Entertainment 2010

And a long jacket...

It is now time for the 2010 Primetime TV Kappy Awards! Huzzah! Huzzah! So heat up your TV dinner, grab the remote control, and kick back the recliner.

Last year, I started by listing all the shows we've watched to give you some basis by which we can justify giving these awards. The list this year is no shorter, let's just leave it at that. Typing them all in here would only depress me.

On to the awards...

Continue reading "And a long jacket..." »


This is how it starts...

It's that time of the year! Time for my annual Best Of lists.

Actually, it's been that time for several days now and my lazy butt is finally getting around to typing things up. I just hope I get through all three lists before the new year starts. I really don't have a whole heckuva lot of time, do I?

Well, I'm starting things off with the Kapgar Top 10 Albums of 2010. In reverse order from 10 to 1, we have:

O03907c22ou 10. School of Seven Bells - Disconnect From Desire
I have a thing for ethereal, almost haunted sounds in my music. I think it all stems back to a longtime love of Bjork and it was downhill from there. I'm not saying that School of Seven Bells is Bjork-like, but they are both kinda "out there" as it were and I sometimes find myself struggling to find the proper mood to be in to fully enjoy this album. But when I'm there, look out. I just love how refined their sound is and then the one-two attack of twin sisters, Claudia and Alehandra Deheza on vocals add something you rarely hear in any band. Definitely worth a listen.
Track It - "Camarilla" and "Dust Devil"

N83829bbk43 9. LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening
James Murphy, the mastermind behind LCD Soundsystem, proves that even the most unhip guy can surprise you. Seriously, check the dude out some time. You may not believe he's responsible for the electronic beats that have been released on the four albums that mark this career. I've been into LCD for a few albums now, thanks to my buddy Eric, and my love only gets deeper with this latest album.
Track It - "Drunk Girls" and "You Wanted a Hit"

O19455ysnsi 8. Gord Downie and the Country of Miracles - The Grand Bounce
Nat was sending me lyrics for the Kapgar Photo Scavenger Hunt and she had a line from a song on this album to which she added the note "my album of the summer." I replied back saying that I'd never heard of him. She was shocked. And thus began my education. Gord Downie is the frontman of The Tragically Hip, a band I do know (I swear!), that is currently on hiatus. Although this is basically the same lineup as his regular solo band, Coke Machine Glow (a fantastic band name, BTW), he is now using the name The Country of Miracles. Dunno why. But what I do know is that this album is NOT available in either the iTunes Store or the Amazon MP3 Store and that is both tragic and unhip. I had to resort to alternative means to obtain it and I'm glad I did. To miss out on this album is wrong.
Track It - "Gone" and "Moon Over Glenora"

N98495qfizu 7. Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Big Boi, one half of OutKast, releases his first full solo effort under one heckuvan interesting title. But, despite any headscratching you may do over the title, it's worth it. He spins a fantastic rhyme and proves that he's just as good without Andre 3000 as he is with him. Bear in mind, this is not the sort of album you want to spin around your parents. Me thinks this is the sort of album that Tipper Gore had in mind when she conceived of those God-forsaken Parental Advisory labels. Many people are raving about Eminem or Kanye West having the hip-hop album of the year. Clearly these people have not listened to Big Boi.
Track It - "Back Up Plan" and "Tangerine"

N82274ny504 6. The National - High Violet
The first time I heard the deeply resonant vocals of Matt Berninger, I was sold. I went out and got both High Violet and The Boxer and both have been on heavy rotation ever since. When mixed with the master musicianship of the rest of the band, you've got a fantastic collection of songs that will shake you to the core.
Track It - "Bloodbuzz Ohio" and "Anyone's Ghost"

N40618a7xat 5. Spoon - Transference
One of the things I've learned about music from my friend Eric is that I should just trust him. Sometimes, he'll share an album or band with me that just doesn't catch right away, but, eventually, I will find something about them that just "takes" and I'll suddenly develop a love that I can't shake. Such is the case with Spoon. I've listened to albums from this band for years and, not to say I didn't like them, but I just never really cared much. And I really cannot explain why I felt this way. Then came Transference and my entire opinion of the band changed entirely. Now I'm listening to their library with a renewed appreciation that sadly should have happened some time ago. Oh well, better late than never.
Track It - "The Mystery Zone" and "I Saw the Light"

O32282n15ak 4. Matt & Kim - Sidewalks
And on the flip side of the coin are those bands that are recommended to you by a friend that you just take to like a moth to a flame. Matt & Kim were recommended to me in early 2009 by Dave of Blogography around the release of Grand. Damn. With Kim Schifino providing the power thump behind Matt Johnson's keyboards and vocals, we, the listeners, are blessed with seemingly simple indie power pop sounds that are catchy as hell and will wind up played over and over again.
Track It - "Block After Block" and "Where You're Coming From"

N94057mp3jn 3. Robyn - Body Talk, pts. 1-3
Yes, that Robyn. The same Swedish pop princess that released "Do You Know (What it Takes)" and "Show Me Love" is back with a three-part album released throughout 2010 that, while maintaining a strong pop foundation, has greater edge and is much more risque lyrically. I knew of Robyn back in the day and can't say I cared too much when Eric said she had new music coming out and would be playing at the Pitchfork Music Festival. Then I listened to Body Talk, pt. 1 and saw her live and now I'm in lust. Fantastic rhythms and well crafted beat that you can't help but dance to.
Track It - "Don't Fucking Tell Me What To Do" and "Dancehall Queen"

N52015fr3ki 2. Mumford & Sons - Sign No More
I've developed a great love for folksy, bluegrassy sounds lately. I'm not sure where or how the interest developed, but it did. So when Marty wrote his review of this album a couple months ago, my interest was piqued. Great stuff. And, honestly, I think I'll let his review do the talking.
Track It - "Little Lion Man" and "Dust Bowl Dance"

1. Sufjan Stevens - The Age of Adz
You remember what I said way back when in my recap of Spoon's Transference about just trusting what Eric says? Yeah, here's another one of those bands. He's been sharing Sufjan Stevens' music with me for years, including the popularly and critically lauded Come On Feel the Illinoise, and I just wasn't interested. Not in the slightest. Then I listened, with heightened trepidation, when he sent me The Age of Adz. Guess what? It clicked. And in a big way. And I'm going back and listening to his old stuff and enjoying it like I never could have before. Why? Who really knows. But this album is just rocking my iPod and iPhone of late and I couldn't be happier.
Track It - "Futile Devices" and "I Walked"

690853356-1
And you?


You will not go to Heaven...

I've been doing this blogging thing for a little more than five years now and if there's one thing I have not figured out, it's how to determine what's going to constitute a good post.

I come up with a post idea in my head and it sounds great. I type it up and I read through it and it comes off as the kind of extreme that I'm aiming to achieve be it highly humorous or rage inciting or emotionally edgy. Whatever.

Then I hit "submit" and zilch.

However, there are many posts that I consider to be not so great. Topics I want to write about and feel the need to post about, but, when I finally write it up, I hate how it sounds. And yet, it is so well received, you'd swear I was gunning for the webby equivalent of a Pulitzer.

This happened with my anniversary dedication to my wife. I really wanted to write something because, well, it was our ninth anniversary and I love my wife and I wanted to let the world know how I felt. But I just could not find the words to express it. In the end, I typed something right off the top of my head and I hated it. I really thought I could do better.

And everyone loved it. Commenters on the blog, commenters on Facebook... hell, my mother-in-law told me it made her cry.

So, um, what gives?

Has anyone figured out this crazy little thing called blogging?

When someone tells you that something is not one way, the assumption is that it's the other way, right?

For example, if someone says that something is not good and doesn't specify any further, then it's bad, isn't it?

I was listening to the radio on the way home from work tonight when a new song by the Old 97s called "Champaign, Illinois" came on. The chorus of the song is "You will not go to Heaven; you'll go to Champaign, Illinois."

In my mind, that means that so far as Rhett Miller is concerned, Champaign is the equivalent of Hell. It seems like a totally viable assumption to me.

So I guess I can add Champaign to a growing list of places I should stay away from in order to protect my mortal soul. This list also includes the entire state of Iowa if Kevin Costner's response to Ray Liotta in Field of Dreams follows the same logic.

Field_of_dreams

Liotta: "Is this Heaven?"

Costner: "No, it's Iowa."

Think of it in mathematical terms if you must... Iowa does not equal Heaven, ergo Iowa equals Hell.

Hey, I'm just the messenger here.

Oh, and somehow I doubt this little TUA will wind up as one of my more well-received posts. Heh.


Who are you...

It's kinda funny how many people seem to agree with the idea that my dad and Rob Reiner are the same person.

Friends, family, the whole shebang.

But the ultimate confirmation came yesterday from my dad himself when I told him that I had put a picture of him next to one of Reiner on my blog. His response? "I saw it... those weren't both of me?"

Um, no. 

Heh.

I like Goodwill.

