Saturday, February 27, 2010

Easy bake Pam

This was originally going to be a blog post about how I felt like today had been a colossal fail on nearly every front. To make a long (and painful) story short, I woke up to a computer corrupted with spyware. I don't know how it happened. I hadn't even done anything that would put me at risk except for the teensy little detail of not renewing Norton because no paycheck had an extra 50 bucks in it. Lesson learned. Well, I got that all cleaned up and now the damn computer has applications that refuse to connect to the internet. What I probably need to do is a complete Windows reinstall. I'm no stranger to that as I did one about 14 months ago after a similar experience.

Taxes were also on the agenda today - they're nearly complete with just Schedule C and all its sundry forms which we have to file for the first time since Heidi made money on her books in 2009. I tweeted earlier that trying to figure it out is like reading through muddy water without my glasses and that's only a slight exaggeration. We have it mostly figured out, but still. Compound the fact that TurboTax is one of the programs that will not connect to the internet so e-file is in question and I have had one anxious day. It's the first one in a while. I tried turning it off, telling myself it was okay. For whatever reason, I couldn't get off the roller coaster.

One day when Anna was having a bad day, I told her "Don't let one bad thing ruin your whole day." I was complaining to Heidi about my day while I did up the supper dishes and Anna must have overheard me because she echoed my own words back at me tonight. It was a sit-up-and-take-notice moment. So we did what any sane person would do - we got out the Easy Bake Oven.

We made chocolate chip cookies and listened to my iPod. She played the pan pusher like a guitar to the most random song. It was Billy Gilman's duet with Pam Tillis "Almost Over (Getting Over You)".

I downloaded that song on a whim a couple years ago and maybe listened to it once or twice before it got lost in the iTunes Sea. It showed up on one of my random songs playlists so it's been getting more play than usual. Personally, while I like the song, it's slightly unsettling as the (at the time) barely-legal Gilman is almost over getting over 51 year-old Tillis. Watch out Madonna! But Anna loved it. We listened to it three times in a row. We danced around the kitchen and generally looked like idiots, but we had a great time.

So I used it as a spring board to introduce her to some other Pam Tillis songs, most notably "Mi Vida Loca" which seemed appropriate for today.



It was a good way to end the day and although I'm not looking forward to reinstalling Windows (and everything else), I care a little bit less.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Year of 25 Books: #2 - Bonk

I picked up Mary Roach's Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science & Sex from the library with a little bit of trepidation. I absolutely loved her first book - Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers. I still remember being on a plane (probably to a Madonna show) and reading the chapter about how they determined the cause of a plane crash based on the bodies that were pulled from the wreckage. I contemplated stopping and resuming once I was safely on the ground, but then decided I wouldn't stop reading a chapter about auto accidents while riding in a car. So when Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife came out a few years later, I couldn't wait to read it. Sadly, it left me a little bit cold, paling in comparison to Stiff. Was it possible that Roach was a one-book wonder?

I'm happy to report that Roach is back on her game. Since sex is the topic of the book, it's kind of a can't-lose proposition for her. I mean, who ISN'T going to enjoy reading about this? Bonk does follow the pattern of her first two books, combining an unconventional topic for a science book with Roach's hilarious voice. Roach is a seriously funny writer, making what could otherwise be a dry, boring book about sex and sex research into an engaging read. Her dry observations about the topic had me frequently laughing out loud (which almost always led Anna to ask "Dad, what's so funny?" Me: "Oh, nothing honey, just something I read.") But as funny as the main portion of the book is, her footnotes are quite possibly even funnier - although their footnoted nature distracts from the reading of the text. I think Roach should have found a way to blend them in - she could probably do so seamlessly.

While certainly not comprehensive in scope, Roach does her best to explore a variety of topics. Erectile dysfunction, female sexual arousal disorder (and the attempts to treat it), penile implants (that chapter had me squirming in my seat), orgasm without arousal, the effects of hormones on sexual response, vibrators - you name it, she probably investigated it. Roach's exquisite and meticulous research on each topic shows and when you add in her hilarious take on all this, it makes for a compelling (and very easy) read.

