Monday, January 31, 2005

 

Horrible Crimes, Horrible Claims



Read this story from Last Thursday's Roanoke Times... In a nutshell, a man is serving time on child molestation charges, and the child who accused him now says she made the story up. I'm not one to typically support these kinds of causes, but I really think this guy probably is in jail for crimes he didn't commit. Here's the crux of the story:

The girl - who was 11 when she told a Roanoke County jury that (Aleck) Carpitcher repeatedly molested her over a six-month period - later said she made up her testimony. The girl said she was jealous of the time Carpitcher was spending with her mother. She figured that sexual allegations would get him kicked out of the house they all shared, she said, but had no idea her words would lead to a 38-year prison sentence.

Her testimony in 1999 was the only evidence the jury heard, and Carpitcher's lawyers have argued that keeping him locked up based on her now dubious credibility would be a miscarriage of justice.

...In one of her post-trial statements, the girl repeated her story that Carpitcher made a sexual comment to her - for which he was convicted of taking indecent liberties - but said he did not actually molest her. The later allegations led to Carpitcher's aggravated sexual battery and sexual penetration convictions.

But at other times, the girl has taken back all the allegations she made, said Christopher Amolsch, a Fairfax County lawyer who represents Carpitcher.


Thursday, January 27, 2005

 

Chuck Palahniuk



A friend gave us the collector's edition DVD of Fight Club for Christmas, and watching the extra footage inspired me to finally read some of Chuck Palahniuk's novels.

I'm always a little late getting into the latest literary thing.

Anyway, the local library only had two of Palahniuk's novels, Choke and Diary. I read Choke first and I've just finished Diary. I recommend them both to fans of dark humor and subversive fiction. Chuck Palahniuk reminds me of Vonnegut, Stephen King, and Elmore Leonard all at once.

I'll be reading as much of his stuff as I can get my hands on... it's been a while since an author's work entertained me this much.

Friday, January 21, 2005

 

Simon Cowell on the French



Wendy watches American Idol, so I watch it with her. I'm not really proud of that, but I do think it's at least one notch above the average reality televison show. I agree with Simon Cowell most of the time, which may not speak well of me, considering that most everyone thinks he's a jerk. Recently, Simon was asked about America's current animosity toward the French, and had this to say:

“We (the British) have hated the French for years. Now you (the United States) have just joined the club. It makes you much more likable.”

Yeah, he's a jerk, but I like him.

 

Evan Maloney and Brain Terminal



I've just discovered a new blog... new to me, anyway... and it's really worth checking out. Evan Coyne Maloney is a film-maker and blogger who just might be the right's answer to Michael Moore, at least according to Jacob Gershiman at the New York Sun. Evan's blog, Brain Terminal, is very good. I've added it to my blogroll.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

 

2005 Movies



2005 ought to be a good year for movies, what with the promising new Batman movie by Chris Nolan... and Peter Jackson's King Kong... and the first of the Narnia movies coming out. I've got some links and comments about my most anticipated cinematic releases of 2005 posted over at filmgeeks, if you care to read them.


 

Ghosts of Radio Past



This is cool: One of the guys I knew back in my radio days is doing pretty well for himself. Jeff Deminski is one of the most naturally funny guys I've ever known. I felt nostalgic last night and googled some of the folks I used to know and work with, and I found out about the Deminski and Doyle program at Live 97.1 in Detroit. Check out the webpage, and be sure and listen to the program if you're in the Detroit area.

____

Update: Listen to some podcasts of the show here.


Wednesday, January 19, 2005

 

Oh, No! I'm Gay! And I'm a Beast! I'm a Gay Beast!



According to the Which Simpsons Character Are You Quiz, which you can take by clicking the graphic below, I am SMITHERS! And all this time I've thought I was Homer! Doh!

This is made all the more ironic by the fact that my wife is Marge, according to the quiz.



I can live with that, though... because according to the much cooler and clearly more accurate Marvel Hero Identity Generator, I'm ALSO Dr. Hank McCoy:






 

Your Name in the Snow



Everybody should write their name in the snow at least once... click the graphic below to give it a try, even if you previously thought yourself ill equipt.



Tuesday, January 18, 2005

 

More from NY



Just a few more pictures from the trip...


