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Monthly Archives: February 2010

This weekend my wife and I are taking a day trip to D.C. for an exhibit at the National Geographic museum.  The exhibit in question is the touring exhibit of the Chinese Terra Cotta Warriors.  The Warriors fascinate me in the same way that Tut in Egypt or any other attempt by ancient cultures to make the afterlife one of ease for their leaders and emperors.

As I thought about the Terra Cotta Warriors my twisted mind skipped down a path to pay a visit to the video game “Overlord.”  And, upon considering the two concepts together I suddenly realized what it is that I am missing in life.

MINIONS!!!

Minions could be a solution to every issue.  When I woke up this morning and realized I would have to shovel out yet again, what could have saved my back?  Minions.  When I’m hungry, but we’re in the middle of a major boss fight in a WoW raid, how can I get a snack?  Minions.  When there a children running around the restaurant screaming and unattended, how can I return peace?  By God, Minions again!

Basically, any issue that I have in life can either be solved by minions or beaten until it crawls away in fear of my power by those same minions.  I don’t know how I did not think of this before.  Something so simple, and yet so far-reaching in its benefits. 

So, by show of hands, volunteers?

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Hello again, everyone.

I hope everyone has had a pleasant week and is readying themselves for a weekend of whatever makes them happiest.  The release’s in store this weekend are a little on the weak side.  Both films slated for release have potential, but it is potential of the double-edged variety.

Let’s take a peek…

“The Crazies”

Trailer

Synopsis: David Dutten is sheriff of Ogden Marsh, a picture-perfect American. But one night, one of them comes to a school baseball game with a loaded shotgun, ready to kill. Another man burns down his own house, after locking his wife and young son in a closet inside. Something is infecting the citizens of Ogden Marsh — with insanity. In an effort to keep the madness contained, the government uses deadly force to close off all access and won’t let anyone in or out — even those uninfected. The few still sane find themselves trapped: Forced to band together, an ordinary night becomes a horrifying struggle for survival as they do their best to get out of town alive.

MoiveDruid’s Comments: This is definitely a film on the edge.  On one hand we have what is going to amount to the equivalent of a zombie film in many ways.  While I am a fan of these films, it takes very little for them to veer quickly into mediocrity without a director of solid vision.  Do we have that with Breck Eisner?  It’s hard to say given his resume is a few television episodes and a two feature films the best known of which was “Sahara.”  However, the film does have a few aces up its sleeve.  The cast includes underrated stars Timothy Olyphant (“Dreamcatcher” & “Hitman”) and Radha Mitchell (“Surrogates” & “Pitch Black”).  Also, while many may not realize it, this film is actually a remake of a 1973 film penned and directed by one of the masters of the genre, George A. Romero.  I’m holding out hope for this one, but go in with a bit of trepidation that it is headed for the bad side of B-movie.

“Cop Out” – MovieDruid Pick of the Week

Trailer

Synopsis: Two longtime NYPD partners on the trail of a stolen, rare, mint-condition baseball card find themselves up against a merciless, memorabilia-obsessed gangster. Jimmy the veteran detective whose missing collectible is his only hope to pay for his daughter’s upcoming wedding, and Paul is his “partner-against-crime” whose preoccupation with his wife’s alleged infidelity makes it hard for him to keep his eye on the ball.

MovieDruid’s Comments: It’s not often that I pick a comedy for a Pick of the Week.  And, in this case, I am not selecting it so much for the perceived quality of the film as much as the fact that it seems the more likely of this week’s two releases to fall on its face.  There is actually much to like here, though.  Bruce Willis (“Hudson Hawk” & “Lucky Number Slevin”) has proven over and over again through the course of his career that he has comedic skill, and Tracy Morgan (“Head of State” & “First Sunday”) seems to gel well with him on-screen.  As always, the concern is this will turn into humor of the lowest common denominator and just fail to amuse.  The director may be able to keep things on track here, though.  Kevin Smith (“Clerks” & “Chasing Amy”) directs the film.  This is something of a mixed blessing, however, as Smith is directing a film he did not write for the first time.  (As a side note that may be worrisome, the film was originally to be titles “Two Dicks” until, the studio decided to change it to “Cop Out.”)

I like the concept of seasons.  I truly enjoy the changes in the weather as the year progresses.  I like watching the budding of the trees in the spring, the leaves blowing in the summer winds, the explosion of color in the fall, and the skeletal starkness of winter forests.  There is beauty in every one.

And, as I have said in the past, I moved around a bit as a kid.  By the time I had graduated from high school I had lived in five different states and that number is now seven.  It is truly amazing just how different those seasonal changes are when you move to different areas of the country that, when taken as part of the globe, are relatively close to one another.  I think it is this experience which has taught me an appreciation of nature’s yearly ballet. 

