Wednesday, September 26, 2012

PCP on the Page - My favorite authors

As I mentioned back in my review for 2312, I have a core set of current authors that I read every book they publish, or every book in a particular series.  If I find something particularly good or something I want to talk about in one of their books, I'll do a post on the book, like I did for the Game of Thrones series (technically called "A Song of Ice and Fire" but thanks to the show now better known as Game of Thrones) by George R.R. Martin.  These are those authors, in alphabetical order by last name:

  • David Baldacci
  • Richard Castle (Yes I know this is a fictional character and a product of the marketing department over at ABC but the books are a fun continuation of the TV show)
  • Tom Clancy
  • Clive Cussler
  • Christopher Farnsworth
  • Vince Flynn
  • John Grisham
  • Chuck Hogan
  • Stephen King
  • George R.R. Martin
  • James Patterson
  • James Rollins
  • John Sandford
  • Harry Turtledove
There may be others that I am forgetting at the moment, but those are the ones that come to mind that I read the most regularly.  Do you guys have any suggestions for me for other authors or books you think I'd enjoy?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, September 24, 2012

18 years ago today, my trek to Michigan fandom began

Growing up, I was not a Michigan fan.  I lived in the Chicago suburbs, and I had two favorite college teams:  The University of Colorado for football and The University of North Carolina for basketball.  I rooted for Colorado because they were my mom's alma mater, while I rooted for UNC because that was where Michael Jordan went, and when you're a kid from Chicago, that's the only reason you need.

The first time I ever watched a Michigan game that I remember was the 1993 basketball championship game, because Michigan was playing UNC.  At the time, I was obviously pleased with the outcome of that game.

My life changed dramatically the weekend of September 24th, 1994, when I was 12 years old.  The 25th was the day that my dad remarried.  Since my stepmom and her family was from Michigan, we all gathered around the television to watch Michigan play Colorado on the 24th.  The room's members consisted entirely of Michigan alums and/or season ticketholders  with the exception of myself and my dad - my stepmom to be, my stepsister to be, my stepsister's then boyfriend now husband, my stepmom's best friend & husband, and other various relatives and friends from Michigan.

Me being the obnoxious 12 year old that I was, I was rooting on Colorado partly out of loyalty to my mom's alma mater and partly out of wanting to be the contrarian in the room.  So when Kordell Stewart heaved a prayer at the buzzer, I went bananas when it connected and proceeded to rub it in everyone's faces the entire rest of the evening.

My new stepfamily realized they didn't want to have someone taunting them every time Michigan suffered a loss in the future, so they promptly began my indoctrination into all things Michigan the following season.  I was brought to Ann Arbor for the first of many games before I got to college.  It was the 1995 game vs Minnesota where UM won by 35 points.  I got to experience tailgating on the Golf Course before and after the game, as well as dinner at Good Time Charley's, on top of my first time inside the Big House.  Going to a game annually in Ann Arbor became a tradition, as did going to the games in Chicago every time UM came to play Northwestern.

Once I was in high school and had to start applying to colleges, Michigan was at the top of my list of preferred destinations.  I got in to Michigan as well as my safety school of Illinois and Michigan was my clear favorite between the two.  My dad, knowing the massive out of state tuition bill that would be coming compared to IL (at the time almost a 90k difference for 4 years), tried to bribe me into going to U of I instead by offering me a new car.

My dad only offered me a new Saturn.  As I already was driving a gently used Camry, I turned him down unless he was willing to escalate his offer to a BMW 3 series or a Honda S2000.  He declined that, so I was Ann Arbor bound in the fall of 2000.

I've been bleeding Maize & Blue for 17 years now, and I now look forward to indoctrinating my children in all things U of M.  The nice thing is I'll be able to get my kids pro-Michigan from birth, as opposed to their teenage years, so they won't have any years missing from their lives as Michigan fans.

