Thursday, August 20, 2009

Promote Whatever You Want On My Blog

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, dogs and cats, it's that time again! Promote yourself, your best friend, your favorite Olympic ping-pong star who isn't Asian, your business, your local public-access TV station, your crazy new-fangled religion that worships Gore Vidal, your old BetaMax machine, your comic bo--er, graphic novel I mean--your favorite pair of get the idea.

We've had some interesting comments in the past. Famed NI crime writer Adrian McKinty once left a comment promoting his brother in the armed services - I'm not sure it has happened yet, but I hear the paperwork is going through. Just kidding. On another occasion, Darkin Inc promoted a full cast audio drama podcast. Last but not least, Don Luis once stopped by to pimp his tattoo inspired clothing line.

Thanks for stopping by.


The wife and I will be on vacation for a week starting tomorrow. Not sure I'll get online that much while we're away, so apologies if I don't respond to every single promotion.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"I had a rough night, and I hate the (Philadelphia) Eagles, man."

Those of you familiar with the quote above will recognize the slightly altered words of none other than Jeffrey Lebowski, a.k.a. The Dude, from the Coens' masterpiece, The Big Lebowski. It's a great movie that I had the pleasure of seeing on the big screen recently. I've talked about this movie at length (or, ad nauseam) on this blog and on other blogs before, so I'm not here to talk about it more (unless any commenters want to).

What I would like to discuss is how I now hate the Philadelphia Eagles. I've never been much of a football fan - no dig here, it's just not my thing - but, I never minded the Eagles. Matter of fact, I always supported them as my home team and wanted to see them succeed. Coach Andy Reid and quarterback Donovan McNabb seem like good guys all in all.

But I will not watch them play a game this season.

As most of you have probably heard, in a move that surprised a lot of people, the Eagles picked up Michael Vick.

Yes, they hired the same guy that operated an illegal dogfighting operation for SIX YEARS. It wasn't much of a prediction, but as I previously said, "someone is going to pick him up eventually and he'll make more than enough money to forget about his time spent inside." As it turns out, the Eagles of all teams decided to hire him.

I hear a lot of people say, "Everyone needs a second chance." And yes, that's true. Throughout my relatively short life, I myself have needed a lot of second chances. But Vick got off way too easily. If I had been caught running a dogfighting operation, I would have been disbarred and never allowed to practice law again. But not Vick. No. After all, he's an professional athlete. He's somehow not subject to the same rules as the rest of us.

Sure, he had to endure a lot of bad press and a two-year stretch inside, but at the end of the day, he's right back to playing in the NFL and earning more money in a couple of seasons than most will see in a lifetime. And besides, he has an agent, a PR rep, and probably countless other handlers who will help him restore as much of his image as they can.

If you still feel bad for Vick, consider this: he was caught doing this. This didn't come to an end because he turned himself in. Oh no. We can be almost certain that, if he hadn't been found out, the dogfighting would still be going on.

Forgetting for a moment the moral objections to allowing such a person to play for your team, I still wonder why the Eagles did this. Before this move, they were projected to make a run at the Super Bowl. But bringing Vick on board is going to alienate a lot of die-hard fans. Maybe some teammates. And wherever they go, whatever town they play in, this controversy is going to rear its ugly-head. It will follow them everywhere this season. Why would they willingly choose to face such distractions when their team was arguably good enough to make it to the Super Bowl in the first place?

I don't know the answer to that question, but obviously Andy Reid thinks this was a good idea. I have always supported Philadelphia sports, but I will no longer continue to do so with the Eagles. It's really a shame for the other players on the team, who will be forced to deal with this all season long.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Eyes In The Sky

The National Academy of Sciences released a report on Wednesday that was troubling: apparently, NASA was never given enough money to build the telescopes it needs to complete its absolutely vital mission of locating 90 percent of the potentially deadly rocks traveling through space.

There will come a day when the human race no longer walks the earth, though we should strive to ensure that day remains in the very distant future. This is exactly the sort of mission, despite being very costly, that we shouldn't underbudget. According to the Academy's report, the US government's effort has been "relatively little;" however, what's more startling is the fact that the US is "practically the only government doing anything at all." Our existence is balanced on a knife's edge, as they say, but this mission is one way we can increase our chances of staying on that edge. We need more eyes in the sky.


It's a good thing Earth isn't the biggest planet in the solar system. That distinction, thankfully, remains Jupiter's, and with significantly more gravity, the gas giant attracts a lot of these dangerous rocks flying through space. Just last month, a comet or an asteroid collided with Jupiter, and scientists estimate the object was the size of several football fields. Because of the collision, there is a new, expanding spot on Jupiter.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Horror Films of the Last 20 Years Have Been Pretty Ho-Hum..

