Monday, August 31, 2009

Quick Review - Time Traveler's Wife

Spoilers may be below for anyone wanting to see or read The Time Traveler's Wife.

I have long raved about the book The Time Traveler's Wife. It is probably my favorite novel written in the past 10 years. I've only read it once but when I did, I devoured it. It is the book that I recommend to people when they ask me if I've read anything good (I've also read tons of good hard sci-fi and young adult books but people tend to dismiss you when you recommend such things).

I was a little worried when I heard there was a I always am when a favorite book is transformed by Hollywood. Although I originally hadn't re-read this book because my copy was stolen, I also was hesitant to re-read it this close to the movie. I wanted to enjoy the movie and not nitpick it in my brain, which I know is what I would do if I had just finished reading the book. I still remembered the premise of the book and the big details and plot points but the finer points were a little fuzzy after 5+ years since my reading. I think it turned out for the best, I wasn't shocked by anything but I was pleasantly surprised a few times (Hey, I forgot about that).

When I first heard of the movie - I was both happy and sad. Happy because I could see Rachel McAdams being a great Clare. Sad because of Eric Bana being Henry. Eric Bana has long been listed in my mind as the "Second Most Boring Man in Hollywood." I can't tell you exactly when I formed this opinion or why, I just know that every time I would see him in something I would be like "Ugh, this guy...he is SO boring." (BTW-Aaron Eckhart has long been number one but really playing to his strengths lately with boring, workaholic Bill in Meet Bill and straight-laced Harvey Dent in the Dark Knight has started bringing me around) Rachel was everything that I expected in the movie. Eric surprised me, he made a very good "every man" type character for Henry, and I quickly grew comfortable with him in the role. I must say that the casting of Ron Livingston as Gomez was perfect and although a small part he really played it well.

Overall, I really liked the movie. I thought it was a pretty good translation of the book. There were a couple things that I didn't like - which I admit might be because my memory has distorted and/or rearranged the books. The first one being Henry's death. I thought the movie was much more forthcoming with who killed Henry than the book...honestly, I remember the book seeming to lead me to think that Henry killed himself (not suicide - you'll understand if you've seen the movie or read the book). I also didn't remember that Henry and Clare having miscarriages when trying to get pregnant being so openly discussed as the fetus possibly time traveling...again I know it was hinted at which I think was a better way of handling it (Of course, who goes to a movie to think now these days). Many other scenes were cut out like most film translations but the essence was there and it was good. I would recommend this movie for anyone looking to watch something with their significant other. I believe it has enough love story and time travel material to appeal to a diverse audience.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Saturday at the Roller Rink

Last Saturday was the final home bout for the Mid Iowa Rollers. The local Des Moines area female roller derby team. As I've said before, I had known about them for a while but this was only the second bout I have actually made it to. This home bout was much better produced than the last bout. The announcers and the technical aspects (like the score board) seemed to be run much better with much less lag and down time. It made a huge difference. Also they had better intermission entertainment in the form of the Twin City Terrors male roller derby team doing a short exhibition bout each break. It was interesting to see the difference between the two genders. Female bouts seem to be more about finesse and agility...being able to bypass opponents with nimble movements. Male bouts were all about brute force, smashing your way through opposing blockers. The female league definitely has their own violence, pushing, shoving and tripping but that is not what makes a big impression on me. I like the skating ability - dodging other players, squeezing through small openings in your opponents defenses, the timing of teamwork, and side stepping a big hit at the last second. I am always impressed by the skill it takes for some of these skaters. Male derby was OK but it seemed ham-fisted and blunt by comparison. This was a pretty good intermission activity, but I would like to see even more variation - I always thought having a band play during the intermission (or maybe afterward) would be a nice fit.

