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29 January 2004
The Comments They Are a Changin'

Well, I've finally switched to Haloscan. With a bit of luck (and better servers) this'll solve most of the issues some of you have had with posting. When I have more time, I'll be seeking out a better template for them, but for now this one's suitable. At least it ain't pink.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   9:55 AM
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Negating the Negative

Alas, I could not take the negative colours anymore. Far too ... pink. And it seems neither could anyone else, as I seem to have frightened my few commenters away. Sigh. So much for change. It's mostly back to normal now--the original template's at home, so I've approximated the original colours for the time being. And I like Reynard as he is for now. But a new image is forthcoming--just need some time.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   9:16 AM
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28 January 2004
Movie Review

Though I rather missed the end of the year for this, I thought now that the Oscar nominations are out that I might do a sort year-in-review bit. Of course, this is kinda limited to what we saw this year (and that wasn't much), but still, I figure it should be at least twice as entertaining as the Oscars (not a difficult feat), and not nearly so political and self-congratulatory. So, without further ado, here goes:

Best Movie for Seeing Lots of Things Get Blowed Up
It may not have been as cutting edge as the first movie, or as epic and poignant as the second, but Terminator 3 excelled where no other movie did in 2003--destroying everything possible. More buildings get torn down, more vehicles crushed, more humanoid machines tossed about that you can possibly imagine. All in a movie that's actually not half bad--I mean, it's no Amadeus, but it's a heck of a ride with an ending I wouldn't have expected.

Best Pirate Flick
Is there really any contest? Do I even need to mention the name? No, I don't think so.

Most Annoying Line in a Movie, But Which Actually Worked in the Trailer
Though it made me chuckle every time I saw the trailer, Keira Knightley's corset line in the above-mentioned pirate flick really fell flat. I cringe at it now every time.

Most Pointless Scene
Matrix Reloaded wins this for its writhing dance sequence. Everyone in it looks scrungey enough to qualify for being in a Dr. Pepper commercial, it's overlong, and, well, pointless. With the exception of that, some rubbery-looking CG, and an otherwise fun fight scene that goes on far, far too long, I really enjoyed the movie. Its few flaws are a shame, really. I mean, pretentiousness we've come to expect of a Matrix movie, so that's nothing new. But otherwise, it was much fun. Still need to see the third, alas....

Best Movie Based on a Comic Book
Hands down:X2. Even if they hadn't given us a spot-on, perfect Nightcrawler (terrific performance by Alan Cummings), the movie was wonderfully done. Not to mention the hint at fiery things to come in the next movie (also, one of the better, and subtler, hints at a sequel). No other compared this year, in my opinion, though admittedly, I've not yet seen Daredevil--not all that interested, either. It's been recommended by trusted friends, but Ben Affleck really gets on my nerves.

Best Animated Fish With No Short-Term Memory
Dory, of Finding Nemo, which would also be the best animated film this year, though 2003 was sadly lacking in good animated tales. 'Cause while Sinbad looked all right, it just wasn't that good. Nemo succeeds everywhere, and Dory is just bloody hilarious. The bit where she does her whale calls had me in pain.

Worst-Looking Movie, Based on Preview Alone
Of course, most of the tripe that hits the theatres could land in this category, but if you have to pick one, my vote goes to Kangaroo Jack. Shudder.

Best Portrayal of Elvis, Ever
Bubba-Hotep may be the weirdest movie ever made, but Bruce Campbell's turn as the King may have been better than Presley himself. An oddly touching performance, despite the crudities.

Best Actress
This is really not easy, 'cause I can't say there've been all that many stand-out performances in the films I've seen this year, and I rarely care for the Oscar picks. They seem to laud actresses for being extremely emotional, or excessively bitchy. The best I can offer is Jennifer Connelly, who I thought did pretty well in The Hulk, despite my overall disappointment in the movie. And Miranda Otto again shines as Eowyn in Return of the King. But I can't really recall any others worthy of note, sad to say.

