"So Let it Be Written... So Let it Be Done"

The life and times of a real, down to earth, nice guy. A relocated New Englander formerly living somewhere north of Boston, but now soaking up the bright sun of southwestern central Florida (aka The Gulf Coast). Welcome to my blog world. Please leave it as clean as it was before you came. Thanks for visiting, BTW please leave a relevant comment so I know you were here. No blog spam, please. (c) MMV-MMXV Court Jester Productions & Bamford Communications

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

get ready for the transition...

....or you'll miss it.

....from this year to next.

....from December to January

....from 2008 to 2009.

....from MMVIII to MMIX (gawd, I looooove Roman numerals - their so kewl!)

Any way you slice it though, it's just another flip of the calendar page to a new month. No big deal. Just so happens that we add one to the year. It's like the odometer in your car (the old kind with the actual numbers on little plastic discs that actually flip, not this digital stuff.)

I wonder what 2009 will bring?

My guess is more of the same... for most people. Those of you who will be fortunate or not so fortunate, depending on your circumstances, enough to go through some significant change in the coming year ought to realize how lucky you are.

I want change, but am I man enough to do it? Time will tell.

If you want my resolutions from 2008, go back here. I 'm not telling which of these I did or didn't keep last year. These are good resolutions and times are hard, what with the economy and all a goin' down the hopper and all, so I'm going to recycle those 2008 resolutions and use them again this year.

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Playing with the big boys now

Every two years I get myself a new movie guide. For the last dozen years or so, Martin & Porter's DVD & Video Guide was always the one I used, like the one pictured at left. It's a serviceable guide with lots of helpful information and movie blurbs in it. But the small size of the book and number of pages really wears out the binding, especially after two years of regular use and abuse. For some reason I could not find the 2009 edition. I looked in bookstores and on-line with no success.

All for the best, I guess.

I was looking into getting Leonard Maltin's 2009 Movie Guide and his Guide for classic (pre-1960) movies as a replacement, but I wasn't too keen on the format. The listings seem all jammed together; add in a microscopic font size and you've got an un-user friendly guide.

Now, I've found something better. Much better, thanks to a Christmas present from my younger sister C.

This book is The One. It's jumbo sized and thicker than your average phone book, with 1,923 pages. Not only do you have capsule-sized movie summaries, but the book also has Academy Award winners and nominees in every major category, plus cast, director, writer, cinematographer and composer indexes. Oh yeah, it also has an alternate titles index and a categories list so you can find movies with similar subjects.

This is the guide you've gotta get for the movie enthusiast in your life. Trust me on this one.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

No playoffs in 2008

You can point to many reasons why the New England Patriots became the second team since the NFL adopted a 16 game schedule in 1978 to miss the playoffs with an 11-5 record, joining the 1985 Denver Broncos.

I can think of three reasons. #1 would be injuries. Not olny reigning NFL MVP Tom Brady's season ending knee injury in the first quarter of the first game of the season, but all of the season ending injuries that would be suffered by many of the Patriots front line players. #2 and #3 would be three point losses at Indianapolis and vs. the New York Jets in overtime. Win either of those games and the Pats would be division champs and in the playoffs again.

However, as I'm sure Coach Bill Belichick will say, "We don't make excuses, it's football" and "It is what it is."

Honestly though, if you had told me during training camp that the star QB would go down with an injury (in the first quarter of the first game no less) and a backup who hadn't played meaningful football in seven years would come in and lead the team to an 11-5 record and a shot at the division title, I wouldn't have believed you.

When Tom Brady got hurt, I was thinking more realistically at a record of somewhere between 7-9 and 9-7 to consider this a successful season. Small consolation for a team that in recent years, has had it's playoff ticket punched well before week seventeen.

Now Patriots fans can look forward to 2009, when the schedule will include home and away games vs Buffalo Bills, NY Jets and Miami Dolphins. Home games vs. Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers. Away games vs. Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans, New Orleans Saints and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which will be played at Wembley Stadium in London, England on October 25th.

