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Contractually Obligated Blogging

March 27th, 2006

Haven’t had time for blogging in the past week-and-a-half, but I want to throw something at the wall just to let my readers (all six of you, bless you!) know that I haven’t given up on the idea.

I had a good weekend, which is something of a change from the past few weeks. It was nice to have some time to engage in some of my less fruitful interests: digging through the penny Magic: The Gathering card box at the local geek store, and watching some of the accumulated video recordings on our TiVo-Like DeviceTM.

Saturday night, Vic and I went out for sushi. That’s a sentence that I never thought I’d type. While I’m usually game for trying new restaurants, I tend to draw the line at uncooked meats. The establishment in question was Ko Fusion, one of the recent downtown Champaign additions which appears to have been accidentally transported from someplace a good bit hipper than downtown Champaign. Great decor, and to my absolute amazement, very good sushi. Granted, Vic and I went with sushi for wimps: California rolls and pieces which featured cooked instead of raw fish. But it was very, very tasty. And I even used the chopsticks!

Last night I finally did my taxes, only about two weeks later than usual. I’m really not sure how anyone ever completes their own tax paperwork, even though I’ve done mine on all but a couple of occasions over the past 25 years. I like to believe that I’m a reasonably intelligent person, yet I can barely figure out a third of what’s printed on the page. The instructions are written in something which is almost entirely unlike English, and there’s an awful lot of this:

Subtract Line 15 from Line 14. Compare the amounts on Line 16 and Line 1b, and enter the smaller here. Refer to Pub. 8367 for instructions on how to determine eligible credit for your Chapter S withholdings, and complete the Designated Benefits for Waffle Lovers Worksheet.

Plus–and I swear that I am not making this up–there were numerous references to “certain whaling captains.” Only certain whaling captains, mind you. For some of you whaling captains, the above paragraph does not apply.

As I mentioned, I cleaned some stuff off the TiVo-Like DeviceTM. The previous weekend we discovered that we had a free HBO/Cinemax preview, and so went a bit crazy recording movies for later viewing. While they included a few films I had always intended to see, some were marginal picks at best, stuff that I didn’t mind watching so long as a) I didn’t have to pay for it, and 2) I didn’t have to pay all that much attention to it.

Two in the Intended to See category were Waiting for Guffman and Shaun of the Dead. Guffman was a “mockumentary” in the tradition of This is Spinal Tap, this time about a community theatre. While it wasn’t quite my experience with community theatre–for example, the film never addressed backstage romances or actors who never manage to learn their dialogue–much of it was certainly familiar. All in all, I preferred Best in Show, which features much of the same cast in a story about a dog show, but Guffman had plenty of laugh-out-loud moments.

I wasn’t sure about Shaun of the Dead for the first ten minutes or so. The British “romantic comedy in a zombie apocalypse” had received great reviews, but I thought that there were few laughs at first. Still, I did enjoy the film’s conceit of having its characters blissfully unaware of the mounting chaos around them–because, after all, there’s not that much difference between shambling undead and zoned-out, barely motivated everyday people, and besides, who pays attention to the news? Once the zombies were too numerous to go unnoticed, the movie kicked into gear with a great scene in which Shaun and his best friend Ed (coming off here much like Earl and Randy in My Name is Earl) argue about which of Shaun’s record albums are too valuable to toss at the flesh eaters slowly–very, very slowly–marching toward them. Then along came Penelope Wilton–who I loved during her recent Doctor Who appearances as Harriet Jones, M.P. for Flydale North–to play Shaun’s mom, and I was hooked. While most zombie holocaust films feature supposedly normal people dealing with an unreal situation, the characters in Shaun behaved a bit more as I’d expect myself to react in such a crisis. I wound up buying this one on DVD the next day.

The Day After Tomorrow was squarely in the camp of Films That Didn’t Require My Full Attention, and indeed, I sorted Magic cards while it was on. On one hand, I was glad to see someone use a blockbuster film to introduce the topic of global warming to a mainstream audience, but still, did it have to be such horseshit? I’ll admit that I’d have been much more lenient about the skewed science if this had been a ’50s film, but the level of destruction on hand–including flash-freezing hurricanes–seemed so implausible that I think it must’ve had the opposite of the intended effect. Why worry about global warming if the results, as depicted here, would never, never happen? Didactic dialogue and intensely stupid characters who were the very definition of People Who Don’t Know Enough To Come In Out Of The Rain ruled the day. There’s Dennis Quaid as an intrepid paleoclimatologist (two words that have never before appeared consecutively) that warns of a storm which will instantly kill anyone outside, yet whom decides to trek from Washington to New York on foot. Meanwhile, Jake Gyllenhaal and (the astonishingly adorable) Emmy Rossum played the two prettiest nerds ever captured on film as Quaid’s son and his high-school academic bowl teammate. Oh, and then there’s Sela Ward as Quaid’s doctor wife, saddled with an utterly extraneous plot about a young cancer patient who can “only be moved by ambulance.” People are being killed by the millions, but if only there was an ambulance! Cool effects, though, so it did at least make for good Magic-sorting background noise. And there was one nice bit of irony when the Mexican government began turning away fleeing Americans at the border.

Alright, I’ll now admit that I also recorded and watched Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed. I’m enough of an old-school Scooby buff to appreciate the effort to revive a bunch of the classic cartoon monsters (the Pterodactyl Ghost! the Miner Forty-Niner! the Ghost of Captain Cutler!). Plus, there were Sarah Michelle Gellar’s short skirts and Matthew Lillard’s pitch-perfect Shaggy. Not much else, though. Did I mention the skirts? Oh, and I did like the gag involving a bar called the Faux Ghost where all of the villains whom Mystery, Inc. has unmasked over the years go to hang out.

I’ve still got another half-dozen films to go, and while most of them probably won’t be as questionable as Scooby Doo, they do include I, Robot

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