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October 18, 2004

Team America

So, went to see Team America yesterday.

While I enjoyed watching the puppetry, and some of the basic satire presented, it seemed like a less-than-stellar performance for Trey and Matt.

I’ve been a South Park fan since the show started. I saw Orgazmo and BASEketball in the theater and rental numerous times. I’ve always loved the irreverant wit and outrageous satire presented by these guys.

Team America, by contrast, seems like something which could have been presented in under a half hour but instead stretched out into something which became so thin at times it broke apart.

It had its funny moments, but overall I just thought the jokes came too far and in between for my liking.

October 31, 2004

What the #$*! Do We Know?

I don’t remember where I saw the preview. However, about 6 months ago I do remember hearing about the movie What the #$*! Do We Know? and thought it would be something to see when it came out. As luck would have it, I was looking up the showtimes for Primer and saw that What the #%*! Do We Know? was starting in 15 minutes. So, I threw on some clothes and drove down to the theatre.

I really didn’t know what to expect when I sat down. I knew I had heard about it before; that it dealt with the combination of science (mostly quantum mechanics, with a little bit of neurophysiology thrown in) and philosophy.

Possible Spoilers Ahead

Continue reading "What the #$*! Do We Know?" »

November 22, 2004

Dispatches from the Front

I’ll be writing a bunch of journal entries as I have time and getting them up as soon as possible.

Headlines:

  • I’m feeling about a 9 out of 10. Still tender, still feeling a bit rundown.
  • Durand Family Turkey Day was a hit. Had issues with the turkey and the cranberry sauce, as well as being disappointed a second time with the gravy.
  • Excited to leave for my trip
  • Got a lot of crap to do before I leave. 1.5 days of work I missed plus my work today condensed into 6 hours.
  • Still need to pack, but everything should be washed and dry by the time I get home.

November 29, 2004

Does This Count As A Career Goal?

Someday I want to have a job with power like they do in all the old movies featuring the military or senior business professionals.

I want to be able to reach over, pick up the phone and instantly be able to utter, “Get me the President!”.

‘course, the “President” part of the statement could be changed to almost anything…the important thing is that my time is SO important that there is someone constantly listening for me to pick up the phone and request to be connected to someone.

I wonder if this was merely a dramatic device or if it was reflective of the state of affairs at the time. Were there really people who had so little time on their hands that their secretary was listening for them to utter a connection request with no notice at all?

Regardless, I want this kind of job!

December 28, 2004

Yamaha the Hydra

So, finally, after much teeth gnashing and a few cramps in my fingers my new Yamaha YHT-450 is finally installed, sans the rear center speaker. (I’ll have to hook up the remaining speaker after I get a mount for it, but the wiring is already run so it should be nearly mount ‘n play!)

Took me about 6 hours in total, from 3pm in the afternoon Sunday to 9pm that night. All six speakers needed to have their speaker wires cut, split and stripped from one gigantic spool provided with the system. The rear three speakers caused a bit of head scratching, until I realized that I could run the wires on top of the blind valences over my two patio doors. That hid the speaker wires quite well, and kept them out of the way, and as it worked out the provided spool gave me almost the exact amount of wire to accomplish this setup.

As I hooked up my components, I decided to switch back to my previous DVD player, my old reliable Toshiba SD-3109. I had purchased a new Samsung DVD player a few years ago, since I wanted to be able to read burned CDs and the Toshiba is unable to handle any burned CDs. Over the years I haven’t amassed the large number of burned DVDs I thought I would have - and the annoying layer transition pause on the newer DVD player is around a quarter second. The old Toshiba accomplished its layer transition almost instantaneously.

Because I wanted to “experience” the cool Dolby/DTS sound with my new system, I picked up an optical cable for my DVD player from Target. A word to the wise - I managed to get a 12 ft optical cable from Target for 40% less than Best Buy was going to charge me for a 6ft cable! (And that’s the non-Monster cable versions!)

After getting everything hooked up, I was pleased to find out that the Yamaha remote had all of my components covered but one - the Tivo. No problem, I thought to myself, since the Tivo remote could be programmed to support controlling the A/V system. The “supported” solution allows you to control the mute and volume controls through the A/V system. There is also an “undocumented” solution that SHOULD allow you to power on/off the A/V system with the TV. Unluckily, due to either the specific Yamaha codes necessary or the fact that I’ve got a Sony-made Series 1 SVR-2000 Tivo I can’t get this trick to work with my setup. Luckily the volume and mute still work, at least.

