Sunday, December 30, 2012

Peter Jackson's The Hobbit



Since I've got almost exactly the same things to say about Peter Jackson's Hobbit as I said about his King Kong, I might as well start with excerpts from that review.
But there's a serious problem. The movie is too long. Way, way too long...it's all spectacular. It's a visual treat...but there's just too much of it. There's not nearly enough story for a 3-hour movie. There are far too many scenes that don't do anything to move the narrative forward. At all. ...From start to finish, it takes longer to get from point A to point B than the story really warrants. ..The casting is all fine, the performances are all good, the visuals are virtually uniformly spectacular. It's just that every step the film takes after the opening is a ponderous step. Jackson's so in love with the images that he's putting on screen, that he can't actually use them to service a story.
That was my reaction to King Kong.  My reaction to The Hobbit?

Ditto.

It was, frankly, better than I expected up through the Rivendell scene.  I found it almost unwatchable after that. (Ok, that might be a bit strong, as the Bilbo-Gollum scene was well done.)  But the Goblin scene was (and I know, I've said this before) just Too.  Darned.  Long.  And far, far too visually busy.  It was the visual equivalent of white noise.

 The people in my house that know the source material (I've only read it 2 or 3 times, and the last one was 15 years ago) were bothered by changes that didn't bother me.

I thought it was very typical Peter Jackson - superbly made but just too long, too repetitive, and too visually busy. It reminded me of his King Kong. He falls in love with everything he can do, everything he films, and gives it to us, even when it doesn't advance the story in any way.

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Friday, December 28, 2012

Steyn: Laws Are for Little People



Even among Steyn columns, this is a standout.

Which is saying something...
To Howard Kurtz & Co., it’s “obvious” that Gregory didn’t intend to commit a crime. But, in a land choked with laws, “obviousness” is one of the first casualties — and “obviously” innocent citizens have their “obviously” well-intentioned actions criminalized every minute of the day. Not far away from David Gregory, across the Virginia border, eleven-year-old Skylar Capo made the mistake of rescuing a woodpecker from the jaws of a cat and nursing him back to health for a couple of days. For her pains, a federal Fish & Wildlife gauleiter accompanied by state troopers descended on her house, charged her with illegal transportation of a protected species, issued her a $535 fine, and made her cry. Why is it so “obvious” that David Gregory deserves to be treated more leniently than a sixth grader? Because he’s got a TV show and she hasn’t?

Anything involving guns is even less amenable to “obviousness.” A few years ago, Daniel Brown was detained at LAX while connecting to a Minneapolis flight because traces of gunpowder were found on his footwear. His footwear was combat boots. As the name suggests, the combat boots were returning from combat — eight months of it, in Iraq’s bloody and violent al-Anbar province. Above the boots he was wearing the uniform of a staff sergeant in the USMC Reserve Military Police and was accompanied by all 26 members of his unit, also in uniform. Staff Sergeant Brown doesn’t sound like an “obvious” terrorist. But the TSA put him on the no-fly list anyway. If it’s not “obvious” to the government that a serving member of the military has any legitimate reason for being around ammunition, why should it be “obvious” that a TV host has?
Read it all...

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Amazon.com will begin collecting taxes in Massachusetts


If what you're really into is maximizing the size, scope, cost, and, therefore, power, of government, then this is great news.
Amazon.com, the huge online retailer, will begin collecting Massachusetts sales tax on purchases made by Bay State customers, starting next fall, Governor Deval Patrick’s office said Tuesday.

“I value the contributions large and small employers alike make to Massachusetts’ economic vitality, and this agreement captures that,” Patrick said in a statement. “We are thankful Amazon was willing to come to the table and we will continue our conversations with them about creating jobs here. This agreement is a win for all sides, and I am pleased it promises to generate millions in long-term revenue for the Commonwealth.”
"A win for all sides."

Except for, you know, Massachusetts' Amazon customers. Like me.

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Here we go again...

So, the New England Patriots are, once again, laying waste the National Football league. After a slow start, which included a two-point loss to the Arizona Cardinals and a one point loss in Baltimore, they've righted the ship, clinched their division (again) and taken control in the race for one of the two AFC playoff byes. And they are doing it with prodigious offense (again) and improving and complementary defense and special teams.

And, again, the numbers are impressive.  In the wake of New England's 42-14 demolition of the AFC-best-record Houston Texans...
  •  The 97 point gap between the points that the number 1 Patriots (472) and the number 2 Denver Broncos (375) have scored is the same as the 97 point gap between the Broncos and the number 21 Pittsburgh Steelers (278).
  • The 198 point differential between the Patriots and their opponents (472-274) is the biggest in the league by 66, over the 49ers (132).  The difference from the 49ers to number 7 Chicago (89) is 54 and to number 8 Atlanta (78) is 74.
  • In the last 10 years, only four teams have finished a season with a bigger point differential than the 2012 Patriots' current 198.  The 2011 Packers (201), the 2011 Saints (208), the 2010 Patriots (205) and ... the 2007 Patriots (315).  The 2012 Patriots have three games left.
  • The Kansas City Chiefs have scored 195 points total.  The Patriots have scored 198...more than their opponents.
  • The worst defensive team in the NFL, the Raiders, have allowed 402 points.  The Patriots have scored 70 more than the Raiders' opposition.
And once again, the New England Patriots are probably the favorites to win the AFC and go to the Super Bowl.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Mele Kalikimaka


One more piece from Sunday's Winter Concert - two of the Corps' instructors.

Because nothing says Christmas like steel drum and ukelele...


Mele Kalikimaka

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Monday, December 03, 2012

More Fife and Drum

From Sunday's Winter Concert in Lexington...







The Corps takes the stage...





The "Cat in the Hat" Standpiece





The "Sweeney Suite"...

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Sunday, December 02, 2012

Service Medley

The William Diamond Jr. Fife and Drum Corps perform a medley of tunes of the United States Armed Forces at their Winter Concert, Cary Hall, Lexington, MA.


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