Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My Football Fantasy: Steve Gregory

College League: lost, 97.81-81.23 (6-6 overall, 8th place out of 12 teams)
Vermont League: won, 116.02-109.50 (6-6, 6th of 12)
My Player of the Week: Steve Gregory (Safety, Patriots)
Photo via New England Patriots

Once again, the New England defense carried the day for me in the Vermont league: 17 points allowed, 2 sacks, 1 interception, 4 fumble recoveries and 2 touchdowns.  Gregory was the star this week.  The interception, 2 of the fumble recoveries and 1 of the touchdowns were all his.

My teams come to the final regular season week with exactly the same record, though they reached it from decidedly different directions.  My Vermont team is hot: five-week winning streak.  My College team, on the other hand, has lost three straight.  In both leagues, it's entirely possible that I could finish with a winning record and still miss the playoffs.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Family Movie Night: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Title: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Director: Tim Burton
Original Release: 2005
Choice: Our Girl's
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Image via Wikipedia

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl is on a very short list of my favorite books, all-time.  I read it not long ago as part of my 12 Books in 12 Months project: see post here.  As I noted in that post, I prefer this version to the 1971 film starring Gene Wilder.  In my opinion, this later movie is far more faithful to the original story.  The Dahl estate had much broader artistic control this time. 

Even beyond the strong adaptation, Burton's movie is a great piece of work in its own right.  Major selling points for me:
  • I love Johnny Depp's interpretation of Willy Wonka - so much more than merely zany.  Depp brings a detachment that lends a darker edge to the proceedings.  The back story, entirely new, is vintage Burton.
  • The casting of Deep Roy as all of the Oompa-Loompas is a stroke of genius.
  • The squirrels in the nut room are very satisfying.  I can appreciate how the same scene would have been difficult to accomplish with 1971 technology but the golden egg in the Wilder version is a wholly inadequate substitute.
  • All of the children are well-cast - no small feat in the film industry.  All but Charlie are delightfully wretched.  Pressed to pick a favorite, I'd go with AnnaSophia Robb as Violet Bearegarde.  I'm half-convinced that Dahl wrote the book just for the sake of the "Violet, you're turning violet" line.
Multi-generational considerations:
  • We watched with My Mother during our Thanksgiving visit to Washington, DC.   I was amazed to learn that she'd never even read the book before, let alone seen either of the film adaptations.  Published in 1964, the book missed her own childhood.  By the time it came into my life and my sister's, we were old enough to read it by ourselves.  She has read some of Dahl's works for adults, though.

My Rating System:

5 = The best of the best.  These are the films by which I judge other films.
4 = High quality films which I feel could hold up well in repeated viewings.
3 = The vast majority of films.  They're fine.  Once was enough.
2 = I wasn't even sure I wanted to finish it.  It's not a 1 because I'm not prepared to say it's a terrible film - just not my cup of tea.
1 = A terrible film.  An insult to the art form.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

I'm with the Band: Florida State

Band: Marching Chiefs
University: Florida State University
Founded: 1939
Current Director: Patrick Dunnigan
Fight Song: "FSU Fight Song"
Today's Home Game: Florida, 3:30 p.m.
Photo via Twitter

I won't pretend that I'm entirely comfortable with all of the Native American imagery and symbolism used in American sports and the Tomahawk Chop - made famous by the Atlanta Braves but originated at Florida State - is certainly among the more problematic.  That said, from a purely musical/theatrical standpoint, "Seminole Uprising" is awesome:

A well-established theme in this series, I love it when a band sings.  The song "Hymn of the Garnet and Gold" has a nice story.  The university solicited submissions for a school alma mater and "The Hymn" was among those not accepted.  The marching band, though, has claimed it as its own.  The following clip, with band and fans singing together, is truly lovely:

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My Football Fantasy: Aqib Talib

College League: lost, 89.53-66.02 (6-5 overall, 7th place out of 12 teams)
Vermont League: won, 104.02-65.26 (5-6, 8th out of 12)
My Player of the Week: Aqib Talib (Cornerback, Patriots)

Photo via Tampa Bay Times

New England is my team defense in the Vermont league and they had a very big week: 24 points allowed, 1 sack, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble recovery, 2 defensive touchdowns and 1 return touchdown.  Talib was the star with one of the interceptions and one of the touchdowns.  This was his first game with the Patriots, having been acquired in a trade with Tampa Bay.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Family Movie Night: Coraline

Title: Coraline
Director: Henry Selick
Original Release: 2009
Choice: My Wife's
My Overall Rating: 3 stars out of 5
Image via Wikipedia

This week presented a rare instance in which Our Girl had the advantage: she had read the book Caroline whereas neither of her parents had.  We had to remind her not to give away too much of the story as we were watching.  She waited until afterward to tell us about the differences between book and movie.

