Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Olympics

The Olympics: If, on a regular basis, you do anything other than contemplate your navel, you're bound to hear people ranting about politics and about how the other guy[1] is a horrible person and how they're going to ruin America.  In fact, patriotism, or the lack there of, seem to always come up in some form or other.[2]  Similar arguments are heard when things like immigration, manufacturing and getting involved in other countries problems are discussed.[3]

And so we come to the Olympics.  For as much as people shout and rant about how much they love America, Patriotism, the Flag and anything else that is symbolic of our great country, you would think that the Olympics would be a Super-Mega-Gigantic-Huge!!!! Event.  But some how the Olympics get dismal ratings every time they come on.

Which simply stuns me.  What more could you want?  You would be hard pressed to come up with any way to better show how great a country we are than the Olympics.  In fact, the Soviet Union found the Olympics to be so important that in a country that struggled to keep people fed, they gave their potential Olympic athletes the best of everything so that they could win and rub our noses in their superiority.  In America, people watch the opening ceremonies and then once the parade of nations starts they flip back to the reruns of American Idol they have saved on their TiVo.

In case you haven't guessed how I feel about the Olympics let me quit beating around the bush.

The Olympics are beyond awesome.  A competition between people who have essentially dedicated their lives to trying to become the best in the world in their sports, competition, etc.  And for the most part why do they do this?  Not for the money, that's for sure.  No they do it so that they can represent their country and hopefully stand proudly, just a few inches higher than the guy who came in second while our national anthem plays and our flag is flown.

And it really doesn't matter what kind of sports you like, the Olympics has you covered.  Just about every team sport is represented.[4]  There are races of every variety: on foot, on a bike, on a boat, even on a yak and that's just the summer Olympic.[5]

Needs some violence?  Okay how about boxing, or judo, or taekwondo.  This year they even added in girls boxing.  There's weight lifting.  There are several events that involve guns.  There's two types of volleyball.  Countless things that are thrown, flung or shot through the air.  Need something a bit prettier?  How about so much gymnastics you think you're going to puke?  Or synchronized swimming?  


There's even Olympic Ping Pong.  Seriously ping pong.  And as silly as that sounds, go watch them play, it's astounding.  Same thing with badminton.  Yeah, I know you play badminton in your back yard and you think you're lord of the shuttlecock.  Trust me, compared to these guys you look like Slow-Poke Rodriguez.[6]


Maybe you simply don't like sports.  That's okay too.  It's the Olympics!  There's enough pageantry to overload even Morningside and Fields.[7]  Plus they spend plenty of time telling you all about the athletes, their successes and their trials and tribulations, that you practically feel like you've been rooting for them since they first picked up a racket, baton, oar, reins or whatever.

And how does this great nation do?  This nation that everyone seems to think is falling apart at the seams.  This nation that compared to some nations practically ignores its Olympic athletes.  We totally kick butt, that's how we do.  Out of the 16,321 medals awarded in the modern Olympics, we've taken 2,549 of them.[8] For those of you afraid of math, that's a little over 15.5%  The second highest has 1204 and that's the Soviet Union.[9]  How about on an individual Olympic basis?  Still dominating.  We usually end up with most medals and often the most gold medals.

Anyway my point is this.  These people spend their lives getting up at the crack of dawn to run, swim, ride, work out, etc, etc for essentially their entire lives.  The least you could do is sit on your butt and watch them. As they represent our country.

Now if you'll excuse me, some guy I've never heard of, from some country I'm never going to visit, is about to compete and I've got to go listen to Bob Costas make it poignant for me.


The Olympics: A+

[1] - As opposed to whoever it is you are listening to rant at the moment.
[2] - I know this post was supposed to be about the Olympics, hang on I'm getting there.
[3] - Heck, Glen Beck could probably use your liking Ketchup as a means to prove you're a commie, but then again he's an idiot.
[4] - Granted there's no football or rather American football.
[5] - Okay, I made up one of those.  But then you realize I was pulling your leg when you read the word 'boat'.
[6] - It's Speedy Gonzales' cousin, but you've probably never heard of him, because in a fit of PC stupidity, Warner Brothers caved and hid him in a closet somewhere.
[7] - IMDB it.
[8] - Not counting this year.
[9] -  And you don't have to worry about them getting any more

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Sizzlean

Sizzlean: This is actually a product that no longer exists, but I was recently reminded of it so here you go.

Sizzlean was the result of some genius' idea to make a substitute for bacon.  If there was ever an idea that was doomed from the start it was this one.  Attention food scientist dude, there is no need for a substitute for bacon.  Bacon is awesome and wonderful.[1]

The big selling point was that it was an improvement on bacon because it was a lot leaner than bacon[2].  Again, you can't improve on perfection so don't try.  The big downside to Sizzlean was that it looked and felt like stiff wet cardboard.  It didn't taste much better.

When it was cooking instead of filling your house with the wonderful smell of bacon it filled your house with the hideous smell of bad.

Now this may be false but in my memory at one point they introduced a second version that was Beef Sizzlean. [3]  Which would mean it had all of the bad points of Sizzlean but also contained no pig.

 Sizzlean: F


[1] - Another attempt to create a bacon subsitute resulted in Bacos.  Which while also failing to be bacon did succeed in making something sort of tasty.
[2] - Sizzlean ended up being something like 35% fat anyway, so at best it could be said to possibly be healthier than bacon but definitely still not healthy.
[3] - The Interweb tells me that original Sizzlean was a "cured meat product".  Now that does sound tasty! Not.

