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Monthly Archives: January 2011

The Social Network movie review

Tom from MySpace complains, “Where’s my effing movie?!?”

If The Social Network is anything, it’s a showcase for performance.  Outside of Jesse Eisenberg, I hadn’t really seen any of the peeps in this movie do anything, but everybody delivers a great performance:  Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Erica Albright…  very impressive cast.  The dialogue was really snappy, but then, what else would you expect form Aaron Sorkin?

It’s hard to know what to say about this movie – it’s a really good movie, that much is clear – and when a movie is based on fact and isn’t necessarily a work of fiction, this can make it difficult to create the sort of drama that I expect in terms of an overall arc.

spoiler alert

 

 

The movie doesn’t offer much in the way of a conclusion… consider:  The movie is a story about Mark Zuckerberg, and we meet him when his girlfriend is breaking up with him, so he events a website that ranks girls against each other (and farm animals?) and everyone is mad at him.  Seems like he’s in a bad situation.  Then he meets Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss (twins played by Armie Hammer – everybody who made this happen did a great job, by the way) who were impressed by Zuckerberg’s website and want him to program their idea for a social networking site…  I think it’s called Harvard Connection or something like that.  Zuckerberg’s character asks them what makes this different than MySpace or Friendster or any of it’s competitors (which I think is a great point about Facebook itself, but I’ll get back to that later), and the idea is exclusivity – you must have a Harvard email address to join.  Zuckerberg agrees to create the site, but doesn’t.  He spends his time creating his own social networking site and sends the Winklevosses (Winklevi?) endless emails that he’s too busy to meet with them to work on their site.  Finally, when he is inspired to add a relationship status feature, he puts his own site, TheFacebook.com live.  Obviously, the Winklevosses find out about TheFacebook when it’s all the rage on Harvard’s campus and in the student newspaper (The Crimson) and they are mad and send a cease and desist letter, which  Zuckerberg ignores and Eduardo freaks out, and things seem bad…

(I just need to stop for a moment and talk about how adding the relationship status is supposed to be an epiphany moment for Mark’s character – it’s kind of silly.  Like ‘relationship status’ is one of the great ideas of the twenty-first century or something.)

I have no intention of summarizing the entire movie, but what I’m trying to say here (admittedly, I’m not doing a good job) is that the characters always seem to be a bad place.  As I mentioned in my drama post, the main character should have a conflict that drives the story and introduces all of the characters (act 1), he gets into the worst possible situation (act 2) and then he gets out (act 3).  The problem is, the Zuckerburg character never really gets out of his bad situation – at least not in a satisfying way.  Let’s break it down:

  • ACT 1:  Mark’s girlfriend breaks up with him and he creates Facebook, but the movie is moving back and forth through time, so we’re all seeing the deliberations of the big law suit – so it’s also sort of act 2.
  • ACT 2: Facebook is blowing up into a phenomenon on college campuses, but Sean Parker gets arrested and embarrasses the company, and embarrassing the company seems to be something that Mark desperately wants to avoid.
  • ACT 3:  Some text books comes up on the screen and tells the results of the lawsuit.  Mark sends a friend request to the girl that dumped him at the beginning of the movie and waits to see if she accepts it.

This isn’t what I’d call a satisfying third act for the audience, but that’s how the movie ends.  Now if this is how the story really goes, the film makers are constrained by the real life narrative, and that’s cool.  In any case, it’s still an OK movie:  good dialogue, better performances,  just not a great ending…. OK, maybe it’s a little pretentious, but it’s worth a watch.

My Rating: 3.8 out of 5

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The King’s Speech movie review

The King’s Speech comes in at just under two hours, and while I’m giving myself until I finish this writing to decide on a score, I think it will come in just under a perfect ten. Read the rest of this entry

The Green Hornet movie review

Perhaps it’s not unusual for a movie to go through so many trials and tribulations, but I suppose I don’t usually hear about it.  I’ve been hearing rumblings about a Green Hornet movie for years, way back to when Kevin Smith was tied to the project.  Finally, a finished product is available for our waking eyes.

If you’ve been paying attention to the criticism surrounding this movie, you’ll notice it’s been pretty mixed.  Some people liked the movie while other didn’t, but I haven’t heard too many extreme views where people hated it or heralded it as the best movie of the year.  However, The Tomato Meter is currently at 45%, which is pretty low in terms of over all quality.

As for me, I enjoyed this movie.  Sure, the re-imagining of Britt Reid was pretty far off the mark from the chore character, but then, the movie is starring Seth Rogen, so if you were expecting a hard hitting action drama… I don’t know what to tell you.  That being said, The Green Hornet is a ton of fun, and I laughed out loud on multiple occasions, so that’s about as ringing an endorsement as you’re going to get from me when it comes to action comedy.  I was also impressed with the performance by Jay Chou, who I’m not familiar with, but was immediately taken with.  Frankly, the guy is a movie star, and he handled his scenes with scene-stealing-grace.  I also want to take a moment and say how shocked I was by Cameron Diaz‘s performance – she didn’t giggle and snort like a crazy person at all, but instead, acted like a real person.  In fact, I think that’s what worked best about this movie – the characters, for whatever one dimensional failings they may have, also are good at not stepping too far out of the box – at the end of the movie, Seth Rogen’s character has evolved and become a better Green Hornet than he was at the earlier stages of the movie, but its not like he’s doing flips and killing people – in fact, his big fighting evolution scene at the end of the movie is pretty funny because again, Britt Reid isn’t a trained fighter in this take of the Green Hornet, and it shows – which gives the Rogen casting all the more legitimacy, but then, as he has a writing credit, this movie is mostly his project.

