This Day In History: 07/25

Monday, July 25, 2005

Today is the day of my oft-anticipated Charlie and the Chocolate Factory review, although I'm sure that most of you are just happy that the review will push Friday's Arachnid Sex ads below the fold.

There are generally three majority opinions concerning the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory:

  • The movie has been elevated to a state of deified perfection because you saw it every week as a kid. Any new version is automatically blasphemy of the highest order. (I had a friend at Tech whose away message was always "Oompa loompa dippity doo, I've got another puzzle for you").
  • The movie was good enough, but no better than any other kids movie made in the 1970s. I agree with this opinion.
  • Your parents, in a misguided attempt to prevent future acid trips, banned the movie from your television, so you never saw it (but you are still mentally scarred from watching mannequins come to life on Today's Special or freaky marionette birds speak in psychedelic sonar on Pinwheel ).

A fourth opinion by John Roberts Jr. was recently uncovered, stating that "while I disagree with the status of the movie as a cult classic, it is not my place to overturn a decision which has been thirty years in the making". The URI! Zone has no use for such non-inflammatory opinions, so it will be ignored.

I admit that I've only seen the original movie once, in 2001, and the people who I was watching it with fast forwarded through one of the slow songs that they didn't like. I read the books over and over though, as I am wont to do.

Charlie opened with a standard cache of previews for romantic comedies and kids movies. There's a new claymation movie in the works from Tim Burton, Corpse Bride which looks like it'll be worthwhile, sharing the same style as Nightmare Before Christmas. There's also a feature-length Wallace & Gromit coming out (the claymation precursor to Chicken Run). Finally, don't miss THE GREATEST GAME EVER PLAYED on September 30 (capital letters added to emphasize GREATNESS). It's a movie about golf, and obviously produced by Disney -- only with the magic of the Magic Kingdom could you ever hope to turn any form of non-mini-golf into the GREATEST GAME on Earth. It's a GREAT movie with GREAT skills, and it's gonna do GREAT.

As the real movie began, it was apparent that this was a Tim Burton reinterpretation of the story, and not just a revamp of the old movie. The setting and the cast were perfect, and the little touches were pure Burton. He generally stuck to the story as we know it, but deepened the back story through flashbacks (something that worked more often than it failed in this case). The one disappointment I had was the Elfman score -- the trembling strings and wordless choir arrangements were nothing we haven't heard before, and could have easily been cut wholesale from any earlier Elfman score. It definitely fit the movie, but it seems like he's turning into the John Williams of Burton movies. Ironically, this cookie-cutter score first reared its head as the camera panned over a chocolate-bar stamping machine which was creating hundreds of identical candies. Elfman probably laughed about this all the way to the bank.

The last time Johnny Depp fell this far into his character, it was his cross of Keith Richards and Pepe Le Pew in Pirates of the Caribbean: Yet Another Movie with a Colon in the Title. This time around, he seems to be channeling Michael Jackson, with liberal doses of the stereotypical mad scientist. The result is a little endearing, but mostly creepy -- definitely not someone you'd ask to watch your kids for you. Much of the edge in the movie relies wholly on his excellent performance. However, for me the star of the show was Deep Roy, who played the part of every single Oompa Loompa (Deep Roy was also the guy in the top hat with the snail in The Neverending Story, and some random musical muppet in Return of the Jedi). Even if you hate the rest of the movie, the dance/music numbers starring Roy are worth watching -- both for the technical achievement and the camp factor. Instead of singing the same song four times, Deep Roy dances through four decades of pop music styles, doing the appropriate dance moves for each era.

Finally, Charlie closed with a trip to Chili's where we ordered some nachos. Apparently Chili's picks their nachos fresh off the plant and flies them in from Mexico, as we didn't get them for another forty-five minutes. The server apologized profusely and offered a free dessert in recompense. In fact, the cheesecake was so free ("as free as the wind blows", even) that it took them another half hour to catch it and deliver it to our table. By this point it was after 10:30 and time to go home. This is just a cautionary tale -- your ordering times after watching the movie may vary.