Mini-Golf @ Pigeon Forge

Mini Golf (a.k.a. - Putt Putt) @ Pigeon Forge[1]: As state in a previous post, the Pook and I recently spent a few days in Pigeon Forge.  We picked that spot for three main reasons.  One of which was that they have a lot of mini-golf courses and the Pook had a hankering.[2]  So here are the definitive grades for the courses that we visited.[3]

Ripley's Old MacDonald's Farm Mini-Golf: Sticking with two of the Pigeon Forge traditions, this course is country themed and owned by Ripley's. In Pigeon Forge, if you aren't interested in looking at people shove nails up their noses, Ripley's is more than willing to take your money in a variety of other venues.  Including an aquarium, a world's record museum and at least six other attractions including one that's a 4D theater.[4]  


We visited this course first, mainly because there was a retarded amount of traffic and we were right beside it.  None of it's three courses were really difficult at all and they were very "luck" related.  A slope filled with gophers that make your ball pachinko down the hill is a good example.  Thus good and bad players alike won't have any trouble getting the ball near the hole. So it's fun to watch but doesn't require much skill. Lot's of large animal figures talk to you throughout in bad accents and make awful puns.  There's also a repetitive country instrumental song that plays constantly that will haunt your dreams for the next three days. (Cow Course: B: 40 P: 46,  Chicken Course: B: 34 P: 39, Pig Course: B: 40, P: 43)


Hazzard County Country Club: This course was located at Cooter's Place in Gatlinburg.  Cooter also has a museum, store and go-carts.[5]  We initially passed this by, but ended up rushing back when the sky opened up and started trying to drown us.  The course is indoors on the second floor of a building that clearly used to be house.  Thus the different holes wind down the hallways and in the rooms, which is sort of strange.  There's Dukes of Hazzard memorabilia on the walls throughout.  In the end we were glad we visited this course because it turned out to be one of the best.  There was no random junk on the holes but there were plenty of slopes and bumpers which meant you had to be skillful and not just lucky.  (B: 47, P: 52)


Hillbilly Golf: Originally I had no interest in playing this course that's located in Gatlinburg, but when the Pook read that you had to take a ride in an incline up the side of the mountain and then the holes wandered back down the mountains side, I was very interested.  When we were walking by and saw that one hole of golf cost $13 my interested evaporated.  You can save money by walking 50 yards back up the road to Cooter's.

Professor Hakkers Lost Treasure Golf: Two different courses are offered here.  You can take a mine train up to the first hole of both or you can walk up the stairs.  If you're into short train rides in a tiny mine car take the train.  If you want to beat everyone else to the first hole, take the stairs.  Lot's of decorations and such to look at, but most of the holes are just big putting greens without any obstacles, slopes or bumpers.  So kinda lame.  Of course the greens are large and the holes so far from the edges that you end up taking a lot of strokes.  (Gold Course: B: 55 P: 63, Diamond Course: B: 52 P: 55)

Adventure Golf: Two different courses that are a bit run down but don't let that put you off.  They were my favorite of all the ones we visited.  Very challenging with slopes, bumpers and obstacles placed in a way that required you to have skill and not just luck.  Also a lot of giant monsters and buildings give it good ambiance.  I highly recommend this one.  (Course 1: B: 43, P: 48,  Course 2: B: 46, P: 47)

Walden's Landing Firehouse Golf: The last place we visited.  Random animals and firehouse equipment decorate the two courses.  Unfortunately a lot of the time the right call was to completely avoid those and hit around them.  For instance on one hole you can send you ball through a loop-the-loop or you can putt beside it and get right to the hole.  The two best parts of this course were the following.

On one hole there is a ladder lying across the end of a ramp that requires you putt between the rungs to get your ball to the lower green.  The Pook upon seeing this said, "You know I'm totally going to hit the rung don't you?"  She then putted and hit directly on the ladder rung causing the ball to roll all of the way back to the start.  Then she did it again.  Laughter ensued.

As the scores I've listed at the end of each courses review reveal, I had won every round of golf we played up until this point.  On the phone with my mom[6] she said I should be a good husband and let the Pook win one[7].  Having dominated her on the first course and knowing that this was the last mini-golf we would be playing, the second course was the last chance she would have to win.  The round started with me choking on the first hole and taking six strokes to her three.  Rapidly the Pook increased her lead to six strokes by the sixth hole.  So, while I don't usually play to lose, I was happy that it looked like she would actually win a round.  Fast forward to the eighteenth hole and the score is tied.  Like a lot of courses the last hole was a goofy thing that you were supposed to do in one stroke.  You putted down a slope to five openings in the side of a box.  Getting the ball into the center opening counted as one stroke.  The openings on either side of that were two strokes and the outer two openings were three strokes.  The Pook went first and the ball rolled straight down the slope and struck the divider on the left side of the one stroke hole and didn't go into any hole.  So she walked up and putted it into the one stroke hole (thus counting as two strokes).  I lined up and prepared to putt.  If I made it into the one hole I would win.  The two hole would mean a tie and the three hole would mean the Pook finally won one.  I hit the ball and it hit a microscopic bump on the lip at the start of the slope.  The ball shot up into the air and flew to the left[8].  From there it landed on the edge of rail on the left edge of the entire green and shot straight into the one stroke hole. Sorry Pook, some things are just not meant to be. (Red Course: B: 42, P: 51, Yellow Course: B: 45, P: 46).

Ripley's Old MacDonald's Farm Mini-Golf: B-
Hazzard County Country Club: A
Professor Hakkers Lost Treasure Golf: B+
Adventure Golf: A+
Walden's Landing Firehouse Golf: B

[1] Actually some of these are located in Gatlinburg and not Pigeon Forge, but the two are essentially the same place anyway.
[2]The other two reasons are that it is an inexpensive vacation and that it was in a different state than our children.
[3] These courses represent only a fraction of the choices available.  I don't think anyone actually loves mini-golf enough to actually play all of the courses in the area.
[4] Which makes it one D short of the 5D theater we saw in Gatlinburg.
[5] The entire place was a homage to everything Dukes of Hazzard.  Including a TV that constantly runs episodes of the show.  Having not seen one since I was a young lad let me tell you this.  Man are those bad.
[6] No I don't call my mom every day while on vacation.  Unless she's watching my kids, then I totally do.
[7] Yeah right.
[8] At which point I thought to myself, "Oh well.  I've lost this one."

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Kill Bill (Vol. 1 & 2)

Kill Bill: 1 & 2: When this movie came out, for some reason I never got around to seeing it[1], which is strange because I am usually a pretty big fan of Quentin Tarantino's stuff.  Though granted I have not actually managed to see everything he's done.  Anyway, fast forward ten years later and I've finally gotten around to watching them both.[2]

The two movies are pretty much the natural extension of the Kung Fu movies you used to watch as a kid.[3] And no I am not talking about Jackie Chan's Rumble in the Bronx.  If it must be Jackie Chan I mean Drunken Master or Half a Loaf of Kung Fu.  But really I'm talking about Bruce Lee's Fist of Fury or any of the six hundred Sonny Chiba movies.

Take any one of those movies and "modernize" it.  Add in new camera techniques. Some animation and update the special effects. Though in some cases not too much updating.  I mean Monty Python was using the blood spray technique back in the early 70's[4]. 


