Friday, November 8, 2002

8 Mile

Movie: 8 Mile

An impressively good movie. I like Eminem. I don't think I'd really buy any of his albums, but he's an interesting guy. I get the feeling he really is a musical genius, though it's not the kind of music most of us would appreciate. I wanted to see this film to learn more about him and his world, and I did. As I expected, he did a good job in the lead role. I don't know why people are so suprised: it's not like he's acting. He's just playing a version of himself. Besides, almost all famous people are putting on a persona -- that's how they survive the media -- and that's acting. He comes across as likable, intelligent, and troubled -- pretty much who he is in real life, I suspect. The plot of the film is simple: a young rapper struggles to survive, being pulled different directions by friends and family and responsibility. He's got a lot of talent and everyone wants a piece of him, but he doesn't know who he is. By the end of the film he's figured that out. I liked the way the film explored deeper aspects of existence without hammering us on the head with it, I liked the portrayal of the various characters and the conflicts. It was realistic and interesting. The "rap battles" -- where two rap artists compete against each other and the audience votes on who advances to the next round -- was unusual and fascinating. I'm not a rap music fan -- it all sounds the same to me -- but I definitely could appreciate the skill and amazing wit of these guys to think of rhymes on the fly as they sing. Very cool. Well-done film, with humor, drama, tender moments, coolness, and a touch of depth. Forget that Eminem's a big star: watch this because it's a good film.


Friday, October 17, 2003

8 Women

Movie: 8 Women
Writer(s): Franciois Ozon
Director(s): Franciois Ozon

Delightfully bizarre mix of old fashioned English murder mystery and musical farce. Yes, musical! This is the story of several generations of a family (grandmother, mother, aunts, and daughters) and a couple female servants trapped by snow in a large house who discover one morning that the only man in the house has been murdered -- stabbed in the back. The phone line has been cut, the automobiles sabotaged, and the snow is blocking the gate so the eight women are trapped. Then the fun begins as the women begin to bicker and accuse, and slowly all sorts of unexpected truths emerge and we learn that every woman has secrets. It's completely soap opera absurd, and thus hilarious, and the director brilliantly plays this up with overly dramatic music and camera zooms. And each of the eight women has their own song they get to sing, breaking out with a tune in an (often) absurd moment, the room going dark with them in a spotlight, creating a hilariously campy feel. Fortunately, most of the tunes are pretty good (the first, in particular, is wonderful), and the camp feel is appropriate and gives the film an unexpected dose of fun. The murder mystery is a bit of joke (literally) but has a somber touch to it by the twist ending. Pretty good film. A bit long -- it'd be better trimmed by 10 or 15 minutes -- as it doesn't quite live up to its promises and gets slow in places. But overall a lot of fun and silliness, witty and entertaining.


Friday, April 18, 2008

88 Minutes

Movie: 88 Minutes

Yawn. The "88 minute" deadline is supposed to create dramatic tension, but instead it just complicates an already complicated muddle into gibberish. There are some good cast members and a handful of good scenes, but the whole isn't there. Weak. Don't waste your time.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Eagle Eye

Movie: Eagle Eye

I'll begin by warning you that I am about to reveal spoilers from the plot, so if you don't want to know the specifics, don't read this post. I must reveal things because the most significant aspect of the movie for me involves that, and I can't discuss it without revealing the details. The plot, in short, involves two regular people (a guy and a girl) getting strange phone calls with a woman's voice ordering them to obey and threatening dire conseqences if she is not obeyed. For instance, the girl's son will be killed if she doesn't obey. The guy they have set up with money in his bank account and bomb equipment in his house, so he's suddenly wanted by the FBI as a terrorist. Realizing that the two are being framed and set up by the mysterious voice, I went along with that: it made sense. However, there were two things that bothered me. One, the caller, who seems almost omniscient, is able to remotely control just about any kind of electronic or mechanical device in the area, from digital signage to robotic cranes. The action is so fast-paced and non-stop, I was sceptical that any group of hackers would have the ability to keep up with the spontaneous action. The second thing that bothered me was there was a ruthless impersonability from the caller: she does things like tell the boy he has ten seconds to obey her radical instructions and of course he does not, causing all hell to break loose and he almost getting killed. I was like, "Does she not care if he succeeds? Why not call him a minute earlier and give him more time to absorb the concept?" But later in the film the movie's big "secret" is revealed: that the caller isn't a woman but a machine, a new government supercomputer who plotting her own agenda. Now granted that's an old saw and utterly unrealistic, a myth propogated by people who are afraid of technology, but I did like that now the woman's unrealistic expectations of obedience made sense. As an artificial intelligence, she cannot understand that humans sometimes make the illogical choice. So in the end I actually liked this gimmick, which surprises me, as usually I would think of it as a cop-out. Part of the reason this works is that the plot to control all these various people is quite ingenious, as basically you have different people each doing an innocuous task that somehow contributes to the main scheme. That's very cool and interesting. The action isn't bad, and the film definitely moves non-stop, and overall I liked it. It's nothing too profound and the AI gimmick is ridiculous, but at the same time, it's done well enough that you can suspend your disbelief and go along with it for the ride. Fun.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Eastern Promises

Movie: Eastern Promises
Director(s): David Cronenberg

This is a simpler film than the trailers imply: basically a midwife in London finds a diary on a nameless Russian girl who dies while giving birth. The diary, when translated, tells about the girl's horrific imprisonment and rape at the hands of Russian mobsters, and thus the midwife gets embroiled into the criminal world. The film is authentic all the way with brutal violence, plenty of Russian language with English subtitles, and superior acting. It's extremely well done, but in the final analysis I wanted a touch more depth. It's all plot and the story just ends without any profound life lessons or impact. But other than that, it's a superior film.


Friday, April 20, 2007

Echo Park

Book: Echo Park
Writer(s): Michael Connelly

I can't say I'm crazy about this style of writing: the pace is glacial, almost Dragnet style, with almost every donut eaten and cup of coffee drunk described in depressing detail. Of course it turns out this level of detail is somewhat important, since this is a crime drama, and those details come into play later, but the book takes forever to get going and then keeps on going long after things are resolved. Worse, though the plot is a conspiracy that is significant enough to justify a lot of this time, it doesn't quite make up for it. Next time I'll stick to the condensed version.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Edge of Darkness

Movie: Edge of Darkness

Once again, my opinion is heavily influenced by the promotion. I saw the trailer for this film many times and its heavy-handedness did not give me much optimism. But it's much better than the trailer. For example, the trailer begins with a memory of the father shaving and putting shaving cream on his little girl, supposedly a fond, tender moment, and cutting to her death as an adult come home to visit and leaving the door open for the main story, the father searching for his daughter's killer. But the flashback comes across as schmaltzy in the trailer. In the film, I loved it: that shaving cream scene happens toward the very end and we already know all the characters and what they have gone through and the scene is longer with more details, and it's excellent. The rest of the movie is similar: what seems trite in the trailer, is actually pretty good in context. The film isn't that much action: it's a lot more about a grieving father, a complicated political cover-up, mysterious men, and a time bomb father who we worry might go off at any moment. I didn't much care for the story: the "mystery" isn't much of a mystery, and even when it's explained, it's nothing remarkable, but I did like the way the film worked overall. It's not a film I'd want to see again, but it's above average and worth seeing the first time. There are many nice moments. It's boring in places, and the cover-up and political intrigue is overdone and too complicated, but even within that there are some interesting scenes and ideas. (I really liked the way the bad guys sat around talking about various scenarios and how to handle with the situation. That showed that this wasn't an elaborate, well-planned scheme but people on the edge trying to stay one step ahead of getting caught.) The bottom line: a decent thriller. Not unbelievably awesome, but I don't think you'd be disappointed if you saw it. It's got some good action in places, and some of the human moments are very good. The overall ending is good and I really liked the very end.


Friday, March 24, 2000


Movie: EdTV

Not as fun as fun or intelligent as The Truman Show, this was okay, but nothing remarkable.


Friday, November 27, 2009

An Education

Movie: An Education

I hadn't heard much about this but it's getting Oscar buzz and it's a treasure you need to see. The story's simple. Set in 1961 England, a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl who's tired of studying for her exams to get into Oxford, meets a charming older man who seems to be wealthy and worldly, and he romances her off on adventures to concerts and Paris. Finally she's free of her straight-laced parents and endless books and free to actually live. What's fascinating is the way her parents go along with this: the man charms them as much as her, and since he's well-off, they feel the match is okay despite the age difference and her youth. Thus the girl learns that her Oxford destiny wasn't as much about her accomplishing anything in the world, but merely meeting a suitable match. She begins to question the purpose of education and wonders if a real-world education isn't superior. I won't spoil the ending, where she slowly learns that the man isn't what he seems. The film is brilliantly crafted and the performances are fantastic (the girl is a star in the making). My only criticism is that storywise the film feels slightly lacking, with events leading linearly to a faintly gimmicky conclusion (the story needs a small subplot for additional richness), but there is meat on these bones as the film forces you to ponder the role of education in society. Seek this out.


Friday, October 1, 1999

The Efficiency Expert

Book: The Efficiency Expert (1966)
Writer(s): Edgar Rice Burroughs

What a cool little gem of a book! Difficult to find even years ago, I picked this up at a used bookstore. It's not a huge tale by any means, but it's a clever little adventure about a young college graduate growing up in gangster-ridden Chicago. Like so much of Burroughs, it's witty with more subtlety than you might expect, and the plot twists and turns back on itself nicely. The main character, a clueless college grad, is hilarious in his naivety. (For instance, he doesn't turn in a pickpocket who nicked his watch and later the pickpocket returns the favor by giving the watch back. Johnny finds out the pickpocket would have gotten $20 for the watch, so he gives him twenty dollars! Of course he's assuming as a college grad he'll find the job-getting easy -- but no one answers his "I will run your company for you" job wanted ad.) Johnny falls in with the Chicago underworld, but won't compromise his integrity, even when framed for a murder. The trial at the end is a little predictable and (almost) all the loose ends are tied together a bit too neatly. It's a light, feel-good tale with some amusing pokes at society people.

Here's a classic example of the Burroughs writing style I like so much. This is his tactful description of a couple making out on a sofa:

She was not alone, yet although there were many comfortable chairs in the large room, and the sofa was an exceptionally long one, she and her companion occupied but little more space than would have comfortably accommodated a single individual.


Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Eight-Legged Freaks

Movie: Eight-Legged Freaks

A B-movie tribute to B-movies. Cool special effects, typical silly story about radiation creating giant spiders. Harmless fun, little else.


Saturday, November 6, 1999

El Mariachi

Movie: El Mariachi (1992)
Writer(s): Robert Rodriguez
Director(s): Robert Rodriguez

The DVD of this movie is totally cool -- it's a dual-edition, with Rodriguez's Desperado on the second side. El Mariachi is essentially Rodriguez's first film. It's in Spanish, and amazingly, he filmed it for a paltry $7,000! This is for an action movie, folks! (The sequel, Desperado, cost $7 million!) The DVD has Rodriguez's audio commentary and it's terrific if you're into learning about movie-making. Tons of explanation and hints and tips on making a movie cheaply. (There's even a separate "10-Minute Film School" video on the DVD.) The commentary begins right at the Columbia Pictures logo, with Rodriguez, with biting wit saying, "This logo probably cost more than my whole movie!" As to the movie itself, it's not perfect. There are dozens of little flaws, gaffs, and glitches (I think they're cool). Rodriguez was fully aware of this, a side-effect of the non-existent budget (of the seven grand, he says only six hundred dollars actually shows up on the screen -- the rest was used to buy and develop the film). He originally intended to sell the movie to the Spanish language direct-to-video market and basically just hoped to recoup his costs. He was just practicing. Unfortunately, his movie went on to win an award at the Sundance Film Festival and the movie was picked up for wide release by Columbia, so now the whole world gets to see this marvelous film. It's worth it, too. To compensate for any flaws, Rodriguez edited the movie a frantic pace. There's cut-cut-cut, zooms, slow- and fast-motion, and the whole movie has an incredible feeling of action though there's not a single stuntman, crew, or explosion! A lot of this had to do with budget: for instance, Rodriguez couldn't afford Hollywood prop guns, so he borrowed some real machine guns from the local cops (the movie was film in Mexico). Real guns aren't designed for blanks, so they jam after one round. This meant no continuing shooting was possible. So Rodriguez would film the shot from multiple angles and zooms and then edit it all together to make it seem like continue action. Turns out the choppy effect is far more dramatic than a guy standing there firing for ten seconds. Basically this movie doesn't seem low-budget from watching it. It's a great action movie. The plot's cool: a mariachi (guitar player) is mistaken for a killer who carries his guns in a guitar case. The mariachi is chased and "accidentally" kills many of the bad guys (like the way Inspect Clousou always does things). It's funny, exciting, and if you weren't told how little it cost, you'd never know. You won't mistake it for a multi-million dollar blockbuster, but it looks better than 90% of the crap that's shown on cable TV. If you check this out, I highly recommend the DVD version. Besides the invaluable commentary, there's Rodriguez's neato movie short, "Bedhead." It apparently won awards and was aired on PBS. It's the tale of a little girl being tormented by her bratty brother and what she does for revenge. Hilarious! If you're a Rodriguez fan, you can also check out his ultra-violent From Dusk Till Dawn.


Thursday, April 13, 2000


Movie: Election

Funny film, easy to confuse with Rushmore, but ultimately too light. Fun, but not great.


Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Election 2004 and the Media

The media isn't biased, eh? I don't normally watch the news or read newspapers or magazines because I don't like the bias, but for current election coverage I did tune in to see how the different networks were reporting on the Election 2004 mess. Wow, it was actually painful. Fox News made it sound like it was impossible for Kerry to win: he'd literally have to win every single remaining state and get all the provisional ballets in Ohio and even then the numbers didn't quite add up. But on CNN they showed Kerry and Bush in a dogfight with almost identical electoral votes and had analysts who were pointing out what a tough road Bush had ahead and that once Kerry won Ohio it would be almost impossible for Bush to win! Dang, I hate this politicking and the divisiveness it creates. It was ridiculously easy to see the bias in the networks. I tuned to CBS to see Dan Rather viciously attack a Republican analyst, interrupting the guy's spin with his own comments and conclusions, simply because it was obvious Dan didn't want to hear that Bush had won. Why bother to have the guy on if you aren't going to listen to what he has to say? I found it quite distasteful. On the other side, Fox News shows "Democrats" who agree with Republicans (i.e. a Dem who says that Bush won).

On another note, on several channels I saw reporters deny their own polls and surveys. The reporter would reveal a new poll that showed that the number one concern of voters were moral and ethical issues, but then the reporter would dismiss that and point that that was ridiculous and obviously the voter's main concern had to be the war and terrorism and security! What war are they talking about? That silly little skirmish in Iraq? Please.

As to the whole "who won" issue, the media was at fault for encouraging it. Obviously controversy provides ratings, so the media purposely encouraged the concept that we didn't know who won the election. In reality the numbers were clear that Kerry couldn't win Ohio but still a number of networks wouldn't call the election. If they had, perhaps Kerry would have conceded earlier like in a normal election. But with the precedent of 2000 before us, the media jumped on the slightest whiff that that could happen again. Instead of being responsible, the media hurt the country but promoting indecision and confusion.


Saturday, November 18, 2000

Election Commentary: Counting the Ballots

Let me just say this: the United States Presidential Election should not be decided on a technicality (this ballot is flawed, the voter was confused, or this absentee ballot doesn't have a postmark) or by a court (supreme or any other).

Courts should make rules about how an election can be run, or determine if there was fraud or a violation of those rules, but they should not be deciding who wins the election.

I write this on Saturday, long before any decision has been made in this matter, and I am growing irritated by this process. The longer this continues the more it polarizes the country. The hand counting of ballots is an example of something that will tear this country apart: frankly I don't believe the Democrats who say there is no fraud or flaw in the process, and I don't believe the Republicans who imply that Democratic counters with long fingernails are surreptitiously punching Gore holes in ballots. Both are extreme views. But the hand counts open us up to that and turn this election into a partisan battle. What the Gore camp has never proven is that there is any reason for hand counting millions of ballots. For hand counts to be needed, the Gore camp must prove that there is bias in the machine count. Just because the machines rejected some ballots does not invalidate the election: there's no evidence to show that the machine didn't reject just as many Bush ballots as Gore ballots. That's the whole point of machines. They may be wrong, they may even be wrong on a lot of ballots, but those errors average out in favor of all the parties. Unless Gore wants to argue that Gore voters are dumber than Bush voters and thus more likely to fill out ballots in such a way as to confuse the machines, there is no reason to suspect that a statewide hand recount would produce any different result than the machine count (barring any mischief, of course). Sure, the exact numbers might be different, but overall, the results would be the same.

So, you say, if Bush will win anyway, why not go ahead and do a statewide manual recount? Four reasons:

1) A manual recount will take a very long time. Currently it looks like it will take until after Thanksgiving to finish the counts already in progress, and that's for just 1.7 million votes. Most likely those counts aren't valid anyway, since every precinct is applying its own rules to the counting process, and without consistent standards, a court will throw out the results. That could mean it would take into next year just to count the ballots, not even getting into the dozens of lawsuits that are guaranteed to follow.

2) A manual recount is incredibly messy. We're just seeing the tip of iceberg so far. Both parties have lots of lawyers and are going to go to extraordinary lengths to press their cases, and with the hand count process so complicated, irregular, and full of human error, it could literally take months or even years to figure out the mess. For instance, though the counting process is monitored by a Democrat and a Republican, on questionable ballots -- the only ones that matter -- the arbiter is the local canvassing board, which in Democrat counties, is made up of a majority of Democrats (and presumably the reverse in Republican counties). Both sides have a lot to lose in the hand count process, but Gore, of course, has no other option (he has already lost on the machine count).

3) It's against the law. Now I know to most lawyers laws are just technicalities, but they do matter. There are rules to this game. Florida law says a party must request a hand count within 72 hours of the election. That time has long past and while Gore requested hand counts in certain Democratic counties, Bush did not. Accepting the results of hand counts in just the Gore counties would be patently unfair and America would not stand for that. The hue and cry would drown out the voice of any court in the nation that tried to support that crazy idea. If Gore wants "every vote to count" it must literally be every vote: Republican as well as Democratic. Sure, the Florida Supreme Court could determine that a statewide hand recount is necessary, but that's more time, more complexity, and more expense for Florida. A statewide recount would be almost as complicated as a new election! Frankly, my feeling is that if hand recounts are ordered, that means that they must be more accurate than machine counts, and therefore, every state in the country must recount all their votes by hand. After all, we must count every vote. I am serious: why is Florida the only state that gets special attention? Doesn't my vote in California count? New Mexico was won by less than 500 votes. A number of other states were also narrow victories. If Florida gets a hand recount, every state should do the same. It's only fair. In fact, all future elections should be decided by hand counting: I mean, if we can't trust machines with this election, why should we trust them in future elections? (Note: A nationwide hand recount, of course, would require a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, not the Florida Supreme Court, which only has jurisdiction in Florida.) I say this only so the Florida Supreme court understands the seriousness of their decision: they could be writing election law for the new century.

4) There is no need for a manual recount (we have the results already). In short, Bush won. He won on election night. He won on the recount. He won after the absentee ballots came in. Enough. Let's be done with it. Half of American didn't vote at all, and of the half that did, they were evenly split between the two parties. That means America will accept either of these men as President. All we need is a good reason. If Gore cannot prove that there was any fraud or bias in the machine count, then he has lost. That has to be the standard on which the Florida Supreme Court decides whether or not to accept the hand recounted ballots. Gore needs to just pack up and bow out gracefully, and begin planning his 2004 campaign.

Let me conclude by saying that America will not tolerate this indecision much longer. It's divisive, irritating, and insulting to our Constitution, our Founding Fathers, and every American who loves this country. I had hoped this mess would be over this weekend and I was distressed to find out it was not. The Florida Supreme Court has no business in this case, unless it is to simply uphold the law and rule that the hand counts were without cause and will not be included in the final tally. I pray that is what will happen, and quickly, because if it does not, we are going to see a long, technical, and extremely partisan legal battle, regardless of whatever the votes say. Remember, the longer this goes on, the more reluctant each candidate is going to be to bow out, especially if it goes on long enough to damage the person's political career: he might see this as his only chance to be President and risk everything. If you thought Iran-Contra or the Clarence Thomas hearings or Bill Clinton's impeachment were bad, you haven't seen nothing yet. This is getting ugly, really ugly, and we've only seen the eyebrow of the monster.


Friday, November 10, 2000

Election Delay (Commentary)

Okay, I've just got to say something about this silly election. First, understand that I'm a disenfranchised voter. I'm one of the twenty million who voted for Perot, after all. Some might say I was crazy to vote for Perot, but before that, I'd never bothered to vote (though I was eligible). So Perot got me motivated. This election shows exactly why so few Americans bother to vote: it's all partisan politics.

Now, a day or so ago, I was ready to say, "Flip a coin and get it over with!" After all, with the vote being 50-50 (and forget that nonsense about Gore winning the popular vote; the votes aren't all in, and his lead is so slim as to be statistically nil), the country really doesn't care which one gets put in. But then Gore began this dangerous, arrogant business of legally challenging the result, which has the potential of tearing the country in part. It could literally lead to riots and violence (look at the sit-ins and demonstrations in Florida, which right now are peaceful). People on both sides think they are morally right and that's dangerous. So now, with Gore pulling this kind of legal maneuvering, I say, pull the plug on Gore and give the White House to Bush. (It's not going to make any difference anyway, as there's no mandate.)

Then last night MSNBC played a clip from Rush Limbaugh's radio program. To demonstrate what a creep Gore is, Rush pointed out class by talking about how Missouri Senator and former Govenor John Ashcroft had reacted to "losing to a dead guy."

First Ashcroft congratulated the people of Missouri for their compassion, then said he lost "because I simply didn't get enough votes," and he called Mel's wife and told her sincerely, "I hope this win will ease the pain of your loss at least a tiny bit." Then he refused any legal challenges to his loss (there are many who said he had grounds to overturn the result) and said he wouldn't support anyone else making any legal challenge.

Contrast that to Gore, who's going to keep the country in limbo for a few weeks while he desperately digs into graveyards for votes, stirring up the country and antagonizing the whole repub/demo thing. The hand-counting of ballets sounds extremely subjective: the counters are allowed to guess at the person's intention

Enough! The votes are in, call the election, and move the country forward.


Wednesday, November 8, 2000

Election Results

Wow, what a hilarious turn of circumstance! Last night when I went to bed Bush was President-Elect. Today he's not, and we won't officially know until tomorrow. Plus, Gore could win the popular vote while Bush wins the White House. Only in America.

Okay, I've got to vent a bit. If I hear another idiot talking head say that this election proves that "every vote counts" I am going to scream! This election proves the exact opposite. My vote didn't count squat. If I lived in Florida, yes, my vote might have made a difference, but not in California. Enough of the Electoral College, folks! It's out dated, insane, and incredibly lame. It's time for one vote = one vote. No wonder so few people vote in the country. Not only is registration an incredible hassle (I'm still voting in a city I haven't live in for seven years, because that's where they have me registered, and whenever it's election time it's always too late for me to change it), but our vote doesn't count anyway! I want to be able to vote on the Internet! I want my vote to count! I want to start my own country!


Friday, November 7, 2003


Movie: Elf

I had little interest in seeing this. The promos made it seem predictable and stupid. But the critics gave it suprisingly high marks, so I decided to check it out. I can't believe it: it really is good! The crass gutter humor I associate with Will Ferrell isn't present, and he's actually quite likable (a bit like a lot of Adam Sandler's characters). Will plays a human raised by Santa's Elves who goes to New York City to see his real father, hilariously portrayed by a gruff James Caan, who anchors the film in reality. Caan's on the Naughty List, a Scrouge who doesn't believe in Christmas, but of course Will's Elf-like personality eventually wins not only him but all of New York over, saving Christmas for everyone. It's light-hearted and silly, but done with genuine heart, and it's grounded enough in logic and reality to keep it from being plain old dumb. I liked the way little "insignificant" things from the beginning turn out to be important later, as everyone who meets Ferrell is eventually changed by his infectous personality. Funny, entertaining, and leaves you feeling Christmasy. I predict a hit.


Saturday, July 19, 2008


Movie: Elizabeth

Another serious drama of the kind that reminds me of "health food" -- good for you but tastes horrible. But I'm currently almost finished with World Without End, a book set in England in the 1300s, and that's why I recorded this film on my HD channel. To my surprise, this turned out to be a fascinating film of political intrigue. You learn how Elizabeth's promotion to queen was unexpected and everyone thought she'd be dead in a week, but somehow she survived assasination attempts and political actions and became a great queen. Very cool.


Saturday, December 11, 2004

Ella Enchanted

Movie: Ella Enchanted

This is a modern version of a fairy tale, with modern music, slang, and attitudes set in a Cinderella world. It's a bit like Shrek in that respect. Initially the overacting and dialog-written-for-children had me frustrated, but gradually the movie got on its feet and settled into a zone comfortable for adults and kids. The story's cute: at birth a princess is given the gift of obedience by a loony aunt, and thereafter she must do whatever anyone tells her. Obviously, this causes amusing and eventually serious problems. The main story is about the princess trying to rid herself of this "gift," fall in love with the prince, and save the kingdom from evil in the process. Nothing too brain-straining here, but entertaining, fun, and cute. The cast is charming, the humor friendly and only occasionally perile, and conclusion satisfactory. An excellent rental.


Friday, February 13, 2009


Book: Empire
Writer(s): Orson Scott Card

This is an unusual book by scifi author Card -- it's a modern political drama based on the premise of a new American civil war. Could that happen? How? Card answers those questions in a way that's chillingly possible: as soon as any one group feels violence is the only tool they have left in their arsenal, they'll use it, and the states will be divided. But the story's extremely uneven, with scenes of crazy action (the President gets blown up) glossed over in a few pages followed by many pages of political dialog and analysis. While the history lessons are interesting, they feels like they belong in a textbook, not a novel. Still, the concept is unusual enough to be worth reading, and the political reality is sobering enough to make it worth your time.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Employee of the Month

Movie: Employee of the Month

Other than being a Costco addict, I had next to zero interest in seeing this, but got the DVD from Netflix and it wasn't as bad as I thought. That's not saying much, of course, but the promos made it sound like the plot was about two Costco cashiers competing for employee of the month because the winner would get to sleep with the girl and fortunately that sex part was deemphasized and not a signficant part of the plot. It's really just about two idiots competing and we're rooting for the underdog, of course. Surprisingly harmless.


Monday, March 6, 2006

The Empty Chair

Book: The Empty Chair
Writer(s): Jeffery Deaver

One of my favorite Lincoln Rhyme stories: it's a bit long and a key twist at the end is rather obvious (I saw it coming right at the beginning), but it's still a fun read. I do get tired of Lincoln's self-centeredness and self-pity for his paralysis, but then I'm not paralized, so I don't know how I'd react. But that aspect is just not fun to read. What is cool in this story is the main "bad guy" is a kid: the Insect Boy, so dubbed because of his interest in bugs. He kidnaps a girl and uses his bug knowledge to set up traps and false paths for his persuers and is shocked when Lincoln Rhyme keeps right on his tail and eventually catches up with him. Pretty cool.