Overall, I would recommend seeing this movie, regardless of your feelings on the original. It's strong enough to stand on its own as an entirely separate entity, and there's plenty of bones thrown to old viewers.


My web host has been having some serious issues recently, slowing down connections and making my site time out quite frequently. They plan on upgrading their servers over the next few weeks, but in the meantime, please try back later if the site seems to be unresponsive. Sorry for the inconvenience.

UPDATE: Peeping tom in the outhouse was just looking for a lost ring, and happened to be wearing waders.
Mr. Floatie is the mascot for People Opposed to Outfall Pollution, or POOP.
A very strange, but possibly symbolic advertisement for the next season of Lost (12MB MPEG)

tagged as reviews | permalink | 3 comments

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Review Day: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

There are NO spoilers from ANY Harry Potter book in this review, though I mention some minor plot points from Books 4 and 6.

By now, everyone knows that the final book in the Harry Potter series was released last Saturday -- this release had more hype than the Matrix, Star Wars 1, Knut the polar bear, the baby panda bear, and Bob Barker's retirement combined. I picked up my copy on Saturday morning at an eerily empty Target which had rows and rows of unsold books, and read it off and on through the camping trip that followed, finishing it between other responsibilities on Monday.

I once knew a guy at work who had deathly hallows -- as soon as he appeared at your office door waving and ready to talk, you'd want to die. But I digress.

Coming in at 759 pages, Deathly Hallows isn't the longest of the series (that award goes to the angstfest that was Book 5), but it's still pretty daunting. It doesn't feel long though, because the narrative hits the ground running from page 1 and remains a page-turner all the way to the end. The pace may be unforgiving for someone who hasn't reread the old books recently, since Rowling wisely cuts the recaps and reminders to a minimum. In place of the boilerplate "Harry is a wizard and this is his owl" prose, Rowling constantly pushes the plot forwards with a fine balance of laughter and danger. I read the first 250 pages in a single sitting, occasionally laughing out loud (a rarity for books not written by Gordon Korman).

The story opens soon after the events of Book 6, in which Harry was tasked to fulfill a mission for a professor, enlisting the aid of his wizard posse, Hermione and Ron. It became clear at the end of the previous book that Year 7 would stray a bit from the standard "Harry spends a year at Hogwarts" formula, but this is actually a strength, since it injects a fresh setting into the story on occasion, while still remaining true to the audience who feels that Hogwarts, itself, is almost a character in the plot.

There is always controversy over the endings of series (except for Six Feet Under, and maybe Friends), but I have to admit that I was completely satisfied with Book 7 as the final saga, and felt that there was no other way to end things that would have fit so well. People are always obsessed with the spoilers and who lives or dies, but those concerns are irrelevant to the strength of the ending that Rowling has written, which ties everything together from the beginning (and I do mean everything. Through the first six books, she created a complete, breathing world with internal consistency, and instead of making the world larger in Book 7, she chose to make it deeper (something which I also enjoy in the writing of Janny Wurts). Plot points that were mere phrases or offhand comments in previous books reveal a deeper meaning in Book 7, and always in a logical fashion. To me, it never felt like she was stretching her story to account for writing herself into a corner (and even that annoying S.P.E.W subplot from Book 4 gets vindicated a bit).

I plan on going back to the beginning and rereading the series (something I haven't done in two years), this time reading Book 7 at a slower pace to appreciate the writing more, but I can already wholeheartedly say that J.K. Rowling deserves every single dollar and pound she has earned for this series. There simply isn't anything to complain about in this book.

Final Rating: A+

You can read my review of Book 6 from two years ago here. Please do not post spoilers in the Comments section.

P.S. We find out that Hermione is a dude.

Happy Birthday Emily Ferry!

