Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Retrospective: Dave Barry's Year in Review

2015 was a crazy year, and it looks even crazier in humorist Dave Barry's zany, satirical retrospective.  Here's a bit of the section on January 2015:
In Paris, 1.5 million people march in a solidarity rally following the horrific terrorist attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Eyebrows are raised when not a single top U.S. official attends, but several days later, Secretary of State John F. Kerry arrives in France with James Taylor, who — this really happened — performs the song “You’ve Got a Friend.” This bold action strikes fear into the hearts of terrorists, who realize that Secretary Kerry is fully capable, if necessary, of unleashing Barry Manilow.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Professor and the Waitress: Thoughts on Life

Worth a read.

Belated Christmas Gift: the Honest Trailer for "Die Hard" (1988)

FINALLY!  Just today Screen Junkies has released an Honest Trailer for the best Christmas movie of them all!  La Parisienne, this one's for you, babe.

MM in the Kitchen: Olive Oil Chocolate Mousse

Everybody's predictable resolutions to diet and exercise don't kick in until January 1, so you can still indulge a teensy bit, right? 

Quote of the Day: Glimmers of Hope at Brown University

There are still defenders of free speech and open inquiry on campus.  As one of them just said in an interview with FIRE, if he were a university president, he would say this:
"I would make some sort of public statement—whether unprompted or prompted by one of these events—in which I said, 'This is academia and you have the right to say anything, no matter how radical it is, no matter how offensive it may seem to existing power structures. You are not required to uphold ideals held by mainstream America at all.'

Every time one of these issues came up, I would say, 'You can say here whatever you want. We can't police what you say. We can police what you do. And even though we can't police what you say, we discourage students in the strongest of terms attempting to shut down other students and we reject the notion that there are no open questions on controversial matters.'"
He then boldly slams Brown's administration for its deplorable spinelessness.  Kudos.  More of this, please.  Nobody cares much if teachers push back, but if more dissenting students do, it matters more in these ongoing and increasingly nasty campus culture wars.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

"The Saudi Arabia of Maple Syrup"

Smuggling, shenanigans, and skulduggery!  Oh, Canada.

An Author Considers How to Create Characters

Fascinating read.  Here's a bit of it:
"... your bad guys need to be great. They need to be so interesting that they potentially upstage your good guys. Hans Gruber versus John McClane. I’m rooting for McClane, but Hans steals every scene with his casual, clever villainy (best Christmas movie ever, by the way). "
If you don't think Die Hard is a Christmas movie, then I have nothing to say to you.

P.J. O'Rourke on the GOP's "Least Insane Candidate"

Admittedly, that's a pretty low bar. 

Still, I do NOT want to revisit this topic.

Star Wars: the Premake

Check out this incredible work by a fan:

 Star Wars: The Premake from John D'Amico on Vimeo.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Merry Christmas!

Enjoy this traditional Latin Christmas carol sung by a great tenor who happens to be a Franciscan friar.  He's Italian, because of course.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Movie Review: "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (2015) ~ No Spoilers!

More powerful than you can possibly imagine.

Gentle reader, the hype is real!  I had hardly let myself hope that this movie would be actually good.  I was only hoping that it (a) would not completely suck and that (b) it would be better than the Phantom Menace (but I repeat myself).  Still, after raking in $238 million over opening weekend in the US (and $517 million worldwide!) to smash all box office records, Star Wars: The Force Awakens will not only make you forget all about the horrible prequels but also do the seemingly miraculous: it makes the entire franchise fresh and exciting and - yes - fun once more.  The magic is back, that hard-to-describe and even harder-to-create kind of enthralling delight in a rip-roaring adventure tale that transports you straight out of the ordinary into a new world (or, for us here, a new world in touch with a beloved old familiar one).  You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll cheer, and you'll walk out of the theatre thinking about how soon you can go back to see this again.  These are the celluloids you're looking for!

I could go on (and on and on), but I dare not reveal spoilers, no matter how small, no matter how inadvertently.  I'm always cautious lest I spoil a movie, but I have it on good authority that if I spoil this one, my friends are going to throw me into a Sarlacc pit.  Let me say this, though: When the opening crawl began and I read absolutely nothing - zilch - nada - diddly squat about galactic trade federations and space taxes and planetary blockades, I knew things were going to be OK!  

I'll indulge in a few brief passing observations: Oscar Isaac, king of the arthouse film, is here as a dashing pilot, and I was happy to see him take on an action role.  Fresh faces John Boyega as Finn and Daisy Ridley as scavenger Rey bring new blood and great energy.  A new spherical droid named BB-8 is this year's Dancing Baby Groot in terms of sheer winsome appeal, and everyone I know wants his or her own.  Update: I can't resist pointing you to this tweet (or should we say "fightin' words"?) by geek lord Neil deGrasse Tyson:
It is now common knowledge that Harrison Ford returns as Han Solo, and I'll say that THIS is how you bring Ford back in an iconic role; THIS appearance is the utter polar opposite of the misfire that was the return of Indiana Jones in 2008.  One more thing: Star Wars Episode VII is a JJ Abrams project, so see if you can spot the now-traditional cameo inclusion of his old friend Greg Grunberg.

Mad Minerva gives Star Wars: The Force Awakens a grade of A+.  Abrams has made lightning strike twice: as he did with the Star Trek reboot of 2009, here he takes an iconic pop culture icon and made it new for a new generation even while remembering its initial past greatness.  Thank you, JJ, for the best Christmas present this year!

RottenTomatoes gives this flick the nearly unparalleled Fresh rating of 95%.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens runs for 135 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sci fi action and violence along with a few disturbing images.

Here is the trailer:  

UPDATE: The torch passes from Jurassic World to Star Wars: the Force Awakens, and this is too cute to ignore:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Ready for the New Star Wars? "Come on, JJ. There's No Way You Can Do Any Worse Than This."

Hooray!  Screen Junkies has finally done an Honest Trailer for Revenge of the Sith as part of the Overwhelming Universal Hype about the upcoming new Star Wars movie.  Let's now cheerfully ladle hate on the entire prequel trilogy at once, shall we?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Jeremy Lin on Academic Pressure

Food for thought during exam time.

Incredibly, there have been haters responding to Lin's deeply personal account of his own struggles.  Well, screw those people.  I for one am grateful that he shared his vulnerability and offered a space to discuss the sometimes overwhelming pressure to perform, be it academically, athletically, or any other form.  You know, the fact that someone is prominent and successful does not mean that his or her psychological pain and lived experience are any less real or significant.  Let us all make an effort to be better, kinder, and more compassionate to each other, OK?