Once you've done that add in a healthy dose of Tarantino and there you have it.  Two movies that give you all the martial arts action you could ask for.[5]  


Note that I didn't say to update the acting, because some of the acting in the movies isn't the greatest, but then again you didn't come to watch the acting.


[The Nitpickers Corner: If you beat the snot out of somebody in a hospital and then sneak out into the parking garage, you don't really have time to spend several hours in the back of their car relearning how to walk.  Someone's gonna find the body in the hospital and then the police will arrive.  Even the laziest of detectives is going to think to check on the guys car in a pretty short amount of time. I'm just saying.]


Kill Bill (Vol 1 and 2): A-


p.s. - Yes, I know that Vol. 3 is in pre-production.  When it comes out, I promise to try and watch that one before it's a decade old.

p.p.s - Mom, no matter how interesting this post made the movies sound, you don't want to watch these.  Trust me.

[1] - It was completely the Pook's fault.
[2] - Yeah I know that's pretty pathetic.
[3] - If you didn't watch Kung Fu movies as a kid, then I'm sorry.  Pretend that you did and play along.
[4] -  "Tennis Anyone?"
[5] - And then some.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Riot! (By Paramore)

Riot!: I first heard of Paramore when one of my friends gave another of my friends this CD as a gift.[1]  And then at another gift giving event, another copy was given.  However, my friends musical taste tend to be a bit scattered, so I didn't really give it much attention.

The first time I actually heard a Paramore song was on Rock Band 2.  The song was "That's What You Get."  That was probably enough to get me to buy the CD right there, but before that could happen we downloaded the additional track Crushcrushcrush.  I'm pretty sure I bought the CD the next day.

The other big song from the CD is Misery Business and all are excellent and pretty typical of the whole CD.  Fast beat.  Generally peppy at a minimum.  Good lyrics.  Etc. Etc.[2]

Anway, the more important bit about Paramore is the lead singer.  Actually, I have no idea what her name is or anything about her other than the fact that she was pretty young at the time the CD came out.

Fine, I'll go do some research.  Hold please . . . .

. . . okay, I'm back.

The lead singer is Hayley Williams and at the time Riot! was released she was 18.  But that's not really the point.  Or rather it's tangential to the point.  The point is that when the CD came out the lead singer was 18 and I was more than twice that.

I love music and have a lot of CD's, my iPhone currently has 6100 songs on it, etc. etc.  But generally, up until this point, the singers had always been older, the same age or at most marginally younger than me.[3]  But this band was made up of teenagers.

That of course got me to thinking if that actually mattered.  Does the age of the band members matter when compared to the age of the listener?

To state it more clearly, did an eighteen year old have anything to say that was relevant to me or was I fooling myself?  Was it possible to age yourself out of "new" music?

The answer is, of course, no.

Why is it any more strange that someone older than a band likes their music than when someone significantly younger than a band does?  I hadn't given a thought to buying a new Paul McCartney album and he's 28 years older than me.

Granted you won't find me in the crowd, body-surfing or in the mosh pit at a Paramore concert[4], but then again you won't find me at McCartney concert either.  Concerts usually continue until way after my bed time.

Riot!: A

[1] - Christmas or Birthday I forget which.  And yes, I do too have friends.
[2] - The Interweb calls it "Emo, Pop-Punk"
[3] - I realize that isn't actually true, but that's how it felt anyway.
[4] - Or whatever it is those crazy kids do at concerts these days.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Fish Oil Pills

Fish Oil Pills: So I went to the doctor about two months ago to get one of those screenings that some insurance companies now require for you to get better rates and lower co-pays.  I didn't really know what the doc might tell me, but I don't think I would have been surprised if he told me that my cholesterol was too high.

Well he did tell me that my cholesterol needed fixing, but it wasn't because it was too high.  Instead he told me my HDL[1] was too low.  The solution for this was more exercise[2] and fish oil pills.  So on my next trip to Aldi, I picked up a bottle.


First of all these suckers are about the biggest pills I've seen.  They are the gel-cap type of pill so they are soft and squishy which helps when you're choking them down.[3]  If they were those hard chalky pills I suspect people would have serious trouble with them.


The real problem with these pills is the after effects.  About thirty minutes after taking them I get to start burping up fish oil.  Mmm mmm good.[4]  It's marginally better if I eat right after taking them.  But often that just means I get to burp up fish oil mixed with the flavor of whatever I just ate.  Good times![5]


Since I haven't had my cholesterol rechecked since then I have no idea if they are actually doing anything.  In fact if you read the packages of different brands they say things like, "May help to reduce . . ." and "Research suggests . . ."   In fact here's a quote directly from Wikipedia, the ultimate source of all accurate information on the Internet[6]: 


The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil are thought to be beneficial in treating hypertriglyceridemia, and possibly beneficial in preventing heart disease. Fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids have been studied in a wide variety of other conditions, such as clinical depression, anxiety, cancer, and macular degeneration, although benefit in these conditions remains to be proven.


Sounds good?  Here's the quote again with some key words highlighted:


The omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil ARE THOUGHT TO BE beneficial in treating hypertriglyceridemia, and POSSIBLY BENEFICIAL in preventing heart disease. Fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids have been studied in a wide variety of other conditions, such as clinical depression, anxiety, cancer, and macular degeneration, although benefit in these conditions REMAINS TO BE PROVEN.


In other words, they don't really know if fish pills do anything at all.  Oh joy.


Fish Oil Pills, if they actually do help with HDL's and preventing heart disease: A-
Fish Oil Pills, if they don't: F


[1] - High Density Lipids.  The "good" cholesterol.
[2] - This was about a month after the Bean was born, so I had been doing a whole lot of nothing as far as exercise was concerned.  Any free time I had went towards catching up on sleep.
[3] - In truth I have no problem taking pills, but they are ridiculously large.
[4] - That was sarcasm.
[5] - Also sarcasm.
[6] - Still sarcasm.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pigeon Forge

[I don't think I've ever been seriously called classist or elitist before, if I'm not careful this post will change that.]

Pigeon Forge: The Pook and I needed a vacation.  Having just acquired the Bean only two months ago[1] and thus also having acquired all of the medical bills and debt that go along with a newborn, we could only afford something cheap.  We didn't really care where it was as location was less important than having a few days of peace and quiet and a few nights of uninterrupted sleep.  Thus, with a little research we decided to go to Pigeon Forge.

My previous experience with Pigeon Forge was when I was much younger[2] and I remember it essentially being a long street of alternating: mini-golf, go-cart tracks, restaurants and water parks.  The Pook's previous experience was as a young adult, driving there, taking one look at the place, and not stopping.