You can find some cool stuff at Goodwill.

Stuff that you might not even be looking for. 

For example, this past week I stopped in to look just for kicks and what did I find?

Low-priced porn!

Hey, at least Goodwill is acknowledging the sexual needs of the low income'd. Right nice of them, don'cha think?


Hit me baby one more time...

Welcome to Snippet Wednesday. Just barely making the cut (again), but I'm here!

ALDI
Katie was out trying to use our bank card to buy something today when it was declined. We theorized that it was just a communication error with the scanner, but then it happened at a second place. She called the bank and found out that both of our bank cards had been canceled and new ones issued due to a data compromise on the part of a vendor. While at work, Katie had two customers come in paying by check because their bank cards had also been canceled by their respective banks. They told Katie it was due to ALDI Grocery Stores.

We had seen something on a news teaser last week, but never saw the actual story, so I Googled it and wound up with a bunch of stories about a debit card/PIN number swiping scam that had been occuring at several Chicagoland ALDIs (ours in St. Charles included) as well as some in Indianapolis. Oh yay! As a preventative measure, most banks canceled the cards of customers that had been used at potentially effected stores. Nothing had happened to our account, but it did make us wonder if this was how my bank card got spoofed last year. Hmmm...

So a tip to all you ALDI shoppers, USE CASH!

Brittany
Recently, Katie and I started watching Glee. We're pretty much all caught up on season 1 (missed a couple episodes, unfortunately) and we're up to date on season 2. It's an interesting show. Very well done and the actors are pretty good (even though I want to bitchslap Rachel Barry nearly every episode). I can understand why people are Gleeks over it.

Brittany But if there's any one aspect of the show that Katie and I love more than anything, it's Brittany. For those of you who haven't watched, she's one of the Cheerios (the school's cheerleaders) that is actually part of the New Directions (the glee club) and she is to this show what Ralphie Wiggum is to The Simpsons. Both are minor characters that usually meld into the background save for an occasional one liner that is typically more memorable than anything else in the show. She's got some true gems like...

"Sometimes I forget my middle name."

"I was pretty sure Dr. Pepper was a dentist."

"Does he mean like a burglar alarm?" (when told to use protection during sex)

"This room looks like that room on that spaceship when I got probed."

"It's a male duck." (when asked what a ballad is)

This week's episode, though, was Brittany's time to shine as it was all about Britney Spears. When all done up in terms of costume, hair, and makeup, I often couldn't tell the difference between Brittany and Britney. Eerily uncanny. But, dayamn! Brittany was rockin' the episode. The actress who plays her, Heather Morris, is a former dancer for Beyonce and it shows. She's got serious moves. I've seen her dance in previous episodes, but this was an entirely different ball of wax. All Brittany, all the time. I liked it.

Kevin
I got an e-mail the other day from a guy who shares my last name. I opened and read it and he detailed for me a family vacation they had taken, how his family was doing, that his dog had died and how he was feeling as a result.

Then he wished me a happy 62nd birthday.

Woah. Hold the phone. My birthday's not until December. And, while I know I'm getting up there in age, I'm certainly no 62.

Turns out he was trying to contact a different Kevin Apgar. One whose name I've seen many times when I've Googled myself and he even used to return higher results than me. Not anymore. I've kinda become cooler than him.

I explained this all in a reply e-mail to my mystery sender.

And I offered condolences on the loss of Gus. Sounded like a good dog.

WWF
Now that Katie and I both have iPhones, we've taken to playing a few games here and there. Our latest addiction is Words With Friends, which is basically a spin on Scrabble. Just a little looser in terms of useable words.

If you're a WWF fiend, look us up and challenge us. I'm "kapgar" and Katie is "ktkat216."

Okay, I'm outta here. Talk to you soon. Hopefully sooner rather than later.


Do you know your enemy...

Yesterday, Katie and I did a massively thorough cleaning of the house. Thorough to the point where I was up on a ladder cleaning the Golden Gate picture frames and the high windows and soffet in our living room as well as the arced window and chandelier lamp in our entryway. I was taking care of dust and grime that hadn't been touched in a while.

That's about the only thing I can think of that we did that might have caused this deep-chest cough that I now have. It's a cough that I was able to control relatively decently during the day with liquids. It seemed entirely manageable when we went to see Easy A with my brother and SiL. I think I may have only coughed once or twice during the entire movie.

That evening was a different matter altogether. Katie and I were watching football and reading books in bed and my cough came back full force. So I took some allergy meds, a swig of Delsym (a cough suppressant), and located a blister pack of Chloraseptic. Again, I seemed to get it under control.

Then came 3 a.m., and one of my worst coughing fits ever. It wasn't even coughing that woke me up. I'd had another one of my ridiculously vivid dreams. It was very cool and one whose storyline continued in my head even as I lay in bed awake. I had to get this thing written down, I had absolutely no desire to forget it whatsoever. So I made the damn-fool mistake of getting up and heading to the bathroom where I could sit and jot down what I remembered from my dream without waking Katie.

Smooth move, Ex-Lax.

The shift from prone to upright position clearly knocked everything loose in my lungs and throat and the coughing began again in full force.

Now, not only was I unable to get back to sleep because of my coughing (and the fact that my brain was continuing to mentally write the dream I had), but it was also keeping Katie awake.

And thus the story of why I'm in the living room posting to my blog at 4 a.m.

This should make for a fine day of work, don'cha think?

There is no question in my mind that the Chicago Bears lost the season opener to the Detroit Lions. It may be marked down as a Bears' win in the record books, but it just wasn't. Calvin Johnson's last-second reception in the endzone, I don't care what the rulebook says, was a touchdown. That rule is bunk and I can't believe the refs enforced it in good conscience.

However, this week, the Bears beat the Dallas Cowboys fair and square and it felt sooooo good. (Sorry Ren!)

I don't much like the Cowboys. And, although I can say the feeling of "hate" that I once felt for them has abated to the point where I believe I can actually respect them as a team and I do like several individual players, Evil-monkeyit still feels nice to have that one team that I can think of as "the enemy." Someone to point at and snarl as though I were the evil monkey in Chris' closet in The Family Guy.

Why the animosity? I don't really know why. It's not like they did something to me personally. I cannot nail it down to a certain event. Not like when Duke's Christian Laettner dropped in that buzzer beater against my Kentucky Wildcats in the 1992 NCAA Tournament (I won't even get into his stepping habits).

Perhaps it's less an event and more of an attitude that disgusted me about the Cowboys. I just didn't like the triumvirate of evil that was Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and, especially, Michael Irvin. I couldn't stand the arrogance of that team. Yes, they won. They were a great team. They were, supposedly, "America's Team" (clearly not my America), but I hated them all the same.

I have my "evil" teams in most sports leagues. Obviously the Duke Blue Devils in NCAA Basketball. The Iowa Hawkeyes in NCAA Football. The Atlanta Braves in the MLB. The Detroit Pistons in the NBA. The Philadelphia Flyers in the NHL. Some with reason, some without.

But there is no team I hated more during their heyday than the Cowboys.

So yesterday's win felt good. Very good.

Again... sorry, Ren.


You never will be mine...

Sadly, the Pitchfork Music Festival has wrapped up for 2010 with a pretty little bow on it.

Granted I only went to a single day of the festival, I still feel compelled to write about it.

I missed out on the earliest act of the day, Sharon Von Etten, because I mistimed the train I was taking to get into the city. Bummer. I was kinda looking forward to hearing her.

As I entered the park, though, I was greeted with the acoustic stylings of The Tallest Man on Earth. I really dug on his sound and am looking forward to checking out more of his music. 

There was a pretty rough transition next from TTMOE to the next act, hip-hopper El-P. I didn't really dig on his first few tracks, but I finally started to get into it after that and enjoy his music.

Next up was one of the bands I was most looking forward to, Liars. However, what I wasn't expecting was how noisy and uneven they sounded. It left me happy that I spent the time wandering the booths instead of sitting in one place and listening to them. It just didn't fit the mood that was set by all the acts up to this point.

The disappointment of Liars was made up for by Robyn. I wasn't sure what to think about a former pop starlet at an indie music festival, but, DAMN, she tore it up. Just a high-paced pop and electronic set which left me wondering how she could've had that much energy considering the heat.

Next up was Broken Social Scene. The only bad thing I can say about them is that the sound system for their stage was a bit wonky. While I've experienced worse, the sound did go in and out a little on a couple of tracks. But I think that's a combination of the stage crew and the heat. Otherwise, Broken Social Scene was fantastic and the end of their show left me wanting to hear a lot more of their music. Good thing my iPod had some.

The final act of the night was Modest Mouse. This was the band I most wanted to see going into the festival and the reason I chose Friday over any of the other nights. The verdict? I was left a bit empty. While the songs that Isaac Brock and company chose to play were decent enough and ones that I recognized, they weren't ones that I truly knew well enough to be able to sing along with. I am not a diehard Mouser like so many other people that were in attendance, and I hate to sound mainstream with this request, but it would've been nice to hear "Float On" or "Ocean Breathes Salty" or even "King Rat." They left after a little more than an hour and came back about 10 minutes later for an encore which lasted a single song. Still nothing of those three tracks.