I found that pacing worked nicely, but 119 minutes might be a little too long for this sort of action comedy styled drama.  If you’ve ever wondered, “How many times can you have guys get hit in the balls in your movie without it ruining the movie?” this is the movie that answers that question!  The violence also continued to escalate as the movie went on, and it exceeded the heights I had expected it to reach well before it was over – that’s not necessarily a criticism, and in fact, it’s probably an endorsement; this movie takes a lot more chances than I thought it would.

The Green Hornet is a fun action comedy, and if you’re a Seth Rogen fan, it’s a must see – he gives a great performance that I can’t help but believe, enjoy and never saw coming.  If I had to pick one word to summarize this movie with, it would be surprising – and The Green Hornet surprises in a good way.

My Rating: 4 out of 5

The Company Men movie review

First, watch the trailer for The Company Men:

Looks good, right? In fact, this is one of the most promising trailers I have seen in a while – although keep in mind I just saw the Transformers 3 trailer… just awful. (I hope NASA is as pissed off as I am.) But yes, it looks like there are all the elements of a good story here along with a promising cast, including Ben Affleck as the guy who lost his job, Tommy Lee Jones and as Chris Cooper his former coworkers, Craig T. Nelson as their boss, and Kevin Costner as Affleck’s brother in law, who is sporting a Boston accent – guess he heard I was ripping on him for not doing a British accent in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.

spoiler alert

 

 

The problem with this movie is… well, it’s just not very good. If somebody pitched the idea of doing a movie about downsizing on a corporate level, it sounds like the stuff Oscars are made of, right? The problem here is I don’t believe this movie for a second. The characters are one dimensional and largely unsympathetic. I’m sorry, I love Tommy Lee Jones as much as anybody, but it’s pretty hard to believe that Maria Bello would have an affair with him – and what’s with the totally random shot of her rack? I love rack as much as anybody, but there was no need to include a shot of her rack while she was getting dressed. It felt like they were there shooting the movie and a producer called the director’s cell and said, “Hey, do me a favor: get some tits into this movie any way you can. Nothing says authentic drama like tits.” Its that kind of movie; you find yourself wondering, what the hell is happening here? Isn’t a million dollar home excessive for an executive that makes under $150k a year? I don’t understand the way Affleck’s character was written – it’s like they were thinking about doing the five stages of grief with him after he lost his job, but in the end, they decided, “Fuck it, lets just do denial, a little anger, and a dash of acceptance.” Why is Cooper’s character the flattest, least interesting character ever? His suicide isn’t a surprise; you’re waiting for it. In the first five minutes of the movie, his character promises to “take an AK47 to the place” if they fire him… The guy is literally throwing rocks at the office building after he gets fired… it’s the most inauthentic thing you’ll ever see on film. When Affleck gets a job working with Costner as a carpenter, you expect it to go somewhere, for Affleck to learn something besides his brother in law isn’t so bad after all. Or, maybe he’ll get good at carpentry. Or maybe that his Porsche and his country club membership weren’t so important after all. But no, that doesn’t happen. Meanwhile, Tommy Lee Jones leaves his wife after he gets fired… presumably because she bought a really expensive end table (like over $10k) in a previous scene… or because he’s having an affair… I don’t know. There just isn’t enough content in the movie to explain it. Then he decides to start his own company and he hires Affleck and they are pretty much back where they started before they got fired and the movie ends. There is no rivalry with the old company – I was thinking it might have been interesting to do a “you were doing business the wrong way, we’re doing it the right way and we’ll be more successful than you,” sort of angle, but it can’t because the movie is over. (And not a moment too soon, it’s a long 104 minutes.) The movie just always leaves you feeling… I don’t know, flat. You never feel what the movie intends for you to feel – when Cooper’s character dies, you don’t fee bad – he was a miserable man, you’re sort of glad he’s dead so you don’t have to listen to him complain anymore.

OK, I’m going to leave it there. The movie isn’t unwatchable, but on a whole, it just doesn’t work. The characters are crappy and the plot is kind of pointless. It’s an ensemble drama that wants to do character portraits, but it doesn’t devote hardly enough time to any of the characters, not even Affleck, who is the star of the damn movie. Nobody really learns anything, nobody changes… There are some good performances in here (sorry, Chris Cooper – I know they wrote you into a corner, but your sad-sack whining just wasn’t working here), but it’s not enough to save the movie. I am neither recommending nor endorsing this movie – its crappy, but if there are no other movies to see, it’s watchable. It’s like the Coors Light of movies.

My Rating: 3 out of 5

Johnny Storm, Human Torch and Member of the Fantastic Four, dies at 50

human-torchDear Mr. Tom Brevoort, Senior Vice President for Publishing, Marvel Comics:

Are you kidding me with this? Surely you are joking.

I have been reading comic books since I was a little kid – the first time I read a comic book (it was an issue of Captain America… I think 294, back in a day when the cover of a comic book was actually an accurate representation of the content within, but I digress…), it captured my imagination in a way that few things have since. In the passing decades, I’ve fallen in and out of love with comics, and right now, I’m nearing one of those stages where the infatuation dims back to a flicker. It’s mostly due the exuberant amount of Batman related titles released by DC, I’m sure you’ll be happy to know, but Marvel isn’t far behind on my shit list.

