Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Tribute - Honoring Our Heroes

When I was a kid, my grandma would make sure that all our family members in our local cemetery had flowers on their graves.  So, for a long time that's what I thought Memorial Day was - remember family members who have passed on - whether you knew them personally or not.  And to a certain degree, that's part of it.  But then I got older (and grandma passed away) and I learned that it's meant to honor those in the military who were killed in action.  The greatest lesson on this for me came when I was in 8th grade and on a school trip to Washington DC.  There are two things we visited there that made a significant impact on me and that I remember vividly even 14 years later - one is the National Holocaust Museum, the other is the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery.  If you are ever in DC for a significant length of time, these are the two places you absolutely MUST see.  Not because they are fun, but because they put so much into proper perspective.

Since it's Memorial Day, I want to focus on the Tomb of the Unknowns (I'm sure I'll get to talk about the National Holocaust Museum another time).  With all the selfishness that I see in the world, it is good to step back and recognize people who lived through horrific things and people who willingly gave up a great portion of their lives to keep the rest of us safe (some who gave up their lives, full stop).  And since I can't go to Arlington today, I can at least take ten minutes of time and blog space to pay tribute to these heroes.

Also, courtesy of The Right Fangirl, here is President Reagan's speech at the National Funeral for the Unknown Solider of the Vietnam Conflict.  Seems appropriate -

Sunday, May 27, 2012

God Bless Theater People!

On Friday (or maybe Thursday - I get my days mixed up sometimes), this little gem was spotted floating around Facebook and elsewhere.  And if it doesn't make you laugh and/or cry, you have no soul.

From what I've been able to glean from the comments, Amy and Isaac are both in theater (Amy is a choreographer and Isaac's currently in a production of something-or-another) and that's how they met.  So OF COURSE, he's going to propose in full-on Broadway fashion!  This is totally what I love about theater people - it's no-holds-barred, over-the-top fun - not just for the people putting on the production, but for the people watching.

(Also, Bruno Mars tweeted out about the video. Great stuff!)

A few extra thoughts -

- I'm pretty sure the lyrics isn't "dancing Jews," but those guys totally cracked me up.  Them and the marching band.

- Speaking of the marching band, I almost lost it when the people in band uniforms came in.  The only thing that would have made this any better is if they had instruments and were playing the song.  But this loses nothing by that omission.

- Loved the little kid in the Oregon Ducks jersey with the Dancing Jews.  Also, the older couple with the flowers. Too cute.  There was nothing about this that I didn't completely love.

- The girl in the front with the red dress?  I want that dress.

- And this just may be my own preferences, but Amy is one lucky girl.  Not just because her fiance staged this whole production for her (and props to him for doing so), but he is quite the good-lookin' guy (it could be the suit, but - damn!)

- Finally - just want to add my congrats to Amy and Isaac and all the best wishes.  Thanks for sharing your special moment with all of us - it certainly made my week!

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Preemptive Critic - "Moonrise Kingdom"

Here's a quick and dirty "I saw it posted on Facebook and wanted it to count for a blog post" review -

Knee-jerk reaction: a version of "Napoleon Dynamite" that my literary-snob creative writing professors in college would love.

There is just enough "What the hell...?" in this trailer to make me want to see this. But probably at the dollar theater. With a date. Who's paying for my ticket. Or maybe I'll just borrow the DVD from the library.

(And I'm not a cinephile by any stretch of the imagination, so bear with me when I say - Who the crap is Wes Anderson?)

Monday, May 21, 2012

What If Mozart Composed Video Game Music?

I freely admit, I'm not an expert on what constitutes "good" music (actually, I'm not an expert on what constitutes "good" anything. At least, not according to what industry big wigs say).  I also freely admit that I'm not much of a gamer.  I have my favorite games that I play and I don't venture too far out of that sphere.  However, when I was a kid I played the snot out of Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest.  Hands-down, my most favoritest game! (sadly, I never completed the whole thing - I never could find those last few Bonus Rounds for the two or three Kremcoins (Kremkoins?) I lacked to finish the Lost World).

All that being said, I have long thought that Donkey Kong Country 2 had some of the best darn video game music EVER!  I recently found the soundtrack for a decent price and I've been playing it almost nonstop (just to show how much of a non-gamer I am: They have soundtracks for VIDEO GAMES? That you can BUY???)  One day while I was fooling around on YouTube, I came across this piano medley. And it is GLORIOUS:

Ah, childhood.  I've got to find my copy of DKC2 now!