I have mixed feelings about Neil Gaiman, the book's author.  On the one hand, he is the screenwriter for one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes: "The Doctor's Wife," a deserving Hugo winner.  On the other hand, he first made his name in the comic book world, especially The Sandman series.  I tried the first collected volume of Sandman, entitled Preludes & Nocturnes.  While I certainly appreciated the novelty and invention, the story is, frankly, a bit gross at times.  I'm alright with creepy or even scary.  I really don't go in for gross.

Coraline is far from gross.  Instead, it is a dark but ultimately sweet and redeeming tale with a very believable title character.  Coraline, a young, I'd say pre-teen, girl moves to a new house with her parents.  She's bored.  She feels unappreciated.  She finds a portal to an alternate world with a seemingly better family.  Choices must be made but not all is as it seems.

The stop-action animation is lovely, my favorite a Van Gogh Starry Night-inspired sequence towards the end.  The pacing is interesting with a relatively slow initial development for a children's movie - not necessarily a bad thing but unusual.  I am genuinely curious about the book now.  Our Girl enjoyed both.

Multi-generational considerations:
  • A strong female-lead - a definite plus at our house.
  • A relatively sophisticated story for a children's film but still more formulaic than the average Miyazaki offering.

My Rating System:

5 = The best of the best.  These are the films by which I judge other films.
4 = High quality films which I feel could hold up well in repeated viewings.
3 = The vast majority of films.  They're fine.  Once was enough.
2 = I wasn't even sure I wanted to finish it.  It's not a 1 because I'm not prepared to say it's a terrible film - just not my cup of tea.
1 = A terrible film.  An insult to the art form.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

I'm with the Band: Penn State

Band: Penn State Blue Band
University: Pennsylvania State University
Founded: 1899
Current Director: O. Richard Bundy
Fight Song: "Fight On, State"
Today's Home Game: Indiana, 12 p.m.

There's no getting around the fact that it's been a horrible year in State College.  I won't dwell on it too much because this post really is about the band.  State College is near and dear to my heart as my family has spent a decent portion of the summer months in the area for over 30 years.  Without question, football has reached a dangerous level of importance in that community.  The same can be said in plenty of other American college towns: Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Lincoln, Nebraska; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Austin, Texas; Gainesville, Florida and so forth.  What happened at Penn State is the most terrifying example of what can transpire in such a state of affairs. 

Thank goodness, there is life beyond football.  There are students, faculty, staff and town residents who are not fans of the team.  Many people associated with the community are every bit as disgusted by what has happened as the rest of the country at-large. They know all too well that the entire institution has been painted with the same brush.  It will take a long time for the university to recover.  Let it be a meaningful cautionary tale to the rest of the nation as well.

Penn State loves the Blue Band.  As the university community recovers from the trauma of the Sandusky crimes and their fallout, highlighting the more positive aspects of college football culture will be important.
Image via Penn State Blue Band

The tailgate show:

"Defying Gravity":

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

My Football Fantasy: Rivers Again

College League: lost, 91.95-56.64 (6-4 overall, 4th place out of 12 teams)
Vermont League: won, 81.18 (4-6, 9th out of 12)
My Player of the Week: Philip Rivers (Quarterback, Chargers) with 337 yards passing, 2 interceptions, 3 touchdowns and 5 yards rushing

Photo via Angels Foster Family Network

On the Coffee Table: Anne of the Island

Title: Anne of the Island
Author: L.M. Montgomery
Image via BetterWorldBooks

Anne Shirley has charmed me once again.  Anne of the Island is the third in Montgomery's classic Anne of Green Gables series, covering Anne's Redmond College years.  Just as charming as the story's heroine is the exuberant cadence of Montgomery's prose.

Readers of previous posts may recall that we went on a family vacation to Prince Edward Island this past summer.  Montgomery's loving portrait inspires a longing to return to the Maritimes.  Much of the story this time takes place in Nova Scotia, rather than PEI.  Sadly, while there is a Kingsport in Nova Scotia, the one exquisitely described in the book is entirely fictional, combining elements of Halifax and Annapolis Royal. 

Now, I must decide if I want to continue with the series - I've read three of the eight so far.  I'm going to give a mild spoiler alert here but this book has been in publication for 97 years - past the statute of limitations, I think.  While I knew, from reading the synopses of future books in the series, that Anne ends up with Gilbert Blythe, I had to see it happen.  At the end of Anne of the Island, they finally pledge their love to one another.  I think I can move on, at least for now.