If I could level any criticism at the book, it would be that it probably carried on for 50 pages too long. As funny as Roach's writing is, she reaches a point of diminishing returns, almost as if you can see the wheels turning in her head saying "what funny thing can I end this paragraph with?" What seems effortless at first becomes kind of distracting after nearly 300 pages.

Still, it's highly recommended. Science reading for non-science people is a tough nut to crack and Roach does it with remarkable ease. Better than Spook but not as good as Stiff, it's worth a read.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Like father, like daughter

This is one of my daughter's favorite shirts.

Can you read what it says? If not, click on the picture and you'll see it says "Candy Shop." We gave this to her as part of a Valentine's Day present this year. When I saw it at Target, I simply couldn't resist it.

It made my heart go pitter-patter when she got it and immediately got the reference. It shouldn't have surprised me, especially after her comments on "candy galore" and "Hey Dad, her sugar is raw." Yep, I must be doing something right.

Whenever she wears it (which is frequently), I always have to walk up to her and start singing "Say which flavor you like and I'll have it for you..." which immediately elicits a frustrated "Daaaaaad!" response - a foretaste of what is to come, no doubt. But I think that she secretly likes it. I have to be careful about what I say about clothes she wears. Back when she was 3 or 4, I made an offhand comment about how a shirt she had made her look like a jailbird (black and white stripes) and her response was to never wear it again. Needless to say, it was not one of my more stellar parenting moments, but I think I more than made up for it here.

Naturally, none of her friends get the reference. She just tells me that everyone keeps trying to pick the candy off of her shirt.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mad at the snow

I just got back in from clearing the driveway of snow. Again. It's probably (no joke) the 20th time this winter I have done it. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that we'd still have the snow from the first blizzard (December 8th) in February. I think there have been about 5 days of melting, none of which have been serious or have resulted in an significant loss of snow pack.

I really love winter. I am fond of saying that I'll take the coldest, snowiest, windiest day of winter over the hottest, muggiest day of the summer. And it's still true. But I have to say that this winter has really broken me. As Heidi said in her blog post yesterday, the snow is still pretty when it's coming down, but it feels almost malevolent at this point, almost as if it's just another punch in the gut when we're down. I look back to the days right after the first blizzard and we were marveling at how much snow we had. Little did we know that we hadn't seen anything yet. The best description of the winter came from Heidi last night as we were leaving the school carnival - in a word, wearying.

It makes the drama of the purchase of the new snowblower seem quaint - could you imagine how we would have made it through without a dependably starting snowblower? It's more than paid for itself this winter alone. Even if we don't have to use it for another 5 years (doubtful), I still don't regret it.

But here's where I am with the winter at this point - and it's really posing quite a conundrum for me. Yeah, I'm so sick of shoveling and snowblowing, of snow pack in the wheel wells of the car, of dangerous looking icicles and even more dangerous looking ice dams on my roof. But I'm also amazingly sick and tired of people bitching about it. It really is, as Joan said, like being mad at the dirt. It hasn't done us any good - in fact, I think we're all (myself definitely included in that blanket statement) just feeding back on ourselves, creating more drama than is necessary. I know that I get caught in the loop of "what the fuck am I going to do if my roof is trashed?" but seriously, all that does is give me an ulcer. The best we can do at this point is wait till spring and see what happens. No amount of catastrophizing or worrying will change the outcome now.

So from now on, I'm done bitching about winter. Whenever I'm tempted to become irate with the forecast of snow (2 to 4 inches before the weekend's out), I'll just think of this little ditty that I stumbled across on YouTube.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Should have been singles

My friend P. Viktor and I hatched the idea for this post a few weeks ago while discussing songs that Madonna has released that should have been singles but, for whatever reason were not. We each picked five songs from Madonna's back catalog (we compared notes early on so to make sure there was no overlap) and, after much deliberation, I've finally settled on mine. His five choices can be found on his blog. He is also hosting on his site a limited-time-only download of the non-singles that we chose plus 4 more so that all of her studio albums are represented. And Jeff, I regret to inform you that "Spanish Eyes" and "Mer Girl" are not among my five choices.