I understand that comic books are, by definition, violent melodrama – a visual method of conveying stories that often do not translate mediums. It’s part of their charm. Story telling, layouts and art all come together to push the reader down a stream of fantasy that can’t be experienced anywhere else. I’m with that.

What I’m not willing to champion is the pathetic use of death as both a plot device and an excuse to sell more books. The idea that Johnny Storm is dead and is never coming back is as ridiculous as the notion that Steve Rogers is dead and never coming back… which brings me to the crux of my argument. Stop fake killing people! If characters are dead, then leave them dead. Don’t kill them and bringing them back. Now again, I do understand that comic books are melodramas, and what could be more melodramatic than coming back from the dead? But this is getting ridiculous. Getting? OK, it is completely atrocious! Look, I know you guys have a business to run and comic books to sell and your new masters over at Disney don’t want to hear that profits aren’t up this quarter, but get it together and reign it in a bit. You remember the whole Jean Gray/Phoenix thing and how she was dead, then she wasn’t dead and she did all those horrible things and then she was dead again, but then she came back again but it turns out that the one who did all the bad stuff wasn’t really her and… ugh. Just ugh. And then years later, you killed Captain America (well, not you, Tom, but you know what I’m saying) – this would not stand. You can’t kill Steve Rogers! He’s survived everything Marvel has thrown at him (including Hitler) since the 1940s, including the ill advised Captain America: Commie Smasher series from the fifties. But I guess Cap also wasn’t really dead, he was lost in time or something… (not to be confused with Batman being lost in time just a few months later… very creative, DC) and then he returned, or was reborn, or whatever. If you’re always going to bring everybody back, what’s the point of killing them in the first place? I remember a line from somewhere in volume one of Captain America where he asks himself, “Why is it that when the heroes die, its for good, but the bad guys always come back?” Well, the answer back then was that the writers were too lazy to come up with new bad guys, but these days, they’re too lazy to come up with new heroes as well. In the last decade, Marvel Comics have brought back long dead characters from the Golden Age, like James Buchanan ‘Bucky’ Barnes, Jim Hammond, aka the Original Human Torch and his partner, Thomas Raymond, aka ‘Toro’. All of these moves were unprecedented, but not as stale as what happened with Jean Gray or Steve Rogers – yet still lame. Just like what you’re doing with Johnny Storm, and consider this – given that Jim Hammond and Thomas Raymond have already died before, this makes Johnny Storm the third and final human torch to have died! Are you guys at Marvel just making sure you didn’t miss anybody?

I’ve never been a Fantastic Four fan, although the characters are likable at their basic levels. The movies sucked, but that’s not your fault. (Right?) I guess what I’m saying is I could care less what you do with these characters, but don’t do some far reaching repercussions throughout the Marvel Universe death of Johnny Storm nonsense and then just write him back into the funny papers in a year. This is the reason I’m going to drop my Batman titles – it’s overkill (sorry, no pun intended) and it’s better for Marvel’s longevity if they keep the fake deaths to a minimum.

Thanks!
Jamie Insalaco
CreativeJamie.com
BomberBanter.com

HOW JOHNNY STORM DIED

I know a lot of folks that ended up on this page were just trying to find out how Johnny died, and initially, I didn’t provide that information – my bad.

Apparently, there was some kind of tear or something in the negative zone (I read comic books, and I have no idea what that is, so don’t feel bad) and the only way to close it was from the inside, so Johnny sacrificed himself.  Now in my Star Trek the Next Generation thinking mind, it seems perfectly logical that Johnny is still alive and trapped in the Negative Zone (or whatever) – the problem is getting him out.  I’m sure that’s how they’ll bring him back… find some way to tear a hole, take him out and seal it from the outside.  Right.  Anyway, I read that Marvel said there will not be another issue of the Fantastic Four…  Fine, get ready next month for ‘Fantastic Three’… or maybe ‘The Fantastic Richards Family, Features Ben Grimm’ or something.

What do you think?  Is it OK to kill off a character when you know it’s only a matter of time before they return from the grave?  Comments are welcomed!

more Comic Book Reviews at creativejamie.com/category/comic-book-reviews/

Icicles and Christmas Lights

The unrelenting snow has made it impossible to take down the outside Christmas lights (which I put up against my will, by the way for this specific reason!), but its yielded some fun photos.

 

icicles

icicles during the day - the perfect murder weapon (no finger prints!)

 

icicles and christmas lights

icicles and christmas lights

 

icicles and xmas lights

icicles and Christmas lights, close up

Real Life Super Hero Phoenix Jones

Scorpion Mortal Kombat

Scorpion to purse snatchers: "Get Over Here!"

Some things are just irresistible… you have to blog about them, even if they are old news and you meant to write something about it a month ago.

It was only a matter of time before somebody decided that they needed to put on a crazy costume and start patrolling the streets.  In fact, I seriously doubt this is the first time someone has taken a crack at being a super hero, but this is the first interview I’ve seen one do, I will say that.

So here we have Phoenix Jones – he’s wearing a bullet proof vest and knife plates and donned in a costume that reminds me of Scorpion from Mortal Kombat.  I was sure he’d get hit with a lawsuit before he’d get the key to Seattle, because obviously,  you cant walk around tasering people, even if they are breaking the law.  That’s not how society works.