If I had known that this might have been a possibility, I probably would've opted for Saturday, instead, so I could've seen LCD Soundsystem. The downside of that would've been missing Robyn and Broken Social Scene, of course. But seeing as Modest Mouse was my number one reason for choosing that night, I think Saturday might have made for a better overall evening.

Oh well.

The festival grounds themselves, including the vendors, were great. I had a lot of fun wandering from tent to tent and just perusing what was available. I did buy a few smallish items and loved that Shawnimals was present for me to get a little bit of a Ninjatown fix.

Will I go again next year? Damn right. I'm not sure if it will be one, two, or three days. We'll have to wait and see. But I always seem to have fun at Pitchfork. So why the heck not?

Here are some pictures I took at the festival.

I think it's pretty obvious that I'm a junkie for Pixar animated films. They're always great. However, when it comes to other studios and their digitally animated feature films, I'm a bit more hesitant.

They always seem rushed, unfinished, poorly written, poorly acted... you name it.

So, yes, I was a bit wary of Despicable Me based on the trailers. I just didn't see it being any good save for a few moments of potential levity here and there.

Despicable_me Katie and I went to see it on Sunday and I would like to say, here and now, that I was wholly wrong in my pre-judgment of the film. It was hilarious and heartwarming and thoroughly enjoyable. The voice acting was good, the characters were a lot of fun, and damn if those minions don't steal the movie.

But the biggest surprise was that this was actually a movie where 3D paid off!

Katie and I have been to a few films in 3D since the craze came back full bore. And, honestly, none of them needed it. It was merely a gimmick to make you pay more to see the film and, thus, rake in more bucks and thrust the film higher up the all-time grossing list (I still wonder how Avatar would've really fared if it wasn't in 3D).

Despicable Me, though, used 3D like films that came out in a past era. Items on screen came out at you making you jump or laugh or whatnot. But, unlike old 3D films, it wasn't done intentionally like when an actor is swinging a sword and makes it a point to stick it out at the audience for maximum 3D effect. These scenes fit into the movie and flowed well with everything going on around it. 

All-in-all, I was very pleasantly surprised.


Racin' off to see your peep show...

If you saw someone reading a book with this title and cover, what would your first reaction be?

Peepshow 

Well, this is what I was reading for the last week and I got my fair share of comments. At the gym, at work, at the coffee shop, at the DMV... yes, the DMV.

Let me say one thing first... I wasn't reading this for the title or what it could potentially contain. I actually read it because of the author. I was a big fan of Joshua Braff's first book, The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green, and as soon as I saw his name on this book, I grabbed it off the shelf. He could've been rewriting a volume of Encyclopaedia Britannica, I wouldn't have cared. 

So, yes, I was very excited to read Peep Show and it was everything I could've hoped for.

But, like I said, it did elicit some reactions based solely on the title and the image of the guy with a camera on the cover. Don't worry, all were good natured, but it was just weird seeing how people reacted. Mostly it's some variation of "so that's the kind of book you read" or "I had no idea you were into porn." I think one guy at the gym jokingly call me a "smut peddler." Then I explain what the book is all about and every single one of them walks away wanting to read it. So, either it's that good a concept or I'm just great at promoting, I'm not sure which.

If you are looking for a really good book, though, I do highly recommend this.


Hay un amigo en mi...

I hate you, Pixar.

You are a terrible, horrible, malevolent, vicious, and cruel company.

(Yes, I realize those are all synonyms and the use of just one could have sufficed, but I didn't feel it was strong enough relying on a single word in this instance.)

My problem with you lies in the fact that in the span of an hour and a half, you are able to make me laugh hysterically, jump with excitement, swoon with joy and then, ultimately, reduce me to a blubbering 35-year-old mass of tears.

TS3 And with nothing more than a bunch of freakin' animated TOYS!

How? How do you do that, I ask you? How do you manage to do with mere computer-generated images something that real-life actors can almost never do? Why do I feel such a connection with your creations? Why do they evoke such emotion from me?

Worst of all, why do I feel this need to go to my parents' house, root through the attic, and find some of my old toys so I can just be with them again after all these years? I don't have to play with them, necessarily, just spend some time with them like an old friend. Run my fingers over their eternally familiar nooks and crannies. Reminisce about how this scratch or that crack developed while acting out some adventure. Replay those mental recordings about "that time when..."

This is all your fault, Pixar. I hold you entirely responsible. 

It's a TOY!! It's a child's PLAY THING!!

Stupid Toy Story 3.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to curl up in the fetal position in the corner and think about what is easily one of the best movies of the year.


Signs, signs, everywhere there's signs...

It's been a wild couple of days in terms of sports and photography.

Thursday, Katie and I went to the Cubs v. Brewers game at Miller Park in Milwaukee. It was fun to get out and see a game, although Katie and I discovered we're still in too much of a fast-paced hockey state of mind to fully enjoy the slow pacing of baseball. But we're working on it. Other than World Cup Soccer (football, whatever), we don't have much else going on athletically until our football starts.

However, baseball does offer lots of opportunities for Katie and I to just chill out and for me to take photos.

My other photo op came yesterday when I went to the Chicago Blackhawks parade and rally. Actually, I should clarify that I didn't really go to the rally as I couldn't get within a quarter mile of the staging area. But I was in the front row against the police barriers at Wells and Washington for the parade. A-MAZ-ING! Worth the crowds on the streets. Worth the heat. Worth the time waiting.

God I love Blackhawks hockey.

In my attempts to recover from the heat and exhaustion of the last couple days, I'm laying low this morning at home and scaring the hell out of myself watching M. Night Shyamalan's Signs.

I'm not a huge fan of Shyamalan. His movies either hold up decently on a single viewing or a majority of the film holds up well to multiple viewings minus a portion of it or (yes, a third option) it's just crap overall.

What I mean is a movie like The Sixth Sense is truly fantastic in my opinion. Beginning to ending. But you can't watch it more than once. Ever. Just doesn't have the same effect.

2002_signs_011 Then there's Signs which is great for the first hour and a half. Fantastic suspense builder, great acting by all five of the major cast members (Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin, and Cherry Jones), and great use of mood and emotion as a secondary character. But the last 20 minutes are crap. He needed to take a page from Spielberg and Jaws and realize that less is more. The less we see of the aliens (or in Spielberg's case, the shark), the more frightened we are by them. When they come into full view, the movie goes to hell in a handbasket.

As an example of the third option, we have The Village. The movie was severely lacking, utterly predictable, and just plain dull. Period pieces and Shyamalan don't work so well.

Yet, despite all this, I can still go back and watch the first hour and a half of Signs over and over and over again and love it each and every time. So I do. And I am. And I'm still just as freaked out by it as the first time.


Is he alive or dead...

This conversation actually happened in the locker room of my gym this morning...

Gary: Hey Kev. Have you seen Iron Man 2 yet?

Me: Yep!

Gary: Chaz [his son] and I have decided it is the perfect movie for four reasons.

Me: Oh? And they are?

Gary: 1) It has lots of Air Force stuff. 2) It has an Audi.

Me: You like Audis?

Gary: I love them. I own a TT convertible, but you've probably never seen it since I always walk or ride my bike to the gym.

Me: You must show me.

Gary: Will do. 3) It has cool engineering stuff and, 4) cool physics stuff.

Scarlett-johansson-iron-man-2_254x340Me: You forgot #5.

Gary: What's that?

Me: It has Scarlett Johansson in a leather catsuit.

Random Other Guy in the Locker Room: YEAH! Now you're talkin'!

Gary: Who? I don't know who that is. But she can't be as cool as my reasons.

Me: We all have our entertainment needs.

ROGitLR: Yes, we do.

One of my reviews was given "Review of the Day for the Chicago Burbs Area" status today on Yelp.

And I never would have known if it weren't for the sudden onslaught of comments and kudos from people I've never met.

Hmmm... maybe I should write some more reviews. This particular one was nearly a year and a half old. Whoops.


The boys get lonely after you leave...

I've got my jersey and my playoff beard ready to go. Sure, the beard has been trimmed a couple times during the playoff run, but it's still there.

Go Hawks!

Norman's got his support showing.

Go Hawks!

I've got the support of fellow bloggers and Tweeters from all different areas such as Dave from Washington State, Sybil Law from Cincinnati, @hellohahanarf from Pittsburgh, and LeSombre from Ottawa, among many others. Chicagoist blogged that the Lincoln Park Zoo has weighed in. Dave even drew up a DaveToon showing support.

DaveBlackhawks

Yeah, I'm ready for those Stanley Cup Finals to begin tonight with my Chicago Blackhawks squaring off against the Philadelphia Flyers.

GO 'HAWKS!