Dan's Top 5 Madonna Songs That Should Have Been Singles

1) Over & Over
(from Like A Virgin)
Of all the Madonna songs that should have been singles, this one is the one that I think deserves that honor the most. Madonna was doing everything right at this point in her career, riding high with the Like A Virgin album and spinning off career-defining singles like "Material Girl," "Dress You Up" and of course, the title track. "Over & Over" feels like it's cut from a slightly different cloth than the rest of the album - it's still 80s pop, but the guitar lick in the chorus is what sets it apart. Guitars, despite their relative frequency in Madonna's live shows, are pretty scarce on her studio albums. As I've blogged before, the lyrics are very personally inspiring to me, a line from the bridge is currently the tag line for this blog. I'm not afraid to say I hear a different beat/Oh, and I'll go out in the street/And I will shout it again from the highest mountain. It's Madonna as she's just starting to climb the mountain of fame and fortune and it's simply fantastic. Definitely should be brought out for the next tour.



2) Something To Remember (from I'm Breathless)
I have always felt like I'm Breathless is Madonna's forgotten album, its lifespan cut short by the release of The Immaculate Collection. Containing music "from and inspired by the film Dick Tracy" I'm Breathless is very showtuney and non-Madonna and it is one of her lowest selling albums from that time period. "Something To Remember" is, however, a hidden jewel on that album. Madonna liked it so much that she plucked it out of relative obscurity and not only put it on her 1995 ballads collection but also named the damn thing after it. I've always been of the opinion that if WB was so insistent on releasing an old song from that project as a single, they should have gone with "Something To Remember" rather than insisting on releasing "Love Don't Live Here Anymore."

Her vocals are strong, in a pre-Evita way and the production is solid. While many of the songs on I'm Breathless play like novelty songs - even top 10 hit "Hanky Panky" - this is one that I could imagine hearing on pop radio. It is, however, marred by Madonna's infamous "chewing" of her you - I was not your woman/I was not your friend/But chew gave me/Something to remember. My sister and I would always change it to "chew gave me/oropharyngeal cancer." Chewing of yous really is unforgivable, but we give it a pass because the song is just so damn good.

3) Spotlight (from You Can Dance)
I nearly disqualified this song as technically, it was a single - in Japan. I remember it getting some minor radio airplay in late 1987, but there was no official single release in the US, no video, and subsequently, it did not chart on the Hot 100. If it had been released, it would have been another Top 10 for Madonna without question. It feels every little bit like the True Blue cast off that it is and it would have been very much at home on that album. Instead, it was the lone new song on Madonna's first compilation, You Can Dance. It's funny, because the song is very strong in that the combination of vocals and production is again superb, but it's also as light as a feather. Had it been recorded by a lesser artist, it would have been a completely forgettable bit of 80s fluff. It's still fluff, even in Madonna's capable hands, but as I always say about "Who's That Girl" - for fluff, it's quite brilliant.

4) Sky Fits Heaven (from Ray of Light)
Even though the lyrics came partially from a Gap ad, "Sky Fits Heaven" is the strongest non-single on Ray of Light. Like most of of the rest of the album, it is full of blips and bleeps courtesy of William Orbit. "Sky Fits Heaven" is a "driving fast at night with the windows down" song, especially during the "traveling down my own road/watching the signs as I go" section. I love how she hearkens back to "Bedtime Story" with the "Traveling, traveling..." part. Its inclusion in the Drowned World Tour was a huge surprise (mostly because I had not spoiled the set list like I have on every other tour since.) I always admire how Madonna makes such bold choices of obscure album tracks for her live shows, even though the Drowned World Tour certainly had more than its fair share of obscure album tracks.



5) Devil Wouldn't Recognize You
(from Hard Candy)
This blog is littered with criticism of Hard Candy and its songs. Thanks to the distance granted by the nearly 2 years since its release, my opinion on Hard Candy is that it is somehow less than the sum of its parts. I like quite a few of the individual songs, but don't really care for the album much. "Devil Wouldn't Recognize You" is easily my favorite of all the songs on Hard Candy. Truth be told, it had been a really long time since we had a true Madonna ballad, and "Devil" fits the bill nicely. Its minor key, interesting rhyming scheme and a much more organic pairing of Madonna and Justin Timberlake than the herky-jerky "4 Minutes" are all points in its favor.