This bout was against the Muddy Water Derby Dolls from eastern Iowa. The bout itself was very one sided. Although down the first couple Jams. The Mid-Iowa Rollers quickly took the lead and never gave it back. All the MIRs did a great job on Saturday. cTAL-faTAL once again stood out as one of the most skilled skaters - fast with great side to side action. I love watching her sprint off the starting line. Rarely can an opponent jammer keep up. Krystallica (I believe was her name) was almost able to keep pace for the first half of the bout but started falling further and further behind. The MIR girls just looked better conditioned. Anna D Killa Amazon looked good again but was having some trouble getting past the pack, she was continually being tripped up by the Dolls and had difficulty scoring. She did however play some wonderful defence during her time in the pack and was able to block the opposing jammer with her long legs and stride. But it definitely was a team effort. Sin DeRolla looked really good and would have scored many points if she would have been able to stay out of the penalty box. Despite the penalty box she was able to recover and not let the other team score many (if any) points. Fanny Firestarter played with a lot of heart and attitude. She might not have been the fastest or the flashiest, but she went out and skated hard every single jam. Lolli Pop Ya seemed to be all over the track, scoring points, huge hits and blocks. Lolli really looked like she was determined this bout. She had a fantastic effort. The entire team looked good and it payed off in the end. I don't remember the exact score but I do remember that the Mid-Iowa Rollers won by 124 points. It was a total blowout, but I do have to hand it to the Muddy Water Derby Dolls for not giving up...although they were out of the competition, they still skated and hit hard.

Roller Derby draws a really mixed crowd. All ages, styles, and personalities gather at the rink. Exampled by the 70 year old grandmother bringing her 8 year old grandson...both of whom were really into the bout, and everything in between. I was a little shocked by the red headed girl who decided to wear body paint instead of a shirt. It is a testament to her beauty though that I didn't even notice that she was missing a shirt until the second time she walked by and the people in front of me made some kind of joke about it. Actually the body paint was very pretty...and intricate design of yellow and green with a little red and blue thrown in (the design reminded me of Frank Lloyd Wright mixed with a little Piet Mondrian and a little bit of Kandinsky). I'm not sure what the point was, it definitely got you some attention but I thought you were cute enough on your own that you didn't need it.

Great season girls. I can't wait till next year (season starts in March I believe).

Photos borrowed from MIR website.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Two Minutes Hate

Wires and Cables

Picture from wikipedia commons

I have spent much of my free time in the past week (the very little free time that I have had) running wires for my new TV. I want a clean look, so I am routing all the wires through the walls instead of along the floor like they have been for the past 1o years. Unfortunately, this was a lot more work than it should have been. I have even slimmed down my entertainment offering (removing the N64, Gamecube, and Dreamcast from the permanent installation). Still that left:

  • Antenna - coax input from garage to TV

  • TV - Powder cord to hidden jack

  • Satellite - input 1: coax

  • Satellite - input 2: coax

  • Satellite - output 1: Red, Yellow, White composite cable (3 cable bundle)

  • Satellite - output 2: Red, Yellow, White composite cable (2 cable bundle)

  • Xbox 360 -video out: Blue, Green, Red component cable (3 cable bundle)

  • Xbox 360 - audio out: Red, White composite cable (2 cable bundle)

  • Xbox 360 - Ethernet Cat 6 cable in.

  • Xbox -video out: Blue, Green, Red component cable (3 cable bundle)

  • Xbox - audio out: Red, White composite cable (2 cable bundle)

  • VCR - Output: Red, Yellow, White composite cable (3 cable bundle)

Keep in mind that this is before I have even hooked up my home theater stereo (I'm still trying to decide what exactly I want for this). Which will add more inputs and outputs, plus speaker wire to 4 places. Why don't I just run everything into one mega home theater receiver and then have one set of cables to the TV? Well that doesn't really get rid of cables, just moves them to the receiver instead of the TV, plus it doesn't allow for different video settings for the different devices on the TV (DVD movies you want dark, old VCR tapes not so much), plus also no picture in picture, etc...

I also am hoping to upgrade both my satellite receiver and Xbox to HDMI models someday...but the money isn't quite there yet. Although that will help the cable in the long run, I'll still have to run the HDMIs when I first install. What about when I finally decide to get a Wii or want to connect everything to another TV?

