Sunday, October 28, 2012


IMDB: I've mentioned IMDB in several posts so I figured I should talk about it a bit and give it a grade.

In a word this web site is simply awesome.

Okay that's two words, but whatever.  The point holds true.

For those of you unfamiliar with this website, IMDB stands for Internet Movie Data Base.  It is a collection of all of the information you could ever hope to need about every movie or TV show ever.

It is for anyone who's ever been tormented by trying to remember who was the actress that was in that movie about dancing and welding back in 1983.  For IMDB that's no problem. [1]

Didn't that guy from Dallas do a weird TV show in which he could breathe underwater?  IMDB will tell you that he did indeed. [2]

Type in the name of any movie, actor, director, TV show, producer or just about anything else you might think of and IMDB has you covered.

It also has trailers, reviews, trivia and more as well.

After hearing about the new Die Hard movie coming out next year, you begin wondering if they are ever going to make a new Lethal Weapon.  IMDB can tell you.  [3]

Wonder who was born today?  No problem.  Assuming you are talking about October 28th the answer is Julia Roberts, Joaquin Phoenix and Dennis Franz among others.

I could go on and on, but you get the point.

If I could, I would thank the person who thought up this brilliant idea, but I can't.  Because it was thought up by every person who's ever seen a movie since computers could do more than add numbers.  And it was wished for by everyone who saw a movie before then.

IMDB succeeds at what Leonard Maltin and Roger Ebert used to try to do with their instantly outdated movie books and then multiplies the goodness by 1000.

On a scale of 1 to Gary Bussey, IMDB scores a Chuck Norris. [4]

The only real question is why hasn't this been copied by the music industry?  It can't be that hard.  Media Play [5] used to have a little terminal in their stores called "Muse" that had a workable database for basic searching by artist, album title, etc.  Somebody just needs to step up and put it online.

UPDATE: Turns out I was just not paying attention. has got it all covered.


[1] - It was Jennifer Beals in  Flashdance.
[2] - Patrick Duffey starred in Man From Atlantis back in 1977-78.
[3] - Apparently it's in the writing phase and could possibly be out as soon as 2015.
[4] - Semi-inside joke, but you get the point.
[5] - The loss of this store still makes me sad :(

Safe House & the American

It worked out that I had a free evening last night. [1]  I decided to squander away my time watching movies.  I'd recently gotten a copy of The American and after a brief run to the used CD/DVD store I decided to pair it up with Safe House.

I pretty knew the gist of what Safe House was about [2] and thought that the American was similar. Which given the cover the American seemed a safe bet.  [3]

I began the double feature with Safe House.

Safe House: Denzel Washington and Ryan Reynolds "team up" in this one.  Denzel Washington takes a rare turn at playing a bad guy. [4]  To be honest I'd forgotten it was Ryan Reynolds in this one and if I had paid more attention at the store would probably have thought twice about buying it had I remembered.  It's not that I don't like the guy, it's more that I don't like the guy.

To be clearer. I haven't actually seen a ton of movie with Reynolds, but I've developed the impression that he's a bit of a goof ball and I expect more of a frat boy performance out of him than that of a soldier/spy.  This is probably in a large part because of Van Wilder and the Green Lantern movie, neither of which I saw. [5]

Safe House has definitely improved things.  He was completely believable and did a great job.  Granted it was an action flick and didn't really call for too much depth of acting, but nevertheless I enjoyed his performance and the movie in general.

If I have any real bone to pick with the movie it's that it fails in the same way that every movie of this ilk seems to fail. [6]  Which is that the "surprise" bad guy in the movie was about as much of a surprise as plain white toast. [7]  Anyone who didn't know that he was a bad guy the first or second time he was on the screen probably screams in terror every time the toaster pops-up.

The American: So if you've seen this movie and you read my assumptions above you have already realize what I'm about to say in the next sentence.  This movie was not at all what I was expecting.  It did have some violence and a sort of a car chase [8] and guns, but it is not an action movie.