I wonder though, if this song isn't best left as an album track. XO, in his review of Hard Candy, compared "Devil" to Bedtime Stories' "Love Tried To Welcome Me" saying "it's the kind of album track that sticks with you for years because it's never overplayed." It would have probably not charted and considering her track record with videos these days, we couldn't even count on something amazing there, although I can think of no track more deserving of a brilliant video. But we do have the performance of the song from the Sticky & Sweet Tour, which was stunning.



Now get on over to P. Viktor's blog and read about his choices.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Ease on down

One of my favorite things to do to help rein in my unwieldy iTunes library is to make smart playlists that randomly pick songs. I have 3 such playlists right now: Random 80 Minutes, Random 25 Songs and Another Random 80 Minutes. What they lack in creative naming, they make up for in eclectic song choices. What's even better is since they are smart playlists with live-updating, if I ever get tired of a few songs on the list, I delete them and replacements from the library magically appear. This process pulls stuff out of the furthest reaches of the library, songs I might not even think of otherwise.

Which is how "Ease On Down The Road" from the movie version of The Wiz came to be one of the my most played songs this week. It got me to thinking (as I am wont to do every couple of years) that I really should rewatch The Wiz in all its late 70s glory.

The only problem with that idea is that The Wiz is really an absolutely horrible movie. The concept of the musical is cool and intriguing. Based very loosely on L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it has all the familiar cast of characters, this time portrayed by an all African-American cast. Instead of Kansas, it's Harlem. Instead of a tornado whisking Dorothy away to Oz, it's a snowstorm. Oz is an odd amalgam of fantasyland and 70s New York City. And instead of Judy Garland as Dorothy, it's Diana Ross. Too bad the execution did not live up to the concept.

As a kid, I was kind of obsessed with this movie. In hindsight, this does not surprise me but what DOES surprise me is that I was never able to watch it all the way through. Oh, I managed to get through the beginning just fine. Dorothy is deposited in a graffiti-filled Munchkinland and the standard Oz set up ensues. But really, I could never make it much past the scenes immediately following the introduction of the Scarecrow and the descent down the roller coasters of Coney Island to find the Tin Man. But it was in there that "Ease On Down The Road" makes its first appearance




I finally sat down in 1995 and watched the entire movie. It was a huge chore. I have a pretty high tolerance for musicals (higher than most guys my age) and even I had a hard time making it through this movie. Michael Jackson's turn as the Scarecrow is pretty good. I enjoyed 70s New York turned on its side a little bit through its reworking as Oz. But the songs are, by and large, horrible. Aside from "Ease On Down The Road," the only other song I even remember from this movie is "Brand New Day" which is performed just after Evilene the Wicked Witch gets flushed down a gigantic toilet. (yes, believe it.) Too many of the songs feature an extreme close-up on Diana Ross singing a solo, which considering Ross' famous diva-sized ego, should surprise no one.

I love the story about how Diana Ross allegedly forced her way into being cast as Dorothy, despite the fact that the filmmakers wanted to cast Stephanie Mills who had originated the role in the Broadway production. The argument was that Ross was too old, which caused Ross to make what seems to be some back-room deals in order to insure that she be cast as Dorothy, ultimately tying financing and production to her being cast in the role. You can read all about it here, but it's amazing! Despite the intrigue, it's still not my favorite Diana Ross story. That will always be the story of the DUI that Ross received in Tuscon, AZ while driving to rent a video from Blockbuster. Seriously, Diana Ross has to rent her own movies from Blockbuster? She's DIANA ROSS for Pete's sake! Jeff and I found great humor in this unfortunate event which probably means we're going straight to hell.

I've talked more about The Wiz than I thought I could, which means I'm inevitably going to go get the DVD from the library or from Netflix and at least watch highlights. If only it were streaming on the Netflix box!