...if you agree with EW's 20 Top Horror Films of the Past 20 Years.

As if you cared in the least, here's my take on EW's list from start to finish.

20. Dead Alive. Never saw it.

19. Darkman. As much as Liam Neeson is the man, I have to say, this is a so-so revenge flick that has faded into utter obscurity. A decent movie, worth a watch, but it won't stay with you and you won't feel the need to see it again when you're done.

18. Event Horizon. Okay, this film is admittedly one of those "love it or hate it" flicks. I happen to love it. It did poorly at the box office, and the critics bashed it upon its release, but it has since grown a cult following. Now, we all know that cults are bad, but when it comes to movies, sometimes they're right. Don't believe me? If it weren't for cults, chances are you would have never heard of The Big Lebowski or Office Space, two incredible movies.

17. The Kingdom. Never saw it.

16. The Descent. This is an excellent, excellent, excellent movie. Neil Marshall, who also directed the great horror flick Dog Soldiers (which should be on this list too), wrote and directed this movie about a team of female spelunkers exploring caves in the Appalachians. Yes, it's a very scary movie, but it's so much more than that, as (oh my god) there is character development and a very interesting exploration of insanity. Make sure to check out the UK ending and compare it to the US ending. See which you like better.

15. Shaun of the Dead. Thank God for this movie, which brought some respectability back to the zombie genre (as did the remake of Dawn of the Dead). This one is both a spoof and an homage to the zombie movie, and it's also a clever rom-com, so it has something for everybody. Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright teamed up again to make Hot Fuzz, the same concept applied to action movies, and it worked beautifully. I hear they're going to make a third movie in the sci-fi genre, to complete what could be one of the best trilogies ever made.

14. Hostel 2. Didn't see it. Hostel was basically just torture porn, and I heard this was more of the same.

13. Misery. Good flick.

12. From Hell. Didn't see it.

11. Planet Terror. To say this was the better film of the Grindhouse experience really isn't saying much. There were a couple of laughs, one or two okay scares, but overall, this one was disappointing.

10. Ringu. I only saw the American remake - which I loved - of this flick starring Naomi Watts, so I can only assume its source material was just as good and probably better.

9. Alien 3. Okay. It pains me to say this, because David Fincher is one of my favorite directors working today (Seven, Zodiac, Fight Club, Benjamin Button), but Alien 3 was a huge letdown after the terrifying brilliance of Alien and the sheer visceral awesomeness that was Aliens. Alien 3 was basically a rehash of the first movie, and way, way, WAY too dark. If you haven't seen it, I won't spoil you with the particulars, but I will metaphorize the first ten minutes of the movie - Imagine you've just been through another chemotherapy treatment. On your way to your car, leaving the hospital, you trip on a crack in the sidewalk, breaking your leg. As you look up, you see a random stranger hovering over you. You think this stranger is going to help you up, but no, HE'S JUST THERE TO KICK YOU IN THE NARDS and steal your money. Yes, my friends, that is what the first ten minutes of Alien 3 feel like. The universe is a terrible, terrible place that will kick you every way it can while you're down. (In all fairness to Fincher, I've heard there was a lot of studio interference, so I don't know who's to blame.)

8. Drag Me To Hell. I've heard good things but haven't seen it.

7. The Sixth Sense. Great movie with great acting and a great twist. It's a shame Shyamalan hasn't gotten better than this, but that's like complaining that Orson Welles's first movie was Citizen Kane. Cinema is better with these movies than without them.

6. What Lies Beneath. Ehhhh. An okay movie, directed by Robert Zemeckis of Back to the Future fame.

5. 28 Weeks Later. Really? This movie made the list, but 28 Days Later, which is vastly superior in just about every way, didn't? There were some major internal logic problems with this film that I couldn't get over, the biggest one being that the zombies were suddenly both intelligent and could hold grudges against certain individuals. No such thing existed in the universe of 28 Days Later.

4. Scream. Okay, this is another great movie. It works on so many different levels: as meta horror, as horror, as comedy, and as a mystery. Very clever, very funny, and very scary.

3. The Blair Witch Project. I fell prey to this movie's clever viral marketing strategy and went in thinking it had been edited from real footage. Yes, I was actually that stupid, but it worked.

2. The Silence of the Lambs. A dark horse that won big at the Oscars. Good flick, but having seen it a couple of times, I don't think I'll ever need to see it again.

