Avenue Q

September 12th, 2005

Avenue QAvenue Q is the hit show that received seemingly endless praise on Broadway and is now playing on the Broadway Theatre at Wynn Las Vegas in...Las Vegas.

Not an easy show to describe, but the best way apparently is as a "grown up Sesame Street". A small cast of very talented puppeteers play the host of characters that live on Avenue Q. The characters come to Avenue Q ready to meet the challenges of the real world head on, but learn quickly that life is harder than they anticipated.

Seeing a puppet struggle to find his way in New York City, facing issues such as unemployment, one night stands, racism, relationships (both homosexual and heterosexual), even internet pornography, is not something I had ever expected. Ask me before we started planning this trip to Las Vegas if I thought I would ever see two puppets have sex live on stage...well we were in Vegas.

Kudos to the creators of Avenue Q for giving us such a treat. The show was very good; high energy and very funny. If you are looking for a show that is a little less ordinary, try a different Avenue. (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

The Life of David Gale

September 8th, 2005

The Life of David GaleAcademy Award winner Kevin Spacey (American Beauty) stars with Oscar nominee Kate Winslet (Titanic, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) in a powerfully gripping, edge-of-your-seat thriller hailed as "provocative!" (ABC-TV) An electrifying, suspenseful journey into deadly conspiracy and murderous deception begins when a respected professor who may - or may not - be guilty is charged with a brutal crime. The Life of David Gale is a brilliantly unpredictable thriller, which builds relentlessly to a shocking final twist guaranteed to blow you away!

For two years I have had a coworker asking me on a semi-frequent basis, "Have you watched The Life of David Gale, yet?" I finally told her I have now seen it. I hope she is able to sleep better.

We have a man who has been a well known public figurehead (Spacey) in opposition of the death penalty (in Texas no less) sitting, rather ironically, on Death Row for murder. He has remained silent about his case, though now wants to talk. He offers exclusive rights for an interview to one publication and requests the journalist by name (Winslet).

She is given the opportunity to speak with him in a series of three two-hour blocks. One each day for the three days prior to his execution. What he tells her over the course of these talks is a story of his divorce, not having custody of his son, and his life as a professor of philosophy. When she walks in to meet with him the first time, she has a pre-determined opinion of him and his crime. Will that change as they talk?

Gale tells her that he wants her to find the truth, though she denies there is any more truth than what has been introduced at trial. Maybe he can make her believe otherwise.

The movie was ok; nothing to write home about. The acting was surprisingly poor. For two people who had received such impressive accolades, I would generally expect much more. Nothing seemed at all rehearsed. It was as if everyone was reading their lines for the first time. There was a lack of feeling in almost every word spoken. The saving grace was Laura Linney (<3). I thought she was good.

The story itself was entertaining enough, though a touch predictable. I am not one to sit and try to figure things out ahead of time. I do not want to ruin the story for myself, but this time I didn't have much choice. The pieces all practically fell right into place. I hate to say the quote in the synopsis touting the movie as "a brilliantly unpredictable thriller" is not entirely true...

I was entertained. I will not try and pretend I wasn't. I cannot deny the feeling I had when the movie was over that they could have done a lot more with it, however. I am not in a huge rush to see this one again, but I cannot think of any good reason(s) why most people wouldn't enjoy it.

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The Cat Returns

September 7th, 2005

The Cat ReturnsFrom the creators of the Academy Award winning Spirited Away comes the visually stunning The Cat Returns.

Haru, a schoolgirl bored by her ordinary routine, saves the life of an unusual cat, and suddenly her world is transformed beyond anything she ever imagined. The Cat King rewards her good deed with a flurry of presents, including a very shocking proposal of marriage to his son! Haru then embarks on an unexpected journey to the Kingdom of Cats, where her eyes are opened to a whole other world and her destiny is uncertain. To change her fate, she'll need to learn to believe in herself and, in the process, she will learn to appreciate her everyday life.

Featuring the sensational voice talents of Anne Hathaway, Cary Elwes, Peter Boyle and Elliott Gould, The Cat Returns is a magical animated adventure that will delight and inspire everyone.

Another film from Studio Ghibli, The Cat Returns is a fun little film about believing in yourself. With that as the theme, the movie spent surprisingly little time portraying this lesson and focused more on the rest of this far-fetched, if not enjoyable, story.