(and I managed to get through the whole post without making a pee joke. Oops, I spoke too soon.)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Monolith

There's a lot of, well, buzz about Google Buzz. Admittedly, I have not looked into it. Like I need any more social media sites to worry about - the ones I have now cause me enough consternation and grief as it is. All reports seem to indicate that it's less locked down than either Twitter or Facebook so I can't imagine it doing much except for people who really don't care one whit about their online privacy. It is, however, Google so there's no telling.

I've talked a lot on these pages about Facebook and how I both love and hate it. In spite of the fact that I get to decide who I let in, it still seems like the large number of people from different parts of my life all agglomerated in one spot is a bit daunting at times. Facebook helped address that problem with new privacy settings granting me He-Man like power in allowing certain friends to see or not see certain things. It makes it sound like I'm living this seedy double life and no matter how much I wish that to be true some days, nothing could be further from the truth. I just feel like that not everyone needs to know everything about me, or even the small amount that I post online. There's also a false sense of security in that control - no matter who you block, you're still posting it on the internet. There's no stopping someone from retweeting or sharing something that you did or posted with a mutual friend and then there it goes. As Olivia so eloquently put it, "once the rumor spreads, the truth is just a thing of the past."

While this is not a new thing for me to think about, I have been having an increasingly difficult time reconciling this feeling. It wasn't until a couple weeks ago that someone put it in terms that really resonated for me. I'm paraphrasing, which she was as well, but it goes something like this:

"The definition of good mental health is knowing the appropriate response based on the person and the situation."

She (and I) would argue that social media, especially Facebook, takes away that ability to make those decisions. Instead, you're forced into one monolithic response to everyone around you. Personally, I know that most of my inner circle (family, close friends) get me enough that pretty much anything I say will be at least partially understood - but what about the people I graduated from high school with? Co-workers? Long lost old acquaintances? Not so much and not quite as "safe." As usual for me, it's about boundaries and in the world of social media, boundaries are increasingly nebulous.

The same person who was talking to me about this also thinks that whenever successful communication between people occurs, it should be classified as a minor miracle. With all the things that can go wrong or be misinterpreted when people are trying to communicate, I would have to agree with her. It's a reminder to us all to be a bit more forgiving of the people around us. But it's also a mild warning that I think can apply well to social media.

No one is a monolith, and no one should be forced to be one.

Now excuse me while I go post a Barbara Mandrell video to Facebook.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Miraculous

We are getting another foot of snow today. A friend of mine only half-joked that today was his 34th death-defying snow commute of the season. Normally, I like snow and winter, but right now, when I look at it, I find myself almost angry at it. Winter has been fired so many times this year that the joke is getting old because no one's joking anymore. I don't know what to do with all the snow on, in and around the driveway. The icicles hanging from the edge of the house look like daggers. If we weren't already getting new gutters in the spring, we would be now. Those who doubt climate change are simply not paying attention.

Amongst all this, my friend Lucas sent me a link to some great news. Come April 27th, there will be new Mary Chapin Carpenter.

I am always so pleased by new Mary Chapin Carpenter. The woman could sing the yellow pages and I would listen. According to the press release, the songs on the new album, The Age of Miracles, were written in 2007 when she was recovering from a pulmonary embolism. They explore pretty familiar territory for Carpenter - love, relationships, etc. Listening to the sound samples on the Rounder site, it sounds like this album will be more Between Here & Gone in that the focus is on slower, more pensive songs and less of the spitfire that characterized her last record, The Calling. We'll see how it goes although I like the sound of pretty much everything. In April, I may not be in the mood for slow and pensive, but I bet I'll find a way. I always manage to.

There will also be a national tour - hopefully not to be canceled by an life threatening illness this time around. I would love to be able to get to that show although I've heard mixed reviews regarding her live performances.

In the meantime, you can download what appears to be an officially sanctioned mp3 of one of the songs "I Was A Bird" from this site. You can also download an album sampler ("I Put My Ring Back On" is an early favorite.)

