Mad Times

“To be sane in a mad time is bad for the brain, worse for the heart.” – Wendell Berry

January 20th, 2016 at 4:45 pm

Media 2015

To maintain this blog’s solid “not quite dead” status, here are links for my media consumption from 2015.

Movies are still on Letterboxd where they have a nice Year in Review page. 86 movies is pretty good for us. Shooting for 100 this year.

And books are over on Goodreads where they too have a fancy Year in Review page. Total of 87 books.

December 31st, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Media consumption 2014

Got through 57 book-like objects this year. Details on Goodreads.

Watched something like 40 films. Details on Letterboxd.

Netflix tells me I watched significant numbers of episodes of lots of tv shows including Adventure Time, The Bletchley Circle, Bob’s Burgers, Criminal Minds (season 8 is so terrible), Gilmore Girls, The Killing, Leverage, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Orphan Black, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Probably some others from the library or Prime that I’m not remembering.

I shudder to think how many hours of podcasts I have consumed (mostly while cooking, bus riding, cycling or doing yard work, so not much mono-tasking time). I did a big post listing my subscriptions back at the beginning of the year and it’s changed a lot since then with my current list at 66 (up from 38 back then.)

Likewise with RSS reading. I have nearly 400 RSS feeds that I buzz through regularly.

What else? Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, Livejournal, Google+, all get a slice of my attention.

I read some regularly-updated web comics: Questionable Content, Alice Grove, Three Panel Soul, xkcd, Unshelved, and Sinfest.

Yeah. Might try to skew the balance a little towards the production end of the dial in ’15.

January 1st, 2014 at 6:11 pm

Movies 2013

Letterboxd has a nice summary page for our 2013 in movies.

What did you enjoy watching this year?

February 13th, 2012 at 9:15 pm

Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Film Fest 2012

Hard to believe we’ve been going to these for seven years now.

You can see a list of all of this year’s films on the EMP SFFSFF page

Looking at the thumbnails on that page you might think like I did that there was less animated fare this year. This isn’t actually the case. What was different, though, was the number of films with mixed live action and cgi.

I went hunting to see how many of the entries I could find for viewing online. Here they are:

Click on for lots of embedded videos

January 2nd, 2010 at 3:12 pm

2009 media review

Well, the blog has gone dormant here as I’m sure you’ve noticed if you’re still paying enough attention (hopefully via RSS!) to notice this post going up. Here’s a retrospective of our year in movies.

What about books? Well, I’ve still been keeping track of my reading, but I’ve been doing it over at You can see what I’m reading and what I have read over here.

Okay, so movies. There are only 55 here. At that rate it will take us about 18 years to watch everything in our netflix queue assuming we stop adding stuff now. We need to ramp up. Anyway, here’s what we watched and what we thought. In the Notes field, T means we saw it in the theater, B means only Becky watched it, J means only I did, and other letters mean we watched it with other people with those initials. Our star system goes from * for “don’t bother” to **** for “don’t miss” with plus signs indicating half-stars.

Rating Title Notes
**** Hairspray
**** Milk
**** Rachel Getting Married T
***+ Chungking Express
***+ Star Trek T R
***+ Star Trek T (imax)
***+ Summer Hours T w/ L&A
***+ Up T 3D
*** Avatar T K&E
*** Away We Go
*** Burn After Reading
*** Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
*** Dedication
*** Frost/Nixon
*** Ghost Town
*** Girl in the Cafe, The
*** In Bruges
*** Iris
*** It Happened One Night B
*** It's a Wonderful Life
*** Julie & Julia
*** Jump Tomorrow
*** Kitchen Stories
*** Lost In Austen
*** Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle
*** Reader, The
*** Rocket Science
*** Secret Life of Bees, The
*** Sunshine Cleaning
*** Synechdoche, NY
*** WALL-E
**+ 10mph J
**+ Appaloosa
**+ Brothers Bloom, The
**+ Choke
**+ Christmas In Connecticut B
**+ Domino J
**+ Duplicity
**+ Hellboy II: The Golden Army
**+ Humboldt County
**+ Interview
**+ Latter Days
**+ Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist
**+ Notorious Bettie Page, The
**+ Paper Heart
**+ Quantum of Solace
**+ Vicky Christina Barcelona
**+ Wanted
**+ Winged Migration
**+ Zack and Miri Make a Porno
** 50 First Dates
** Big Bad Swim, The J
** Coraline
** Proposal, The
** Talladega Nights
*+ Fantastic Four 2: Rise of the Silver Surfer J
*+ Mamma Mia B

Edited to add a few things we forgot to enter

We also watched a bunch of TV on DVD, most notably, the whole run of Gilmore Girls, a couple seasons of The Wire, True Blood, Castle. Becky watched Dexter and Weeds and Desperate Housewives and Mad Men, I watched Criminal Minds and Wire in the Blood and started Farscape. And we’re working our way through Buffy again.

January 1st, 2009 at 10:45 pm

2008 media review

In 2008 I read about 52 books which is pretty good compared to the last few years. There are a couple of reviews I haven’t posted yet. I’ll try to get those up soon.

We also watched a bunch of movies (about 80). Here’s a list of what we saw and what we thought of them.