But, while I enjoy the changing of the seasons, I think I would prefer the seasons to be like an old friend just back in town for a few months.  They come in, we sit down at the bar, have a few beers and swap stories of the old days.  Their visit will be a pleasant one full remembering old times and making new memories.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the way it works lately.  This winter (and even a few of the recent summers) have been less like an old friend coming to visit and more like a rabid ape tearing through and laying waste to everything in its path.  But this is no normal ape, not by a long shot.  After he crashes through like a dervish of nature’s retaliation he stops, looks back on the chaos he has created, and laughs his furry ass off as we struggle to cope with the consequences.

I hate that ape.

A few years ago Avery Brooks did a commercial for IBM complaining that he had been promised flying cars  which, of course, have not been delivered.  It was an amusing enough commercial, but there is a little truth in what he said.  Anyone who has had any exposure to science-fiction has to wonder why some of the things we imagined back then have never come to fruition.  Discussing the reasoning behind it is an interesting philosophical and intellectual exercise, but the question is becoming more relevant.

The state of the economy these days is major reason for this becoming, in my opinion, a more relevant question.  One of the biggest driving factors in the economic problems many of us experience is the cost of fuel, and thus the price of oil.  Now, I am not here to make arguments about the deep and tangled politics involved in world oil production and consumption.  However, the reality is that the rising price of oil has a direct impact of the cost of almost everything else from food to compact discs.

And this, to me, is the central reason for revisiting the old “flying cars” conundrum.  And while I understand that perhaps flying cars are not an answer or even within a realistic framework, the concept does work as a metaphor.  We need to find the flying car of transportation.  There have been many technologies which have been put forth as possibilities (Fuel Cells, Mag-Lev, Bio-Diesel), but it almost feels like there is a disincentive to explore these technologies.

The conspiracy theorists among us will cite a complicated conspiracy involving oil companies, government agencies, car makers, and even more esoteric entities as being the reason for this.  I am not naive enough to believe that there is no pressure being brought to bear to stick with fossil fuels by the companies whose survival depends upon the continued consumption of them, but whether or not there is an overarching conspiracy out there we need to find a way around it.

The brutal truth of the matter is that we are going to have to, at some point, make massive investments on enormous overhauls of nearly every aspect of our national infrastructure.  Whether these changes are because of new technological needs, or simply because our highways and railways are rotting beneath us is immaterial. 

We have gotten to a point where this country needs to stop and take a look at where we have ended up.  We used to be a nation of creative minds bravely forging trails into unknown places.  These days, our research and development seems focused on “safe” ideas like incremental improvements to existing ideas or ideas that are focus-grouped until all the vision is bled out of them.  We need to get back to our pioneering spirit.  We need to find the strength to take the risk and find that revolutionary new technology that changes everything.

The cars don’t have to fly, but dammit do something.

This past Saturday I had an opportunity to attend an event that was quite interesting: Creative Memories Regional Saturday 2010.  For those who do not have a scrapbooker in the house allow me to elaborate on a few salient points.

Creative Memories is a company which makes a variety of products for scrapbooking, card making, and the like.  The products range from basic papers to cutters and punches in every imaginable shape and size to digital products that are pretty impressive.  The company has been around for 23 years and does it sales through a network of consultants who market their products through get togethers, craft shows, or other means. 

Now, I know that many of my readers are wondering why you would go to a “get together” to buy paper.  A valid question, and one with a simple answer.  Quality.  The Creative Memories brand is, in many ways, the Cadillac of its industry.  The products are of much higher calibre and more on the cutting edge both as far as trends go and, in the case of their digital offerings, technologically.

Now, this is all well and good.  They are a great company and offer high-quality products to a loyal and dedicated consume base.  But what, you may ask, does this have to do with my Saturday?

My wife learned of their “Regional Saturday” a few months ago.  She and a friend of ours had plans to attend said event together, but unfortunately the scheduling demons that terrorize us all denied them and our friend was unable to attend.

Now, I pride myself on being an open-minded and loving husband, sensitive to the needs and desires of my wonderful wife.  I know that scrapbooking is her big hobby, but it is more than that.  It is a way for us to preserve our memories so that we can always remember.  I also know she is extremely unlikely to attend this sort of event on her own, no matter how much she wants to go.  Thus, when I was asked if I would be willing to come with her I agreed to join her.

So, on Saturday afternoon, I found myself in a hotel ballroom surrounded by hundreds of scrapbookers, with not another male in sight except for a few who worked for Creative Memories.  It was a very lonely feeling.