Best Actor
Tough category. I'm pleased that Bill Murray was nominated by the Oscars. Though I haven't seen Lost in Translation yet, it's great to see him up there. I could easily give the title to many actors--amongst them, amazingly enough, Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, who for the first time ever (I think) played a character other than Tom Cruise on screen, and did so pretty well. In the same film, Ken Watanabe gave a singularly beautiful performance. And Russell Crowe nearly gets the win for his damn fine Jack Aubrey. But perhaps edging him just ever-so-slightly is Johnny Depp, 'cause Jack Sparrow is just about one of the most wonderful characters to waltz across the screen. So no, I'm not settled at all. I could go on, for Billy Boyd did wonderfully in Return as Pippin (you may note that I don't discriminate between actor and supporting actor--I abhor the idea that screen time makes any difference in performance; it merely differentiates the actors' salaries, if ya ask me). And I've already mentioned Bruce Campbell. But I think I shall just leave it undecided, and applaud them all.

Best Director
I've always been more partial to the screenwriters than the directors, but since this is running long, and my brain is running weary, I'll be brief, and stick to the easy ones. Peter Weir did a beautiful job with Master and Commander, but I hafta side with Peter Jackson here. He's done something really amazing with LOTR, and I hope has lent some credibility to the fantasy movie. We've had a dearth of good ones, and I think he's more than made up for that. And I think no one can deny that the final product would have paled in any other's hands.

Best Movie
Not as tough as I might've thought. I really liked Return of the King, but it felt incomplete (something I'm certain will be remedied by the extended edition). Master and Commander was a brilliant film, and brought Patrick O'Brian's characters and stories (as it meshed bits from several novels into one cohesive story) to life in a masterful way that I confess I had not thought possible. I had honestly expected to be giving the title to ROTK, but I cannot deny that M&C is a better film, and my high opinion of it actually improved on a second viewing.

Right. So, not as long as the Oscars, and hopefully at least moderately more entertaining. Feel free to pipe in with other suggestions, and remember, our purse makes us infrequent moviegoers, so I can only comment on what I've seen. But recommendations are always welcome.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   2:24 PM
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25 January 2004
Do Not Adjust Your Set!

It's negative image week here at the Home of the Jelly-Pinched Wolf!

Why? 'Cause I was bored, and because I wanted a change. Aren't the negative colours horrid? At least Mr. Reynard looks pretty cool. Well, we shall leave it up for a week, or until we get sick looking at these wretched colours.

Jelly Pinched Wolf   5:06 PM
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23 January 2004

A while back I mentioned a forthcoming redesign to this here blog. Well, it is forthcoming no more. In fact, methinks it is stalled indefinitely. Kathy's classes have begun again, and her time outside homework is limited. With any free time, she writes, and I would not have her divert that time away for something so unimportant as the look of this site. Alas, if I could but draw (for it is a requirement of the intended new layout), I would take care of things myself--though I fear the poor blog would receive a pretty shabby treatment at these hands. But that is neither here nor there, and I may tinker with it once in a while if the mood presents itself. Might give Mr. Reynard a vacation, at the very least.

But the posts will continue, and that is the important thing for a blog, is it not? And the new look is not abandoned, but in a holding pattern. In the meantime, the Jelly-Pinched Wolf doth write on.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   2:12 PM
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Mediocre Movies

Caveat: To those friends whom I know to have liked the following, I beg thee please to not take offense.

Couple weekends ago, my wife and I decided to rent some movies we'd wanted to see for a while, but hadn't had the chance. Alas, the not seeing of them proved to have been for the best. Disappointment galore, 'cause they both had such potential, and failed.

We started with League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Despite the bad reviews, we still wanted to see it--it just looked like big cheesy fun. It wasn't. It wasn't even a good bad movie. As many know, there are really bad movies out there that are still fun. They almost revel in their badness. Like Big Trouble in Little China. Not a good movie--but in a way, it's great. So fun, so cheesy. And at least you can more or less follow its plot. Heck, at least it has a plot. League has nothing of the sort. I think I have a vague idea of what was going on. Secret society of hero-types (who also happen to be literary characters) brought together to stop evil guy from starting a world war. Yet most of the movie is spent introducing the characters, I assume to make you care about them--and in that it also fails. Woe seems to beg at each one's door, and it seems far too much time is invested in them all lamenting their wretched existences. There's not even a build-up to a great climactic scene. Some stuff happens (vaguely), then some more stuff happens (even more vaguely), and all the while you find yourself thinking, "You know, nothing's really happening. No one's actually doing anything in this film." Any action it might have is all very ... well ... vague. And then there's the villain, who's just plain pathetic. No real motivation, no charisma. He's not interesting in the least, and you wonder how he can even manage to be that much of a threat to the world. In the end, he's really rather boring. Which is my biggest problem with the movie--it's bloody boring! With all this stuff going on, nothing happens. Except for grand, dramatic pronouncements (That is the sound of Treachery!), which are almost endearing at first, but grow wearisome as the movie wears on, and you find that this is about the only way these characters know how to speak. It's not the worst movie I've ever seen. But it's not good, and it was a terrible disappointment--and let us not even speak of the terrible train wreck of a special effect that was Edward Hyde. The best thing one can say about it is, "Well, that certainly was a movie."