The ten hour trip up was exhausting... and more so for some than others.




The ugliest library on the face of the earth.




Liam's uncle keeps goldfish outside and brings them in when it gets cold in the winter. Liam gave them names. He called one Mr. Scaredy because he was timid and hid from the children. He called another Mr. Hungry because he came to the surface looking for food every time someone passed by. He called another one Mr. Dead because he was dead.




I just love the Verrazano-Narrows bridge.



Monday, January 17, 2005

 

On Distances and Divisions



Wendy and I returned from a trip to New York last night. It’s good to be home. I’d missed my own bed and my dog and the slightly warmer Virginia weather. Nonetheless, the trip was wonderful, and I look forward to going again.

I enjoy visiting Wendy’s family and seeing New York. None of us, I suppose, is immune to predispositions about other parts of the country, and I must admit that I’m still shaking off some of my own dyed-in-the-wool ideas about the citizens of the big Blue state. I couldn’t resist snapping the picture below… it captures my lifelong ideas about New York in a nutshell:

Bagles and Liquors

There is, of course, more to New York than bagels, liquor, and liberals. Every trip I make up north is another reminder that I have a great many of my beliefs because I’ve chosen them and not because they’ve been formed by experience.

The highlight of the trip was our visit with Wendy’s uncle and aunt on Saturday night. Henry and Kathy are the kind of folks that I’ve always thought of as well-off. They’ve done well for themselves and their successes have afforded them opportunities that I envy. Still, Henry and Kathy are as down-to-earth and instantly likable as anyone I’ve ever met. Being well off isn’t always synonymous with being snooty, and I felt as welcome and accepted in their home as I have anywhere.

When I write that I envy some of the opportunities that Henry and Kathy have enjoyed, I’m mainly talking about the chances they’ve had to travel abroad. They’ve had a number of visits to Europe and Russia, and you only have to talk to them for a few minutes to see how much they’ve appreciated those visits. It’s apparent that their drive to travel is rooted in their interest in meeting and getting to know people, learning about other cultures and ways of life, and enriching their own lives in the process. I’ve always had preconceived ideas about Americans who spend time abroad, and none of those ideas apply to Wendy’s aunt and uncle.

Henry and Kathy have been visiting Russia and Eastern Europe since well before the fall of the Soviet Union. They’ve been first-hand witnesses to the changes that have taken place there over the past twenty years, and I loved talking to them about their experiences. Like most Americans, I have my own ideas about communism and inroads made by capitalism in the former USSR… but my ideas are based on what I’ve read, what I’ve seen on TV, and my own political inclinations. Talking to Henry and Kathy gave me an opportunity to understand those issues better… and, of course, to realize that things are both simpler and more complex than I imagine. Wendy’s aunt and uncle have shared meals with impoverished Russian families and with privileged Soviet officials. They’ve seen first hand exactly what communism does to a nation, the harm that it causes, and also the harm that it prevents. They’ve literally seen the Berlin Wall at its strongest, and they’ve seen it in ruins. They don’t need to be told about it. They haven’t had to form their ideas about what it means based on what they’ve read. They’ve been there, they’ve experienced it tangibly.

Wendy’s aunt and uncle were, of course, aware of the politics of that part of the world, and the effects that political change has had on the people who live there. But their interest is in the people themselves, first and foremost. To me, the end of the Soviet Union is a fascinating period of history and a series of interesting events that I watched on TV and read about. To Henry and Kathy, it was a major change in a part of their own world and it changed the lives of individual human beings that they know. If I can say that I saw the Berlin wall come down, then it must be said that they felt it come down. And in a way I can only imagine.

Talking with them about these things was wonderful for me. As I said, it made me acutely aware of how much of what I believe is based on predispositions that I’ve chosen for myself. The freedom to choose your beliefs is a luxury in itself. As I also said, I now have a refreshed sense of how things are usually both simpler and more complex than I realize.

Henry has several pieces of the Berlin Wall that he collected himself. Before we left, he gave me a piece of it. This was thrilling for me, as a history buff and as an occasional student of human nature. It’s a small piece of concrete about the size of my thumb, and I plan to find a place of honor to display it in our home. I’ll treasure it, not just as a souvenir of the visit to New York, and not just as a symbol of an important part of world history that occurred during my lifetime… but as a reminder of things I spend too little time thinking about. As a child, the Berlin Wall was an undeniable symbol of the things that separate us. As an adult, this small piece of rock is a symbol of what we have in common.

