an in-between type movie with an interesting concept at its core but an execution that will struggle to please.

I am a fan of director Rian Johnson. I have been on board since Brick. The marketing for Looper told you there was something to do with time travel, but you couldn't figure out if it was a true sci-fi, or an all-out action movie. With Johnson I knew to expect something different, and I think he delivered on that.

There were interesting ideas in Looper, but they didn't come together for me. A man travels back in time and literally confronts his younger self… that is interesting stuff. However, old Joe didn't care about young Joe. He had to keep him alive so he would still have a future, but his primary goal was to eliminate a threat. But didn't traveling back in time take the risk of him changing the timeline so he would never even get to the future he was so desperately trying to save? The film introduces the time travelers paradox and then asks that you not think about it too much. Let it slide. The convoluted nature of it was distracting during the film, but not so much so that I couldn't enjoy what I was watching. But after it was over it left me wondering if it even made sense.

January 22, 2013

Guerrilla Filmmaking at Disney

From the LA Times…
About three years ago, Randy Moore, a struggling screenwriter living in Burbank, had an out-there idea: What if he took a tiny camera and, without asking permission, began shooting a narrative movie at Disney theme parks?
This sounds like an extremely interesting film that we will probably never get to watch. Worth reading the piece from the LA Times for sure.

➔ Indie Film Shot Guerrilla-Style Within Disney Theme Parks | via Daring Fireball

Pitch Perfect

There is a lot to be said for a film that can take a tired premise and make it feel fresh again. Pitch Perfect is the same plot we have seen many times before, only this time glee club is the in-vogue plot device. i.e. not cheer-leading, or football, or marching band.

The new girl goes to college and seems like an outsider. She wants to sit in her room and mix beats on her Apple-branded computational device. Conveniently, her father (who also happens to work at the college) dangles a carrot that prompts her to join one extra-curricular group.

Capitalizing on the popularity of the television show GleePitch Perfect tries to walk the line of pleasing fans of the genre as an entry on its own, and pleasing us naysayers by gently poking fun at how preposterous it is. For the most part it succeeds. It is funny from beginning to end. Definitely something Glee cannot claim. Pitch Perfect does venture into the melodrama a little too much for my taste, but doesn’t get awkward.

I found the musical numbers surprisingly good. Towards the end they really took it up a notch. If you are only watching the movie to listen to the music, you probably will be satisfied. If you are watching the film for a solid character arc or heartfelt love story, then you probably won’t be satisfied.

All-in-all Pitch Perfect is a fun movie. It doesn’t ask anything of you, and most people will be thoroughly entertained by the music and comedy as I was. There really isn’t much else to say about it. It is worth watching for sure.

January 14, 2013

Netflix lands TV deal

Netfilx is getting quite a few more options as far as television series go. The finalized a deal with Warner Bros. and Turner Broadcasting. I am extremely happy to see Adult Swim coming to the Netflix library. There are a lot of animated shows that I've been out of the loop on. This will give me a chance to join in the fun.

I’ve never thought the streaming offerings were lacking, and additions like this make me feel even better about spending that $8 per month.

➡ Netflix lands tv deal | Engadget

January 12, 2013

What I've Been Watching

We are going on a month without cable and so far I don’t miss it much. College football bowl week made me feel like I was missing out, but other than that I’ve been fine.

So now that I can’t waste my time with Sportscenter and Honey Boo Boo… what have I been watching…

Both my wife and I sort of wanted to watch Parenthood, but we never bothered to jump in on regular tv. We figured it would be better to start from the beginning. Both Hulu+ and Netflix have the back-catalog, but we opted to go with Netflix because it doesn’t have the the commercials.

I’ve heard a lot of praise for Parenthood so I might have had too high of expectations, but from the first episode didn’t impress me. I’m not a huge Dax Sheppard fan, but he delivers the best acting in the pilot. Not that the rest of them are bad actors, but it is written in such a way that makes it difficult for them not look awkward. If we know a character - what they have been though and how they have responded in the past - it is mostly okay to show a closeup of their face as they emote and expect that to convey what they’re feeling. In the pilot episode of Parenthood they were pulling that stunt constantly and it felt really awkward to me. In the dinner scene they cast a knowing glances at one another after sister made a comment… things like that. It just struck me as a weird and inelegant way to set the stage for the characters.