A young girl saves a cat from being run over by a truck. This unusual cat turns out to be son of the Cat King. One of the many generous gifts she receives from the king is the offer of his son's hand in marriage.

Before she knows it, she finds herself enlisting the aid of another unusual cat, known as Baron. Baron, with the voice of Cary Elwes, is a very distinguished and daring gentleman (gentlecat?) who goes the extra mile to save young Haru.

Bored by her "normal" day to day life, Haru struggles to believe in herself. It is this change within herself, coupled with the help of the Baron, which saves her from the Cat Kingdom.

Like Kiki's Delivery Service and others, The Cat Returns has a low rating (G, PG). I will not necessarily go so far as to say they are children's movies, though they are geared more towards children. They are fun to watch and are cute stories. There is not much more than that to take away, even though as with everything Studio Ghibli has given us, The Cat Returns was very visually pleasing. The animation was beautiful.

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The Rowe - Ellsworth, MI

September 6th, 2005

The Rowe Inn is located...in the middle of nowhere. From Petoskey we headed through Charlevoix and beyond to end up at The Rowe. We were out in search of a fine dining experience while up north. I am told that The Rowe is one of the top rated restaurants in Northern Michigan (northern lower peninsula).

The idea was to sample, and if need be, go out on a limb for a menu item you would not necessarily order otherwise. This only went so far. There were certain things some of us could not pass up. I started with the Lobster Corn Chowder which was very good. My mom had a tomato salad (tomato, basil, fresh mozzarella, balsamic vinaigrette) which she enjoyed. My dad had the venison sausage which he liked. We could not help ourselves at this point and had to order the mushroom pierogies which were also very good. They were a little expensive, but you have to expect that for a meal like this.

Each entree comes with a salad. There were options for the salads. There was a blackberry sorbet, which I had. My mom had what I believe was their signature salad which was a simple presentation of lettuce, walnuts, dried cherries and a delicious bleu cheese dressing. Dad had their "house cole slaw" or something to that effect. It was sour kraut, apples, celery and who knows what else. It was not something I would have ordered, but he really liked it.

Our main courses were rather unique. My mom opted for their "vegetarian" dish which was sort of an egg souffle. She liked it a lot. Dad had the parmesan encrusted chicken which came with some type of a scalloped potato. He also like his a lot. I apparently was the adventurous one at the table (for once) and had the duck magret with a fresh strawberry Marsala. I am not a big fan of duck, but you only live once, right? My main course was good. Not great.

Dessert was a must after a meal like this. We all decided to try something. When in Rome, as they say. Dad had a four berry cobbler I think. Mom had their signature white brownie. I had their homemade Bailey's chocolate chip ice cream. The ice cream was three large scoops, much more than I had anticipated getting at a more upscale restaurant. It was very good. The white brownie was made with Khalua, which turns me off, as I do not like the flavor of coffee, but my mom said it was good. The bite I tried was too much for me.

Pricing was not outrageous and they apparently also have one of the best wine selections in the entire state. All in all it was a neat place. There are only about thirteen tables, so the restaurant is by no means large. It was a little out of the way, but if you are looking for a different atmosphere than many of the restaurants up north, it is worth it. Overall, I am afraid that I have to say the food in Northern Michigan is not good. The Rowe was an exception to that. I could see myself eating there again. It was a nice place to go with family, but could also be a fun date spot (as long as she is paying ;) ).

The Big Empty

September 4th, 2005

The Big EmptyAcclaimed writer/director Jon Favreau stars as a struggling actor about to enter a weirdly comic twilight zone. After agreeing to deliver a mysterious suitcase to a remote desert truck stop in exchange for $25K, John Person (Favreau) finds himself trapped in a bizarre world of unusual characters. Is the whole town mad, or are the loony locals the only sane things about this strange parallel universe called The Big Empty?

Jon Favreau, ironically or not, plays an actor who has not found work in awhile. Between casting auditions, he scrapes by as a courier. As he was just sitting down to calculate just how many thousands of dollars he is currently in debt, a knock comes at his door. The "crazy" neighbor from down the hall comes to Favreau with the proposition of a financial clean slate. If he will deliver a package to Baker, California, he will be given the money to pay off his credit cards.

Accepting the job, the story is about the people that he meets while waiting to make his "drop" to a mysterious man known only as Cowboy. The small desert community is full of crazy people who speak frequently about alien abductions. Are they crazy, though? Or are they the only ones that know the truth?

