Posts from December 2007.

Merry Christmas

 

Squiggle & Santa, 2007

Merry Christmas to you and yours from me and mine and his and hers and theirs. Thanks for reading my dumb and poorly proofread blog for yet another year.

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2007 Holiday Christmas Survival Guide for Slackers Cultural Warriors

The Holiday Christmas Survival Guide for Slackers Cultural Warriors, my annual round-up of the stupidest items available for purchase on Teh Neterwebs, is here.

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God Bless Ye Merry Syngamy …

If life begins at conception as so many evangelicals insist, shouldn’t we be celebrating Christmas around April Fool’s Day, when the Big Guy first knocked Mary up?

Update: Apparently it’s called Annunciation and falls on March 25th. Man, those Christians think of everything! For the whole day celebrants mark the occasion by writing sentences without periods

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The Scene You Hate

A friend, having read my last post, asked if The Queen really objects to botanical inaccuracies in movies. Oh yes, yes indeed. And not just in motion pictures, either. If I’d known, in advance, that the TV show LOST would feature a bunch of people on a tropical island populated with temperate foliage, I never would have put it in my Netflix queue.

Of course, I’m just as bad when something I’m passionate about is misrepresented on film. Like games, for instance. I still break into hives whenever I think of the scene in Freaks and Geeks where the parents play the card game Pit, just the two of them.

But my all-time least favorite scene–one that appears in about every third film, seemingly–has to be this one:

The hero and the antagonist are playing chess, a game in which both are virtual grandmasters. It's a close fought match, and they banter while they play. Slowly, their moves--and their conversation--become more aggressive. Eventually they are openly hostile to one another, both on the board and off.

Then, victory. Smirking, the villain says something irrefutable to the hero, moves a bishop, and announces check.

For a long moment the two men lock eyes. Suddenly, the hero utters a devastating riposte, breaks eye contact just long enough to capture the bishop with his queen, and, with the slightest hint of a smile, declares checkmate. He rises from his chair and walks briskly away, leaving the loser to gawps at the board in amazement.

Yes, I understand that one grandmaster saying “I’m going to checkmate you in seven moves” followed by 23 straight minutes of the opponent staring at the board before replying, “ah, you are right–good game” lacks some of the “pizzazz” of the Hollywood version. But I still would rather sit through both episodes of Viva Laughlin, back-to-back, than endure this scene again.

What’s the scene you hate?

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Apples and Oranges

Being married to a professional botanist has its ups and downs. It’s nice on day hikes, for instance, having someone around who can instantly identify every plant we see. On the other hand, I don’t need to be notified of every ecological incongruence in the films we watch. The Queen spent much of the Lord of the Rings trilogy leaning over to me in the theater and whispering, “pfff, I can see why they call this a fantasy–they have polystichum munitum growing in a tropical upland climatic zone.”

Last night we went to a wreath-making party last night. Our host provided us with wire frames, fir boughs, holly, and pine cones; before dinner, while I read stories to Squiggle and put him to bed, everyone else got all elfy in the garage.

At the end of the evening we collected our wreath. Ours, while beautiful, was the least ornate of the bunch, consisting only of boughs. As we carried a sleeping Squiggle out to the car, I asked The Queen about this.

Me: Why didn’t you put holly in our wreath?

Queen: Because holly berries are poisonous, and when Squiggle saw them he pointed excitedly and yelled “cherries!”

M: Ah, good call. But what about the pine cones? You could have put a few of those on there.

Q: No I couldn’t. They were the wrong kind.

M: What do you mean?

Q: The boughs were from one species of tree and the pine cones were from another. It would look weird to have them on the same wreath.

M: What, seriously? Nobody would know but you.

Q: Yes, it would look weird to me. That’s what I’m saying.

M: Oh, come on. What’s the big deal?

Q: Let me put this into terms you can understand: imagine if you went to a Star Trek convention and saw a bunch of people dressed as Jedi.

M: Oh, god. Right. Gotcha.