Why aren't we to the wireless point yet? Seriously. I know you can buy wireless transmitters, but many are crap. This should all be built in by now. Manufacturer's get moving on this. Wireless Internet is now widespread, cell phone usage in nearly universal (I think my mom is one of the last hold outs on the planet) can do this! Make it happen. In the process making every one's lives better.

End Hate

Suck-ups coming soon: Roller Derby part 2, Cherchez la femme, Time Traveller's Wife movie thoughts

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Quick Laugh

I had heard something similar before but a friend just posted this on facebook and it made me laugh. I think it may have been a Jack Handy quote or something.

Whenever I hear someone say "I'm not book smart, but I'm street smart," all I hear is "I'm not real smart, but I'm imaginary smart."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Still Busy...grrr

Still really busy at work and home and add in a few surprises - not the good kind (no, not unexpected pregnancy or anything like that but car troubles and TV issues) and I have not had any time to write or read blogs. All work and no play makes Gubby a dull boy.

I did manage to make it to the fair on Monday though and did all the major fair things - see a big pig, a big cow, things made of butter, people standing in line for a long time for every little free thing (seriously people an egg on a stick? I wouldn't take that if they paid me...let alone wait in line for 10 minutes.), rode some overpriced midway rides, and of course gazed upon the atrocities of human kind. My favorite loser this year was a guy that was actually wearing "The Man, The Legend" t-shirt.

I had seen these before but really didn't think anyone would ever buy one...OK maybe a seventh grader. This guy looked to be in his mid-30s and exactly the type of person that you would expect to wear one (douchebag). Later in the evening, I would learn that this was not the worst fashion mistake of the day.

Picture by Julie Weatherbee

I also ate a corn dog, cheese curds, an a grater tater (It was just like I was at Billy Joes! Only the CDs were not mini). I am a firm believer in normal sized corn dog instead of the giant or footlong. I love corn dogs but I would rather get two normal sized...the larger ones just don't cook evenly (and are a mess to eat). It was a good day.

Just as I was about to go home Jessica called and asked if I would like to go see Bret Michaels at the grandstand that night. She received free tickets from some friends (Thanks C & J) who won them on the radio but didn't feel like going.

Before the show, Jessica and I decided that we wanted to go on one of the big kid rides. We chose "The Ejection Seat". This is where you are strapped into a pair of seats (lots of strapping) which is then pulled down on two giant bungee cords and released. It flies up 150+ in the air and goes 0-60 in something like .4 seconds (it might have been .2, I forget). It was a lot of fun. I didn't find it scary, that type of thing doesn't bother me much. Jessica was screaming though. I had a lot of fun though, I think my favorite part was when we reached the top of the peak and then started free-falling backwards. That seemed very calm and peaceful to me, after that initial time you were twisting and turning and although that was good, it wasn't the same as the calmness. I am still not sure if it was worth $25 each but it was a fun experience to have.

Please note - these pictures are not of us and are stolen from various places on the interwebicon for illustrative purposes.

I was never the biggest Poison fan, but I did enjoy them for what they were and like most of their songs quite a bit. I have never seen more than 5 minutes of Rock of Love (because it was terrible), so I am not sure how that all fits in...but it seemed like a lot of people at the show were big fans. BM put on a good show. A lot of good old Poison songs (although I really didn't care for his little rap thing in the middle of Nothing but a Good Time), a few covers, and some newer stuff. A good mix for a show.

Jackyl opened. I've seen Jackyl several times both as openers and headliners. Jackyl always seems to put on a decent high energy show. This was no different. I've always hated The Lumberjack Song, but I must admit it is interesting seeing someone play a chainsaw in person. One thing that I was surprised about was Jesse James Dupree's outfit. JJD usually wears a leather jacket, tight leather pants or jeans, and cowboy boots (sometimes he wears a shirt, sometimes not). It is your typical rock and roll outfit. Monday night, he had the boots, he had the jacket, but decided to wear red long johns know the "old-timey" one piece that buttons all the way up the front and the the button butt flap in the back? Kickin' it Jed Clampett style or something. Yep, go ahead and check out that picture above again. I know it is small but you can just make out the long johns...and of course you need a belt.