I'll have my Wild Card Weekend playoff predictions for you on Friday, January 2nd.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

SNMR 5.29: "Closer"

Tonight's SNMR feature is "Closer" (2005, R, 104 minutes), starring Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman, Clive Owen and Jude Law. The film was directed by Mike Nichols.

PLOT SUMMARY: This is the story of four adults, who happen to meet by chance, and their entirely dysfunctional relationships with each other. Meet Alice (Portman), Dan (Law), Anna (Roberts) and Larry (Owen). I was going to tell you more, but that would just confuse you and ruin the movie for you.

MY OPINION: This deeply confusing relationship mess is really a very good film, but you might not think so at first. Mike Nichols does an excellent job keeping every one's story fresh and interesting. I think it helps the continuity and flow of action in the story that the author of the play, Patrick Marber, also wrote the screenplay. Each of the main characters are incredibly complex, but we only scratch the surface of who they really are. Each actor does a great job in portraying their character. Portman and Owen even received best supporting Oscar nominations but neither won, though I think Roberts and Law could also have received nominations just as easily.

If you can follow the threads of each character's story as they skip backwards and forwards through time, then you should appreciate the complexity of the story, which subtly but effectively demonstrates how fickle love and relationships can be.

***½ out of *****


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas 2008 style

"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given..." -- Isaiah 9:6a KJV

"Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." -- Isaiah 7:14 KJV

In spite of all the consumerism surrounding Christmas these days, let's not forget the true reason for the season. Merry Christmas, everyone.


As of today, I've officially entered the last six months of my thirties. Yay for me.


So I'm sure you're all wondering what my Christmas was like, and what I did today. No? Well, I'm going to sum it up for you: Just about nothing.

I slept until about 8:00 and decided to finish off season two, disc five of Melrose Place before getting out of bed.

After a shower and breakfast, I played some Nintendo and read a few chapters of the book I was trying to finish before my brother came over at noon. We went over to visit with my younger sister and to see the house she's just moved into. We stayed for about an hour and then took off.

I went home to grab some lunch and look at the movie show times when my parents called. They were on the ship preparing for a three day mini cruise to the Bahamas, with my 91 year old grandmother and her friend. They're having fun, and my grandmother is doing relatively well for a nonagenarian. She even liked the Christmas present I sent with my parents for her.

After I ate, I read some more and got within a chapter of finishing the book before I headed out to the movies, where I saw a matinee showing of this movie, which was pretty good over all, though sad at the end. Perhaps I'll review it in detail once it hits DVD sometime in March or April, probably.

Since I had the book I was reading in my jacket pocket and only had a chapter to go, I decided to finish it in the parking lot of the movie theater, so that I could drop it in the library book slot on my way past. When I got home I called my ex to wish her, V and M a Merry Christmas and to confirm where and when I'll be picking the kiddoes up tomorrow evening.

After playing a few more games of Nintendo, I decided to sit and write this post for y'all.

As you can see, my Christmas has been a rather solitary one, unfortunately. Unlike last Christmas, which I spent in South Carolina, this has been quite a lonely day. I won't say depressing, but certainly not filled with the normal Christmas cheer. I enjoy my alone time but I tell you that it royally sucks to be single on a holiday such as this.

I hope you've had a blessed and truly Merry Christmas. God bless.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

SNMR 5.28: The Nativity Story

The second SNMR feature for this weekend is "The Nativity Story"(2006, PG, 101 minutes), starring Keisha Castle-Hughes, Oscar Isaac, Hiam Abbass, Ciaran Hinds and Alexander Siddig. The film was directed by Catherine Hardwicke.

PLOT SUMMARY: The year is 4 BC and children are being murdered in Bethlehem under the authority of King Herod. Specifically male children two years and younger, for according to the prophecy, a king will come out of Bethlehem ready to rule Israel.