Tuesday, December 4, 2007


Movie: Enchanted

This had gotten good reviews and though the premise seemed interesting, it also seemed like an easy movie to screw up, but it turns out it's really well handled. The concept is that an animated princess in a fairytale world gets transported to modern day live action New York City by the Wicked Witch. The princess is completely clueless, as everything in her world happens in a perfect fairytale fashion without all the complexities of real life. She ends up being rescued by a hardened divorce attorney who's about to get married without any romance in it at all -- and the princess, of course, shows him that there's magic in living and the world isn't all evil. It's fun the way the movie blends the animated and live action worlds, but that's just a gimmick -- far better is the way the film plays with all the fairytale stereotypes and mixes tales into a delightfully bizarre conconction. Great fun. Not too serious, and the finale's way over the top (literally), but still enjoyable. My favorite scene was the scene in the park where the princess starts to sing an improv and strangers in the park start joining in while the down-to-earth lawyer follows scratching his head in bewilderment and going, "Hey, how do they all know this song?" Hilarious, and one of my pet peeves about musicals.


Tuesday, May 30, 2000

End of Days

Movie: End of Days

Schwartzenegger shoot-em-up is all special effects (very impressive ones) but a silly plot that's part "The Devil's Advocate" and part two dozen other movies. Pretty ridiculous, and Arnold's character does nothing heroic but constantly get beat up until the very end. Watch it for the special effects.


Friday, January 20, 2006

End of the Spear

Movie: End of the Spear

This is a film updating the "Through Gates of Splendor" story about missionaries in South America in the 1950s who are killed trying to make contact with a remote and savage native tribe. The story is amazing: the Indians have a culture of killing and are literally wiping themselves out (at one point there were only 60 or so natives remaining) through vengeance killings. When the white missionary men come, the distrustful and supersticious Indians spear them. Then it is the wives of the missionaries who come and live with the Indians. The Indians are not fearful of the women, dismissing them, and thus a communication is formed. Eventually the missionaries' word of peace and of a loving God is communicated, in part because the Indians are shocked and bewildered that the wives and children (especially the son) of the murdered men are not after revenge but offering love. Today there are more grandparents in the tribe than any time in hundreds of years. In the past, the grandparents were all killed before their grandchildren were born.

I was familiar with most of this story, but the film brings the story to modern day, where the son of one of the murdered missionaries has gone back with his own family to live among the Indians. That is quite a legacy. But do you see God's incredible plan? The Indians would never have accepted the missionary men. Men, to them, were warriors, always to be distrusted as the enemy. But the women had an "in" with the natives that only God could see. By allowing the missionary men to die, God opened a door for communication with the Indians that never would have been possible in any other way.

While surprisingly well-done in many ways, this film is not without flaws, however. The producers purposely left out much religiosity, a decision I'm generally in favor of as we don't want the movie to be preachy or detract from the story. Unfortunately, too much was removed, for we never see the missionaries praying or doing anything remotely religious -- if we weren't told they were missionaries we might have thought they were anthropologists or something! The first third of the movie's confusing, and there are some technical issues, but this gets better as the film progresses -- it made me think they started with one budget and got more money and were able to up the quality mid-stream. The acting and directing was decent, but much of the film takes place among the natives, speaking their tongue with subtitles, so it's difficult to judge performances. Overall I was pleased. I was impressed at how much care was given to the native's dilemma of giving up their killing lifestyle. This was a huge decision for them. It was not easy to put down their spears. The film respects this and does not give us a sitcom resolution. The women were in constant danger for the Indians threatened to kill them many times and in anger and suspicion almost did on several occasions. But eventually, gradually, the Indians put down their spears and began to live in peace. Quite an amazing transformation, when you think of it. My thought was that gangs in L.A., NY, etc. ought to see the film since they subscribe to the same circle of violence (vegeance killings).


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Enemy at the Gates

Movie: Enemy at the Gates

I saw this on TV and I was baffled by the description. The title sounded familiar but the plot did not; later I figured out that I had this confused with the Will Smith vehicle Enemy of the State, which explains why I had never seen it. It's an interesting idea: we follow the life of one Russian soldier during the WWII battle at Stalingrad, where he becomes celebrated nationwide as a hero for his efforts as a sniper against the invading Germans. The Germans, frustrated so many of their men keep getting snipped off, bring in their own sharpshooter (played by the brilliant Ed Harris), and the two have a cat-and-mouse game. Interesting and well done, with a happy ending. I liked it. I'm not sure it's the greatest WWII movie ever (I fast forwarded through the dreary and gory battle scenes), but it's different and I liked the one-versus-one aspect of the snipers.


Friday, October 13, 2000

England vs. Finland (World Cup Qualifier)

Soccer: England vs. Finland (World Cup Qualifier)

After losing to Germany at home last weekend, England's head coach resigned and the team desperately needed a win against Finland. Finland, however, played with considerable brilliance, but not quite enough break down England's defense. A decent game, though no goals. 0-0 final.


Saturday, January 25, 2003


Movie: Enigma
Writer(s): Tom Stoppard

Impressive WWII film about code-breaking (Enigma was the famous cipher machine the Germans used and the Allies broke). The plot splits into two stories: the Germans have suddenly changed their code and the Allies have less than four days to break the new code before a huge convoy of critical supplies is destroyed (it took 10 months the first time) and it's up to a genius mathematician to do it; the second plot deals with the mathematician's ex-girlfriend who's disappeared and might have been a traitor (he discovers secret codes hidden in her room). Unfortunately, while all this is interesting, the split plots complicates things too much, and in the end, the second plot (which is really the main plot) gets totally convoluted and confusing (I didn't understand what the stuff about Russia had to do with anything else). In the end, it seems a lot of the mystery had to do with silly politics. Rather a whimper of a ending. My advice: watch the first half which is great, and once they break the new German code, fast forward through the rest.


Saturday, November 9, 2002


Movie: Enough

What I kept thinking as I watched this was of those paint-by-number kits I had as a child. This is a paint-by-numbers movie. It's got all the elements: tough lower-class chick falls in love with rich dude, they get married and start a family, he cheats and beats her, she runs away with daughter, and he uses influence to track her. In the end, he's got all the power, so the only thing she can do is learn to defend herself and kill him. Not a bad film at all: mildly fun, somewhat interesting, and quite predictable. But that's exactly what makes it mediocre. It's got some nice touches and interesting scenes, and it's well-done, but ultimately nothing much happens that we don't know before it starts.


Wednesday, February 9, 2000


Movie: Entrapment (1999)
Writer(s): Ronald Bass (story) and Michael Hertzberg
Director(s): Jon Amiel

This was supposed to be a disappointing movie, but I got exactly what I expected: basically Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones looking gorgeous and committing cool high-tech robberies. Sure, it's not deep, and plot was swiss cheese, but it was fun and completely harmless.


Thursday, June 25, 2009


Today I finished my novel. Yes, the day Farrah and MJ died is historic for me.

Why is me finishing a novel significant? I have been trying to finish a novel for 20 years. It's like I've been wandering in a desert and finally found civilization (I just hope it's not a mirage).

A couple months ago I had an epiphany. Really a series of epiphanies (which is why there is no exact date). Like many epiphanies, my revelation seems blatantly obvious in retrospect. But when you're blinded, it's tough to see your flaws. In eighth grade I made the decision to be a writer. That was part of my problem. You see, I used the word "writer" and not "novelist." Yet all I read back then were novels. Novels were what I adored. I loved being able to escape into another world. That was what I wanted to do: create worlds of real people. Yet because I had chosen "writer," I got distracted. In high school I got into journalism and I wrote short stories, poems, short plays. Later I wrote magazine articles. I wrote lots of things, but no novels. I expected novels would just come. But here's one of the things I've learned: novel writing is about the craft of constructing a story. Really a novel is many stories in one, but so interwoven in terms of plot and themes that it is one long story. Because of that, story crafting is essential. Short stories you can "wing." Just start writing and see where it goes. If it takes a wrong turn, weave your way back, try something different, explore. Not a huge problem as you're only dealing with a few thousand words. But with a novel, you end up wasting thousands of pages and years of journeying with that approach. It's like trying to draw a map in pitch black darkness. You might end up with something, but it probably won't be very good.

The bottom line? You cannot learn how to write novels by writing short stories.

I used to think that writing had to be done like that. All instinct and no plan. I approached writing the way I approached reading. In reading, a great deal of the pleasure comes from the unknown. Where is the story going? What is going to happen? Will the ogre save the princess? Will he eat the princess after rescuing her? You don't know. You're just the reader. But the author needs to know. I see that now. But always feared that if I knew too much about the plot the writing would be boring. I was writing as a reader, and that's a grave mistake.

Writing a novel is all about story craft. It's about structure. I used to read wonderful, amazing novels and just be astonished at how perfectly everything worked out. Even novels that had endings that surprised me -- one of the major characters suddenly dies, the killer turns out to be the last one you'd expect -- the ending seemed to fit in retrospect. Why was that? That's because the author intended that ending all along. There were hints of that ending throughout the book, so that by the time I got to the end it subconsciously made sense. But how can an author put in those hints, frame the story in that direction, without knowing where he or she is going in the first place? It can be done, of course. The author can go back and insert those references via revision. But it's a lot more work and I'm not convinced it's as effective.

Here's the other problem with "writing from the hip." You're doing two jobs at once. Worse, these jobs have opposite agendas and focus. I liken it to golf. What makes golf ridiculously challenging is that it's made up of two games, long and short. In the long game, power and vision rule. In the short game, it's all about reading the green and having a delicate touch. Writing a novel is just like that. Structuring your novel is the long game, all about the power of story and long-term vision. The "short game" is putting the actual words together to form sentences and scenes. Those are different skills. They require different parts of your brain, a different focus. It's impossible to concentrate on two things at once. So how can you play the long and short games of novel writing simultaneously? You cannot. Yet that was exactly what I was trying to do. Now wonder all my novels stopped about 30,000 words in! I had no vision, no direction.

Keep in mind I thought I did. I had a destination in mind. But I didn't have a path. It was like knowing I needed to go to New York and just starting to walk without a compass or map. What did it matter that I knew New York was my final destination if I was going to take a wild path to get there?

Thus every novel I wrote started off well. I had a basic vision. I had a vague idea of my ending. I knew my main characters. I knew my setting. I was able to write a few chapters and establish the beginning of the story. Then I got stuck. My story ran out of energy because I didn't know, precisely, where it was going. Worse, I needed to make decisions about the story and I didn't have the information or the thought process necessary to do that.

I used to make decisions on the fly. I'd get to a chapter and realize I needed another character. "Ah," I'd think. "My Hero needs a best friend." So I'd pull a best friend character out of the air and stick it in the scene. Then I'd have to go back and rewrite earlier chapters, to include the new character. Then I'd realize that the best friend character really messed things up plot-wise, as wouldn't my hero ask his best friend for help in chapter 3? So I'd rewrite chapter 3. I'd end up throwing out 50 pages and starting over. Then I'd suddenly realize that the best friend character really messed with my overall theme of loneliness, that the hero is supposed to be alienated and alone. He wouldn't be the kind to have a best friend in the first place! And I'd have to go back to my earlier version and of course everything would be in a huge mess by that point, as I'd made other corrections and changes I wanted to keep. The bottom line is that I was trying to make large-scale changes while focusing on the narrow, on just one scene.

Let me give you another example. It's frightfully easy when you're writing a scene to throw something in you don't think much about. You're describing your teenage hero's bedroom and you stick a trophy on a bookshelf or a rock poster on the wall. It's needed for verisimilitude: teens have that stuff in their rooms. But what have you done? By those tiny things that seem insignificant, you're changing the character dramatically. What's the trophy for? A sport? You've made the character an athlete. Or maybe he's a spelling bee champion or a debate wizard. Or maybe the trophy's one of those "everyone who participates gets one" kind of things. Any answer is valid -- it's your story -- but my point is every answer changes your character. He's a different person as a skateboarding winner than as a former chess champ. The same goes with that rock star poster: who is it? Is your hero a Motley Crue or Michael Jackson fan? Or maybe it's one of those kids Disney promotes as the newest teen singing sensation. The choice of poster says all kinds of things about the era, your hero's influences, values, dreams and desires, and tastes. You need to think about these things.

Even broader, small aspects of your characters like this have an impact on your plot and storyline. They seem insignificant, but can be crucial. If your hero shows no signs of physical dexterity but saves the day in the end by suddenly revealing that he's a martial arts expert, your ending will come off as flawed and faked. But if you fill his room with martial arts trophies and Bruce Lee posters, suddenly that ending works.

Again, it is possible to realize this late in the process and fix things via revision, but is that the best way? Isn't it better to plan?

My flaw was that I always thought of good writing as magic. I couldn't imagine the world of Narnia being any different from the precise way C.S. Lewis described it. Yet who knows what ideas he originally had that he threw out because they didn't fit his theme and plot? The reality is that writing isn't magic. It isn't all inspiration. It's a lot of hard work, thinking, and planning. Trying to plan and write at the same time is like using your putting strategy on the fairway. You may get there, but it won't be quick.

I was terrified that planning would make the actual writing of the chapters boring since I already knew what was going to happen. But do you know what I discovered? It was exactly the opposite. Knowing where the story was going enhanced my writing by a magnitude of ten. Suddenly I knew what I needed to accomplish in the scene. For instance, I might know that the following scene contained death, so I could foreshadow it in this one, with an ominous tone. Without having to worry about the plot, I could concentrate on vivid writing, interesting dialog, etc. Before I was always trying to do two jobs at once: write the words and formulate the story, and the result was that neither worked well.

There's a lot more to my epiphanies, but this is the crux of it. Separating the planning from the writing freed me from the curse of "magic" writing. Suddenly I could see story creation as pure craft, not magic. I'm still learning, of course. I have a great deal to learn. That's fine. But I'm no longer stuck. I know how to do it. It's just a matter of perfecting the craft, now. Every novel I write will be better than the previous. But it's frustrating to realize that all these years I've been struggling to write a novel, I wasn't even trying to solve the correct problem!