So, after that let-down, we hoped for the best with Underworld. It looked so very cool, with its sleek, artsy, neo-goth style. If only it had added a little colour to that, at some point in the movie (besides the brief shot of those red dresses in that one very short scene and the occasional splash of blood), the style might not have worn on me so. It's very drab, and since there's not a lot that actually happens in this movie either, the combination of bleak and boring just makes it drag tremendously. Yes, it would have been nice if the movie had bothered to go somewhere. On top of this, you've got pretention. Claims (and lawsuits) have been made that this film is based a little too closely on Whitewolf's Worlds of Darkness. I can believe it. As pretentious as the film is, I can see the stamp of Vampire: The Maquerade all over it.

In case you don't know, Underworld is about hip, sexy vampires who hunt down and kill brutish, mangy werewolves (here called Lycans--because I'm guessing the extra syllable in lycanthrope is too much when you're as incredibly cool as these vamps; I confess, I kept hearing "lichen" throughout the film, and wondered if it might be more interesting if the vampires were out fighting evil moss and other fungi). In its favour, one can actually suss out the story of this film. As to why any of it's going on, I'm a bit fuzzy, though. Kate Beckinsale, our grumpy, ersatz heroine, gives a voiceover history at the beginning, but it's all very blah, blah, blah, and I don't believe it really explained much. Neither does the movie itself. I hope that I, as viewer, was supposed to actually care for the head of the Lycans, because I did. In fact, I found him far more sympathetic than either Kate, or the other lead guy (note the non-memorableness of the character names). Mostly, I think the movie suffers from taking itself far, far too seriously, and from being too pleased with its own style. It looks cool, but the unwavering grey really gets annoying after ten hours. Or at least, that's how long the movie feels. It's likely closer to two, but goodness, I thought it would never end.

And that is about all I can say without beating the poor, pathetic films too much into the ground. Were they perhaps more bad, I might not have been so annoyed by them. But they committed a greater movie crime by being boring and bland. A bad movie can always be MST'd. These two don't even allow that luxury, sad to say.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   11:44 AM
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16 January 2004

Finally got the opportunity to show my wife Alien last night, and happily, she enjoyed it. Even more happily, I still do. It's been many-a and many-a since I last saw the thing, and though I was pretty certain of its quality, I did wonder a bit if it still held up after so much time.

Of course, my first viewing of the film (way back in 1979, the year of its release, when I was a mere pup of six and my family all ventured out to the drive-in to see it) pretty much cemented its goodness in my heart and mind, and repeated viewings also didn't fail, but still, it's nice to look at something after you've done a good bit of living and still say, "Yup, that's mighty fine, that is."

I unfortunately did not get to see Ridley Scott's cleaned up Director's Cut in the theatres this past autumn, but luckily found the Alien Quadrilogy at Fry's on the last day of a sale after Christmas for $49.99. That's cut down from $79.99 at most places, and nigh $100 at others. Now the Quadrilogy, in case you're not in the know, is a dvd set of all four Alien movies, presented in both original theatrical release and updated 2003 versions, all widescreen, plus commentary on all versions, plus more extras than you can imagine. Nine dvds in all. I revel in the plethora of visual media!

Though I shall save my "tired of obvious CG special effects" rant for another day, let me just say that it was terribly refreshing to watch a movie that had to rely on mostly physical effects and the talent of director, cinematographer, and crew to pull off the visual suspense. The film really is a marvel of cinema, using all the perfect techniques to get the most out of every shot. Good pacing, great lighting, showing just enough to let your imagination fill in the rest. Ahhhh, I love it!

