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Archive for November, 2006

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20 Most Overrated Movies of All Time

Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Apparently, Premiere magazine has published a list. John Scalzi blogged about it on By The Way, and then Jason Bennion added his thoughts no Simple Tricks and Nonsense.

The general agreement that seems to be forming is that Premiere was right on for half the list, and completely out of their mind for the other half (disagreement still exists on which half is which, of course). I’ve re-reproduced the Premiere list here, crossing off the ones I think they were wrong about. Like Jason, I’ll add my own entries below:

20. American Beauty
19. Chicago
18. Clerks
17. Fantasia
16. Field of Dreams
15. Chariots of Fire
14. Good Will Hunting
13. Forrest Gump
12. Jules and Jim
11. A Beautiful Mind
10. Monster’s Ball
9. Moonstruck
8. Mystic River
7. Nashville
6. The Wizard of Oz
5. An American in Paris
4. Easy Rider
3. The Red Shoes
2. 2001: A Space Odyssey
1. Gone with the Wind

First, my strikeouts:

Chicago brought back the movie musical, and did so in a way that worked extremely well. They did a spectacular job integrating music into the plot, and some of the set design was unbelievably creative, which actually helped achieve the effect. Any movie that has me noticing things like set design & art direction has got to be a great film.

Fantasia isn’t a favorite of mine, but I don’t think it’s overrated. It was as groundbreaking as everyone says it was, and basically launched the whole concept of “Popular Classical” music. Even Fantasia 2000 followed in those footsteps, using music that was both classical & recognizable (like Pomp & Circumstance and Rhapsody in Blue).

Field of Dreams is just a great movie. It was on the other day at 1AM, and it kept me up well past two re-watching it. Call me sappy, but any movie that can hold my attention at that hour deserves whatever accolades get thrown at it.

Good Will Hunting is also a great movie, judging again by the “I’ll-watch-it-if-it’s-on-cable-late-at-night” meter. Affleck & Damon weaved a very complex story together very well, so it never feels the least bit forced at any point. Also, Robin Williams proves yet again that all that uncontrollable zaniness is actually quite controllable.

Forrest Gump is unbelievable (to Jason’s point), but it is so unbelievable that it stops making a difference. At some point, you stop thinking about how unlikely the plot is, and start to see Forrest as an idea, not a character – the idea that optimism is a good thing, and that thing will eventually work themselves out.

The Wizard of Oz deserves its accolades for two reasons: First, it did what Chicago did in terms of weaving music into a storyline, so it doesn’t feel like the movie “stops for a song.” Second, the amount of Americana that has come from this film, (“There’s no place like home,” “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” “Lions & Tigers & Bears, oh my!”, etc.) is so immense, that you can’t help but give it it’s props…

I should also note that there are several films on Premiere’s list that I haven’t seen. I left them on the list on the theory that they received so much praise and yet, I have had no desire to see them. Hence, overrated (at least to me).

Now, my additions:

Sideways: This thing won an award for Best Comedy, and after I finished watching the DVD, I had to check the case to make sure I’d rented the same movie. I honestly don’t even understand how this movie is supposed to be funny. A major downer…

Anything by Woody Allen: Reveered as a great director, I have yet to see anything he made that has even mildly interested me (and I’m a Jewish guy, born in Brooklyn – so I’m basically his target audience).

Blazing Saddles: I think some of Mel Brooks’ later works were much better (History of the World, Part I, Spaceballs), but Blazing Saddles is the one that gets all the accolades. Go figure…

2001: A Space Oddessey: I know, I know – it’s already on the list. But this movie was so spectacularly bad, IMHO, that I had to mention it again. I’m too young to have seen it in the theaters, but I rented it on DVD twice, and fell asleep both times (the second rental was because it’s so heralded as a great movie, that I couldn’t believe I fell asleep the first time. After the second time, I gave up).

Spinal Tap: Good film. Very good film, even. Cult classic? Side-splittingly funny? No. I just don’t see it.

I’m sure I’ll think of more & update this entry, but that’s all for now. Watch this space…

Categories: Movie Talk | 5 Comments »

The Mustang’s Big Game…

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

A few weeks back, reported that the Marlboro Mustangs (of Marlboro High School in Marlboro, NJ), had been outscored by their opponents 364-27 with one (Thansgiving) game to play.

Well, I’m happy to report that the Mustangs had a big game on Turkey Day, beating their season average points-per-game with a mighty 6, and holding Manalapan to (just) below their opponents’ average points-per-game with a scant 43.