The conclusion to all this is that once I figured this out I was able to set aside my writing and plan out my novel. I planned it out in intricate detail. This particular novel's a form of murder mystery, so tight plotting is crucial. There were a million tiny details that needed to be figured out so that everything would lead to the conclusions I sought. Nothing could be forced: it had to come naturally from the situations. I thought about the psychology of my characters, how they would react. I thought about their motivations and desires. I worked out real world scenarios. I tested many and threw them out for various reasons. Sometimes they didn't work. Sometimes they did but introduced other complexities I realized were distractions. Sometimes they just didn't fit with the theme. In the end, it was difficult. It was frustrating. It was time-consuming and it felt like I was wasting time I should have been using to write. But it was infinitely easier than my old way of trying to figure out the story as I wrote the words. So I stuck with it. I didn't stop until every detail of my story was figured out. I went over and over it, testing it to make sure I hadn't missed anything, that the plot worked. When I was satisfied, then I returned to the writing. And an astonishing thing happen.

I wrote.

I mean, I wrote. I pretty much dropped everything else in my life and for nearly two months, I wrote. I hardly saw any films, watched TV, or anything. I was starving to write. I would wake up at 7 a.m. and write until 10, have breakfast, and at 10:30 write until 2-3 and force myself to stop for lunch. Then I'd write until evening. After dinner I would write until 2 a.m. Then I'd be up the next day before seven so eager to write I wouldn't even shower or put in my contacts, but rush to my laptop and finish another chapter. In three years I'd written 20,000 words of my novel. In the past two months I ballooned that to 74,000 and finished it.

Why was I so inspired? It was because I had a path. I had a structure. I could clearly see where I was going. It gave me focus. The writing itself came easily. I've never had a problem forming sentences. My struggle was with the structure and my foolish belief that writing shouldn't be planned, that it needed to be "magical" and inspired (otherwise it wouldn't be fresh but stale and boring). Turns out, it's the opposite of that.

Now I know my process isn't going to work for everyone. An astonishing number of writers write from the cuff. (I doubt that many are published, though.) Writing from the seat of your pants is a strategy. If it works for you, fine. But it stalemated me for 20 years. Planning is a hard switch and I'm still learning, but I am firmly convinced that the success of your novel (and the ease of writing it) is directly related to the amount of planning you do. Less planning = more work and weaker novel. More planning = easier writing and better novel.

Also note that everyone's definition of a "complete plan" will vary. I'm still learning mine. For this particular novel, since it involves a murder and police investigation, it was essential that every significant detail be planned. I couldn't wing anything. I probably still didn't do enough planning. There were a few mistakes I discovered (and corrected) during the writing and revision process. One of those was something that seemed to be a major hole in my plot -- I was terrified it ruined everything. But I came up with a simple and elegant solution, and the novel's the better for it.

My point about this last is remind you that no matter how much planning you do, there is still plenty of room for inspiration and creativity in the actual writing. I occasionally made changes to small aspects of my plot during the writing when inspiration made me realize things about my characters I hadn't known. Most of these were significant from the reader's perspective, but they actually didn't impact the plot much. They mostly just changed the perspective a reader would have on the plot. That was why they were significant.

So what I am doing with my novel? Well, first I'm having some people read it so I can get feedback. Next, I'll be looking for a literary agent. This is a highly commercial piece of a writing, a psychological thriller, so I'm confident I will be able to sell the novel. It's just a question of finding the right agent and publisher, which can take years from what I hear. It also could be the novel has aspects that make it unpublishable. Who knows? I'm too close to the project right now to see it. I'm sure it has first novel flaws, but it still seems better than a lot of books I've read. In the meantime, I'm using my newfound knowledge on my next book.

I'm also considering self-publishing it. Not as a permanent solution, but just for fun and perhaps a little bit of profit. I don't have too much of an interest in marketing it: I want to concentrate on my next novel. I may put up the first chapter on this website if there's interest. Please post a comment if you'd like to see it.

I'll keep you informed as to my progress. And I may use this blog to post more "writing on writing."


Saturday, February 3, 2001

EPL: Arsenal at Coventry City

Soccer: EPL: Arsenal at Coventry City

Good game, though not many goals. By the look of things Coventry is on their way out of the Premiere League, while Arsenal wants to show they are the second best team in England. Coventry dominated possession, though Arsenal never seemed flustered by that. While Coventry had some good chances, Arsenal's were a lot better quality. They finally converted on a 78th minute header by Bergkamp. Magnus Hedman, Coventry's Swedish goal-keeper (a favorite of mine), was amazing, doing a number of tip-overs and one-handed stops from close range. He kept the score respectable from Coventry's viewpoint, though that doesn't help their league standings. I don't recall any significant saves from Arsenal's Seaman. Final: 1-0 Arsenal.


Wednesday, December 27, 2000

EPL: Arsenal at Liverpool

Soccer: EPL: Arsenal at Liverpool

Coming off last week's win over the Kings of British football, Manchester United, Liverpool was on a tear. The clash of these two traditional powerhouses was everything you'd expect: hard physical play, exemplary skill, and great goals. Gerrard started things off for Liverpool just ten minutes in on a great grass-grazing volley that went through a crowd of players and easily beat the keeper into the corner of the net. In the second half, Arsenal's Bergkamp managed to force a great save from Liverpool's keeper, but not long after that a mistake by Arsenal's keeper allowed superstar Michael Owen to double the lead. Liverpool kept the other team at bay, and then worked a great counter where Smicer put in a ball to Barmby who finished it admirably. If that wasn't bad enough, Robbie Fowler added more insult with a cheeky goal in the dying seconds. Final: 4-0 Liverpool.


Monday, November 6, 2000

EPL: Arsenal at Middlesbrough

Soccer: EPL: Arsenal at Middlesbrough

With Middlesbrough in such lowly form, how would they fare against powerhouse Arsenal? They did not start off well: in the 23rd minute keeper Crossley violently took down Lundberg in the box and not only gave Arsenal a penalty kick but was ejected! Substitute keeper Beresford was quickly put in to face the penalty, but Frenchman Henry easily scored. Beresford did well, making several excellent saves late in the half, but with Middlesbrough down to ten men, it didn't look good for the home side. But Middlesbrough came back determined and played well. Arsenal sat back except for a few counters, including some impressive play by Henry (he played provider several times, and hit the post once). Other than a few shining moments, however, the game was weak, as Arsenal played defense (in a game they should have won by a large margin) and ten-man Middlesbrough struggled for any kind of quality offense. Final: 1-0 Arsenal.


Monday, December 18, 2000

EPL: Arsenal at Tottenham Hotspur

Soccer: EPL: Arsenal at Tottenham Hotspur

Terrific London derby. Spurs got going with a goal from Rebrov 30 minutes in, but Arsenal didn't start playing until the second half. Then it was nothing but goal action. Spurs had a few good chances to extend their lead, but mostly it was Arsenal trying to equalize. Spurs keeper Sullivan was amazing, stopping at least a half dozen point blank shots. He kept Tottenham in the game. With five minutes to go it was a sure win... not. A momentary lapse in marking allowed bad boy Patrick Vieira -- whom I can't stand and think should be banned from the game of football -- to head the ball home. Lame. Final: 1-1 draw.


Monday, September 18, 2000

EPL: Arsenal vs. Coventry City

Movie: EPL: Arsenal vs. Coventry City

Arsenal had control most of the game and towards the end it looked like an easy 2-0 victory, but then a great free kick goal from Moroccan Hadji made the game 2-1 and the last ten minutes were a frantic fight. Hall had a terrific post shot in the last seconds that could have tied the score, but it wasn't Coventry's day. Hadji's goal marked the first time in five seasons Coventry scored on Arsenal's home field.


Sunday, September 24, 2000

EPL: Arsenal vs. Ipswich

Soccer: EPL: Arsenal vs. Ipswich

Powerhouse Arsenal just really seemed to struggle while Ipswich played excellently. However, though Ipswich got a great goal early, they missed several great chances later, and sure enough, Arsenal managed to sneak one past the keeper late in the game for a 1-1 final.


Monday, October 16, 2000

EPL: Aston Villa at Arsenal

Soccer: EPL: Aston Villa at Arsenal

A rather boring match; the Gunners struggled, though they managed a few decent shots, but the Villians didn't even show up. Thierry Henry finally scored a terrific through-the-legs-of-the-defender goal, but that was all the action in the action.


Monday, February 26, 2001

EPL: Aston Villa at Derby County

Soccer: EPL: Aston Villa at Derby County

Despite the low score, this was a fun game to watch. Derby succeeded in getting a penalty kick late in the first half. Deon Burton took it and scored, putting them up, and though there were chances and crossbar shots the rest of the game, neither team gave up or scored a goal. Derby actually win for once! Final: 1-0 Derby.


Saturday, December 23, 2000

EPL: Aston Villa at Leeds United

Soccer: EPL: Aston Villa at Leeds United

This started of well with a lot of action, mostly in Leeds favor, but they couldn't quite crack the Villains defense. Then Aston Villa found a break late in the half when keeper Robinson failed to completely clear a ball and stubborn defender Southgate put in a nice header. In the second half Leeds put Villa under tremendous pressure, but it wasn't until the very end of the game they had a terrific chance by Kewell, unfortunately stopped. The Villains scored on the counter immediately after, on a goal by Boateng. Leeds finally broke through in injury time when Woodgate put it in, but it was too little, too late. Final: 2-1 Aston Villa.


Monday, March 5, 2001

EPL: Aston Villa at Sunderland

Soccer: EPL: Aston Villa at Sunderland

A rather boring game until Joachim scored early in the second half, then Sunderland fought back hard. They couldn't score for a long time and it looked like they were going down, but finally McCann put it away and secured the draw. Final: 1-1.


Tuesday, November 28, 2000

EPL: Bradford City at Middlesbrough

Soccer: EPL: Bradford City at Middlesbrough

You might think it would be hard for a team to be underdogs to Middlesbrough, considering their terrible form this season, but Bradford City has been doing even worse (only one away goal all season). Both teams are in the relegation zone, with Bradford at the very bottom of the pile. So this game looked like Boro's chance for a home win, but things went badly from the start. A minute and a half in when Boro didn't clear the ball well, Windass got it and easily scored. Then, eight minutes later, Carbone scored. Underdogs Bradford were up by two! While Bradford dominated first half play, the second half can be described as a scramble as frantic Middlesbrough struggled for any kind of scrap they could find. They started off well with a goal from Ehiogu just a few minutes in, when Bradford's keeper made a terrible clear by coming out of his box and knocking the ball right to Ehiogu's head. After that, however, it looked like Bradford would hold their lead, especially when Middlesbrough had a man sent off. But miraculously, just before the end of regulation, veteran Paul Ince got the ball in the box, dribbled to some open space on the left and put in a low grounder. It bobbled right through Bradford's keeper's legs to bring the game to a 2-2 draw. Sadly, that comeback may not be enough to keep Middlesbrough's manager's job, but we'll see.


Monday, January 15, 2001

EPL: Charlton at Southampton

Movie: EPL: Charlton at Southampton

I wasn't excited about watching this game and it turned out for good reason. Let me just put it this way: Southampton were the exciting team in the match, if that tells you anything. Charlton never even bothered to attack. The zero-zero draw was rather boring, though there were a couple nice chances, but nothing beat either keeper.


Sunday, February 25, 2001

EPL: Charlton Athletic at Coventry City

Soccer: EPL: Charlton Athletic at Coventry City

Surprisingly good game. Coventry scored early, to the shock of everyone, when Bellamy put in a ball the Charlton keeper fumbled. But Charlton were back minutes later when Rufus put in a similar silly goal at the other end. After the mistakes, there were good goals in the second half, starting with Charlton's Johansson volleying in a shot just seconds after the kickoff to put them ahead. But Coventry somehow found a way to equalize when Hartson's missed kick caught just enough of the ball to allow it to trickle over the goalline. Crazy. Final: 2-2.


Saturday, November 11, 2000

EPL: Charlton Athletic at Ipswich Town

Soccer: EPL: Charlton Athletic at Ipswich Town

The clash of two promoted clubs (both were in the second division last season) proved to be a determined battle. For the first 80 minutes nothing much happened as the teams just scraped and struggled, but finally Ipswich came to life with a goal by Matt Holland (his first in the Premiereship), and a few minutes later Stewart did a terrific juggling act in the box to maneuver the ball into shooting position, scoring off a deflection. Final: 2-0 Ipswich.


Saturday, September 16, 2000

EPL: Charlton vs. Tottenham Hotspur

Soccer: EPL: Charlton vs. Tottenham Hotspur

I like to root for the underdogs, so I was delighted that Charlton won, 1-0, but the game itself wasn't that great, though the goal was excellent.


Wednesday, May 2, 2001

EPL: Chelsea at Leeds

Soccer: EPL: Chelsea at Leeds

I missed part of this game, but got to see the goals very late. Leeds dominated, but couldn't score, until Keane's shot in the 85th minute rebounded off the keeper and back to him, allowing him to walk it in unchallenged. Viduka's volley three minutes later put the matter beyond doubt. Final: 2-0 Leeds.


Saturday, January 6, 2001

EPL: Chelsea at Manchester United

Soccer: EPL: Chelsea at Manchester United

This was a replay of September's terrific Man. U./Chelsea clash, with goals galore. The 3-3 draw was great entertainment and well worth watching again.


