Sunday, November 29, 2015

Thankful For....

November is the "Month of Thanks." I, however, was not organized enough to use social media during the month to list off what I'm thankful for. Anyone who can see my FB or IG feed pretty much knows that I'm thankful for Biscuit, Denton and the Royals. But since the month is winding down, I will post a bit more of the things I am thankful for.
--co-workers who are friends who will watch over Biscuit when I'm out of town
--a car that works and can take me to all sorts of places, most recently Topeka, Kansas
--the ability to learn new things, even if it's difficult
--a bed that is mine, even if it is old
--friends who go out of their way to get chili from Porubsky's for me
--hamburger joints
--re-reading books
--numerous people who care about me and insist I let them know when I've arrived home safely
--memories and good times
--hot bread straight from the oven
--random acts of kindness that remind me people really are great
--Amazon Prime
--liquid gel pens
--the ability to stay connected through a multitude of ways
--hot showers

I could go ahead and say that I'm thankful for my family and friends and health, but those feel like such givens. It reminds me of Miss Congeniality, when all the contestants say they want world peace. Of course we all want world peace!.

(I realize that not everyone is thankful for their family and friends and health, but I would dare say they are the Family Feud-top-three-answers during the Thanksgiving dinner-go-around-the-table-and-say-what-you're-thankful-for.)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

I Saw Mockingjay Part 2

I have been trying to write out my reaction to Mockingjay Part 2 since seeing it with friends from work Thursday night (yes, we have now moved up midnight showings so films actual release the day before). It's always a bit sad when a movie franchise comes to an end, especially when there are so many good memories associated with it.

Catching Fire is my favorite of the film series (it was darn near perfect), but The Hunger Games is my favorite from the novel series. The problem with Mockingjay Part 2 is that it's a Part 2 of a book that was the weakest of the series. The book is not demonstrably longer than the others (it's actually one page shorter than Catching Fire). The filmmakers and studio honchos were able to make one movie out of each of the previous books, but now all of a sudden the last book needs to be two movies?!

So deciding to split a book into two movies reeks of being done for purely financial purposes - make as much money as possible. Because of this lame choice, we got Mockingjay Part 1, a film which didn't have anything at stake and ended up being a placeholder film. Which then made Mockingjay Part 2 a last grab.

I can't entirely fault the movie for not being great, as the book itself wasn't the best. The first half, before Peeta comes back, is really quite dull. The last half of the book, after he's returned, is clumsily put together. It then rushes to a conclusion that, while satisfying, happens far too fast.

The film did, though, have some moments that were genuinely great. The attacks by the mutts was intense, and even though I knew Finnick would die I was still shocked when it happened. Hijacked-Peeta was sad and scary all at the same time, and I wanted him to just snap out of it.

Katniss' goodbye to Gale was a bit odd. I missed seeing all of the characters I had come to love from the previous installments - Beetee, Johanna, even Finnick is short-changed. Again, though, that's really a problem with the source material.

I have always been a Peeta fan, and I was glad that he and Katniss got their happy ending. They certainly deserve it after the things they had to go through - two Hunger Games, torture by the Capitol, everyone they love dying. To me it was satisfying conclusion to characters and a world I have become attached to.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Bond Number 24: Spectre

Did Skyfall really come out three years ago? It feels more recent than that, and yet I can't really remember a lot about it, except that I was underwhelmed and loved Ben Whishaw as Q.

Today I saw the latest installment in Daniel Craig's tenure as 007, Spectre. After seeing Steve Jobs last week, this film felt a bit like the opposite. Sorkin is known for his extremely talkative scripts, and is famous for the "walk and talk". Bond is a man of few words. Jobs used small sets and the relationships between the characters was important. Spectre takes places in myriad locations - Mexico City, London, Tangiers, Austria, Rome - and relies on Bond being Bond.

I can't say I particularly enjoyed this outing of Bond. For me, it has been a steady decline in enjoyment since the stellar, Casino Royale. (Royale was pre-blog, Quantum of Solace was seen in NYC, and I never finished my review for Skyfall). The gadgets and helicopter fights and seducing women and fast cars don't really do anything for me.

I know this is a silly thing to complain about, but I can't help it. Dr. Swann gets taken away from her office by thugs who worked for her father. And yet, she somehow has a fancy evening dress, lipstick, a blow dryer, and a (killer) white outfit over the next couple of set pieces. Where did they all come from?! That's what I was thinking about during the film.

Also, she is all feisty one moment, telling Bond she won't fall into his arms and find solace after the death of her dad. Then, like a day or two later, she tells Bond she loves him. What?! Seriously, what?! I'm still a big fan of Vesper Lynde, and no one has been as good as her since she came to a watery end in Casino Royale.

Some thoughts on the film that reflect my own:
"But Craig has never handled the series’ humor well and Mendes can’t decide whether he’s making a straight 007 movie or inviting us in for a goof. … Spectre is a movie that wants to have fun but simply doesn’t know how.” - Ty Burr of the Boston Globe

"The story is tangled and complicated, but not in a clever or revelatory way: It’s needlessly obtuse, like a first draft in dire need of tightening.” - Rene Rodriguez of the Miami Herald

Friday, November 6, 2015

Second Tornado Siren

Yesterday was the second tornado siren since moving to Texas.

I was running errands after work, my attempt to be productive instead of continuing my binge of Jane the Virign on Netflix. I knew we were expecting rain, and it was quite windy, but I didn't think there'd be a tornado warning.