(This version of "In a Snow-Bound Land" sounds like it ought to be played at a wedding).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Awesome Stuff That Happened in 1985

1985 was a freaking awesome year.  To illustrate, here are a few things that highlight such greatness:

- The first Back to the Future is released
- Ronald Reagan sworn in for a second term as president
- San Francisco 49ers beat the Miami Dolphins in Super Bowl XIX
- The Utah Jazz selects Karl Malone in the NBA Draft
- Nintendo releases their first home entertainment system along with the Super Mario Bros. video game
  - In that vein, Tetris is released as well
- The wreck of the RMS Titanic is discovered
- Pete Rose becomes the all-time record hitter in Major League Baseball
- Disney releases The Black Cauldron (shut up - it's a great movie!)
- I was born (May 17)

Happy Birthday to Me!!

(Fair Warning - If you click the above link, you will be singing for the rest of the day. But it's nice and catchy and I like it).

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Verdict Is (FINALLY!) In

I had to see it twice, but I finally have thoughts to share on The Avengers.  Spoilers below the decidedly NOT spoilery (but very funny) video.


I have a fun little story to tell.  Actually no, it's not that fun. But it explains a great deal.

The one movie theater that I love going to is the Jordan Landing Cinemark.  This place is a pretty spiffy theater while still being fairly reasonbly priced - the seats are roomy, the staff are friendly and they make their snack bar hot dogs out of unicorn tears.  No, really - they are that good (it's the one time I can justify paying $4 for movie theater food).  This theater is also attracts - shall we say - more higher-class clientele.  I have never had a bad experience going to a movie at Jordan Landing.

Until last Monday night and The Avengers.

I've talked about this before - In the lead-up to this movie, I was as excited as anybody (excepting, perhaps, the people who grew up reading Marvel comics. But that’s a whole ‘nother ballpark).  I have thoroughly enjoyed the Marvel superhero movies and I’ve loved all the continuity that’s gone into these stories. But most of all, I love the characters and seeing where these superheroes come from.  It's a real treat for me, as someone who isn't steeped in Marvel Comics lore, to have a glimpse into these stories and feel like I can be welcomed into the universe and know what's going on without the burden of having to know the source material inside-and-out (which I would love to do, but there's a crapton to read through - never mind having to get it all in the right order).

Sadly, I was delayed in seeing The Avengers, but I had a good reason.  My aunt passed away last week and her funeral was on Saturday in Nevada.  I spent Friday traveling, Saturday at the funeral and with family and coming back home, Sunday passed out on the couch in a pile of travel-worn goo with no desire to go anywhere or do anything.  But I figured I could go see it Monday night after I got off work at 9:00 at night - hopefully the audience would be small and I could enjoy my experience.

Well, turns out the late Monday night showing was a horrible idea.  In short, this is what I had to endure:

- The idiot teenagers who had probably sneaked out of the house so they could canoodle with their boy- or girl-toys in the back of a darkened theater while alternately snickering “OMG his boots r sooo gay!” (meaning Captain America in the dressed-down version of his uniform). Oh, and they kept laughing even after the jokes were over and done with.  Do you know how maddening it is when you are trying to watch an incredibly intense battle sequence and you've got the cast of Degrassi behind you giggling over Odin-knows-what?

   - The married fanboys who finally convinced their extremely skeptical wives to go see it with them. The wives then start clucking to each other about some goofy housewifey thing and how ridiculous their hubbies are being but said hubbies wouldn't give them a moment's peace until they counted this as date night... ALL DURING THE FRIGGING MOVIE!! *headdesk*

   - This one doesn’t bug me as much because at least this audience member is interested in the movie. Still irritating, though. But there was also that one kid who was sugared-up on candy and Coke and keeps asking “Why’d Loki stab that one guy?” “How did [insert character] do that one thing?” “I wanna fly!” Love your enthusiasm, kid, but can you wait until you get to the parking lot?

So, when I walked out of the theater, I was not happy about the movie.  I was too distracted by my very rude and annoying fellow movie-goers and I didn't get the experience that other people got when they tweeted how wonderful this movie was.  And I was extremely annoyed by this because I honestly wanted to love this movie.  In fact, last night I came home and wrote up a whole big thing about how I was so disappointed in the movie and how could they screw it up and what is everyone else thinking and I'm so pissed about this... but then I thought that maybe a second viewing would help.  I then decided to go again after work today and see if I liked it better a second time.

(Don't worry - I did end up liking this movie.  Quite a bit, actually.  I later went back during a matinee to see it again and ended up in a much more amenable audience and figured out that was most of my problem the night before).

At first, I blamed it on the fact that I am not familiar with director Joss Whedon at all.  At the risk of having my geek-cred called into question, I have to confess that I have never been on the Whedon bandwagon.  It’s not a matter of me not liking his stuff; it’s a matter of me never actually watching anything of his.  The most I know about Whedon is that he created Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and a great swath of the sci-fi/fantasy fandom thinks he’s God (I am not being critical here, mind you. I'm just saying that I don't have enough experience with Whedon to make that assessment for myself).

