Friday, August 20, 2010

Birthday-Anniversary Season

The mid-summer has many happy occasions for my immediate family; in a 4 week period it's the birthday of: my brother, father, and myself and the anniversary of: me and my parents. So, a little late, but the official celebration videos:

For all the birthdays:

and, of course, for the Anniversaries.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Moonraker (Two Thoughts)

Moonraker is now on. OK, I promised not to live-blog this, but just two thoughts: (1) for those making lists of necessities for evil overlords, need to make room on their rosters for The Countdown Guy ("twenty seconds and counting...")
(2) The ending is fine, it has the "big battle in the enemy strong-hold" that we loved in other films, even if it's a crazy cheezy space battle. But the part of the movie where Bond needs to shoot down the death-gas capsules with the space-shuttle laser is one of the best scenes in all Bond-dom. I must admit this, in sheer honesty.

And, because I can't let it rest, I must explain why the ending is so damn good: because it's necessary within logic and the plot. Most of Moonraker involves absolutely idiotic, near suicidal, behavior. Nobody does anything that makes a lick of sense; even though numerous action sequences occur, false tension is created, but no logical person would feel emotion since everyone is a cartoonish gasbag. But the ending is necessary, plausible, and tense. Honor due.

The Spy Who Loved Me

Many stupid Bond fans think this is a decent movie. It ain't. It's on TV now, and I want to comment via live-blogging.

"The Spy Who Loved Me" was made during the plot-rails Roger Moore era. His plots usually were driven by the external Hollywood need to have exciting action and not to follow earthly human reason. Basically, the series had gone on long enough that the writers/producers stopped making 'spy thrillers' and just made 'Bond films' (which meant: gadgets, exotic locations, and weird fights).

The movie's premise is stolen from You Only Live Twice - e.g. a third party terrorist kidnaps vehicles from the US and USSR in order to induce WWIII - and this includes the fun 'major army takes over kooky evil man base.' That's good, no question, but it's derivative. And YOLT was better because (a) it was first, and it had (b) Connery, (c) ninjas and (d) a volcanoo. Also, the plot point of a eugenicist billionaire was recycled for the next, and even worse, movie (Moonraker).

But a key problem of recycling from YOLT is that while that movie used a spaceship to swallow up other (US/USSR) spaceships, TSWLM has a big boat swallow up submarines. OK, so lets see how the premise doesn't carry. In 1965, spaceships were basically just non-maneuverable orbiting bricks and so there's some logic that they could be kidnapped by being swallowed from behind.

But submarines being swallowed by a surface ship? They are called submarines for a reason. They just need to go DOWN! And if thinking in 3-dimensions is too hard for Hollywood writers (I assure you, all mariners and aviators are trained to do so, but hack writers can't) then the submarine still has guns and torpedoes! Shoot the frickin' boat before it swallows you! It's what they sub does at the end of the movie when it needs to escape, so it's not like they didn't know about guns in their planet.

Also, each ship was kidnapped because the bad-guy wanted their nuclear weapons (which, unbeknownst to the crew, were to be launched against all major world cities - in a purposeful plan of world annihilation). That's a quite crazy plan, admittedly, but I believe that all nuclear sub crews would kill themselves willingly than let their subs be captured by a hostile - because even one rogue nuke is a world nightmare.

Logical, no? So when the submarine is swallowed by the supertanker - by sitting there on the surface, like Tanya Roberts being kidnapped by a blimp in "A View to a Kill" - and Stromberg threatens to kill the crew with cyanide, they all give up. Why?! Given, the dire nature of captured nukes, they should never had been there in the first place and should also fight to the last man.

Anyway, skipping to the end: after Bond succeeds in diverting the nuclear missiles, and enjoys some success, suddenly the ship starts exploding - forcing their escape. Why?! There's no actual cause for the explosion! Except, as they say on TV Tropes, it's made of explodium.

Hollywood Idiocy: The Showdown

At the end of the movie, Bond asks the Pentagon to hold off destroying Stromberg's base so he can save Anya. Bond builds a jet ski (seriously; even though the sub has to go the base anyway in order to shell it - this is a worthless action by Bond) and then sails to Stromberg. When he shows up, Stromberg tries to kill him with the elevator, but Bond outsmarts him (it's dumb). Then Bond, gun drawn, confronts Stromberg - asking him where Anya is. Stromberg doesn't say and instead he asks Bond to sit down... and Bond does! Why?!? He has only a few moments before the sub shells the station, and he sits down?!

Ah, it's because the plot requires it. Ya see, Stromberg has a clever device - a gun that is immobile and only can kill someone if you're sitting in JUST THAT CHAIR, and so Bond is forced to sit there. Oh, the gun has only one shot. So Bond sits down, Stromberg pulls the trigger, and Bond jumps up before the bullet - made of marmalade? - travels down the bullet tube. OK, so then at that point Bond gets angry and kills Stromberg by pointing the gun in the exact tube and firing - thus shooting Stromberg in the gonads.

Do you understand the logic in all this? Bond kills Stromberg - which he could have done when he came in, but waits to get some info - and after Stromberg is disarmed... Bond shoots him anyway. Stupid and pointless. It's only there to allow Bond to blast the bad guy in the nuts.