After going through the setup, I “initiated” the system with Fantasia 2000. A perfect disc to highlight the new audio setup, and boy, did it make a huge difference! It really makes a huge difference in the soundtrack! Yay!

Last night I watched the Matrix, my first DVD and the reason I got my first player back in ‘99, in the full surround sound setup. Absolutely wonderful! It was almost as big of a change as when I saw my first DVD after watching VHS the rest of my life.

December 29, 2004

Garden State on DVD

Picture of Garden State DVD Cover I totally forgot until NewT and I were at lunch today discussing Scrubs that Garden State came out on DVD yesterday! I made her drive me over to Target so I could pick up a copy before coming back to work. Yay!

March 30, 2005

Highlights of the Day

  1. I finally got around to checking out the Best Buy Weekly Ad and I found out that Orgazmo was finally released on DVD! Picked it up over lunch…watched it after I got home tonight. I’ve rented it so many times over the years I know the movie by heart…it is wonderful to finally have a DVD version with all the extras.
  2. Review today at work. Went well, very few surprises. As my boss said, he’d tell me well before now if I had been doing something incorrectly or inappropriate. Received very high marks on both communication and problem solving - considering I feel these are my two strongest professional aptitudes I was happy to see that they were recognized.
  3. Waking this morning to a great spring rainstorm was refreshing. Great to see all the leftovers of winter get washed away, everything getting ready for growth once more.
  4. Getting ready for a busy next 72 hours:
    • Drop off my parentals at the airport 5:00am Friday morning
    • Aunt’s 50th Birthday celebration Friday night after work
    • Leave Saturday morning for a quick trip to Dallas to help my Sister and Bro-In-Law move into their new home

April 3, 2005

Texas 2005: Movin' & Shakin'
Painting, Weinerdog Sensors and More!

Today was a busy day around the Texas Durand Family Compound.

First off, Michelle and Davin unpacked the kitchen. Since I really didn’t know where anything went, I asked for a project to keep myself busy and was handed the task of priming and then painting the pantry shelves.

As many readers know, painting is one of the least enjoyable tasks I can be assigned. I’ve never been able to get the hang of it, I guess. I either put on the paint too thick, too thin, leave unpainted corners, spill the paint…if you name the painting-related malady, I’ve experienced it. Luckily, the assignment consisted of some simple MDF pantry shelves, none of which would regularly be seen by anyone (including Michelle and Davin) since they would be covered by foodstuffs almost immediately after installation.

By the time I finished both the primer coat and the paint coat, I felt a bit more confident in my painting abilities. Having a forgiving project took the painting job from being a detail-oriented job and turned it into something I could experiment with a little. I tried both using a roller and a brush, lots of paint with infrequent fill-ups, a little paint at a time, different patterns, etc. In the end, only one shelf came out less-than-ideal…not too shabby if you ask me, considering the confidence I had going into the project!

There were many other tasks to be done around the house. I helped my Sister piece back together their home office desk, installed switchplates throughout the house (which had been removed during all the painting that Michelle and Davin had done prior to my arrival) and explained how the sprinklerheads could be adjusted on their in-ground sprinkler system.

The most notably install of the day were the motion sensor-activated lights in the backyard for both humans and dogs at night. Michelle and Davin had previously picked out three different lights with the idea that each light would cover a third of their L-shaped backyard. They already had some “craptacular” external lights right next to either end of the L, which made installing the lights in those locations a piece of cake. I did the first light, explaining what I did to both Michelle and Davin, then Davin put up the second light. Later after dark, Michelle made the executive decision upon auditing the install that a third light at the angle of the L wasn’t necessary.

We finished off the busy workday with a hearty dinner at Babe’s and a viewing of Orgazmo. We had Babe’s the last time I visited, back in November, and it was just as good as I remembered. Excellent chicken, perfect mashed potatoes and wonderfully creamy gravy. MMMM!

April 4, 2005

Texas 2005: Movin' & Shakin'
Anchors Away

Today was “Wall Day” at Casa De Durand.

“Why Wall Day?” you might ask.

Well, almost the entire day was spent hanging things up on walls.

  • New vanity lights in the master bathroom. This required a bit of electrical as well, but anchors came into play in order to provide a solid mount for the new pair of silver 4-bulb lights, one for each washbasin. Mimicking the previous day’s efforts with the motion sensor lights, I installed the first light while my Sister installed the second.
  • Hanging new shelves in the study. After Davin and I planned out the placement of the supports, he did most of the work hanging the rails from which the cantilevers hook into to support the shelving. We got away with only one set of anchors being used for the middle rail…the remainder were all installed directly into studs, providing much better support for the piles of books planned to be shelved in the office.
  • The previous homeowners left behind most, if not all of their window treatments. All of them had been taken down to facilitate the painting that had been going on around the house over the past week or so. Considering the forecast for tomorrow is for a warmer day, it will be nice to have shade from the sun beating down on us.

Besides the vertically orientated projects, we also found time in the day to go buy Michelle and Davin a new lawnmower, compliments of my Aunt and Grandpa. We also returned the unused motion-sensing lamp from yesterday, exchanged it for a variety of lawn and garden implements. Davin and I also finished off the custom-cut MDF shelves for the rails we installed earlier in the day by ironing on the finishing trim on the cut sides.

Davin and I got some one-on-one time when my Sister left for a bit to attend a work-related function. It is so wonderful to have him in our family. I never had a brother while growing up, but I’m so comfortable around Davin it seems like we’ve known each other for a long time now. My Sister could have picked any number of people to marry, I suppose, but I doubt anyone would have fit so well, not only with her, but with the rest of the family as Davin.

Lunch was another visit to Chick-fil-a, which suited me just fine. I love the fact that Michelle and Davin are such great fans of the chain as well…makes it easy to visit ‘em many, many times during my visit. Dinner was pizza from Cafe Tuscana, an Italian restaurant here in Carrollton. I didn’t care too much for the sun-dried tomato and goat cheese pizza Davin and my Sister ordered, but I loved the canadian bacon and fresh tomatoes that I ordered. Yum!

We finished the day consuming pizza while watching the “Space Mutiny” episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, my favorite episode of the entire run. Both Davin and I were in stitches as we reveled in the blaring continuity errors and horrible “com-PUTE-r” graphics. Ha!

April 23, 2005

I Will Know I've Arrived When...

Someday I want to be in a position like the military generals were in old movies.

I want to be able to pick up the phone and shout out, without pause, the phrase “Get me the President!” and have it actually work.

Sure, right now I can do that at work…but all I hear back is dialtone.

I know for this to work there would have to be someone there, waiting for me to shout out the order, 24/7. Heck, I’d even take 8/5 availability.

When I have a job where that works, I’ll know I’ve arrived.

UPDATE: OK, so I know this is nearly a dupe of this post, but I just couldn’t help but mention it again!

May 19, 2005

Star Wars Episode 3

Closeup Image of Movie Sign

I just got home from the midnight show of Star Wars Episode 3. Alanna, my long time movie buddy, and I went to see it on the UltraScreen at Marcus Cinema’s Oakdale 17.

I’ll do a full write-up tomorrow…but I agree with much of what I’ve heard from critics and the few fans that got a sneak peek alike…this is, certainly, the most exciting and fun Star Wars movie of the most recent 3 episodes.

It was a great show. I’m no huge Star Wars fan, (unlike my Bro-In-Law, who wrote up this thoughts here), but I do plan on seeing this one again. ‘specially on the ultra, Ultra, ULTRASCREEN! Heh heh heh…

Star Wars! (Yes, this one deserves an exclamation mark!)

No spoilers, in deference to all my friends who haven’t made it to the movie yet.

Judging from the quantity of toys I have from my childhood, I used to be really into Star Wars. As I grew up, the toys were put away and I moved onto other interests. When Episode 1 came out back in 1999, I realized that there were still many, many people around me who still were into it - much to my surprise.

I went to the midnight opening of Episode 1 with my then girlfriend, Briana, Alanna and her buddy. Alanna and I were originally gonna go together…but when I fell head over heels for Briana, and she told me how excited she was about Episode 1, I knew we’d have to be more inclusive. Alanna took this pretty well…spent most of the evening making fun of Briana and/or myself…least I know I deserved it after Briana dumped me a week or so later…but that’s a whole other story.

Alanna At The Movie So, it was quite cool when she sent me a message about a week ago explaining she had an extra ticket for Episode 3’s opening midnight show at the the Marcus Cinema’s Oakdale Theatre 17 on the UltraScreen. Alanna and I always get along really well when it comes to movies…best movie buddy I’ve ever had, I think. We have similar interests, but we’re always exposed to different films than the other, so we drag the other along to it.

We got there about an hour before the show…they had costume contests, trivia contests and lots of lines. ☺ Alanna managed to score us some pretty slick seats in the UltraScreen theater while I was out getting some snack bar items. Around midnight a manager came in, thanked us for our patience and explained to us that there were over 3000 people at just that theater alone watching Star Wars at midnight. Then the house lights dimmed and the previews began.

Star Wars Beginning Rolling Text The showing was flawless…I can’t say enough about the UltraScreen theater. You could actually feel the concrete under your feet vibrate just before a big star cruiser came onto the screen. All the normal surround sound, all the normal big-screen viewing, just more of both!

Like I said before, no spoilers here. Nevertheless, I will say that I really enjoyed the movie as well as the presentation. Answered just enough questions to tie everything up in a neat package…but still quickly paced and action-filled. I look forward to going to see it again… ULTRA or not! ☺

Star Wars Funnies

Considering the current Star Wars theme around here as of late, which is likely to change after tonight’s inaugural WAKA Kickball Twin Cities game, I thought I’d take a moment to link to a few wonderful nuggets I’ve been introduced to in the lead-up to Episode 3’s release.

First, we have StoreWars. This is a wonderful spoof of the original Star Wars movies from the same group that brought us The Meatrix, both of which attempt to inform the viewer about organic and family farm issues.

Secondly, there is The Darth Side: Memoirs of a Monster. A blog written from Darth Vader’s point of view, set in the original movies once again. Quite humorous at times, other times quite informing.

Amazing what fans will put together when they really set their minds to it. Just like Troops from years ago, fan work is sometimes more entertaining than the original work.

June 21, 2005

Father's Day

This year for Father’s Day, we all headed over to the Minnesota Zoo’s IMAX Theatre to see Batman Begins. The place was packed, concessions were slow (on Father’s Day you may want to have more than one poor woman working the concessions!) but the movie presentation was flawless. I still believe that the UltraScreen where I saw Star Wars is bigger (and probably better) but the IMAX screen was still great.

On top of that, I think Batman Begins is an excellent feature. It basically had the same job Star Wars Episode 3 had…explain how we get from point A (Bruce Wayne’s parents are shot when he’s a child) to point B (Bruce Wayne as Batman, defending the city of Gotham)…but it did it in a much more entertaining and thoughtful manner.

Afterwards, the clan headed over to El Loro (review), had a great mexican meal and opened presents. Both my Dad and Grandpa took in quite the haul, but the highlight was certainly my Grandpa getting his very own iPod Mini. I don’t think he quite knew what to make out of it at first, but if you’ve read any of my previous articles on the man, you’ll realize that my Grandpa is still a gadgeteer at heart.

I went over to Grandpa’s house on Tuesday night and showed him the ins and outs of iPod usage. He picked it up right away, as I might have guessed, and only got tripped up by the hierarchical menu system. (I have a feeling, if the display could handle it, he’d be well served by standard breadcrumb navigation at the top of the screen)

Happy Father’s Day to both my Dad and my Grandpa. (Picture from YEARS ago, obviously!)

Picture of my Grandpa, Father and Me back around 1991

July 17, 2005

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

I went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the Minnesota Zoo’s IMAX Theatre on Sunday afternoon with Kelly. The place was packed…indeed, the combination of the 95+-degree weather outside and the number of people inside caused the theatre to get a bit warm by the end of the show, but I heard no one complaining. We were all fully immersed in the movie’s experience.

I say experience ‘cause it wasn’t just an entertaining movie from the plot/character perspective…it was also a beautiful film to watch. Glorious colors filled the screen when we moved from room to room in the factory…the chocolate waterfall room, filled with the greenest grass and the brightest candy apples…to the television room, which was the whitest white you could ever imagine. Outside the factory, things were drab in their drabbiest way…especially Charlie’s home.

I appreciated that this film wasn’t exact remake of the previous version with Gene Wilder. There were no remakes of the classic songs from the originally, which meant I wasn’t sitting there singing along to a song which “didn’t quite seem right” and I thought the new music matched the visuals perfectly. I felt that the characters were better developed as well, especially Willy Wonka. I actually understood why he was behaving the way he was - in the earlier version, I was confused as to why he had behaved in many of the ways he did. I got the “creepy” vibe from Depp’s performance, but not in that “Michael Jackson” kind of way everyone was so worried about. I also appreciated the way the characters had a much better understanding of what was going on around them. For example, after a particularly entertaining Oompa-Loompa song that mentioned Augustus Gloop by name, Willy Wonka had to deflect questions from the characters about why the song seemed “so well rehearsed” for something that was an apparent accident.

While I’m sure there will be plenty of people disappointed by this new interpretation of an old classic, I for one enjoyed it quite a bit. In a lackluster summer movie season, I think I can safely say that this has been my favorite general-release movie so far.

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