Thursday, February 15, 2001

EPL: Coventry at West Ham

Movie: EPL: Coventry at West Ham

This game was a lot of hard work with very little payoff. But when it came, it was sweet indeed. West Ham struggled against bottom-of-the-league Coventry, but couldn't break them until very late in the game. Joe Cole cleaned up a mess in the box by side footing the ball into the goal. Very nice. For Coventry, it certainly looked like they are heading for Division One next year. But miraculously, with thirty seconds to go, they came up with a goal! Eustice headed in a weak ball that came off his shoulder but it went in. Like they say about airplane landings, any goal that counts is a good one. Final: 1-1 West Ham.


Monday, April 23, 2001

EPL: Coventry City at Ipswitch Town

Soccer: EPL: Coventry City at Ipswitch Town

Poor Coventry: they seemed like they were finally getting into form, but they were blasted by Ipswitch. Reuser scored early, in the 20th minute, and in the second half Wright's shot was deflected to put Ipswitch up by two. Coventry tried hard, but they couldn't score. Final: 2-0 Ipswitch.


Saturday, April 7, 2001

EPL: Coventry City at Leicester City

Soccer: EPL: Coventry City at Leicester City

Astonishing! Where did this Coventry come from? With relegation looming, wins are vital for Coventry, but the goals just haven't been coming. Until today. Bellamy scored in the first minute, stunning everyone. But Leicester battled back and Akinbiyi managed a header eight minutes later to equalize, and it seemed like the same old Coventry situation. But it was not. Chance after chance had Coventry, who can bare score at home, putting Leicester on the defensive. Lee Carsley got a terrific header in the nineteenth minute, so Coventry went into the locker room at the half one goal ahead. It really should have been four-one, except for some terrific goal-keeping and bad luck. In the second half I expected Leicester to fight, but before they got going Hartson, who'd had several good chances in the first half, finally got his goal just a few minute in. Eventually Leicester got a little going, but it was much too late and Coventry were so full of confidence that their defense had a reasonably easy time of it. Terrific win for lowly Coventry. Final: 3-1.


Wednesday, November 15, 2000

EPL: Derby County at Arsenal

Soccer: EPL: Derby County at Arsenal

The second place team against the worst place team: who will win? Yeah, right, like it's even a contest. Well, it was. Derby was the stronger team at the start, but mostly they defended while the Gunners struggled to put together plays. In the end, neither team could defeat the other: a classic nil-nil draw. Bah humbug.


Tuesday, February 6, 2001

EPL: Everton at Manchester United

Soccer: EPL: Everton at Manchester United

Pretty good game, though unfair for Everton, since they dominated the game. But once again, Man. U.'s luck runs strong. Cole put in a shot early in the second half and when an Everton defender tried to block it, it deflect into his own goal. After that, Man. U. just held on. American Joe-Max Moore got to start this game, and he had a few good moves, including a terrific shot which was saved by the keeper. Final: 1-0 Manchester United.


Monday, December 4, 2000

EPL: Everton at Sunderland

Soccer: EPL: Everton at Sunderland

I like both these teams: Sunderland for their fighting underdog spirit and scoring phenom Kevin Philips and Everton because they're intelligent enough to have an American player, Joe-Max Moore. Unfortunately, Moore sat on the bench for most of the game, and thus Everton dominated. The first half remained nil-nil until last minute, when defender Rae ran onto a rebound and blasted it into the net. In the second half, Sunderland peppered the Everton goal with shots, and finally Philips broke his own goalless streak with a simple tap-in. Moore was put in with 20 minutes left, which was great to see, but still Sunderland dominated. Moore put in a corner kick which was very nearly headed in, and he got a few other good touches, but he didn't have time to do enough. Final: 2-0 Sunderland.


Monday, November 20, 2000

EPL: Ipswich Town at Coventry City

Soccer: EPL: Ipswich Town at Coventry City

Ipswich, promoted this year, has been leading a charmed life, and is high up the table. Coventry, however, is already fighting relegation. Today the trend continued. After a zero-zero first half in which Coventry dominated, both teams fought with more determination in the second, but neither could score. About the most exciting things to happen was when an Ipswich defender crashed himself into his goalpost making a diving header save and when Coventry hit the woodwork on a free kick. The score was still nothing-nothing when regulation ended, when suddenly, out of nowhere, Ipswich's Wilnis knocked in a beautiful glancing header to win the game. Soccer's a crazy, unfair game. Coventry lose at home.


Thursday, December 28, 2000

EPL: Ipswich Town at Manchester United

Soccer: EPL: Ipswich Town at Manchester United

Not much of a competition: Man. U., despite being without three of their top players, rolls over Ipswich easily. Both goals came from Norwegian striker Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, and both were brilliant. The first, at 20 minutes in, occurred on a give-and-go with Giggs. Solskjaer received the pass, calmly sidestepped the diving keeper, and kicked the ball into the heart of the goal. The second was even better: just twelve minutes later a gorgeous ball from Beckham (at the center line!), came floating in to Solskjaer in the box. He allowed the ball to land on the inside of his foot, deftly guided it to the ground, and then kicked it past the keeper. Amazing. And this is a player that normally sits on the bench! The second half was a mere formality: Ipswich hardly even threatened. Final: 2-0 Man. U.


Tuesday, May 1, 2001

EPL: Ipswitch at Charlton

Soccer: EPL: Ipswitch at Charlton

Svensson got a header for Charlton just 12 minutes in, but Reuser got a bizarre equalizer eight minutes later.


Monday, April 2, 2001

EPL: Ipswitch Town at Southampton

Soccer: EPL: Ipswitch Town at Southampton

Poor Southampton: they struggled at the beginning of the season, but new coach Glenn Hoddle turned their season around. They haven't lost in their last six games. Then last week he suddenly left to manage Tottenham; perhaps that rattled Southampton's confidence. Ipswitch, astonishingly in third place in the league, decided they wanted to keep that place. Marcus Stewart got open in the box and slotted in an easy goal 33 minutes in. He got his second in the second half, and capped that off with a penalty kick goal in the 76th minute. A hat trick! That was more than enough. Final: 3-0 Ipswitch.


Saturday, May 5, 2001

EPL: Leeds at Arsenal

Soccer: EPL: Leeds at Arsenal

Unfortunately, not a good game for Leeds. They went down early on a goal by Ljungberg, followed by a goal a few minutes into the second half by Wiltord. Ian Harte brought Leeds back a little shortly thereafter on a marvelous free kick, but that was all they could do. Final: 2-1 Arsenal.


Saturday, May 19, 2001

EPL: Leeds at Leicester City

Soccer: EPL: Leeds at Leicester City

Good game. Leeds' players got all the goals. Alan Smith scored twice, early and late, and Harte scored on another brilliant free kick. Ferdinand put the ball in his own net to give Leicester a goal. Final: 3-1 Leeds.


Monday, December 11, 2000

EPL: Leeds at Southampton

Soccer: EPL: Leeds at Southampton

Leeds have been doing well in the Champions League, but can't find their form in the English Premiere League. In this game they lost to lowly Southampton when Jamie Beattie scored late in the first half, even though Leeds dominated play. Leeds had just had a shot terrifically tipped over the crossbar by Jones, and on the resulting corner kick, Southampton gained possession and sent the ball long on a counter attack. Beattie, on the wing, got the ball and slipped it past the keeper. Excellent goal. Final: 1-0 Southampton.


Saturday, April 21, 2001

EPL: Leeds at West Ham

Soccer: EPL: Leeds at West Ham

Cool game. Leeds got going early when Keane slipped one past the keeper, and just into the second half former West Ham player Rio Ferdinand got one against his old club. Leeds probably would have increased their lead, but Batty was sent off a minute later, so they just held on to the end. Final: 2-0 Leeds.


Monday, December 4, 2000

EPL: Leeds United at Leicster City

Soccer: EPL: Leeds United at Leicster City

I'm not a huge Leicster fan, mostly because they don't score goals. Well, color me wrong, at least for this game. Seven minutes in Robbie Savage heads in a keeper's rebound, and ten minutes after that Akinbiyi heads in a second goal. You might have thought that was Leicster's quota for the month, but then, on a clever free kick play, the ball was crossed instead of driven in, and Taggert leaped up to head the cross past the keeper. Three-zero in less than 30 minutes! In the second half Leeds really pressed, getting numerous corners, but couldn't score. Then defender Lucas Radebe got sent off with his second yellow, putting Leeds down to ten men. Leeds finally got a goal when Smith's shot rebounded to Viduka, who had an easy tap-in. After that Leeds had some good chances, including a free kick that hit the post. But it was too much of a lead to overcome: 3-1 Leicster.


Wednesday, October 25, 2000

EPL: Leeds United at Manchester United

Soccer: EPL: Leeds United at Manchester United

This was a taped game from this weekend, but it proved Leeds substitute keeper Robinson was no fluke in yesterday's Champions League match against Barcelona, as he did the same in this game, make a number of terrific saves. But it wasn't enough, as Yorke put one in late in the first half, and David Beckham's specialty, the free kick, proved too much early in the second half. Late in the game even Robinson's teammates turned against him, with Jones accidentally putting the ball in his own net. Final: 3-0 Manchester United.


Thursday, March 1, 2001

EPL: Leeds United at Tottenham Hotspur

Soccer: EPL: Leeds United at Tottenham Hotspur

Good game. Tottenham started off well, though against the run of play, with a goal from Les Ferdinand a half hour in. He caught the loose ball on a mistake from the Leeds defense and moved forward to dribble around the keeper. Good job. But Leeds didn't give up. A gentle take-down of Lee Bowyer right at the 45 minute mark gave them a penalty kick, and Ian Harte put it away so they could go into the half tied. In the second half, Lee Bowyer had several chances, finally putting one away seventeen minutes in, on a short corner where he ran the ball out at an angle, turned, and put in a shot which no one bothered to block. Silly goal for Tottenham to give up, and it cost them. Final: 2-1 Leeds.


Monday, March 19, 2001

EPL: Leicester City at Manchester United

Soccer: EPL: Leicester City at Manchester United

Bizarre game. I'd expected big scoring, but Man. U. were quiet. They completely dominated Leicester, who hardly had a shot on goal the whole night, but couldn't finish. Even as we approached the end of the game, with just minutes left, I still figured United would not only not let the game end in a tie, but would beat Leicester soundly. Sure enough, that's what happened. Yorke deflected a shot to score in the 88th minute, and in injury time, Silvestre got his first Premiereship goal (a great shot, btw). Crazy. Final: 2-0 Manchester United.


Sunday, October 22, 2000

EPL: Leicster City at Liverpool

Soccer: EPL: Leicster City at Liverpool

Great battle between the fourth and fifth placed teams. Gobs of terrific "sure" goals impossibly blocked by Leicster. It looked like it was heading for a nil-nil draw, but then former Leicster strike Emil Heskey beat Leicster keeper Tim Flowers to the ball, literally kicking it out from under the keeper to score. Leicster hardly had a shot on goal the whole game, and that's how it finished, 1-0 Liverpool.


Monday, October 2, 2000

EPL: Liverpool at Chelsea

Soccer: EPL: Liverpool at Chelsea

With their new coach, Chelsea came out looking for their first win since the first game of the season. They got it, and in spectacular fashion. Their first goal was a gift from Liverpool's keeper Westerveld, who punched the ball, not clear, but into his own net! A minute later, however, Haisselbank made it clear that Chelsea deserved the lead by finishing a fantastic passing sequence in which he put the ball in the upper ninety with one superb touch. Liverpool could do very little, though Owen did come alive once and force a terrific save from Chelsea's De Hoey. In the second half, all doubt as to the result was gone when spectacular newcomer Gudjohnsen finished an opening like a pro, dribbling around Westerveld and coolly slotting the ball into the open net. Final: 3-0 Chelsea, and well deserved.


Monday, April 16, 2001

EPL: Liverpool at Everton

Soccer: EPL: Liverpool at Everton

Wow, what a game! One didn't know who would win this rivalry until the final seconds. Liverpool started things off with a great run by Heskey who finished beautifully in the 5th minute. But Ferguson equalized for Everton just before the half. In the second half, Babbel scored early to put the Reds back on top, and they should have been two goals ahead but Fowler missed his penalty kick. The ref (who had a number of controversial decisions) sent off Biscan in the 79th minute putting Liverpool down a man, and shortly afterward awarded Everton with their own penalty, which Unsworth completed to tie the score. The tie kept well into injury time, when almost four minutes in, McAllister's long free kick curled just inside the near post for a brilliant goal. Seconds later the whistle blew and just like that Liverpool was victorious! Wow, what a finale! Final: 3-2.


Saturday, March 3, 2001

EPL: Liverpool at Leicester City

Soccer: EPL: Liverpool at Leicester City

Lame game until the second half, when Liverpool got desperate. Akinbiyi scored early in the second half for Leicester, when Fowler's poor clear went straight to Robbie Savage, putting the Liverpool defense in an awkward position. Liverpool fought back, but the Leicester defense was a brick wall, and late in the game Izzet ran onto a through-ball for an easy goal which sealed Liverpool's fate. Final: 2-0 Leicester City.


Wednesday, February 21, 2001

EPL: Liverpool at Sunderland

Soccer: EPL: Liverpool at Sunderland

I have to be honest: I slept through most of this game. I did see the goals, however. The first half was nil-nil. Just as I was dozing off in the second, Hutchinson put one in for Sunderland, and toward the end of the game, Litmanen tied it up for Liverpool on a penalty kick. That's about all I remember. Final: 1-1 draw.


Friday, December 22, 2000

EPL: Manchester City at Aston Villa

Soccer: EPL: Manchester City at Aston Villa

Game was lackluster until the away team went ahead in the 65th minute on a great goal from Haaland. He got an assist from Wanchope who did a clever backheel to split two defenders and give him the ball one-on-one with the keeper. That enlivened the Villains who quickly responded with a glancing header from Dublin that went into the net. Just a minute or so after that, Wanchope headed in David's James' poor rebound to put Manchester up a second time! Then Villa's Hendrie got ejected, so they were down a goal and down a man as well. Things didn't look good. But a free kick gave Ginola an opportunity and he took it. The kick was headed out of the box and he volleyed it beautifully into the net to equalize the score. That was it for the scoring, but some wonderful, classy goals. Terrific second half. Final: 2-2 draw.


Saturday, March 17, 2001

EPL: Manchester City at Bradford City

Soccer: EPL: Manchester City at Bradford City

This fight of two teams at the bottom of the league turned out to be surprisingly good, though none of the goals were of the world class variety. Man. City started things off with a goal from Wiekens, and it looked like things were going their way until the second half, when suddenly Bradford came on strong with two goals in five minutes! Blake scored first, then Ward, and it wasn't until Goater's tying goal in the 70th minute that Manchester City could breath again. Bradford fought hard -- a draw does them no good at all, they are so far down -- but a draw is what they got. Final: 2-2.


Monday, January 22, 2001

EPL: Manchester City at Derby County

Soccer: EPL: Manchester City at Derby County

What in the world happened with this game? The first half was dull beyond words, without hardly a chance on either goal. The second half started off with a goal for each team within two minutes! Powell got a goal in the 49th minute, but ecstasy turned to dismay two minutes later when Howay equalized for Man. City. There was a bit of spark after that, but both teams seemed happy with the draw. Final: 1-1.


Monday, October 23, 2000

EPL: Manchester City at Southampton

Soccer: EPL: Manchester City at Southampton

With these two lowly sides, you'd figure the game would be even, but Southampton forgot to show up. Man. City's Dickov scored in the 38th minute on a breakaway, and they easily held the lead until the final minutes when it looked like Southampton might trouble them. But some great defending kept the Saints at bay, and in injury time, Tiatto put the matter beyond doubt with a terrific finish on a counter-attack. Final: 2-0 Man. City.


Wednesday, December 13, 2000

EPL: Manchester United at Charlton Athletic

Soccer: EPL: Manchester United at Charlton Athletic

What an incredible game! It's been a while since I've gotten to see the quality of Man. U., so I was excited about this game. But Charlton proved they are in the EPL for a reason. Ten minutes in they scored on a goal from new signing Barlett, in his first full game for the club. For a while it looked like United hadn't shown up as Charlton nearly went ahead 2-0 on a couple occasions, but was stopped by United's keeper. Late in the half United started things going with a lot of offensive pressure. Things paid off when Ryan Giggs scored 42 minutes in when he received the ball unmarked at the top of the box and calmly put it away. Less than a minute later, Giggs took a monster shot from the center line. Amazingly, he forced the Charlton keeper, who was off his line, into running backwards attempting to stop the shot. His missed blocking it, but the shot rebounded off the post! But then Solskjaer ran on to the rebound and kicked it into the open goal. Just like that, United was in front. The second half extended United's lead when Keane finally got his first goal of the season when he became open in the box with the ball at his feet and took advantage of the slow marking. The keeper got a hand to his shot, but couldn't parry it out of the net. With a two goal lead United fell asleep a bit, and in the 79th minute Barlett scored his second for Charlton. Six minutes later Charlton got the equalizer on a goal from Robinson, and that's the way she ended: a 3-3 draw. Incredible come-back, incredible goals, incredible game.


Wednesday, February 14, 2001

EPL: Manchester United at Chelsea

Soccer: EPL: Manchester United at Chelsea

Cool game, though once again Man. U's luck goes farther than it should. Chelsea took the lead on a goal from Hasselbaink: it was a gift from Paul Scholes. He tried to head the ball back to his keeper, but it went right to Hasselbaink and he headed it forward into the goal. It took United a while to get back from that, and it could have been all over early in the second half when Zola's goal was called back. He and the United keeper were by the corner flag and Zola won, kicking the ball toward the empty goal. It went in. But the ref said the ball had gone out near the corner so the goal didn't count. I think the ref was right, but it was a close call. The two teams battled furiously after that, then Cole was given a nice through-pass from Giggs and he equalized with his first touch. That was it. Final: 1-1.


Wednesday, October 18, 2000

EPL: Manchester United at Leicster City

Soccer: EPL: Manchester United at Leicster City

The two teams at the top of the table clash, but Man. U. quickly proves that they deserve to be on top. Two goals from Sherringham (the second on a counter after a terrible Leicster corner kick that passed the ball straight to a United player) put Manchester well in control, and Solskjaer added a neat one of his own in the final few to really dig the knife in. Final: 3-0 United.


Wednesday, January 31, 2001

EPL: Manchester United at Sunderland

Soccer: EPL: Manchester United at Sunderland

Man. U. dominated as you might expect, but they didn't score. But after a 0-0 first half, they came out on fire, with Andy Cole scoring forty-four seconds in! Sunderland tried to keep Man. U. at bay and succeeded, even getting a few chances of their own, but couldn't break down the United defense. Toward the end of the game Cole and a Sunderland player got into a ruckus and were both sent off -- rather extreme, but their behavior wasn't that intelligent either. Final: 1-0 Man. U.


Monday, May 21, 2001

EPL: Manchester United at Tottenham Hotspur

Soccer: EPL: Manchester United at Tottenham Hotspur

After winning the league a few weeks ago, Man. U. has little to prove and they've shown it by losing their last few games of the season. They went down early to Spurs on a goal by Korsten, but Paul Scholes quickly tied it. Midway through the second half, though, Korsten got his second and Ferdinand put one in to trounce the champs. Final: 3-1 Spurs.


Thursday, September 28, 2000

EPL: Manchester United vs. Chelsea

Soccer: EPL: Manchester United vs. Chelsea

Poor Chelsea's been struggling this season, while Man U's been of their usual form. This first game with Chelsea's new manager (a.k.a. coach here in the U.S.) was an extremely important game and Chelsea came out with all guns blazing. Paul Scholes scored United, then Haisslebank's terrific blast from the outer corner of the box tied the score at one. United came back quickly with Sherringham's goal, and then Beckham's tap-in seemed to seal the deal for Manchester. Chelsea didn't give up and a goal from Flo just before halftime meant they were only down by one going into the second half. The battle slowed a bit as defenses keep things clean, but a terrific cross by Graeme Lesaux gave the ball to Zola, who's weak trap pushed it to a wide-open Flo who nailed it home. Final? A well-deserved 3-3 tie that doesn't tarnish Man U's unbeated streak but gives Chelsea a much needed boost.


Tuesday, November 14, 2000

EPL: Middlesborough at Manchester United

Soccer: EPL: Middlesborough at Manchester United

The first part of the game was all Manchester, with shot after shot after shot. But nothing went in, and then in the thirty-second minute, Christian Karembou received the ball unmarked in the box and put in an awkward chip over United's keeper and fellow Frenchman, Bartez, for a terrific goal (his first in the Premiership). Manchester looked out of sorts after that, but in the second half they peppered the Middlesborough goal with shots -- but none went in. Just as it was starting to seem like Manchester was out of it, an opportunistic Nicky Butt scored. Just minutes later, Dwight Yorke's point blank shot rebounded and Teddy Sherringham pounced on it to put United up 2-1. Once again, Man. U. comes back -- they just can't be defeated.


Saturday, April 14, 2001

EPL: Middlesbrough at Arsenal

Soccer: EPL: Middlesbrough at Arsenal

A rather bizarre game. Arsenal gifted Boro with two own goals in the first half! The first was Edu's deflection off Windass' shot, and the second was a dreadful clear by Silvinho which sent the ball past David Seaman. In the second half Arsenal really had to push forward, and Richard scored in the 58th minute on a Boro counter-attack. Wow, a 3-0 win for Boro! The craziest thing of all, however, was that this unexpected home loss to second place Arsenal gave the championship to Manchester United. They are sixteen points ahead and there's no way Arsenal can catch them! So Man. U. are now the champs seven times in nine years. Wow, that's domination! Final: 3-0 Middlesbrough.


Monday, December 11, 2000

EPL: Middlesbrough at Sunderland

Soccer: EPL: Middlesbrough at Sunderland

What is this, boring soccer weekend? I just couldn't get up much excitement to watch lackluster Middlesbrough, who sit at the bottom of the Premiere League table. After a back-and-fourth "table tennis" first half, Sunderland finally broke through 54 minutes in on a terrific goal from Michael Gray. A defender's poor clearance left the ball rolling by itself in the penalty area and Gray ran on from the wing to blast the ball with his left foot, unforgivably beating the keeper at the near post.


Thursday, October 19, 2000

EPL: Newcastle at Middlesborough

Soccer: EPL: Newcastle at Middlesborough

Once again, Middlesborough lives up to their name with a lackluster performance. I doubt they threatened the Newcastle goal more than once or twice the whole game. Okay, so they did get a little goal at the very end, when the ball literally trickled over the line, but that was ten seconds before the final whistle. Newcastle dominated, with a goal from Alan Shearer in the first half. (The defense left him alone with the ball, in the penalty area. Smart.) Two more goals in second finished the game nicely. Final 3-1, Newcastle.


Wednesday, November 1, 2000

EPL: Newcastle at West Ham

Soccer: EPL: Newcastle at West Ham

I'd already heard the result of this game (which was played on Saturday, but aired today), so I wasn't too excited. I don't know why Fox Sports World decided to air this game, as it wasn't great. There was a few moments of spirited battle, with Given making a great one-handed save in the first half, and Newcastle having some chances in the second. West Ham's young Joe Cole was terrific, really creating some opportunities in the second half, but then he was injured and had to leave the game. West Ham finally managed a goal by Frenchman Kunoute in the 76th minute -- he received a terrific through-pass from a teammate and he took the shot first time, essentially continuing the motion of the through-pass, beating Given. Very well done, but that was it. West Ham, 1-0.


Wednesday, January 24, 2001

EPL: Newcastle United at Leeds

Soccer: EPL: Newcastle United at Leeds

Usually missing the first few minutes of a soccer game doesn't mean much, but in this case, it did, as Leeds started off with a bang when Keane scored just two minutes in. Unfortunately, that was as good as it got for Leeds, because Newcastle shut the door and went on offense. Just two minutes later Solano finished of a penalty kick for Newcastle, leveling things, and just before the half Acuna scored to put them up by one. That's the way it stayed for most of the game, but very late, with just minutes to go, Ameobi put the matter beyond doubt with a nice grounder. Final: 3-1 Newcastle.


Monday, October 30, 2000

EPL: Southampton at Manchester United

Soccer: EPL: Southampton at Manchester United

What can one say about Man. United? They haven't lost in 35 Premiere League matches and aren't about to do so to lowly Southampton. Goalkeeper Jones gifted United the first goal ten minutes in when he bobbled Cole's top-of-the arc blast. Then Teddy Sheringham put in a nice chip in first half injury time to put Man. U. further ahead. Five minutes into the second half the champs stole the ball and broke away and a deft combination of passes left Sheringham wide open with the ball at his feet. That was his 100th Premiereship goal! Minutes after that, Cole received the ball in the box but his first touch only stopped the ball... and Sheringham ran up and put it in for the hat trick! With twenty minutes left, Gigg's shot hit woodwork, as did Beckham's free kick a few minutes after that. Beckham's corner a moment later, however, did the magic: Scoles flicked it onward with his head, and Cole headed into the net for his second of the day. The scariest thing? What did Sir Alex Ferguson do next but take off the two scorers, Sheringham and Cole, and put in Yorke and Solskjaer! Imagine having that kind of firepower in reserve on the bench. Southampton must have really felt deflated seeing that. But though there were some nice chances on both sides (including an incredible near-net blast from Yorke that was stopped by Jones), that was it for the scoring. Final: 5-0 Manchester United.


Monday, September 25, 2000

EPL: Southhampton at Bradford City

Soccer: EPL: Southhampton at Bradford City

Oooh, a low scoring affair of two bottom-of-the-table teams! Boring! I guess you really have to be a fan of one of these teams to get into a game like this, but I just couldn't. Some lower teams (like Charlton) I really enjoy, but this game was lame. Final: 1-0 Southhampton.


Saturday, December 30, 2000

EPL: Sunderland at Arsenal

Soccer: EPL: Sunderland at Arsenal

Fantastic game. It started off without Sunderland. Arsenal's Vieira headed in a goal in the 5th minute and Sunderland was living by the skin of their teeth as chance after chance almost went in. Finally, when none of the forwards could do it, defender Lee Dixon put in a marvelous strike from distance. In the second half it looked like it was going to be more of the same, but Sunderland began to press, and low and behold it was hero Vieira-turned-goat when his hand ball in the box was called. "Super Kev" Phillips finished off the penalty nicely, and it was just one down for Sunderland. Late in the game when it seemed like Sunderland's luck was running out, along came Vieira to help out: his fumble of the ball left it open for an unmarked McCann to run on to, and he scored a brilliant goal that had the keeper hoping mad. Final: 2-2, and a valuable away point for Sunderland. Fantastic come-back!


Sunday, March 25, 2001

EPL: Sunderland at Chelsea

Soccer: EPL: Sunderland at Chelsea

This was a rerun game I'd missed, but it was a good one. Both teams have been on losing streaks and desperately wanted wins. Desailly managed a header in the 14th minute to put the home team up one, but Hutchison equalized fifteen minutes later. But just before the half, Gudjohnson, the Finn, who'd had a great assist on his team's first goal, got one of his own. Sunderland went into the lockers at halftime a goal down, but came out determined. Hutchison got his second just six minutes into the second half, quickly followed by McCann less than ten minutes later. Kevin Phillips ended his goalless streak with a tap-in twenty minutes after that, and Chelsea couldn't break down the Sunderland defense. So Sunderland wins at Chelsea for the first time since 1957! Final: 4-2 Sunderland.


Thursday, April 12, 2001

EPL: Sunderland at Middlesbrough

Soccer: EPL: Sunderland at Middlesbrough

So boring I don't even want to talk about it. No goals, lots of yellow cards, but not even a sending off to enliven things. Boring! Final: 0-0.


