thursday, 17 july, 2003
Arrrrrrrrrrrr »

If I had to summarize my thoughts on Pirates of the Caribbean in one sentence, it would be this one: while it's a movie with several flaws of varying degrees of severity, it's also enormously entertaining and will have me paying to see it a second time. And if I didn't have to summarize my thoughts on the film in one sentence, I would probably ramble on for a paragraph or two about its flaws and why it's still enormously entertaining. And I don't, so I will.

One of the things that bothered me but that will probably bother very few other people is that it seems as though the filmmakers could have done their homework a tad more thoroughly. There are silly, unnecessary historical inaccuracies - it's not that it's a movie that really wants to be a perfect period piece, but this is simple stuff to correct. I find it hard to believe that during the entire production process, nobody pointed out the fact that the Royal Navy during the nebulous time period portrayed did not have such a thing as a permanent rank of commodore - much less a ceremony of promotion when one was created. (Mister Fancypants should probably have been an admiral, although he was a little young to be either.) And was HMS Dauntless supposed to be the Dauntless, the one that actually existed around eighteen-mumblemumble? It's difficult to say, since there wasn't an HMS Interceptor (nor a black-sailed ship of the damned, but that's not really an issue of anachronism).

But okay, back in the land of people who don't read Patrick O'Brian - there were other problems with the film, some of them minor (and some of them less so). Some troublesome pacing, some painful dialogue, and a whole lot of pirates made awfully tame by the constraints of appearing in a PG-13 Disney flick. If all the pirates really behaved the way they do in the film, it's hard to see why poor Captain Jack merited a hanging - after all, they plunder very rarely and never so much as swear. It's not that I'm not satisfied without seeing entrails flying and blood spurting every which way, but it is a movie about pirates. However, keeping in mind that it's a Disney movie, it's not nearly as squeaky-clean as I'd feared. Their particular brand of heavy-handed morality is relegated to more of a backseat role than usual, which is a relief.

Orlando Bloom is good, although his lovably sheltered character smacks very much of Legolas recast as a blacksmith. But I like Legolas, and Bloom does his job quite well. He's vastly overshadowed, however, by both Geoffrey Rush and especially Johnny Depp - either one of them is capable of upstaging just about everyone else in the film, and they frequently do. Depp in particular steals the show, and I have a feeling that very little of the script would have worked even as well as it did without him. Luckily, it didn't have to. He's perfect for the role and for the movie, with his eyeliner and his dreads and his swaggering (or staggering). If I see it again, it will probably be because his Captain Jack is entirely and deliciously entertaining, and I hope they keep that in mind for the sequel(s).

I've bitched fairly extensively about bits of the film, but I want to emphasize that I did like it, very much so. It's this summer's Spider-Man - it's just as goofily light but fantastic. Plus, there's a zombie monkey.

wednesday, 16 july, 2003
Birthday Birds »

Since today is the birthday of my most-fabulous father, I invite you all to spend some time looking at his sculpture. Even if you've taken a peek at the gallery before, you might want to stop by again - new pieces are added all the time, and they're all pretty spectacular. The photos really don't do them justice, but they're enough to give you a sense of the work, anyway. The last time I was in Massachusetts, I got to visit the Cape Ann Historical Museum, which is home to one of the largest of the birds - its wingspan is just about fifteen feet. The pictures are great, of course, but nothing really compares to walking around and underneath the pieces themselves. If location permits, you'd do well to go check out one of the places where they're exhibited. Right now Gloucester or Freeport is your best bet, but it looks like there will be more shows this fall.

tuesday, 15 july, 2003
Unabashedly Cheesy Summer Movies I Fully Intend To See »

1. Pirates of the Caribbean, which in fact I'll be seeing tomorrow night. Of course the previews look goofy, it's a pirate movie. But it's got Johnny Depp (who has clearly sold his soul to the devil if he can turn forty while looking twenty four) and Orlando Bloom and that Keira Knightley person who is undeniably cute. And I like pirates, anyway. How can you not like pirates? I guess it might be possible, but you couldn't really go up to a pirate and tell him you didn't like him, because he's probably get offended and make you walk the plank.

2. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, on the other hand, looked moderately interesting in previews and is getting absolutely abysmal reviews. But I'll probably see it anyway, but this might be one I end up renting - my enthusiasm was dampened a bit after I saw one of those horrible behind the scenes specials. They showed all the best parts of the movie and they weren't all that great.

3. Terminator 3 looks ridiculous, and silly, and I hate Arnold with an undying passion. But I liked the second one (the first being another one of those holy-crud-how-can-you-not-have-seen-that movies I've mentioned before), and I'll end up seeing it because... well.