You see, we men get nervous when surrounded by that many women.  We’ve heard the jokes.  We know how stupid, insensitive, and cruel our gender can be.  And, thus, we don’t like to be outnumbered, especially to that extent.  There’s always the danger that we will be offered up as some sort of sacrifice for the sins of our brothers and fathers.

And, it would be vengeance well deserved in many ways.

But, I can report no such thing happened.  It was actually an interesting event, but on geared much more toward their consultants than the consumers.  I learned a little more about my wife’s hobby, met a few people I had only heard stories about, and got to see up close what their digital products, which as a techie I admit I had scoffed at a bit, were truly capable of.  I even did a little participation in the card making and scrapbooking myself.  (And, no, I don’t feel I strayed out of masculine territory to do it.)  It was a nice afternoon.

I do have to admit, though, I began to sweat a bit when they talked about marketing to men in the digital products session.  It was a little uncomfortable being the only male in a room packed like sardines with women.

The ebb and flow of the crowd at a restaurant is always a little interesting to watch, especially on a busy evening.  Patrons almost seem to be drawn into the restaurant in waves sometimes and then just as quickly ebb out of the restaurant to make room for the next wave to be seated and enjoy their epicurean adventures.  However, there are times and places where this ebb and flow can be disrupted by other events in such a way as to make the tidal aspect of the place even more pronounced.

Such was the scene last evening at Houlihan’s in Hershey.  And, I suspect that it is a regular occurence.

You see, Houlihan’s is located in the newly restored Hershey Press Building near the corner of Chocolate and Cocoa.  When the Press Building was restored they also built a parking structure that is one of the only decent parking areas in the “downtown” section of Hershey.  This very nice restaurant with its easily accessible parking is located across the street and one block down from the historic Hershey Theater to which I have often referred in the past.

Thus the tidal flow.

Any time there is a show or event at the theater, or even the nearby Giant Center, Houlihan’s will begin to fill up quickly two or three hours prior to the beginning of the event.  People will flood in, have a nice meal, grab a beer or glass of wine and chat over their meal. 

Then, between an hour and thirty minutes prior to curtain, the ebb tide will begin.  People will begin flooding out of the restaraunt discussing who has the tickets, where they are sitting, and whether they should drive over or just walk. 

It is an interesting phenomenon to witness.  It is even more enjoyable to participate in as my wife and I did on our way out to attend a performance at the theater by the Martha Graham Dance Company.  The people waiting to be seated looked in shock as a steady stream of people left the restaraunt with a startling suddenness.  It was actually a little amusing.

And as I settled into my seat in the Theater and perused the evenings program the man next to me leaned over and asked how my meal at Houlihan’s had been.  I smiled and told him it had been quite satisfying.  We both chuckled as we gazed around the Theater.

Half the patrons had been in Houlihan’s less than twenty minutes before.

Hello, all.

This week is a very light one, with only a single national release to talk about.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is it is a film that appears to be of superb quality and has an incredible pedigree.  Want to know what it is?

Well, then, read on, loyal readers….

“Shutter Island” – MovieDruid Pick of the Week

Trailer

Synopsis: “Shutter Island” is the story of two U.S. marshals, Teddy Daniels and Chuck Aule, who are summoned to a remote and barren island off the coast of Massachusetts to investigate the mysterious disappearance of a murderess from the island’s fortress-like hospital for the criminally insane.

MovieDruid’s Comments: I guess no one wants to go head-to-head with Martin Scorsese.  It’s hard to blame them with films like “Raging Bull,” “GoodFellas,” “The Aviator,” and “The Departed” to his credit.  I still feel it was a crime it took until 2006 for the man to get a Best Director Oscar, but that’s an argument for another day.  But, this is beyond simply the brilliance that is Scorsese’s directing.  First off, he is working with an actor that appears to have become a favorite in Leonardo DiCaprio (“Blood Diamond” & “Gangs of New York”).  DiCaprio’s work is nearly always of extremely high-caliber, and I would consider him one of the better performers of his generation.  But, he is hardly the only name here.  His co-stars include Mark Ruffalo (“The Last Castle” & “Blindness”), Ben Kingsley (“Death and the Maiden” & “Schindler’s List”), Max von Sydow (“Minority Report” & “Snow Falling on Cedars”), and Jackie Earle Haley (“Watchmen” & “The Bad News Bears”).  And that is just a sampling, even the minor roles seem to have pedigreed performers in them.  And, of course, the production values from special effects to costuming to sets all appear to be of the highest standards.  It may win Pick of the Week by default, but this film could stand up against nearly any challenger.  Scorsese appears to have crafted another instant classic.

I think I have finally determined exactly what it is I want to do with my life.  After much soul-searching and examination of myself and the world around me, I have decided on the job that will most completely fulfill me as a person on every level.