1. Audition. Haven't seen it.

So there you have it. Aside from The Silence of the Lambs and The Sixth Sense, none of these movies were nominated by the Academy in any major categories. Now, the Academy doesn't always get it right, and usually doesn't (Gran Torino, anyone?), but the lack of nominations is pretty telling.

Oh, and time for a shameless plug. My better half wrote a post about how Bill & Ted should have visited libraries on their excellent adventure.

Come back in a few days for my Top 5 Sodas of All Time List. You think I'm kidding...

Friday, August 7, 2009

RIP John Hughes

Writer/director John Hughes passed away this morning at the young age of 59. Over the years, Hughes brought us many great films and had the golden touch between the years of 1984 and 1990. During that time, he wrote and/or directed the following: Sixteen Candles; The Breakfast Club; European Vacation; Pretty in Pink; Weird Science; Ferris Bueller's Day Off; Planes, Trains & Automobiles; Uncle Buck; Christmas Vacation; and Home Alone.

After 1991's Curly Sue, Hughes altogether stopped directing pictures, though he continued to write and produce films that did not ever reach the same level of quality as those listed above.

I think the gross-out comedies with a heart of the last ten years (American Pie, Superbad,etc.) really owe something to Hughes. He created the formula with Sixteen Candles, and for my money, the prototype remains the best example of this subgenre. I have fond memories of this movie, due in no small part to the fact that I was able to see it at a young age because back then the MPAA didn't have a stick up its a-- and gave it a rating of PG, despite the fact there was full front nudity, lots of innuendo, curse words, and adult humor. Ah the good old days.

Sixteen Candles is my favorite Hughes's movie, but Ferris Bueller's Day Off is a very close second. Yes, his comedies are sometimes goofy, but they were always bolstered by a good story with a real plot. They didn't simply move from one comedic set piece to the next. And though I wouldn't attend St. Joe's Prep until 1993, I grew up on these high school 80s flicks and they really informed my teenage years.


Hughes became something of a recluse which only added to his mystique and intrigued his loyal fanbase. According to wiki, he "retired from the public eye and moved to Wisconsin" in 1994, in his later years becoming a farmer. Interestingly, he began penning screenplays under the pseudonym "Edmond Dantes," which we all know was the Count of Monte Cristo's real name. Dumas's best story has a lot going for it, including its exploration of the theme of masks we wear as human beings, both literal and metaphorical. It's quite telling that Hughes would select the name Edmond Dantes to serve as his mask when writing.

RIP John Hughes. You will be missed.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Time Capsule Circa June 1997

Recently, I took a trip down memory lane when I flipped through my high school yearbook from the year of my graduation, 1997. I won't bore you with all the after school special-like tales of my years in high school, i.e. how I was a nerd who was decent at sports and thus didn't fit in with either crowd, how shy I was around the fairer sex, how I was usually the sober guy at all the parties, etc.

What I will do is share with you some of the better messages my classmates inscribed for all of posterity in the yearbook. As discretion is the better part of valor, I have decided to keep these anonymous. All I can say is this: my friends, though often offensive, were pretty damned funny:

-Pass the salt someday. You, Waldo, and me are going to open that Hotel in California...(Note: I was a huge fan of The Eagles, the band, in high school.)

-O'Dork, I really don't like you. Kiss my a--.

-I didn't really see you that much that summer but I wouldn't have been much fun any way because that's when I found out that those AIDS ribbons people wore just were not working.

-But we gotta keep in touch, cause I really wanna see XXXX turn into a crazy alcoholic who doesn't care about grades.

-Yo. What's up. You are a piece of s---. But a good piece of s---.

-P.S. I can kick your a--, always remember that.

-Remember the basement, the undeniable power of Sprite to make everything better, and my infinite number of one week romances.

-Alright dude, here it are the man, plain and simple.

-I'll miss you and your sexy ways. (Note: St. Joseph's Prep was an all-boys school.)

-Always remember, it's okay to play with dolls.

-Thank you for supplying me with gas money throughout the year. Anyway, the Eagles suck, except for Hotel California.

-Copying Latin homework from you was always a highlight in my lunch period.

-I am a slob and no one is going to want to room with me in college.

Thanks for the memories and the laughs, fellas.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Blogs I Follow: Law Librarian To Be

Jenna, my long-suffering wife, has started her own blog, Law Librarian To Be. Over the past two years, Jenna has been working toward earning her Masters of Library Science (MLS). I don't know how she manages a graduate program in addition to the many, many hours she puts in at the office, but somehow she does and she does it very well. (I won't embarrass her by telling you her GPA.)

But on to her blog. She's required to maintain it for one of her classes, which isn't surprising, especially considering the subject of that class and her first post, which I won't spoil for you here.