The notes are about where we saw the movie and who saw it. “T” indicates we saw it in the theater (only 3 for me plus 1 more for Becky). Other letters indicate who attended. The default is Becky and me. If just “J” or “B” appear then only the one of us saw it.

rating Title Notes
**** Juno T
**** Young At Heart
***+ Away From Her
***+ Broadcast News
***+ Charlie Wilson’s War
***+ Enchanted
***+ Iron Man T
***+ Lars and the Real Girl
***+ Margo at the Wedding
***+ Me and You and Everyone We Know
***+ Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
***+ Nine Lives
***+ Women, The (Cukor) B
*** 10 Items Or Less
*** Appaloosa T B w/ Lorna
*** Atonement
*** Better Than Sex
*** Blades of Glory
*** Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
*** Bourne Ultimatum
*** Croupier, The
*** Dan in Real Life
*** Double Happiness repeat
*** Eagle vs. Shark
*** Grace Is Gone
*** How to Steal a Million B
*** Ira & Abby
*** Kamikaze Girls
*** Michael Clayton
*** Savages, The
*** Two Days In Paris
*** Visitor, The T w/ L&A
*** Wilby Wonderful
*** Yes
*** Zodiac
**+ Across the Universe
**+ Becoming Jane
**+ Blue State B
**+ Broken English
**+ Cake
**+ Control
**+ Darjeeling Limited
**+ Dying Gaul, The
**+ Gone Baby Gone
**+ Gotcha!
**+ How To Save A Marriage (and ruin your life) B
**+ I’m Not There
**+ Inside Man
**+ Jane Austen Book Club B
**+ Legend (dir cut) J
**+ Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, The
**+ Long Life, Happiness, and Prosperity
**+ Nancy Drew
**+ Ocean’s Thirteen
**+ Outing Reilly
**+ Recount
**+ Ruby in the Smoke, the bbc
**+ Somersault
**+ Strange Bedfellows B
**+ Transformers
**+ Tropic Thunder
**+ Trust the Man
**+ Who Killed the Electric Car
**+ Who Was That Lady? B
** Be Kind Rewind
** Bubble Boy
** Charlie Bartlett
** Cypher
** Happy Endings
** I Could Never Be Your Woman B
** I’m With Lucy B
** Italian Job, The
** Mr Magorium’s Magic Emporium
** My Blueberry Nights B: okay J: pretty good
** Sex and the City
** Sunshine
** Two Brothers and a Bride B
*+ Golden Compass, The
*+ Purple Violets
*+ Year of the Dog
* Jabberwocky J

That doesn’t include everything we watched that we’d seen before (a few repeats are included as noted). We don’t actually use stars when we rate movies, we use words. I’ve translated our “Don’t Miss” to ****, “Pretty Good” to ***, “Okay” to **, and “Don’t Bother” to * if that helps you make sense of this.

Seeing them sorted by rating like this always causes us to rethink some of our decisions, but what’s here is what we thought of them shortly after seeing them.

In other anal-retentive data mining, we returned 113 disks to Netflix this year. In July we bought a set-top box that lets us watch Netflix stuff on demand over the internet. Looks like we’ve used that for 160 items since then which seems like a lot until you know that it counts individual tv show episodes. Here’s a summary of the TV shows we watched (we still don’t do cable or anything, so these were all on dvd or on-demand):

  • That 70′s Show (season 5)
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
  • The Wire (still working on season 1)
  • Pushing Daisies (season 1) Love this show!
  • Criminal Minds (still working on season 1)
  • Heroes (season 2)
  • Coupling (season 1, 2, 3, & 4) LOVE this show!
  • 30 Rock (season 1 & 2)
December 31st, 2007 at 8:16 pm

2007 media review

In 2007 I read a whopping 40 books (actually a few more than that since I’m counting reviews and a few of the year’s reviews encompassed multiple books) which is up about 20% from last year’s total. Not that it matters.

We also watched a bunch of movies (105 compared to 75 last year). The increase may be due to our each watching quite a few flicks solo that the other wouldn’t have cared about. Here’s a list of what we saw and what we thought of them.

The notes are about where we saw the movie and who saw it. “T” indicates we saw it in the theater (only 7). Other letters indicate who attended. The default is Becky and me. If only R appears then Rachel saw it with us. If just “J” or “B” appear then only the one of us saw it. “B, R” means I skipped that one, etc. I realize that all of this nonsense is really only of interest to Becky and me, but whose blog is it anyway?