The Pook and I both love to play us some putt-putt and Pigeon Forge is evidently the third best mini-golf city in the country[3].  Thus we decided to give it a chance and gird ourselves for the worst. In other words, our expectations were low.


We didn't put them low enough.  


Don't get me wrong, we had a good time.  We ate at nice restaurants.  We played a LOT of mini-golf[4].  We wandered around a few shops.  And we tried very hard to ignore everything else that was going on around us.


What can I say about a place in which culture has advanced[5] to a stage in which the best the town has to offer is your choice of dinner theater at either "The Hatfields vs the McCoys" or "Lumberjack Feud"?  (Perhaps I'm not being fair by leaving out the Dixie Stampede.)  


If comedy is more to your liking you can go to the Comedy Barn, or the Smith Family Theater.  Judging from the posters that I saw, the comedic heights are achieved at both locations by having dogs that jump through hoops and an old man that dresses up like a woman.[6]  Of course the Comedy Barn's poster did assure me that they were the "funniest show in town" [7].


You can also visit any number of entertainment venues owned by the Ripley's organization or by Dollie Pardon (or possibly both).  And while there weren't nearly so many water parks as I remember from my youth, you can still find plenty of mini-golf and go-cart tracks.


Perhaps you are more into shopping?  Well you are in luck, I saw no less than six different "As Seen on TV" superstores.  Six of them!  Each one as big as a large grocery store.  And presumably they are all doing a fair amount of trade.  You can also find a plethora of "antique" stores.  One of which proclaimed in large letters: New Hope Antiques . . . for a better life.  I'm not sure if they were saying there was a better life for the antiques or for you.

In truth you'd be hard pressed to find a store that wasn't just selling your choice of junk or crap.

Also you are definitely in luck if you are in the market for: Fudge, T-shirts, Fudge, Fireworks, Fudge, Cheap Souvenirs, Fudge, Tacky Blankets, Fudge, Tattoos, Fudge, Body Piercings, Fudge or Fudge[8]  Many of the billboards (and there are a lot of them) advertise whatever it is the store is primarily selling and then in large letters in a blue star on the bottom corner it also says, "Fudge!"  As if someone driving down the road and seeing a billboard for fireworks, but unmoved to visit the establishment, suddenly spies the lower right corner and says, "Fudge!  Well in that case maybe I do need some fireworks.  It's not like you can get fudge just any place in this town."

If you venture a little bit south you can get to Gatlinburg.  Gatlinburg is a touch classier than Pigeon Forge, but that's a bit like saying Boss Hogg is smarter than Roscoe [9].  My favorite place there was a "Shoot 'em Up Theater that claimed to be in "5D".  I tried as hard as I could, without actually paying money, to find out what the fourth and fifth D were, but to no avail.

In between Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, cringing up into the sky trying to remain unsullied, is part of the Smokey Mountain National Park.  It is exceedingly beautiful and generally untouched by man [10].

The people were all very friendly. I'm not one to indiscriminately mock people, so I'll just leave you with this anecdote.  After purchasing a round of mini-golf the lady behind the counter saw that the bank on my debit card had the word Georgia in its title.  She smiled at us and said, "Ye from Georgie?" [11]

Having said all of that, it was a very cheap vacation.  We did eat at some very nice restaurants[12].  If you are in to mini-golf you have plenty to choose from and overall we had a fine time.

Pigeon Forge Overall: C+
Pigeon Forge with Blinders On: B+
Pigeon Forge if you really like Fudge: A+

1 - It already seems like he's always been around.
2 - Somewhere in the middle of my teens, I believe.
3 - Myrtle Beach is #1 and some city in Missouri was #2.
4 - Expect another post soon with an in depth review of the courses we visited.
5 - I use that term very loosely
6 - Jonathan Winters would be proud.
7 - Of course, see this post to see what that means.
8 - You can also get Fudge there.
9 - While were on the topic of the Dukes of Hazard, don't forget to visit the Cooter Museum, Mini-golf, Go-Cart and Souvenir Store while you're in Gatlinburg.
10 - With the exception of the four lanes of blacktop running through it, that is.
11 - Just to be clear, that isn't a typo, to pronounce this gem properly the first and last word should both rhyme with 'me'.
12 - I'll have a separate post on those as well.

Dress Her in Indigo

Dress Her in Indigo (by John D. MacDonald): Another in the Travis McGee series.  If this one falls short of the others it's because it isn't really your typical McGee story.  Instead of the usual, in which Travis is hired to retrieve some money or item, in this one he's hired by a father to go find out whether his daughter, who died in a car crash in Mexico, was happy.  Um, okay?

So instead of there being any identified villain or tangible goal, Travis and Meyer just sort of flounder around.    I'm making it sound worse that it was, but I don't mean to.  It's still a great Travis McGee story.  We still get all of the usual features, including a rant about society ruining itself thrown in for good measure.  (This one is a short of backhandedly mocking the hippies.*)

It's just that the book never really took off for me, but I'm still glad I read it.

Dress Her in Indigo: B

* - The book was written in 1967 or so.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

California 37 (By Train)

California 37I didn't think it would be possible for Train to follow up Save Me San Francisco with an equally great album.  Well they didn't.  If anything this one is better.

Granted I don't think there is a single hit on the album that will be able to touch the success of Hey, Soul Sister, but on the other hand this album doesn't really have any low points.  I like every song on the CD and upon first listening to the CD when it finished I promptly listened to it again and again.*

It's got the usual Train mixture of different musical styles and great lyrics.  My personal faves off the album are 50 Ways to Say Goodbye, Bruises, Drive By, This'll Be My Year and well really the whole CD.

If I have any problem with the CD it's that it does have a kind of darker undertone.  Several of the songs talk about heaven, dying and such.  It was enough to make me go search the Interweb to see if his wife was sick or something.  But evidently not.**

Anyway, to sum it up great album.  Go buy it.

Calilfornia 37: A

* - Trust me, three plays in a row is a rare occurrence.
** - Which is a good thing.


Maroon (by Barenaked Ladies)

In looking over the various posts I've had so far, I noticed there was not a lot of music, which is really odd because generally I listen to music much more than I read books and watch movies or TV.  I know in part it is because generally when I listen to music, I listen to my iPhone on shuffle or on a playlist of random songs and that doesn't really lend itself to grading (and therefore to posts).  So, I decided to make a conscious effort to listen to whole CD's.*

Maroon: This was the fifth album of the Barenaked Ladies and (in my opinion) anyway is the last of what was their best several CD's.  They really started to hit their stride with Born on a Pirate Ship.  Then came Stunt and then Maroon.