Instead it's a movie about a guy whose life is sad, lonely and boring.  He then comes to realize how sad, lonely and boring his life is.  He decides to stop living a sad, lonely and boring life.  This naturally results in the ending that movies of this formula always end with. [9]  Thus, my biggest problem with this movie is that the "surprise" at the end was no surprise at all.

A minor problem could be the slow pacing and lack of action, but then again that is probably more a factor of what I was expecting versus what I actually got. [10]

Safe House: B+
The American: B+

[1] - Meaning the Pook took the boys to a Halloween party and I was free to do as I like.
[2] - Guns, violence, explosions, car chases, etc, etc.
[3] - George Clooney running with a gun.
[4] - Sort of.
[5] - Looking at his IMDB listing doesn't really change that opinion either.
[6] - So it's more of a bone to pick with these movies in general.
[7] - Just to be clear, by that I mean none-at-all.
[8] - Motor scooters count, right?
[9] - And of course, somewhere along the way he falls in love with a prostitute.
[10] - So more of a problem with me than the movie.

Three Bear Vignettes

Three Bear Vignettes:  If you are unsure of who the Bear is you can check it out here.  All three of these tales took place in the recent past, so he is about three-and-a-half-years-old in all of them.  Also, I didn't give this post a grade.

Story 1: 

While hanging out with his Aunt Lyndsay [1] the two began to have a conversation about outer space and the planets. [2]  The Bear started telling her about the rings around Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.  The following conversation then took place: [3]

Lyndsay: I don't think all of those planets have rings.
Bear: Yes, they do.
Lyndsay: I don't know.  I think only Saturn has rings.
Bear [Talking very matter-of-factly]: Aunt Lyndsay, I think I know more about planets then you do.

Story 2:

At the Bear's day care, there used to be a couple of girls that were older, but they've gone on to Kindergarten and such.  Thus now the Bear and one other girl are the oldest.  There are also a couple of other infants.  The other girl is essentially the same age as the Bear and they are evidently thick as thieves.

He spends every day playing cars and other typical boy stuff.  The other girl apparent likes to play "getting married".  As the only potential groom, the Bear evidently usually suffers through this with good graces.  However the other day she was evidently taking too long, which prompted him to finally blurt out:

"Are we married yet?  Because I've got things to do."

Story 3: 

Driving in the car the other day with the Bear, we began a conversation on the differences between backhoes and excavators. This is a discussion we frequently have.  You'd think it would be easy to definitively say one way or the other, but it isn't.  Especially as the British seem to have a different set of names all together for their trucks. [4]

Bear: Do backhoes all have tires?
Me: I believe so.
Bear: Don't some of them have tracks. [5]
Me: I think only the really big ones have tracks and those are excavators.
Bear: No, Daddy.  Backhoes and excavators are the same thing.  I know it's hard to understand.

[1] - It's not polite to reveal a woman's age, but I will say that she's only a few years younger than the Pook
[2] - If you spend more than ten minutes with the Bear you should probably expect this conversation to come up.  I suggest having already chosen a favorite planet
[3] - In the interest of full disclosure: I didn't actually witness this conversation, so all quoted lines are likely slightly different from the original.
[4] - And a fair amount of the youtube videos the Bear watches about construction trucks seem to come from across the pond.
[5] - Meaning treads like a bulldozer or tank.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Into the Great Wide Open

Into the Great Wide Open: I've always been a big Tom Petty fan.  At the end of the 80's and in the beginning of the 90's he changed his style from his previous heavier, more metal sound [1] to a cleaner, poppier sound.

The first album to come out this way was the solo effort, Full Moon Fever in 1989.  The most notable song from that one is Free Falling.

Two years later he reunited with the Heartbreakers to continue the sound on Into the Great Wide Open. [2]

There's nothing about this album that I don't like.  Every song is a keeper from the opening track (Learning to Fly) to the last (Built to Last).

