Dog Breath.

The Rants of Dog Breath

A jumble of info, sometimes with my own personal slant on things.

Dagwood Style
Dog Breath.
dogbreathcanada

When I was a kid, I used to construct some huge sandwiches. Quadruple stacks. Ham. Turkey. Lettuce. Tomatoes. Cucumbers. Pickles. Cheese. Mustard. Mayo.

It makes me a little sad that I have zero desire to do that anymore.


DVD and Film Mini-Reviews #103
Dog Breath.
dogbreathcanada
Reviews of Inside Job, The Adjustment Bureau, Jackass 3D, Sunshine and The Green Hornet.

Inside Job (Charles Ferguson, 2010)
****1/2
Want to know what happened in the subprime mortgage/derivative meltdown? This film lays it all out for the layman. Basically, deregulation is to blame, which lead to rampant greed, which lead the banks to start pushing investments they knew were unsafe onto the unknowing public, and using the ratings firms to rate these unsafe investments as extremely safe (the CDOs were given AAA ratings, even as the banks started betting on their failure.) The documentary is certainly biased, but with a more even tone than what someone like Michael Moore might have done with the material. It presents what happened, what lead to it, and what is not being done to fix it. The message? Where massive amounts of money are to be made by individuals (the executive bonuses) regulation is needed of that industry, because the lust for dollars takes over all moral concerns.

The Adjustment Bureau (George Nolfi, 2011)
****
Saw some reviewers mentioning plot holes with respect to the freewill versus predestination components of the movie. I'm not quite sure what they are talking about. Seemed to me that the film was quite clear that we all have freewill, just that the powers-that-be work hard to mitigate them to some degree (we're apt to destroy ourselves given complete freewill (as an aside, see Inside Job as proof of this)). The rapport between the leads was convincing plus some. Damon is simply a very watchable actor, sort of like Clooney was in the years following ER (he is less so now.) I could easily see how religious folks could glom onto this fable, since the premise (as written for the film, not so for the Philip K. Dick story it was adapted from) is very much religious in nature (and they don't make it at all ambiguous, though it seems there was an attempt to do so, albeit rather lazily.) The plot: the powers-that-be are trying to direct Damon on a life course that does not involve the woman he is desperately in love with. Many Philip K. Dick stories are adapted to screen, very few are adapted well. This is one of the better adaptations.

Jackass 3D (Jeff Tremaine, 2010)
***
I like to think of the Jackass films as performance art. Funny as hell performance art. Well, when they're hurting each other and themselves. I can do without the fart and poo humour. That simply sends me into gag mode. But the stunts and what they'll willingly put themselves through, quite astonishing. It's not entirely testosterone fueled, but more in line with "what can I possibly endure." Not as funny or inspired as Jackass 2, but they do make excellent use of the 3D.

Sunshine (Danny Boyle, 2007)
**1/2
Like all Danny Boyle films after Trainspotting, the film starts off with a really intriguing and interesting premise, keeps you hooked on that until the last third, and then devolves into a disappointing display of standard in Hollywood action fare. Boyle needs to ignore studio notes, because the last third of 28 Days Later was similarly disappointing. Sunshine had a cool psychological component to it, akin to Tarkovsky's Solaris, before it turned into a nonsensical slasher flick. The crew of a spaceship is on a mission to reignite our dying sun. Some nice bits of sci-fi here too, relating to the ship's shielding from the sun.

The Green Hornet (Michel Gondry. 2011)
**
I'm no purist of this particular superhero, so cannot comment on where it went wrong in terms of adaptation. I enjoyed some of the film. The humour, the action. Ultimately, pretty bland, meaningless and forgettable. I also did not buy any camaraderie between The Green Hornet and Kato. The Green Hornet was a complete dick to Kato most of the time and didn't understand why he just simply wouldn't kick Green Hornet's ass or walk away from the entire thing. Also, in an age where newspapers are failing, and that the Green Hornet only owns one city newspaper, did not understand his massive wealth. (Perhaps they should have made him a Rupert Murdoch figure instead.) 