Ok. I know the plot does not sound like a movie that is terribly exciting, but at least it was really really bad. It is not a long list, nor is it a distinguished one, but The Big Empty has made my list of Worst Movies.

I decided to watch The Big Empty based solely on cast. Jon Favreau, in this man's opinion has done good things (Swingers, Made, PCU). And...I may or may not have somewhat of a schoolboy crush on Rachael Leigh Cook. Is that such a crime?

So my desire to dunk Rachael Leigh Cook's pigtails in my inkwell is not a crime, but making this movie should have been. I know I am being harsh, but I can see no reason why either Jon Favreau or Joey Lauren Adams would agree to be a part of such a film. The way I have it figured out is that Favreau owed the Director a favor. Sort of a "get me a date with your sister...and fine, I'll be in your stupid movie" type of favor. Ms. Adams has bills to pay like the rest of us. She just needed a little something to tide her over until the next Kevin Smith picture. And yes, I will admit it, Rachael does not really have a strong track record with making good movies. It makes sense to me that she was in this one. There is no mystery there.

If I can keep just one other person from making the mistake I did in seeing The Big Empty, then I have succeeded as a person. The hours spent watching movies and toiling over my reviews will at that point all be worth it. On the contrary, if I cannot deter you from seeing this movie then I apologize in advance for failing you. But it is not my apology that you should seek, it is that of EVERYONE who played part in making this movie.

And now let us never speak of this one again...

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George R. R. Martin

September 3rd, 2005

George R. R. Martin is the author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series. He heads out on the road late in 2005 to promote the long awaited fourth part of the series, A Feast for Crows.

A Feast for Crows by George R. R. MartinAppearance of note:
Friday, November 11th at 7:00 pm
Borders Bookstore
Ann Arbor, Michigan

The UK leg of his tour is in mid to late October. He will be in the US early to mid November. A complete list of US tour dates is available here.

A Feast for Crows has a release date in the US on November 8, 2005 and in the UK on October 17. Preorder a copy here.

I can hold it...

September 2nd, 2005

When you see people running in the hallway, let's face it, they are almost positively running to the restroom. Where else could they be heading in the middle of the afternoon (or morning)? I understand that if it were maybe, say, noon or thereabouts, maybe they are running to catch their ride to lunch. However, most of the time I would wager that this person was just too caught up in their day to day responsibilities to make it to the restroom in a reasonably timely fashion.

So now here they are, running towards the restroom with nothing between them and pay dirt but YOU. You cannot tell me that you have never once thought about striking up a conversation with this person. Subject matter at this point is irrelevant. Play it off as if you did not notice the pace by which they were covering distance in the hall. I am sure you would find at least one person that might find it rude to shrug you off in light of a more pressing engagement, right?

But I guess at this point the more meaningless the conversation the better. Small talk would work best. If you tried to catch them on what the latest sales figures were or what budget projections would be for the third quarter of 2014 I think the humor would be lost. Idle chit chat is by far the Privatjokr endorsed method for trying to stop someone dead in their tracks as they hightail it for a pit stop.

I just hope this is not in any way related to Haley's comet. How can I try this out if I don't see someone running to the restroom again for another 75 years?

You know you've done it.

Big lazy bear.

September 1st, 2005

For some, there is nothing that can turn a day sour faster than an itch. One particular itch, placed so precisely out of your reach. There is a drop zone in the middle of your back that will vary from person to person based upon many factors (height, weight, flexibility, knowledge of the 50 state capitals). The simple fact of the matter is, try all you like and your autonomy is thrown in your face. You are forced to seek outside help to alleviate the nagging itch on your back.

How long do you struggle with it before you realize it is beyond your reach? Will you actually spend the time? I could imagine some people who get that itch on their back and then try to stretch out their shoulder because maybe that will help. What would impress me is anyone who actually has a rigorous daily calisthenics program that is designed to allow access to this trouble zone on your back. Maybe I could develop that... Imagine sales from the VHS tapes alone... Uhhhh Pantent pending!

Sit and reflect for a moment. Just how many inanimate objects have you employed for thwarting that itch? Oh my...how many animate objects?! If you have ever been standing at the aquarium and thought that Goldy was just long enough to reach the itch, you are a sick individual. But seriously, pens, pencils, a ruler maybe, car keys, careful with the scissors, we have all done it. And many of you, I am sure, have tried what I have found to be the single most effective method. The door frame.

