This Day In History: 03/27

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

It was flute night at the O.K. corral last night. Of six pieces on the New Music Ensemble concert, five involved a solo flutist, and three of those were for solo flute. Apparently we're not supposed to call them flautists anymore -- when I corresponded by e-mail with the flute professor at Tech last year, I got this reply:

    "First of all, I don't use the word 'flautist'. This term was very much 'in vogue' some time ago, but has fallen out of polite usage in recent times. It is considered an affectation in the English language, and should be reserved to describe those practitioners of the instrument who play in an affected manner. Europeans, on the other hand, are not near as sensitive about such matters as are we Americans. (Don't we all take ourselves too seriously!)"

I guess, like Gordon Korman, we should all just start calling them "flute-guys".

I finished the last of my pedagogy analysis this morning after my weekly grocery shopping trip, so other than the grade-school-style notebook to be turned in at the end of the semester, I don't have any pedagogy projects hanging over my head. After the jazz history test next week, I hope to spend the remainder of the semester listening and writing, especially since I don't do nearly enough of the former.

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Thursday, March 27, 2003

I was having problems with file locks last night, but thankfully managed to blow up the perpetrating file this morning, rather than having to reinstall my OS. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

The new Zelda game for the GameCube is pretty fun so far. The new cartoon-y style is a little jarring at first but feels natural as you start playing. Controls are very similar to the N64 titles and the story and dialogue are very polished. I haven't run into any obnoxious activities thrown in only to prolong the game yet, and the Japanese stereotypes of American slang are at a minimum so far.

Today's dictation examples were the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and Scarborough Fair. A surprising portion of my students knew all the words.

Girl beats off snake to save her pussy
WWN has a slow day
Stupidity strikes twice
Washington Post discovers that playing the tuba makes your lips chapped

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Saturday, March 27, 2004

Today is moving day, so there will probably not be any new updates until I'm reconnected to the Internet at the house. Have a good weekend! Watch Alias tomorrow and help maintain its #2 ranking in the 18-35 demographic!

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Go Go Gadget Gadgets

In the 1997 movie, Conspiracy Theory, Jerry Fletcher tells Alice that he has an uncontrollable urge to periodically go to the bookstore and purchase a copy of Catcher in the Rye but doesn't know why. As a larger life lesson from the movie, I think this applies to all men and their gadgets. We're always obsessed with the latest and greatest doohicky at Brookstone and go through electronics like women go through shoes. I am pretty good about resisting the little voices that tell me I should own an iPod Nano and an iPod Pico, but I'm not completely immune to this gender-based syndrome (see also, my Roland SC-8850). I can go for months without a new gadget, but once I've finally made the decision to blow my cash on one, I purchase quite quickly.

Having never owned a handheld gaming system since the original monochrome Gameboy (complete with two vertical bars of pixels busted right down the center of the screen), I'd had my eye on the Gameboy DS for a couple months now. I was originally going to wait until the "Nano"-style version came out, but the latest word around the Nintendo water cooler pegged it for a June release, and I could have died in a tragic tuna fish mishap by then. So I picked up a Gameboy DS this weekend when I was sorely in need of a break from Java Certification work (which is progressing right on schedule).

Here is a picture of the DS on the desk in the electronic cortex of my home, the office. To give you something to compare its size to, I have placed it next to a frozen Banquet Chicken Pot Pie. If you are not used to judging size through frozen food products, the Gameboy DS is roughly the diameter of a reasonably healthy grapefruit picked at the height of the growing season in late October. The number and orientation of buttons matches the old Super Nintendo controller, and thankfully uses the old-fashioned cross-shaped pad for directions, rather than the retarded "thumb joystick" that all of today's game consoles employ, which requires such precision when moving that Mario will run off every cliff and be eaten by a mountain lion, even if you compensate for the horrible 3D camera obviously coded by a one-eyed monkey.