Ladies and Gentlemen the new rock and roll style (or not)!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Roll With It

Picture by Crystal Ryan (AKA Mid Iowa Roller cTAL faTAL) I really enjoy this photo.

So the other week I decided to check out the local roller derby team in person. The Mid Iowa Rollers. I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew a little bit about roller derby from back in the day when RollerGames was on TV (no gators here though), and a little more from (much more recently) from the A&E show Roller Girls. I was excited but I tried not to get my hopes up too high because I was worried that it was going to suck.

It did not suck. It wasn't the best thing that I had ever seen but it was a very entertaining evening. I would definitely recommend attending their next game (actually I learned they are call 'Bouts').

We arrived a little late due to previous engagements running longer than planned, we arrived midway through the first period (it is similar to hockey in that it has 3 periods). Unfortunately, this meant that we missed the introductions and the explanation of the rules. I remembered enough to explain the gist to my friend but even then it was a little confusing in the beginning. Ten people skating and pushing and pulling their way around the track with seemingly weird and nonsensical points beings scored. By the end of the second period, I was able to follow the action pretty accurately and by the end of the game I understood it all except for some of the penalties.

Here is what I understand:
  • 3 Periods of 20 minutes each.

  • Each period consists of multiple Jams.

  • A Jam is basically like a play in football, its when all the action takes place - a Jam lasts 2 minutes or until it is called off by the lead Jammer.

  • Each team consists of four Blockers (the Pack) and one Jammer.

  • Jammer is identified with a star on her helmet.

  • One blocker for each team is a Pivot - identified by the striped helmet cover.

  • Pivots are at the front of the pack and set the pace of the pack while also acting as blockers.

  • Blockers try to block the Jammer from the other team while assisting their own Jammer through the Pack.

  • Jammers start each Jam 20 feet behind the Pack of Blockers.

  • Jammers must make their way through the Pack (get past all the opposing team's Blockers).

  • The first Jammer to make it past the Pack legitamately (no penalties) becomes Lead Jammer - they now have the ability to stop the Jam before the two minute mark (if they want).

  • Jammers now sprint around the track and can score by lapping the opposing teams blockers (passing them a second time).

  • Jammers can call off the Jam early for many reasons like - they fall and the other team is going to score more points, to keep the other team from scoring, they are tired, they don't think they will get around the track again (save energy).

All and all, it is a quick and highly entertaining game.

Here is a nice graphic that I borrowed from the San Diego Union Tribune, that illustrates some of the scoring rules.

I made it to the bout about midway through the first period. It did not look good. The Mid Iowa Rollers were losing bad (like 21 to 56). cTAL faTAL and Anna D. Killa Amazon however started a string of amazing jams. cTAL was fast and nimble and able to weave through the pack much faster and cleaner than the opposing teams jammer. I am pretty sure she scored a couple grand slams while the opposing team scored next to nothing. cTAL would squeeze through the smallest spaces between blockers and several times looked like she was off-balance and barely on one wheel, but she always made some amazing saves and never lost her footing, continually speeding along the track. Killa Amazon looks about 10 feet tall on skates (I'm sure it's only about 6'6" but she towers over the competition). Her natural stride length quickly outpaced the other jammer and the blockers alike. She looked like a gazelle when she skated - in a good way, naturally long, thin, graceful legs.

The rest of the Mid Iowa Jammers held their own and the team started making ground. However, ICT Roller Girls seemed to have a commanding lead that MIR couldn't overcome. Mid Iowa didn't give up and the crowd was really getting into it. Finally, with very little time left in the third and final period...maybe a minute and a half, the Mid Iowa Rollers were able to grab the lead by a few points. It was an incredible effort by all involved...they just had to hold on for one last jam. This is exactly what you want in any sporting match - a long fought close game that comes down to the final seconds. The Mid Iowa Rollers were able to fend off ICT Rollergirls for that last jam to win the bout. A great finish to a well played bout.

Here is some video from the bout that I attended (not taken by me, I don't own a video camera). It doesn't really capture the fun though.

A few things that could be improved.