Flash backwards one year to the tiny Galilean town of Nazareth, where a carpenter named Joseph has been pledged to marry a young girl named Mary. Mary has a visit from the angel Gabriel who announces that Mary, a virgin, will give birth to a son who will save his people from their sins. When Joseph learns of the pregnancy he vows to divorce her but relents when Gabriel visits him in a dream to reassure him that the child in Mary's womb is of the Holy Spirit. Several months later, Joseph must visit the town of his ancestors to register for Caesar's census. Joseph is of the house of David and must travel to the Judean city of Bethlehem more than 100 miles away.

Shortly after they arrive, Mary goes into labor. There is no suitable rooms available for them, so they set up in a grotto where Mary gives birth to a son.

MY OPINION: With movies like this, where the source material is so widely known and beloved by billions of people, variation from the central story is near to impossible. What this movie does well is flesh out the story of life in pre-first century Palestine and how difficult it must have been socially for newly betrothed Joesph and Mary, who is pregnant. They, by custom, are not supposed to start a family until after their first year of marriage. This film also does a good job of painting the historical perspective of the superstitious Herod and his uneasiness with Jewish prophecy.

One thing going for this film is that the two main leads look like they are middle eastern, unlike some other biblically-themed movies.

This is a good, solid film which won't wow you with special effects, yet will move you in subtly profound ways. It drags at times but is overall a very enjoyable 101 minutes of your life, should you choose to rent this movie.

*** out of *****

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First Day of Winter

Since we're in the midst of the third of three successive snowstorms here in the Northeastern United States in the last week, I gridgingly ought to acknowledge the Winter Solstice, which begins precisely now, at 7:04 AM EST.

The down side to this weather is that the raods are horrible and it takes twice as long to get to where you're going. On Friday, when the second snow storm was starting, it took me two hours to get to my kids house to pick them up for the weekend and three hours to get back home. This is a trip that normally takes me 90 minutes one way.

I suppose the only bright side to this whole mess is that the daylight hours get longer from here on out, at least for the next six months or so.

Have I mentioned here before how much I hate snow??

(Rhetorical question - you don't need to answer that...)

You're fortunate if you do not have to deal with snow.

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

SNMR 5.27: "Scrooged"

For this week, we'll be reviewing two Christmas-y themed movies here at SNMR in the spirit of the holiday season. One movie tonight and one tomorrow night.

Therefore, tonight's first SNMR feature of the weekend is "Scrooged" (1988, PG-13, 100 minutes), starring Bill Murray, Karen Allen, Bobcat Goldthwait, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum, Alfre Woodard, John Forsythe and David Johansen. The film was directed by Richard Donner.

PLOT SUMMARY: Television executive Frank Cross (Murray) hates Christmas and everything to do with it. It's Christmas Eve and his network is performing a live version of 'A Christmas Carol'. It just so happens that Cross is visited by the ghost of his old business partner Lew (Forsythe) and three spirits, the ghosts of Christmas past (Johansen), present (Kane) and future. Through this redemptive process, Frank discovers his chance at living a meaningful life is not wasted.

MY OPINION: This offbeat take on Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" certainly has it's moments. Murray is excellent in the role of Scrooge. Karen Allen is very believable as his long lost love. Three actors steal the movie for me: David Johansen and Carol Kane as the ghosts of Christmas past and present. I also thought Bobcat Goldthwait was excellent in his limited scenes. The rest of the supporting cast are good as well, with a lot of cameos by other well known stars, such as '84 Olympic sweetheart Mary Lou Retton, Buddy Hackett, John Houseman and others.

It's hard for me to believe that this film was released 20 years ago. Even though it will never top more serious versions of this classic story, it's still a good rent or even to add to your DVD collection. I found my copy of this movie in the $5 DVD bin.

I would love to see this film re-released on DVD with some special features like interviews with the cast and their takes on the classic story and their roles in this version.