If you've not seen it, or haven't seen it recently, please do. It's not the quickest paced or most action-y movie in the world, but it is very fine nonetheless. You will not regret. Now, just have to find the time to move on to the next in the series: Aliens.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   4:10 PM
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15 January 2004
Musical Interlude

So, now that we're all caught up on my life-doings of late, I thought it might be time to trip back on over to the creative side o' things. And what better way to start than with a music review?

Back a few years, I followed a recommended link on, and discovered a young lass from Barnsley, England (in the South Yorkshire region) by the name of Kate Rusby. A few brief samples later, I'd order her first cd, and upon its arrival, I knew I'd found something special in her music. Rusby does the sort of traditional folk (and original works as well, done in the same style) that so very often sings of lost, cruel, or dead lovers, the wistful yet melancholy lure of the sea, and guys named Willy. She has a beautiful, distinctive voice and her arrangements of the traditional songs often brings to them something new and fresh, while still retaining the feel and intent of the original.

Rusby's got five albums now: Hourglass, Sleepless, Little Lights, 10 (re-recorded, remastered, or live versions of some of her best), and her most recent, Underneath the Stars. I just received the latest yesterday, and am loving it muchly. Though none of her work is less than darned good, this is easily her best since Sleepless. There's an undercurrent of fun running through the disc which livens it up and alleviates some of the melancholy (which can get to be a bit much in the sort of traditional tunes she tends to work with, if you're not quite in the right mood).

I reckon she's got something of a following on this side of the pond, which is good. Too many artists and groups (like the Cardigans) are only available here now as pricey imports. Heck, some US-based groups, like Shivaree, are only available as imports from Europe. I understand why it's done--if they sell better there, why bother putting the money into selling them here?--but it doesn't mean I have to be happy about paying over $30 for a CD from a group based in (I think) California. No, not happy is I. But, rant aside, I am pleased that Kate Rusby has been consistently released over here (on the usual six-month delay from the European release). More should be listening to her music--it's soothing and happifying, and what more could you ask of your music?

So, all in all, The Jelly-Pinched Wolf doth highly recommend you look into Kate. Mayhap folk music isn't your thing, and that's all right. But if you lean that way even a bit, I doubt you'll be disappointed. And should you want more info, check out her site--
Jelly Pinched Wolf   11:14 AM
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14 January 2004
Good Deeds

Those of you who follow my wife's
blog may recall that her car Aloysius died this past summer, and was soon replaced by the wonderful and stately Admiral Nelson. Well, I'd been meaning to get rid of Aloysius since that time, yet the motivation was never quite strong enough (for I am a lazy boy at heart). So, when Kathy went to visit her family over New Year's, I finally decided it was time ot get motivated, and made a few phone calls. The first place was promising, but after several instances of waiting for their "buyer" to call me back, I gave up. Other places either had no use for the hulk of an '88 Honda Accord, or were wrong numbers, or any number of other issues which resulted in me not being able to rid us of the blasted car. Finally, I happened to mention the Dallas Can! Academy (see here for details) charity while visiting with some friends, and it so happened Anna and Russ had given their non-running car to the same place once upon a time. And so I filled out the form on their website the day of my surgery, and that same day they had come and towed the car away.

And though I'd certainly have liked to have gotten a couple hundred for the car (or even $50), I can't say how wonderful it feels to have given it away to some kid who otherwise might not get a car. There's something really special about that first car, and no matter how beat up or crappy it might be, one never forgets--nor, I believe, ceases to love--their first car. Having the freedom to drive yourself to and from school is something of a rite of passage in this modern culture of ours--or so it seems to me. I was lucky in that my father obtained my first car very cheap and fixed it up himself. I doubt most teens have that luxury.

Despite his many problems, Aloysius is far from dead. There were just too many repairs for us to bother with. But with some fixing up and a new alternator, he'll make a good first car for a teen somewhere here in Dallas, and I'm really glad to have offered him up for that purpose. So I wish him and his eventual new owner the best of luck. May you zoom again, Aloysius!
Jelly Pinched Wolf   10:26 AM
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I'll only say this once: Having teeth pulled really bites.