If you're interested, here are my previous Anne and PEI posts:

12 Books in 12 Months: Your Mom/Dad/Sister/Brother's Favorite Book
On the Coffee Table: L.M. Montgomery
On the Road: Prince Edward Island

Monday, November 12, 2012

Family Movie Night: The Hobbit

Title: The Hobbit
Director: Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr.
Original Release: 1977
Choice: Mine
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Image via Lord of the Rings Fanatics Site

We've been in Hobbit-prep mode for over a year at our house.  The first installment of Peter Jackson's three-part live action interpretation opens on December 14th.  In anticipation, I've been reading Tolkien to my daughter since last summer.  Here are my write-ups so far:

Bedtime Stories: The Hobbit
Bedtime Stories: The Fellowship of the Ring

My own Tolkien adventures began with the made-for-TV animated film of 1977.  In fact, I think it may have been one of my very first video rentals.  The production team of Rankin/Bass are best-known for their Christmas specials, most notably Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman.  The animation work for The Hobbit was done by Topcraft, a precursor to Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli. 

An unofficial trailer:

Watching the film again all these years later, what's most interesting to me is the pace.  By Tolkien standards, this one really whips along.  Despite the short length (only 77 minutes), Rankin and Bass were able to squeeze in a fair amount of the book.  As such, there isn't much dawdling allowed.  Most gratifying is the fact that so much of Tolkien's original language was preserved, including Thorin's farewell speech to Bilbo - my own favorite passage.

Multi-generational considerations:
  • This is definitely a film for kids.  The pacing is less satisfying for an adult who knows the full story.  That said, considering the time and resources available, this film is admirable work.
  • The music is definitely hokey.  I remember thinking "The Greatest Adventure" was a great song when I was a kid.  Now it just seems silly.
  • I'm glad that my daughter was exposed to the book before the movie.  She was disappointed that things were left out.  I'm very proud of our Tolkien snob in-training.
  • Our excitement for the Jackson film has only been hightened.

My Rating System:

5 = The best of the best.  These are the films by which I judge other films.
4 = High quality films which I feel could hold up well in repeated viewings.
3 = The vast majority of films.  They're fine.  Once was enough.
2 = I wasn't even sure I wanted to finish it.  It's not a 1 because I'm not prepared to say it's a terrible film - just not my cup of tea.
1 = A terrible film.  An insult to the art form.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I'm with the Band: Alabama

Band: Million Dollar Band
University: The University of Alabama
Founded: 1912
Current Director: Dr. Kenneth Ozzello
Fight Song: "Yea Alabama"
Today's Home Game: Texas A&M, 2:30 p.m.

This year mark's the Million Dollar Band's 100th anniversary.  The following promotional video is very nicely done, especially fun for all of the old footage:

It's my blog so I get to indulge my inner geek, right?  The following videos are of the same song but filmed from two different sections of the band.  Green Day's "Basket Case":

Friday, November 9, 2012

Double Barrel #6

Title: Double Barrel
Issue: #6
Release: November 2012
Writers: Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon
Artists: Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon
Image via Double Barrel

In the Cannons' latest, Hector and Elliott have a dramatic encounter with Geryon (he's the guy with the big purple head on this month's cover) in Zander's Heck.  In Kevin's Crater XV, Pravda's memory has returned.  She now remembers Army from her childhood.  For anyone with curiosity about the technical aspects of comics, Kevin's use of word balloons is really interesting.  Extras this month are Kevin's Penny from the Front, Zander's Here Me Is! and How To: This final section, in which the creators provide insights into their process, has become my favorite part of Double Barrel.  In this installment, Zander offers reflections on his experiences as a freelance layout artist.

In other exciting Cannon-related news, Kevin is the cover artist for this week's Village Voice.

Double Barrel can be purchased wherever eBooks and web comics are sold.  I got mine at ComiXology.  I hope you'll join me in supporting this engaging work.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My Football Fantasy: Lavonte David

College League: won, 74.20-66.54 (6-3 overall, 4th place out of 12 teams)
Vermont League: won, 113.40-88.52 (3-6, 9th out of 12)
My Player of the Week: Lavonte David (Linebacker, Buccaneers) with 14 solo tackles and 2 assisted tackles

Photo via Tampa Bay Times

For the second week in a row, my star was a rookie linebacker.  David is a native Floridian but went to college at Fort Scott Community College (Kansas), then Nebraska.  He set the Huskers' single-season record for tackles in his senior year.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Family Movie Night: Mary Poppins

Title: Mary Poppins
Director: Robert Stevenson
Original Release: 1964
Choice: Our Girl's
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Image via Wikipedia

Mary Poppins is, of course, a film classic.  It's become an important story for our family as well.  The audiobook of the original P.L. Travers novel, charmingly narrated by Sophie Thompson, has been a favorite on road trips.  Also, Our Girl's dance studio used the story as its central theme for a recital a few years back.  Our Girl was one of the dancing penguin waiters.  She knows the movie well enough to know when "her part" is coming up.