*** out of *****

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

30 cents isn't much but I'll take it.

On Friday after work, I decided to do some errands in the Nashua area, since New Hampshire is sales tax-free and since I wasn't picking up V and M until Saturday morning.

My errands included some Christmas shopping, but definitely included some things that I had been putting off, like getting my hair cut and getting the oil changed in my car.

What I didn't count on was the weather. We didn't get snow, which was good since if we had we would have been pounded with it. Instead we got about 2½-3 inches of rain, some of which was the freezing variety, making it especially heavy on tree limbs and power lines while freezing the roads just enough to make driving a little more adventuresome.

When I got to Nashua, I turned off of the highway to go to Sam's Club and Wal-Mart in neighboring Hudson. Only the power was out in that part of town. Totally out. No street lights, no traffic lights and no power in the businesses in that whole neighborhood. It was so pitch dark that I almost didn't recognize where I was, even though I've driven those roads thousands of times.

Because there were no working traffic lights, the Hudson police had to step in and direct traffic, all dressed in their rain slickers and waving their orange traffic director flashlight thingees, through this major intersection. In order to get back onto the highway I had to make a left turn onto a busy road, with traffic coming both directions. Of course there was no officer directing traffic where I was. Oh, no siree.

I decided to head towards downtown Nashua, towards the library and Jiffy Lube. One of my stops along the way was to a comic store, so I could get something for M for Christmas, which of course they were all out. "Come back on Thursday," the store owner said, after looking for the thing I wanted and not finding it.

At least this store had electricity, as did the strip of businesses on Main Street. But drive off of Main Street about a mile, as I needed to do to get to Jiffy Lube, and you were back in the powerless zone. No oil change for my car then. Not today, anyway.

Then K calls my cell phone to tell me that testing for V and M on Saturday had been cancelled due to - you guessed it - power outages. We agreed to meet at exit 11 and that she'd call me when she got to the highway,

I decided to skip the library then, figuring they might be closed as well and knowing I'll want/need to go there eventually. The next stop wasn't originally in my plan for this trip but once I knew I'd have V and M, I decided to go to the post office and get my mail.

I still needed to get my hair cut, so I went to the 24 hour Wal-Mart Supercenter in Amherst to do that. Naturally, as I was in the chair getting my trim, K called to tell me she'd be at our meeting spot in about fifteen minutes. Great. I still wanted to look for something specific there for V and M afterwards. K would have to wait so I could get these two other things.

Side point: this is why I rarely tip the salon women: When I was paying for the hair cut, I added in a tip that would have put the total charge on my debit card to $17. Instead, the woman entered $17.95 as my price, rounding her tip to $3. Of course, I didn't look at my receipt until well after I got home that night.

Now that you've read all that, I'll tell you about the thirty cents!!

My first stop Friday night was to Barnes and Noble in Nashua, because I had a coupon for an extra 15% off any item I chose that I wanted to use. It never fails, however, that when I actually buy stuff there I can invariably get the same stuff cheaper on-line. Such was the case this time. I bought for myself two books (that I hadn't planned on buying in the first place but looked good) in addition to the things I wanted to get for M. OF the two books I bought, both were cheaper on Amazon. One of the books I actually ordered on Friday night when I got home, the other I'll buy in February, when I discovered that the newest edition will be published and I'll still get it cheaper than what I originally paid.

Yesterday my errand was to go to Barnes and Noble in Burlington, MA and return the two items I bought the night before. Not only did they refund me the purchase price of the items but also $1.48 in MA sales tax, which I did not pay when I shopped in Nashua. I ended up buying a different book for myself plus something additional for V and M. On this purchase they legitimately charged me $1.18 in MA sales tax. Thus, I inadvertently made thirty cents on the deal.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

SNMR 5.26: "Surviving Christmas"

Continuing with the month long Christmas theme, tonight's SNMR feature is "Surviving Christmas" (2004, PG-13, 91 minutes), starring Ben Affleck, James Gandolfini, Christina Applegate, Catherine O'Hara, Josh Zuckerman and Jennifer Morrison. The film was directed by Mike Mitchell.