So far I am not a fan. I’m sure it will get better over time as the actors get a chance to settle into the characters and as I begin to learn more about them. I would expect the writing to get better as well the further along they go in the storylines.

We (or I) opted to not watch another episode of Parenthood. I needed a break. Instead we jumped over to The Wonder Years and watched its pilot. I can remember watching The Wonder Years when I was little, and I undoubtedly saw reruns from time to time. I knew the characterizations of Kevin, Wayne, and the rest of the crew, but I didn’t remember any specifics. Watching the pilot I was blown away. It is amazing. We got through just 2 episodes, but I plan on watching all the seasons. It is better than most of the stuff on tv today for sure. I’m looking forward to being able to experience it for the first time as my 30-something self with a kid of my own.

Maybe it will lose some of the luster as we get further into it, but seems like such a well put-together show - great writing and great acting. I will definitely be choosing The Wonder Years over Parenthood any day.

Over a year ago I heard about a British tv series that sounded like something I’d enjoy. However, I wasn’t able to figure out a way to watch it. I was happy to see the entire back catalog of Misfits is available on Hulu+. Misfits is like the American series Heroes in that it centers around a group of young adults that inexplicably get super powers. That is pretty much where the comparisons end.

When I first watched Heroes I was absolutely enthralled with the first season. I loved it. The subsequent seasons were pretty horrible, but I cannot deny that the first season was great tv - with a really bad climax.

I am only 2.5 episodes into Misfits, but I could tell I was going to like it from the very beginning. It is funnier than Heroes, and better acted from what I can remember. It is also a British show, so it is able to do some things that wouldn’t fly here in the states. Heroes had better cliff hangers, but Misfits hasn’t struggled to hold my attention.

I’m so early in the series that I still have no clue what exactly is going on. There are some goofy things that could turn out to be lame depending on how it gets explained - but I will reserve judgement until I am at least done with the first season.

That is pretty much all I have been watching. We’ve been splitting our time pretty equally between the over-the-air antenna, Hulu+, and Netflix. I’ve also rented a couple blurays from Redbox. Once we get through some of the series we want to watch, I am thinking about buying Game Of Thrones or maybe Justified. But we have plenty to keep us busy for a while.

Oh, and I’ve been reading a lot more since we cancelled cable. I’ve gotten through 1.5 books for fun, and I’m reading Getting Things Done to become a more productive person. I’ve got a bunch of classics on my kindle that I hope to get though as well. I’m kind of liking this whole “no cable” lifestyle.

January 3, 2013

Did I say we ain't wearing bags? It's a raid! Who cares if you can see! Can the Horses see!? That's all that matters!
- Big Daddy

January 2, 2013

Initial Thoughts on Django Unchained

I decided to start out the new year with some Tarantino. I had tried to go on saturday but it didn’t really work. This time I gave myself more time, and the mall wasn’t nearly as busy. I found my seat in the center of the theater and settled in for some QT.

Going into the film I had conflicting sources of expectation. I loved Inglourious Basterds so I was excited to see whatever Tarantino came out with next. However, initial reviewers didn’t seem to be loving the movie. They might have set the bar way too high. I don’t know. Those reviews did temper my excitement a bit.

Django Unchained delivered. In every respect it exceeded my somewhat lowered expectations. It was a ton of fun. I still think Inglourious Basterds is a better movie. Django wasn’t able to create the tension like the great scenes in Basterds . Django also isn’t nearly as complex. It is Tarantino doing a western, and it was awesome.

Once again Christoph Waltz steals the show. The movie is titled Django Unchained but Waltz’s character is by far the most interesting. In the second half Leo DiCaprio joins them. He is so good as the villian. Jamie Foxx does fine as Django, but it is actually a pretty flat character. I am sure that is by design.

I really enjoyed the first hour of the film. As soon as the movie was over I wanted to watch that part over again. The beginning was more of a traditional western with the Tarantino flare. The rest is good too, but that first hour was pretty brilliant.

If you love Tarantino I don’t see how you could fail to like Django. However, it is not a perfect movie, and I do understand some of the criticism. I’m not going to go into any of that here, but I will save it for another spoiler edition post. Go see Django Unchained, and make sure you cut the eye-holes big enough to receive maximum enjoyment.