As we drove back to the hotel from Henry and Kathy’s house, my mind was racing. I was thankful for the opportunity to have spent some time with them, and for the chance to have spent some time seeing things with a clarity that I rarely enjoy. People are people. All of us, each individual among us, is a child of God. For all our differences, we are all the same. It doesn’t matter if we are separated by miles of interstate, or by oceans, or by the enmity of our governments. It doesn’t matter if our communication is impeded by the music of dialect or by the barriers of language. What matters is that we try to bridge our divisions, and that we try to enjoy our differences even as we work to overcome them. What matters is that we travel the miles that keep us apart. The trip is always worth it.


My Piece of History

 

Another Reason to Idolize Eastwood



My wife would tell you, if you were to ask her, that I idolize Clint Eastwood so much that it might be a little scary. I'm not about to become one of those nutcase celebrity stalkers, mind you... but to give you an idea of what a geek I am, I can recite from memory every line of dialogue from the movie "Unforgiven." Every word. Watching that movie with me must be a nerve-wracking experience.

So the last thing I needed was one more reason to idolize Eastwood. But I have one:


Go ahead, Mike.  Make his day.

'Dirty Harry' star Clint Eastwood told an awards ceremony in New York that he would "kill" 'Fahrenheit 9/11' filmmaker Michael Moore if he ever showed up at his front door with a camera, according to a report on Ananova.com. With Moore sitting in the audience, the Eastwood said: "Michael Moore and I actually have a lot in common - we both appreciate living in a country where there's free expression. But, Michael, if you ever show up at my front door with a camera — I'll kill you. I mean it."

Eastwood, a Republican, made the comments at the National Board of Review awards held in New York where he picked up a Special Filmmaking Achievement prize for 'Million Dollar Baby'.


God bless you, Rowdy. God bless you.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

 

Darrell's 2004 Movie Wrap-Up



The following item about the movies of 2004 is also posted at filmgeeks, the blog I share with my wife (she's posted her list as well, and although it's highly inaccurate, it's worth checking out ;)). Thing is, I'm a movie buff. I love film, and I'm probably inspired to ramble about film more than any other topic. So now and then, when I post something at filmgeeks that I think may be of general interest, I'll post it here, too.

The Best

01) The Passion of The Christ
I considered setting this movie aside and deeming it inappropriate for comparison to other movies because of the subject matter. The fact is, The Passion is a film that was a cathartic and spiritual experience for me, and it’s unfair to expect other films that are simply… well, films… to compete against that kind of thing. But the more I thought about it, I realized that was silly of me. Any movie I review is going to be written about from the perspective of the unique individual that I am. Each of us is a unique individual and we’ll react to movies, or anything else, for that matter, in a way unlike anyone else. The fact is, a big part of who I am is my belief in Jesus Christ as my personal savior… and Mel Gibson’s movie affected me deeply. No other movie has made the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ so visceral for me. No other cinematic depiction of the pivotal point in the history of my faith made the events as real or as immediate. It’s impossible for me to review The Passion objectively as a film-goer. I can only review it as a Christian. From that perspective, The Passion was the most meaningful movie-going experience I had this year, and for that, it is my movie of the year.

Just a note on the hype about the movie’s so-called anti-Semitism… anyone who sees this film and thinks it is an attack on Jews misses the point. Christians believe that the sacrifice of Christ was an atonement for the sinful nature of all mankind, not a murder at the hands of one race. Had Christ not been crucified, the salvation he offered his followers would not have been possible. It was because of my imperfection that Christ died. As a Christian, I must take responsibility for his crucifixion and it is incumbent on me to try to live a life worthy of his sacrifice. Blaming any people for the crucifixion of Christ is not only unchristian… it misses the point entirely. Mel Gibson’s film makes that clear.


02) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
If it hadn’t been for the profound religious experience of The Passion, Eternal Sunshine would have easily been my choice for film of the year. I can’t remember the last time a movie left me as wide-eyed and awe-struck as this one did. Just when you think that film-makers have exhausted all possible avenues of creativity, Michael Gondry comes along with entirely new ideas and an amazing vision. It’s easy to forget while watching Eternal Sunshine that movies like The Matrix and Forrest Gump ever even happened. Gondry’s visuals in Eternal Sunshine aren’t derivative of of anything else. But the best thing about the film is, it’s not just a jumble of great special effects. Eternal Sunshine is story and character driven, and in the middle of all those amazing visuals, there are also some amazing performances by the actors. Besides, Charlie Kaufman's screenplay is strong enough that, even with lesser direction, the movie would still probably have been good. This film has some shockingly insightful things to say about the nature of romantic relationships. Chief among the assets of the film is Jim Carrey. I’m not a fan of the Ace Ventura, Bruce Almighty crap that he turns out, and even though I liked him in Man on the Moon, I had NO reason to expect that he was capable of such a complete and rich performance as he gives here. I actually forgot that I was watching Jim Carrey while watching Eternal Sunshine. Even without Gondry’s amazing direction and visual style... even without Kaufman's outstanding screenplay... Carrey’s performance alone is reason to see Eternal Sunshine. That by itself makes the movie worth seeing.

03) Spider-Man 2
I still can’t get over how good this movie was. I could ramble about it for pages and pages. The first Spider-Man film was a bit of a disappointment, but the second one was so much better than I’d ever dreamed it could be. Ebert calls it the best super hero movie ever made, and I can’t argue with that. It’s up there with the first Batman movie and with The Crow. The cast is great, the special effects are extraordinarily good, and the story actually manages to capture everything that us fanboys have loved about the comic all these years. Spider-Man 2 is the vindication of every bad comic book movie ever made, and it gives us comic readers something to point to with pride.

04) Kill Bill Volume 2
KBV1 was one of the best films of 2003, so my hopes were high for the second volume. I left the theater a bit let down, I suppose because I’d gone in expecting the same action-packed brain candy of the first volume… but KBV2 is the kind of film that sticks with you after it’s over, and over time I’ve come to appreciate it more and more. I didn’t expect, well, nuance from the performances… especially considering that volume 1 was one big, loud, bloody cartoon. Instead of continuing in that same vein, Tarantino went for something different in the second volume. Once it sunk it with me, I realized that I’d seen a really great picture.

05) The Polar Express
I really loved this movie. In fact, I think Wendy and I liked it even more than the kids did. I’m sure it will endure as a holiday classic, and I look forward to buying the DVD and watching it again next year. I liked the animation, and I imagine that the film’s distinct look will be a key to the lasting appeal I expect it to have (much like the distinct look of Rudolph the Red Nosed Raindeer is a major reason that holiday special remains so beloved from generation to generation). The Polar Express was a lot of fun and really helped put me in the holiday mood this past Christmas… plus, it has the best movie-version of Santa’s North Pole I’ve ever seen.

06) Team America: World Police
In a year full of Michael Moore movies and left-wing jackass celebrities telling us how to feel about everything, it was great fun to see a movie that saw through their bulls#!% and called them on it. Team America made me laugh out loud more than any other comedy I saw this year, and reassured me that I wasn’t the only person who was sick of the liberal elites in Hollywood. Matt and Trey knocked it out of the park with this one.

07) The Bourne Supremacy
This sequel was as smart and fast and action-packed as the first film, and that’s really saying something. It’s rare when an action movie can entertain without being dumb. The makers of the Bourne movies have pulled it off twice. Keep it up, guys.

08) Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
See my review at filmgeeks.

09) Hero
Hero was a great visual treat, and should probably be higher on my list. It’s a really wonderful film. A solid, moving story… good performances… and beautiful visuals. It’s the whole package.


10) Finding Neverland
I liked this movie a whole lot. In fact, it’s safe to say that I loved it. Given, this movie is a great deal more conventional than the ones higher up my list… but it still moved me and effected me, and was an overall rewarding film. A friend of mine compared it to last year’s Burton film Big Fish, and while I can see the comparison, I think that Finding Neverland had a better story with better performances, and boasted visuals that were just as strong and fanciful.