One thing I learned here is that Whedon has a very distinct method of storytelling and it's something I had to be prepared for and I wasn't.  He's like Neil Gaiman in that regard - if I hadn't read at least some of Gaiman's work before seeing "The Doctor's Wife," I would not have know what was going on in that story and I probably would have been similarly disappointed.  However, once I understood how Whedon does things, I was totally on board.  One thing I had difficulty with was the humor - more specifically, the timing of the jokes.  Like Agent Coulson quipping "So that's how it works" after he shoots Loki with the Big Ass Gun after Loki's fatally stabbed Coulson.  That was just one of many mood whiplash moments that had me going "Wait - WHAT?" during my first viewing.

But the second go-round, I was expecting the humor so I was able to better pay attention to the characters and story (helped that the audience wasn't guffawing for five minutes at every little deadpan snark).  In fact, the humor actually enhanced Tony Stark's character, which I did not think was possible.  Tony is hands-down my favorite of the Avengers because he does possess a dark sense of humor and he can pull-off snark in a very natural way.  Plus, his brand of snark actually serves a purpose - I loved the scenes with him and Bruce Banner (the Hulk) looking for the Tessaract and Tony just keeps poking the proverbial bear with the stick (all the while knowing exactly what he's doing).  That's the other thing I love about Tony Stark - he's the scientific genius who can rattle off equations and technobabble, but still keep his "Mr. Cool" billionaire persona.  Also, Tony's interactions with Steve Rogers (Captain America) are pure gold.  Tony and Steve are near-perfect foils to each other - Tony's the dark, sarcastic genius of the bunch while Steve is the All-American Boy Scout who follows orders yet still commands respect, which I love (he is the legendary First Avenger, after all).  It would have been so easy to relegate Cap to be the idealistic idiot wearing spangly Spandex, he became the leader of the Avengers almost by accident and it worked so well.

Also - I have to give mad props to Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner.  I tried watching both Hulk movies prior to seeing The Avengers - yeah, I couldn't do it.  They were both kind of long and boring and I just couldn't care.  I'm going to try to Edward Norton movie again, but really, I don't think I need to.  I think I know enough of the Hulk's backstory and his personality just from watching The Avengers.  Really, this movie did for the Hulk as a member of a team what two whole movies of the Hulk as a solo-act did not do.  That either speaks volumes in favor of Ruffalo and Whedon or it speaks to the incompetence of the guys in the other movies (personally, I like to keep things positive, so I'm going with the first one).

Chris Hemsworth is an awesome Thor and Tom Hiddleston is a fantastic Loki.  I am such a fantasy geek - you tell me something's magic and I will buy it (as long as there are set rules and you stick to them).  Everything for me doesn't have to be totally grounded in hard-core, proven science (or even plausible science fiction).  My opinion from when I saw Thor has not changed - the concept of Asgard and the demigods is such a treat.  I get that Thor is a very different hero from any of the others and it takes a certain kind of writer to bring that to bear in this ensemble cast and this is another area where Whedon gets it right.  I love that Thor and Loki are given opportunities to explore their family relationship - Thor gives Loki a chance to quit his Earth-domination crap and come home.  Thor also feels a responsibility to the Earth and wants to stop Loki from causing problems.  But Loki's been slighted and he's going to cause as much havoc and mayhem and he's going to have fun doing it (Hiddleston's performance when he's yanking everyone's chain while being held prisoner on the SHIELD aircraft carrier is wonderful.  He's another one who does the deadpan snarker very well).

I want to touch briefly on Black Widow and Hawkeye - I want their origin stories.  I don't know if those movies are in the works (or maybe just one for the both of them, since it's made evident that their paths cross early-on), but that is something I dearly want.  Maybe it's a tad unnecessary at this point, but I don't care - I WANTS IT, PRECIOUSSSS!!  They are both fantastic characters - either apart or together and I want to see more of that.

(Oh, and every single time someone said “Tessaract,” I kept thinking of the Tessalecta from Doctor Who. Which is completely different).

This is getting insanely long, but here are some of my favorite moments that deserve special mention (there were so many good ones that it was hard to keep this a reasonable length):

- The Hulk beating the ever-loving snot out of Loki.  Especially after Loki started in on his "I'm a god and you will bow to me you stupid human-thing" speech.
- The old man in Germany standing up to Loki when everyone else has bowed down.
- Iron Man patching "Shoot to Thrill" by AC/DC into Black Widow's jet's PA system.
- Loki in a suit. I know he's the bad guy and all but... damn...
- Agent Coulson explaining to Thor that he got Jane Foster somewhere far away from all the bad stuff happening and Thor being appreciative about it (okay, my little sappy female heart got a little mushy there)
- Anything Agent Coulson does or says (his total fanboying over Captain America was really sweet)
- Nick Fury telling the shadowy SHIELD board of committee director-leader-people that their idea to nuke Manhattan is a "stupid-ass decision."
- And I'm sure I forgot a few, but I'm sure someone else will point them out.