Drew Carey to host The Price is Right
Risque car plates get personal
Gang kidnaps gamer to sell account

tagged as reviews | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, July 25, 2008

Friday Fragments

bow-legged, knock-kneed, and legless

♠ It's been a busy couple weeks for web improvements and I'm 100% pleased with Kattare as a hosting company. If you need a hosting company than can handle more complex sites with a support line that's actually useful, and don't mind given away a decent chunk of your disposable income, I would definitely recommend them (and not just for the 15% kickback I would get for referrals). Since I moved over, I've been busy writing a Java forum and gear database for my Warcraft guild , and excreted the last pooplogs of the PHP language from the bowels of this site, replaced with healthy whole-grain Java.

♠ For the less technical readers, the difference between a PHP-driven site and a JSP-driven site is like the difference between a homemade third-grade diorama in a Payless shoebox for a book report on The Mouse and the Motorcycle, and the diorama that was obviously made by the rich kid's mom, who went to Michael's to get top quality posterboard. Sure, the first one has a little charm in its Scotch-taped motorcycle and the mouse with no head (because it fell off on the bus ride), but the high-quality one is going to win the school contest and the Book It! pizza coupons.

♠ I hated dioramas in elementary school, because although I was artsy (and crafty), I never had the patience to perfect my artistic vision, and the contents of the shoebox never looked anything like what I had in my head. This is also why I my sixth grade "Map Our School" assignment got an A+ for detail and a D for neatness. Had I based a career on this, I would have forgone architectural blueprints in favour of topographical maps of mountains in earthquake-prone regions.

♠ Another fun graphical career would be to make the warning signs where roads converge in a nonconformist way (similar to Communist party meetings in the 1950s). Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between an intersection warning and a mutated stick figure that was murdered.

♠ This weekends' plans mostly revolve around relaxing. If I'm so inclined, I'll implement the next big URI! Zone feature: putting five years of comments into a database, so you can read all of Rachel's posts at once, or find out when the last time someone talked about Beavis was. I may also study for a Java certification, which is back on track now that I've gotten rid of that horribly useless Certification for the Learning Disabled textbook.

♠ My weekend plans will DEFINITELY not include anything related to my wisdom teeth, since the oral surgeon took all of two minutes to tell me that I'd run the risk of nerve damage if he tried to remove them, and that my original dentist was a freaking retard for referring me in the first place. Dentistry HMOs are the best.

♠ Have a great weekend!

Scrabulous sued, Facebook put on notice
Newspaper misspells its own name
Global warming could lead to more kittens

tagged as fragments | permalink | 0 comments

Monday, July 25, 2011

Beach Day


It's a little bright out here.

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Canada Travelogue, Part III of III

At one time, it seems like Mont-Tremblant might have been three separate towns, a commercial strip along the highway with your standard gas stations and chain restaurants, an old town full of B&Bs and affordable local restaurants, and a bizarre ski resort town where a burger is $20.

Nowadays, all three sections are renamed "Mont-Tremblant", resulting in an array of unhelpful, identical highway exit signs which anxiously hope to direct lost souls towards the priciest portion. This devious Canadian trap might work if the locals at the numerous information offices weren't so friendly, disdainful of the resort, and careful to point you to the more charming areas where "the food and the prices are honest".

For the final leg of our trip, we stayed at the Refuge B&B, where the innkeeper, Robert, had anticipated our every need. In a hospitality fight to the death, Robert of Refuge B&B would barely eke out a victory over Jean-Francois of the Inn of the Two Lions. It also helped that Robert made delicious breakfasts for free: the first morning was crepes and fruit, and the second was a hearty meal of pancakes, toast, sausage, bacon, hash browns with bacon, kiwi, oranges, and granola yogurt. I'm not sure how I lost an additional five pounds on this trip, but you'll see photographic proof when I post all of the pictures on Friday as my Levis slowly inch meter their way lower and lower in the absence of a belt.

For dinner both nights, we went to a local restaurant, Au Coin -- a choice which was validated by the presence of our innkeeper sitting at the bar chatting with old friends.

On our first trip to the old town, we bought sandwiches and ate in a gazebo with a Florida woman who was up for her yearly three-month trip and was more than happy to identify the winners and losers for good restaurants. We then headed to the resort to see if it was as yuppy as our mental picture would imply. We were greeted at the gates by a banner advertising the International Blues Festival, but thankfully it had ended the day before. We were so festival'd out by this point that a little quiet felt just right.