Thanks for reading, I just wanted to share as today is the anniversary of a lifechanging day for me.  Not as lifechanging as my wedding anniversary a week ago, but it is the anniversary of an event that steered me on the course towards meeting my wife nonetheless.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

FML - I'm a running dad now

Jackson all decked out to run
 So I've gained some weight recently, and I'm clocking in at 229 pounds.  This isn't my peak weight, which was a fat 255 lbs, but it's a far cry from my college best of 197.  So, my wife and I have decided to bite the bullet and start running since that seems to work so well for so many friends of ours.  We got a jogging stroller from my sister who has done the Chicago Marathon, so we are equipped to bring Jackson with us when we go out.  Considering we haven't exercised in quite awhile because I'm a lazy oaf, we decided to do a path to running that a few of my friends have chosen - the couch to 5k app.  The goal of the app is to build you up from being a couch potato to being able to do a 5k in about 8 weeks.  In the first week it starts you out by having you alternate 1 minute of running with 1.5 minutes of walking.  Week 2 has increases to 1.5 min of running and 2 min of walking.  In week 3, which we are on now, it jumps to 3 minute bursts of running.  By week 8 you're running for extremely long stretches of time (for me at least) - 30 minutes straight.

I'm curious to see how my body will hold up to this. I have bad knees, but so far they've been handling this okay.  I'm also wondering how much weight I will lose.  My goal is to lose 10% of my body weight by the end of the year, bringing me down to 207 pounds, but I am not certain what my ultimate final goal will be.  All I know is that I used to have to run for punishment or conditioning in the sports I did in high school, football and lacrosse, so running has never been something I've particularly enjoyed.  I've never gotten the "runner's high" so I wonder if I'll ever hit that in my lifetime.  I'm looking forward to taking this journey though, and hopefully competing in a 5k around Thanksgiving this year.  Wish me luck!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Blog schedule update (again)

Grad school has now started for me and I have classes two nights a week.  Thus, I am unable to devote as much time to the blog as normal.  Good news, I have enough posts already written to sustain the blog through the end of the year.  Bad news, posts are usually only going to be once a week starting this week (not including this post).  From now until mid-December when my classes end check back here every Wednesday for new content guaranteed, and every now and then I might do a bonus post here or there if I have the time.  Thanks for your patience with me, I hope you've been enjoying the blog so far since the redesign earlier this summer!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

PCP - I Finally Watched Seven Samurai

Here at CRAPOLA, all the way back in February I wrote about the 15 movies I'm ashamed that I've never seen and now I'm finally able to cross a second film off the list.  I'm obviously off my hoped pace of watching all 15 films within a year, as it is September and I'm only crossing off a second one from the list, but life happens.

Only 6 could fit on the poster apparently

Seven Samurai is considered to be a classic of cinema, and is on many all time top 10 or top 25 lists of films.  Based on that alone, I had bought the film, but never had the time to watch it until recently.  And it takes a lot of time to watch the film, as the Criterion Collection version I have clocks in at 3 hours and 27 minutes.  It even has an intermission built right in to the movie, but thanks to being able to pause the movie whenever I want, that wasn't so much of an issue.  The film does drag a bit with its enormous length, but the characters are compelling enough to keep one interested.

Originally released in 1954, the epic samurai story from legendary director Akira Kurosawa tells the story of a village that knows that bandits will be returning in the fall to raid the village and steal their harvest.  Tired of this happening year after year, the villagers decide to hire warriors to protect them when the bandits return.

Continue reading for more including my rating of the film after the jump --->

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

POS - My reaction to the GOP platform

Ok so the GOP convention just happened and during the convention they released their official party platform of their goals for the country if they are to win the Presidency plus any Congressional/Senate/local elections.  The reaction in the news was swift, with many calling it the most conservative platform the GOP has ever run on.  I decided to read the thing for myself and see what it says, and if there are any good ideas in it or not. A PDF file of the full platform can be found here, it's 62 pages in full, and I present it to you in case you want to see it as I'll be quoting from it for my post today.  In some cases I'll quote the direct text, and in some cases I'll paraphrase.  When I cite the page number, I'm referring to page # x out of 62 of the PDF file, which doesn't match up to the actual page since the first 7 or so pages are not part of the official numbered system the file uses (you'll see what I mean if you open the PDF). 