But I want to admit that while I've been a Blackhawks fan since moving to Chicago in 1987, something feels weird about it.

Throughout middle school and high school, I wore my fandom on my sleeve, literally, by wearing an old Blackhawks jersey to school every so often. I lived and loved Blackhawks hockey.

But I stopped following it for a while. Don't get me wrong, I never stopped liking the 'Hawks and being proud that they were my home team, but from the mid-90s until 2007, it was very difficult to be an active Blackhawks fan... a true and ardent supporter.

What a lot of you may not realize is that former Blackhawks owner Bill Wirtz jacked up ticket prices and blacked out home games in the Chicago area. We couldn't watch our Hawks without dishing out a veritable fortune. And, considering they were playing like crap with some horrible personnel decisions being made, nobody was willing to dish out that small fortune.

I did go to a few games here and there, but they weren't nearly enough to whet my hockey whistle, as it were. And I wound up attending more games of our local AHL franchise, the Chicago Wolves, who, let's face it, were not only a much cheaper ticket, but a much more exciting and winning team.

I still longed for my Blackhawks to return to relevance or at least return to a place where I could watch them again on TV.

BlackhawksLogo This moment came in 2007 when Bill Wirtz died and ownership of the team was taken over by his son, Rocky. The Rock experimented with a few home games being broadcast during the 2007-2008 season and he then went full bore having pretty much every home game broadcast on Comcast SportsNet or WGN or Versus. Combine this with some very intelligent personnel decisions and a very high degree of marketing and we finally saw real NHL-level hockey in Chicago again.

And my fandom returned to full-frenzy status.

Of course, that first full year of televised coverage saw the 'Hawks make it to the Western Conference Finals where they lost to the Detroit Red Wings (thank you, Pittsburgh, for beating up on them in the Stanley Cup for me). And, to me, I almost felt dirty because I once again began to be a fan during a season where they did really well. I felt almost like a bandwagoner, a fair-weather fan.

Is this feeling legit? Should I worry about this? It's not my fault I couldn't be a hardcore fan, right? I fully blame Bill Wirtz for taking that from me and yet I still feel like I should've been a better fan during those lean years. But how could I? I was either in college, or grad school, or newly married, or a recent homebuyer. I just couldn't afford to regularly attend 'Hawks games and I certainly couldn't watch them. I did attend a game every season or two. But the only other coverage I had was minimal at best in newspapers or on the evening news, and we all know how scant the reporting is on a team that plays like crap.

I'm not really fair-weather, am I? I'm simply a victim of circumstance, right? Please say no to the first and yes to the second. 

Well, whatever.

GO 'HAWKS!!

This morning, after Katie left for work, I fell back in bed and watched The Empire Strikes Back. It's the first time in far too many years since I've seen the film. The first time I've watched it on an HDTV.

No, it's not the official DVD version that Lucas released with all the new footage added to it.

An old friend of mine took the THX-remastered laser discs and committed them to DVD several years ago and gave me copies of the entire original trilogy. I treasure these DVDs as they never have been and likely never will be available to the public. They're not perfect, sure, but I was pretty damned surprised at how good they looked on an HDTV, all things considered.

I love The Empire Strikes Back.


Your sex is on fire...

Yesterday, I read a great review of the film Sex and the City 2 from Cinematical's Jenni Miller that confirmed all the fears I have regarding this movie.

Please note that both Katie and I were huge fans of the original series on HBO, but hated the first movie and have no desire to see the second. Another review I read (but cannot find now) said that the show and characters are perfect for a half-hour serial, but too much for anyone to handle in a movie format.

Read below for one of my favorite paragraphs from Jenni's review to see why I fear this film or click through to the entire review.

Sex and the City 2 not only panders to the worst stereotypes of Americans abroad but also to the Middle East. Watch as Charlotte stumbles in high heeled sandals in the desert and tries to get iPhone reception while riding a camel. Stare in horror as Samantha fellates a hookah pipe in public. Check out Carrie as she wanders the beach forlornly followed by her handsome manservant holding an umbrella to shield her from the sun. Look on aghast while the four of them perform "I Am Woman" in the middle of a giant karaoke club, complete with belly dancers. At least Miranda has enough sense to try and get Samantha to observe local custom and wear a little more clothing than usual, despite Samantha's menopausal hot flashes.

Considering my confirmed fears, I would like to offer up four alternative versions of the movie, one focused on each main character, that should've been made instead.

Sex and the City: Carrie's Cackling
In a scene reminiscent of A Christmas Carol, three ghosts visit Carrie to reveal the truth to her about her relationship failures past, present, and future. Although finally confronted with all the details as to why she's been dumped, cheated on, abandoned via Post-It Note, and otherwise loathed, she still doesn't see that it's her own annoying character traits that have caused it all. This movie bombs because Carrie was everyone's least favorite character on the show anyway.

Sex and the City: Miranda's Mullings
Miranda decides to quit her job as a lawyer after one final case... defending a big NYC mafioso against charges of battery, first degree murder, coercion, and anything else you can think of. When her defense fails, his family plants her in cement shoes in the Hudson River. Considering how much she has always preferred her career over family, her husband Steve never realizes she's gone.

Sex and the City: Samantha's Sluttery
Samantha spends the entire movie in quarantine as the CDC examines her and attempts to name the many mutated strains of sexually transmitted diseases and various bodily rashes she has collected during her sexual escapades.

Sex and the City: Charlotte's Shenanigans
My favorite of the bunch... Charlotte cracks under the strain of her "perfect life" facade and tracks down her first husband (Kyle McLaughlin) and goes Rambo on his family. The FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit is called out to help explain her mental snap.

I can guarantee a couple of these I'd be interested in watching.

I like that Norman is already showing his allegiance for the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals.

I shall show mine tomorrow.


She a medusa, she the type of girl that seduce ya...

So, um, Clash of the Titans... yeah...

In a nutshell, the Titans gave birth to the Gods. The Gods killed their parents with the Kraken, a creature created from the flesh of Hades, brother to Zeus. The Gods created Man. And now Man, tired of the tyranny of the Gods, are starting to question their reverence and want to strike back. Hades, who had since been tricked by his brothers Zeus and Poseidon and thus became the king of the underworld, appeals to his brothers and the rest of the Council of the Gods on Mount Olympus to let him strike fear into the hearts of man and, thus, make them begin to pray to them again. Zeus, despite the protestations of his son, Apollo, agrees. Hades goes to Argos, the city that appears to be in the lead in terms of Godly irreverence and announces they have 10 days before the eclipse when the Kraken will be unleashed upon them. The only way to stop the Kraken is to sacrifice Andromeda, daughter of King Cepheus, whom his wife, Cassiopeia, described as having a beauty that put the Gods to shame.

Enter Perseus, a man who, despite being born of the Gods, has his own beef with them because when Hades made the first strike on soldiers of Argos, his adoptive family was killed. Although he won't do it for the people Argos, Io, another Demigod like Perseus, convinces him that it is his destiny to defeat the Gods and that, by doing so, he can face off against Hades and get his revenge.

And the adventure begins.

Yes, that is the plot of the 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans.

Now I'm no scholar of mythology, but I do like to think that I know enough to at least be a threat on Trivial Pursuit. And even I know how much of a bastardization of the story of Perseus is going on here. It's just wrong on so many levels.

So let's put that aside for now and try to think of CotT as a standalone movie. Is it good? Is it exciting? Does it make you want to stand up and cheer? Will you walk out feeling like your money was well spent?

No, somewhat, no, and no. 

Despite all the great CGI work and the fast-paced story and whatnot, I was bored. This movie was special effect after special effect all for the sake of special effects. I think the only time I truly enjoyed the effects were during the battle with Medusa. She was pretty badass. Pegasus was well done, too. But that was about it.

With about 15 minutes left, the film broke and they had to fix it. They offered a refund to the people who didn't want to wait the 10 minutes for the film to be fixed and reset. I debated. Yes, I almost walked out during the climactic Kraken battle. Who does that? Me. Someone who was bored to tears. But, just as I was packing up my stuff to go, the film started back up. I should've left.

The last time I was this disappointed by a movie that I had really been looking forward to was Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. And, yes, I did make the connection that Liam Neeson was in both (he plays Zeus in this remake). And this does make me fear The A-Team this summer.

To recap, for those who don't want spoilers, would I recommend this movie? No. Stay away. Stay far away.

Now for some spoilers and finer details (for those of you visiting my site, they are in the extended post; for those of you reading on Facebook or in a feed reader, you will likely be able to see the whole enchilada so leave now if you want to be spared)...

Continue reading "She a medusa, she the type of girl that seduce ya..." »


Black gold in a white plight...

It's a pretty late one, but it's still Snippet Wednesday. Unless you read this tomorrow. Then it's not my fault. Sorry. 'Dems da facts, Jack.

Refund
(sung to the tune of "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel
")

Refund, refund, refund
Too much tax to you I paid
Refund, refund, refund
With more money I'll now play!