And then, this happened:

Now I certainly didn’t want anything to happen to this guy, and I’m sorry it did.  It sounds like he didn’t suffer any serious injuries, but the national media is starting to turn on this guy and his boys (he has homies who are also super heroes… a West Coast Avengers sort of thing, I guess), and that’s never good for anybody.  It’s funny to hear serious conversations on TV that media has in comic books about;, saying Batman is a lawless vigilante or have somebody put forth essentially the exact same argument in almost the exact same words as J. Jonah Jameson does in Spider-Man:  “He’s a menace!”

A word of caution to wanna be super heroes:  don’t do it.  Don’t even draw up costume ideas for fun.  Trust me, I’ve been reading comics… well, since I’ve been able to read, and trust me:  you don’t have a chance.  If you’re lucky, you’ll spend a night in jail and ending up a paying a fine.  If you’re not… you’ll end up dead.

NOTE: Just wanted to mention that a fair amount of my blog ideas come from my buddy over at JeepGarage.org.  If you’re into Jeeps, those dudes are your peeps…

The Fighter movie review

the fighterEvery once and a while an actor will take a role and produce a performance that will make you realize that you may have underestimated their capabilities.  I think Christian Bale has done this in The Fighter.

I do want to take a moment and be absolutely clear that I am a HUGE Christian Bale fan and that nothing the man does surprises me.  Whether he’s playing Jesus or John Conner, the guy gets it done.  The screenplay doesn’t even have to be that good; check out Equilibrium, for example – the director allows him to play moments out on his face, and Bale carries the movie on his back like Forest Gump rescuing the guys in his squad during the Viet Nam sequence.  He’s been making movies since the 80s and continues to stack up a pile of rave revues for his performances and, obviously, the guy is BATMAN, for pete’s sake!  But along comes Christian Bale as Dickie Eklund in The Fighter, and I’m feeling that everyone is at least a little surprised.  They shouldn’t be – Bale does not fuck around!  Now that’s not to say that Mark Wahlberg, Amy Adams, or Melissa Leo aren’t delivering great performances in this movie, because they are – but Bale is better.  Bale is Better!  That should be the rallying cry all the way to his acceptance of every possible award for best supporting actor, because the guy steals every scene he’s in.

Now that I’ve droned on and on about the performances, let me get back to the movie as a whole.  For an inspirational sports movie, it doesn’t have a ton of sports in it and is surprising character driven (although I guess you yourself aren’t surprised it’s a character driven movie after my long diatribe about the performances or if you’ve already seen the movie).  The movie has this gritty strength to it that really serves the subject matter and the characters well.  Bale is once again doing one of his lose a ton of weight, gain a ton of weight things – this time, he’s lost a ton of weight for his role as Dickie – not be confused with his bone thin portrayal in The Machinest or his bulked up style in the Batman movies.  Mark Wahlberg is especially diesel in this movie, although I guess that dude is always huge…  in any case, Wahlberg gives a fine performance, but Bale is all over this movie’s grill.  There is also a strong argument for Amy Adam’s performance, who also shows up and does something a bit unexpected – in fact, I was happy with the overall portrayal of her character as they didn’t try to glam her up and make her look like – well, a movie star, which is what she is (just the thought of the commercial for Leap Year is enough to make me start screaming), but she looked like a real person in The Fighter, and it’s a welcomed change to see a woman in a movie not look like a Vanity Fair model.

I really enjoyed this movie, and I’m not a big fan of the inspirational sports genre.  It helps that Micky Ward’s story isn’t one I’m familiar with, and I didn’t feel like things were predictable – speaking of predictable, the swing in this movie from the second act to the third was so smooth, you barely new it was happening – and the third act is a bit longer than it usually is in most movies, although the third act in inspirational sports movies is usually pretty long – yet the movie clocks in at under two hours.

The Fighter is a situation where everyone did everything right:  the performances, the directing by David O. Russell, the screenplay by Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, and Eric Johnson, the photography by Hoyte Van Hoytema, the casting by Sheila Jaffe, the film editing by Pamela Martin…  everybody brought their A game, and it shows.

My Rating:  4 out of 5

Taming The Star Runner book review

Taming Of The Star RunnerDuring sixth and seventh grades, I read all of SE Hinton’s books.  Twice.  The Outsiders, That Was Then, This Is Now, Rumble Fish, Tex and finally Taming the Star Runner…  hey, can one serve someone in SE Hinton lore the way people have those dance offs?  Because I totally could.

For whatever reason, I requested a copy of Taming the Star Runner for Christmas this year, and I gobbled it up again in just a few hours – I read pretty fast, and when I’ve read the book before, I think I read a hair faster than normal.  Also, please note I use the expression ‘a hair faster,’ not to be confused with ‘a hare faster,’ which is a totally different colloquialism.  But in any case, it’s an easy read.