The 43-6 loss brings the 0-10-0 season to a merciful close with the total points scored standing at 447-47.

Look at the bright side: they probably get the first pick in the draft, and they are extremely well positioned for the “Most Improved” award in 2007…


Categories: Sports Talk | No Comments »

It Takes Two to Sandwich

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

- One shopping mall lease with Panera Bread
- One stipulation that the mall cannot lease to another sandwich shop
- One shopping mall lease with Qdoba Mexican Grill (same mall)
- One chef from Cambridge willing to file an affidavit
- One New Webster Third International Dictionary (2002 Edition)
- One former high-ranking federal agriculture official
- One judge with absolutely nothing important to do with his time


Mix the Panera Bread lease and the no-other-sandwich-shops stipulation in a large bowl. Let simmer for five years at room temperature. Then add the Qdoba lease. Increase the heat until the mixture reaches a boil. Then, fold in the chef’s affidavit, which says:

I know of no chef or culinary historian who would call a burrito a sandwich. Indeed, the notion would be absurd to any credible chef or culinary historian.

Maintain the boil until a legal opinion forms on the judge. Add the Webster’s dictionary and a former high-ranking federal agriculture official as needed. When the opinion is fully baked, remove and serve:

The New Webster Third International Dictionary describes a “sandwich” as “two thin pieces of bread, usually buttered, with a thin layer (as of meat, cheese, or savory mixture) spread between them.” (Merriam-Webster, 2002). Under this definition and as dictated by common sense, this court finds that the term “sandwich” is not commonly understood to include burritos, tacos, and quesadillas, which are typically made with a single tortilla and stuffed with a choice filling of meat, rice, and beans. As such, there is no viable legal basis for barring [the Qdoba lease].

Garnish to taste but, under penalty of law, don’t call it a sandwich!

Categories: The World Wide Weird | No Comments »

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Tears…

Tuesday, November 28th, 2006

For anyone who thinks their kids’ pictures turned out badly:

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging | 4 Comments »

ISBS Review: Internet Explorer 7

Friday, November 24th, 2006

That automatic updating feature of Windows XP kicked in the other day with an “update ready to be installed.” As has been my policy since buying this PC, I said yes.

Side note: I’ve noticed over the years that the people who complain the loudest about Windows crashing all the time are precisely the people who frequently install third party hacks, mess with the registry, or ignore recommended patches/fixes/upgrades, all because they “know what they’re doing.” The version of Windows running on my machine has been handled exactly as Microsoft has recommended I handle it, and it’s fit as a fiddle. I’m not saying OS’s shouldn’t be able to handle these kinds of people, just that Windows performs much better when you’re a “good user.” Now, back to our story)

This particular update was an upgrade for Internet Explorer to the newly released IE 7.0. I had read about the new features and always figured I’d get around to downloading it, but never really had the time. It seems my OS took it upon itself to download it for me while I was sleeping/working, so what the heck – one click and I was on my way. If Firefox or Safari could offer this feature, I’d have all three on my desktop for sure. As it stands, we’re witnessing the true power of the Microsoft monopoly at work here, and quite frankly, I’m fine with it. All it means is that competitors have to make me care more than the incumbent does, which is basically how every other product in the world works.

Anyway, I haven’t played around a lot with all the features of IE 7.0, but here are my first impressions:

1) Tabs are cool
And yes, I know they’ve been around a while and Microsoft is only stealing the good ideas of others & taking all the credit, but I’m glad they’re here. The Quick Tabs tab is pretty cool as well – it gives you a thumbnail of each of the open tabs, from which you can click to go to that tab, or click the “X” to close it. I just know that’s going to come in useful as time goes on. Also useful and vastly under-reported: Outlook is very well integrated into tabbed browsing. If you’re reading an e-mail with multiple links in it, and you click on each one, they don’t open in separate browsers, or even “overwrite” themselves in the same tab. They open in multiple tabs of a new browser session, so that all of your related web pages are available in close proximity. It’s a small thing, but it’s a nice touch.

2) ClearType is also cool
I think this has been around for a while, but it automatically installed with IE7. Basically, it improves the readability of the Windows fonts, especially when they’re bold, italics, etc. It’s still not as smooth looking as the Mac experience, but it’s a whole lot closer than it used to be. My only small complaint here is that in order to have my web pages “ClearTyped,” I have to have my Windows desktop the same way. The background image I have on my desktop (a picture my kids drew for me a while back), makes the filenames on the desktop show up in a white-on-white scenario, and ClearType makes that harder to read. It’s a small complaint, and one caused predominantly by me & fairly easy to fix, but heck – it’s my review, so I get to complain, OK?

