Sunday, December 04, 2016

Why did I enjoy this movie?

Seriously, why? I’m still cudgeling my brain about what aspect of Crown for Christmas I liked. I don't mean to be overly hard on it. The film was sweet and pleasant and I came away feeling good for having seen it. And that's what a cheesy Christmas movie should do, right? Mission accomplished. I'm just trying to parse why it did.

It can’t be the acting (in general; more on that anon). That was textbook recitation more than anything. Courteous courtiers, jovial servants, a nasty spoiled aristocrat, a single father who just happens to be a king. They weren’t so much dramatic roles as cogs in a machine.

And for the love of heaven don’t get me started on the realism. By which I mean there was none. At all. Whatsoever. Not a setting, not a plot point, not a single syllable of dialogue was plausible. Kings do not have their marriages arranged against their will. Servants and royalty do not all speak the Queen’s English in the same accent. In fact, there are no English-speaking countries at all on the European continent (except the Duchy of Grand Fenwick). Hotel maids in New York are not (so far as I know) fired merely for making eye contact with a guest. And that’s not even getting into the actual fairy-tale elements of the story, which strain believability like a piece of gum stuck to your shoe on a hot day.

(Several IMDb commenters pointed out that the proper mode of address for kings is “Your Majesty” rather than “Your Highness.” Technically true, although they are sometimes styled as “highness” in other contexts. Anyway, my understanding is that today they tend to prefer “sir.” Believe me, that’s the least of the film’s credibility problems.)

So back to the original question: why did I enjoy a film with so many howlers? Because, in the end, I actually did. I think maybe it’s because Danica McKellar doesn’t seem to be acting. I don’t mean that she’s a really good actress, although she may be with other material. I mean that I’m not sure she actually knew that the whole thing wasn’t real life, like maybe instead of a script they gave her hallucinogens and just let her interact with the cast. Also, the little girl (played sparklingly by Ellie Botterill) was so charming and delightful that the rest of the cast didn’t really need to be anything but her props.

So, like Abraham’s ten righteous men of Sodom, for the sake of those two actresses the film can be spared from the flames. Behold!

(Check out my other movie reviews here.)

Thursday, December 01, 2016

A poetic interlude

Salvaged from the Crappy Poetry Corner at the now-defunct “Bob From Accounting” website. I’m not sure why I bothered to track it down; it just seems to fit with my newfound holiday spirit.

Christmas in New Hampshire

by Debby, Roanoke, Virginia

The snowy white of Christmas
Basking together in the warmth
Of an electric space heater
Gazing at the twinkling lights
Of a Douglas fir

Then begin the lies
Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies
Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies
Come out of your mouth
Thick and heavy like home fries

No hot tub action for you
Big man with wavy hair
I wanted an engagement ring
You gave me a Chia Pet
And a coupon for a Brazilian waxing

The eggnog flows
Like your Lies
Lies, Lies, Lies, Lies
The electric heater drops into the water
As you bathe alone


A little light housekeeping

So it turns out that leaving my blog untouched causes a lot of dust bunnies and mouse turds to collect in the corner. My kids’ ages are up to date and I’ve bid a fond farewell to some of the blogs in the sidebar that aren’t posting anymore. I’m usually really reluctant to do that, but some of them just pure down don’t exist and others will probably never know. If you (O hypothetical reader) own one and wonder why you’ve been removed, let me know and I’ll put you back.

(I refuse to remove Villainous Company no matter how stubbornly Cassandra away. Someday she’ll come back. I believe with all my heart.)

(I also won’t remove Strange Spanners. That blogger was an old friend who died a day or two after his last post. He never married and had no children and his blog and Facebook page are all that remains of him. Memory eternal.)

I’m also dumping Disqus for the native Blogger comment system. The only reason I ever installed it to begin with was a a workaround to try and import my Haloscan comments when the latter shut down. The import to Disqus didn’t work anyway. If anyone ever figures out how to import them directly into Blogger I still have the files.

