28 February 2010

Vote With Your Money

I just this morning heard about a campaign to encourage people and businesses to move their money out of the country's big, money-grubbing banks and into smaller banks and credit unions. The hope is that these smaller, more community-oriented financial institutions will loan money to the community and not spend it on whoppin' huge ass executive bonuses or expensive Washington lobbyists.

Can there be a better way for the small guy to tell these obscene banks where to put it? I don't think so.

Matt and I are already, unknowingly, part of the campaign. We have our money in a credit union, in accounts we started when we were both working for our two daily newspapers. After we both lost our jobs at the papers, we never thought of moving the money. I liked the idea of a smaller, local financial institution using our savings to help people buy cars and homes. That was neat.

Anyway, we still have our money there, and I encourage you to find a small community bank or credit union in which you can put your savings. I am sure you would rather your money go into the house down the street, than into the mansion across the country.

You can read about the origin of the "Move Your Money" campaign here.

Visit the campaign's website here.

20 February 2010


Is there a better chocolate candy than Cadbury's Creme Egg? I will save you the trouble of having to think: there is not. No arguments; no debate. Best chocolate in the world? Cadbury's Creme Egg. They are only available in the spring, so stock up now. (And no, I have no affiliation with Cadbury other than being an enthusiastic fan.)

The photograph shows how you will find them in the wild (top) and what they look like when they are hatching.

14 February 2010

They Are Married, Too!

We never watched the new "Battlestar Galactica" because I grew up on the original and just thought it was sacrilege to redo it. (I heard it was a great series and all, but still....) However, we started watching "Caprica" because I have always been a big fan of shows that seriously attempt to imagine the future. (I understand the whole Galactica world is our past, but it is still futuristic.)

We are going along watching and caught the subtle gay comment in a previous episode (a guy says something like "He was talking to a woman and I was busy trying to pick up her brother") and that totally got our attention.

So, in the last episode we see this guy in a home setting talking with his male spouse (pictured) and all is totally normal and usual -- nothing unusual at all (kinda like at our house) and we are all excited because not only do they have gay characters, the characters are married just like we are! (And, of course, they are both gorgeous, just like we are. Will the similarities never end?)

One of the creative people involved in the show talks about the genesis of the character

So, way to go SyFy (or the original and immensely more logical SciFi)!

12 February 2010

Don't Mess with "Mildred"

I am a big film buff, with my main area of interest being films made during Hollywood's golden age of the 1930s and 1940s. That was when the studio system was working like a well-oiled machine, cranking out hundreds of films each year -- some duds, but some great examples of an art form.

One of the best studios for this was Warner Brothers in Burbank (which we have toured twice). One of the best films of the period was Warner's "Mildred Pierce."

"Mildred Pierce" was made in 1945, and starred Joan Crawford, Eve Arden, Ann Blyth and Jack Carson (with a fun cameo by favorite Joyce Compton). Based on the novel by James M. Cain, it is the quintessential product of the studio system. Every person involved in the film was at his / her pinnacle: Crawford won an Oscar, the film was nominated for Best Picture, Best Screenplay and Best Cinematography. Arden and Blyth were nominated for acting. If you want to see a prime example of the quality of film turned out during this period, you would not have to go farther than "Mildred Pierce." (It was added to the National Film Registry in 1996.)

But, Hollywood cannot leave its hands off a good thing. Plans to re-make "Mildred Pierce" date back to the 1980s when it was announced Faye Dunaway had purchased the rights to the story with an intent to star in it. (Dunaway's 1981 bomb "Mommie Dearest" included extended scenes centered around "Mildred Pierce" and Crawford's Oscar win.) Dunaway's version never appeared (thank the gods).

Now it is announced that HBO is producing a five-part miniseries version of "Mildred Pierce."

Normally, such news would incense me. However, this time, I am torn, and here's why:

HBO has a fantastic record with original film projects -- including the recent success with "Grey Gardens."

Directing will be Todd Haynes who proved with "Far From Heaven" (2002) that he understood period film and period filmmaking.

Mildred will be played by Kate Winslet. There are not a lot of younger actors today whose work I respect, but Winslet is one of them. She survived a rocky performance in "Titanic" to achieve creative success with many films -- among them "Little Children" (2006) -- and win an Oscar in 2009.