Sheen, Curling, Spillage and Franco.
Dog Breath.
dogbreathcanada
After all this Charlie Sheen hoopla, I decided to check out his show, Two and a Half Men. I downloaded one episode from season one and another from season eight. Holy carp, is that show terrible. It is the worst everything about sitcoms. Jokes written first, story written haphazardly around those jokes. Canned laughter. In one episode Charlie wakes up on the stairs after some sort of binge, he's wearing a pair of boxer shorts that seem out of character for someone who supposedly has Sheen's chutzpah with the ladies. He can't find his pants. Housekeeper finds them in the mailbox with an ungodly amount of postage affixed to them (who has that amount of postage in the internet age?) The premise of the entire show, brother and son, after being kicked out by wife, move in with swinging brother's at his Malibu bachelor pad. They stay for eight years.

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Mr. Sunshine is an equally bad sitcom. Half of the first episode was all I needed to watch before closing the media player and deleting the file.

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I should watch the Brier, because I like watching curling, but cannot muster up the will to give my TV electricity. I should get rid of the TV, but it does fill up some much needed space in the living room. I wish CBC would live stream the Brier. I look at CBCSports.ca, and it seems they do not.

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I spilled water on my laptop two weeks ago. I do not keep liquids on the same surface as the laptop. I am safety conscious. I keep them on a separate table next to the laptop. When picking up the cup of water to go get a refill (it had got warm), the bottom of the cup clipped the laptop surface, and water sloshed out onto the laptop. After drying it out for three days, it now works at 30-45 minute intervals before overheating and automatically shutting off.

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Eleven years after the fact, I discovered Freaks & Geeks. Hard to believe that show was cancelled after one season. It was a joy to watch. Starred a new James Franco and Seth Rogan, developed by Judd Apatow. Whereas being fairly honest about life in the early 80s, it had a good heart. There were probably a string of really bad sitcoms in 1999-2000 that beat it out.

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I did not watch the Oscars. As much as I love movies, I have the totally opposite reaction to award shows honouring them. It is just narcissism on parade. I have not watched an Academy Awards or Golden Globes since The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won.

DVD and Film Mini-Reviews #102
Dog Breath.
dogbreathcanada

Peter Morgan has written three films detailing the career and life of Tony Blair. Two written for television, and one written for the screen. Each films details a pivotal moment in Blair's career, examining both the professional and personal growths and tolls it takes upon him. The same actor, Michael Sheen, portrays Blair in each of the three films.

Morgan is obviously a fan of Tony Blair and, as such, the portrayal is often quite unapologetically sympathetic. Whether this should actually be the case, I do not know. I have little familiarity with Tony Blair the politician. My only real recollections of him are during the Bush era and his involvement in the Iraq War, and he seemed sort of a tag-along, attempting to remain somehow relevant on the world scene (though perhaps the last of the three films gives some extra glimpse into his dealings with the Bush regime, although with much hindsight.) Blair is certainly a likable man and politician, and I'd like to think there's some truth to the portrayal, thus giving some credence to how the films have come to let me regard him.

I won't reiterate common praise among each of the films, such as performance. They are equally strong throughout each of the three films. Sheen himself brings something a little different to Blair in each film. Directing and cinematography is workmanlike, neither particularly artistic, but neither so mundane as to be distracting to the stories being told. The direction lacks flair, which is a positive being that these films are not flamboyant.

The Deal (Stephen Frears, 2003) ****
Made for Channel 4 in the UK. Focuses on a particular moment of Blair's career pre-Prime Minister, that of a deal he and Gordon Brown struck that would allow Blair to run for leadership of the Labour Party, unopposed, in exchange for giving Brown unusually wide-reaching power within his government. Further promising to step down (at some point; the timeline of this in dispute among both men), offering his full support to Brown as his successor. Their relationship in the years leading up to this agreement is painted in some detail. Exceptionally strong performance from David Morrissey as Gordon Brown. Sheen brings an undercurrent of ruthlessness to the role of Blair.