But there I was in Lowe's when my phone gave me an update: Tornado Warning for Denton County. The was still pretty and blue, with not a dark cloud in site. Lovely, actually. I could hear the sirens.

As I got in my car to head to Barnes and Noble (on a quest to get the Sports Illustrated Royals World Series cover) the National Weather Service interrupted my NPR-listening to tell me that a storm with tornado strong winds was just now leaving Argyle and was making its way to Denton. I kept going, though, as the mall was close. I arrived and the sky was still calm, and found that the bookstore had not yet received the issue I wanted.  I then went on a quest to find a World Series tshirt (to no avail....). When I made it back to Barnes and Noble not ten minutes later, ready to leave, it was clear that something was definitely on its way: the sky had turned dark and was overtaking the light.

No rain yet, so a bunch of us stood outside to watch the storm come in. It was magnificent. Then a bolt of lightning and a crack of thunder sent most of us inside. Once the raindrops started to fall I made my way back inside the book store as well. And then it hit. 

Rain and wind and lightning and thunder. 

It passed, and I made my way home. In quite heavy rain. Biscuit was safe and sound.

And tornado experience number two was in the books. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

How 'Bout Them Royals!

Sunday night the Royals made an epic comeback in the ninth inning, when they were down 0-2, to win the game and the World Series 7-2!!!!!!!!

I decided to be a Royals fan when I moved to Kansas in February 2013. I attended my first game on Memorial Day that year. It was a game against the St. Louis Cardinals, and there were way more Cards fans there than Royals fans. That season and the next, I attended many more games with friends. Some had fireworks, some were cold, some we won, and some we lost.

My last game this season was, once again, Memorial Day weekend against the St. Louis Cardinals. Except this time there were clearly more Royals fans than Cards fans!

Here is my own look back on the past two seasons:

I went with my friend Will Bishop to my second game, which I chose because the game had fireworks after. And then a group of friends and I went to a Royals-Red Sox game.

A late September game with my friend Will. 

A girls night at The K in May 2014.
 Later in May before a couple friends left Kansas after graduation. It was surprisingly cold.

Two games in August, one with friends for a church activity,
and then again to see my friend Kate sing the national anthem. #awesome

My sister came out in September 2014 and we went to a game with my friend Amber. 

And then the Royals had their amazing Wild Card game. And I watched from the airport and in hotels.

I knew I needed to be a part of the action, so I bought a ticket to game 3 of the ALDS against the Anaheim Angels. Billy Butler stole a base and the Royals swept the series

Then it was the World Series, watching games with friends at various places in Lawrence and Topeka. And even one in Kansas City.

Game 7 with my friend and co-worker Susan (our boss was also there).

It was a tough loss, but pretty awesome that we went all the way to Game 7 of the World Series! 

In Texas for the next season, making games harder to attend. I went to three of the games in their series against the Rangers. 

I made a trip to Kansas for Memorial Day and went to a game with friends. They played the Cards, just like my first game on Memorial Day two years ago. But this time there were clearly more Royals fans than Cardinals fans!

And then the Royals won the World Series. And it was awesome. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Steve Jobs Movie

I'm an Aaron Sorkin fan. I think The Social Network is a brilliant piece of film. I own an iPhone despite not being a Mac person. I think Michael Fassbender is darn-near perfect ever since he played Mr. Rochester. I think Kate Winslet is magnificent nearly all the time (even when she has to make pie with an escaped convict). And I think Danny Boyle is generally okay (decidedly indifferent towards Slumdog Millionaire but think 127 Hours is marvelous). So I was pretty stoked for Steve Jobs.

Sorkin stages the movie in three acts, each covering the moments leading up to a launch of something that will (or not) change the world: the Macintosh computer, the black cube NeXT, and the iMac. Each of the acts is shot differently: the first on 16 mm, the second wide-screen 35 mm, and the last in high-def. Yes, what a filmmaker chooses to shoot on (film or digital) and the camera and film they choose make a difference (can we agree that film is art?).

Fassbender is an actor I feel can do no wrong since he played Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre a few years ago. He completely owns the role of Steve Jobs, which is difficult because he is a known figure who passed away not that long ago. People remember him. But he does it and I can't take my eyes off him during the movie. Kate Winslet plays his Director of Marketing over the years and the only person he takes crap from. She calls herself his "work wife" and she is pretty much awesome.

There is an electric scene in the second act between Jobs and his mentor/father figure, John Sculley, played by Jeff Daniels (who is a Sorkin constant, and was also in the recently-released The Martian). The film cuts between an argument they are having in the present and in the past when Jobs was removed from Apple. It is breathtaking, with its cuts between the arguments fuzzying the line between past and present. The actors knock it out of the park.

What I liked about the film is that it wasn't the standard-issue biopic movie-about-someone-we-all-know. Instead of covering the entire life of Steve Jobs, we get these three snippets that let us see various aspects of Steve Jobs and the people in his life. Much like Lincoln covered just a small period in the President's life, as opposed to, say, Walk the Line  which gives us the entire life of Johnny Cash, this choice provides the audience with just a taste of the person. I mean, we don't even see Jobs' wife or kids (other than the child he originally refused to acknowledge as his, Lisa). We don't need to see his childhood or his counterculture years leading up to the founding of Apple. A good filmmaker and screenwriter lets those aspects become a part of the present-day person without having to show it to us. And in this case, Sorkin and Boyle have done just that.

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