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Movies: I Am Legend

I Am Legend–the new film with Will Smith and the first I’ve seen in a theater for maybe a year–starts out as pure Hollywood blockbuster schlock, with Smith barreling around the empty streets of New York in a sports car. He flushes herds of deer out from the jumble of abandoned automobiles, drives alongside the fleeing beasts at, like, 80 miles per hour (these being, apparently, post-apocalyptic turbo-charged deer), and takes potshots at them out the window with a high powered rifle, presumably in an effort to rustle up some grub. Like much of the movie, it is exciting, and cool, and scary … so long as you don’t accidentally think about the situation. Then you are, like, “why doesn’t he just park the car, walk a block, and shoot one of the many deer that are just standing around Time’s Square?” The inescapable conclusion is that Smith doesn’t do so because it wouldn’t take $85 million dollars to film such a scene, and the producers of Legend seem intent of squeezing as much cash into this film as they can (though another thirty bucks toward making the CGI look smoother woulda been nice).

So I set my phasers to “dumb” and settle in for some mindless entertainment–just as the film becomes surprisingly ponderous. Alternating between footage of Smith and his faithful dog battling monsters and loneliness in the present, and flashbacks showing how the world came to be depopulated, the second act of Legend is a philosophical, big-budget amalgamation of 28 Days Later, Resident Evil, and Children of Men. Which is to say that there is little new here, plot-wise (even though the source material, Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend, predates all the aforementioned movies about half a century), it is at least well done. And, of course, Smith is a fine actor, able to hold his own even when his only co-stars are German Shepherds, mannequins, and mutants.

But then, about two-thirds of the way through the film, there is what appears to be a three minute commercial for Shrek, a scene involving the animated DVD that just goes on and on. I assumed this was just another product placement (such as the Apple products that Smith routinely depends on), albeit a particularly long, blatantly, and egregious one. A little Googling after I got home from the movie found no evidence of this, though: the two films were made by different studios, and there were no reports of money changing hands so that Shrek would get plugged in Smith’s new film. But, really, that makes the scene even more unforgivable. And least product placement, evil though it might be, justified such a bizarre and jarring detour.

And the film never really recovers after that. Having lost its stride, it just sort of stumbles on for the remaining 30 minutes before collapsing over the finish line. Here again, as in the opening, the movie’s worst enemy is thought on the part of the audience, a moment of which reveals that Legend’s finale doesn’t make a whit of sense. Too bad. Taken with the many other films that have told this same story recently, and you’re left with a film that would have been more aptly titled I Am Forgettable.

Warning: I discuss the end of the film in the comments.

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Sound Focus

I’m on the local NPR program Sound Focus riiiiiiiiiiiiight … NOW! 94.9 FM, if you’re in the Seattle area. And you’ll soon be able to listen to it online (I think).

Three of the games I talk about–Quirkle, Can’t Stop, & Mr. Jack–are covered in my 2007 Good Gift Games Guide; Twilight Struggle I review here.

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Annual Call of Slacker Guide Items

I’m working on my annual Holiday Survival Guide For Slackers and I’m looking for suggestions. So if you know of some stupid crap available for purchase on the intarweb, please mention it here or drop me an email. Thanks!

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Challenge Court

Today I played racquetball on court #1; or, as I like to call it, the Challenge Court. You don’t play by any special rules, or against especially difficult opponents, but, as with most racquetball courts, the back wall of court #1 is glass, and it–alone of all the courts at my gym–abuts the lobby. In other words: as you play, a continual stream of attractive and fit women (and men, if that’s your thing) are constantly walking by. And as anyone who has worn sunglasses to the beach knows, there is something about having a piece of glass between your eyebones and a good looking member of the opposite (or same!) sex that suppresses your natural inhibitions about gawping.

The whole thing is akin to trying to play chess in the front row of a cinema showing Halloween. If the ball goes to the back of the court, it’s safer to simply position yourself facing forward and wait for the it to re-enter your field of vision, rather than turn around and run the risk of catching the eye of some passing beauty just long enough for the ball to ricochet into your groin.

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Tales From the Gym

Last week Mother Nature dumped six billion gallons of water onto Seattle in a 24 hour period, thereby calling an official end to ride-your-bike-to-work season.

Since then I have returned to my gym. And I had forgotten what an endless supply of anecdotes the gym provides its patrons. (Some previous ones here & here & here & here & here). I think I will devote this week to relating more of them.

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