April 27th can't come soon enough. And by then, most of this snow should be gone.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Sick sick sick

I've spent the vast majority of this weekend sick. After Heidi got rather violently ill on Wednesday night (documented in glorious Technicolor here), I figured that I was pretty much a goner. But I have managed to avoid what appeared to be certain infection in the past, so I thought perhaps I'd get lucky again and somehow dodge the bullet. I even floated the theory that perhaps you needed two X chromosomes to get it, based on the fact that Anna had had pretty much the same thing a week prior.

No such luck. I woke up Friday morning not quite feeling right, but chalked it up to a bad night's sleep. Heidi warned me that was how it started. She said that if I couldn't shake the tired off, I needed to come home. I didn't. I pushed through the day and honestly, I didn't really feel all that bad for most of the day. We even went out to Perkins on Friday night and had I been really sick, that wouldn't have even sounded good. But even as we pulled into the driveway for the evening, I knew that I had begun the steady decline that would pretty much come to define the weekend.

Fortunately, my sickness never approached the horrific lows that Heidi's did and for that I am truly thankful. There was a tense moment at 2AM on Saturday morning that had me hugging the toilet bowl (and momentarily forgetting where I was) but it never actually came to actual puking. Being sick is never fun and the first 12 hours are always the worst. Those 12 hours are always followed by the sliver of time in which you feel so much better than you did you can hardly believe it. Unfortunately, that time is followed by 48 hours of "would-you-just-hurry-up-and-get-well-already." That's the time period I'm in right now.

I'll be going to work tomorrow, no doubt about it. My energy level is back up to about 90% of usual and there's no real reason to miss. Yeah, I'm ticked I got sick on a weekend - who wants to get sick on a weekend? - but rather than dwell on the negative, I'm going to try to put a positive spin on it. This weekend saw me spending more time than usual on the couch in front of the TV. I blew through 5 episodes of The X-Files (including "Bad Blood" - man, this season is just about the best yet) and we watched more Simpsons episodes than you can possibly imagine. I also spontaneously napped several times yesterday for a combined total of several hours which was pretty much what my body needed.

The funny thing is that I think my body was in need of this kind of a weekend anyway, sick or not. We had grand plans for this weekend - plans that included shipping Anna off to Camp Grandma while we got together with Jeff and Caryle. The plans with Jeff and Caryle fell apart first and then an unexpected trip to the hospital for Heidi's grandfather cancelled Camp Grandma. And even if these cancellations had not occurred, the combination of my sickness and yet another snowstorm would have vetoed the entire weekend. In the end, I'm glad I stayed home. Not that I wouldn't have loved to have done all those things, but I think that in being sick, I finally gave myself permission to do that which I like to do the least - stop and take care of myself.

The only thing worse than being sick on a weekend is not taking anything away from it. And I did. So you see, being sick isn't all bad. Just mostly. (they mostly come at night...mostly.)

Year of 25 Books: #1 - Pride & Prejudice & Zombies

You might recall that about a month ago I was bemoaning the fact that I just don't read as much as I used to. It was at that time that I laid down the challenge (mostly to myself) to read 25 books this year, allowing only 5 of those to be rereads. I also pledged to blog about each book. In so doing, I managed to rope my friends P. Viktor and Bess into the act as well. P. Viktor (whose blog I have been reading since I randomly stumbled across it at the time of the release of "Hung Up" in 2005) has already managed to read and blog about two. I know that Bess has read several in January, but I have yet to see any blogging proof to substantiate this claim. ;)

I only read one book in January, which puts me behind right out of the gate. The book I chose was a Christmas gift - one I had asked for - Pride & Prejudice & Zombies by Jane Austen & Seth Grahame-Smith. When I first heard of this book, I thought that there was absolutely no way that they could screw this up. Zombie mayhem set in Jane Austen's classic story? I've been fond of Pride & Prejudice ever since Heidi and I watched the famous BBC miniseries on DVD nearly 8 years ago. I even liked the updated Keira Knightley version that was released in theaters in 2005. Considering my love all things zombie, surely the changes could only make it that much better.

Surely, I couldn't have been more mistaken. P&P&Z starts out strong. Much remains of Austen's original story, but many things have been turned on their head. Subtle dialogue changes and the insertion of zombies into Regency England seemed clever. Making Elizabeth Bennet, one of the most beloved heroines of British literature into a slayer of the undead was an interesting turn.