PLOT SUMMARY: Rich executive Drew Latham (Affleck) doesn't like being alone at Christmas. When his girlfriend turns down an all expenses paid tropical vacation for the holiday, Drew faces the real and frightening possibility of spending Christmas alone. On the advice of a psychologist (cameo by Steven Root), Drew travels back to his childhood home to make peace with Christmas disappointments past and decides to make an offer the father of the family (Gandolfini) can't refuse, much to the chagrin of his wife (O'Hara) and daughter (Applegate). With one swift shovel-blow to the back of the head, the fun begins.

MY OPINION: For many folks, the title will win you over (or at least make you curious) as we all try to get through the holidays. I had never heard of this movie before and found it only because I was at the library scouting out anything resembling a Christmas movie to review in this column this month and for over there on BIG SCREEN. I liked this movie, even though I don't really consider it to be a Christmas movie. It's more like a movie that happens to take place at Christmas. There are spots in the film where I couldn't help but laugh [and laugh hard] and there are spots where it was all I could do not to groan and roll my eyes at the stupidity/tastelessness of it. What makes this movie better than you might think is the comedic performance of James Gandolfini. Yes, James Gandolfini. Ben Affleck has never been one of my favorite actors, but plays his hogh strung, obnoxious character very well. Does a movie like this need a sappy romantic relationship thread in the story? No. Yet we have one all the same. Christina Applegate and Catherine O'Hara are very funny actresses and have some good lines, given the material. I got some laughs out of this film so I say that it is a worthwhile rental-- if you can find it.

**½ out of *****

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

SNMR 5.25: "The Holiday"

Tonight's SNMR feature is "The Holiday" (2006, PG-13, 136 minutes), starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black, Eli Wallach, Edward Burns and Rufus Sewell. The film was directed by Nancy Meyers.

PLOT SUMMARY: Iris (Winslet) is in love with a man (Sewell) who is about to marry another woman. Across the globe, Amanda (Diaz), realizes the man she lives with (Burns) has been unfaithful. Two women who have never met and live 6,000 miles apart, find themselves in the exact same place. They meet online at a home exchange website and impulsively switch homes for the Christmas holiday. Iris moves into Amanda's L.A. house in sunny California as Amanda arrives in the snow covered English countryside. Shortly after arriving at their destinations, both women find the last thing either wants or expects: a new romance. Amanda is charmed by Iris' handsome brother Graham (Law) and Iris, with inspiration provided by legendary screenwriter Arthur (Wallach), mends her heart when she meets film composer Miles (Black).

MY THOUGHTS: This is a totally believable, charming tale about two women who switch homes for the holidays and find romance in their new surroundings. The script is well written and has nice flow to it, though is a bit long at 2 hours 16 minutes. Winslet and Law are brilliant in their roles as brother and sister. Diaz's character is quite annoying, due to her snobbish Hollywood surroundings. I've never been a Jack Black fan and he is horribly miscast in a non-funny role. Wallach is excellent as the old guard writer of a bygone Hollywood era. Director Meyers also wrote the story and knows exactly what she wants from each scene. The making of documentary is well done. This is a good clean film.

*** out of *****

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I'll play along

Found this on bluez blog yesterday and thought I'd throw my two cents in:

Five names you go by:

1. xxx (insert real name here)

2. Dad

3. green

4. The big T

5. [can't think of a 5th name right now]

Three things you are wearing right now:

1. LL Bean Wicked Good Slippers (a staple of my leisure time wardrobe).

2. white sweat shirt with "OCEAN PARK MAINE EST 1881" embroidered on it.

3. t-shirt with Super Bowl XXXVIII logo on it.