This post is going to focus on some of the specific goals and policies the GOP plans to pursue and my reaction to them.  Some of the things they mention I liked.  Some I laughed out loud at, because of their foolishness.  Let me know in the comments your thoughts.

One quick thing - for a party so concerned that Muslims are going to come to the country and impose Sharia law, they sure do invoke God a lot.  Kind of makes it hard for Atheists to support them, or non-Christians for that matter.

Ok, now on to the dissection of the platform - follow after the jump for my thoughts section by section.  Apologies in advance for the length of this post, but I feel this election is extremely important to the future direction of our country and I feel an examination of the platforms of both parties (I'll do this for the Dems too) is very critical so you and I know what we're voting for this November.  I'm only going to go over what I feel are the most important issues for the election, otherwise this blog post would turn out as long as the platform itself, and I am not about to write 62 pages.

Monday, September 10, 2012

PCP on DVD - My Week with Marilyn

Michelle Williams has turned in some incredible performances during her career, picking up three Oscar nominations including one for My Week with Marilyn (she also won the Golden Globe for this same performance).  She is definitely one of the most talented people in Hollywood today.  Because of that, I was excited to check this film on DVD to see how she did.  I was not disappointed.

My Week with Marilyn - 2011, rated R.  My rating:  8 out of 10.

Marilyn Monroe continues to fascinate the world 50 years after her untimely death.  This movie was not a traditional biopic in the sense that it didn't cover the entirety of Marilyn's life.  Instead, it focuses on the production of her film The Prince & the Showgirl, from the point of view of a production assistant named Colin Clark.  The picture showcases Marilyn's desperation and struggles with her international fame, as well as the chaotic production of the film.  It is extremely moving as well as a sad commentary on the nature of celebrity and stardom.

Michelle Williams absolutely knocks it out of the park in this performance.  She channels Monroe so effectively that you forget that you are not watching Monroe in the flesh.  It really is an uncanny performance and definitely deserving of all of the high praise and awards she received for the role.  She nails the onscreen persona of Marilyn, as well as the person Marilyn was off the camera was as well, and when she transitions between the two personas it is quite amazing to watch.  Clearly, Michelle Williams is a master at the craft of acting.  If her and Heath Ledger's daughter inherited their combined talents, that girl is going to be the best actress of all time.  In the meantime, if you are a fan of Marilyn Monroe or Michelle Williams, definitely check out My Week with Marilyn, you won't be disappointed.

Friday, September 7, 2012

PCP on DVD - Safe House

Denzel Washington is one of my favorite actors.  I'll watch anything he is in.  Same with Ryan Reynolds.  Put the two of them in the same movie?  Of course I'm there!

Safe House - 2012, rated R.  My rating:  7 out of 10.

Safe House is a twisty spy flick starring Denzel as a rogue former CIA agent, and Ryan Reynolds, the young CIA agent tasked with watching over him after his capture by a CIA team.  It is a film in the Jason Bourne school of realism, with no CGI or wirework that I could detect during its awesome fight and shootout sequences.  The car chases are pretty good too, though not as frequent as the pretty solid fight scenes. 

The film also has undertones of government overreach that have been done in countless films before this.  One interesting thing about the plot was that in a waterboarding sequence in the film, Denzel apparently got waterboarded for real, so his reactions to that torture are quite authentic.  Talk about method acting!  Also, despite the fact that you spend most if not all of the film looking for a twist, it still catches you off guard a bit anyways, so that was well done.  All in all, the film is a decent spy movie.  It's not the worst one I've ever seen, but it's not the best either.  If you like Denzel and Ryan Reynolds though, check this one out, there's enough here to make it worth your time.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

PCP on TV - Fall 2012 TV What's on my DVR

Hello everyone and welcome back to CRAPOLA.  Today in PCP I'll be talking about the upcoming fall TV season, and what shows from it look interesting to me.  Just like last year, I'll be talking today about what new shows I'm adding to my DVR, what shows return, and what shows got dropped off of my viewing schedule.  Due to the challenges of balancing work, graduate school, and an infant - my wife and I try to keep a limit on the number of shows we record, as in the past we used to record well over 25-30 shows a year. This allows us to not have too many shows turn in to an enormous backlog of stuff to watch.  And thanks to the joys of DVR (and the fact that some of them are 30 minute sitcoms), my wife and I can watch these 20 shows in far less than 20 hours a week, which enables us to still have a life outside of watching TV and movies all the time.  Anyways, here's my thoughts on what's on my DVR this fall.