Mary Poppins is also an essential chapter in one of the great career-launch stories.  Julie Andrews was already a Broadway legend by the time she made her film debut as Mary.  However, the only reason she was available was that she'd been passed over for the role of Eliza Doolittle in the film version of My Fair Lady, the very part which had carried her to stardom on stage.  The producers at Warner Bros. felt she wouldn't be a big enough draw.  They cast Audrey Hepburn instead with Marni Nixon dubbing the songs.  While both films were enormously successful, Andrews surely had the last laugh.  She won the Oscar for Best Actress and Poppins was Disney's biggest box office hit to that point.  The following year, she starred as Maria in The Sound of Music, cementing her place as ruling queen of the Hollywood musical pantheon.

Multi-generational considerations
  • Our Girl claims to like the film version better but I prefer the book and I'm pretty sure My Wife does, too.  If anything, the book has enhanced my appreciation for the movie.

My Rating System:

5 = The best of the best.  These are the films by which I judge other films.
4 = High quality films which I feel could hold up well in repeated viewings.
3 = The vast majority of films.  They're fine.  Once was enough.
2 = I wasn't even sure I wanted to finish it.  It's not a 1 because I'm not prepared to say it's a terrible film - just not my cup of tea.
1 = A terrible film.  An insult to the art form.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Look! I've Been Tagged!

Photo via Hawaii Kawaii Blog

My blogger pal, Suze, has tagged me in a game.  She explains the concept thusly:

For this tag, participants are charged with reproducing a scrap of a manuscript in which the word, 'look,' first appears and then passing the baton onto five other bloggers. I'd like to tag

L. Diane Wolfe
Michael Offutt
L.G. Smith
Charles the Reader
Heather Murphy

Participate only if you want to, make it as lengthy or brief as you like.  I look forward to your offerings. 

The thing is, I don't exactly have loads of manuscripts sitting around unfinished.  For the most part, blogging suits my writing style just fine - simple ideas in short spurts.  That said, I would like to publish one book before I ride off into the sunset.  As such, I am taking Suze's tag as a kick in the pants to get to work.  Perhaps this is the beginning, the middle or maybe a false start.  Time will tell.  For now, I plug my nose and jump in...

“How do I look?” she asks, self-assessing in the mirror.

“That’s a completely unfair question, you realize,” I respond, reclining on her bed.

“I know, every man’s nightmare dilemma – no possible answer that won’t get you in heaps of trouble.  Don’t worry.  I won’t ask if I look fat.”  We both laugh.  “I’m serious.  What do you think of them?”

“Think of what?”

“These blue hair clips.  I picked them up in Harajuku this afternoon.  I thought they looked cool.”  Cool.  It’s a word I barely understand. 

“Why do you care what I think?”

“You’re the one who’s going to be seen with me.  You’re a man.  You have opinions.  You must have some sense of style.”  We both know perfectly well that I don’t.

“You’re just going to ignore what I say and do what you want.”

She grins at that.  “Possibly.  I still want to know what you think.  Come on, we need to get going.”

What do I think?  I take in the whole presentation.  Soccer sneakers even though she doesn’t play.  Jeans that are non-descript to my eyes but probably exactly the right fit, cut, color, whatever.  The sort of soccer-style jersey I used to get as a hand-me-down in the 1970s but is somehow the height of fashion for teenage girls in Tokyo 20 years later.  Or maybe in London?  Both?  Neither?  She’s all woman underneath. But the outward projection is tending in a different direction.  She’s pursuing an ideal that even she seems to know she’ll never attain.  The hair clips, a translucent, junky plastic, are only part of the problem.  But that’s not what I say.

“You look like you’re about eight years old.”

“Okay,” she says.  In one swift motion, the clips come off, set on the dresser and already forgotten.  Was I too honest?  Is she hurt?  Offended?  Apparently not.  As soon as she got the answer she needed, it was as if the entire conversation had never happened. 

“Let’s go.”

I'm with the Band: Auburn

Band: Auburn University Marching Band
University: Auburn University
Founded: 1897
Director: Dr. Corey Spurlin
Fight Songs: "War Eagle" and "Glory to Ole Auburn"
Today's Home Game: New Mexico State at 11:30 a.m.

Photo via Auburn

Pre-game, outside the stadium:

2010 SEC Championship Pre-Game: