Sunday, August 31, 2008

Movie Review: Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu

Every bit as strange as its name. Jackie finally gets out from under the thumb of Lo Wei by writing and starring in (but not yet directing) this action comedy. Saying the comedy here is a little broad is like saying Rosie O'Donnell is a little broad. This stuff is out there even compared to other Chinese comedies of the period, which aren't exactly known for subtlety.

Jackie stars as a layabout, whose dreams of being a martial arts expert come with soundtracks featuring Popeye's theme song and Isao Tomita scores! As he travels around the somewhat episodic plot, he pisses off various parties and picks up (for no apparent reason) a motley assortment of allies, including a younger wanderer with a penchant for fart jokes and an old beggar taking the Sam The Seed role. While the people around him do most of the actual work, Jackie mainly gets beaten up as he tries out the kung-fu moves he hears about while posing as a feared bounty hunter. He mostly survives out of pure luck, until late in the film, when he suddenly becomes more competent (but not any less of an asshole).

The plot here bounds from one place to the next without much thought to coherency, and in attempting to overcome the stoic nature of his previous roles, Jackie goes way overboard in the other direction in playing the buffoon surrounded by bizarre characters. Fight scenes are almost all played for laughs, and aren't anything special. It's better than many of his previous efforts, but you really have to be prepared to forgive a lot in the comedy department. He's trying to get to the point he would reach later on, but he still isn't there yet. Just one star. Next up: one last film before Jackie really hits the big-time, as he stars in Lo Wei's Magnificent Bodyguards.

Non-Money League #1 Draft

Wow - really disappointed with how this draft went. I used a different set of projections than my money league. But for some reason, the WRs seemed more highly valued here, even though this isn't a PPR league and the other one was. I also ended up on the short side of the QB runs. As a result, I've got a really mediocre team, especially in a 10-team league (picking from the 7-spot).

So I'm not expecting much here. That'll teach me not to mock draft a set of projections first.

QB: Eli Manning (10.04), Kurt Warner (12.04)
RB: Reggie Bush (2.04), Earnest Graham (5.07), Julius Jones (7.07), Ricky Williams (8.04), Mercury Morris (15.07)
WR: Randy Moss (1.07), Larry Fitzgerald (3.07), Brandon Marshall (6.04), Chris Chambers (9.07), Eddie Royal (16.04)
TE: Jason Witten (4.04), Owen Daniels (14.04)
D: Jaguars (11.07)
K: Nate Kaeding (13.07)

Now I have to decide if I want to pick up a third freebie team or not. Cause I don't think following this one is going to be much fun.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Movie Review: To Kill With Intrigue

Must...resist...bad jokes...based on...title...

Ah, screw it. To Kill With Boredom.

A lame soap-opera plot, mixed with some low-budget wuxia-type abilities, yielding a pretty bad movie. Another Jackie Chan/Lo Wei special, this one has Jackie (still billed as "Jacky") as a young man, Cao Le, who finds out his family is about to be attacked by a gang. They apparently expect to lose and all get killed, and so Cao takes steps to protect his pregnant girlfriend. Does he explain the situation and warn her away? No - instead he slaps her around a bit and dumps her, so she will run off to be with Le's friend. Unfortunately, his brilliant plan falls apart when he unexpectedly survives the attack, and he spends the rest of the film pining after his girl, who is spending her time pining for her lost boyfriend.

The leader of the attacking gang is a lady who was scarred by Cao's father years ago, and she now intended to torture Cao by...well, by keeping him alive, protecting him from other attacks, and then training him to defeat a late-revealed enemy. Yeah, it doesn't make much sense when I explain it either. There's also another sub-plot where Cao falls in with a group of delivery men who end up having a common enemy with Cao (there's lots of co-incidences like that in this film). Things get gradually more inexplicable and unbelievable (Cao is eventually forced to eat hot coals by his new trainer) until the final battle, with a sudden "The End" when the main bad guy is killed (oops, spoiler!).

There are a couple of nice fight scenes involving spears and other weapons (a later gang attack against Jackie is particularly good), but unfortunately most of the fight scenes have a couple of big problems. First, Lo Wei's wuxia dreams definitely exceed his reach in this go around. He seems to want to stick some vaguely supernatural abilities in many of his films, but here he goes overboard with reversed footage, jumps filmed from somewhere near the ground, very fake knife throws, cheesy sound effects - anything to make the actors look like they are really flying around. Most of these just don't work; they just didn't have enough budget or ability to make it look anything but lousy. Second, as part of the attempt to make the wuxia moves look good, Lo Wei keeps bringing the camera in close to the fighting - too close. You end up just seeing vaguely flying arms, pieces of tumbling bodied, but not enough of the action to really see what's going on.

So, besides the lousy plot and the lousy fight staging, was there anything else to recommend? No, not really. One star, and a definite step backwards for Jackie. Next up in the film festival - Jackie finally gets a chance to call more of the shots in the bizarrely-named Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu.

The Narrative Takes Flight

In May, I wrote:

I'm afraid this is now the argument going forward. There are plenty of legitimate reasons why one might support McCain or (gulp) Clinton over Obama. But that doesn't matter - if you don't support Obama, it's because you are a racist. If you attack Obama in any way, you will be accused of racial swift-boating.

While this narrative has been swirling around the lefty blogs for a while, it's now full-force into the leftist mainstream. This week's Newsweek:

What Will The Neighbors Think?
Obama's defeat would say that when handed a perfect opportunity to put the worst part of our history behind us, we chose not to.
By Jacob Weisberg | NEWSWEEK
Published Aug 23, 2008
From the magazine issue dated Sep 1, 2008


Many have discoursed on what an Obama victory could mean for America. We would finally be able to see our legacy of slavery, segregation and racism in the rearview mirror. Our kids would grow up thinking of prejudice as a nonfactor in their lives. The rest of the world would embrace a less fearful and more open post-post-9/11 America. But does it not follow that an Obama defeat would signify the opposite? If Obama loses, our children will grow up thinking of equal opportunity as a myth. His defeat would say that when handed a perfect opportunity to put the worst part of our history behind us, we chose not to. In this event, the world's judgment will be severe and inescapable: the United States had its day, but in the end couldn't put its own self-interest ahead of its crazy irrationality over race.

Nice use of logic there: (If (Obama victory), Then (Better America)) -> (If Not (Obama victory), Then Not (Better America)). What a moron. Hey, Jacob: you might want to study up on denying the antecedent.

Oh, and there's that "global test", again. Of course, it's now expanded - if you don't support Obama, it's not just you who is racist, it's the entire United States.

Well, thanks for the free pyscho-analysis, buddy, but you can keep your white guilt over on your side of the aisle. And while you're there, why don't you ask yourself this question: which number is bigger, the percentage of whites who won't vote for Obama primarily because he is black, or the percentage of blacks who are voting for Obama primarily because he is black?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

You Gotta Be Kidding Me...

Kay Freaking Bailey Freaking Hutchinson is on the short-list for McCain's VP slot?

My dog Bailey would be a better choice. And she's been cremated for about a week now.

Man...I gotta find me some off-shore accounts somewhere.

Via Hot Air.

I've Said It Before...

...and I'll say it again.

Why on Earth would anyone choose to live in California?

A tax for moving out of the state?
Good Lord.

It's a wonderful place to visit, but there is no way I would ever live there (and I did have the opportunity, once upon a time). I hope this is one California trend that Austin leaves far, far behind.

Via Ace O' Spades.

Not Quite Right

Well, this doesn't normally belong here...

Now underway - installing some of that pile of tile in the background into my bathroom, which means the toilet gets to spend some quality time in the garage. The prior owners of my house did their best, but even an amateur like me can see some real issues with how they did some of the repairs, so I'm expecting my first tile install to be quite an experience.

And after the bathroom comes the other bathroom, and the entryway, and the (gulp) kitchen...

DVD Spending Tab XVI

Got the follow-up to my previous purchase via eBay...

The Protector 2-Disc Ultimate Edition (starring Tony Jaa, not Jackie Chan) for $4.10.

Yearly Total: 10 movies, $33.21 total.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Movie Review: Shaolin Wooden Men

The latest Jackie Chan movie in our festival schedule is Shaolin Wooden Men, another Lo Wei directorial effort. In this one, Jackie plays a mute Shaolin student - the reason he doesn't talk is only vaguely referenced in flashback scenes and not fully explained until late in the movie. As is usually the case in Jackie's early movies, he isn't a particularly good student, until he meets up with more unconventional trainers. In this case, rather than a drunk wanderer, he gets his training from several teachers: a prisoner of the Shaolin temple, a female Buddhist nun, an ancient blind monk. He gets enough training to defeat the ultimate test, the titular Wooden Men, a gauntlet of robotic opponents. He then moves out of the temple, only to get involved in battling his former teacher, the prisoner, and a stranger, who may be the man from his dreams, his father's killer.

It seems like a lot of plot typed out like that, but really, there isn't too much exposition, since things move pretty much in a straight line. We get a pretty good series of training/fight scenes, with standouts being (of course) the battle against the Wooden Men, and a multi-person staff fight (although Jackie just watches that one from the sidelines). This leads to the inevitable showdown fight, which is a worthy ending, with multiple participants taking on Jackie, with hands and weapons. We are also now starting to see a better use of acrobatics in the fight scenes, so the overall effect is better than in the preceding movies.

It's kind of odd that they decided to make Jackie's character a mute in this film; he doesn't even get to silently do his usual moaning-from-self-inflicted-pain shtick. Instead, his character is a fairly humble, stoic type, a hard worker that for whatever reason needed a new set of teachers to reach his potential. But his wheelhouse is clearly being the young clown who emerges into a master fighter, and his early character here isn't nearly a clown. So we end up with a good film, but not a film that Jackie is able to elevate above that level.

I'm going to go ahead and make this one the first three-star movie on our festival's listing, since it mostly manages to avoid the cheesiness of the earlier films we've gone over. It's not a high three stars, but it is enjoyable. Next up: Jackie stars in yet another overly-serious role, in Lo Wei's To Kill With Intrigue.

Ooh, We've Been Mentioned On Telly!

I plan on watching approximately zero hours of coverage of both the Democrat and Republican conventions over the next two weeks; there's more important things to watch, like preseason NFL football. But I have been following some of the behind the scenes stuff from my list of conservative bloggers, and if the Las Vegas Sun (via Hot Air) is to be believed, the Democrats are so worried about Hillary supporters going nuts on live T.V. that they're thinking about getting rid of one of the three reasons anyone would even consider watching:

Democratic officials involved in the negotiations said Monday the idea is that at the start of the state-by-state vote for the presidential nomination Wednesday night, delegates would cast their votes for Clinton or Obama.

But the voting would be cut off after a couple of states, the officials said, perhaps ending with New York, when Clinton herself would call for unanimous backing for Obama from the convention floor. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity while the deal was being finalized.

There's really only three reasons to watch convention coverage these days. There's the acceptance speech by the candidate (eg. "reporting for duty"). There's (usually) a bomb-thrower-type speech (eg. "Poor George!" or "Spitballs?").

And then there's the roll-call vote, where viewers can eagerly watch until their state gets mentioned (eg. "Hello, Springfield!") and the anchors can keep their little tally board going until it reaches the "magic number". But apparently, the Party Of Unity can't quite keep it together this year, and so the country might sadly have to do without one of its cherished traditions.

I suspect we'll survive.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Money League Draft

Just finished the draft for my fantasy football money league. Picking from the 10 slot in a 12-team, PPR league. Lineup is QB-RB-RB-WR-WR-TE-RB/WR-D-K.

QB - Jay Cutler (8.03), Vince Young (10.03)
RB - Marshawn Lynch (1.10), Thomas Jones (4.03), Kevin Smith (6.03), Justin Fargas (9.10), Ahmad Bradshaw (11.10)
WR - Andre Johnson (2.03), Wes Welker (3.10), Santana Moss (7.10), Justin Gage (12.03)
TE - Tony Gonzalez (5.10), Randy McMichael (15.10)
D - Indianapolis (13.10)
K - Mason Crosby (14.03)

I went RB-WR-WR to start, which is not my normal pattern at all. But the projections I was using had a group of running backs that could be had a bit cheaper, so I went ahead and grabbed Welker in the 3rd. The result is that I have a whole bunch of backs with pretty good projections and relatively cheap prices, but not a lot of real game-breaker types. I may have a delimma this year in deciding on any given week between Thomas Jones, Kevin Smith and Justin Fargas. Or maybe one or more of them will bust, and my problem will be solved.

I had targetted Jay Cutler as my QB1; he's getting a lot of good buzz, but still isn't being picked particular early. Getting him in the eighth round is a steal, I think. And I panicked a bit on Gonzalez, but I didn't want to get left out of the possible elite TEs, especially in a TE-required PPR league. I think he was the fourth TE taken, and four is really all there was worth spending a good pick on.

I'll have to run a few numbers now, and I haven't had a chance to look at any other rosters yet to see how things compare. I don't feel like I made any big mistakes, but I don't think I really made any picks other than Cutler that would really pull me ahead. So this may still end up being a relatively long year for this squad.

On the other hand.......IT'S FOOTBALL SEASON, BABY!!!!!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Movie Review: The Killer Meteors

Fourth up on the Jackie Chan Film Festival is The Killer Meteors, another early supporting role for Jackie that is prominently marketed with his name, even though he isn't the hero and really only has a couple of scenes. 

Here, Yu Wang (Master of the Flying Guillotine) plays the titular Killer Meteor, a man so bad-ass that criminals chop off their own fingers rather than take him on. Killer Meteor is also the name of his secret weapon (which we are teased about many times before its appearance, and it's every bit as cheesy as it sounds). This is one of those "epic" stories where everyone has fancy names and supernatural skills (Iron Fist, Lightning Swords, Killer Meteor). He is hired by Wa Wu-Bin (played by "Jacky" Chan), an "immortal" who is being poisoned by his wife, Madame Tempest (probably should have known at the wedding based on that name that there was trouble ahead). He wants Killer Meteor to kill his wife, but he's also working for the local governor, and then there's Lady Phoenix who may or may not be working for Lady Tempest, and a criminal gang....there are inexplicable double crosses, characters introduced out of nowhere, and so on. Suffice it to say, this isn't the most coherent script ever written.

The fight scenes here aren't too bad. There is some imagination given to their staging, given that most of the characters have vaguely supernatural abilities. It's not quite the full-out flying around as in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon type films (for one thing, the budget is a lot less), but it does mean we get more than just men standing around in courtyards or clearings beating up on each other. We also see some different camera angles for a change too, including some nice overhead shots. And the ending fight taking place on poles - always a favorite, but why do they always agree to do it?

Not much for the Jackie Chan fan, though; one fairly nice fight scene early on, and then he disappears for quite a while before being summarily killed least for a while. Come to think of it, lots of characters are summarily killed off...for a while. Oh well.

Sadly, the overly convoluted plot line, especially early on, throws out any good flow from the overall concept and fight scenes. It's definitely a strange movie with good individual moments, more entertaining than the previous New Fist Of Fury or Eagle Shadow Fist, but still not a particularly good film. I'll be generous and give it two stars, but it's a low two stars. Next up: Jackie moves back into a starring role in Shaolin Wooden Men.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Movie Review: New Fist Of Fury

The Jackie Chan Film Festival continues with its third film, one that is well-paired with the previous Eagle Shadow Fist. Both movies are set in the Japanese occupation period (and thus are populated by "those evil Jap bastard"-type characters), both feature the early "serious" Jackie Chan, and both are really better left on the shelf. I can't really say this one is as bad as Eagle Shadow Fist - the production levels are quite a bit better, in terms of sets, actors and fight choreography. I don't know if this film had much of a budget, but it was more than Eagle Shadow Fist.

This is, of course, because it is a follow-up to Fist Of Fury, the Bruce Lee classic. But when Lo Wei's new star suddenly died on him, he decided to dip back into his pool of actors to find a replacement. And so there's several callbacks to the earlier film - breaking signs with flying kicks, prominent use of nunchaku, scratches across the face, that cool strobe effect when the hero waves his hands around. Oh, and those two still shots of Bruce that appear in the middle of the film for no particular reason. Subtle as always.

Of course, Jackie is no Bruce - he's Jackie (or "Jacky", as he is credited here). And so, although we still don't get the more comedic persona he would develop later, Jackie's character here is still a bit more lighthearted than Bruce's. He spends the first two-thirds of the film refusing to join the Chinese resistence, not because of pacifistic reasons, but because he says he doesn't know kung-fu and is too lazy to learn (he'd rather just be a thief). He then backs up his words by getting beaten up several times, including knocking himself out with a set nunchuku.

During the long stretches when Jackie isn't on screen, we get a plotline where the Japanese governor is attempting to take control of all of the local kung-fu schools. As usual in these films, there are collaborators; there are the naive, blustery talkers who get in over their heads; there are the active resistors; and there are those who just want to stay out of the way. Pretty standard stuff. Things proceed along the expected path until for some reason Jackie decides he's had all he can stands, he can't stands no more! He immediately joins the resistance, becomes a master fighter in a three-minute training montage, and kills the big boss.

Oh, and then as an odd coda, Jackie prepares to lead the resistance fighters on to "kill more Japs"....when he is suddenly ambushed and killed in a hail of bullets. The End.


On the whole, I still can't really give this film more than one star, although it is a marked improvement over Eagle Shadow Fist (which probably would be a zero if I went that low). It really would just be thrown in a pile with all of the other Bruceploitation films if not for the fact that Jackie eventually went on to success independent of Lo Wei. Sadly for us, those days are still in the future, for the next film on the schedule is another Lo Wei epic, The Killer Meteors, featuring supporting actor Jackie Chan.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Austin Pays UT To Study Liars

Well, that's not exactly how it was put, but that's the net effect:
Most of the people you see holding signs at corner just want to work, according to a study conducted for the City of Austin by researchers at the University of Texas. UT Researcher Laura Lein and her staff interviewed omore than 100 people soliciting money and food at street corners in Austin.

What they found was a drive to get back to work among almost all of them.

Ahem. Bullshit. I don't believe that for a second.
But researchers also found that there are significant barriers to achieving that goal.

Yep - the fact that it is easier for them to continue their "urban outdoorsman" lifestyle than to get a job.
"Over half had some kind of health condition or other problem that was preventing them from doing at least some kinds of jobs," Dr. Lein said.

Lein says that is especially bad, considering many of them used to do physical outdoor labor but couldn’t anymore because of their physical problems. She says some also didn’t have the basic tools to get a job, including a photo ID, and no real way to get one.

Really? The reason these people don't have jobs is because they can't get a photo ID?


Please - the reason these people don't have jobs is because they don't want one. At least, not the kind they are qualified to hold. But between government, non-government and casual (ie. people giving them money at street corners) sources of charity, it's just easier for them to stand around outside for a few hours than to actually pull themselves together, get a shower, and find a freaking job.

Are there people that truly can't do for themselves? Sure there are - but you don't typically find them pacing up and down medians during red lights. They are invalids at home, or in shelters. If you can drag your body down to the I-35 service road, you can find somewhere to push a broom. Or, God forbid, actually see about improving your skill set to get a better job somewhere.

There - that's my heartless conservative bastard moment for the day.


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Movie Review: Eagle Shadow Fist

Another "not quite a" Jackie Chan film. In this one, Jackie plays the young sidekick during the Japanese occupation of China in World War II. He manages to stick around almost to the end of the film before the Heroic Sidekick Death scene, but here he mainly gets to show how well he can take a punch and spit up fake blood.

Oh, and the hero tells him not to cry when he leaves his family to join the resistance. So yeah...not his best role, and basically one that doesn't show anything of his future direction.

Otherwise, we get a fairly standard and fairly boring "evil Japs" movie, where all of the Japanese characters are sadistic, (raping the women, extorting money from the old men, and in one amazing scene at the end, tossing children onto rocks to kill them!), and the Chinese characters are split fairly evenly among collaborators and oppressed. Only a small acting group (including Jackie and the hero) seem to have any desire to even try to stand up to the Japanese.

The fight scenes are of the short but cheesily-brutal variety, and many of them are just not well done. I haven't watched a whole lot of low-budget martial arts films, but this one had the most obviously pulled punches of any I've seen. And of course, a few hours after being run through the heel by a sword, the hero is taking on six opponents at once, with no signs of his earlier wounds.

There's not really much to recommend here at all. For completists only. One star.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Movie Review: Master With Cracked Fingers

First up on the Jackie Chan Film Festival schedule is....well, not really a Jackie Chan film. It's more of a "Sam Seed" film with some Jackie thrown in. Master With Cracked Fingers is one of those "Jacksploitation" movies, some miscellaneous Jackie Chan footage spliced together with some other newer footage to end up making some kind of generally incoherent mess.

This one's no different. Most of the splicing this time around features Siu Tien Yuen doing his shtick as the old master who trains the young man in martial arts through comedic torture. He would team up with Jackie in this role in Drunken Master and Snake In The Eagle's Shadow, but here he doesn't ever actually appear with Jackie Chan. Oh, he appears with the character of Jackie Chan, but he doesn't ever appear to have been in the same room as Jackie. Ah, the magic of editing. Instead, we get scenes of the Old Man torturing, er, training a young boy playing the prepubescent Jackie, and then Jackie body doubles the rest of the time. More often, though, there are just quick cuts to him apparently standing just off to the side, yelling things to Jackie like "Fly like a bird!" and "Now, strike!" while cackling to himself.

Oh, and we also get one interminable scene where he takes on a bumbling crime lord. This is a typically bad martial arts comedy scene, with broad overacting, Popeye sound effects (really!) and fart jokes. Yep, the crime lord is finally beaten here by flatulence.

As for Jackie, I don't know how many different film shoots were spliced in here, but there are at least of couple of different styles here. Some of the scenes have Jackie working with his adopted family as a waiter who is harassed by local thugs. His father doesn't want him to fight, but he wants to defend himself using the skills he was taught secretly by the Old Man. His father punishes these attempts with acts like forcing Jackie to put his hands into vats of broken glass (these wounds are of course healed almost immediately). Despite the odd punishments, this section is relatively light in tone, not near the comedic Jackie we would get a few years down the line, but not near the Bruce-Lee-lite style he was originally slotted towards.

Later, the redubbed plotline has the family leaving town, and now Jackie is suddenly a dock worker being harassed by, well, other local thugs, conveniently led by the man who killed Jackie's birth father years before. This leads to a fight on the docks, followed up with the final big confrontation between Jackie and his father's killer. This section veers all over the place in tone - it starts off fairly seriously, then swerves over to a broad comedic fight, and finally gets to a strange section where the fighters agree to wear blindfolds for some reason. Not that it makes a difference; the fight direction really doesn't take any notice of the blindfolds and the fighters act just as if they weren't wearing them at all.

And then finally the surgeon, err, director decides we've reached enough of a running time. The Old Man tells Jackie to go for the kill, Jackie strikes once, and the bad guy falls down. The End.

For the most part, this isn't really a very good film. Most of the fight scenes, particularly early on, are very "posed". Yeah, I know, all fight scenes are posed and choreographed, but in this early Chan effort, you can almost see the actors saying to themselves "now go HERE and DUCK and SPIN and..." as they work to hit all of the marks. The flow just isn't there for me. Things do pick up a bit once we hit the dock fight, with the fight choreography taking a little advantage of the environment instead of just having everyone stand around in a clearing, but you have to get through a lot of junk to get there. And as mentioned above, the big ending fight is more than a bit silly with the blindfold action followed by the overly-sudden ending.

So, all things considered, not a good start. I'm going to give this a generous two stars, but only barely. Next up on the schedule: Eagle Shadow Fist.

Monday, August 18, 2008

DVD Spending Tab XV

Not a Jackie Chan film this time...

Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior for $5.38 from Fry's

Yearly Total: 9 movies, $29.11 total.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Bailey, R.I.P.

Bailey's kidney problems finally caught up with her last night. She still had not been eating or even been remotely interested in eating all day. So I had been giving her some liquid food with a syringe, just to try to get something in her. But late last night, she was having a hard time getting comfortable, kept fidgeting around. It must have been something going real bad, because later on she started to have heavy, labored breathing, and it was clear she wasn't going to make it like that until Monday when she could get to see her vet.

So we headed off to the Emergency Animal Clinic to see if anything could be done to stabilize her, to which the answer was no. As it turned out, her tongue was blue and swollen, and besides her breathing issues she was also having heart issues. It basically was just a matter of too much toxins in her system - once the kidneys stop, there's not much to be done. The doctor on duty called me over to say it was time, and she passed away pretty quietly with me next to her.

I know she had a happy time around here, but it was too bad she had so many health issues. Eight is way too young for the kind of problems she had. But I know she made the most of what she had, and I'll miss her.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Dr. J Cometh

Just saw this ad on TV - Dr. J demonstrating his long-distance shot with an ice cube:

So, I get it - Dr. J, Dr Pepper. But if you're going to have an ice cube basketball shot, shouldn't you also get George Gervin in there somewhere?

You know...The Iceman?

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Jackie Chan Film Festival

I've been filling out my Jackie Chan library, and I've built up a fairly long list of unwatched films. So - time for a Jackie Chan film festival! I'll be watching all of the films I haven't seen, plus several I have but want to watch again. The line-up looks like this (the bold-face ones are ones I haven't seen before):
  • Master With Cracked Fingers (1971)
  • Eagle Shadow Fist (1973)
  • New Fists Of Fury (1976)
  • The Killer Meteors (1976)
  • Shaolin Wooden Men (1967)
  • To Kill With Intrigue (1977)
  • Half A Loaf Of Kung Fu (1978)
  • Magnificent Bodyguards (1978)
  • Snake And Crane Arts Of Shaolin (1978)
  • Snake In The Eagle's Shadow (1978)
  • Drunken Master (1978)
  • The Fearless Hyena (1979)
  • Battle Creek Brawl (1980)
  • Dragon Lord (1982)
  • Project A (1983)
  • Police Story (1985)
  • Heart Of Dragon (1985)
  • My Lucky Stars (1985)
  • Project A2 (1987)
  • Police Story 2 (1988)
  • Miracle (1989)
  • City Hunter (1993)
  • Crime Story (1993)
  • Drunken Master 2 (1994)
  • Thunderbolt (1995)
  • Rumble In The Bronx (1996)
  • Who Am I? (1998)
  • Gorgeous (1999)
  • The Accidental Spy (2001)
  • The Medallion (2003)
  • Rush Hour 3 (2007)

I've skipped over a bunch I've seen a few times (like Armour Of God and First Strike) or recently (like The Myth) or have no desire to see again (like The Tuxedo). But now that I look at the list, it looks like I've got a bunch of films to get through.

I'll try to post as many reviews as I can here (at least for those worth reviewing). And all of them will go into my overall rating list, which is over here at DVDTalk.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Another medical crisis for Bailey, and this time it may be terminal. Her last blood test came up very poorly, and it sure looks like her kidney issues have finally caught up with her. She's not eating much of anything, and what little she does eat she's throwing back up. I'm about to take her to the vet for some subcutaneous fluids, but I'm afraid the next time I take her to the vet, I might not be bringing her back.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Movie Review: Lucky Number Slevin

I'm gonna say the same thing any man with two penises says when his tailor asks him if he dresses to the right or left.

It may very well be that the last hour of Lucky Number Slevin is the greatest single example of motion picture artistry ever committed to film, that it solves world hunger, brings peace to all who gaze upon. So fine, it even makes the Obamassiah go "damn!".

I'll never know. Because the first hour of that film is so full of itself, so cutesy, so Tarantino-wannabee that I could barely stand to pull my way through it. And once our "hero", Josh Hartnett, playing a character that should have been killed on principle at least four times in the film just for being a smug asshole, speaks the above quote...

I clicked over to anything else. One star.

Movie Review: The Dark Knight

This isn't going to be a real detailed review - Lord knows there's plenty of those out there, and I've been on vacation for a week since I've seen this, so details are starting to drift away.

Short summary: I'm not sure I've seen a 2.5 hour film that was so packed full of stuff. There were so many little sub-plots and schemes going on that there really weren't many catch-your-breath moments, leaving you feeling exhilarated and exhausted at the same time as the movie ended. Even the three-hour-plus Lord of the Rings films gave viewers a little time to relax now and then. But here - we had the fake Batmen, the whole Reese-exposes-Batman plot, the cell-phone-radar, the two ferries, etc. etc. And those were really just attachments to the main Batman-Joker-Dent relationships. This film just started strong and kept building.

Yeah, there's lots of things to nitpick. I didn't really like the cell-phone radar thing towards the end - I felt it was a bit confusingly realized on screen, although it is a nice callout to the comic book Batman who employed a giant spy satellite at one time. And I'm not really sure how or why the whole "Gordon-is-dead" subplot was supposed to work - seems like a lot of work when the whole time the Joker wanted to be captured. And the entire Hong Kong sequence, while cool to watch, was completely superfluous.

But there was so many good things going on, and the positives far outweigh the negatives. I'm not going to list it as the best film ever (it was briefly listed ahead of Shawshank and The Godfather), but it's clearly the best new film of the year for me. I was going to rate it four stars, but you know, it's just a better film than the other four-star films I've seen this year (The Forbidden Kingdom, The Departed, The Prestige, etc.). So I've got to bump it up to five stars.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Vacation Notes

Just back from my vacation. And since I know you're all dying to hear how things went...


About a 12-hour drive each way from Austin to Gulf Shores, and with one big exception, the route was pretty clear and fast. That exception - Lake Charles, LA. Just west of town, they are doing a rebuild of a small section of bridge on I-10, not more than a quarter-mile section. To do this, they compressed all traffic on westbound I-10 down to one lane, resulting in a four-mile, one-hour-long backup late on a Saturday afternoon. The geniuses who set this up didn't give us nearly enough warning about the delay, no suggested alternate routes, nothing. Just hundreds of cars on both I-10 and I-210 sitting around.


The cheapest gas we saw on the trip was $3.39 near Houston. Most other cities were at least $3.60. And the nastiest Wendy's I've ever seen was the one we stopped at near Gulfport, MS - garbage cans overflowing, dollops of catsup on tables, nasty floors and bathrooms, just overall disgusting. And it takes some work for a fast-food restaurant to disgust me.


We had a smaller group this year, and so a smaller house, called "Summer of '42". All in all, a fairly average house - the common area was a bit smaller than I'd like, and there were a few "fit-and-finish" type issues. There was an outdoor shower, but no outdoor hose or doormats. Some dripping from A/C units inside. And so on. Not a terrible house, but we've done better in the past.


The beach was in very good shape, pretty much completely recovered from Hurricane Katrina a few years back. There wasn't much in the way of debris or seaweed, but we did have a few problems with jellyfish, primarily on one day. The first two days had fairly heavy surf (probably due to Tropical Storm Edouard, which formed just south of our area), not so good for fishing or kids but good for adult wakeboarding. After that, though, the surf calmed down and the kids had a pretty good time.

The fishing was a bit disappointing (for those members of our group into fishing - it's only a mild interest for me). It really only picked up the last two days, when our designated fisherman caught a stingray and a small shark, among other smaller fish. Nothing for eating, though.

Having red hair and fair skin, you might imaging that trips to the beach are fraught with peril. And you'd be right. I still remember back when I was a kid, one summer I got an amazing sunburn the first day out on the beach and had to curtail much of the outdoor activities for the rest of the week. So my parents took me out to see some sci-fi movie that had just opened that no one had heard about - which turned out to be Star Wars.

This year, H.E.B. (the main grocery chain around Austin) came out with their own store brand sunblock products, and had coupon deals to go along with the release. So, being the cheapskate that I am, I picked up a bunch. Sadly, I have to report that not only does it have a kind of strange odor (they apparently didn't go for the artificial coconut scent most others use), but that it isn't as sweat/waterproof as the major brands. I kept having to reapply more frequently than usual. So, H.E.B. Sunblock is denied the coveted A Site To Be Named Later Seal Of Approval.


I really only golf during holidays and our yearly beach trip. As usual, we had a couple of more "warm-up" rounds at the Gulf Links course, which is an executive, par-64 course. It's not bad, and the fact that it's a small executive course means we can get in whenever we want and finish quickly, to get back to the beach.

We finished up with a round at the Gulf State Park course, which is a full par-72 course, but still a fairly easy course. My goal here was simple - double-bogey golf. Yeah, I know - the actual golfers out there are scoffing, but I just don't play often enough to get better. I haven't ever broken 100, and the 110's are more my usual level, so double-bogey (a 108) was a reasonable goal. I had a little blow-up in the back nine, so I needed to finish bogey-bogey-bogey to get to 108, and I was pretty happy to make that.

And now the clubs go back in the garage until football season is over.


Not a stellar gaming week for me, as neither the cards nor the darts fell my way. I didn't do too badly at the start for darts, but I just can't get the bullys, and that means I can't close the deal on Cricket. We also had a Wii along, which was my first exposure to it. Frankly, I was a little underwhelmed. Wii Sports was pretty disappointing, as was Super Smash Bros. Brawl (and I'm a big Melee fan on my GameCube). Maybe we just didn't have the right mix of games along - didn't get a chance to see Madden.

The big surprise was Guitar Hero III. I've tried playing a few of these rhythm-type games before without either much success or much fun factor. But my first exposure to Guitar Hero III turned out to be a real blast. I got pretty far through several easy level songs and into the medium level in just a week's effort. And it was pretty fun in a group - even the seven-year old got into it. I'm not sure I'd actually go and buy a copy, just because neither of my game boxes (my Mac or my GameCube) support Guitar Hero III or any of the variants (Rock Band, etc.). But I'm at least a little tempted.


Knowing that Shiner would likely be few and far between in Alabama, I brought along a "Family Reunion" pack from Costco, containing four each of six different Shiner varieties. Sadly, none of the new (to me) brews will be going into my rotation - the Shiner Blonde, Light and Spezial Leicht were all just OK, but not up to the level of the Bock, Bavarian Black or Helles Lager. The Hefeweizen probably sneaks in as a good alternate.

As for the Miller Chill my mom brought along - eeeeeeeeyuck. Miller Swill.

What, No Back Massages?

Via Michelle Malkin, the Los Angeles city council has done what the Austin city council wishes it had the gumption to do - mandate home improvement stores (meaning Home Depot and Lowes) to not only provide a place for day laborers (including illegal aliens) to be picked up, but to actually make it a nice place:

The shelters would have to be easily accessible and equipped with drinking water, bathrooms, tables with seating and trash facilities.

Home-improvement stores would also be required to develop a security plan in consultation with the Los Angeles Police Department.

This was on the local Austin political radar a few years back, when a Home Depot actually had the temerity to want to exert some control over private individuals using Home Depot property for their own purposes. The sheer gall! Fortunately, the city council showed its usual amount of steadfastness by pussy-footing around, making vague threats to Home Depot, and eventually doing nothing (which is of course usually the best outcome one can expect from the Austin council).

But maybe the thought of falling behind not only San Francisco but Los Angeles (now two-for-two after the Fast Food Ban) on the Progressive Sensitivity Scale will cause local activists to try again.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Oh, But Before I Go...

I had forgotten that in flipping by C-SPAN this morning, I saw a reference to my very own U.S. Congresscritter, Michael McCaul.

Now the only usual impact this guy has on my life is when his automated phone machine calls me and I have to hang up on it. I'd almost rather get email spam from this guy than have spam phone calls - the telephone is probably the most intrusive medium there is (outside of popup windows).

But I saw this morning there was a vote on an amendment he presented (although I don't see a link to it anywhere yet). It calls for a prohibition on funding federal buildings and such that are named after current sitting members of Congress.

Needless to say, I'm for it. First of all, it contains the words "prohibition on funding" - anything that restricts the amount of money these guys can spend, I'm in favor of.

Second, it will probably single-handedly bring down the economy of West Virginia, which is based around two industries: coal mining, and buildings named after Robert Byrd. (And keep in mind - that web site is proud of the number of things he's managed to finagle the money for. Pork - it's what's for breakfast in West Virginia!)

So I'm glad to see something useful coming out of the Congress. Lord knows, there ain't much of that these days.

And...I'm Off

More off than usual.

Heading off on my somewhat deserved vacation, after a brief stop to see The Dark Knight in all of its IMAXy glory at the Bob Bullock Museum. I've decided (wisely) not to take my laptop with me - I wouldn't really get anything done, and I'd probably just get sand in the DVD slot.

So instead of me talking to myself for a week, you'll all have to talk to myself by yourselves.

Errr, or something. Whatever.