  • Standard Numbers - I liked that everyone had nicknames and such but I found the non-standard numbers on the jerseys hard to follow. They have numbers like 24/7, 26.2, Infinity+1 (the infinity is a sideways 8), and #FU. Yes they are funny but I found that it made it seem a little amateurish.

  • Intermissions - Better entertainment during the intermissions. Just playing music or trying to get the crowd to do the Time Warp quickly led to boredom and restlessness.

  • Maybe a little more interaction between the skaters and the crowd. They might have had more of this during the introductions at the beginning of the game but I missed I can't say for sure till I make it on time.

I would suggest everyone show up at the next bout - Aug 22 at Bucs arena. Obviously you can't use Rock Gone Wild as an excuse...and you know you don't really want to go see Kelly Clarkson, so go see some weird/cool chicks roller derbying. I think you will have a good time. I'm definitely going again. General Admission tickets are $10 (these are the seats outside the hockey glass in Bucs arena). Floor tickets are $15 (basically On-Ice folding chairs). I've only sat in GA but I think you can actually see the action and understand what is happening a little bit better from the slightly elevated position, but you don't have the advantage of maybe having an out of control roller girl falling in your lap.

Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

No Rock for You = Weak Sauce

In case you haven't heard - the Rock Gone Wild show that was supposed take place in northern Iowa August 20-23 has been canceled.

I was really looking forward to this show - Twisted Sister, Junkyard, Kix, Dokken, etc... Bands that I have been waiting 20 years to see. But I can't say that I am completely surprised. The way the ticket system was run (not a reputable ticket dealer like Ticketmaster or even Iowatix), the lack of publicity, and the last minute change in venue (from Algona, IA to the Diamond Jo Casino in Northwood, IA - a pretty big change for less than two weeks to go).

Luckily, I hadn't purchased tickets yet...buying them directly from the promoter or from a small town chamber of commerce seemed weird and made me hesitant. Actually, I am more and more hesitant to buy tickets for general admission concerts early. I've been screwed too many times where the show is canceled and the "convenience fees" are not refundable. $8-$12 per ticket can add up to a big loss pretty quickly. I feel really bad for the people who did buy their tickets early - good luck recouping your money. I've been in that situation and it doesn't usually turn out well. Many of the bands are also getting screwed, I'm sure...and the bands and fans that have already purchased travel arrangements. I'm sorry, this looks totally shitty for Iowa. I want to apologize for the state of Iowa, this shouldn't have happened. I hope the bands are still able to make it to Iowa sometime, I will definitely be there for that show (especially you Junkyard!)

Of course, the promoter is blaming the casino where they planned to move the festival...but I guess I am not sure why they changed venues before contracts and negotiations were completed. Plus this has been in the works for over a year...why wasn't there better planning all around? To me this is all the promoter's fault. I applaud them for trying to bring this type of thing to Iowa...but the planning obviously should have been much, much better.

Too bad I already passed up front row Kelly Clarkson tickets. Not even kidding, I was offered Row 1 - seat 1 & 2 ...but already had plans for Rock Gone Wild. Not that I am heart broken to miss K.C. (I actually can't name a single song she sings) but it probably would have been worth free. I am now available to go to Roller Derby though!

Luckily, I can soothe my angry soul with the thought of Dethklok soon to be playing the Val-Air Ballroom. Gwar too!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Two Minutes Hate

People who complain "We can send someone to the moon but we can't ...."

I don't hear this a lot anymore but it still comes up every once in a while. I just heard it last week on the radio "We can send someone to the moon but we can't...." ....cure cancer, feed the world, stop abuse, etc...

It is usually two concepts that are so completely different that they shouldn't be compared at all. It is like complaining "Michael Phelps can win 14 Olympic Gold Medals but he can't teleport himself through time and space." Yes, both are great accomplishments, one has happened, one hasn't...but they have nothing to do with each other. (Michael Phelps if you can teleport yourself through time and space, I apologize. I was just using that as an example). The technology and the drive for Michael Phelps to be a great swimmer has nothing to do with teleportation.