That's right. The door frame. You stand up, stand in the doorway and rub yourself against the door frame. No, turn around. Yes, like that (sicko). Nothing. I repeat. Nothing works as well as the door frame. They make back scratchers, which are nice, don't get me wrong. I find they are more therapeutic in a massage capacity than they are good for the back itch; at least when compared to the door frame.

Stand there, in all your glory, and rub your back against the corner. You look like a bear doing the same against a tree. A big lazy bear. You think he's doing that because he is a lesser being? Or because his short stubby arms won't reach? Don't give me that elitist science crap. He does it because it is EFFECTIVE.

Strike a pose!Many studies have been conducted throughout the bear community on various other methods, but at the end of the day the tree always has the best results. I recommend a door frame as opposed to a tree, as they are more readily available in most places. Except at Christmas time. But be very careful of the ornaments, some of them hurt. And "But I had an itch" is not the best excuse for why you stepped on your sister's present from Auntie Phyllis.

I think I am even going to start using the door frame as my solution to most if not all itch problems. It might look a little awkward when I am standing half in and half out of my office trying to satisfy the itch on the bottom of my foot, but I expect most people already take my actions with a grain of salt.

Fantasy Football 2005

August 31st, 2005

As of nearly midnight last night, the deed has been done. Our draft is completed and our rosters set. Yet another year of being in just one fantasy football league, but that is just fine by me.

This time last year I had already been told that I would not make the playoffs in our league. Only two teams would not make the playoffs. This year the pressure is on a little more. It would be nice to make the playoffs, but truth of the matter is that I actually do not care. I am not good enough at fantasy football and do not follow the season nearly as close as many. Here is the team as of draft day:

QB Daunte Culpepper
WR Drew Bennett
WR Anquan Boldin
RB Priest Holmes
RB Duce Staley
TE Todd Heap
WR/RB Chris Brown
K Adam Vinatieri
DEF Baltimore
WR Braylon Edwards
QB Chad Pennington
WR Donte' Stallworth
RB Justin Fargas

I had the fourth pick, which left me with Holmes. I did not want to take him, I was hoping he would go before me. Since he didn't, what choice did I have? It could be a mistake a) with his knee and b) with Larry Johnson scheduled to share touches, but I did what I had to do and took him with my first pick. Last year I took Clinton Portis with my first pick and that was a waste, so maybe I have some wiggle room. On top of that, my other two starting running backs are currently nursing injuries.

Getting Culpepper with my second pick was a big surprise. I did not expect him to fall back to me. I was excited. He was the sole reason I had any success at all last season. As much as I cannot stand that stupid dance he does, I hope to see it over and over (as he only does it after making a big play).

It is not a team without potential. This could be a very interesting year.

Bring it on!

The Movie Theater Ovation.

August 30th, 2005


Clapping in the theater at the end of a good movie is as effective as yelling at your television as you watch your team play poorly, yet if I had to pick one of the two that bothered me, it is the applause.

It does not happen frequently; at least not in my experience (and I attend my fair share of movies). But when it does, boy does it get under my skin. The last time it happened was when I saw The Aristocrats! and before then was The Polar Express.

Do people expect the director and/or lead to come out from behind a curtain for a bow? Is there a subculture of theater clappers? Is this something learned from parents? How does one develop into a theater clapper? Is there an elaborate recruitment process by which new generations of theater clappers are selected? I think answers to some of these questions might lead to a seedy underbelly of cinema. Maybe the path to the theater clapper elite would reveal organized crime and corruption that goes all the way to the top! Imagine the possibilities...

Leave well enough alone, you say? Not me.

Oh how I would love to pick the brain of one of them. Do you think it would be frowned upon if I began to go to the movies with a harpoon in hopes of capturing one? Imagine the studies that could be conducted. All in the name of science! I wonder if my prisoner would then be able to be reconditioned. Could we train them to NOT clap after movies? That certainly would be ideal.

Maybe it is not even for the movie itself, but rather the projector operator. This I can get on board with, I guess next time I will applaud you, too. You sure switch the reels well.

Did I really lay out parallels between clapping at the end of a good movie and La CosaNostra? Ok, maybe I am a little too hung up on this.