Two things you want very badly at the moment:

1. enough money to relocate out of New England into a warmer climate.

2. to be self-employed.

Three people who will probably fill this out:

I have no idea who will because no one usually answers the tags and plays along.

Two things you did last night:

1. watched a very funny Christmas-y themed movie for an upcoming post of SNMR or possibly for BIG SCREEN.

2. sorted through some Christmas presents that came in the mail from www.amazon.com.

Two things you ate today:

1. Roast beef and swiss cheese sandwich on a poppy seed bun with mayo, honey mustard and onions. (mmmmm)

2. large chocolate chip cookie half dipped in chocolate.

Two people you last talked to on the phone (not counting work related calls, of course):

1. My dad.

2. My ex.

Two things you are going to do tomorrow:

1. go to work. (unfortunately)

2. finish a book I've been reading.

Two longest car rides:

1. Driving to Myrtle Beach, SC last November.

2. Driving back from Myrtle Beach, SC last November.

Two of your favorite beverages:

1. Mountain Dew

2. Frozen Mudslide (the only alcoholic drink I have with any regularity and that not too often.)

Three people I'm tagging who I hope will play along:

1. southern sweetheart

2. kayla

3. ladybug

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Books of the Month - December 2008

For the last Book of the Month selections for 2008, I thought it would be good (for me) to stroll down memory lane and review one of my favorite fantasy series of all time. That series is The Belgariad, written by David Eddings.

That being the case, the first selection is Volume One, which contains the first three books in the original five book series. The first book, Pawn of Prophecy was published in 1982, followed by Queen of Sorcery, also in 1982 and Magician's Gambit in 1983.

I first stumbled on this series when I was a junior in high school and loved it from the first time I read it. I've been rereading this series recently, as I've done five or six times over the past twenty years.

The Belgariad will never be confused or mistaken for The Lord of the Rings trilogy or other pillars of the fantasy genre and that really is too bad. Eddings' puts in place some of his philosophy on the fantasy genre. His character development is strong, and the detail of the world in which his characters roam is wonderful. The characters are flawed but compelling and you become invested in them and actually care about (what happens to) them.

The story may be ordinary as far as the fantasy genre goes but there is something compelling about Eddings' writing style, though far from perfect, that keeps bringing me back. I seem to lose track of time when I get involved reading this story, even after all these years. Though I must say that I'm not too keen on this combined 3-in-1 book and prefer reading the individual volumes instead. Below is the original cover art for the first three books.

Pawn of Prophecy opens with the boy Garion living on a farm and being raised by his Aunt Pol. Occasionally a mysterious storyteller drops by the farm to visit. On one occasion the storyteller, comes by with news that a certain object has been stolen and needs to be recovered quickly, uprooting the life of Garion, his Aunt and Durnik, the smith. Turns out that the storyteller is Belgarath, a 7,000 year old sorcerer who happens to be Garion's grandfather, several hundred generations removed and Aunt Pol is Polgara the Sorceress, who herself is 3,000 years old. Garion, Durnik, Polgara and Belgarath are joined by other characters, and the quest to recover the certain object, which happens to be the powerful and legendary Orb of Aldur, begins.

I'm not going to tell you what happens in the other books. You'll have to find out for yourself! And I hope you do just that! Suffice it to say though that everyone I've recommended this series to over the years has loved it. I've never gotten any bad feedback from anyone.

Purchase your copy here.

The second selection this month is Volume Two, containing books four and five of the original five book series. The fourth book, Castle of Wizardry and the fifth book, Enchanter's End Game were both published in 1984.

Castle of Wizardry opens with Garion receiving his birthright and thus becoming King Belgarion, the long awaited heir to the Rivan throne and Guardian of the West. But one daunting task remains for the young king, of which prophecies have spoken for millennia. How it will turn out is anyone's guess, and nothing less than the fate of the universe rides on the outcome. Obviously.

Purchase your copy here.

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