In the same way going to the moon has little or nothing in common with what it is being compared to. Yes, I think they are all worthy causes and we, as the human race, should probably invest more time and money into accomplishing them...I am just tired of them always being contrasted against the moon landing because it is always casting a negative tone on the moon landing and the amazing accomplishment that it was. Like we should feel bad that we have been able to accomplish one feat because the others haven't been beaten yet. I don't feel bad about the moon landing, I think it was an awesome achievement and that we have benefited from it quite a bit. I am sure much of the technology and knowledge generated by the moon shot has crossed over to affect your life (and has probably also helped the cause that you are complaining about).

We are continuing all to make progress on all those causes, money and time is continually being spent to help beat your's a tricky problem, one that makes the moon landing look relatively simple. Please just lay off the moon, it didn't cause your problem and sending someone there didn't take away from your cause.

End Hate

Monday, August 10, 2009

There was a Sequel? (part1)

Please note: There could be spoilers here about movies.

Remember that movie that you saw that one was well written, it had famous stars, and was just a good stand alone movie. It was the talk of the office for a couple weeks. Yeah that's the one. Thinking about it even now almost makes you want to go rent the DVD.

Did you see the sequel?

Yes, they made a sequel. That movie was too popular and made too much money for there not to be a sequel. For some reason, I have always enjoyed watching these horrible attempts at re-creating a pop culture phenomenon. I'm not talking about the high profile sequels like Star Wars, Rocky, Friday the 13th, etc... I'm not talking about movies that have the support of the original creators, writers, directors, and stars. I'm talking about low budget, no name actor, writer refuses to have anything to do with movies.

I'm talking about:

Phenomenon II

Remember the original? John Travolta plays George Malley who suddenly super-intelligence and telekinesis on his 37th birthday. Turns out it was a brain tumor and although he doesn't have long to live, he teaches all around him to be open, understanding, and loving of one another...even though most of these people treated him like white trash for most of his life. The film was so powerful because the main character, George Malley, died in the end.

So you start watching Phenomenon II - Thinking that they are basically going to tell a different story of some down and out loser who suddenly gains powers that change his life and the lives of those around him. But then...What? Another birthday party in a small town? Another dim witted character named George? What is going on - is this supposed to be the same George? Did they just say George Malley? Man, they couldn't even come up with an original name? Oh wait...but...yes, it is the same George (of course NOT played by John Travolta this time). The first half of Phenomenon II is basically a re-shoot of the first half of the original movie. Then he gets in trouble with the army (I think it is the NSA in number 2) for breaking a top secret cypher. Here is where the movies diverge.

  • Original - George is taken into custody, is tested, finds out he has a brain tumor, is released, and dies.

  • Sequel - NSA looks for George, George runs. George changes his name, lives simply in some new town fixing electronics and helping the town's people (like helping a young child to be proud of his ability to read even though his abusive father is against it). In the end, the NSA gets wind of George and he skips town.

I believe this was a made for TV movie that was going to be the pilot for a weekly series. That is why it was left open and he was undiagnosed with a brain tumor. You can't very well have the main character die on the TV show ever couple weeks...and getting treatment would be too time consuming. But this is the whole thing that sucked about this movie - George dying and being completely happy with his life and the affect that had on all those around him was the WHOLE POINT of the original movie. It taught that it doesn't matter how long your life, but what you do with it. Have a positive impact on others, be happy. None of that came through in the sequel. Plus the first half of the movie was like a really bad case of deja vu, but the current reality is a shabby version of your original vision.

How bad it is - I don't think you can even buy this on DVD here in the US...I caught it late night on Lifetime network or something like that. You probably will not ever get the chance to see it and you will be better for it. I give it a 2 out of 10...they lost major points for only making half of an original movie.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Not Lazy...But It Amounts To The Same

It has been a very, very, VERY busy week (and I suck).

You can stop hitting refresh on your browser hoping that I wrote something insightful, witty, funny, and life changing. Please go on with your normal lives this week because it just isn't going to happen...and your F5 key needs a rest.

Regular posting will resume next week (hopefully).

Thank you citizen.