Now I'm not saying that they didn't have any good stuff after that, **  but as a whole the albums don't really measure up.  Which brings me (finally) to the first of two things I wanted to say in this post.

I don't understand why people are often so keen to not let themselves be identified by their success.  To explain, as I understand it, the guys in BNL felt like people were looking at them like they were the "Clowns of Rock and Roll"*** and so after Maroon they decided to try and make "more serious" music.

Why?

In the space of three albums**** they went from not quite completely obscure Canadian band to impossibly huge***** super popular band.  What's wrong with that, even if it is because people know you for writing quirky songs?  I love the BNL albums from that time and anyone who really likes the band enough to listen to whole albums (and not just the top radio songs) will see that you aren't just about clowning around.  And the people who don't listen to the albums now aren't going to start if you suddenly make them serious.

And it isn't just musicians who do this.  Actors will also suddenly quit off a popular hit show because they don't want people to think they are just that one character or because they think people love them so much they will flock to second or third tier movies they get cast in.******

My point is why kill the goose that's laying golden eggs?  Okay yes in this metaphor you are a goose pooping, but it is gold poop!


The second thing this album brings up is me making fun of people who review albums.*******  I remember when Maroon came out and I was either reading or listening to a review and they said something along the lines of, "BNL once again shows that they are able to take disparate images and weave them together."  To cite proof of that the reviewer brought up this series of lines.

Got a big chip.
You want a fat lip?
How 'bout a mouth full of Chiclets

Seriously?  Those are lines that have nothing to do with each other?  Did you bother to think at all before you wrote this review?  I don't think you did.

If I have somehow offended the person who wrote the review let me just say that I do not apologize.  If you'd like, I'll knock the chip off of your shoulder and punch you in the mouth.  If I did you might lose some teeth and gosh loose teeth are small white rectangles.  A lot like Chiclets, wouldn't you say?********

Anyway, the album is great.  I recommend Humour of the Situation as a song you probably haven't heard before but is classic BNL goodness.  If there is any song that I don't like 100% it is the bonus track "Hidden Sun".  It's kind of slow and depressing, but it is a fitting cool down after the activity of the rest of the album.

Maroon: A

* - Hopefully that doesn't make you sad.
** - I like BNL a lot and I own every album. (Hang on, let me check to make sure that isn't a lie.)  Okay, except for a rarities CD I'm telling the truth.  (btw, this confirmation accomplished with the power of Amazon.com)
*** - I may be misremembering the exact phrase I heard in one of their interviews, but that was the gist of it.
**** - Really in the space of two albums (Born on a Pirate Ship and Stunt).
***** - In a cultural consciousness sense and not necessarily a monetary one.
****** - Shelley Long, Anthony Edwards and Eric La Salle to name three off of the top of my head.  (Of course, George Clooney is laughing at me right now.)  And I bet most of the cast of Friends is thinking that a new TV show called "Still Friends" or "Friends Again" is sounding pretty good right now.
******* - Say Mr. B isn't that you just now?  (Hush.)
******** - Apparently I've been carrying around a bit of hostility for twelve years or so.

 

Rainy Day Puddle Stomping and Tree Shaking

Rainy Day Puddle Stomping and Tree Shaking: Spent the last couple of days upon a mountain top in Tennessee*.  It literally rained all day on Thursday.  There were five of us in a relatively small house and by 6:00 PM I was ready to go do something.  So when the Bear** wandered by I said, "C'mon let's go outside and play."  


He stopped and looked at me and I could see his little three year old mind working on it.  


"What?" he asked.  
"Let's go outside and play." I repeated.
"But it's raining." Is what he almost said.  He got half of the sentence out and then he stopped himself.  You could honestly see him thinking it out in that instant of time.  "It's raining, but Dad is saying let's go outside?!"  Instead, it went like this: 

Me: C'Mon let's go outside and play.
Bear: What?
Me: Let's go outside and play.
Bear: But it's . . . I need to get my shoes on.

So once we were both properly shod***, we went out.  I informed him that we were going to go for a walk and stomp in some puddles.   Normally whenever we go anywhere and he sees a puddle he immediately asks if he can splash it and we promptly say, 'no'.  But now we were on a walk with the specific intention of locating and stomping in puddles.  He really couldn't believe it.

Every time we'd come to a puddle he would look up and ask me, "Can I step in this one?"  "Absolutely." I replied.  The bigger the puddle the better.  We found one big one that was fifteen feet long or so.  It required a dozen trips back and forth before we could move on.

We also stopped under a lot of trees and gave them a good shaking.  Which I assumed he would shriek about and try to avoid.  Instead he commented that it was like it was raining hard and then we would immediately begin looking for the next puddle or tree.

A wet tennis court provide a good bit of fun too.  Though there were no trees and the puddles were so thin you couldn't get any good splashes out of them.  We did play some game that I honestly couldn't comprehend the rules to.  However it did involve a lot of running.

When we got home it was bath time.  The Pook said we looked like a couple of drowned rats, but we didn't care because we'd "stomped puddles and shaked a lot of trees."

Rainy Day Puddle Stomping and Tree Shaking: A+

* - If that made you think of a song, it just means you're old.
** - No I did not kill it.  Please see here: http://misterbgrades.blogspot.com/2012/06/principal-players.html
*** - Me in flip flops.  Him in Crocs.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Entrapment

Entrapment: When this movie came out I can remember my older brother and others talking about how horrendous it was.  Well it's been 13 years and I'd mostly forgotten what happened, so I gave it another look.

While I don't think it was nearly so bad as I remember my brother ranting, it's not that great either.

In general I like thief movies and there are lots of good ones.*  In general I like Sean Connery and he's made lots of good movies.**  In general I have no problem with Catherine Zeta Jones.  So this should have been a winner in my book but it fails in several places.

The main place is in the robberies.  If you are going to make a movie about the intricacies of a robbery try not to make them ridiculous.

Case in point: A large part of the first half of the movie is Jones learning to wriggle and twist through the grid of lasers that make up the defenses around a golden mask but unfortunately for her they are invisible.  Except that what she does is retarded.  At one point she slides under one of the lasers.  Looking at the grid it seems pretty clear to me that she should have done the same slide clear across the floor.

At another point she extends one leg out and then balancing on the other foot slowly rotates with leg extended between two beams until she's turned 180 degrees.  She then carefully brings her leg in and then turns her whole body 90 degrees more.  If you could turn 90 degrees without problem, what was the point of the whole leg sticking out business?

At another point (during the actual robbery) she's supposedly straddling a laser while face down.  (The laser passing under her.  To get to this position she quite clearly slides her left hand along the floor.  Which would have meant her arm passed through the laser.

Then to make the whole thing even more ridiculous after several hours*** of this nonsense when she finally has the mask, Connery tells her "Okay now get out of there in a hurry."  We then from outside the doorway see into the room as Jones walks quickly back to hole she crawled out of just in time to avoid the guard seeing her.  Leaving me to wonder, why didn't she take that route in the first place?  Or perhaps the alarm system turns itself off once you've successfully gotten to the mask.

Anyway, I went on a bit to long about that but it serves the point.  There are other similar bits of nonsense along the way that just detract from the movie.

Finally, the movie in an attempt to be clever throws in a twist at the end that doesn't quite make sense.  Of course the motivations of the Insurance Company Jones supposedly is working for don't make sense the entire movie, so you're used to it by that point.

Finally, finally, when you are running from the police who mere seconds ago had you arrested in the train station.  The last place you go is back to the train station.  Of course that begs the question, what kind of stupid police officer let's your arrested suspect say their goodbyes standing right beside the place where the train stops?

Entrapment: B-

* - The Score and the Italian Job to name two off of the top of my head.
** - And several stinkers as well, but as I've said before nobody bats 1000.
*** - Okay minutes, but it sure felt like hours.


The Matrix Revolutions

[Note: If you haven't already you should probably scroll down a bit and read the grades for the first two Matrix movies before this one.]

The Matrix Revolutions: Okay so you successfully made a great movie with great bad guys and reality bending weirdness and plot twists and fights*.  And then beating the odds you managed to make a a nearly as great sequel with even greater and badder bad guys and you maintained the reality bending weirdness and you managed some good plot twists and there were more fights.**

So, can you keep it up?  Can you really beat the odds and make a third movie that's just as good as the other two?

Don't be silly.  Of course you can't.  Nobody has ever succeeded in that.*** Every series that's three or more movies has some that don't meet the level of expectations.****

So how did the Wachowski brothers attempt to do it?  By not making a third movie.  Instead they made a different movie and said it was the third.

See the first two movies were about the Matrix.  People living their lives inside a computer program.  And they were about Neo becoming "the One" and learning to manipulate the Matrix.  We had cool Matrix bad guys (the Agents in the first and then the Merovingian and his crew in the sequel) and we even ended the things with Neo apparently beginning to be able to use his Matrix powers in the real world.

The third movie is about a group of humans living in a cave getting ready to fight, and then fighting, a bunch of machine monsters.  Sure there's a nod to the previous two movies in the first part of the movie but by and large what happens there doesn't affect the bulk of the movie, which is the machine versus man battle for supremacy.

Okay, you say what about the ending?  That's back to being about Neo isn't it?

Sure, but it isn't about the Matrix.  It's about Neo fighting a side battle in the man vs machine war.  Okay, I realize that's what all three movies were ostensibly about, but that's not why I bought the ticket.  I didn't want to see a modified Terminator story.  I wanted the Matrix.  I wanted to see Neo pull out some new even cooler Matrix tricks.  I wanted Trinity and Morpheus to realize that they too could be cool in the Matrix.  I wanted what happened in the Matrix to somehow matter.

And don't even get me started on the final denouement***** Before my friends and I went to see Revolutions we all speculated on how things were going to end.  There were around seven of us chatting about it and we each had one or two theories of our own.  And I promise you, every single one of our theories, (Every single one of them!) was better then the way the movie actually ended things.  Because really the movie didn't end things.  It just tabled them for future discussions.******

Finally, I would be seriously letting down a certain friend of mine if I didn't mention Trinity's death.  In truth, in rewatching the movie it didn't last nearly so long as I'd remembered******* and I really wasn't hurt too badly by it.

So, if you haven't seen the third movie before and you enjoyed the first two, prepare to be disappointed.  In truth the movie isn't bad.  It's biggest problem is that it just wasn't the movie we wanted or felt we were promised.

The Matrix Revolutions: B+

(If this movie hadn't somehow been a stand alone and not the final part of a trilogy, I would have given it an A- at least.)

* - Lots of fights
** -Lots of more fights.
*** - At least I can't think of anyone who has.
**** - Heck, some of them downright stink on ice.
***** - Yes, I know that an SAT word.  Look it up. It will do you good.
****** - That will never happen.
******* - Maybe only ten years instead of thirty-five.

 

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Matrix Reloaded

The Matrix Reloaded:  What do you do when you have a movie with really nasty undefeatable bad-guys that ends with the main character becoming super awesome and beating those same really nasty previously undefeatable bad-guys?  You do the only thing you can, which is make nastier, even more undefeatable bad-guys.  And you also throw in some plot twists that make everyone scratch their heads and go, Wah?

The Matrix Reloaded is the second movie in the trilogy and if there is anything that keeps it from being as good as the original it is simply that it isn't the original.  The movie really doesn't have any serious flaws in it, except for perhaps that the ending is so confusing you need a white haired grandfatherly type to explain it to you.  And that's what the movie has and even then you're still scratching your head.  But like all movies that attempt to follow up a movie that has a brand new way of doing or showing something or in some other way warps your mind with awesomeness, the sequel will not be better than the first unless it can take it further and do or show you something else in a brand new way or warps your mind with all new awesomeness.

Okay, so if you didn't follow that last bit, ask a white haired grandfatherly type to explain it.  Or just read the next paragraph.

Reloaded does and has everything that the Matrix had, but you've seen it before.  The fights are just as awesome and the explosions and gun fights are just as good too.  They've even added in a car chase.  But it doesn't have that shiny newness of the first time around so it falls just a bit shorter than the original.

Also there's a part at the beginning with all of Zion having a what amounts to a mass rave that just goes on and on and on.*

Of course once you've waded through that you get to see Neo fight 100 agent Smiths at the same time and there are those nasty wraith twin dudes.

The Matrix Reloaded: A

* - And on and on and on.

The Matrix

The Matrix:  Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne together in one movie?  That's gonna be bad.  I mean no offense to either of them* but if you listen to those people who dislike Keanu they will all be saying the same thing.  "He can't act. He's got one style of acting and it's no good!"  And Fishburne?  Name one good movie that he's been in!

Except you're selling them both short.  Okay maybe Keanu doesn't appear to have a huge depth or emotional range but that doesn't necessarily make him a bad actor.  Look at the list of movies he's been in.  I mean he's not exactly trying to make Terms of Endearment here and truth be told I like Keanu.  Sure he's got some stinkers in his catalog**, but he's got a nice percentage of movies I enjoyed once and would gladly watch again.***

And I suggest you give Laurence another look.  Sure he's been overshadowed by Morgan Freeman and Samuel L. Jackson.**** but he's been in a ton of movies and TV shows.*****  And sure a lot of them were not that noteworthy, but they weren't horrible either.

And besides The Matrix is a movie that they were both a perfect fit for.  Keanu got to be quiet, sullen and moody and Laurence got to be quiet sullen and mysterious.  Oh yeah and they got to shoot a ton of guns and blow stuff up like crazy.  Add in a great plot and the stellar Hugo Weaving and this movie is fantastic.

Here are a few of the random things that I love in this movie:
- When Neo is firing off of the helicopter into the side of the office building and there's that shot from below the copter with the empty shells and the rain falling down to the camera.  I love that shot.  I've rewound the film before to watch it again.
- The bum in the subway who looks up in a drunken stupor to see Morpheus disappear into the phone and is completely bewildered.  Of course then he turns into agent Smith.
- But then a few minutes later when Neo back flips out of the way of the train as it pummels Smith, only to then have the train stop and Smith steps off.
- The cool car they drive around in with the rear doors that open backwards.
- All of the fighting.  All of it.  It's stupidly well done and looks fantastic.
- And the 'bullet-time' camera shots go without saying.******

Here are a couple of random things that I grimace at in the movie:
- When Neo and Trinity are invading the office building lobby and the major shoot-out occurs.  If you pay attention the walls are actually made out of foam rubber.  Hence when they fall instead of thudding down like concrete, they bounce around.  I've found if you focus on the people and ignore the debris you can pretty effectively 'not see' it.
- But then the scene ends with the exceedingly horrible CGI of the elevator door bouncing across the room in front of the explosion.  It's so bad I would rather have no door and just fire.

Anyway, the movies great.  Enough said about that.

The Matrix: A+

* - Yeah okay, clearly that was said with a little bit of offense intended.
** - Johnny Mnemonic to name one.  I'll never forgive you for that one Keanu.
*** - Including some that aren't action flicks.
**** - In fact I bet some of you thought he was either Morgan Freeman or Samuel L. Jackson
***** - Including Peewee's Playhouse.
****** - Of course I just said it, but whatever





For the record here are a few Keanu Reeves movies that I enjoyed:
Point Break
Dracula
Much Ado About Nothing (though arguably Keanu detracts from this one)
Speed
The Devil's Advocate
The Gift
Constantine
The Lake House
and more

And here are a few things Fishburne is in that you may have forgotten about:
Apocalypse Now
The Cotton Club
The Color Purple
Boyz n the Hood
Searching for Bobby Fisher
The Tuskegee Airmen
Othello
Mission Impossible 3
Akeelah and the Bee
CSI
and a ton of other stuff

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cheeseburger Bobby's

Cheeseburger Bobby's:  Here's a simple rule that you can always use.  It will help you throughout your life over and over again.  Ready?  Here it is:

Never believe advertising.

That's it.

Now I'm not saying that sometimes advertising isn't right.[1]  But if you want an honest true opinion of something the one place you shouldn't be looking is from that same person, company, product, etc.  Advertising is there for one reason and one reason only, to sell you something.  And really how much can you rely on the person who is trying to get you to part with your hard earned cash to tell you the unadulterated truth?[2]

If you aren't completely blind and you pay attention at all you're bound to see some of Cheeseburger Bobby's advertising.  They feature prominently the line, "Voted Best Cheeseburger."

Excellent! You tell yourself.  I'm in the mood for a cheeseburger and if I'm going to get one, then I should probably get the "Best" one.  Shouldn't I?

Well before you dash off and hand Bobby some of your moolah, lets take a closer look at that line and ask a few pointed questions.

First question: Voted Best Cheeseburger of where?  Best in the the city?  The county?  The state?  The entire United States?  The whole world?  Or maybe it was just voted the best cheeseburger you can get at a Cheeseburger Bobby's location.

Second question: What was the competition?  Did they compare all cheeseburgers available?  Presumably we are saying best cheeseburger of some sizable location.  Did the judges have at their disposal all cheeseburgers available in that area?  Or maybe it was voted the best cheeseburger in a taste test between Cheeseburger Bobby's, a McDonald's cheeseburger[3] and a Krystal.

Third question: By who?[4]  Was it a blind taste test of the public?  Is there some official American Cheeseburger officiating body that we've never heard of in charge of these things?  Or maybe it was voted best cheeseburger by the employees at Cheeseburger Bobby's.

Person in Charge of Taste Testing [PICoTT]:  Okay, now that you've all signed the forms, I want you to tell me which cheeseburger is the best.  Bear in mind that if you say anything other than Cheeseburger Bobby's you are fired.
Employee 1: Cheeseburger Bobby's
Employee 2: Cheeseburger Bobby's
Employee 3: Cheeseburger Bobby's
Employee 4: Five Guys
PICoTT: Right it is unanimous.  Cheeseburger Bobby's is the best!
E4: But I voted Five Guys.
PICoTT: And you're fired.
E4: Nevertheless, it's not unanimous.
PICoTT: Actually if you read the small print of the form you signed it says that saying anything other than Cheeseburger Bobby's retroactively fires you before the testing began and thus invalidates your opinion.  Thus unanimous.

Fourth Question: Best by what standard?  Best tasting?  Best looking?  Best beef?  Best toppings? Best burger to smear on your ex-boyfriends car windshield on a Friday night after he's broken up with you?

Anyway you get the point.  Advertising = Lies.  Don't believe it.

Having said all of that, I found Bobby's to be okay. Better than McDonald's for sure, but by no means the Best.

UPDATE: As it happens I've been to Cheeseburger Bobby's several more times since this was originally posted.  Lest you think my opinion of their burgers has changed, I still think they are adequate but not the best.  However, they have a chocolate dipped frozen custard cone that is unbelievably good.  It's just a simple ice cream cone covered in chocolate.  Except that it's frozen custard and not actually ice cream. And then it's covered in chocolate.  The cone itself is a cheap "cake" cone you can buy at any grocery store for a pittance.  But never mind the small details, it is awesomely good.  To make matters worse, they give away coupons for a free cone all of the time.[5]  So if there is a ballot out there somewhere, marked me down as having voted it, "Best Chocolate Covered Frozen Custard Cone".


Cheeseburger Bobby's Cheeseburgers: B-
Cheeseburger Bobby's Chocolate Covered Frozen Custard Cone: A+


[1] - The rule isn't, "Advertising is always wrong."
[2] - The answer is, "Not Much."
[3] - Not a Big Mac or a Quarter Pounder but a plain little cheeseburger.
[4] - Or is it, "By Whom?"  Truthfully I don't care.  imho, grammatical errors that over half of the people are making are not errors, they are now acceptable usage.
[5] - I've found them on my windshield at the theater, lying in the parking lot outside of Target and today I got one at Cheeseburger Bobby's after I bought my meal.  Silly Bobby, I was going to buy one anyway.

Prometheus

Prometheus: In general I like the Aliens movies, so I was keen to see this movie when it came out.*  And overall I have to say that it was pretty good.  Visually it is great.  Very very pretty when it was supposed to be pretty and creepy when that was called for and so on.  

Mostly it falls down in the plot department.**  A good bit of it just doesn't really make sense and in other places the movie is trying so hard to allude to things without actually telling you something that it totally fails to get any point across at all.  I don't want to spoil anything for anyone else who may want to see it but hasn't gotten around to it, so I'm not going to give things away.  But if there's one thing that will destroy my enjoyment of a movie it's logical flaws. 

I will give it this though.  Initially I assumed it would just essentially be another aliens movie.*** But it really wasn't.  There were some things that were nearly the aliens we've seen before, but mostly it was all new stuff.****

So if a few plot problems either won't bother you or won't be noticed by you and you've liked the other Aliens flicks, you'll enjoy this one too.  It does a fine job with tension and monster attacks and fighting amongst the crew, etc, etc.  You get your fill of semi-creepy artificial humans and you get Charlize Theron.*****  Though it does occur to me that a lot of the good tension and stress that the movie does has is only there because of the previous Aliens movies.  I wonder if you'd find the movie less engaging, if you have no idea what a face-hugger is and you don't know anything about the reproductive cycles of the Alien critters.  Though I believe the idea of "Don't open that!" is a pretty universal one.

Prometheus: B-

* - Evidently not that keen though since I've only now gotten around to it.
** - Like so many movies
*** - Humans unleash bad monster.  Bad monster kill off all the humans.
**** - The last scene not withstanding.
***** - Though really her character is minimized almost to the point of pointlessness.

 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Fourth of July & Independence Day

In my experience there are two things you should never bother to argue about: politics and religion.  You can spend a lot of breath and energy making as many good points as you'd like about either topic, but unless the person you are talking to is already on your side, you're wasting your time.*  I've listened to two grown men, who I thought otherwise intelligent, arguing until they were red in the face.  Both completely furious that the other person couldn't see the simple truth of the facts that they were presenting and neither listening for one minute to what the other was saying.

Having said that, I'm now going to flirt with breaking that rule.

It seems to me that there is a difference between "The Fourth of July" and "Independence Day" and it's a shame that most Americans seem to have lost the importance of one of them somewhere along the way.

The Fourth of July: This is a day in which families and friends get together and celebrate.  They generally grill out, have picnics, or participate in some other food gathering that typically takes place outside.**  They participate in other outdoor activities like father-son softball games, three-legged races, egg tosses and the like.  A lot of watermelon and beer is consumed and then the day is capped off with a bunch of great fireworks that thrill us as they light up the night sky.

Independence Day: This is a day in which Americans remember that the country that they live in wasn't always here.  They take time to recognize that the freedoms that they enjoy were not free to begin with and maintaining them is not free now.  And they understand that a lot of people have paid a huge price to make sure that they have and continue to have those freedoms.  They might just go one step further and see that while there are differences of opinion on how to continue running our great nation, we are fortunate in the extreme to be able to spend so much time arguing about how we're going to do it and realizing that even if the other party makes some ground on their political agenda we are all still amazingly fortunate compared with most of the rest of the world***.

Anyway, those are some thoughts I've been mulling over for the last couple of days.  I hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July and I hope you had an Independence Day.

Fourth of July: B
Independence Day: A+


* - Of course arguing to people who are already on your side is also a waste of time.
** - The current temperature hovering around 100 degrees notwithstanding.
*** - Or really amazingly fortunate compared to all of the rest of the world.  (Sorry, rest of the world.)

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Infinite Quest & Dreamland

For some reason the creators at Dr. Who decided to make a couple of animated episodes* starring David Tennant as the 10th Doctor.  Hold on . . . .

. . . . the Interweb has informed me that both of them were created as serials** and released on several different websites and the like over the course of several weeks.

Doctor Who: The Infinite Quest This one has Martha Jones travelling with the Doctor on a quest to find a space ship (The Infinite) that can apparently make your "greatest desire" come true.  There's actually very little to do with the ship and mostly it is a series of vignettes in which the pair track down the four pieces that will lead them to the ship.   Now that I know it was released as a serial it makes much more sense as each piece is pretty much a stand alone mini-adventure.  Nevertheless they do a good job of giving it that "Doctor Who" feel.  The animation isn't bad, though a lot of the time the Doctor doesn't really look like David Tennant at all.    Also the main bad guy is kind of a tool bag.  In the sense that I kept thinking to myself, why doesn't the Doctor just trick him into falling into a hole or something.

Doctor Who: Dreamland This one has the Doctor travelling alone.  He ends up in the desert in Roswell, NM looking for some chili from a roadside diner.  He ends up running around with the waitress and an American Indian*** guy.  They save the Earth from being taken over by aliens.  Of the two this one has much crisper writing and the plot flows better.  But of the two this one is much less a series of small episodes.  The animation in this one is unfortunately a little worse.  Mainly in the people.  They are clearly computer animated and they move with that stiffness that cheap animation gives people.  Though on the plus side the Doctor looks much more like David Tennant.

Both episodes are relatively short (~45 minutes) but if you like Doctor Who at all they are worth watching.

The Infinite Quest: B+
Dreamland: A-

* - There are apparently three other animated episodes, but they came well before these two and star other Doctors.
** - Meaning, released in small snippets over time and having nothing to do with breakfast
*** - Though at times it's hard to tell that's what he's supposed to be.