The resort was a veritable theme park in its own rights. Perfectly manicured lawns surrounded shops and buildings so vividly painted that you might imagine yourself lost in a Langley High production of Heidi. The skyride across the middle bisected an endless row of hotels, jacuzzis, and swimming pools to dump us in an activity zone full of go-karts, bungee trampolines, and the aforementioned restaurants of wallet doom.

About six years ago, I wrote this post about skiing, and I still hold the same opinion:

I simply hate being cold, and feel like the effort you make to buy all the sharp, pointy gear, bundle up, trudge out to a hill, and stand around like an Eskimo is not worth the five seconds you're going down a hill. Cold apathy first grew on me as a kid, when the nearest sleddable hill was at Polk School, half a mile away (Heaven forbid they ever block off our street and let kids sled down that hill). Sure sledding was tons o' fun, especially when there was enough snow to build ramps that induced panic in all the mothers at the top, but what happens after your five seconds of fun? You get off and walk back up a hill. Then when you can't feel your feet and you want to go home, you still have to walk the half mile back.

For this reason, I greatly enjoyed the Mont-Tremblant ski resort at the height of the summertime because it transformed into an endless array of free hiking trails that crisscrossed the various ski runs. We did some warm-up hiking on our first evening, since it takes different muscles to walk up a hill than it does to walk through a city, and we are SERIOUS about our muscle groups. Mont-Tremblant is one of the tallest peaks in this mountain range (2800 feet), and on our second day we went all of the way up to the top. We then paid to take a skyride back down because downhill walking is bad for the knees of the old.

The tenth day of our trip was, once again, a travel day. I dropped Rebecca off for a five-day stay at some famous yoga camp (which I imagine was more of a substance abuse detox after our endless days of gelato and sausage), and then drove back to the airport on my own. Travel back was delayed by storms in New York which cancelled many flights and delayed my second leg by an hour. As we were about to board in LaGuardia, we were informed that the flight would be delayed another 20 minutes to "fix a broken tray table". Since I am a lucky guy, I ended up in the seat with the broken tray table, and learned that it takes union laborers twenty minutes to fix a tray by slapping on a sticker says "BROKEN DO NOT USE".

All in all, this was one of our more successful vacations, despite getting charged for bumper scratches on the rental car. If you are looking for a comparatively inexpensive foreign trip full of friendly people and a minimal language barrier, I would highly recommend Quebec.

In the summer.

Miscellaneous Statistics

  • Nights Stayed: 2
  • Cost: $100 per day, per person ($90 stone sober)
  • Churches seen: 0
  • High Point: The summit (GET IT?)
  • Low Point: Observing people eating at the $50 steak restaurant without any irony

tagged as travel | permalink | 1 comment

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review Day: Bioshock Infinite

There are no major spoilers in this review.

I only played the original Bioshock for a few hours -- it had a great, creepy setting although it was starting to reach Doom 3 levels of darkness overuse by the time I lost interest. I recently picked up Bioshock Infinite for $10 in a Steam sale, based on its overwhelmingly positive reviews.

Once again, the setting and backstory are meticulously well-done. The story takes place in a floating cloud city in the early 1900s, and features a population living in a patriotic, almost cult-like society that has seceded from the US. Exploring the town for the little details is always rewarding, although a few zones are vast just for the sake of being vast.

At its heart, the game is a first-person shooter, but it also features an incredibly ambitious plot that succeeds more often than it fails. You're dropped into the action with very little explanation, but the plot eventually broadens into a finale as layered as the movie, Inception. There are a few gaps in the story, and sometimes the game goes the Half-Life route, requiring you to stand still to observe parts of the narrative -- a few times I missed plot points because I was already running away while my companion stopped out of earshot to talk about something.

Other than this annoyance, the companion that stays with you for most of the game is perfectly implemented. Unlike every single other game before this one, the companion is not annoying, helps you out occasionally by finding gear or money, can survive on her own, and never blocks you into a tight corner idiotically. Playing Skyrim as a fireball mage with a melee companion always ended in disaster.