I want to be the guy that gets to name the streets.

Sound ridiculous?  Bear with me.

I have lived many places in my lifetime, and one thing I can say is that whoever is naming streets in this great nation of ours has one of the best jobs in the world.  Why?  Quite simply because we are all at your mercy. 

See a documentary on old cars over the weekend?  Come to work and name a whole section of town after cars.  Start craving a little chocolate?  Name the streets of Hershey after the various cacao beans and culminate it all with the corner of Chocolate Avenue and Cocoa Avenue.  It doesn’t matter how whimsical or ridiculous it seems, you don’t have to live there.  Have an extraordinarily obscure local celebrity known for no one knows what?  Name a street after him and make all the locals wonder.  Heck, make up a name and when people question it act insulted that they don;t know the story of this great man.

Feeling evil?  Start naming the streets all the same thing.  Name half the streets in Charlotte with some version of Sharon.  Sharon Road. Sharon Amity Road.  Sharon Lane.  Even a three-way intersection of Sharon, Sharon, and Sharon.  Don’t know where to turn?  It’s a left on Sharon.  But which one?  MWAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

I tell you, friends, this would be the greatest job ever.  Think of the absolute mayhem you could cause if you put your mind to it?  And then you just sit back and chuckle from the porch of your house on No Friggin’ Way.

We live in an interesting time from the standpoint of the workplace.

I say this because we are riding the tail-end of a cusp between two different generations within our work environments.  On one hand there are the workers who have been at the companies, government offices, and the like for decades.  On the other, we have the Gen X and later workers who are starting to come of age within their workplaces.

It can be a clash of cultures, of course, but it isn’t really the cultural differences that cause many of the problems.  Business and office environments have constantly evolved over the years in their automation and technology.  The problem is that many workers who have been in their positions for decades have not adapted well to the constantly changing technology either from a lack of understanding or, all too often, a stubbornness in the face of change.  Their way was better as far as they’re concerned.

Now, I know I am going to get some accusations of agism or the like here, but the problem has nothing to do with age and everything to do with attitude.  Too many people, whether young or old, take negative attitudes toward any change.  And the march of technological progress can be the biggest change they face in their day-to-day working life.  Those unwilling to adapt will either withdraw into their ignorance of anything new and wrap it around them like a security blanket or fiercely deny that the change is necessary or even an improvement.

I see this everyday, and have for years as a technical support and help desk worker.

The world is a constantly changing place.  It always has been.  The rate of change accelerates, but it never truly stops.  Technology can make this worse for good or for ill.  But, it is amazing to me how often people stand up and try to plant their feet, refusing to march forward with the rest of the world.  This is a recipe for unhappiness, resentment, and helplessness.

So I urge everyone to be open to changes.  I am not saying we should blindly accept any new process or gadget as automatically superior.  However, we need to keep our minds open to the possibilities and not cry out that we can’t do this before we try or that we won’t do it before we give it a chance.

And, for the love of all that’s holy, try to remember your passwords.  A weekend is only two days, people.

Today is President’s Day.  And, while I am somewhat hesitant to write two posts on holidays in a row, here we are.

As I’ve been wracking my brain on something to write about this morning, it occurred to me that this holiday is one we often just overlook.  Many of us in the private sector don’t even notice a holiday has occurred, and those that do just think of it as a free long weekend during the long march to Memorial Day.

But, in these times I think that perhaps a reflection on the two men who’s birthdays this is truly a celebration of, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, might be in order. 

I truly believe we live in the greatest country in the world.  The United States is one of the few places in the world where it is really possible for a man to accomplish anything he puts his mind to.  And this nation was built by men of character and vision, men who were not afraid to look tyranny in the eye and say “ENOUGH!”

In recent times, we have become a nation set against itself.  The line that has divided us one from another for decades is quickly becoming a gaping chasm with the ideological war that is beginning.  There are too many people raging at each other and too few working to find common ground.  Ideology has become the new tyrant in this nation, and whether Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative we are all beginning to fall into that trap.

Lincoln once said: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  In those days he was referring to the growing tension that would eventually lead to the Civil War.  But, I see the same thing today.  I see a house quickly becoming divided against itself.   Are we to simply accept that the inevitable consequence of this is a bloody and protracted civil war?  Or, do we recognize the warning signs of impending crisis and stop leaning wholly on ideology.  We need to come back to the principles on which this great nation was founded.

I truly believe we need to remember Washington and Lincoln this year.  We need to remember the wars they fought to build this country.  We need to remember the unflinching stand they took against the tyranny of one man against another.  We need to recognize that the ideological struggle that is happening today is just a different side of that same coin, and do something about it before this house no longer stands.

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