The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2006) ****1/2
After the success of The Deal, the decision was made to adapt the next film for the big screen, where it was ultimately nominated for tonnes of awards, Helen Mirren winning a number of them. This film details the Blair-Queen Elizabeth II relationship during the death of Princess Diana crisis. This is the most sympathetic portrayal of Blair of the three films, as his role is one mainly of guidance to the Queen, gently steering her to the realization that the old values are gone and that she must adopt a new face to present to the British people. Sheen approaches the role with a tender hand, showing none of the hardness more evident in the preceding and following films. Although part of the Blair trilogy, this film's explicit focus is upon the Queen, expertly portrayed by Helen Mirren.

The Special Relationship (Richard Loncraine, 2010) ***1/2
A joint production between HBO and the BBC. This film focuses on the relationship between Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bill Clinton, focusing on three particular events, the Northern Ireland peace accords, the Clinton-Lewinski sex scandal, and NATO's involvement in the Kosovo affair. The weakness of this film is dilution, the three main crises are never given enough impact on their own, thus their effect on Blair's growth can seem as sudden shift in character, not quite a fluid transition. Blair begins this films journey as excited and willing student to Clinton politics and emerges his superior. Dennis Quaid gives a good performance as an upbeat and jocular Bill Clinton, but fails to deliver convincing depth during his most downtrodden moments, there is a lack of gravitas to the portrayal.

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I would really like to see a fourth film in this series, detailing Blair's relationship with Bush. Apparently the first couple of scripts for The Special Relationship split Blair's time between Clinton and Bush, but in the end, Peter Morgan decided to focus exclusively on the relationship with Clinton.


FlashBlock
Dog Breath.
dogbreathcanada

FlashBlock is the best extension you can get for Firefox and Google Chrome.

http://goo.gl/3OsU8

You can always right click a Flash component to enable all Flash on a particular website (YouTube, for instance), but it will keep untrusted sites from running all those new-fangled Flash trackers. Not to mention annoying Flash ads.


Restaurant Doesn't Cut-off Baby's Alcohol-Fueled Binge
Dog Breath.
dogbreathcanada

I've watched this video eight times already. It is one of the most awesome things I've seen lately. Perhaps even better than Community's Modern Warfare episode.


Watson, Google Voice and the Discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation
Dog Breath.
dogbreathcanada
Watched all three episodes of Jeopardy's IBM Challenge with Watson. Intriguing and disappointing, simultaneously. Whereas Watson's trouncing of two of Jeopardy's most celebrated champions was interesting to watch, the exercise struck me more as a marketing exercise for IBM than anything truly groundbreaking. Watson is, at its core, a parser and database engine. It showed no understanding of the questions (or answers, as the game calls them), as evidenced when it answered Toronto on a U.S. Cities topic or chemise (rather than shift) for a ladies wear question under the On The Keyboard topic. IBM's modus operandi seems to be to throw massive amounts of computing power at a problem versus anything revolutionary in algorithm design. You can see this in Watson (2880 Power 7 cores), as we saw it in Deep Blue (their chess competitor).

A lot of the game seemed to come down to response time, buzzing in. On Jeopardy, you're allowed to buzz-in once a light appears somewhere off camera. A computer is always going to have a much better response time than humans (nanoseconds versus milliseconds). The only times Watson didn't win the buzz-in were when it wasn't confident in its answer or it was still calculating its answer. Rather than beating the humans based on knowledge, it seemed to me the humans were beat on reaction time.

Maybe eliminate response time from the equation. A game of Trivial Pursuit using Jeopardy answer/questions. Watson would probably still win, but at least the domain would be restricted to knowledge. (Yeah, you'd probably want to get rid of the the randomness of dice tossing as well.)