Anyway, earlier in the movie, Stromberg recognizes Bond as an enemy agent. Earlier in the film, Stromberg kills some scientists by dropping them through a false bottom in his elevator. He doesn't do this to Bond. Rather he lets Bond go and tells Jaws to kill him outside the ship. Why? Stromberg was already willing to kill people in his own ship before. The only reason to do this is to create a chase scene. Which hurts my brain!

And Jaws' plan for killing Bond? To send a motorcycle equipped with a rocket propelled bomb disguised a sidecar. Which of course misses. Then, when that fails, Jaws chases after Bond in a car - shooting at him with a pistol. Then when that doesn't work, he has the best looking Bond babe ever (seriously), named Naomi, shoot at Bond with a machine-gun toting helicopter.

Now, I'd like to explain how a person is supposed to write a fiction plot: there's supposed to be a correspondence to how people in the actual world think and act or otherwise people (like me) cannot suspend our disbelief - because logic is the food of consciousness. Without logic, my brain rebels.

OK, so according to the writers, Stromberg, the genius billionaire's, plan is to not kill Bond in the same secret untraceable way which worked before but instead to do so in public using a wildly untested method of unguided remote control sidecar explosives. Why? So it would look like an accident? And he said to himself "We'll use the sidecar bomb and even though it's foolproof, you Jaws should follow after him in a car and shoot at him with a pistol - even though shotguns are better at that range and for hitting moving targets, and we doubtless own shotguns if we can purchase or manufacture a custom made motorcycle bomb.... Oh, and above all, surveillance will be from a highly effective helicopter, used the world over to destroy tanks, and it will only be used if my idiotic stuff fails."

Nope, nobody but an idiot - or a Hollwywood writer - would use their resources in this manner. It's only there to create a chase scene modeled after a video game; that's all. and it hurts my brain. The fact that people like this movie is as explicable as people liking the latter Lucas films - most movie-goers, even the nerds of TVTropes - do not possess logic sensors in their heads.

Note, every single problem I've just elucidated, is present from the very first minute in Moonraker, which starts with Jaws surviving a free fall from thousands of feet because he lands on a circus tent... and goes downhill from there. A similar live-blogging of that movie would burn up my keyboard.

Second pic from here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Expendables (2010 film)

I really so much want this movie not to suck. True, it's written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, so that's two strikes against, but I really really want it to work, since it contains nearly every single decent action hero over the past 30 years: Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, and Steve Austin. The only ones missing are Jean Claude (who refused a role, sayeth the Wiki, which shows his choice in roles is as sharp as ever) and Steven Seagal, who also refused. Idiots.

So what are the odds that this will actually be decent? Low. And maybe low expectations will save it.


No thank you, I don't like Ceratops.

That joke comes courtesy of the first Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode my brother and I watched back in the 90s; a joke of such quality that we felt this show would go places.

Anyway, I was told recently that "scientists" had discovered that the Triceratops isn't; that it's just an immature stage of another dino (the Moogooraptor or whatever). I surmised that since everyone in the Western world grew up, and has loved, the Triceratops, and no layman has heard of the Doofusatops, that "they" would just allow the old standby to win. Right? Well, hard earned bitter experience reminds me that the popular will of American 8 year-olds didn't save the Brontosaurus from being renamed the dippy "Apantsasaurus" or whatever. This is the same case? Will the 'tops go the way of Bronto?

Well it looks like sanity, taste, and the combined might of our inner 8 year old has prevailed 'Triceratops' name will stay: "'Triceratops' name will stay" say the newspeople.

This triumph of art and taste over scientific tin-ears gives me hope that maybe we can now save Pluto!

Pic from here.

Today's Backposts (Citizen Dog)

Citizen Dog Series:
  1. December 02, 2009 - Belly Button Trivia
  2. December 08, 2009 - The THX Menace
  3. December 11, 2009 - Crosswalk Button Morality
  4. December 11, 2009 - Bert and Ernie
  5. December 11, 2009 - Which is the Most Goyish Holiday?
  6. December 12, 2009 - Last Citizen Dog
  7. December 12, 2009 - A Glimpse into My Cleaning Method
  8. December 13, 2009 -No Snowflakes Alike?
  9. December 13, 2009 - Another Person's Invisible Pain
  10. December 13, 2009 - Ikea

Dave Barry and Bob Graham

As you know, my man Dave Barry has stopped writing a weekly column and has spent the past few years writing children's novels of unknown worth and following his wife to sports events. But, like with Calvin & Hobbes in newspapers, the powers that be have been reprinting old Dave columns. Most I've read already but sometimes we get lucky and there's a 'new' (meaning so old that it wasn't published in any of his books) column. So it was a week ago when I was able to read a 1983 interview between Dave and then FL Gov. Bob Graham (D).

I advise reading the whole column, but suffice it to say that Graham is possibly the sharpest politician I've seen interviewed, based on his extraordinarily swift wit. Mario Cuomo struck me as sharp and funny but just read this amazing interchange, which Dave swears actually happened, and was not pre-planned:

BARRY: What can the state do about harmonica safety? I don't know if you have any idea how many Floridians die every year in harmonica accidents....