Titans
Titans-medusaAnd one of those things it allows me to play with are my tickets to an only slightly advanced screening of Clash of the Titans tomorrow night at 8 p.m. Woo hoo!! I'm so jazzed. Oh, and no, Katie's not going with me.

Gold
Have any of you noticed those Cash-for-Gold storefronts cropping up all over the place? One just showed up in our town and we happened by one in the town immediately north of us just tonight. Now I'm sure there's a business for them and they are being used and it's gotta put people a bit more at ease than the mail-order service that you're supposed to send your jewelry to (wouldn't trust that if my life depended on it), but, as Katie noted, they make your town feel trashy and I kinda have to agree with her. They have their place in some towns, but it just doesn't fit in where they put the one up in our town. It's right next door to a Boston Market. Sell your jewelry and then buy a pot pie! w00t!

Bill
And speaking of gold, as we were driving by the Cash-for-Gold place tonight when this old ditty popped in my head. If any of you recognize it, I'll be quite impressed...

(sung to the tune of the theme from The Beverly Hillbillies)

Come and listen to a story 'bout a cat named Bill.
Poor country pussy, barely keep his tummy fill.
Then one day he was strummin' on his tongue,
Next thing you know, come the money by the ton.

Y'all come back now, y'hear!


Forget about your house of cards...

On Saturday, I braved the slushy snow and wind to drive out to Rosemont for something I had not done since high school... a baseball card show!

Bat bucketWell, in all fairness and to be correct, they are actually called memorabilia shows since they do often sell much more than just cards and all the dealers who do sell cards have more than just baseball cards. Anywho.

I went to this show with my BiL and his fiancee who are big card collectors as well as the other BiL who was pretty much just along for the ride to get a signature from his hero Andre Dawson, formerly of the Montreal Expos and Chicago Cubs.

I was along because I wanted to see what card... er... memorabilia shows were like as I hadn't been to one since the very early 90s. Oh, and I wanted a Dawson signature, too.

This place was NUTS. It was at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center and was absolutely enormous. Vendors had booths that were just massive and elaborate and covered in stuff that you could not possibly find anywhere else. Honestly! It's kinda amazing to think that some of this stuff was even made.

Did I buy anything? Actually, yes.

Bucspatch I bought a cool All Star Game patch from the 1974 MLB All Star Game in Pittsburgh (see patch on hat at left; image from eBay). I know I live in Chicago, but, because pretty much my entire family was born and raised in The 'Burgh, I have a healthy love of the PIrates and Steelers. And this patch, not just being a Pirates patch, but also having my birthyear on it, just made it call out to me.

I also bought a small box of hockey cards. I suddenly had an urge to open card packs like the good ol' days so I found a relatively inexpensive box ($12) that could have something I wanted (rookie cards of Chicago Blackhawks stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane) and Katie and I went to town on the box that night. It was pretty fun opening them again. Yanno, for old time's sake

Norman got something, too.

Trooper love

If you'd like some more pictures of the Stephenson Madhouse, check them out either below in the slideshow or over on Flickr...

I've said it before and I'll say it again...

Anybody who rents out DVDs that are in such sad shape that they are completely unplayable even after cleaning should be shot!

That's my feeling toward my library right now after waiting for the season 2 set of Monk. We got through the first episode without a problem then started the second. We were more than halfway through when it all seized up. Yanno, just enough time to get FULLY FREAKIN' VESTED in the episode and get no payoff at the end. So we skipped to episode three and also got FULLY FREAKIN' VESTED just to have it lock up halfway through.

DONE! The set is going back to the library and they can have them professionally fixed or replaced, dammit!

This blows.


Here come the geese...

Yesterday at lunch, I saw simply the coolest thing I've seen in a long time (click through if you don't see a photo slideshow below; or click through to the album on Flickr)...

Four geese throwing down in a pond. It was so cool. In all, I snapped 46 photos. It was so cool. I was so enthralled I Tweeted and Facebooked it.

Geesetweet

Sadly, no casualties. Shame since we all know how much I looooovvveee geese.

</sarcasm>

I have Geeks of Doom to thank for this one.

Copies of The Crazies comic book and two biohazard bags advertising the movie's release.

Too cool!

The Crazies


I get lost...

I swear, sometimes the stupidest things can make you completely lose track of time.

Tetrisgb1 For me, today, it was one of those old handheld Tetris games (literally Tetris, the actual game, you sickos). Katie and I found a bunch of them recently and discovered the batteries, after years of non-use, still work.

This morning, I woke up and got out of bed and started playing it instead of taking my shower and getting ready for work. I figured I could get in a couple dozen rows of a game and then pause it to continue later. That's kinda how Katie and I take to this Tetris game, one person starts, another continues, and so on and so forth to see how far we can get (our record is 985 rows and it took a couple weeks of on-again/off-again play).

Well, I sat there this morning and started playing a new game and got sucked in.

A little while later, Katie comes in and informs me that nearly a half hour had elapsed. I was more than 160 rows deep in the game and seriously needed to start getting ready for work.

I need to watch out for that damn game. I feel I could easily lose a whole day to it.

Two years ago, I took part in an NCAA March Madness bracket pool with some people I know. I did pretty decently.

Last year, I did horrifically.

I think I discovered the reason why... two years ago, Katie helped me with my brackets. Last year, she didn't because I was in a rush to get them done in time and she wasn't around to help.

Damn right she helped out again this year. She pretty much took it over. She has a strange insight when it comes to this sort of thing.

And all I can say is... GO UK!


Clean, the cleanest I've been...

The concept of "Spring Cleaning" applies to computers and online accounts as well, doesn't it?

Right now, I'm spending some time clearing out my iTunes account as well as my Netflix queue. I'm not sure why now, but I am.

I told myself, back when I got my 1TB Time Capsule that I'd never have to delete music again. I loved that idea.

This morning, however, I found myself with 13,010 songs in iTunes and I realized that I had a bunch of stuff that I just didn't give a crap about. Even though I never wanted to delete stuff again, I did. I tore it up in there and, when all was said and done, I deleted 1,500 tracks. Mostly stuff I had gotten as freebies from Amazon or Pitchfork or the library or whatnot. But they're gone and it feels very liberating. I almost want to go through and find more to eliminate.

As for Netflix, I've had a bunch of movies in there that I just kept bumping further and further down in the queue. A lot of Oscar-nominated or Oscar-winning flicks from the last couple years that just no longer held any appeal to me to ever get around to watching. I think I figured that if I didn't watch them immediately after their release, I never would. Right now, my queue looks a bit like this... 

Queue

...and it feels great!

Some of you may have been reading on some other blogs about their participation in a project involving Stormin' Norman, my little Lego Stormtrooper.

I feel it's about time that I introduce the project here. Right now, it includes a Flickr Pool, a Twitter account, and a blog called Stormin' Norman's Adventures (subscribe to the RSS feed).

It's been a lot of fun to take part in and been a lot more "freeing" to write as someone else a bit. Is it sad that, for the last couple weeks anyway, I've enjoyed my side project more than my brain child?

BTW, a full list of all the bloggers taking part in this project are listed in the right side bar of the blog under "Hairless Wampas." Hey, I like the name.


I can't see that thief that lives inside your head...

Katie and I were wrapping up the season one DVDs of Monk when B-roll video of the Golden Gate Bridge showed up on screen. I paused the DVD player and looked at our TV... underneath the photos on the wall... we were both officially creeped out.

Why?

Check this out...

Photo365 Day 58: Stolen Art

Here's a better view of my original photograph taken back in 1999 or 2000...

GoldenGate-sm

Now, I realize that this shot has been taken many times in the past. Hawk Hill is a great place to take photos of the bridge. But damn. Creepy to see them stacked like that.

While I've loved taking part in this Photo365 challenge, I think it's starting to play with my head a bit. To the point where I'm having dreams about photography. Actually, two nights ago, I had two dreams involving photography.

In the first, I was running through the woods taking pictures of a bunch of weather phenomena. Around me were a bunch of teenage kids also running. A few of them stopped me and asked me to take pictures of them. I said yes. As I'm snapping the pictures, another kid stops and asks what I'm taking pictures of. I point to the three kids and say, "them." He counters with, "who?" I point again. I can see them, he can't. I look at the review screen on my camera and see that my pictures are filled with nothing but fallen trees and rocks and other scenery items, no kids.

The second found me in some coastal village in southeastern Asia. There's a big festival going on and I'm taking some pictures. A monk (I think) walks up to me and lets me know that it's a private festival and they'd appreciate me not taking pictures. I apologize and go to delete the pictures off my memory card. When I hit the button on my camera, parts of start falling off and, no matter what I do, I'm unable to put it back together. I pretty much start freaking out.

I'm getting too involved in this, aren't I?

BTW, if you're interested in seeing my work on Photo365 to date, check out the slideshow below...


Call it education, it was somewhere in between...

Today was supposed to be another in our relatively new series of Friday Firsts for Katie and me.