Oh, and I changed the icon of St. Expeditus so he wouldn't be so pixellated. I don't know who painted it; I found it through a Google image search on some Pinterest page. I couldn't find out more because I don't have an account and I'm durned if I'll start yet another social media thing I'm never going to use. If the owner of the image ever sees this, I hope they'll let me know whether to credit them or take it down.

Also, since I'm reviving Cheesy Christmas Movies, I'll be going through and fixing broken video links a few at a time. Some of them I just can't find; others I just haven't gotten to yet.

I’d be grateful if you’d leave a comment so I know I’m not just shouting into an empty blogosphere.

The funniest English Spaniard ever to come out of Germany...

... now travels in elephants. I didn't know he'd actually gotten hurt playing slapstick on Fawlty Towers. A professional indeed, and apparently well loved in real life.

Adios, auf wiedersehen, cheers!

Speaking of Christmas, here’s a turkey

Actually, I fear that may be a slight to the noble and tasty fowl. Upon finishing “Snowglobe,” I was ready for a bit more along those lines. When it comes to Christmas movies, I tend to prefer the ones with a little magic in them, as opposed to the ones that are just straight romance or syrupy familial dramas. (I’m not running those down; there are some good examples of both. But on the whole, I like a dash of fantasy in my Christmas fare.)

So the plot of “Christmas Do-Over” seemed like a good fit. Sure, it’s derivative, but let’s face it, there’s darn little originality left in the genre. How bad could it be?

Put it this way: If you took “Liar Liar” and “Groundhog Day,” mashed them together like Play-Doh, and then somehow extracted every bit of sympathy or humor, this is what would be left.

Jay Mohr, an SNL alum from one of its less-funny eras, plays Kevin, a divorced father dragooned at the last minute into spending Christmas with his ex-wife Jill and her parents, who make no secret of their dislike of him. Bad enough, but also joining the festivities is Jill’s new boyfriend Todd, who bought her a car for Christmas and is going to propose. Not having time to shop, Kevin accidentally bought his son an Easy-Bake oven, while Todd got him a train set. No opportunity is missed to rub our face in Kevin’s overall inferiority like a poorly-trained puppy.

You know where it goes from here. Every morning Kevin finds himself back on his outlaws’ doorstep, holding the same stupid girly-toy. Poor schmo doesn’t even have time to buy something else. So he resorts to some dirty tricks to try and get his wife and son back, culminating in a fight where he beats up Santa Claus and gets his butt kicked by Jesus. Yes, really.

Eventually, of course, he has a change of heart and redeems himself in the eyes of his son and ex-kinfolk. But it still leaves an aftertaste of defeat.

There are a few fun spots. Seeing Todd slip in dish soap and hurt his back over and over is strangely satisfying. (By this time you’re actively rooting for him to be injured.) The lecherous tipsy grandmother is a kick too.

But nothing, I repeat, nothing can possibly justify climactic scene with Mohr rapping some version of “Silent Night” dressed as a snow pea pod. Nothing. There is no forgiveness in heaven or earth for that sort of abomination.

Watch and be appalled.

Note: there are a couple of short spaces where the sound cuts out. I assume that's to keep the all-seeing eye of YouTube from noticing that it's under copyright.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The return of the cheese

It’s finally happened. I’ve gone over a year without posting on my blog. Ordinarily, this would be where I hang up my spurs and call it a day as so many other bloggers have done. But one thing keeps me going:
Cheesy Christmas movies!
Things have changed a lot since I started the tradition lo, these many years ago. Back then I was pretty much limited to the few I could find on the Internet Archive. A couple of those I still enjoy going back to every so often. I have a special soft spot, for example, for “Beyond Tomorrow” and “Son of the Navy.”

But thanks to the treasure storehouse that is YouTube, we have more cheese to select from than the whole south of France. Part of my workday is spent doing stuff that requires neither reading nor writing, and that time is often spent with a video playing on my phone. Nothing heavy; preferably something I don’t have to look at and can follow by audio. Being as how ’tis the season, I started browsing the other day through Hallmark Christmas movies. (Seriously, I had no idea there were so many.) This led me to a fluff-fest called “Snowglobe.”