GRAHAM: Well last year we actually made some substantial improvement. In 1981, there were four people who died of harmonica accidents. Now actually, I think it's only fair to count three of them, because the fourth one was actually, I would say it was more of a swimming-pool accident. He was playing the harmonica in the swimming pool and actually jumped off the shallow end, hit his head, and we don't know whether it was the fact that he swallowed the harmonica, or the brain damage. They counted it as a harmonica accident. Now, this year, or 1982, the last year for which we have statistics, we only had two harmonica accidents. I think it was the result of the public-service ads that I did....

BARRY: The Harmonica Safety Day I think was a wonderful....

GRAHAM: ...and we built it around the theme that if you want to play Dixie, it's fine, but don't do it in front of the air- conditioning duct, because that's where we found that most of the deaths occurred. It was the vacuum that was created.

BARRY: This leads us pretty much directly to toads. I've been staying at a house in Broward County, and there are, every morning out on the patio, toads the size of mailboxes. What can we do?

Just to 'fact-check', I searched to find if there really had been a Harmonica Safety Day. Nope. Gadzooks, what a guy!

I remember when he ran for president in 2004 and now I'm even angrier that he didn't make any headway. If he had run instead of John "Choke" Kerry?! Think about it: a sharp, savvy, popular Governor and Senator from Florida who opposed the Iraq War! Grrr.

Pic from this completely unrelated site.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Droid Update

As mentioned here and here, I purchased a new phone, the Motorola Droid, to replace my aging and cracked Palm 680 Treo. It's been a few months and while I still need more time to test it, my confident judgment is that this is not only the worst cell-phone I've ever owned, it may even be the worst purchase I've ever made in my life.

I hate this phone so very much. My biggest problems are (a) its dependence on the touch-screen (I understand that all phones are going this way, aping the accursed I-Phone, but I still can ladle my hate on the subject) - I believe my fingers aren't made for touch-screens, or something, but I'm constantly doing things I don't want to do with this freakin' phone because the screen alternates between being unresponsive and too-sensitive. Hate hate hate.

(B) The second, and big, problem is that the phone sucks up energy. My treo could sit for a day or two without draining its battery, but the Droid eats energy just by sitting there. Hate^3.

I'm stuck with this tech-turkey for another year or so. And I have nobody to blame but myself (oh, and the entire country of tech users who have forced all phones to be these asinine toys instead of TOOLS).

Pic from here.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Day the Cheez Doodle Died

My brother alerted me to this sad news, the death of the inventor/creator of the Cheez Doodle, Morrie Yohai a'h. According to the Times:
Morrie Robert Yohai was born in Harlem on March 4, 1920, one of four children of Robert and Mary Habib Yohai, Jewish immigrants from Turkey. The family later moved to the Bronx. Mr. Yohai graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1941 and began working for Grumman Aircraft on Long Island. After enlisting in the Navy during World War II in 1942, he transferred to the Marines and saw action in the South Pacific.
How proud am I? That my beloved Doodles were invented by a Sefardi Jew who fought in World War II as a Marine. Man alive! A Jewish USMC hero of WW2 *and* who invented the cheez doodle. I'm sad I didn't know this before, and the world will miss this creative genius.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Chelsea's Wedding

So Chelsea finally got married, and to get the stuff out of the way: (1) her husband is "Jewish", (2) she did not convert, and as such it was an (3) interfaith wedding (as shown in this quote from the Times: "The interfaith ceremony was conducted by Rabbi James Ponet and the Rev. William Shillady. Ms. Clinton is Methodist, and Mr. Mezvinsky is Jewish." I guess the rabbi is my old New Haven colleague Jim Ponet of Yale Hillel who is a Reform rabbi and possibly knew the President at school. The picture of the chossun shows him in his tallit, so way to go Jim for doing that, and it wasn't during the 9 days, but it was on Shabbat. Oops.

Anyway, rather than lament about the nature of intermarriage among American Jews, or some other weirdness, I would like to point out that we live in a remarkable age when in a single administration the President and Vice President (both non-Jewish natch) have children who married Jews. Cheslea to Mark Tallisdork yesterday, and Al Gore's daughter Karenna Gore Schiff (OK, the Schiffs are now separated but its (a) besides the point and (b) pretty typical for intermarried couples, especially who name their firstborn son "Wyatt".)

To make this point clear: the two most powerful men in the world, two men permanently engraved in American history, have Jewish inlaws. And you can even add that the same president had a Jewish mistress, you can see that Jews have come a long way (oy). OK, forget the mistress and concentrate on the marriages.

While intermarriage is terrible for the Jewish people, and will bring sadness and teeth gnashing to non-Orthodox Jewish continuity, to think of either Clinton & Gore's marriages as 'intermarriage' misses the point: it would have been assumed that for this to happen in a previous era, possibly up until the mid-1960s, the Jew would have been the one to convert. What an age we live in when we would even assume that the daughter of a two-term popular Baptist president would herself convert to Judaism. Let's get real, people.