Saturday, November 18, 2000

EPL: Sunderland at Newcastle United

Soccer: EPL: Sunderland at Newcastle United

Newcastle's Gary Speed missed a good chance twenty seconds in, but three minutes later he put in the rebound of his own header while lying on the ground in front of Sunderland's goal. Sunderland had their own try ten minutes in, but it was brilliantly saved by keeper Given, who backpeddled to touch the ball over the crossbar. Sunderland seemed out of it by the end of the first half, but in the second they woke up with a great header goal by Hutchison. Not long after that Sunderland went up a goal when Niall Quinn put in a fantastic header. Sunderland's momentum was lost, however, when hero Quinn's takedown in the box resulted in a penalty kick for Newcastle. Striker Alan Shearer stepped up for the guaranteed goal -- but Sunderland keeper Sorenson with his save of season blocked the shot! What a great game! Final: 2-1 underdogs Sunderland, putting them in ninth place, just behind Newcastle.


Saturday, March 31, 2001

EPL: Tottenham at Arsenal

Soccer: EPL: Tottenham at Arsenal

Incredibly dull first half, with nothing happening for either team. Then in the second half, suddenly Arsenal showed up and began to play. They peppered poor Tottenham with shots, but a combination of frantic defending and luck kept Arsenal off the board. Then, on a harmless run down the left wing, Frenchman Pires doubled back, beating his marker, and instead of crossing, took a shot. It curled into the far corner past the outstretched keeper. A beautiful goal. Later, Thierry Henry got one to put the matter beyond doubt. Final: 2-0 Arsenal.


Saturday, October 28, 2000

EPL: Tottenham at Chelsea

Soccer: EPL: Tottenham at Chelsea

According to Chelsea, they are "guaranteed six points every season as long as Tottenham's in the same league." Apparently, Tottenham has a long history of losing to Chelsea, and this day proved no different. Tottenham started things off with some decent offense, forcing Chelsea keeper De Hoy to make some key saves. But then a hand ball in the box gave Chelsea a penalty kick, and Hasselbaink put it away cleanly. Near the end of the half, Chelsea added another. Dennis Wise got free on the left and put in a nice cross which Hasselbaink headed to Zola, who headed it into the net. The game after that was routine. Chelsea gave up nothing and Tottenham did nothing but run around the field aimlessly. At the very end, Hasselbaink got another goal with a low-driven long-range curver. Final 3-0, Chelsea. Poor Tottenham.


Saturday, September 30, 2000

EPL: Tottenham at Leeds

Soccer: EPL: Tottenham at Leeds

Terrific game! A slow first half put Spurs up by one on Rebrov's goal, but spunky Leeds came out in the second half and in the span of one minute Australian Mark Viduka put in two goals! Then prodigy Alan Smith put in two, followed by Rebrov's second. The last ten minutes were especially hairy for Leeds as they fought to maintain a 4-3 lead, but they did it. What a game with six goals in second half!


Wednesday, December 27, 2000

EPL: Tottenham Hotspur at Southampton

Soccer: EPL: Tottenham Hotspur at Southampton

What happened to Tottenham? Against a weak club like Southampton I expected them to dominate, but the reverse was true. Goals came late in the first half: Beattie scored on a great run from the left wing, curling his shot past a diving keeper. Seconds later, his teammate Davis scored to double the lead. In the second half Southampton still dominated, and with the Spurs lackluster performance it was an easy victory for the home team. Final: 2-0 Southampton.


Monday, January 22, 2001

EPL: West Ham at Charlton

Soccer: EPL: West Ham at Charlton

South African Shawn Bartlett scored for Charlton just seven minutes in by getting a few steps on his man on the right wing, and angling in a rolling grounder past the keeper. West Ham had a few chances, but couldn't do much with them. In the second half, Joe Cole had a terrific dead-on chance, but Charlton's Andy Todd made an incredible save on the goal line with his chest! (The temptation to use his hands must have been tremendous, but somehow he resisted.) West Ham dominated, and finally Di Canio took the ball, ran parallel to the goal for a few steps, then turned in a brilliant shot from twenty yards out that went right into the upper corner. A really impressive effort! Charlton, however, is not a team that gives up. They fought back with their typical heart, scraping, but it was not to be. Final: 1-1.


Monday, November 6, 2000

EPL: West Ham at Derby County

Soccer: EPL: West Ham at Derby County

These two are near the bottom of the table and I didn't expect much, though the battle was fiercely contested. Neither team could score in the first half, though both had chances. Derby had the possession in the second half, but couldn't do anything with it, and West Ham's big money players failed to break the Derby defense. Lame. Final: 0-0.


Monday, January 1, 2001

EPL: West Ham at Manchester United

Soccer: EPL: West Ham at Manchester United

Terrific game, significantly dominated by United. Just two minutes and fifteen seconds in United scored. Defender Rigobert Song (one of my favorite African players) made two mistakes in a row: clearing the ball to Beckham, who crossed the ball in, and when the ball was headed out, Song missed the tackle. That gave Solskjaer a second to shoot, and he didn't miss. Yorke had a chance a few minutes later, and Beckham nearly scored on a free kick after that (Hislop made a great save). Song redeemed himself for his earlier mistake when he cleared Yorke's header literally off the line with a flying volley, but minutes later he gave the ball away to Yorke who's shot went just wide. So far, the game was totally one-sided, a Manchester shooting gallery. Then in a bizarre sequence, Philip Neville put in a lazy grounder from way out. None of his teammates reached the ball, and the West Ham defender only grazed the ball with his boot. Amazing, Hislop had gone near post and was wrong-footed: he scrambled to get back into time but couldn't make it! The ball trickled across the line just inches from his outstretched hand. Crazy! I swear, I don't think West Ham got the ball in United's half of the field even once in the first 35 minutes! They finally got a shot on goal late, but it went straight to Bartez, United's keeper. After that, it was all United again. In the second half, it was more of the same. United quickly pulled forward with another goal, a header by Yorke. Finally, with less than twenty to go, West Ham managed a Kanoute header on a corner kick to keep themselves in the game, but it was more loose defending on United's part than brilliant play by West Ham. That was it as far as goals: an easy win for Man. U. Final: 3-1 United.


Monday, December 18, 2000

EPL: West Ham United at Everton

Soccer: EPL: West Ham United at Everton

If you watch this game, fast forward until the 70th minute. That's when stuff starts to happen. Before that it's just boring, with neither keeper having to do anything. Seventy-five minutes in, however, Everton finally scores with a flick-on header from Cadamartori. A few minutes later, however, the Hammers equalize on a great goal from Kanoute, when his turn in the box gives him some space and he shoots it home. Final: 1-1 draw.


Sunday, April 18, 2004


Movie: Equilibrium

Interesting little sci-fi film that takes on 1984/Brave New World territory, with a futuristic society where human emotions have been purged in order to eliminate all conflict and war. Humans who experience emotion or who horde emotional content (such as books or paintings) are executed. The story's rather predictable, with the top police guy discovering emotions and having trouble doing his job. It's an interesting idea, and there are some neat scenes, but unfortunately the film doesn't know if it's sci-fi, action, or drama, and tends to wander between genres in an uncomfortable or predictable manner. Interesting but not remarkable.


Friday, December 15, 2006


Movie: Eragon

Today I had no electricity so I went to the movies. I wanted to see this film as I'd read the book. At first I was frustrated because it started off with a lot of narrated exposition and seemed to be skipping key events from the book, but somehow it still worked -- the heart of the story comes through and if you hadn't read the book you'd come away thinking it was pretty good. It's not as good as the book in many ways -- much of the drama is lost as time is compressed so that events that took months in the novel happen within minutes on film -- but in other ways, that's actually better, for the book did drag on and on bit too much. Overall, a decent and impressive adaptation. The CGI dragon is surprisingly well-done and the actors -- many unknown -- are not bad. The film does not have the epic feel of the Lord of the Rings films and comes across like a cheap clone; it would have been better served to slow the action at times and let the story build. But it does have a handful of emotional moments and times when you fee like there's more to the story than just action. But overall it's not a bad mix: kids will enjoy the action. Readers of the book will probably feel somewhat disappointed, but trust me: it could have been much worse.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004


Movie: Eraserhead (1977)
Writer(s): David Lynch
Director(s): David Lynch

It's been probably more than ten years since I first saw this movie. The first time it made me physically ill, a claim I cannot make about any other movie. And that's a compliment to the film, since its purpose is to be repulsive. It's a remarkable film, unusual in many aspects, and enigmatic like much of Lynch's work. On this second viewing I found that the story seemed much simpler, almost simplistic, but that there was lots of depth in all the bizarre imagery and symbols presented. It's not a pleasant movie (there is humor but it's very dark), but it is fantastic, though in a different way from anything else Lynch has done. This is probably his least understood work, though to me it seems clearer than anything else he has done. The "plot," if you will, is about a couple who give birth to a deformed baby. The mother even has a line where she says the doctors aren't even sure if it is a baby. The baby looks like a cross between a miniature ET and a snake or something, very alien. The baby's crying eventually drives the mother away, and in the end the dad kills the baby. In the midst of all that we have strange dreams, fantasies, and weird imagery. But Lynch's goal here is clear: he wants us to be simultaneously repulsed and sympathetic toward the baby. He wants us to sympathize with the confused father, yet be horrified by what he does. Lynch wants us to feel both sides of the horrible dilemma and Lynch succeeds brilliantly. You both hate and care for the baby. You feel for the father, yet are repulsed by his actions. That's the whole point of the film: to put yourself into the film and think about how you might act in similar circumstances. How do you feel as the parent of a monster? What do you do? Is killing the monster a mercy or a crime? Complex questions that don't have an answer -- you're simply supposed to think about them. Most people don't want to face those questions, but the genius of Lynch is that he comes up with a way to make you do it anyway, and that's what's really disturbing about this movie.


Monday, September 4, 2000

Erin Brockovich

Movie: Erin Brockovich

Wow, a Julia Roberts movie I like! Actually, I don't not like Julia Roberts, but usually she's rather too much of a presence is her movies for the movie to be very good. But I really liked this one. The character was very different from previous Julia Roberts' characters, and I liked the story. (For once, there was no controversy in the tale of a lawsuit against big business: the big business admitted within their own memos that the problem existed and that it was time to cover it up. So no wacko environmentalist versus reasonable person debates here.)


Saturday, April 5, 2003


Book: Esau (1996)
Writer(s): Philip Kerr

Weak book that is almost identical in concept to Neanderthal by John Darton published in the U.S. the same year as this book. The premise is the oh-so-original concept that the Yeti (the Abominable Snowman) is the Missing Link and so a bunch of scientists go seeing to capture a Yeti for study and help prove evolution. Of course that's not exciting enough, so Kerr throws in an off-the-wall spy plot in which a CIA agent is hidden among the team with a secret mission, except that after he's on the mission the CIA discover that oops, someone mislaid his psychological profile and the guy's certifiable. There's lots of "fun" climbing accidents, avalanches, scary Yeti encounters, etc., and Kerr has definitely done his homework for the book's practically over-researched, with minute detail about the most trivial things (which slows down the pace of the book). Plotwise Kerr's most annoying habit (a mistake he also made in The Grid) is to throw up meaningless red herrings. In this case it's the "secret" identity of the CIA agent, who turns out to be exactly who we assumed it was in the first place! At least if you're going to make it suspenseful pick someone we don't expect! Lame. The Yetis themselves are the star of the novel, and Kerr does a good job of giving them an interesting society. Unfortunately, we don't meet them until halfway through the book, and once we meet them the book's kinda over, so it's lame. A much better and more interesting approach would have been to introduce us to the Yeti early on and have it be about scientists learning about their culture, similar to the way Edgar Rice Burroughs did in a lot of his books with odd societies hidden away in secret places on the earth or various planets. As it stands, this is an ordinary book, formulaic, long and tedious, without much in the way of pay-off. It's got an enormous amount of potential and Kerr obviously put in a lot of work, but it's wasted. Rather sad as I think Kerr's got literary potential.


Sunday, January 30, 2000

Escape From Alcatraz

Movie: Escape From Alcatraz (1979)
Writer(s): Campbell Bruce (I) (novel) and Richard Tuggle
Director(s): Don Siegel

I'd never seen this; it was pretty much like the title says: Clint Eastwood's put in Alcatraz and escapes. Still, the specifics of the escape were interesting, and like most prison escapes, it's amazing the amount of effort that goes into the attempt. (I remember visiting the dungeons of castles in Europe when I was little; one of the most amazing things I saw was a hole in a rock wall dug with part of a spoon by a convict. It had taken years and years, scraping and scraping, and yet the man had only gotten a few feet into the eight foot thick wall! Truly that's got to be the most frightening thing about incarceration.)


Thursday, April 8, 2004

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Movie: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Writer(s): Andy Kaufman

Brilliant film. It's about a guy who has a doctor erase the memories of his ex-girlfriend. What's brilliant is the way this is portrayed, because the guy is semi-conscious during the process and changes his mind, trying to escape from the erasing process by hiding in various memories. It's like a dream-world where various memories are relived and overlap. For instance, in one scene he merges a childhood memory of a rainy day and it begins to rain in his living room. Such intriguing visuals make for a compelling story. There really are two stories, the "escape" story within memory-land, and what's happening with the doctor and his assistants as they perform the procedure. These stories merge into a terrific ending. The film's a little long and slow, especially at the beginning -- it could be have edited down a good ten or twenty minutes. But it's a brilliant concept from Kaufman and makes for a wild, entertaining ride. I've been studying and thinking about Philip K. Dick recently and I just know he would have loved this (all of his stuff deals with identity and the validity of memories).