“Snowglobe” is one of those films that takes a magical premise and tries to mold it to seasonal sentimentality. Young Angela Moreno (pertly played by Christina Milian) lives with the sort of family that make you want to move out of state and change your name. That is to say, she doesn’t actually live with them per se, but you’d never know it from the way they crowd into her life and make free of her apartment.

Meanwhile, Angela dreams of a perfect traditional Christmas right out of a Victorian diorama. Or, in this case, a snow globe given to her by the usual magical deliveryman. As she falls asleep gazing at it and dreaming of a spherical paradise, she finds herself sucked inside it, where she’s greeted by a tall, handsome fellow with perfect teeth and a perpetually bewildered look. Mister Perfect invites her to stay at The Inn, where mouthwatering food magically appears in the kitchen of a sweet grandma archetype. It’s all too good to be true, so naturally, it is.

This is supposed to be the point when she realizes that her perfect Christmas really isn’t what she wanted. Nuh-uh. The Snowglobians find their way into Brooklyn and hilarity ensues.

There are a couple of factors below the surface of this film. One is the ethnic/racial element, which is never actually mentioned but hangs out in the living room dropping elephant poo on the carpet. Angela’s mother is of Italian extraction and her father a black man from Cuba. Obviously, the globe people are as white-bread as you can get (think of the cheerleaders from that hoary old SNL sketch). The new love interest the family picks out for her (Josh Cooke, who apparently is in a season of “Longmire” I haven’t seen yet) is somewhere in between: all Brooklyn, still WASPish.
The other is that the globules (what do you call the denizens, anyway?) aren’t just paper dolls. In their own plasticky way they have feelings too and Angela’s self-centered (but not malicious) meddling has impacted their lives.

Obviously, we’re not talking high art here. It’s cheese. Enjoy.

Monday, November 16, 2015

The speech President Obama needs to make

Like it or not, the Paris attacks have placed us in a situation where war is probably inevitable. These people aren’t going to go away, and they won’t ever make peace. What’s more, it has to be done soon, not just because ISIS will continue to grow and metastasize, but more importantly because it’s vitally important that there be a Democrat in the White House if we’re to have any possibility of victory.

I know that sounds counter-intuitive.  But consider: If we wait until after the next election they will paint it as a purely Republican war and hamstring it at every opportunity, whereas Republicans are unlikely to hamper a war effort. (Yes, yes, the GOP has its own set of shameful tactics, But that’s not one of them.)  Our only hope of winning the war is if both halves of America are behind it. And this, my friends, is a war we absolutely cannot afford to lose.

This is what the President needs to say:

My fellow Americans,
I have hoped with all my heart not to speak the words I am about to say. For several years we have watched the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria with growing concern. Up until now their predations have been confined to the Middle East, a region far from our shores. Those actions have been reprehensible - genocide, slaughter and destruction - but America has taken only limited measures, primarily aiding and supporting our Kurdish and other allies in the region. We have seen ISIS take the form, not of a shadowy terrorist organization, but of a full-fledged territorial nation bent on expansion. ISIS has made it abundantly clear that they will not countenance peace, that they intend to dominate all other nations and will never recognize another nation as its equal.
The attacks upon our French allies in Paris have changed the situation drastically. As members of NATO, we are obligated to come to France’s defense. Therefore, as soon as I have finished speaking, I intend to call a joint session of Congress and ask them to declare that a state of war exists between ISIS and the United States.
I do not take this action lightly. If the last 14 years have taught us anything, it is that the American people do not relish the roles of conquerers and occupiers. We prefer to leave others in peace and live in peace ourselves, often at great risk or cost to ourselves. But this, ISIS will not have. In light of their intransigence, it is better to stop them while they are relatively small rather than allow them to grow larger and more dangerous. War will come, whether we like it or not; the only question is when and what size foe we will face.
Let me be clear: this is not a war on Islam itself. I spent much of my childhood among Muslims whom I knew to be good and decent people. Many of our own citizens are Muslim. Indeed, the vast majority of ISIS’ victims have been Muslim. I call on American Muslims to demonstrate their loyalty to this country, and non-Muslims to treat them with the respect you would show any other compatriots. Your neighbors are not your enemies. Nor are many of the people in the regions we intend to invade. Our enemy, rather, is any person who identifies as a subject of ISIS’ caliphate or bears arms on its behalf.
American soldiers have a long tradition of protecting civilians from harm. I will direct our troops to continue this tradition. Unfortunately, civilian casualties cannot be completely avoided. Innocent people will be hurt and killed despite our best efforts. For this I take full responsibility, and may God judge me for it as He sees fit.
Our men and women in uniform have been through a great deal in recent years, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Against our wishes, we must call on them once again to place their bodies between their beloved home and an enemy who would destroy it. I thank them for their service and honor them for the work they are about to do.
I call on Americans of all faiths to join Michelle and me in prayer for the safety of our troops and a quick end to this war. Thank you, and God bless and defend the United States of America.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The perfect liberal candidate

He’s black. He grew up poor and knows what it is to depend on welfare and food stamps. He’s a healer and a man of science. He’s owned by no corporate interests. He doesn’t shrink from war, but he’s no hawk by choice. He’s a reconciler, speaking kindly and peaceably to people on both sides of the aisle. He believes strongly in free speech, freedom of religion and freedom of the press. He has a passion for higher education and wants to see it funded for poor students.

In short, he’s exactly what liberals have said all along they want in a president. If Dr. Carson gets the nomination, voters on the left will have to choose between being genuine liberals and being Democratic party loyalists. So far, it’s the latter. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Faux Satanists to piddle in Christians’ punchbowl

Rapidly becoming the Westboro Baptist of atheism.

Let’s face it: these people don’t believe in an actual Satan. Yeah, I know, there’s an esoteric philosophical system that calls itself Satanism, but I doubt any of the yahoos behind this could actually articulate it. All the symbolism is deliberately chosen to create revulsion among Christians. That’s it. They only adopt the trappings of Satanism because Christians have learned to ignore atheists spitting on their sacred things.

I keep thinking of a quote from C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle:
There goes one who had called on gods he does not believe in. How will it be with him if they have really come?
I don’t really get excited about the coach’s prayers one way or another. He’s not hurting anyone, but it wouldn’t hurt anyone if he stopped, either.  It seems to me there are more important things to worry about. But for this bunch, it’s all about the hate.

Monday, August 10, 2015

So hands off that gearshift, mister!

Spotted while "touring" Britain on Geoguessr:

Using Google Street View's whiz-bang time machine thingy, it looks like it's been that way at least since 2008. Really on the ol' stick there in Worcester, aren't we? (So to speak.)

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Trust no fox in the green meadow...

... and no Christian on the Internet.

It’s funny, when I first started this blog, it was an outgrowth of apologetics discussions I’d been having with Protestants, especially Calvinists, like Tim Challies and the Bayly Brothers. The hostility level usually stayed low, but it was really clear that they and I weren’t singing out of the same hymnal, so to speak.

The times, they are a’changin’. Today I almost never get into arguments with Protestants. In fact, my best friend’s mother, a Fundamentalist whom I would have expected to find firmly in the Pope-as-Antichrist camp, frequently sends me links about Catholic things that she’s really impressed by.

Say what you will about militant atheists, they’ve caused the various Christian sects to bury the hatchet, and not between some heretic’s shoulder blades. Those people despise us all equally. The more ignorant they are, the more vitriolic their denunciations. I don't know for certain that all of them are atheists by philosophy; some may just be jackasses who get off on the idea that they're somebody's moral and intellectual superior. Sort of like they accuse us of being, but for real.