The underlying shooter portion of the game is fun enough, and sufficiently holds together the more interesting parts of the package. There is a decent mix of old-style guns and "magic" abilities, although I ended up getting comfortable with a small subset early on and never needing to experiment with others later on. Controls are tight, and zipping around skylines throughout the town is a nice touch.

Overall, I had a fun time playing this game (it took about 13 hours), and appreciate the enormity of the story that the writers tried to tackle. I wasn't blown away by its resolution, but would definitely play this game again next year when I'm bored.

Final Grade: B+, enjoyable shooter with an ambitious plot and interesting setting

tagged as reviews, games | permalink | 0 comments

Friday, July 25, 2014

Are You Ready for the Silver Line?

A sneak peek at the Twitter Feed of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority


Jul 26 12:00 PM
The #silverline is open for business! Come on out for the ride of your life!
Jul 26 12:08 PM
We're experiencing unusually high popularity, and apologize for any temporary delays around Rosslyn.
Jul 26 12:14 PM
We're aware of the broken escalators at Spring Hill and are working hard to get them fixed. Please use the elevator.
Jul 26 12:21 PM
To accommodate this unexpected surge in #silverline popularity, we're temporarily increasing Blue Line wait times to 35 minutes. #rushplusplus
Jul 26 12:25 PM
@saynotosilverline Gray and Silver are the same in web colors #cccccc #notfalseadvertising #notthegrayline
Jul 26 12:27 PM
Oops! The new #silverline SmarTrip cards are adding funds, not deducting them. Please trade yours in to a station manager at your next stop.
Jul 26 12:32 PM
We're aware that some cars do not yet have doors, and have added this to Bechtel's honey-do list. Please move to the center of the train.
Jul 26 12:45 PM
@DCSenatorAide Actually the new restrooms are just for the grand opening. We'll lock them up tomorrow. #socleanforareason
Jul 26 12:49 PM
@wmata Great rollout of the #silverline! Smooth trip all the way to Largo Town Center. Beautiful work! Kudos to your boss!
Jul 26 12:56 PM
Elevator broken in Spring Hill. For handicap access, please transfer to Vienna then use MetroAccess. Allow 4 hours.
Jul 26 1:02 PM
@UNCChick Greensboro refers to the street in Tyson's, not the city. We're sorry that you expected differently.
Jul 26 1:08 PM
To accommodate this unexpected surge in #silverline popularity, we're temporarily increasing Blue Line wait times by 45 minutes. #rushplusplusplus
Jul 26 1:09 PM
@HyblaValleyIsNotAlexandria Cumulative. So total wait time is 80 minutes. Just for today though!
Jul 26 1:25 PM
To show that we still care about our Blue Line customers, we're increasing your service by 800%! #momentum
Jul 26 1:27 PM
@unsuckdcmetro Instead of 1 eight-car train every 80 minutes we'll send 1 one-car train every 10 minutes.
Jul 26 1:28 PM
@HyblaValleyIsNotAlexandria The math is sound.
Jul 26 1:34 PM
@wmata Return trip was very fast. #silverline should be a coaster at Cedar Point!!
Jul 26 1:44 PM
Escalators in McLean temporarily stairs. Sorry for the convenience. #ripMitch
Jul 26 2:18 PM
@OldTownFloodGod Sorry, but the #silverline won't go to Dulles Airport for 8 more years. You can take the shuttle bus from Wiehle.
Jul 26 2:30 PM
To accommodate this unexpected surge in #silverline popularity, we're permanently ending the VA Blue Line at Arlington Cemetery.
Jul 26 2:32 PM
@BarCrawls4Yolo Arlington Cemetery may be dull today, but a terminus there will be a catalyst for development and smart growth. #thenextclarendon
Jul 26 2:34 PM
@wmata What a smart, creative solution to capacity and growth concerns! Glad that you guys always listen to your riders!
Jul 26 2:45 PM
@OldTownFloodGod Sorry you missed your flight.
Jul 26 3:00 PM
It's official. The #silverline is a hit!

tagged as mock mock, favourites | permalink | 4 comments

Monday, July 25, 2016

Weekend Wrap-up

On Friday night, we braved the heat to go to Wolf Trap for a Thao Nguyen / Sufjan Stevens concert. Reflecting our status as old people with disposable income, we got pleasant box seats to avoid warring with all of the fratty youngsters that show up on the lawn five minutes before the show and try to squeeze their blankets into a two square foot area. The view from the box and ease of access was definitely worth the added cost, and I would do it again.

