Snow Day, Part Two

February 21st, 2010

This blog post is coming to you from the Yosemite Lodge. Outside a light snow is falling; we expect a quite dazzling morning of three to six inches of fresh powder, just right for snowmen and snowballs.

Drove up today - because it's a Sunday, I had no trouble making reservations, and the price was less than half of what they charge on Saturday night. There was a cold rain falling during the day, which was sub-optimal, but it turned to snow and the 4-year-old had his first ever chance to catch snowflakes on his tongue, which he did with gusto. Looking forward to the morning.

Tom Bihn

February 17th, 2010

...makes the best bags in the world. I purchased my Tom Bihn backpack from his store in Santa Cruz in 1997 or so, and I still use it on a near-daily basis. It saw me through graduate school; I took it to Mongolia. It has never had a zipper break, never had a stitch fray, has acquired no holes either through abrasion or piercing or any other means. It looks, as it sits on the desk return behind me, almost like new.

At any rate, I expect much the same from my new Tom Bihn messenger bag, which my lovely wife gave me for Christmas. It looks smart and is chock full of pockets, holds not just one but two laptops in safety, and is just all-around well-made. All the zippers have sturdy rubberized tabs; it even has an external water-bottle holder (currently used to hold my eyeglass case).

Made in the USA - Seattle to be precise, whence Tom decamped after Santa Cruz. So if you are looking for a bag, satchel or backpack, hit up his website. They're not cheap, but in my experience they last for well over a decade (so far!), whereas my previous messenger bag (company swag) lasted for a little over two years before the generalized fraying developed into serious holes.

What have we got here?

February 15th, 2010

I was entertaining the baby yesterday, and flipped the television over to VH1 (I entertain the baby, the teevee entertains me), discovering a portion of a Behind the Music about Judas Priest. During the course of the show, they discussed Rob Halford's subsequent solo projects, which included the one-disc band '2wo'.

During the brief discussion of 2wo, they played a clip of a song I had not heard since, well, 1998 - a song for which I knew neither the artist nor the title. So I've pretty much been listening to I Am A Pig all day today. (Warning, link is to Youtube video which is probably NSFW. Here's a link to a YouTube of just the audio, which is SFW.)

It's neat to suddenly find yourself with sufficient information to rediscover something you never anticipated hearing again.

Reviews: Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, Daybreakers, Edge of Darkness

February 4th, 2010

Avatar - 8/10

A highly enjoyable film, although not one for the thinking man. The good guys are good guys, the bad guys are bad guys, and the savages are so incredibly noble that they can actually bond with the planet through their queues.

We saw it in 3D and I greatly appreciated the complete dearth of 3D gimmickry; nothing jumped out at the audience despite the profusion of bows and arrows and falling things. The 3D was used only to give the imagery depth of field, and oh! What imagery! Avatar is a gorgeous movie, from the blue cat-aliens to the floating rocks to the glowing forests to the mech hangars. A true feast for the eyes.

Which is its real power, frankly, because the story is pretty hackneyed and utterly one-sided. And in addition to the aforementioned 'noble savage' conceit (which has long been one of my pet peeves) it has a whopper of a deus ex machina ending. In fact, the story is so annoying that it underlines the truly awesome nature of the visuals in that I quite enjoyed the movie overall.

So take your eyes and leave your brain at home.

Sherlock Holmes - 7/10

I was interested to see Guy Richie's take on Sherlock Holmes, and having seen it, my reaction is a shrug. Certainly a vigorous, fisticuff-oriented Sherlock Holmes is entirely acceptable to the canon, but Robert Downey Jr. just wasn't him. The story was tepid, the action engaging but not thrilling, the accents were dishwater. Throw in a lack of the elements that make a period movie truly period, and a lack of the intellect that makes Sherlock Holmes Sherlock Holmes, and this film was just another forgettable action movie.

Also, Jeremy Brett is God. But I approached the film with an open mind, really I did.

Daybreakers - 6/10

As a connoisseur of vampire movies I wanted to like Daybreakers. The setting, a world where almost everyone is a vampire, farming the few remaining humans, is both intriguing and the problematic endgame of so many other vampire movies. I am a big fan of Sam Neill and Ethan Hawke both; the promise was there.

But ultimately the movie was unsatisfying. It went for too many of the cheap horror movie gimmicks (e.g. a shrieking bat shooting across the scene to scare the audience; the use of this old chestnut to open the film was a bad sign, and it wasn't the last time) and they vigorously went for dramatic visuals at the cost of all logic.

A lot of discarded potential, here - opportunities to comment on the human condition or to introduce moral complexity were invariably sidestepped in favor of a few more bags of spurting gore. Alas.

Edge of Darkness - 5/10

Edge of Darkness is the kind of movie you are rolling your eyes at before leaving the theater. The acting, I will say, was quite good. But the story was largely a litany of unbelievable things: unrealistic police behavior, inexplicable decisions, characters overlooking the most obvious actions or explanations. The movie did capture the tragedy of losing a loved one - but that's taking candy from a baby. Better police/revenge/mystery stories appear every week on television.

If you want a good Mel Gibson revenge film, rent Payback. Or, better, see the Lee Marvin original.

Mmm Lithiated

February 2nd, 2010

So apparently 7Up was originally (1929) called "Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda," because it contained lithium as its selling ingredient. This became "7Up Lithiated Lemon Soda," and then in 1936, simply "7Up."

The inventor, C.L. Grigg, never revealed how he chose the name "7Up", but I personally think it may have had something to do with imbibing a great deal of lithium citrate.