May 23, 2006

Movies: Producers and Rumor Has It

The new movie version of the Broadway Musical The Producers was expectedly very good and fun, with me of course particularly liking the addition of the wonderful Uma. ***1/2

On the other hand, I was surprised at how much I liked Rumor Has It and actually found the plot to be quite reasonable. The idea is that this is a movie about the family that The Graduate was based on one generation later, but this fact never came out so even the Jennifer Anniston main character, who is the granddaughter of the Mrs. Robinson character, doesn't know it. When she finds out, she not surprisingly wants to find out what really happened and meets up with Kevin Costner, who plays the Dustin Hoffman character. Both Anniston and Costner do a great job with their roles and I just really enjoyed the movie. Big props to the writers for taking what seems an outrageous premise and making it quite believable, as basically every action the characters take is a reasonable one. ****

Posted by aarondf at 03:33 PM | Movies | Comments (0)

24 Finale

The season finale for 24 was absolutely excellent, maintaining the very high standard this whole season has had - not a bad episode in the entire season I think. The scene with Bauer and Logan was particularly great.

Posted by aarondf at 03:30 PM | Television | Comments (0)

May 17, 2006

Books of Late

Read the light fantasy His Majesty's Dragon over the last few nights and found it a very fun read and hard to put down and highly recommend it to people who like this sort of thing. It is basically a lighter version of Patrick O'Brian with dragons but given my dragon fetish, no surprise I actually liked it quite a bit more than O'Brian and am going to get the rest of the trilogy. On Amazon, the book has a nearly perfect 5 star rating.

Also read economist Steven Levitt's Freakonomics which was also excellent and will appeal to the same people who like Malcolm Gladwell's writings. Almost every story he talks about was interesting; I was particularly amused by the bagels in offices story at the end of the book - such interesting data from one guy's little business and that he luckily kept such detailed records of it. The abortion/crime thesis was of course also fascinating and does seem believable - I was quite surprised, however, at the number of abortions performed - had no idea it was that high.

Posted by aarondf at 12:49 PM | Books | Comments (0)

May 15, 2006

Healthcare comparison between US and UK

Interesting post by Malcolm Gladwell in his blog about a study done comparing health and the effectiveness of healthcare spending betweent he US and the UK. The US turns out to spend far more per person AND get much worse results. The comment about drinking levels was also quite a surprise to me.

Posted by aarondf at 03:52 PM | Links | Comments (0)

May 11, 2006

Google's Da Vinci Code puzzle Quest

I also while travelling finished the Da Vinci Code puzzle Quest which Google and Sony are doing to promote the movie and which is headed up by Wei-Hwa Huang. The puzzles were all very easy but I found it fun and worth doing. However, it seems like there was a pretty major screwup yesterday at just after 1pm as tons of people suddenly (but 100% predictable of course) bashed on their (Sony's I think for the final thing) servers and I am not 100% certain my entry (finished puzzle at about 1:05) got timestamped correctly. This was a pretty major mistake to make and I hope they are able to reconstruct things fairly.

I am actually even quite looking forward to the movie as the cast of it is an unbelievably strong one. Tom Hanks (Castaway), Audrey Tauto (Amelie) and Jean Reno (The Professional) have probably given three of the top 20 performances I've seen in a decade, not to mention Ian McKellan, Alfred Molina and Paul Bettany, and director Ron Howard certainly knows how to put together a good movie. The book was certainly mediocre but the movie may be much better.

Posted by aarondf at 04:26 PM | Games | Comments (1)

Visiting my father and Washington, DC

Went to visit my father for his 70th birthday (and coincidentally his last day of teaching at the Univ of MD). Amazingly, he is also selling the house I grew up in quite suddenly and the closing is in less than a month. Was a nice visit and good to see the place and area one last time (although no particular attachment to the house or most of the area really).

I also went into DC for the day while Dad was teaching and had a really nice time. I lived just outside of DC for many years and of course had been to almost all of the museums before but was very different for me 20 years later. Somehow, I had also never before made it to the Vietnam Memorial (built in 1982 in the middle of my time there [particularly interesting after having watched and really enjoyed the Maya Lin documentary a few years back]) or the Jefferson (liked less than the other memorials) or FDR (beautiful space and water features and very different which was nice) memorials which are a bit out of the way. The Lincoln memorial was as powerful as ever - setting, approach, design, engraved words all incredibly done. There were two things I really noticed and appreciated about the Washington center as a whole. First, I don't know of ANY other city in the world that devotes so much of its prime space to the past and memory in the form of museums and memorials. Making this feeling even stronger is that there are basically NO commercial attractions of ANY sort (shops or restaurants beyond the museum ones) in the mall/memorial area. There was also, nicely, very little security anywhere - was actually even hard to find anyone around the memorials to even ask a question of. Both of these factors for me really strengthed my immersion in the place for the day and introspective and retrospective mood. This day made me appreciate Washington much more than I had as a kid.

Was also so nice that the museums were (taxpayer financed of course) free so that I could briefly go in them for 10-15 minutes, more for reasons of memory than really seeing exhibits. The only museum I spent any real time in was the Sackler which had an exhibit on the Japanese artist Hokusai whose work I love. The headline piece was titled Thunder God and is a scroll (so unique as opposed to his wood block prints) which I had never seen before and absolutely adored, even more than his famous "Great Wave". The web version (and a modern reproduction scroll version the museum shop was selling for $375) unfortunately just doesn't do it justice as the vibrancy of colors and contrast just don't come through nearly as powerfully.

Posted by aarondf at 03:36 PM | Travels | Comments (0)

NPR: West Wing interview

John Wells, executive producer on the West Wing, was interviewed on NPR today. The show is of course ending this Sunday but I was particularly interested in this interview as Wells talks about and pieces are broadcast from the episode "Two Cathedrals", which I think is one of the best hours of television of any show ever broadcast.

Posted by aarondf at 02:54 PM | Television | Comments (0)

Board2Pieces Boardgame Comic

Almost all of these have been quite funny, but I found today's one to be particularly good, but you will only get it if you have played the boardgame Ra by Reiner Knizia.

Posted by aarondf at 11:09 AM | Games | Comments (0)

May 02, 2006

NBA: What a Shock?

As per my earlier posting about this, what a shock that Dallas sweeps Memphis and the Clippers win 4-1 over Denver. Think you still should have tried AT ALL to win that game, Memphis?

Posted by aarondf at 11:45 AM | Sports | Comments (0)