The opening segment by Thao was okay -- good, quirky arrangements marred by a muddy sound mixing and forgettable lead vocals. Rebecca tried to get me into Thao when we first started dating, but I could never get over how off-key it sounded. Her voice has greatly improved over the years, but it's still not my favourite.

The Sufjan portion was very strong, full of creative energy that bordered on ridiculous. Usually when I listen to a Sufjan CD, it just sounds like a few members of the Early Renaissance Music Ensemble got lost during the parade, but the live show really pulled the music together. If the CDs were more like the live show, I'd definitely like them more. The only flaw in the production was the potentially migraine-inducing lights shined directly at the audience during every other song, which could be construed as either an artistic choice or a clever form of bootleg video prevention.

On Saturday night, we went over to the Smiths for leftover steaks and game night. We played a new game, Apotheca, which was good enough that I would consider buying a copy myself.

Sunday was, as usual, a chore day. We cleaned and realigned the treadmill and had a low-key but satisfying dinner at the V. We ended the day with the first episode of the second season of Fargo, which looks like it's going to be good.

How was your weekend?

tagged as day-to-day | permalink | 2 comments

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Memory Day: Snapshots

This picture was taken 3 years ago today, on July 25, 2015.

On our last day in Munich, we rented bikes for a free range exploration of the northeastern part of the city. We chose this area because it was covered by an expansive park (the ironically named Englischer Garten, or "English Garden") and reduced the chance of being run over by a car in the tight windy streets.

In the middle of the park, equidistant from two Biergartens, we stumbled upon this flock of sheep, and naturally, we had to communicate with them.

tagged as memories | permalink | 1 comment

Monday, July 25, 2022

Jan 6 Day

When the January 6 hearings began, I was very skeptical that they would have any value.

I consider myself reasonably well-informed: I follow the news daily from multiple sources and use tools like allsides.com to understand how media bias influences the way events are presented. I thought I knew everything there was to know about the January 6 protest and subsequent insurrection, and worried that the hearings would just be grandstanding by camera-loving politicians. I was wrong.

Watching the hearings has forced me to revise my stance. I originally perceived as a clown car of cosplayers that got out of hand but never had a real chance of succeeding. It was actually a methodically planned and sustained attack on the peaceful transfer of power, which only failed because of lucky coincidences and the bravery of individuals.

In eight hearings, the committee has presented a straightforward case with visual and audio evidence that connects the former President's intentional actions to the ensuing violence. The committee gave former administration members the space to share authentic answers instead of competing with each other for the best newsworthy sound bite. The steady pace of the hearings dampened the noise, emotion, and distraction of the 24-hour news cycle, allowing the information to stand on its own without cheap theatrics.

My goal is not to convince you of the conclusions I've personally drawn -- it's to urge you to take some time from your packed lives to watch some of the hearings. Approach them with an open mind and weigh what you see and hear as if you were summoned to jury duty. Challenge your assumptions that might be based on emotion or incomplete information. Search for nuance and shades of grey instead of boiling the whole affair down to a visceral gut reaction of "truth or lies". You can watch on C-SPAN to avoid unnecessary commentary from news personalities.

This is complex news that demands attention and patience to digest. It's not always exciting. It doesn't fit cleanly into a meme or a 30-second TikTok. However, it's critical that we understand how serious a threat this insurrection actually was and prevent it from happening again. If we let it slide, the next attempt is guaranteed to be more brazen and successful.

tagged as deep thoughts, politics | permalink | 0 comments

 

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