3) Finally, an integrated RSS reader
I know, I know – another idea stolen from other, superior browsers. Fine, whatever. It’s kind of cool here. I tried a standalone RSS browser once, but gave up right away because a) who wants to run a separate app, and b) I don’t always check my blogs from the same machine (sometimes from home, sometimes from work, sometimes from the laptop). My RSS reader of choice since then has been my “My Yahoo!” page, which has a very cool interface and is accessible from any machine. My only complaint with it was that the feeds update on some weird schedule that I haven’t been able to figure out yet, so I can’t trust them when they say there have been no updates, which means I have to click into each blog separately anyway. Once I’m doing that, what’s the point of the RSS reader? IE7′s RSS feed has a “Refresh All” command, that bolds the names of the feeds that have new content, and allows me to see how many new entries there are with a rollover. It’s a nice, compact UI that does exactly what I need. Good job, folks…

4) Security seems better
The tabs turn colors based on security risk (grey for “OK”, yellow for “suspect”, red for “phishing site”, etc.). I honestly haven’t played with this too much, because I don’t need to visit invasive sites just to test out the browser, but the approach seems sound. My complaint in this area is on the handling of files on the hard drive. My homepage has been a file on my hard drive for years (basically a bookmark file on steroids – a page with lots of links). IE7′s default is to apply the highest form of security to these files, on the assumption that if an evil-doer gets a file onto your hard drive, they’ll be able to stop it from doing any damage. Kind of a “last line of defense” thing. As a result, each time I went to my homepage, I got a warning which said “This page is not allowed to run scripts or ActiveX objects.” I could ignore the warning if I weren’t so obsessive-compulsive about these things, so I found myself right-clicking on the warning and choosing “Allow Blocked Content” each & every time I went to my homepage. Finally, I changed the setting to allow the scripts & objects to run off the hard drive, and the problem went away. What I really want is for the browser to be smart enough to know that the hard drive file contains no scripts or ActiveX, and not display the message. That way, I’d be perfectly happy leaving the security at its highest setting.

5) Search is no big deal
A lot of noise was made before the product was released about how Google search is defaulted on the toolbar in the upper right corner of the app. In response, Microsoft put a dropdown arrow on the search button, which gives you two additional options: “Find more providers” and “Change Search Defaults.” This seems to have placated the monopoly gods for now. My opinion? Meh. I have the Google toolbar installed right below it, and I suspect that if I were a rabid Yahoo or MSN fan, I’d download their toolbar the same way, so I’d happily shut off the search box entirely if I could find an easy way to do it. Either way, it’s not getting in my way or pushing a particular provider on me in any meaningful way.

6) They need to fix the focus changing method
The browser is divided into sections (menus, toolbars, tabs, and web pages). I know this because when you click in each section, the first click puts that section in focus, and the second click takes the action you want. So, if I’m browsing a web page, and want to click my “Home” button, the first click “lights up” the toolbar, and I have to click again to actually get Home. I’m sure I’ll get used to this very quickly, but I shouldn’t have to. It’s a simple fix, and I’m sure enough people will complain that they’ll get around to fixing it soon enough.

7) Browsing is faster, but loading the browser is slower.
Each of the above mentioned sections seem to start up one at a time. When I open the browser, I first get a web page view with only the back/forward buttons and the address box. Then, the tabs appear, followed by the toolbars, and finally, the menu. All of this happens in rapid succession, but it’s still obvious that it’s running some routine each time it loads to check my settings & configure my UI appropriately. That kind of thing should be figured out before the window opens, and then the whole thing should “POP” together. Again, a minor complaint, but enough that I noticed it right away.

8 ) My mouse’s scrollwheel doesn’t seem to work right
When I scroll with the mouse’s scrollwheel, the page keeps scrolling long after I stop. And if scroll in two directions (e.g., up and then down), the page does a rather entertaining little dance before it finally calms down and gives me back control. I tried futzing with the Control Panel “Mouse” section, but nothing I do seems to work. I have a Logitech MouseMan Wheel mouse (model #M-CW47). Any chance anyone out there has a solution to this? I know, I have to spend some time with Google…

9) The placement of the Windows menus are annoying
The toolbars in IE7 are configurable, just like any other Microsoft app. But the back/forward buttons and the address bar, along with Refresh, Stop, and Search, are pegged to the top line. That means the menus (File, Edit, View, etc.) can only go as high as second line, with the various toolbars and tabs below that. Having the menus in the middle doesn’t look/feel right. Again, I’ll get used to it, but I shouldn’t have to. Menus should be on the top, just below the window’s title. And golf balls, dishes and underwear should all be white. Yes, I’m an old-fashioned codger. So shoot me, why dontcha?