Sadly, the novelty wore off very quickly. As one of my friends who tried to read it and abandoned it said, the book is like an extended joke, one that remains long after it has worn out its welcome. The longer the story goes on, the more cracks in the story telling begin to appear. It became very obvious to me where Grahame-Smith was tacking on zombie references to Austen's original passages. As the story progressed, I found that I didn't really buy Elizabeth Bennet as a zombie killer and just kind of wished I was reading the original Pride & Prejudice. It suffered a fate worse than death (or undeath) for a book: the simple act of reading it became like doing homework. I just wanted it to be done. The book felt lazy which was not what I was expecting at all.

There were parts that worked. One of my favorite parts of the original Pride & Prejudice is the appearance of Mr. Collins and his eventual marriage to Charlotte Lucas. I enjoyed the zombie take on Charlotte's "marriage of convenience" to Mr. Collins and was one of the few points at which I laughed at the turn of events. I also liked the transformation of Lady Catherine DeBourgh into a zombie killer. For some reason, that played as more believable than Elizabeth Bennet.

As I finished the book, I realized that this book really is the literary equivalent of a Weird Al song. It's clever at first, only to become annoying and make you want to listen to the original song instead. I definitely was skimming in the last 50 pages. As a fan of both zombies and the original story of Pride & Prejudice, I felt like this book barfed all over both genres in the name of making a quick buck. Zombie fans will not find enough brain-eating to be satisfied, and Austen fans will find the alteration of their beloved story abhorrent.

So yeah, I can't imagine I'll be reading the to-be-published prequel coming out in March. I might see the upcoming movie, but only at the dollar theater.

Monday, February 01, 2010

I swear I saw a dragon!

Hollywood (or anyone for that matter) really has never managed to make a good dragon movie. Dragonslayer in 1981 wasn't too bad but the effects weren't remotely ready. Surely, I thought, what we need is some good CG, but in 1996, Dragonheart showed us the first completely computer generated dragon, but I never really bought it, plus the celebrity voice was very distracting. (Update: I realized I completely forgot about 2002's Reign Of Fire, which disappointed me because there weren't enough CG dragons. Thanks to Brendan for pointing out this glaring omission.)

At one of the cheap dollar movies I went to about a year or so ago, I saw the trailer for Dragon Wars, which apparently is now just D-War. Take a look.

I knew that it would suck, that there was NO WAY that it would be good. Still, I hoped. I skipped it at the dollar theater, not even figuring it to be worth a lousy dollar bill. Surely, all the best bits were in the trailer. When I saw that it was streaming on the Netflix box, I couldn't resist. And sure enough, I was right. The best bits ARE all in the trailer.

Outside of the special effects there is nothing redeemable about this film at all. The dialogue is bad, the actors are wooden, the story is incomprehensible. It has something to do with reincarnated ancient Koreans who somehow or another create dragons etc. etc. The reincarnated versions show up in modern day L.A. and so does a large serpent that, 500 years ago, was not allowed to become a dragon. It wreaks general havoc in the city, spiraling up the US Bank Tower in downtown L.A.

Despite the plot being completely laughable, I will say that the technology has arrived and the dragons are finally believable, although the main one is two parts Harry Potter basilisk and one part Roland Emmerich's Godzilla. Why any movie would take ANY inspiration from Godzilla is beyond me. The smaller dragons, which resembled winged velociraptors from the Jurassic Park films, were pretty cool and arrived at just about the time I was getting bored with the main nasty. Having seen them displayed so convincingly, I figure that Smaug will be amazing in The Hobbit.

All those dragons got me to thinking about my favorite dragon movie - that being Disney's Pete's Dragon. My 7 year-old self would gladly sacrifice all the special effects in the world for the presence of Helen Reddy. My 37 year-old self is perilously close to that same assessment.



Maybe Dragon Wars would have been improved with the Elliott the dragon and a song or two from Helen Reddy. The world will never know. What I do know is that the people of Passamaquoddy would have crapped their pants had the dragons from Dragon Wars shown up in their town.