I would try and tell you about a few favorites, but then I'd just have to go track by track through the whole album, because I literally like every single one of them.

Just do me a favor and give it a listen.

Into the Great Wide Open: A+

[1] - Note I did not say he was metal.  I said the sound was more metal.
[2] - Wildflowers finished up the trio of albums in '94.  His first greatest hits also came out during this stint.  It included the new song, Mary Jane's Last Dance which has the same general sound.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Super Stick Man Golf

Super Stick Man Golf: Noodlecake Studios makes computer games.  In particular they make games for cell phones.  In even more particularness they make Super Stick Man Golf.

I came upon this game while searching through the free games section of the app store on my iPhone.  The game evidently wasn't always free, but I guess having made enough money on it the folks at Noodlecake decided to start giving it away.

Whatever the actual reason, I thank them heartily because I love this game.

No seriously, I love it.

Okay, not actually love love it, but I love it as much as you can love any collection of 1's and 0's being used to represent a small stick man whacking a tiny white circle around an increasingly bizarre set of courses.

The game itself is simple enough.  You are a stick man.  You play golf.  You try to get the ball into the hole in as few shots as possible.

There are approximately 37 or so courses in the game.  Each is nine holes.  They are supposedly grouped according to difficulty, but I suspect they are more grouped according to some other characteristic.  [1]

Like all good games there are achievements to earn.[2]  Things like getting a hole-in-one or ending a course at ten under par or better.  There are also some goofy achievements related to some of the enhancements you can unlock. [3]

The enhancements are mostly special balls.  The ice ball will freeze a water hazard and thus allow you to avoid losing two strokes to a bad shot.  The sticky ball will adhere to any surface (besides water) and allows you to take your next shot hanging from the ceiling if that's what thrills you.  The super ball flies ten times farther and is consequently on fire.  etc.  etc. You get the idea.  There are also a couple of enhancements that change the course instead of the ball.  Like the hazard swap that makes all the water traps on a hole into sand traps and vice versa.

You can put up to seven special enhancements into your "golf bag" for any course.  Thus, you have to choose wisely.  Though a perfectly good way to play is just to take seven mulligans.  They let you undo your last shot and try again.

Anyway, back to my undying love for this game.

How much do I love it you ask?  Well let me tell you how much I've played so far.

The first time through I just played all of the courses and unlocked all of the enhancements and earned all of the achievements.[4]  Some of which are not easy.  Of course, I did all of this without using any of the enhancements save the mulligan.

Having done that I played all of the courses again until I had scored a gold star on all of them. [5]  Again, I naturally did this without using any enhancement except the mulligan.

Now I'm going through course by course and determining what is the lowest score you could get using the enhancements and then I am attempting to get that score. [6]  For instance, I've gotten a -36 on the Purple Haze course.

If you are dying to know how I'm playing each course.  Don't worry, I've got a chart I'm working on that will tell you which enhancement to use for each hole and what is the best score you can achieve.  I'll publish it once I've finished.

You might think I have a problem.  It's not a problem.  It's love. [7]

Super Stick Man Golf: A+

[1] - There are a couple of pretty tough courses in the 'beginner' set and some of the 'advanced' set are downright easy.  I'm willing to bet that they are actually pretty much grouped according to when they were made.
[2] - Okay like all games lately, good or bad.
[3] - Like sinking the flaming super ball into a water hazard.  More on that later.
[4] - Except for the multi-player ones.  Our relationship is a private one.
[5] - A gold star means you scored ten under par or better.
[6] - I'm calling it a success if I get within four strokes.
[7] - A love that will never end.  Or anyway, won't end until Super Stick Man Golf 2 comes out later this year.  Color me excited.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Sushi:  I wouldn't call myself a culinary adventurer.  Andrew Zimmern has nothing to fear from me.  For instance when a friend of a friend offered me some straight from Scotland haggis, it didn't take me long to say, "no thanks".[1]

However I also wouldn't call myself a culinary recluse either.  I'm usually more than willing to try new things, I'm just not desperate to find the next comestible highlight in the backwaters of the barely edible.

Which brings us to sushi.

My first and only [2] experience with sushi came about when I was in the last year of studying for my undergraduate degree.  As part of our requirements for our degree, I and a female classmate were both
interns at a law enforcement agency in Atlanta.  The semester was almost over and it was our last days of interning.

She didn't have to come in until later that day but arrived around noon and asked if I wanted to go out to lunch to celebrate the end of the semester/interning/college/etc.  Unfortunately, I had already eaten, but in the spirit of day, I said I'd be glad to go with her and provide company. [3]

Since I wasn't going to eat, she decided to go get sushi.  In the interest of full disclosure, the sushi bar in question was actually attached to a food court in an upscale mall nearby.

You sushi defenders are now saying things like, "well of course it wasn't very good.  If you'd only have gone to a better restaurant!

That is not the case at all.  We, in fact, went to this place instead of a to a just as easy to get to nearby sushi bar, because she had been to both before and said this was in fact as good if not better than most of the sushi bars she'd been to. [4]

So back to the story.  She got a plate full of sushi stuff.  Don't ask me what type of sushi it was.  I don't know and at this point frankly don't care.  Because the drinks from the sushi bar were small and limited, I got us both extra large drinks from one of the food court restaurants.  They weren't quite 55 gallon drums, but close.[5]

We chatted while she ate and then she asked if I'd ever had sushi.  I admitted that I hadn't.  She offered some of hers.  I declined.  Not because I thought it would be bad, but I'd already eaten and she didn't have that much of it and I didn't want to eat her lunch.  I explained as much.  She said she didn't mind and offered again.[6] So I said, okay.

As I was saying at the beginning of my tale.  I've eaten my share of less traditional food.  I've at least tried food from many places around the world and have enjoyed most of it.  I've eaten some strange things.[7]  And while I haven't loved or even liked some of it [8], I've never had something where, if it was the only thing available to eat, I would have starved.

Until that day.

That bite of sushi is the only morsel of food that I've ever eaten that I had to actively stop myself from throwing up.  My gag reflex was trying to work overtime and my brain was desperately trying to play it cool and keep a lid on things.

What I wanted to do was eject the stuff from my mouth.  But I also didn't want to completely offend and/or turn off the lovely co-intern across the table.  An internal debate between my brain and my stomach proceeded that went something like this:

Brain: Swallow that!
Stomach: Not ever!
Brain: Do you see that girl across the table?  Well we'd like to see her again.  Do NOT blow this.
Stomach: I don't care about the girl across the table.  Remember that lunch we ate about a half hour ago?  If you don't want to see it and the sushi on that selfsame girl.  I suggest you do something!

Meanwhile, I had instantaneously broken out into a cold sweat and my face had become pasty white as all blood retreated from the area.

I attempted to slyly and calmly spit the offending item into a napkin without literally losing my lunch.[9]

I then proceeded to drain my entire giant drink in one long swallow.

Things hadn't gotten much better internally.

Having watched this entire proceeding, she offered me her drink and pushed it across the table.

I proceeded to drain her entire drink in one long swallow as well.

At this point the wild look in my eyes subsided as the battle between forces of upchuck and 'smile-as-you-suffer-through-it' turned slightly in favor of the latter.

I'm proud to say I ultimately did not spew forth that day though it was mighty close.  Of course, I never saw the girl again either.  [10]

Thus from that day forward I have never had sushi again.

When people ask me why and I tell them this tale inevitably I then get barraged with comments like,

"Well what type of sushi was it?"
"If you tried such-and-such, I bet you'd love it!"
"You just don't know what you're missing?"

My response is always the same.  Who cares!