Or rather, doesn't bite that much--not when the consistency of my food these past days has been soft, and broccoli has been something of a challenge to chew. Still, the soreness I've suffered has not been great, and I suspect things could be far worse. Slept about sixteen hours after my surgery, broken only for about three minutes during which I said hello to my wife, told her I was hungry, then promptly realised my stomach had no desire to hold food, sending me back to sleep. But goodness how I long for a steak. Or even a cookie! Something more substantive than oatmeal or soup. And the rinse I have for my gum holes leaves a horrid aftertaste.

Chewing is growing easier, though, and I should be fine by the weekend. And I can smile again without wincing, which is good, 'cause my wife often makes me smile. Things return to normal.

Minus two teeth, of course.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   8:29 AM
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09 January 2004

(lack of exclamation point intentional)

In a mere couple of hours, I shall be heading in for some lovely oral surgery. Cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I am at the prospect of having my mouth cut open and the days of soreness afterward. Whee.

And you know the worst part? No coffee today or for several days after. That's gonna cause the real pain, lemme tell ya.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   11:56 AM
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08 January 2004
Bad Joke

Several weeks ago, I came up with a very bad joke that I must share with the world. So, for those of you whom I've not yet told, here 'tis:

Q: What do you call a professional boxer who is neither liquid nor solid?

A: Gaseous Clay.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   8:30 AM
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07 January 2004

Hey, I'm on a roll!

Something I've been meaning to post for a while, but alas, laziness got in the way, as it so often does. Anyone out there know the meaning and origin of the phrase "charyou tree?" My wife and I first came across it in Stephen King's Wizard and Glass, the fourth part of his Dark Tower series, where it's a burning-at-the-stake sort of thing. Then we heard a song by Collapsis (a very good, but unfortunately now-defunct band from the east coast) by the same name--"Charyou Tree." Couldn't find anything in a dictionary or online, other than references to these two works. So, we're thinking that either Collapsis is a King fan, and King made it up, or we're just missing some bit of lore that explains its origins. So if anyone out there has a bit o' knowledge on the subject, it'd most appreciated.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   10:55 AM
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He lives! He breathes! He finally bloody blogs!

I'm not going to apologise for the lack of posting. If I did that everytime I hadn't blogged in a while, that's all I'd ever do here. Instead, I'll just do a bit of an update on all the doings during this past lengthy hiatus (though, to be sure, not all that much ado has transpired). First, there were the holidays. They went. Not much else to say about them, really. Certainly, they were enjoyable--much feasting, happy times spent with family and friends, a wee bit of time off from work. Yet I'm glad they're done. Too much stress, too many other little things that needed to doing to draw time away from relaxing with me wife, and working on me book.

Otherwise, I can't say all that much has been happening. Lots of reading (including the fifth part of Stephen King's Dark Tower series, which I'm about halfway through now). A bit of final editing on the novel--though not nearly as much as I'd like. In fact, I got more done last night than I have in many a week. Fie on the holidays! Well, maybe not fie, but at least a phooee. There are happy gifts and good food involved, after all. So, I'm nearly halfway through now, and the editing is going much more quickly as I get away from the beginning, which needed more work. Fewer silly grammatical mistakes, as well.

While my wife was visiting her family around the New Year, I took the opportunity to rent some movies which Kathy had no interest in seeing. 28 Days Later was sorely disappointing. Perhaps the hype, or Danny's Boyle's past work (Shallow Grave and Trainspotting being highlights), got my expectations a bit too high. I dunno. I just know that while the suspense was well done, and it had some interesting ideas, it was, on the whole, rather dull. Underwhelmed was I. Similarly, The Hulk was a whole lot of nothing going on. Not a bad movie, just not all that great. Again, I expected better of Ang Lee. Finally, there was The Italian Job which was the best of the batch, by far. It never tries to be more than it is--a fun heist flick. Seth Green is hilarious, and though he's not long on screen time, Donald Sutherland really shines. Definitely recommend it if ya get the chance.

Finally, the blog redesign is still forthcoming. Can't say when exactly, but it has not yet been abandoned. And mayhap once it's done, I might find more to post than me boring ol' life updates. As ever, we shall see.
Jelly Pinched Wolf   10:30 AM
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