I’ve always thought  Taming the Star Runner was Hinton’s… I don’ t know, oddest book?  It feels the most divorced from the other ones, and not just because it doesn’t use any of her reoccurring characters.  Something is different this time around – sure, Hinton’s first four books were published between 1968 and 1979, and TtSR didn’t come out until 1988…  But it’s not just the first appearance of a little kid or a sympathetic parent figure or the fact that this is book is in 3rd person rather than first, like her previous novels…  it’s not any of those things.  It’s Travis.

spoiler alert

To summarize the book and it’s plot threads is not an easy feet, although the book is easy to follow. (I do maintain the first chapter or so is kind of a mess, but after that Hinton gets into a nice flow – that mess might have been intentional, as I’ll discuss below.)  Travis has to leave home and move in with his Uncle Ken after he cracks his stepfather in the head with a blunt object in a fit of anger.  Ken has a house on several acres and leases his barn to a horse trainer named Casey, who is a phenom and not much older than Travis.  He ends up at a little hick school in Nowhere, Oklahoma (it’s Oklahoma, right?  Hinton’s books always take place in Oklahoma… don’t they?) where he doesn’t fit in.  Despite receiving poor grades in English, Travis manages to sell his novel, a strange twist:  our angry, drinking, smoking, swearing and violent teenager is a sensitive artist who used to have a part-time job as a veterinary assistant.  That seems strange to me.  I get that characters don’t have to, and probably shouldn’t be, drawn flatly, but Travis is all over the damn place.  Only luck, he realizes later in the novel, saved him from killing his step father when he hit him in the head with a fire poker.  When Ken tells Travis he has to move out of the house because he threw a phone across the room during an angry conversation with his mother and nearly hit Ken’s soon to be ex-wife and young son, he reacts by bursting into tears.  You know what the tough guy says?  “I thought you liked me.”  But he gets to stay, some other stuff happens and the book ends.

(A quick word on animals and their portrayals  in this book:  it’s effing weird.  Motorboat, Travis’ cat, is, vivid and interesting.  His need for something to do – whether it’s hunting mice, hanging out at the barn or receiving attention from Travis, he’s always on the move, or trying to be.  We don’t get quite as much information about the horses – except maybe the Star Runner, who is not bipolar like Travis; the Star Runner is just always pissed off instead of flying all over the place – and I could have done without the snake getting killed, despite it being one of the better written passages in the book.)

You have to wonder what Hinton did with the chapter where he talks to the school psychiatrist, who, after a few minutes of listening to Travis, interrupts to ask, “Has anyone in your family ever been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder?”  Admittedly, Travis is going through a tough time (though of his own making due to his total inability to manage his anger even a little bit) with moving to a new place, living a new life, unresolved curiosity about the father who died before he was born and his need for Ken to fill that void… maybe that’s enough to explain his erratic moods.  But I vividly remember a passage that goes something like:

When he was six or seven, he remembered thinking that teenagers were dumb and by the time he was twelve, he was dying to be one.  Maybe it was going to be like that.

While I will concede that turning thirteen is a milestone in any young man’s life, I can’t remember feeling (nor any guy conveying any feeling anywhere in the neighborhood of this) that I just can’t, just can’t wait to turn thirteen.  Sure, I liked birthdays, but what little kid doesn’t?  Turning twelve didn’t do anything any greater than turning eleven did for me, so I was pretty sure turning thirteen would be the same, and I was right.  I bring it up because I have a hard time finding the connection between the Travis that stole his mom’s Valium in sixth grade and sold it for the money to buy a type writer and the Travis that can’t wait to turn thirteen – or the Travis that is described as follows:

Even Travis knew the difference between a couple of swats and a beating.

fire-poker-taming-the-star-runner

Imagine getting his upside the head with one of THESE? Can you even imagine HITTING someone with one of these? Sheesh!

I should hope so – he’s sixteen and he wrote a damn book all by himself!  Not only is the character bipolar, but so are the descriptions of him.  Travis tells his mom that Motorboat likes hunting mice down by the barn – seems like a simple exchange, no?  Read on:

“Well, I’m glad he’s earning his keep.”

“Hey,” Travis said hotly, “I’m workin’ now, I’m giving Ken some board money.”

“Honey, I didn’t mean…”

Down, tiger!  I think she’s just making chit-chat.  But then you have these moments coupled with moments like these, it’s hard to know what to think.

Travis had read it, but not at school.  He just liked Robert Frost.

Yep, it’s not enough that he’s well read when it comes to prose, he reads poetry, too.  (It also comes up that Travis has read both The Iliad and The Odyssey.)  The poem that is referred to, The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, has been stuffed down my throat my whole life; I would think Travis had read it at school, but again, this is the pains to which Hinton went to paint Travis as a sensitive guy… who picks fights, drinks bourbon, smokes cigarettes and hit his step father in the side of the head with a fire poker.  By the end of the second act, he’s practically having a panic attack.  He seems pretty bipolar to me, and Hinton’s narrator isn’t helping any, so I guess you file that under the ‘unreliable narrator‘ section in your bookcase.

So, although I never really picked up on it before, I came away from this reading (my third for sure, but it’s possibly my fourth) of Taming the Star Runner with the idea that Travis has bipolar disorder and the 3rd person narrator is unreliable.  I guess I might be looking too deeply into the situation, as it is a book for teenagers, but then, it was over a decade between publications for Hinton and she tried a lot of other new stuff with this book, so maybe it’s safe to assume she was trying more than a teenager would catch on to.

My Rating:  4 out of 5

NOTE:  My copy says ‘Taming the Star Runner,’ but the Amazon files say ‘Taming of the Star Runner,’ as does the image at top right.  I have no idea which is correct – Wikipedia does not recognize the ‘of,’ and I guess it doesn’t really matter, anyway.

A Fly On The Wall: Michael Vick and Howie Roseman

NOTE:  Under normal circumstances, sports post fall under the umbrella of my Yankees blog, BomberBanter.com, but given the nonsensical nature of what  follows, CJ seemed like the appropriate home for this post.