When you come microns away from making a technicolor rainbow, the last thing you do is go and experiment to see if you can identify exactly what brought you to the brink.

I don't eat sushi.  My life is no less full for this fact.

Sushi - F-------- [11]

[1] - Haggis, if you were unaware, is Sheep's stomach filled with stuff that look about like what you'd expect to find in a sheep's stomach.
[2] - Because that's not telling of how this is gonna go.
[3] - I'd also be lying if I didn't say that she was very cute and the possibility that we might see more of each other outside of school would have been agreeable.
[4] - She evidently ate the stuff on a regular basis.  She actually later went and got a part time job at a sushi bar just so she could get the stuff more often and cheaper.
[5] - Nickel difference!
[6] - She loved sushi so much she was essentially acting as a sushi ambassador.
[7] - Among other things: opossum, alligator and these strange white sausages in Paris that I later found out were stuffed with intestines.
[8] - I've never been able to get behind Indian curries.
[9] - I succeeded in getting it to the napkin.  I failed completely at the sly part.
[10] - When an ambassador offers you delights from their country and it takes all of your willpower not to yak, the possibility of future relations between countries tend to dry pretty quickly.
[11] - For the record, that's and 'F' with eight minuses behind it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Pinatas: I want you to close your eyes and think of a pinata.  Picture a blindfolded child swinging a bat at the pinata.  The pinata moves out of the way as the person at the end of the rope makes it jump about wildly.  The child swings again and again.  The Pinata continues its merry dance until the randomness of its erratic movements and the swinging of the bat brings the two into destructive contact.  The Pinata explodes and a shower of treats rains down on the ecstatic children below.

Now open your eyes and face the reality of a Pinata.

They never, and I do mean never, explode into a shower of treats. [1] The children all line up and each take their swings, but even if they should make contact the Pinata holds firm.  Like a sadistic piggy bank refusing to give up its coins.  Eventually the kids and the adults get tired of the whole endeavor.

First, they stop pulling the rope at all, but even hanging still it doesn't produce any results.

Next the blindfold is discarded.  The children's interest is renewed, but rapidly wanes as even the benefit of sight produces no better results.

Ultimately we end with the pinata lying on the ground as one of the larger kids (or even an adult) beats the thing like the proverbial horse.

Should someone actually get lucky enough to breach the pinatas exterior while it is still airborne, no explosion of candy results.  Instead, if you are lucky one or two sad pieces of candy slide out, but no more.  More likely nothing falls out and the hole just serves as mockery while the pinata continues to hold fast. [2]

But before we completely turn away from the concept of a pinata in disgust.  Let's look at a few more facets of the endeavor.

First of all, who is really getting any joy out of the thing?  In reality the only ones are the adults as they laugh at the children swinging wildly and ineffectually.  In other words, this is mocking our youngsters while they fail at a task they have no hope of completing.

Secondly, about half the time the children end up getting the last laugh as one of the "helpful" adults in the area [3] ends up taking an essentially deserved shot to a vital area as little Billy starts swinging wildly before they can get clear.

And thirdly, now-a-days pinatas are made to look like our kids TV and movie heroes.  Not the villains, mind you, because that would make sense.  So instead of having them beat the tar out of evil doers and villains, we have them beat the tar out of Superman or Elmo or Curious George.[3]

In conclusion, while I would love to regale you with tales of pinatas past and multi-colored torrents of confections erupting from within, sadly I cannot.  Instead I can only tell you of one Dora.  Who having done nothing more offending than explored where her curiosity would take her, ended up with her head hanging high overhead while her decapitated body lay on the ground taking repeated blunt force trauma from a five iron.

Pinata perfection.

Pinatas: F

[1] - Or a shower of anything for that matter.
[2] - It's only a flesh wound.
[3] - Most likely its the one who spins the blindfolded kid around before letting them loose with a blunt weapon
[3] - Take that you simian freak!  And tell that yellow hatted man if he knows what's good for him he won't show his face around here!