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Just used Google Voice via Gmail to talk to the parents. Since I own a gaming headset and microphone combination, decided to give it go. Sound quality was awesome. Certainly more convenient to use than Skype.

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I watch a lot of astrophysics documentaries. It has always bugged me that Robert Wilson and Arno Penzias won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their "discovery" of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation. Sure, accidental discoveries are valid. More than valid. Most discoveries are accidental. But they would have never (or at least it would have been a long while before they came to the conclusion of CMB radiation) written the paper they did without the assistance of Robert Dicke. Dicke, in my opinion, is deserving of the award along with them.

As the story goes, Penzias and Wilson were attempting to work on a completely unrelated problem using a horn antenna. Unfortunately, they kept picking up this background noise which they spent a good year or so trying to get rid of. They cleaned their antenna, shot some pigeons, and still the radio noise persisted. All they knew for sure is that the source was outside the Milky Way, but in every discernable direction. There was no single source.

Dicke, meanwhile, was preparing his own experiments to detect CMB radiation, and in preparation had written a pre-print paper detailing the methodology he would be using (he was planning on using a horn antenna too.)

By happenstance, hearing of their problem and wondering if there might be a connection, Penzias and Wilson were given the pre-print paper by a friend. After reading it, they realized the magnitude of their discovery. They called Dicke, who verified what they had found. They jointly published their papers to avoid conflicts, and Penzias and Wilson even mentioned Dicke's assistance in their own paper.

Without Dicke's paper at the right time and place, it's hard to believe that Penzias and Wilson would have arrived at a CMB conclusion at all. They were in a completely different field of physics. Had they not had access to Dicke's pre-print paper, Dicke would have likely made the discovery. Of course, Nobel Prizes aren't awarded on what-ifs, but it seems to me that Dicke should have at least shared the Nobel Prize with Penzias and Wilson. Dicke was instrumental in putting Penzias and Wilson on the right track, giving them their direction, and cluing them into what that strange and annoying radio noise was.

Penzias and Wilson are deserving of the prize. Not saying otherwise. They made the initial discovery and, eventually, estimates of the CMB radiation. But without Dicke, they might have given up on their original experiment, or they might still be cleaning their horn antenna.

Yes, I must now admit that I am a Twitter user.
Dog Breath.
dogbreathcanada

After a year of having an account, and tallying up the results. I make 4.59 tweets per day. Anything over 0.10 tweets per day makes you an official Twitter user. There is no denying this. Am I ashamed? I once was. Now I am not. Using their lists feature (versus following account directly), I can categorize what I am interested in, and it makes following those interests much easier.

And in turn, I like posting my own inanities too.


DVD and Film Mini-Reviews #101
Dog Breath.
dogbreathcanada

A bunch more 2010 films, plus a few from the year before. We have the Facebook movie The Social Network, a cooking show for foodies Julie & Julia, hopefully the denouement in Toy Story 3, the zombies without zombies flick Pontypool, the incomplete Harry Potter 7, a link to my Tron 2 review, and the rebooted Karate Kid.

The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
****1/2
The story of the creation of Facebook. There is some truth in here, as a well as a lot of fiction. Zuckerberg's ruthlessness, likely fact, since much of it is well-documented in a few lawsuits against him by former partners and clients. Zuckerberg's personal life, likely mostly made-up. The surprising thing about this film is how engaging it is, for a film about a couple of guys building a small internet start-up (small at the time.) I'm not sure there is a whole lot to say about the film. You certainly do wonder, as you're watching, where lies the truth and where lies the fiction, but that is part of the process, what makes this film so compelling at a certain level. It is certainly well-written and well-filmed, and you do sit completely taken in by that story. I'd be surpised if anyone looks at their watch at any moment of this film wondering if it will be over soon. The movie moves along at a brisk engrossing clip.

Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich, 2010)
****1/2
How does Pixar not eff-up these sequels? Oh, right, because they are never in any rush to capitalize on them. If Disney had complete control over the franchise, there'd have been eight direct-to-DVD sequels by now. The toys are shipped off to a daycare centre, ruled ominously by a Care Bear clone. The film starts on the right wistful, homagey note. Has a rollicking middle. And ends appropriately with tears, as everybody moves on. This has to be the end of the franchise, it is the perfect trilogy. And the 3D? Done very maturely, nothing shoved in our faces for the sake of shoving stuff in our faces. The story and set-pieces are inventive as always. Ken (of Barbie's Ken) is genius. The writing and characters are at their strongest. This is the best of the trilogy.

Julie & Julia (Nora Ephron, 2009)
****
This is a sweet, light film that parallels two women looking to enrich their lives, find what it is they enjoy and do it. It shows the life of Julia Child as she endeavors to learn French cooking in the 1950s and write a cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, that housewives across America can utilize. Meanwhile in the early 2000s, aspiring writer Julie Powell decides to cook all 524 recipes in Julia Child's book in 365 days and blog about it to keep herself motivated and keep her writing up. I really enjoyed this. It is light, well-made viewing fare. Streep is fantastic as Julia Child.

Pontypool (Bruce McDonald, 2009)
***1/2
A zombie movie without hardly any zombies. The entire movie takes place in the the cellar of the local church of Pontypool, Ontario, where the local radio station is run. The morning show is just coming on-air, and some strange reports of strange behaviour are just coming in. Very dialogue heavy drama, that ends up being a satire on everything from politics to popular culture. Most of this exposition is carried expertly by Stephen McHattie. The build up of tension as the "zombie" infestation grows is well-done too. What's most amusing, in the word heavy film is the fact that it is language that causes the virus: "There are three stages to this virus. The first stage is you might begin to repeat a word. Something gets stuck.  The second stage is your language becomes scrambled and you can't express yourself properly. The third stage you become so distraught at your condition that the only way out of the situation is to try and chew your way through the mouth of another person."

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (David Yates, 2010)
***
The most boring part of the book makes to the screen as the first part of this two-part epic. Yates (and the screenwriter, Kloves) are able to bring this section of the book alive, add some dynamism to it all. The endless camping scenes actually become interesting, those character moments brought to life. We also learn that Rupert Grint is by far the best actor of the three (his palpable fear as they are retreating from the Ministry of Magic adds so much to the tension of those scenes.) Part 2 is likely going to be quite action-heavy, considering it will contain the Battle for Hogwart's. I'm guessing that both films will be better seen as a whole, with Part 1 building up towards the finales dramatically. Part 1 does not work well on its own.

Tron: Legacy (Joseph Kosinski, 2010)
**
For the full review: http://mheacock.posterous.com/tron-legacy-review

The Karate Kid (Harald Zwart, 2010)
**
The entire training sequence revolves around the kid putting a jacket on a hook and then taking it off the hook. What? No wax-on, wax-off? No painting the fence? No sanding the deck? Just putting a jacket on a hook? That is all the muscle memory you need for kung-fu? (Yes, the kid learns kung-fu, not karate.) The story itself is quite similar to the original. A little weird, though, having a love story between two ten year olds. Perhaps that aspect of the original could have been dropped, you know, because the leads are ten fricking years old. Jackie Chan did okay in the Mr. Miyagi role, but didn't bring any colour or vibrancy to the role. If this had been the only Karate Kid movie, it would have been okay, I suppose, but it doesn't really add anything new over the original, and certainly doesn't come out as something superior in any way


Movie Snack
Dog Breath.
dogbreathcanada
My favourite movie/television snack is to steam up some gai lan, put it all in a bowl. Sit on couch with bowl in lap and a grinder of sea salt within easy reach. Lightly salted steaming gai lan is delicious.

Why do people eat popcorn and stuff while watching movies or television?