Anyway, Whedon did a pretty good job with this movie (though to be perfectly honest, I would have seen this no matter who the director was - but Whedon was an excellent choice).  The cast was great and the story was put together well and I don't know what else to say about it other than I want another one.  Like, right now. Because that was way too much awesome to be confined to one movie.  There must be more. MOAR, I say!

PS - I still would recommend seeing a movie at Jordan Landing if you're ever in town.  It's not their fault a bunch of ninnies all went and saw the same movie on the same night and ruined my initial experience. But if I find out who those kids were, I would not be opposed to toilet-papering their houses.

Friday, May 4, 2012

I swear the universe is conspiring against me...

I'm having to go out of town this weekend for some family things and I'll be out of commission for a while - and all these awesome things are happening!!! ARGH!

Real quick - here's what's going down -

1. The Avengers movie is kicking ass and taking names. I hope to see it next week sometime (but if I can sneak away to a movie theater today or tomorrow, I will jump on that opportunity).

2. May the 4th Be With You - Happy Star Wars Day, y'all! (The first of two, since the Star Wars release day anniversary is May 25 and is also considering Geek Pride Day).

3. Tomorrow is Free Comic Book Day at the library (and other places too. But mostly the library).

4. The cover for A Memory of Light, the 14th and final Wheel of Time book, was released yesterday. I'll have further analysis later, but suffice it to say that this is the first cover of this series (that isn't an ebook re-release) that actually says to the potential reader "READ ME! I'M AN AWESOME BOOK!" (too bad it took until the END OF THE FREAKING SERIES to finally get such a cover /rant)

5. The Vortex Boys are watching "The Mark of the Rani" tonight for Friday Night Who. Seeing as this is one of my favorite Doctor Who stories (not just a favorite Colin Baker story - a favorite Doctor Who story in general), I'm miffed that I have to miss it.  I'll certainly watch it on my own before they review it on the podcast, but Friday Night Who is my ritual. *sadface*

Universe - next time I have to attend to personal stuff, try not to do anything new and exciting while I'm gone.  Just... make it a boring "Everyone go do yardwork" weekend, mmkay?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Beginner's Luck

I've been a little antsy about the Gallifrey One convention next February.  Not in the least because this is my first convention EVER and I want to have a good time, but I know very little about actually going to conventions.  I've asked other con-goers about the logistics and I've read about others' experiences in hopes that I can benefit from something they've learned (Note: Neowhovian has an excellent post with some Gally attendance advice that's well worth a look). But being the travel-dunce that I am, I'm stressing out about plane tickets, hotel rooms, getting from the airport to the hotel and all that jazz (oh, who am I kidding? I stress out about everything. Especially things that really aren't a big deal).

The one thing I've heard over and over is how fast the discounted hotel rooms go.  And that was something that I started to fret about.  The basic idea I got was that if you're not sitting at your computer with your credit card in hand when they announce the hotel room code (and it'll be somewhere like Twitter or Facebook that ends up getting buried under all the other crap that people pile on your wall), you are S.O.L. and you have to book a room elsewhere.  That's probably not entirely true, but I want to have all my travel and accommodations and what-have-you taken care of as soon as possible and just be able to enjoy the experience.

So last night, I'm sitting at my desk and I notice I have a new email.  Turns out, it's from the lovely folks at Gallifrey One announcing that the discounted hotel block is open for people who've pre-registered and here's the code and go get 'em, kid!

First thought was: "Oh, they sent me an email! That's awesome!"  Second thought was: "GO BOOK YOUR HOTEL ROOM NOW!!"

So, I did.  Then, I left for a while then come back to find a SECOND email announcing that the original hotel block was completely booked WITHIN ONE HOUR of the emails being sent out.

You mean - I actually got in under the gun and got my hotel room booked?

I know this is a weird thing for me to be posting about, but THIS KIND OF STUFF NEVER HAPPENS TO ME!!  I fully expected to be one of those newbies who can't get a place to stay in LA and is scrambling the week before to find a couch or the backseat of a car to sleep on during Gally.  Please allow me this victory lap.

Right now, I'm chalking this up purely to beginner's luck.  I'm certain that if I decide to go to Gally in 2014, I will be one of those poor schlubs whose emails got lost in limbo and completely misses the first run of hotel bookings.  But for now, I'm going to enjoy this victory with a herd of Daleks chasing a turtle at what I assume was a past Gally.

Everyone - I'M GOING TO GALLIFREY! (It still hasn't completely sunk in that I'm doing this).