With this kind of pedigree, it is hard to be alarmed by Hollywood tinkering with a classic. In fact, I am actually feeling pretty good about this news. The 1945 film version strays far afield from Cain's novel -- which is substantially darker and meaner. Times were different, then; and I am hoping this new version stays closer to the original novel. (You think Veda was evil in the film? She was an angel compared to the Veda in the novel.) So, I am taking a cautious and optimistic stand with this one, willing to give Hollywood a chance to redeem itself.

You can read more about this project here.

10 February 2010

The Bowl May Have Been Super...

I thought it was true that, when the economy was in a slump, television commercials got funnier. Apparently not -- especially if the lackluster crop from this year's super bowl was any indication.

Matt and I are always right there with the digital video recorder to capture every last minute of the superest of bowls -- not for any love of the sport (is it basketball? Wait. Give me a minute.); rather, a love of the soon-to-be-iconic, cleverer by half, brillantly witty offerings by Madison Avenue and all points north, south, east and west.

But for 2010? Not so much.

So, with much debate, here is the official list of best super bowl adverts for 2010 (there are only two) and three honorable mentions:


Audi - Green Police
Brilliant parody of the length the eco-minded can go to push their cause (and I am one of them, so I can speak from experience). This one scored extra points because the guy driving the car is cute.

Denny's - Chickens Across America
Who doesn't love screaming chickens? Extra points for this one for the "in space no one can hear a chicken scream" bit. Loved it.

Honorable Mentions

Cars.com - With Knowledge Comes Confidence Liked how the creators of this carried the "my kid's a genius" cliche to new heights. Extra points for the first commerical ever to show the birth of a baby tiger.

Dove - Dove for Men Normally, I am not a big fan of breeder-centric advertising, but I liked how this commercial took every damned cliche about what it means to be a "man," lumped them all together, and skewered them. The product doesn't sound that great (how would soap be different for a man?) but the commercial was fun.

Bridgestone - Whale Tale Bridgestone was a winner two years ago with the screaming squirrel bit (who doesn't love screaming squirrels?) so this one comes to us with a bit of pedigree. However, it was not as funny. I don't know why. I guess I am not a big fan of humans abusing wildlife for their enjoyment. Maybe the punchline was the problem. Dunno.

07 February 2010

A Little Matter of Law

As information gets more and more available digitally, it seems that protections granted to creative people are being understood less and less. Entire essays are reproduced under the claims of "fair use" and legally copyrighted films and songs are being sold under the claims of "public domain" just because members of the public have access to the works.

Both of these examples are illegal.

What is public domain?

A previously-copyrighted item (book, film, song, etc.) enters the status of "public domain" either when the copyright period expires or the owner of the copyright forfeits it and allows it to become public domain. Periods of copyright have changed over the years, so one cannot say exactly what rules apply to what property without researching the copyright records of each specific item. Also, the owner can apply for additional periods of copyright protection -- further muddying the waters as to when a property becomes public. (The copyright law changed in 1978, also complicating matters.)

Generally speaking, the standard copyright policy in effect today in America grants protection for a period of 70 years after the death of the creator of that work. So, if I create something today (in 2010) and live for another 50 years, the copyright for that work would expire in 2130 (70 years after my death). If I create something today and live only another 10 years, it would expire in 2090.

What is fair use?

Public domain should not be at all confused with "fair use" which is a segment of copyright law that allows a VERY SMALL excerpt from a work to be reproduced when accompanying something like a critical review or research paper. Many people claim fair use when they reproduce an entire newspaper article, or film. This is not fair use: it is copyright infringement (even if the person properly credits the author and source of the material). It is illegal unless specific permission has been granted by the creator of the work.

So, if you are analyzing a book, and you reprint a sample paragraph of that book to provide your readers a taste of what it has to offer, that is fair use. If, however, you write a song as an "homage" to a songwriter you admire and use virtually all the words or melody of another song as part of your song, that is illegal.

There are many exceptions to the general rules outlined above. If you want further clarification, you should peruse the actual copyright law here.

02 February 2010

"District 9" Goin' for the Gold!

So, just last month I was all excited because one of my favorite dark-horse films of 2009 got a producer's guild nomination. I like all kinds of weird, indie, foreign films that the various academies and guilds, in their collective "wisdom," never see fit enough to nominate for anything. So, just imagine the cartwheels I am doing today when that same film gets four Oscar noms including -- get ready for this -- BEST PICTURE! Sure, it isn't going to win best pic. It should win best adapted screenplay, but even if it doesn't it is a good day for medium-budget, off-the-beaten-path kind of films that give "cinema" a good name.