The Rest:

Napoleon Dynamite
It was nice to see a comedy aimed at adults that I’d not mind our kids seeing. This is probably the “cult” movie of the year, and I can see why. Napoleon Dynamite was funny without being crude or mean, and even though I was laughing at the characters (as opposed to with them), I never got the sense that the film was designed to ridicule people. Some people, through no fault of their own, are just unintentionally funny. This movie is a chance to spend a couple of hours with those kind of people and laugh out loud at them instead of stifling your laughter, like you have to do in real life.

Hellboy
Good first hour, but the second hour was long, boring and repetitive. The second hour was bad enough to sink the whole ship. What a disappointment. I like the idea of a hero born of hellish origins who decides to turn his back on his nature and fight for good... so much more could have been done with this movie.

Shrek 2
The kids and I enjoyed it a lot more than Wendy did. I think that both Shrek films have been a lot of fun and I look forward to a third one.

Collateral
Another movie that I enjoyed more in retrospect than I did at first glance. Jamie Foxx was superb, as was Tom Cruise. I’ve come to expect damn good work from Cruise, but Foxx was a real surprise. I think the guy really has a future as a dramatic actor. When I think back on how good Collateral was, I’m really kicking myself for not dragging Wendy to see Ray.

Dawn of the Dead
A fun, light horror film. Better than I thought it would be, but nothing revolutionary. Movies like The Sixth Sense and Alien are so good that I recommend them to anyone, no matter if they are typically horror fans or not. That is not the case with this remake of Dawn of the Dead. It’s only for horror fans… and at that, it’s only for horror fans who are willing to lower their expectations a bit and just go with the flow for an hour and a half.

Dodgeball
Wendy and I went to see this hoping for a light, amusing comedy… and we got what we hoped for. I laughed out loud a few times, and that’s what I expect from a comedy. Rip Torne is the best thing in the film.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Wow! I’m not a fan of the first two Harry Potter movies, I consider them over-long and overwrought. This one, however, moved along at a fast pace and kept me interested and entertained. For the first time, I’m looking forward to the next Harry Potter movie!

Super Size Me
It was funny, it was smart, and it made me laugh and think.

The Village
Oh, good Lord, what a piece of crap. You owe us one, Shyamalan. You owe us one BIG TIME.

Garden State
See my review at filmgeeks.

The Incredibles
The Toy Story movies will always be my favorites from Pixar, but this film didn’t disappoint. I was in the minority who didn’t think that Find Nemo was all that great. I enjoyed The Incredibles more. I know, I know, us comic book geeks are inclined to feel that way, so sue me.

Kinsey
Oh, what an upsetting, unpleasant film. Sure it was a darn good film, but like Trainspotting, Kinsey was a movie that aimed to unsettle it’s audience, and it worked well. For the record, no, I am not a sexual prude who thinks that any movie that addresses human sexuality is automatically guilty of indecency… but Kinsey did such a good job of convincing me that Alfred Kinsey and his researchers had their lives ruined by their research (and their experimental promiscuity), that I left the theater unhappy and bothered. Yes, it was a well made, well acted film. No, I never want to see it again.

Monday, January 10, 2005

 

To Blog or Not To Blog?



I've been away from blogging for some time now, and I've had time to come to a few conclusions:

One, my drive to blog was pretty much driven by an intense interest in the outcome of the presidential election.

Two, my interest in blogging pretty much dried up as soon as the election was over.

Three, while blogging, I was trying to compete with Chrenkoff, MuD & PHuD, Weapons of Mass Distraction, and the other bloggers I'd come to read daily and admire. I wasn't competing consciously, but reading those blogs sets a high standard. The fact is, those guys are a great deal more driven and informed than I am when it comes to politics... and I'll never be a source for political information and opinion like they are. My interest in politics is driven by national elections and big stories. When there's nothing going on nationally, I lose interest.

I still like to write, though. And it doesn't really matter if anyone ever reads this blog or not, when I'm honest with myself. I write for my own enjoyment and as a way of entertaining myself. Does it really matter if anyone reads this thing as long as I'm having fun?

Not really.

So I'll keep blogging whenever I feel like I have something I want to write about. For the most part, this blog will serve as a way to communicate with friends and relatives and to provide me with a "voice" on the internet... and if I don't come up with entries that generate links from other bloggers, that's fine, too.

So welcome to "The Southern Conservative, 2.0." Less rambling about politics, more rambling in general.

I hope you find something here that you consider worth reading.

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