Welcome to a new feature here at CreativeJamie.com: A Fly On The Wall.  The objective of this feature is to imagine what it would be like to hear some conversations that  may or may not have ever actually occurred.  I’m kicking off A Fly On The Wall with a conversation I assume took place between Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick and General Manger Howie Roseman after they were eliminated from the 2011 NFL playoffs by the Green Bay Packers.

michael vickVICK:  Thanks for agreeing to see me on such short notice.

ROSEMAN:  Of course, Michael.  You know, I’ve always liked to think of the Eagles organization as one big family – and the green innovations we’ve made here at the stadium will help keep our family and the greater Philadelphia area family a bit healthier while saving the franchise money.

VICK:  That’s not just good environmental planning, that’s a smart business decision.  The energy we generate but don’t use will earn us credit toward future energy consumptions next season.

ROSEMAN:  That’s right, Michael!  We don’t just have our eyes on championships – we also have our eyes on the future, and setting an example for the community is exactly what the Eagles are all about.

VICK:  Exactly – setting an example.  That’s what I can came to see you about.

ROSEMAN:  Oh?

VICK:  Yeah.  That game ending interception-

ROSEMAN:  Michael-

VICK:  That was my fault, I was forcing it. That interception sealed our fate – it’s my fault we lost the game.

ROSEMAN:  Just let it go.  It’s time to relax now and in a few weeks, to start preparing for another season.

VICK:  Preparing for another season?  I think we both know that’s not going to happen.

ROSEMAN:  What?

VICK:  We have to set the example here.  Losing can not be tolerated.

ROSEMAN:  Of course we never want to lose a game, but we did, and it’s over.  I don’t want to lose you, Michael.  We have every intention of resigning you.  I will engage your representation  with every intention of bringing you back here for another season of Eagles football.

VICK:  That isn’t going to happen.

ROSEMAN:  Why not?  What are you talking about?

VICK:  What you were talking about:  setting an example for the community.

ROSEMAN:  Oh come on, Michael…  that was mostly bull sh-

VICK:  This is serious.  Losing can’t be tolerated, and there is only one way to handle a loser.

ROSEMAN:  I think you need a drink.  Let me pour you a drink.  You like bourbon?

VICK:  Actually, there are several ways to handle a loser.

ROSEMAN:  Do me a favor and drink this, please.  Sit down and relax.

VICK:  You can hang a loser, electrocute  a loser, drown a loser-

ROSEMAN:  Let me just go ahead and take that drink back from you.

VICK:  Or you can beat a loser to death; that’ll work, too.

ROSEMAN:  <sigh> We’re not going to do any of those things, Michael.

VICK:  I won’t tolerate any losers in this family!  My intensity is for shit!

ROSEMAN:  Are you quoting The Breakfast Club?

VICK:  I’ve got to be number one!  Win!  Win!  Wiiiiiiiiin!

ROSEMAN:  Michael, get a hold of yourself!  We’re not going to execute you for losing!  That’s just not how things are done around here.  You need to go home, relax and for God’s sake, don’t talk to the press!

VICK:  Wiiiiiiiiin!

ROSEMAN:  Damn it, don’t blow this!  NFL fans obviously don’t care about the dog thing – you came in second in pro bowl voting, and you were leading until the very end!  That’s 1.5 million people that couldn’t care less about what you did.  And I bought the hippies off with all that environmental crap, which cost a fortune, by the way!

VICK:  Wiiiiiiiiin!

ROSEMAN:  And most people don’t even know about the other crap:  that truck of yours that your buddies were selling weed out of, that time somebody in your entourage stole the airport security guy’s watch, that women you gave genital herpes too – the Ron Mexico alias was a brilliant touch, by the way – look, all you need to do is go home, work out, avoid the press, donate some money to some animal rights groups and after school programs, and by the start of next season no one will even remember what you got in trouble for in the first place.  Shit, they barely remember now!  Just keep scrambling in the pocket, pick up some big runs and unleash that arm of yours, and, frankly, it’s all good.

VICK:  Losing can be tolerated?

ROSEMAN:  My dear Michael, anything can be tolerated if you’re good at sports… and I’m not just talking about cheating or doing steroids.  In July of 2009, The Examiner reported that 21 percent of NFL players had arrest records during the 2007 season.  So what if you engaged in interstate criminal actions while torturing and murdering the innocent?  You think anybody really cares?  I know I don’t!  Why should you?  In fact, if you and I have learned anything over the last few months, it’s that if you’re rich or talented or both, you can get away with just about anything.

VICK:  I went to jail.

ROSEMAN:  Yeah, but you got your life back!  It’s like it never happened.  Weren’t you just playing football on national television?  How many other convicted felons can say that?

VICK:  Well-

ROSEMAN:  Don’t answer that.

Unboxing My New Microwave

Consumer technology has always been something that has interested me, but I wouldn’t call myself an expert.  If I want an expert opinion on something, Engadget.com is the place to go without question, and these guys don’t just blog stuff, they unbox stuff.  Yeah, at some point, not only did ‘unbox’ become a word, it became a verb – I guess that beforehand, ‘box’ could only be a noun… unless you were fighting, but that’s a whole separate definition.

I digress:  unboxing is a whole genre of blogging unto itself, so I thought I would give it a try and the microwave my girlfriend got me for Christmas seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it a whirl.  Let’s rock:

Here's the box - previously, the microwave was in there, but now, I've taken it out - hence, unboxing.

Here’s the box – previously, the microwave was in there, but now, I’ve taken it out – hence, unboxing.