That’s about all right now from the top of my head. I still want to play around a bit. There are lots of new features (particularly around the tabs: the ability to bookmark a set of tabs and then open them all with one click, the ability to close groups of tabs with one click, the ability to set a link to default to a new tab, etc.) that I have just started discovering, or have read about but haven’t found yet. So I’m sure, like any new toy, there will be pleasant & unpleasant surprises. I’ll let you know if any are of note.

Categories: ISBS Reviews, Tech Talk | 8 Comments »

Dumb & Dumber…

Friday, November 24th, 2006


Categories: Movie Talk | 2 Comments »

I Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself

Friday, November 17th, 2006

Famously liberal celebrity and blogger extraordinaire, Arianna Huffington, has apparently radically changed her view of President Bush and the war in Iraq:

And don’t shed any tears for [President Bush]. Even though [he] lost, this was still a big win for [him]. A victory for taking a stand — and for [his] leadership. Because that’s what real leaders do, they take stands. They listen to their hearts and follow their gut. If you only jump into the fights you’re sure you can win — notches in the W column that will look good on your political resume — you’re a hack, not someone who can move the party and the country forward. It’s not about trying to have a spotless record; it’s about knowing which battles are worth fighting, whatever the outcome.

Well, she makes a convincing argument, and it’s certainly more logical than the things she’s said in the past about the war, so I think that . . . Oh, wait a second! My bad! She wasn’t talking about President Bush and Iraq at all. This was about Nancy Pelosi and her failed attempt at getting Jack Murtha elected House Majority Leader. Please accept my apologies – I’ll try to be more careful in the future. ;-)

Ya see, that’s what I love about hypocrisy. It’s so consistently inconsistent…

Categories: Political Rantings | 3 Comments »

Wouldn’t it be funny if OJ, oh wait – nevermind…

Thursday, November 16th, 2006

Have you ever noticed that anything O.J. Simpson does sounds like a parody of something that O.J. Simpson would do? Take, for instance, this:

O. J. Simpson . . . has written a book and will appear on television telling “how he would have committed the murders if he were the one responsible,” his publisher and the Fox television network said on Tuesday.

According to a news release, the book and the TV special, which has a working title of “O.J. Simpson: If I Did It, Here’s How It Happened,” will depict Mr. Simpson describing “how he would have carried out the murders he has vehemently denied committing for over a decade.”

As far as I can tell, this is not a joke. If it were a joke, it wouldn’t be all that funny because it would sound so unbelievable…

Categories: News and/or Media, The World Wide Weird | 2 Comments »

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words (and a quarter)

Wednesday, November 15th, 2006

This gave me a chuckle:

(Hat tip to Wil Wheaton)

Categories: Random Acts of Blogging | No Comments »

Are you tonedeaf?

Monday, November 13th, 2006

Here’s an online test to see if you’re tonedeaf. It takes about 6 minutes, and requires a quiet room and a computer with Flash 8 or 9.

The scoring model is as follows:
Greater than 90% correct: World-class musical abilities
Greater than 75% correct: Excellent musical abilities
Greater than 60% correct: Good musical abilities
Less than 50% correct: You may have a pitch perception deficit

My score was 63.9%.

While the test may have its flaws, I think the result was about right. I always considered my musical ear to be pretty good, but not great, which explains why I can play several musical instruments, but can’t really sing.

As for the test, it’s a series of musical passages that you need to compare and judge “same” or “different.” I think singers have the advantage here, because they practice tonal memory in their training, and it’s got to get easier over time. Also, the passsages can be quite long, and if the difference is a half-step somewhere in the middle, then the test is more about memory than it is about tonedeafness. Finally, I’ve always found that I’m better at picking out pitches on instruments I’m familiar with (piano, trumpet, and even a singer’s voice). Some of these passages were done in tech/funk MIDI stops that make discerning them harder (although that might just be me, and a valid reason to get a lower score).

Anyway, check it out & report your score here…

Categories: Words about Music | 1 Comment »

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