To clarify, Katie and I started to implement a series of new stuff to do on Fridays since she already has the day off and I have many vacation days banked up. It started several weeks ago with the trip to Shedd Aquarium and the Sears/Big Willie Tower in Chicago. The week after, it was the Chicago Auto Show. We had a couple weeks off after that, but I took today off so we could figure out something new to continue this tradition.

Radio2Well, we did make it a First, but not in the way we were hoping. It marked our first trip to the radiology lab at the local hospital for chest X-rays on Katie. She has bronchitis, which could potentially lead to pneumonia.

Yay!

So much for today, eh? 

Any predictions on the Oscars this Sunday?

Listening to XRT 93.1 FM, The Regular Guy (their movie reviewer) picked his longshot win as being Inglourious Basterds for Best Picture. He thinks that all this battling between Avatar and The Hurt Locker might allow Tarantino's masterpiece (that I like more and more with each viewing) to creep in and take the win. How cool would that be? 

Katie's longshot is Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker over the likely winner, Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart.

Me? My longshot pick was going to be Anna Kendrick from Up in the Air over the heavily favored Mo'nique in Precious (I refuse to type up that ridiculously long BS name that the film officially goes by even if I did just type a much greater amount of characters in my parenthetical inclusion than the title would have, but oh well), but I think I'm going to shoot for Carey Mulligan in An Education over, oh hell, I don't even know who's really favored... Streep?

Should I pick both. Oh why not?


You got nothin' to hide...

Last night, Katie and I got home from work and, since this was the first time we had seen each other (she's still asleep when I leave in the morning), we were checking out what each other was wearing.

She had on a turtleneck.

I love turtlenecks.

I find them completely and utterly sexy if well chosen and well worn.

Katie's was both well chosen and well worn.

Some guys dig on swimsuits or lingerie or underwear on women or any number of other articles of clothing that show of skin. I'm not saying I don't find that stuff sexy, but few things compare to a good turtleneck sweater. And there are few things that cover up more of a woman's body.

Am I weird for thinking this way? Is it strange that I find something like that sexy?

I wish I could explain why I think this way, but I cannot.

Well, one good thing about the Olympics being done is that we now have most of our standard network shows back.

In addition to the usual suspects, though, last night marked the return of Rules of Engagement on CBS. This is far from one of the greatest comedies on TV, but Katie and I find it enjoyable. We love the cast, even David Spade (Russell) who I otherwise find annoying.

But the coolest thing about last night's episode was finding out that Adhir Kalyan has become a full-blown cast member! For those of you who watch, he plays Russell's personal assistant, Timmy.

I do, however, think they may need to redo the opening credits. The final still image showing all of them in bed now features Timmy and it's clearly a bad Photoshop job. Seriously, just retake it. He's crushing their legs.

If you're interested, you can download an episode (or maybe it's just a teaser, not sure) free from iTunes.

Oh, an unlike yesterday's post, this was not solicited. Just something I decided to write of my own free will. Yeah, I still have some of that left.


Here we are now going to the southside...

The late night wars are over. Jay won, Conan lost. Well, actually that remains to be seen. Sticking at NBC could still prove the losing end of the deal while Conan will likely wind up on his feet elsewhere.

But what people forget about in all this are the shows that got dicked by NBC in the 9 p.m. (Central) time slot. They were cut to make room for Jay's crapfest and, even though he's gone, none of them are coming back to NBC. We almost lost Chuck, which has proven to be one of Katie's and my favorite shows. But we did lose the then-relatively new Southland, a drama about cops on the job in Los Angeles.

SL_Running_Ben Katie and I were interested in this show almost immediately because of the cast. We were fans of Ben Mackenzie from The O.C. (don't judge us), Regina King from the multitude of roles she's been in including Jerry Maguire and 24, Michael Cudlitz from Band of Brothers and Life, and Tom Everett Scott from Philadelphia (I think we were two of the only people who watched that show).

Aside from being a procedural cop drama, what made this interesting was that it focused on two different arms of the police department... homicide detectives and beat cops... and the strained dynamic between them.

At times, the show became a bit overlong, but when it was on fire, it was on fire. However, you could tell it did not belong on a regular television network. It had much more to offer if it could afford to be edgier.

Thankfully, somebody else realized this as well... TNT... the home of two other shows we love, The Closer and Men of a Certain Age (while we've heard good things about it, we have yet to watch Leverage). And new episodes of Southland are scheduled to start tomorrow night.

Southland is a good show and if you are even half interested, I suggest checking it out. And if you started watching it on NBC and thought something was missing, that's because it was airing on NBC and that should be all the answer and justification you could possibly need to give it a second chance.

So tune in at 10/9 Central on TNT for new episodes of Southland starting tomorrow.

In accordance with FCC regulations, yes, this was a solicited review. But, also in the pursuit of honesty, Katie and I truly were fans of the show back when it first aired and we were already going to be watching it again so it didn't take much to convince me to write this. All I got in exchange for this review was a cool talking greeting card with audio from Southland as well as a branded thumbdrive and a hand-written thank you note. Money might've been nice, but c'est la vie. Reviewers have to start somewhere, right?

Congratulations to Canada on their big win in men's hockey yesterday to close out the 2010 Winter Olympics. Katie and I were watching intently and hoping against hope that the USA would win out. Although our team wasn't playing all that well throughout most of the game, around the end, for a second, we really thought we would.

It was a hard-fought battle, but Canada came up with gold in the end. To the victors go the spoils. At least with men's hockey, the spoils didn't include underage beer consumption.

To Ryan Miller, goalie for the US squad, you are a god. Would you like to come play for the Blackhawks? Please?


Just acting like we're animals...

I think the world as we know it is coming to an end.

You think I'm joking? Check this shit out...

Earlier this week, Tillikum, an Orca at Sea World Orlando, rose up, snatched its trainer, and drowned her.

Komodo Dragons in Indonesia attack a park ranger.

A shark-filled tank at a shopping mall in Dubai springs a leak.

A glacier measuring two times the size of Los Angeles has broken off Antarctica and is floating around the ocean threatening to wreak havoc with ocean currents and other weather phenomena.

Earthquakes are running rampant lately, some in areas you wouldn't normally associate with earthquake-like tendencies, and are causing all kinds of damage from both the initial shockwaves, the aftershocks, and tsunamis if they're ocean-based. Another tsunami is now threatening Hawaii.

You wanna know who's to blame? The animals of the world. They're rising up against humans. They're taking back their planet. They're delivering a collective "FUCK YOU" to humans the world over.

The Tillikum and Komodo Dragon stories needs no further explanation. They're just pissed.

The tank leak is because them sharks be hungry and are ramming seams in the glass. They just didn't quite time it right. The leak was discovered before they could break free and make a smorgasbord of the shopping public.

I believe that the glacier broke off because the penguins are sick of being stuck either in zoos or aquariums pretending to be cute on an ice floe that we're responsible for melting.

Shedd Aquarium 2010
You can't tell me he isn't one angry flightless bird

The earthquakes are clearly the animals who are capable striking fault lines to prove how pissed off they are.

The reign of humans on Earth is over! Give it up!

I hereby declare my allegiance to the non-human animal kingdom. ALL HAIL MY NEW OVERLORDS!!

Caprica-logo Are any of you watching Caprica? I've been giving it a shot after finishing the entire Battlestar Galactica series recently, but have been on the fence.

**SPOILER FOR LAST NIGHT'S EPISODE**

It's not a bad series, I suppose, but it has been really slow and I can't say I've been entirely impressed with some of the casting. I was about to give it up until last night's episode with Daniel's introduction of the Cylon to his company's Board of Directors as well as Tamara and her new, shall we say, antics. These two bits at least added some excitement.

What's your take on the show?


Tell me the tales of war...

For a little while now, I had been tentatively looking forward to Neil Gaiman coming to my old hometown of Naperville as part of the Naperville READS program that they host annually. I say "tentatively" because, while I've read a couple of his books and enjoyed them as well as his Sandman graphic novels, I've had the worst time getting through Good Omens (tried to read it twice now) and I wasn't a fan of the movie adaptation of his fairy tale Coraline.

But, with the signing and reading happening next Tuesday, I was getting a little hyped up.

I went out today and spent a while anguishing over which of his many graphic novels I wanted to buy to have signed (I only own his novels, but had always borrowed his graphic novels from friends or the library). With helpful advice from some of my cool Tweeps including @lesombre, @lynneNaranek, and @MightyHunter, I chose a hardcover copy of Sandman: The Dream Hunters.

Then I went to pick up the ticket for entry to the event.

As the woman handed it to me, she informed me that things had changed and that Gaiman was only going to do a reading and discussion... no signing.

WTF? Seriously? I know this program is all about promoting reading and whatnot, but the cool thing was that they always got great authors to come in and SIGN BOOKS in addition to the reading and discussion.

C'mon Neil! Be my friend! Stick around and sign! Don't just sell pre-signed books!

Besides, Norm wants to take a picture with you. Don't make me Photoshop it.

Katie LOVES her iPod.

Red_hero20090909I got her the project RED iPod Nano, in case you wanted to know.

When I gave it to her, I already had it charged up and loaded with music and videos, including South Park, The Simpsons Movie, and Star Trek. Oh, and the UNO game I bought last year.

I gotta admit, it's one cool little device.

The fact that it has that Nike/iPod exercise tracker available plus the built-in radio with song tagging and live pause as well as the pedometer, video camera, built-in speaker, and shake shuffle makes it pretty damn rockin'. I almost want one, but still love the uber-capacity of my 160GB Classic iPod, which is actually about half full.

I haven't legitimately drooled over an iPod in a while.

This is totally drool-worthy!


It was a beautiful day...

It's nice living not too far from a major metropolitan area. There's always something to do, something to discover, something to escape to.

Katie and I did just that yesterday.

We spent pretty much the whole day in downtown Chicago doing things that we'd never done together. And we had a blast doing so.

[Facebookers, you may see a couple photos embedded in this post, but there are also a few photo slideshows you won't see until you click over to my blog]

We took the train into the city and walked on down to the Sears/Willis Tower. Katie had never been there and I haven't been there in years. And now they have the Ledge that we just had to see.

Next, we hiked our way down to the Shedd Aquarium. I probably hadn't been there in 20 years and Katie had never been there either. Again, a blast!

Finally, we headed up north to the Lego Store (this one we had done many times, but had to again just for kicks).

Lego Store 2010

Lastly, we went out to the United Center for the Chicago Blackhawks v. Phoenix Coyotes. Sadly, the Hawks lost in a shootout, but it was still a fun game.

And we need to thank Katie's brothers and the future SiL, Scott and Steve and Becca, for the tickets which were Christmas gifts. 

We need to hang out in Chicago more often.

But I can guarantee Norman will be downtown a lot. After all, he's got some comrades to liberate.

Lego Store 2010

Oh, the army building starts.

Modestmouse Last year, it was The Flaming Lips headlining the final day of Pitchfork that "did it" for me.

This year, the first night of the 2010 Pitchfork Music Festival will feature Modest Mouse.

I'm drooling already.

I will be there.

I must be there.

If it kills me.

So far, the other two days look decent. But I can only guarantee that I will be there on Friday so far.

Anyone else want to go with me?


Know what you doing doing to me...

During my commute home last night, I heard the song "Ruby" (Lala.com player will pop open, I hope) come on the radio. I was immediately singing along as I know it pretty well. And I own the album. But, for whatever reason, I was completely blanking on the artist.

Below is the mental process I went through to come by the name of the band...

Ruby, ruby, ruby...

Indian... [I have no idea why that word popped in my mind]

Indian...

Indian...

Native...

Chief...

KAISER CHIEFS!!

I shit you not.

I have no one to blame but goddamn Christopher Columbus and his inability to correctly use a freakin' astrolabe for why my mnemonic hooks are politically incorrect!!

Capiche?

Last night was one of Katie's long nights of work, so, after returning home from the gym, I decided to have dinner ready for her. A couple nights ago, we'd discussed having fettuccine alfredo, so I set about making it.

I was going to make it the right way, but Katie reminded me that we had picked up one of the frozen meal bags from Trader Joe's so I grabbed that to make it.

Inside the bag was one of the weirdest looking things I've ever seen in a TJ's meal. The pasta was flash frozen in what the instructions called "pods," which, to me, looked like they had been shaped in a muffin tin. The alfredo was frozen in what I can only describe as "chips" that seemed shaved off a larger piece.

I snapped a shot of the pods and chips (foreground) with Norman next to it to allow for some context...

Photo365 Day 26

Stranger still were the instructions that said to either microwave without adding any water or cook in a stovetop skillet with just a dash of water. I realize this is otherwise precooked, but to be told to do anything with pasta other than boil it is just weird to me.

Do not get me wrong, it was a good meal, like just about anything from TJ's. Especially after I added some grilled chicken and fresh steamed broccoli. But the initial state just caught me way off guard.


That's what you're hungry for...

This was a good weekend.

On Saturday, we went and hung out with our old game-night crew. We used to get together on a near-monthly basis to eat, drink, and play games. With scheduling difficulties of late, I think this is the first time we've been able to go in nearly a year. It sucks that it's been so long, but we finally did get together.

We had a good night eating, drinking, talking, and, well, not playing games. We call them "game nights," but it seems that, more often than not, we just talk the night away instead of playing anything. And, if we do break out a game, it becomes background to our conversation. But who cares? It was good convo.

The meal was really good too! Graham and Kristy researched and found topping styles from six different cities in the U.S. for hot dogs. It was pretty cool. Of course there was the Chicago style, but we also had, if I recall correctly, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Detroit, New York, and Seattle. All kinds of stuff like marinara, cole slaw, cream cheese, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, you name it. And they were cut up into small pieces so we could each try a little without getting too stuffed.

Added to that were my mom's baked beans. She shared the recipe with me on Friday and I made them on Saturday while Katie was at work. It was my first time making baked beans ever, and from scratch to boot, but everyone seemed to think they turned out okay, so I was happy.

It was all topped off with homemade vanilla ice cream and little dutch apple tarts. Yeah, nobody left hungry, that's for sure.

On Sunday, we went up to Katie's parents' house because they were tearing out a wall dividing the kitchen and dining room and we wanted to see how it all now looked. It was also the first time since Christmas we'd seen anybody on her side of the family. Sorry, I didn't take pictures, but the wall looked really nice! Not that it's done yet, but still.

Katie's mom took advantage of the opportunity to unload a bunch of stuff in storage in the basement on whomever wanted it. Katie and I were grateful we escaped with a small bag and nothing more since her brother and FSiL walked away with three large bags and another stack of stuff.

But we got a vintage Speak & Spell and Speak & Math out of the affair. Both are in perfect working order as Norman discovered...

Photo365 Day 25

After a long weekend of driving and hanging out with folks, we crashed pretty hard at home. Sadly, despite Norman's best efforts, no work got done on the puzzle at all...

Photo365 Day 18

Why do I constantly find myself relating to Wally?

Sometimes too well.

Like, scary well.

And no bald jokes, okay?

Dilbert.com


Whenever this world is cruel to me...

I just finished watching The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

First off... amazing movie. I love stories about World War II told not from the standard soldiers-at-war sort of point of view. Know what I mean? If you haven't seen it, see it.

Boy1 In the simplest terms, an eight-year-old boy named Bruno moves with his family to the countryside outside Berlin during World War II when his father is promoted within the Nazi army. While there, Bruno gets bored and decides to explore the forest near his house and comes across an electrified fence. On the other side is an eight-year-old boy in "striped pajamas" and the two develop an unlikely friendship.

Truly heartbreaking considering that we, with the knowledge we have of history, know exactly what's bound to happen and, yet, we watch the story unroll before our eyes. Despite this knowledge, the movie still gripped me tightly and kept me enthralled.

This film is based on a book that the author claims is a work of fiction but is steeped in potential reality. I guess you could almost think of it as a sort of revisionist history. Not in the traditional definition of the term, but still.

However, watching a film like this gets you thinking. Did stories like this actually happen? How would we know? IMHO, it easily could have considering the naivete and feeling of personal indestructibility inherent in youth.

Another thing I wonder about is how a person, regardless of how well trained they are, can just sit back and let this sort of thing happen. How brainwashed and/or fucked in the head do you have to be to just accept that you are taking people to a gas chamber and killing them even though you know that they personally did nothing to you. It's sick. Also, if some people realized that what they were doing was wrong, did they jump ship and desert? You never really hear many stories of Nazi deserters. At least not that I've heard.

Lastly, should this war we're currently involved in ever actually end (and I somehow don't see that happening anytime soon, if ever completely), what parts of it will we look back on in the future as having truly been a mistake? And how will history books document this war? This is the first war the U.S. has been involved in during the age of the World Wide Web when we're able to see more than just our point of view of what's happening. I would argue that there's even more popular outcry against this war than there was against Vietnam, but we're just not blaming the troops (for the most part, that is) as happened in the 60s and 70s. Whose propaganda will win out?

I really need to shut off my brain during movies.

I'm not a Conan O'Brien fan. I never have been, in all honesty. His show just never appealed to me.

But I respect the hell out of him for the stand he's taking against NBC and their plan to move Leno back to late night and bump both Conan and Jimmy Fallon back later in the evening (actually the next morning in the eastern time zone).

Conan's statement about NBC's plan and his refusal to accept it is very elegant, well-written, and humorous. And he pulls no punches.

If NBC doesn't listen, they're only hurting themselves more. This letter is going to garner a lot of pro-Conan sympathy. Don't they understand that moving Jay Leno back to late night is not a good idea? Sure, anything is better than his primetime slot and he may gain back a little more viewership as a talk show instead of a variety show. But, for the most part, people are done with Leno.