It’s not all that far from this:

to this:

Go check out the originals here and here, if you’re strong of stomach. Streicher and Betty Bowers could probably find a lot to talk about.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A few thoughts, and jolly well about time, too

Note: I have no idea what to do about the font on this post. I messed it up and nothing seems to put it right. Sorry for the dissonance.

In another month and a half, it’ll be a year since my last post. I’m durned if I’ll allow my blog to go to seed that long, so it’s about time I put some thoughts into pixels. In no particular order:

1. My posting hiatuses (hiati?) seem to coincide with a change in my ADD medication. I’m back on my old drugs now and I have a feeling my ability to write will return along with it.

2. My job situation went on a roller coaster ride last winter. I won’t go into details – I make it a policy not to talk about work anyplace I can get dooced – but the upshot is that I’m back at the Greatest Paper in the Northwest™ doing page layout and copy editing. I’m not complaining about that part; I like the work and I’m good at it. It’s just the ride there that left me feeling slapped around like a white-trash housewife the morning after payday. I’m working evenings, which is proving an adventure for my Lovely and Brilliant Wife as well as the three HFA kids she wrangles into bed every night while I’m gone.

3. I’ve become addicted to GeoGuessr. It makes my inner map geek turn cartwheels. Basically, it plunks you down somewhere in the world on Google Street View and you have to work out your location from signs and other externals. I find the USA and UK versions fun for idle amusement, but some of the other maps pack a real challenge. (Have you ever tried to get your bearings in the middle of the Russian steppe or the Brazilian highlands?) There are no actual rules about looking things up but I limit myself to having Google Maps open in a second tab so I have a larger area to look at. Not for everybody, maybe, but I love it. It’s kind of fun seeing all these places I would never have sought out on my own.

4. The Grille from Ipanema in Coeur d’Alene is fantastic. Yummiest Brazilian barbecue I ever threw a lip over.  I recommend it highly. My only regret is that they don’t serve Xingu.

5. I have another grandbaby. Drama Queen and her husband presented me with an adorable granddaughter in November. Okay, technically she’s their baby, but I think of them as merely her caretakers when I’m not playing with her. Seriously, take a look. Is this not hyperconcentrated cuteness?

6. I also lost my last grandparent, my grandmother, last month. She was 94. We had her memorial on what would have been her and Grandpa’s 75th anniversary. Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her.

7. Covarr just got word that he has a role in the Masquers Theatre’s upcoming musical.

8. I hate wildfire season in central Washington. Not just because of the smoky air and the people losing their homes, but because there’s nothing but fire photos to put on the front page, and there are only so many things you can do with them. It’s like trying to find ways to make tuna casserole new every meal.

9. I think I need to post my political stuff here more rather than Facebook. I’ve had several people unfriend me over political stuff. I really don’t understand people who do that.

10. We took the kids on a family vacation this summer for the first time in five years. Went to the Cannon Beach Conference Center and then down to see the in-laws in California. The drive home was 16 hours. My butt is permanently shaped like a minivan seat.

11. Still waiting for SSI to kick in. The kids qualify and the functionaries we talk to keep assuring us it’ll be any time now, but we haven’t seen any money yet and some bills are starting to stack up. If I have any readers left, some prayers would be appreciated.

12. My Lovely and Brilliant Wife has taken up art and is beginning to post some of her creations on her blog. Amble over and take a look and let her know if you see anything you like. Yes, it’s for sale as soon as she gets set up to make prints.

13. I hate Caps Lock. Even though I use it every day. I especially hate retyping entire paragraphs because I forgot I had it on. Grr.

14. I still have my comments prior to 2012 exported from the now-defunct Haloscan system, but I haven’t figured out how to import them.

15. My ten-year blogiversary was in April, and I totally missed it. Yay me, I guess.

16. God continues to be good, the Catholic Church continues to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, and I continue to be a mediocre Christian at best.

Now to tidy up the sidebar and fix the kids’ ages. And we’re back in the Blogosphere!