Here's the paperwork that the microwave came with... I'm sure I'll spend a lot of time reading this stuff.

Here’s the paperwork that the microwave came with… I’m sure I’ll spend a lot of time reading this stuff.

The microwave came with one of those glass-plastic sorta rotating plate thingys...  those are always helpful in terms of keeping your microwave clean - much easier to take this bad boy out of the microwave and throw it in the sink.

The microwave came with one of those glass-plastic sorta rotating plate thingys…  those are always helpful in terms of keeping your microwave clean – much easier to take this bad boy out of the microwave and throw it in the sink.

Panasonic NN-SD377 Microwave Oven

Some techno-babble about the microwave – look at this instrument panel!  Beam me up, microwave.  It’s a Panasonic NN-SD377 Microwave Oven and it’s 800 watts of pure microwaving energy; combine this with the fact that the device sits at gentile height, which pretty much guarantees I’ll be sterile – another bonus!  And it has a popcorn button!  I’ve secretly always wanted a microwave with a popcorn button.  But given that I don’t have any popcorn, I’ll give it a test run by heating up some water for tea… success!  It also has… uhm, you know, other buttons… that perform other functions.  So that’s nice!

Panasonic NN-SD377 Microwave Oven

Finally, in all it’s stainless glory, here’s the machine itself.

The other thing about getting this particular microwave is that it helps me complete my appliance rainbow:  now I have a white oven, a black toaster oven, a beige refrigerator and a stainless steel microwave.  I guess my kitchen doesn’t exactly look like a pottery barn catalog, but whatever.

I guess that finishes up the unboxing.  I hope this has been informative!

Mark Twain Is Smarter Than Alan Gribben

Twain was awarded a doctrine of literature from Oxford University... not exactly Auburn University, but still...

Twain was awarded a doctrine of literature from Oxford University... not exactly Auburn University, but still...

Alan Gribben is the English professor at Auburn University at Montgomery who suggested that NewSouth Books replace the word “nigger” with “slave” and the word “injun” with “Indian” in a new edition of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”  Mr. Gribben is quoted to have said, “even at the level of college and graduate school, students are capable of resenting textual encounters with this racial appellative.”

First, a word on advice:  know who you’re getting it from.  I’m sure Auburn is a great school, but check this out:

Auburn’s top-ranked football team, which is preparing to play Oregon in Glendale, Ariz., for the national title on Monday, has tumbled in the N.C.A.A.’s most important academic measurement to No. 85 from No. 4 among the 120 major college football programs.

I have no respect for schools that place athletic achievement above educational endeavors, and its looking like Auburn sacrifices standards and principles to win football games – so maybe they’re not the first school to run to when you have questions about American Literature Classics.  I’m also suspicious anytime a southern school has anything to do with ‘whitewashing’ American history.

Secondly, a word on Mark Twain:  he’s the greatest.  Haley’s Comet adhered to the man’s wishes… the man literally commanded the heavens:

“I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it… The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.'”

He died in April – it swung by to pick him up in May.  Oh, and he’s also generally regarded as the father of American Literature, so you can’t fuck with his words.  Changing Twain’s text is akin to saying you know better than Twain, and Mr. Gribben, lets not embarrass ourselves…  I doubt you have half of Twain’s intellectual powers on your best day.  Can anyone imagine Twain suggesting that some text from another excellent historical author should be changed?  Not likely.

Finally, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is about RACISM.  How can you take the racial slurs out of a book about racism?  Isn’t racial slurs a large part of the point?  “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” helps contemporary Americans see where we were, how far we’ve come, and how very far we still have to go.  Modifying the text is as bad as selling teeth whitener that removes the enamel along with the stain… it’s the kind of thing that will get you ridden out of town on a rail, tarred and feathered.

Don’t buy the modified version of “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn;” it’d be like denying your past.  We’re Americans, and we are who we are.  We never stop growing or changing; sure, sometimes folks come along who try to retard the process, but we’re smarter than them – sometimes you need to swab the knuckleheads off the deck of your river boat.

Captain America Comics For Sale

I’ve recently begun dividing my comic book collection into two sections: keep and sell. Given that the bulk of my collection is made up of Captain America comics, that seemed like a good place to start. Now given that Cap is my favorite of all comic book characters (sorry, Batman… you’re a close second), I’m not willing to part with any of my Captain America comics except the issues of which I have duplicates, and if you’ve ever quested to own every issue of a comic book series (and I own every issue of Captain America from 1968 to date, all volumes – booya!), you end up with a fair amount of duplicates. So, what follows is a list of all of the issues of Captain America that I have for sale. I’ll be selling these via eBay or direct PayPal invoice (I think that’s how you phrase it…), hence PayPal is the only method of payment accepted. In the interest of moving these comics quickly, I’m starting all auctions at $1 per issue – or contact me for PayPal direct invoice. (You can contact me privately via the comments section – the comments do not appear on this page unless I approve them, so your inquiry will be kept confidential and I will follow up with you via email.)