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Evan Almighty

Movie: Evan Almighty

I loved Bruce Almighty and was really curious how they'd duplicate that in a sequel. They did a surprisingly good job: while this feels overblown (it depends way too much on mediocre special effects), too much humor comes from silly slapstick stuff like a dog biting Evan in the crotch, and the plot's so thin it's obvious from a mile away (new congressman Evan's told by God to build an Ark during a drought and endures mockery of the public), it isn't unpleasant and there are moments of genuine heart and profundity. Not much, granted, as the film takes everything with the lightness of cotton candy (which tends to degrade religion and God), but there were two key moments I really liked. One, when God talks to Evan's troubled wife and tells her "When someone prays for patience does God just give them patience or provide an opportunity for them to be patient?" The other was when a fully converted Evan is confronted by a reporter asking him why God chose him and he pauses for just a fraction and then says, "God chose each of us." Very cool. Overall, I liked this a lot. It's harmless fun. Sure, it's silly, and there are too many groanable Bible puns, but Morgan Freeman as God is great and Steve Carell fills in pretty well for Jim Carey. I have no idea where the rumored $200 million budget went: the special effects are horribly amateurish. The ark itself looks find, but the scenes it floating in the flood look the digital equivilent of filming models in a bathtub. Somebody deserves a refund. (The poor effects were worse than Poseidon, which is saying a lot.) Critics aren't being kind to the film but I think it's harmless and has some good moments. It's certainly nothing that will work you brain, but there are much worse ways to spend 90 minutes.


Saturday, May 6, 2000

Event: Bob Jones Retires

I traveled up to Oregon to my old high school to wish my speech teacher, Bob Jones, a happy retirement. It was great to see some of my old high school friends and the stories and photographs brought back lots of happy memories.


Monday, May 8, 2000

Event: Z-Write Released!

I've been watching few movies and reading few books lately because I've been working hard on my software program, Z-Write. It's finally out! It's an innovative word processor for creative writers: it lets you create multiple files within the same file -- great for keeping together all the zillions of notes associated with a project. Microsoft Word is doomed! ;-)


Sunday, February 20, 2000

Ever After

Movie: Ever After (1998)
Writer(s): Susannah Grant and Andy Tennant
Director(s): Andy Tennant

I was pleasantly surprised by how well this movie was done. It's the familiar Cinderella story, but told realistically, without the Fairy Godmother and magic, reducing it to a love story between a commoner and a prince. Decent performances (even from Drew Barrymore), and the dialogue was surprisingly intelligent and witty. Nothing too deep or complex, but above average.


Saturday, March 9, 2002


Movie: Evolution

I had wanted to see this in theatres, but it disappeared before I had the chance. I don't know why: I rather liked it. It's nothing profound, just a light-hearted scifi-comedy. Director Ivan Reitman does a great job balancing the opposites of science and comedy, giving us scientists who are borderline comedians. I guess that could be one of the reasons it wasn't a big hit at the box office: it's not terribly funny or terribly science fictionish. There's also a bit too much toilet humor. Still, it's mildly amusing and the special effects are terrific. The plot is simple: a meteorite lands in Arizona and it contains alien single-cell organisms which "evolve" into higher lifeforms incredibly quickly, threatening to take over the entire planet within a few months. Of course the military wants to burn them up, but the unorthodox scientist heros have a better idea and save the planet. Ultimately, the film relies on its special effects: the digital alien lifeforms are really well done, realistic with just a touch of wackiness.


Tuesday, March 1, 2005


Today I took Grandpa out of Oakwood to the doctor. He needed a local doctor, so I arranged a new patient visit and today I took him there. I was leary about transporting Grandpa and how he'd handle everything, but it turned out to be just fine. He managed to get into my van just fine -- the new hip has certainly minimized the pain he used to experience when getting in and out of vehicles. After the routine doctor visit, Grandpa didn't want to go back to Oakwood yet, so I took him to Shari's restaurant where he ordered the shrimp lunch and loved it. He hasn't been eating the hospital food very well, so I was delighted to see him add soup to the meal and eat most of it, eat all the shrimp and most of the fries, and ask for ice cream for dessert! It was a great excursion and something I think we should do regularly.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Executive Privilege

Book: Executive Privilege
Writer(s): Philip Margolin

This is a breezy read, a thriller about a President who might have committed several murders. While there's not much depth here, and nothing truly surprising happens, it's still quite compelling and very pleasant. The author, while not a master, is competent and puts together characters and scenes and action in such a way that you speed from one chapter to the next, eager to confirm what you think is going to happen. There are some twists, but nothing that dramatic, and though the book deals with grave topics, it doesn't feel at all series. Fun.


Thursday, May 31, 2007


Book: Exile
Writer(s): Richard North Patterson

The topic of this book did not interest me at all: I don't remember how I ended up with it but I wouldn't have chosen it if I'd known. It's all about Israel-Arab conflict and that stuff is so confusing and depressing and overdone I can't stand listening to any of it. It's like listening to kids squabbling over who sits where in the back seat of the car on a five thousand year drive. Makes you want to leap out the window or crash the car. This book certainly made me feel that way at times, for it is excruciately detailed and proceeds at a snail's pace. However, I endured it, and the payoff was decent. I learned a lot of fascinating things about the Israel-Arab conflict I didn't know, some of it helpful in understanding the conflict. The story is intricate: an American of Jewish descent has everything: an Ivy league law degree, a successful San Francisco career, is about to be married to a weathly Jewish family, and will soon be a candidate for senator. But then the Israeli prime minister is blown up in San Francisco and the key suspect is Palastinian Anna Ariff, the lawyer's former lover at Harvard. Prosecutors think she leaked the prime minister's route to the bombers, but she claims it's a frame-up. The lawyer still loves her and takes on her defense even though it costs him his engagement and his political career, for everyone wants to see the terrorists pay for their crimes and he's defending an obviously guilty Arab. The defense takes months as the lawyer visits Israel and uncovers bits of information, but all the pieces of the plot aren't put together until the very end. Unfortunately, I saw this ending on about page 100, so having to sit through the rest of the book for something so obvious was tedious and frustrating. The payoff is good, but overall I see this book as more educational than entertaining. I wish I'd gotten the abridged version.


Saturday, December 4, 1999


Movie: eXistenZ (1999)
Writer(s): David Cronenberg
Director(s): David Cronenberg

A David Cronenberg film that's weird. Quel surprise!. Actually, this one was better than I expected. I liked it. It was more action-oriented than I expected. It's bizarre, but with a rather obvious point. The plot deals with a game designer who's invented a new virtual reality game called "eXistenZ" (written just like that). Of course, reality gets all subverted and confused, and soon you can't tell what's real and what's not. That's the whole point. The two best parts of the movie were the organic game pods (similar to joy sticks) and the title thought where game designer Jennifer Jason Leigh is in conversation with a boy. She explains, "You must play the game to find out the purpose and goal," and later he says something to the effect of "But there's no point, no explanation, no rules. I don't think people are going to like this game." and she responds: "But everyone's playing it already." That was obvious but still cool. If you're a Cronnenberg and/or VR fan, you'll like this trip.


Sunday, February 16, 2003


Book: Exocet
Writer(s): Jack Higgins

Surprisingly well-written tale about espionage during the British-Argentina war over the Fawkland Islands. Basically the Argentinians need Exocet missiles desperately so they can sink the British battleships, and go on the open market to look for some. British intelligence is out to stop them from getting some. Things get a bit complicated as the French and Russians are involved, everyone with their own motivations. The plot promises a bit more than it delivers: the resolution is lightweight and rather routine. But what the book does offer is an intriguing love story and character studies. A beautiful woman, roped into working with British intelligence, seduces an Argentine pilot, only to really fall in love with him. Her conscience bothers her terribly as she spies on him, but in the end it's the British who betray her. Fortunately, all ends happily for the good guys (and gal). The bottom line: the story's routine but the writing is above average and the characters worth knowing. The only real character flaw is that enough though I wanted to believe it, I found the way the two main characters fell in love at first glance across a room unrealistic.


Friday, April 18, 2008

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Movie: Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

This is Ben Stein's anti-Evolution documentary and I purposely have avoided hearing much about it or any controversy. I wanted to judge it for myself. My first surprise is how much screen time the opposition is given. Most documentaries give minimal screen time for the opponent, but this movie has plenty of scenes of evolutionists explaining their ideas. Granted, sometimes it's just unflattering bathering, but he does give them a voice.

The film's premise is that evolutionists control science in this country and are systematically blacklisting scientists who write anything even remotely positive about Intelligenet Design. While the film shows a handful of examples of this, there's not a lot of evidence that shows how widespread this is or isn't, so I can't really judge on that. However, the movie does a great job of pointing out the dangers of evolutionary thinking: evolution is inherently mindless and if we as a society adopt that mindset, we run the risk of eliminating everything that makes us human, such as morality and compassion. The film demonstrates this dramatically with a comparison to Nazi Germany, interviewing people who point out that Darwinism was the source of Hitler's eugenics program and other beliefs. That might be over-the-top for some people, and it is difficult to watch, but I would argue that it doesn't go far enough: society without God or purpose is doomed.


Friday, August 13, 2010

The Expendables

Movie: The Expendables

Decent actioner, a bit of a throw-back to 80s action movies, with tons of huge older stars though most aren't much more than cameos. I liked the atmosphere of the film, the cast, and a lot of the shoot-em-up action was excellent, but the film's 30 minutes too long and the plot is far too simple. (Basically, it's mercenaries hired to kill an island nation's dictator.) With such a simple plot, when you get to the end you say, "What was the point of all that?" and "That's it?" Go for the cast and don't expect much and you'll be pleased.


Monday, January 31, 2011


Movie: Extract

This is one of those low-key independent films that appeared on the edge of my radar and I wanted to see it but never did. It's also one of those films that I thought I knew what it was about without knowing anything about it. I'm not sure why that is -- if I saw some vague promotion or just read a paragraph and put my own interpretation on it. Part of the problem is the title. It's a comedy about an extract bottling plant owner and I guess I assumed that the extract was key to the plot: I figured he discovered some new extract that gave superpowers or some funny side effect. Boy was I wrong! This film is nothing like that. It's extremely subtle humor, almost bland. (It desperately needs a laugh track, though that would cheapen it.) Jason Bateman plays almost the same character he did on Arrested Development: a good guy trying hard and baffled by all the craziness around him. There isn't much of a plot. He's frustrated by his distant wife, thinking of selling the plant, being sued by an injured employee, and lusting after a female con artist who is just trying to get money from the suing employee. All these events converge into a decent, though low-key ending. While I really like the dry humor, it's probably not everyone's taste. It's important to realize this isn't a "laugh out loud" kind of comedy. It's the kind that brings a wry smile to your lips. It's easy to see how this could become a cult classic. There are some really wonderful moments and scenes, and on repeat viewings some of the subtle humor is really hilarious. Don't get your comedy expectations too high and it's definitely worth checking out if you like this kind of humor.


Friday, July 14, 2000

Eye of the Beholder

Movie: Eye of the Beholder

What in the world is this about? I still don't know. Guy chases serial killer girlfriend, but we don't know why. Is he in love with her? I guess, but why? She's a serial killer! Not exactly uninteresting film, but pointless. And the ending just ends, with no resolution or anything. Lame. As usual, Ashley Judd is fun, but they could have trimmed out all the scenes she wasn't in and the movie would have made just as much sense.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Eyes of Laura Mars

Movie: Eyes of Laura Mars
Writer(s): Brian DePalma

Old 1970s horror flick with Faye Dunaway as "Laura Mars," an edgy fashion photographer who starts seeing murders from the killer's viewpoint as they are happening. Apparently she has some sort of psychic link with him, and her visions have been subconsciously effecting her work for years. Kind of a neat idea, but too gimmicky, and the "surprise" ending is more weird than creative. Okay. It might have been innovative 30 years ago, but feels dated now.


Tuesday, April 4, 2000

Eyes Wide Shut

Movie: Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Writer(s): ? (novel), ?, and Stanley Kubrick
Director(s): Stanley Kubrick

Not at all what I expected. The reviews and advertising didn't really explain this. It was much lower key than I expected, and the celebrated stars, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman didn't even have very many scenes together. Tom was surprisingly good, though his ability to express subtle emotion consists mostly of a direct, intense stare: interpret from it what you will. Kidman was great, especially in a few key scenes, but she felt like a minor character. The story itself wasn't bad; a bit bizarre, a bit hokey, a bit dull. There was a childish overemphasis on sexuality: overpronunciation of the word "naked" or the f-word, like ten-year-olds giggling over their first look at a dirty magazine. Overall I got the impression that the people that made the film seemed to think they had something remarkable on their hands but were too close to the work to realize it was nothing but an ordinary tale of a husband and wife squabbling. Throughout I kept thinking, "What I am missing?" because it felt like things were supposed to be important and yet they weren't. Maybe in a year or two this will have more import; we'll see.


Wednesday, May 5, 2004

The Eyre Affair

Book: The Eyre Affair
Writer(s): Jasper Fforde

Fascinating book and hilariously witty idea. This is a story set in a fictional world where literature is all-important and reality is flexible. It's a bit Harry Potterish, in that sense. But instead of magic, this is just fanciful strangeness, usually with grammatical humor. For instance, one of the characters, an encentric scientist, modifies the DNA of bookworms to turn them into a thesaurus. You feed them text and they read it, producing ampersands and apostrophes as a waste product! The main story is about Thursday Next, a Literary Detective, who's out to catch the fiend who's been messing with great novels. When the fiend kidnaps Jane out of Jane Eyre, Thursday must go into the novel to stop him. This sounds and is terrific, but unfortunately so much happens in this novel that's not part of the main plot that I found it difficult to keep motivated reading. The main story would probably take less than 100 pages: the book's 350. Some of the other stuff is really interesting and funny, but there's a bit too much unrelated stuff going on and the main story lags. Still, it's a brilliant idea and the characters are cool. Jasper's written several sequels which I shall definitely be reading.