Call that my humble opinion on the matter.


And I swear...

In addition to my resolution to take part in that Photo365 challenge, Katie and I are making a vow to get back to the gym. I did a little running at the gym on Monday and, afterward, it felt like my foot was going to remove itself from my ankle involuntarily and leave me forever. So I'm not really counting that one so much.

But, tonight, we both went to the gym. After getting past the regulars who asked where the hell we've been, we worked out. I mean actually worked out and got a pretty decent workout at that.

And we're going to try to do it more regularly. We need to. We're going to be in a wedding a year from March and we want to be so sexy walking down the aisle that people forget who the bride and groom are and just pay attention to us the whole night. Isn't that what all good groomsmen and bridesmaids are supposed to do, after all?

Oh, and in case you want to see the Day 1 photo for Photo365, it's below...

Photo265 Day 1

Don't forget to follow my Photo365 progress on Flickr.

Speaking of resolutions, did you make any for this New Year?

Six days in now, have you completely broken them yet?

Well, here's one resolution I hope doesn't get broken anytime soon via my friend (well, no, not really, he might have something to say about that claim) Craig Ferguson. He's resolving to learn Spanish.

Here he is announcing his resolution...

And here is his first night truly attempting to follow through on the promise...

Wish the man some luck. C'mon! Do it in Spanish!

God I love his show.


And the pieces of my puzzle keep crumblin' away...

Considering how great my musical whorishness has become in the past couple of years, it should come as no surprise that I'm actually developing a list of albums whose releases I'm looking forward to this coming year.

Of course, being the music industry, dates and whether or not they even come out is a very fluid topic. You never know. A band could break up. They could be dumped by their label. They may not get the album done on time. The Web may trump their projected release date and they are forced to push it out early (that sounds dirty). Sometimes the information is just plain bad.

However, I am a man on a budget and knowing what I can expect will help a bit. But finding a reliable source for this information is not necessarily easy. So I'm just going to default to my normal source, Wikipedia (U.S. releases | British releases), and list out what I like the sound of based on the releases as they currently stand.

  • Courtney Love - Nobody's Daughter (January 1) - I gotta admit that I'm a bit curious about this project. No expectations, though.
  • Vampire Weekend - Contra (January 12)
  • OK Go - Of the Blue Colour of the Sky (January 12)
  • Eels - End Times (January 19)
  • Leighton Meester - S/T (January 25) - HA! Had you going, didn't I?
  • Massive Attack - Heligoland (February 8)
  • Goldfrapp - Headfirst (March 23)
  • The Black Keys - untitled, so far (April-ish)
  • Common - The Believer (December 28)
  • Bryan Scary - untitled (1st quarter)
  • Linkin Park - untitled (1st quarter)
  • MGMT - Congratulations (1st quarter) - REALLY looking forward to this one.
  • Fleet Foxes - untitled (1st quarter)
  • Hayden Panettiere - Falling Down (unknown) - Had you going again, didn't I?
  • Kings of Leon - untitled (unknown)
  • Social Distortion - untitled (unknown)
  • Stone Temple Pilots - untitled (unknown)
  • The Strokes - untitled (unknown)
  • Gorillaz - Plastic Beach (unknown) - Really REALLY looking forward to this one.
  • Kate Nash - untitled (unknown)
  • Portishead - untitled (unknown)
  • Radiohead - untitled (unknown)

Anything else you think I should be looking into? What are you looking forward to?

Oh, please may 2010 be a good music year!

Puzzle: Santa ClausFor Christmas, Katie’s parents bought us a good old-fashion jigsaw puzzle. We finished it over the weekend and had a lot of fun working on it so we’re going to keep a card table set up in our living room with a puzzle on it that we can work on for kicks.

Since finishing the Santa Claus gift puzzle (at right), I picked up one of the Sistine Chapel ceiling mural that I’m really looking forward to working on.

But I discovered one thing while speaking to the clerk at Marbles about this puzzle… while it says it’s 96 (whatever) long, I gotta stop assuming that the units of measure on products sold in America are all Americanized. There’s a big difference between 96 centimeters (as the box stated) and 96 inches (as I misread it).

BIG freakin’ difference.

I felt like such a moron.


Then we're gonna give him a best friend hug...

The plan behind the reason why this post is coming on New Year's Day instead of prior to the New Year was a complete and dismal failure. We had hoped to see a movie or two on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day and we did no such thing. Our local theater was so horrifically packed

I actually started by creating a list of all the movies we've seen, but, for whatever reason, it didn't save in the e-mail draft I had written. Thankfully, the list of finalists did save.

With no further ado, here are mine and Katie's top movies of the year starting with #10:

  1. Away We Go
    This movie almost never had a chance to charm us the way it did. Starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph as a couple struggling to find themselves as they're about to have a baby, I thought this film had come and gone before it even came. Luckily, it finally started airing in the Chicago suburbs nearly a month after most other places got it. It was worth the wait.
  1. Taken
    Liam Neeson kicking serious ass while trying to rescue his daughter who was kidnapped and sold into sex slavery while vacationing in Paris? Yeah, the equation for a great film!
  1. (500) Days of Summer
    I had high hopes for this film and it did not fail me. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a hopeless romantic falling for Zooey Deschanel's hopeless singleton. Can it possibly work? Well, the voice-over introduction does tell you right off the bat that this is not a love story.
  1. Inglourious Basterds
    I know I'm not rating this nearly as high as many other people have this year end, but I loved this revisionist take on WWII until just around the end when something happens that makes this film go from a "could this have actually happened and just never been reported" to a "no possible way." I really preferred believing the former as opposed to realizing the latter. But it does contain the finest acting I've yet seen in a Quentin Tarantino film. Had this maintained the illusion of semi-reality in my head, I think it would've rated much higher.
  1. Fantastic Mr. Fox
    Wes Anderson + Stop-Motion Animation + the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Bill Murray = a surprisingly good film based on a classic Roald Dahl children's book about a fox who returns to his thieving ways despite promising his wife he'd become an upstanding citizen.
  1. Up In the Air
    I really have no idea how the films of Jason Reitman remain so consistently good. From Thank You For Smoking to Juno to this gem about a normal guy (George Clooney) who jetsets around the U.S. firing employees for spineless bosses. He believes that this is the way he is meant to live until he meets Vera Farmiga and realizes that there may actually be more to life.
  1. Star Trek
    Apparently, my earlier review led people to believe I didn't like this movie. That is not true. I liked it, just not as much as some other people. However, on subsequent viewings, I love this film. I'm not a Trekkie. I never aim to be one. But this is a thoroughly enjoyable film with some incredibly unique and spot-on casting. I can't wait for a sequel.
  1. District 9
    Easily the best scifi film I've seen in years mostly because it's presented as another one of those "so real it seems real" sorts of films. The scratchy, over-the-shoulder documentary style of filming really brought this film to life and helped hide any imperfections in the CGIs making them blend seamlessly with the live action acting. And, like any good scifi, it uses false characters and situations to bring to light real social issues (segregation and genocide) in terms that even regular joes can understand.
  1. Up!
    Can Pixar ever do any wrong? It sure doesn't seem that way. As good as this film is, though, I could handle just watching the opening segment which brings greater emotionality to a movie using animation and no dialogue than almost any live-action film I've ever seen.
  1. Hangoverposter09 The Hangover
    Four friends, Las Vegas, date-rape drugs, a tiger, a hooker, a baby, a stolen police car, Chinese mobsters, and Mike Tyson. Need I say more? Nah, didn't think so.

Oh, and the following movies are ones we have yet to see although I'm pretty sure they may have fared pretty well on our list had we gotten around to them.

  • Sherlock Holmes
  • The Hurt Locker
  • The Informant!
  • Zombieland
  • Where the Wild Things Are
  • Invictus
  • Crazy Heart

I also really liked Marty's idea of listing movies that kinda let me down. I'm just listing a single movie here because I lost my list of films we watched. I'm sure there'd be more, but...

  •  The Men Who Stare At Goats
    In concept, this movie about soldiers who are trained to use their minds as their greatest weapon should have been great. And for about the first hour it was. The final half really was terrible, though. It felt like a film that fell victim to the writer's strike of 2007 and just never was properly finished. Or maybe it had a great, but controversial, ending that studio execs nixed in favor of one they deemed would fare much better with audiences. If this is the case, Studio Exec Tampering FAIL!

What films did you enjoy this year?

Katie and I learned a few things about ourselves last night during our stay-at-home New Year's Eve celebration.

Thought we'd share:

  • We are not late-night people.
  • We are not party people.
  • Unless it is mixed with orange juice, we are not champagne people.
  • I do not have my finger on the pulse of popular music as evidenced by my not knowing half the people performing on New Year's Rockin' Eve. Justin Bieber who?
  • Unlike the Black Eyed Peas, I do not got your boom boom pow. Hell, I don't even know what your boom boom pow is. Sorry.