New to my DVR this fall:  9 shows (in alphabetical order)

Arrow - The CW is bringing another show to market based on a DC universe comics character, this time retooling the character of Green Arrow to make him darker and grittier, like the recent Dark Knight version of Batman.  It is not a Smallville spinoff, but the network is hoping the show will be just as successful.  I'm looking forward to it as the character is not one that I am too familiar with from comics, as I've always been more of a Marvel than DC guy, so I get to go in to this show with next to no preexisting preferences about the character.  Series premiere is on October 10 on the CW.

Beauty & the Beast - All I know about this show is 4 things:  1.  It is a remake of the 80s TV series, not the Disney movie.  2.  The beast has facial scarring, not a hairy face.  3.  It stars Smallville star Kristin Kreuk.  4.  My wife wants to watch this more than I do.  Hopefully it isn't a waste of time.  Series premiere is on October 11 on the CW.

Dallas - Technically this show already had its first season during this summer, so it was not on my fall 2011 post, but it will be returning in January with more episodes.  This continuation of the original nighttime soap classic is actually rather entertaining.  The younger characters are not as strong as the veteran actors, but as long as the show keeps having the great Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing, the best TV villain ever, I'll keep watching this show just to see what he schemes next.  Series is on TNT, exact return date in January TBD.

Elementary - Another take on the character of Sherlock Holmes, this time updated into the modern era and with Watson played by Lucy Liu.  Simply based on her casting alone I'm guessing Watson isn't going to be a pushover or comic relief but instead a butt-kicker, which is what I want to see because she's great in that role.  Johnny Lee Miller stars as Holmes.  I'm looking forward to this one as I always enjoy a good mystery/crime show (but I doubt this'll be better than my favorite current one, Castle).  Series premiere September 27 on CBS.

There's more new shows as well as the returning favorites after the jump -->

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

PCP on DVD - Jack & Jill

Some movies I know are going to be awful before I watch them.  I either watch them because I'm curious to see just how bad they are going to be, because my wife wants to watch them, or because I want to rip them in my review.  Jack & Jill was the movie that was all of the above.

Jack & Jill - 2011, rated PG.  My rating: 3 out of 10. 

There is a reason this film won 10 of the 12 Razzie Awards it was nominated for, it was just that bad.  Filled with extremely annoying characters, incessant and irritating product placement, and just a general migraine-inducing script, this film is pretty awful.  It is easily the worst film of Adam Sandler's career.  I don't even feel like the guy is trying anymore.  Each movie he releases is progressively worse than the prior one.  It makes me afraid to watch "That's My Boy" when that one comes out on DVD. 

The film stars Adam Sandler as both a guy and his extremely obnoxious twin sister.  She is so completely grating and annoying that she has to be one of the worst characters ever committed to celluloid. About the only redeeming feature of the film is that at its heart it is trying to be a touching story about appreciating your family for who they are, a few laughs sprinkled in but not many, and also from a seriously dedicated and shameless performance from Al Pacino (sidenote - why Al why?  You're better than this movie!)  but the film can be summed up by a line near the ending from Pacino when he tells the male version of Sandler to destroy every copy of some certain footage.  That probably would have been good idea for this film before it ever hit theaters.  It's not the worst movie I've ever seen, but it's easily the worst I've seen in a year or so.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

FML - Make my kid a Gerber baby!