The DS stands for "Dual Screen", because its gimmick is a two-screened fliptop. The top screen shows the action, while the bottom screen provides ancillary information like maps and stats (some games also use the bottom screen as a touch pad and the DS comes with a stylus for writing chat messages over its Internet connection). There were three major reasons I decided to purchase this now instead of four months from now:

  • Nintendo consoles work on a set schedule: The first two years see regularly released fun games, with few bad apples (think Mario Trout Fishing or Donkey Konga 4: Play with your Feet!). The next year sees very few games released, yet the company president assures everyone that he hasn't forgotten about the console yet. After that, the latest console is unceremoniously dumped for the next generation model, which probably won't come out for another two years anyhow. The GameCube (which I own) is currently in the latter period, so it's become increasingly hard to find worthwhile games to play.
  • Now that I come home from work and do Java Certification work, I regularly spend ten to fourteen hours a day on a computer. This does not make my hands happy, so it's medically worthwhile for me to have a gaming outlet that puts my hands in a different orientation from mouse/keyboard.
  • No matter how fun it still is, you can only play so much World of Warcraft in a given day. (I now have a level 31 warlock that I started last week).

I'm sure the DS Lite will be so cool that I'll buy it as well, but I can justify that by giving this one to a friend and then playing head-to-head Tetris all day long at the beach (seventeen weeks left!). In the meantime, I've been taking breaks from coding with Mario Kart DS which is just as fun as the original Super Mario Kart was. I also have Mario and Luigi and Nintendogs shipping out from Amazon, because I have to abuse my Amazon Prime trial membership to its fullest. I purchased Nintendogs because it's gotten great reviews, and I figure it'd be nice to own a dog but never have it jump on me and be able to turn it off whenever it annoys me. Maybe it will also give me dog-practice for Kim, who lives in an apartment and seems to have an insidious master plan to make me get a German Shepherd with visitation rights since she can't own one at her place.

I am onto her tricks though.

Toy planes cause goats to faint from exhaustion
Walkout from conveying poop
Break the law and live by the beach

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Newsday Tuesday

School prohibits use of Myspace site

...students were informed recently that under a new school policy, Think First, Stay Safe, the use of MySpace.com will be prohibited at school and at home. The policy states that students enrolled in the school can't have a MySpace.com account or any similar type of personal site...

I support this ruling wholeheartedly, but not for the reasons you might expect. It's not because of the fear of cyberbullying, or the dangers children face from online predators like sexual molesters and tech-savvy velociraptors -- simply put, Myspace is one of the most poorly designed sites on the Internet, and to subject kids to it at young ages means that they will propogate the practices of crappy web page design into their adult life.

If we were to compare Myspace to an animal which we could later anthropomorphize in a hit documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman and Al Gore, it would probably be a cross between a rather colourful toucan, a male praying mantis who just lost his head during fun-female-mantis-time, and the feces of a three hundred pound gorilla who's trying to learn sign language but occasionally mistakes the sign for "banana" with the sign for "incest". It's definitely noticeable, just not in a good way. Long after the gentle aesthetics and pleasing curves of the URI! Zone have vanished into the legends of the Internet Archive, future generations will be creating personal web pages with black text on a midnight background, a Nickelback "hit" queuing up to automatically play in the background, and a navigation scheme based upon vague links, technical errors, and twenty percent luck.

The intent of Myspace, to link up people with common interests or backgrounds while making millions of dollars, is actually quite noble (move over Mother Theresa), but its execution is the Tequiza of the web -- mix fermented Fruit Loops with pee in a bottle and then shake it out on all your friends. I once made an account so I could look at all the pictures of my hot friends, but my account was flagged almost immediately by the Myspace Police who didn't believe that someone 123 years old would really be visiting the site.

Ever since I reduced my age to the more believable 69 (in honor of Doobie), I've received no further email from admins, but I do regularly get "Friend requests" from spammers and people I don't even know. Poor Kristal (who's obviously an automated bot for some worthless website that has to resort to lonely Myspacers for advertising) thinks I'm 69 and cute (see evidence to the left) -- it's too bad that my profile picture is the one of Booty climbing up the screen in Tallahassee. Apparently when my face looks like a cat plastered across a window, I'm quite the hit with the ladies -- too bad this cat's taken!

Then again, maybe I'm just not in Myspace's target demographic. There was a story in the Post yesterday about Myspace's latest "celebrity for doing nothing", Tila Tequila. I have never heard of this celebrity in my life, even though she bills herself as the "new Madonna". For research purposes, I visited her Myspace page to listen to her single, "I Love U", which already loses two karma points for abbreviating "you". After recovering from the temporary blindness caused by her pustule of a front page, I hit Play and my ear infection returned in full force, as an immune system response to the garbage I was hearing. I would tend to agree with the guy in the article who says, "Her problem is that she's just not that good. As a test case, I'm not sure she's going to measure up because I don't think she has the skill."

There is no doubt in my mind that I, too, could generate mad ad revenue on this site if I were to take off most of my clothes and dance around for your amusement! Want to bet?

Mr. Best agreed to remove the "dickheads and wankers rule" slogan but challenged the commissioner's decision on "we're screwed".
Everybody was admiring a woman who is able to tie crocodiles to her body.
Sexed up monkey returned to owner

tagged as newsday, mock mock | permalink | 2 comments

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Review Day

Professor Layton and the Curious Village: This DS game is a hybrid of brain teasers and old fashion point-and-click adventure. The adventure portion is absolutely horrible, with too much dialogue and too many cutscenes. In addition, the game has the bad habit of recapping everything that's happened whenever you turn it on -- particularly annoying if you only play in short bursts of ten or fifteen minutes. The puzzles are more fun -- they're a mix of over one hundred logic puzzles, riddles, spatial reasoning puzzles, and trick questions. This game would have been much better with an option to just do the puzzles and ignore the story. A partial solution is implemented (if you skip over puzzles during any chapter, you can visit a single room to play them all) but it's not enough. Music is charming during hour one, grating during hour two, and manually turned off after that.
Final Grade: B, must love puzzles

Super Smash Brothers Brawl: The long-awaited fighting game on the Wii pits every known and unknown Nintendo character against each other in silly battles, with new characters included like Sonic the Hedgehog. I tried out the Wii-based control schemes but ended up returning to the classic GameCube controller for the "tighest handling" of the characters. Sound and graphics are excellent, and the single-player modes are boring, as expected. This series really shines when you get four guys playing at the same time, and I haven't had time to play a game with more than 2 people yet.
Initial Grade: B

Dan in Real Life: A romantic comedy starring Steve Carell as a widower who unwittingly falls for his brother's girlfriend (who looks eerily like a young version of the French woman on LOST). This movie has an unsympathetic main character, no real romantic-comedy-sparks, and an insanely 1950s family that's even more ridiculous than the one in Family Stone. Some scenes are just awkwardly uncomfortable, like most of Meet the Parents.
Initial Grade: C-

Atonement: This movie was not as good as everyone said it would be. Keira Knightley is the two-dimensional main character (literally -- she needs to eat something) but the story of her and her lover are really the supporting pillars for her sister's story. The first half of the story rambles on like Gosford Park and the second half channels a little Saving Private Ryan but without Matt Damon. There is one war scene on the beach that's technically amazing, since the same camera and shot are used for three or four minutes, winding around and through the chaos, but it seemed more like a neat trick than a compelling plot device. The musical score is interesting, sometimes taking sound effects from the immediate scene and weaving them into the orchestration of later scenes. The movie is a downer but not a tear-jerker.
Initial Grade: B-

Donkey takes final bow in ballet troupe
L.A. Times apologizes for Diddy-Tupac story
DB Cooper's parachute possibly found

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Friday, March 27, 2009

Friday Fragments

soon to be published in audobook format and Braille

♠ The latest addition to the real-life URI! Zone is a hand-me-down 52" TV from my parents, who are constantly questing to partition the rooms of their house with bigger and better TVs like Japanese Shoji screens but with liquid crystals instead of rice paper. The artifact correction algorithms in this TV are so advanced that DVDs of Arrested Development look exactly like a true documentary and even over-the-air LOST looks like a wholly different show, closer to a 3D soap opera than an antenna broadcast.

♠ With a TV that functions this strongly in the image department, I still have zero interest in ever upgrading to a Blu-ray player, in spite of the constantly playing ads at Target which promise me that I can access the movie's menu WHILE THE MOVIE IS PLAYING! GOODNESS! EXCUSE ME WHILE I LOSE CONTROL OF MY BOWELS IN EXCITEMENT.

♠ If I had my way, DVDs wouldn't even have menus. Or previews. Especially previews for movies on DVDs for TV shows. And being able to reach the menu while the movie's still going is about as useful as being able to read the menu at Applebee's after I'm already eating my dinner.

♠ The only problem with me (and everyone else in the world) not buying Blu-ray discs is that the unpurchased inventory now clogs up the aisles at Costco like a microcosm of the real estate market. You can barely roll your cart down the aisle past the sample-hogging soccer mom without knocking a few off the shelves. However, the number of Blu-ray discs pales in comparison to the number of copies of the movie, Twilight, sitting on the shelves.

♠ Having been blessed with a Y chromosome and a diploma dated in the twentieth century, I don't really understand what all the fuss about this movie is. Last weekend, we were browsing in Books-A-Million, the bookstore for European immigrants who inappropriately place their adjectives after their nouns, and of the twenty-five yards of Young Adult books, a solid 80% were vampire books. Gone were the Gordon Kormans and Sweet Valley Highs of the previous generation, replaced with this forgettable tripe. My kids are just going to read the Hardy Boys until they're twenty-four -- there were no kids biting other kids, except when Chet got unusually hungry in Book 54: The Mysterious Caravan.

♠ Plans for the weekend include laying ceramic tile in the basement bathroom, a dinner in Herndon, and some tax-doing, which I never quite got around to the last time I put it on my To Do list. In general though, that's how my To Do list rolls.

♠ Please note that I did not actually lose control of my bowels during the writing of this post -- it was merely a dramatization. Have a great weekend!

For sale: English Village, $33M
Walk it off, it's only a heart attack
Headmaster: No vampires at our school

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Memory Day: Twelve Years Ago Today

March 27, 2001 was a Tuesday in my final semester at Virginia Tech, a semester with a grueling 13-credit courseload that accurately reflected my public school abilities. With an 8 AM math class which I reguarly missed by virtue that it was at 8 AM, in a different room 33% of the time, and had no parking spaces within a one mile radius, my days mainly consisted of dicking around with music. That being said, March 27 was one of busiest days of the semester.

This particular Tuesday opened with a private lesson at 11:00, in which Dave McKee gave me conducting tips for my recital, followed by a fettucini alfredo lunch at Shultz Dining Hall. I spent the next hour at the music major couches where Liz was introducing her friend, Katherine, who was transferring into the music department, if I recall correctly.

I took to the loading dock at 1:30 PM (this was in the years before I used military time) and annoyed random passerby by warming up for my Convocation performance. At 2:00 PM, I played the third movement of the Ewazen trumpet sonata, which is the musical equivalent of a Ritalin withdrawal, and then turned pages for the accompanists during the rest of the performances.

Ewazen III excerpt (2:26 MP3)

After Convo, I could have attended my useless Design of Information class, where we learned that "converging lines on a sign will draw the eye to the convergence point", but wisely chose to head to River Mill for fries and darts with Jason, Rosie, and Anna instead.

I ended up skipping Symphony Band that day as well, but for a legitimate reason: I was the official page-turner on Shac and Nikki's junior recital and had to turn pages on their dress rehearsal. I also arranged their final piece, Amazing Grace, which continued to prove that you never want brass instruments playing at the same time as sopranos. I was also the poster designer for this musical rave, and to this day, cannot believe that they chose the staid poster on the left over the cheerful poster on the right.

I came home to the apartment I shared with Rosie and Anna for a dinner (probably one of those 75 cent bags of Lipton noodles) and then drove Anna back to campus around 9:30. Apparently she had found her way onto some intramural softball team with the music department. I closed out the night with my habitual late night trumpet hour, because when you practice late at night, you can use all of the big rehearsal rooms, and the echoes cover up how awful your tone quality is. While leaving the practice area, I bumped into Nikki, and got us some late night ice cream from the Baskin Robbins off Main Street.

I was in bed by midnight, because I had a lot of sleep to catch up on if I was to be successful at skipping my Wednesday 8 AM class.

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

First Impressions: Diablo III: Reaper of Souls

There are no major spoilers in this review.

I was initially pretty happy with the 2012 release of Diablo III, giving it a B+ in my review a couple weeks after release. However, I had stopped playing it within four months and probably would have given it a C+ if I were to re-review it once Torchlight 2 had been released. Diablo 3 had many flaws that did not surface until late in the game, the most salient of which were:

  1. The rate at which useable loot dropped was so low that visiting the auction house to buy gear became a necessity to progress. Fighting monsters to earn gold to buy gear was never as enticing as getting that gear directly from your battles.
  2. The difficulty progression required you to play through the inane story from start to finish three separate times, only to dump you into a nearly impossible situation where you spent fifteen minutes kiting a single monster around the map before dying. There should be a few difficulty steps between hard and impossible, because otherwise it's like playing tennis with a brick wall ("they're relentless!").

The Diablo 3 expansion pack, Reaper of Souls, was released on Tuesday for the slightly-too-high price point of $40, adding a new story Act, a new hero class, and alternate play modes. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I played Diablo 3 this month for the first time in nearly two years, and was surprised to find out how much better it had become. I had never really jumped on the "Hate the Game Director" bandwagon that pervaded the Internet in 2012. However, with historical perspective, it's vindicating to see just how many design decisions from the original game director's brain were undone or mellowed out after he was unceremoniously "moved to another project".

I've only played the expansion pack for a few hours so far, but here's a quick list of what has changed and what hasn't. Some of these changes retroactively apply to the original game, so you don't even need to buy the expansion pack to experience what a fun Diablo experience might taste like.

What's Exciting

  1. Loot will almost always have usable statistics (no more Barbarian belts full of Intelligence).
  2. The auction house is no more, so playing is once again about getting loot, not gold.
  3. Legendary items, like my farty pants, are still rare, but much more likely to drop. I've gotten a dozen so far, where I barely saw two in my entire original run.
  4. Difficulty can be scaled at anytime so you only need to play through the story end-to-end one time.
  5. There is an option to "automatically skip all cutscenes", which lets you bypass the most cringeworthy aspects of the story.
  6. You get a free pack of Hearthstone cards with purchase.
  7. The music is more memorable, favouring melodies and subtle reworkings of the Diablo 2 themes, rather than ambient sounds.
  8. The maps, events, and world design of Act V are top-notch. I can see myself playing these maps plenty in the future. They almost wipe away the bad taste of every desert-themed Act ever created.
  9. The smoothest launch day of any Blizzard game ever. Not a server crash or queue in sight.
  10. Once you beat Act V, there's an Adventure Mode that completely detaches you from the storyline and gives you random quests on random maps. I may never go back to the story again once I've unlocked this.

What's Less Exciting

  1. The Skill UI is still the same, so it's hard to maintain a big picture awareness of the skills you have unlocked and want to assign to slots.
  2. The dialogue is still awful, and everyone still wants to run up to you and beat you over the head with the high school play that constitutes the storyline.
  3. The game is still "online only".
  4. I played a "Crusader" for the first ten levels, and was underwhelmed. Obviously I haven't unlocked much yet, but it plays like a Barbarian with different art. I've never cared much for the melee classes though.

So far, this is a worthwhile (albeit slightly expensive) purchase, and corrects enough of the original Diablo flaws to satisfy me. I'll post a full review in a few weeks!

tagged as reviews | permalink | 3 comments

Friday, March 27, 2015

Cloud Migration Day

I started the week in search of an alternative hosting site for my open-source projects, now that Google Code is joining Google Reader in the steaming pile of great projects getting unceremoniously dumped because Google has never understood its user base. As I evaluated my options, I realized that it might be an opportune time to migrate my entire fiefdom into the Amazon Web Services cloud instead. Here are some of my justifications:

  • It's hard to find a good, free Subversion host anymore. Though I've used Bitbucket and Git at work before, I find that the added complexity is unnecessary for my projects with a grand total of 1 developer(s).

  • I love my web host of 7 years, Kattare, but it would also be nice to get more hands-on experience with AWS, now that I've got two AWS certificates generating money in the bank.

  • I don't mind tinkering and rolling my own solutions. The URI! Zone was hosted on my college dorm room Pentium from 1996 to 2000.

  • When things explode, I like the idea of being able to fix them on my own timeline. The 24-hour Bitbucket outage last month was a destroyer of productivity. (Ironically, my current web host went out for 2 hours right in the middle of my research for this post).

  • The URI! Zone is not a mission-critical application, except during the hours when Doobie and Evil Mike are bored at work. Also, it has a very small audience, with daily visits in the double digits. Cloud failover and scalability are not a big deal to me, but they'd be nice to have in my back pocket if there were a sudden surge in popularity, due to my April plans to blog about nothing but Justin Bieber.

  • Moving to the cloud would give me a lot of flexibility to quickly spin up new project sites (and tear them back down after I inevitably get bored with them -- see also, Auricle, Bugler, NoHunters, Team Turtle, Plinky's Tactics for Warsong Gulch, and Anna Had a Baby: Part I).

  • It would also be nice to have a household backup strategy that didn't involve buying successively larger USB sticks every year.

Here's a systems diagram of the resultant cloud architecture that I'm envisioning:

Here's a cost comparison for my various requirements, showing how they are fulfilled today, how they would be set up in the initial cloud migration (assuming Reserved annual pricing), and how much costs might increase if I scaled up. My monthly cost would immediately increase from $20 to $30, which feels reasonable for the function and flexibility I would get.

The scaled cost ($60) is less palatable -- but the only reason I would need to bump up to that level would be for JIRA, which has been known to consume all available memory and small children in our work installations. I would probably consider outsourcing JIRA before I ever reached that level.

Have you had any experiences or horror stories adopting AWS? Would I be making a mistake by moving into the cloud? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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Monday, March 27, 2017

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday night, we stayed in eating Boston Market and finishing the first season of Sneaky Pete (first viewing for Rebecca and second viewing for me).

On Saturday, an eventful morning included a trip to Costco, followed by donation drop offs to the library and a local thrift shop to make extra space in the house for progeny. In the evening, I made grilled tortillas full of strawberries and Nutella, and then we went to Michelle's apartment for Sara's birthday party.

On Sunday, we briefly started putting together a baby registry before getting overwhelmed, then went for a brisk walk in Claude Moore Park followed by a run to Home Depot for baby room paint samples. In the evening we went over to Tammy and Chris' for beef ribs, corn on the cob, and great company.

How was your weekend?

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Stuff in My Drawers Day: Choir Sketch

This picture was drawn sometime in the late 1980s, at the United Methodist Church on Washington Street in Alexandria.

My parents were regular members of various choirs that practiced on Tuesday evenings. In the awkward period where we were too old for babysitters but too young to stay home alone, we would often be forced to tag along to practice sessions and play quietly in the pews.

After getting yelled at for running around various churches and disrespecting their sacred nature, we would calm down and read books or draw pictures (this was a few brief months before we got our first 8-bit Gameboy). I was probably in 4th or 5th grade when I captured this choir practice on paper. Apparently, they were performing something by Mozart. I also like my attention to detail in showing the chubby guy sitting in front sipping on a Big Gulp.

I'm sure it's been renovated many times in the ensuing 30 years, but a recent picture of the church shows marked similarities to my childhood sketch:

tagged as media | permalink | 2 comments

Friday, March 27, 2020

Review Day

There are no major spoilers in these reviews.

Patchwork:
This is another 2-player game with as much replayability as Lost Cities or Apotheca -- you spend buttons to buy different Tetris shapes to cover your quilt board. Game rules are very simple and setup is quick. There's tons of strategic depth although there are just enough variables that it makes it hard to tell if you're actually winning until the final score comes down. All of our games so far have been decided within a few points of each other.

Final Grade: B

Recover by Lenka:
This is a 20 minute EP of covers, pleasant enough other than the five and a half minute rendition of Bob Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man in which she sings "Hey Mr. Tambourine Man" at least 80 times on the same pitches.

Final Grade: B

Sleeping with Other People (R):
The skeleton of this movie is predictable -- a romantic comedy featuring flawed leads who are better with each other. What saves it from banality is the supporting cast of familiar faces (including Adam Scott, Natasha Lyonne and two of the leads from i'm sorry) and the easy laughs they induce.

Final Grade: B

Matinee by Jack Penate:
The debut album of another musician I liked a lot in 2008 then forgot about -- Matinee has a catchy bounce and infectious songs. It reminds me a little of The Hives.

Final Grade: B+

tagged as reviews | permalink | 2 comments

 

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