4. Johnny English will disappoint me. I'm aware of this. The Mr Bean movie disappointed me, after all, but I still can't bring myself to hate Rowan Atkinson. I loved Black Adder and I loved the Mr Bean series and I giggled like a schoolgirl when I saw the Johnny English trailer. Even though I know that the movie itself will end up being painful and unfortunate and, yes, disappointing.

monday, 14 july, 2003
Stirrers, Foosball »

William Gibson comments on the many and varied uses of those wooden coffee stirrers at Starbucks. This reminds me of two things:

Firstly, I stole massive quantities of those stirrers to make little walls and floors and furniture for this scale model stage I had to build in a stage design class my freshman year. The one set I remember in particular was for that David Mamet play, American Buffalo (which was also a pretty good movie). They were easier to obtain (the stirrers were) and easier to cut than popsicle sticks and just about as sturdy, and I don't regret for an instant that dozens of Starbucks patrons must have had to use straws or spoons or something to stir their coffee that week. Since I stole all the stirrers. I learned where to get blueprints made in Union Square for that class, too. It was a good class.

Secondly, and this isn't so much in a coffee-stirrer vein as a making-use-of-disposable-things vein, but I remember years ago flipping through this particular book at someone else's house - it was a collection of uses for tampon applicators, the little tiny cardboard or plastic tubes that otherwise just get thrown out and apparently produce massive quantities of waste. And my favorite idea for using discarded tampon applicators was to make a foosball table with them - the applicators would be all the little foos-men, rows and rows of them. I wish I had a tampon applicator foosball table.

The Zombies Strike Back »

Remember when Chris and I went to see 28 Days Later last week? He wrote up some notes on the film and the people we saw it with, and they're right here.

sunday, 13 july, 2003
The Best Things To Watch On Cable When You Have The Plague »

1. Saturday Night Fever is another one of the seemingly endless list of movies everyone else is always amazed I've never seen. Probably the only thing funnier than Travolta's dancing is the fact that his clothes are now back in style.

2. Monster Garage and/or Monster House. Last night it was the latter, and even though I'm not usually a fan of reality television I have to say the electrician guy working on the Western-themed house was good times - it turns out that lying about your experience and qualifications on your show application may actually get you on the air, but it won't keep you from looking like a jackass once you get there.

3. Young Guns (which I mentioned yesterday) left me in the mood to watch The Lost Boys today, making for a very eighties-Kiefer sort of weekend. Which isn't a bad thing at all, really. Maybe next weekend I should rent the first season of 24 for a more recent Kiefer adventure.

4. Pokémon and assorted other animated adventures, because it's not possible to outgrow watching Saturday morning cartoons (although these days I am more about the iced coffee and bagel than I am about the Count Chocula).

saturday, 12 july, 2003
Not Bubonic, I Guess »

I'm fighting off the plague again - or at least a really irritating sore throat, which is almost like the Black Death. Really. In any case, it means more games and more movies this weekend - today I checked out Young Guns on cable. Nothing like a just barely post-Lost Boys Kiefer Sutherland in a western flick with a new wave soundtrack. Plus a happy ending, despite some characters dying rather bloodily at the end - thank goodness they were the ones we didn't really like anyway.

friday, 11 july, 2003
The Dorkery Thickens »

As if Magic wasn't bad enough, I picked up a couple of Pokemon theme decks yesterday and Chris and I just played a couple of rounds. It's actually kind of fun, although the games are a lot shorter than what I'm used to in Magic. I doubt I'll build an actual collection or anything, but the Ruby and Sapphire decks I got are good times - I've got the Ruby game for the GBA as well, so I feel like I'm already familiar with most of the Pokemon involved. All of this is somehow CowboyNeal's fault.

thursday, 10 july, 2003
A Wonderful Thing »

I saw another blue-screened MetroCard vending machine on my way to work this morning (in the Lafayette entrance to the N/R at Canal Street). Why does this happen when I'm not carrying my camera? I've spotted incapacitated machines at the Ocean Parkway and Union Square stations as well, although not recently. It's always a pretty funny sight, of course, but it's also one that adds to my general sense of discomfort over the MTA's plan to remove a bunch of ticket booth humans in order to save money, which would leave people to rely on the machines instead. Blue screens may be fairly uncommon, but other woes are not - I don't think it's an exaggeration to suppose that somewhere around a third of the machines I pass by in the course of a commuting week are in some way disabled. Mostly they just won't accept some kind of currency, usually bills, and sometimes they're entirely out of order. It's not uncommon to see a station in which all of the machines have something wrong with them, especially if it's a small station with only one or two to begin with.

It makes me wonder what I'm supposed to do if it's three in the morning at an unmanned station and I can't get a fare from any of the machines. I don't usually carry change around with me, so the frequency of the "No bills accepted at this time" message is a little worrisome. Yes, those machines will usually accept a credit or debit card - but my Chase banking card has never worked with a MetroCard machine (UNABLE TO READ YOUR CARD, PLEASE TRY AGAIN), and I don't have any actual credit cards.

I know if I actually found myself in that situation, it wouldn't be that big a deal to go find a 24-hour deli an ATM where I could get and break a 20 (and get two bucks in change, I guess), but it's not exactly an ideal solution. I've already been irritated at having to pay more for increasingly shitty transit service, and I think it's irresponsible of the MTA to assume that vending machines will solve all their money problems. If we're going to be dependent on them in order to use the subway, they should at least be more reliable - and blue screened machines don't encourage impressions of ability, to say the least.

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