So Gerber is running a contest to find new baby models, and I think my adorable son has a chance.  Voting is now through 9/21, so follow this link to go vote.  You can only vote once per day per facebook account.  Please also get your friends to vote as well!  My son is in the Sitter category (they have 6 different categories of children) and you can only vote one child per category, so if you have friends with kids in other categories that's fine, but make sure you vote for Jackson for Sitter! 

I mean come on, look how cute he is!  Now go vote!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Happy 100th Birthday Max Dickerman!

So today, September 3rd, 2012 my step-grandfather Max (Mac) Dickerman turns a whopping 100.  That is so incredibly awesome!  To put that in to a bit of perspective, it's time for me to whip out my history teacher hat.  Here's a bit of what has happened since he was born: 
  • He has lived through 25 presidential elections (this November will be # 26).
  • When he was born, William Taft was our nation's 27th president.  Currently, Obama is our 44th.
  • He's lived through 2 World Wars, the Cold War, and the U.S.'s wars in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq twice.  Not to mention all the other little conflicts where our soldiers have been deployed.
  • When he was born, he was one of about 1.65 billion people on the planet.  Now he's one of over 7 billion.
  • In the U.S. there was about 96 million people when he was born, now there are over 314 million Americans.
  • He saw the Soviet Union both form and cease to exist (1922-1991).
  • 132 new nations have joined the maps of the globe (most had been former colonies or territories held by other nations) by gaining their independence.
  • The 16th through 27th Amendments to the Constitution were enacted, including the following changes:  direct election of Senators, prohibition of alcohol as well as its repeal, two-term limit for Presidents, lowering of the voting age to 18, women getting the right to vote, poll taxes become outlawed, and the federal government being able to collect an income tax.
  • The year he was born saw the U.S. go from 46 to 48 states with the addition of New Mexico and Arizona to the union.  He went almost half of his life (47 years) before the U.S. had 50 states with the additions of Alaska and Hawaii in 1959.
  • He was almost 8 years old when the U.S. heard it's first radio news broadcast (8/31/1920).  He was 15 when the television as we know it was invented by Philo Farnsworth in 1927, but he would have to wait until after World War 2 for the invention to really catch on.
  • He was 65 years old when Apple began selling its Apple II home computers, just in time for his retirement, but he would be 81 before the first web browser, Mosiac, would be released, allowing access to the world wide web.
  • He has seen the betamax, VHS videocassette, laserdisc, HDDVD, tape cassette, 8-track, compact disc, record player and both 5 1/4" and 3 1/2" floppy disks all come and go.
  • He was 60 when the first videogame, Pong, was released, so he's seen the creation (and/or implosion) of every videogame company.
  • The Ford Model T had only been on the roads for four years at the time he was born.
Obviously this list only scratches the surface of all the amazing changes that my grandfather has witnessed in his life.  He's an awesome man that I love very much, and today I salute him.  Happy Birthday Mac!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

FML - Let the indoctrination begin

Already practicing the arm raise for "Hail"
in Hail to the Victors
 So today Michigan kicks off its 2012 college football season versus Alabama.  I've already started priming my son Jackson for loving all things Michigan.  It started in the womb, with my playing "Hail to the Victors" on my iPod and holding the speaker up to my wife's belly.  After his birth, he had a mobile over his crib that played "Hail to the Victors" instead of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" as his lullaby.  We brought him to Ann Arbor for the first time this past May on Memorial Day weekend.  He also has a Michigan hat and a pair of Michigan onesies that we love dressing him in (as you can see, to the left).

Tonight Michigan plays Alabama in a game that Michigan is expected by many (unfortunately including myself) to lose, as the spread is 12.5 points.  Win or lose though, this will be the first of every Michigan game that Jackson watches with me, so I am excited for kickoff to happen.  I'll actually be in Michigan today (though not at the game, they're playing in Dallas) so it'll be great to watch the game in the state where I met Jackson's mom.  I'm looking forward to watching games with my son for the rest of my life, so today a new Saturday tradition is born.  Obviously, he's not going to fully understand what is going on just yet, that will come in time, but the tradition stars now nonetheless.  Now, only 18 years until he goes to Michigan as a freshman!