Captain America VOLUME 1

  • 138
  • 140 – ebay auction ends Jan 18, 2011 -16:29:31 PST
  • 150
  • 180
  • 181 (q = 2)
  • 183
  • 257
  • 269 (q = 2)
  • 272
  • 275
  • 277 (q = 2)
  • 282
  • 306 (q = 2)
  • 350
  • 365
  • 371
  • 377
  • 396
  • 397
  • 442
  • 451
  • Annual 11
  • 250 (mini pocket edition)
  • 255 (small size – came with an audio cassette I can’t find)
  • 113 (small size – came with an audio cassette I can’t find)


Captain America VOLUME 2:

  • 13


Captain America VOLUME 3

  • 1
  • 18
  • 24
  • 25
  • 39
  • 40
  • 49

Captain America VOLUME 4

  • 2
  • 7 (q = 2)
  • 8
  • 9
  • 12


Captain America: What Price Glory

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Ideas For Improving Disney World: Magic Kingdom Edition

While I’ve got the Disney World juices flowing, I thought I would mention a few things that bug me about the parks and take a crack at proposing some solutions.  In the interest of starting with a minor complaint, today’s edition of Ideas For Improving Disney World will start at the Magic Kingdom, where it can be a bitch to get around. Read the rest of this entry

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2010. That’s about 5 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 69 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 68 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 42mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was August 26th with 86 views. The most popular post that day was Attention Must Be Paid: Rattrap Bumpkin.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, cinemassacre.com, en.wordpress.com, lunarforums.com, and bomberbanter.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for creativejamie.com, dave matthews band, big whiskey and the groogrux king, vegan cheetos, and dave matthews band big whiskey and the groogrux king.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Attention Must Be Paid: Rattrap Bumpkin August 2010

2

Vegan Cheetos August 2010
1 comment

3

Fortune Cookie writers are over paid August 2010

4

Walter Bond: Vegan Knucklehead September 2010

5

Attention Must Be Paid: James Rolfe: The Angry Video Game Nerd and the Bullshit Man November 2010

Ranking the Top 11 Thrill Rides at Walt Disney World

mickey mouse clubhouse

Mickey chillin’ at his clubhouse, sans shirt.

For three years in a row, my girlfriend and I have taken the same vacation together to visit our good friend Mickey Mouse.  Sure, he’s a rodent and never says a word when we see him in person, but he’s really good about putting a shirt on when you drop in.  We could go somewhere else, but what type of rides will they have there?  What if the answer is, “Uhm, the Grand Canyon doesn’t have rides, sir…  well, maybe a scenic tour or something.  Or I could throw you into the abyss – no line, no waiting!”  That sounds a little bit too much like the Great Movie Ride to me…  at least the Studio Backlot Tour has water, air canons and fire.  Anyway, we keep going back to Disney World, and it’s still awesome.

(Quick Aside:  check out rankings for thrill rides at all Disney Parks here! )

Read the rest of this entry

5 Things You Do In Your Car To Let People Know You’re A Selfish Asshole

Because why let people speculate when you can prove it?doing makeup while driving

I’ve complained about Road Rage before, but today I spent a few minutes thinking about what specifically makes me angry while I’m in the car.  In no particular order, I give you 5 Things You Do In Your Car To Let People Know You’re A Selfish Asshole.

Adjusting Your Appearance
I know, I know… you were running late.  Got to comb that hair, smear on that makeup, apply more chap stick.  We’ve got to look our best, damn it!  I’m not just casting stones at the ladies; I see plenty of men working on their pho-hawks and what not while they’re driving.  Jeez, can’t you at least wait till you get to a red light?  I’m all about enerfficiency (a word I made up for a writing class assignment in college that combines energy and efficiency – to move in a way that accomplishes that most tasks possible during said movements), but lets not kill ourselves – or others, for that matter.

Driving Aggressively
Speeding isn’t a great thing to do, but if you must speed on the highway, it’s not really that big a deal:  get in the left lane and stay there.  Sure, you pass me going to so fast my car shakes, but whatever, I can deal with that.  But you other folks who are speeding and weaving from lane to lane (I love it when they signal – you’re doing 90 MPH, does it really matter?  By the time I see your signal, we’re both already dead!) in your endless quest to get to the end zone or whatever other weird fantasy you have playing out in your mind that allows your moral compass to put us all in mortal danger.

Talking On Your Cell Phone Without A Hands Free Device
I see everybody doing it:  men, women, cops…  everybody.  Then I look and see that there are children in the car.  That’s just fucking great.  So you’re putting us all in danger, setting a great example for the kids and you’re probably talking about bullshit anyway (“The Giants SUCK!”  “She’s such a BITCH!”  “Seriously, Deadliest Catch is AWESOME!”) that it makes the risk involved that much more ridiculous.

Riding An Exit Only Lane Until Right Before the Exit And Then Merging Back Into Traffic
I don’t think there is a better way to let other drivers know that you think that you’re more important than they are than riding the exit lane until the last possible second and than swooping back into traffic.  This tends to be what causes the traffic that self important assholes are trying to avoid in the first place – or the accident they cause when they merge back onto the highway without looking.  These drivers are that important – you should be looking out for THEM!

Blocking Traffic After A Minor Fender Bender
In fact, in 9 out of 10 fender bender accidents I see, the fenders aren’t even bent!  I’m really sorry somebody put a six inch scratch in your bumper, but let it go – and that’s why they call them bumpers.  It’s not that big of a deal.  Trade insurance information and be done with it, but for the love of all that’s decent and sane, get out of the damn street while you do it!  I love when people just stay on the highway, standing in between their two cars, talking on cell phones (not to each other) just waiting for some other careless driver to ram into the back of the car and crush the other two drivers between their cars – now you’ve got a whole other set of problems.  Better hope your teens didn’t steal the rest of the Percasets out of the medicine cabinet.

more Lists at creativejamie.com/category/lists/

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