rating Title Notes
**** Children of Men  
**** Exotica J repeat
**** Howl’s Moving Castle  
**** The Lives of Others T, L&A
***+ American Masters: Andy Warhol  
***+ Factotum  
***+ Henry and June  
***+ In Her Shoes J
***+ Once  
***+ Rattatouille  
***+ Short Film About John Bolton, A  
***+ Shortbus  
***+ Stranger Than Fiction  
***+ Venus  
***+ Volver L&A
***+ Waitress  
*** Adam & Steve  
*** Aeon Flux J
*** Barefooot In the Park B
*** Bee Movie T B w/ Rosalind
*** Bourne Ultimatum, The T B w/ Lorna
*** Casino Royale  
*** Chuck & Buck B
*** Claudia Beard 24wpm  
*** Eastern Promises T B w/ Lorna
*** Fantastic Four J
*** Fountain, The  
*** Fur  
*** I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing  
*** I, Robot J
*** In Her Shoes B
*** Kinky Boots  
*** Libeled Lady B
*** Libertine, The  
*** Lie With Me  
*** Lonesome Jim  
*** Lost In La Mancha J
*** Marie Antoinette  
*** Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School  
*** Motorcycle Diaries, The  
*** Mysterious Skin  
*** Oh in Ohio, The  
*** Open Your Eyes  
*** Painted Veil, The  
*** Platinum Blonde B
*** Porco Rosso  
*** Prestige, The  
*** Price of Milk, The  
*** Prime  
*** Queen, The  
*** Rocky Horror Picture Show  
*** Running With Scissors  
*** Scanner Darkly, A  
*** Science of Sleep, The  
*** Shut Up and Sing  
*** State of the Union B
*** Strange Love of Martha Ivers, The B
*** This Film Is Not Yet Rated  
*** Three of Hearts J
*** Whole New Thing  
*** You Can’t Take It With You B
**+ 2010: The Year We Make Contact J
**+ After the Wedding  
**+ American Dreamz  
**+ Barbarella  
**+ Can’t Buy Me Love repeat
**+ Constantine J
**+ Everything Is Illuminated  
**+ Illusionist, The  
**+ Knocked Up  
**+ Last Kiss, The  
**+ League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The J
**+ Little Children  
**+ Mad Hot Ballroom  
**+ Meet John Doe B
**+ Millions  
**+ Mirrormask  
**+ Music and Lyrics  
**+ Notes on a Scandal  
**+ Pan’s Labyrinth  
**+ Pizza  
**+ Puccini for Beginners  
**+ Slither w/ K&E
**+ Stardust T w/ L&A
**+ Valmont  
**+ Van Helsing J
**+ Wedding Crashers repeat for B
**+ Where the Truth Lies  
** Arthur and the Invisibles  
** Bubble J
** CQ J
** Driving Lessons  
** East Is East  
** Groomsmen, The  
** Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix T
** King Arthur  
** Lake House, The B
** No Such Thing J
** Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End T w/ R
** Rumor Has It B
** Strangers With Candy  
** With Honor  
*+ A Good Woman  
*+ Lady In the Water s&h, j&s
*+ Ultraviolet J

That doesn’t include everything we watched that we’d seen before (a few repeats are included as noted). We don’t actually use stars when we rate movies, we use words. I’ve translated our “Don’t Miss” to ****, “Pretty Good” to ***, “Okay” to **, and “Don’t Bother” to * if that helps you make sense of this. If you’re wondering whether you’d like something on here, leave a comment or send email and I’ll expand.

In other anal-retentive data mining, we returned 126 disks to Netflix this year after switching to the three-disk plan in February. That includes most of the TV we watched this year:

  • The Book of Daniel (complete series (cancelled in first season))
  • Heroes (season 1)
  • Joan of Arcadia (season 2 (last))
  • Once and Again (season 2 (just Becky))
  • Scrubs (first season)
  • That 70′s Show (season 1, 2, 3, 4)
  • Veronica Mars (season 3 (last))
  • Weeds (both of us watched season 1 and Becky toughed it out through season 2)
  • Wonderfalls (complete series (cancelled in first season) ended up buying our own copy)

Plus the series we sampled and didn’t continue past the first disk:

  • Babylon 5
  • Big Love
  • Commander in Chief
  • Dead Like Me
  • Eureka
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • Star Trek: Enterprise (just Jeff)
February 7th, 2007 at 5:16 am

2nd annual Science Fiction Short Film Festival

Saturday was the second annual SF short film festival at the Cinerama. I’d have a hard time saying whether the overall quality of the entries was significantly different from last year. In other words, good stuff!

Here’s quick takes on the films (in order they were shown). I’ve put links where I could find a web page or trailer or the whole movie online. Some have multiple links. Hover over the links to see what they point to.

Fantastic Fortune: computer animated dialog-free story about an asteroid miner who finds a super-rich rock that turns out to be inhabited. Cool whimsical tri-laterally symmetric aliens, and a refreshingly civil first contact.

Spaceball: not sure how this made the cut. A dude in a cheesy space suit, a big rubber ball, and liberal use of mirrored split screen set to music. Nothing really happens.

The Realm: Cyberpunk noir. One of the lowest budget feels of anything in the festival, but I gave it points for intent despite the low quality.

The Inedible Bulk: A broccoli farmer and inventor has an unfortunate interaction with the machine he designed to imbue broccoli with the properties of other more savory comestibles. Think The Fly. Pretty funny in spite of its fizzle of an ending. The maker of this one was there and was so annoying in the post-screening Q&A that my memory of his film has suffered some degradation.

Atomic Banana: Another computer animated offering. Similar MacGuffin to Inedible Bulk in that a gadget causes the principal characters to make a transition from animal to vegetable. This one was more short and sweet than the other, making its joke and getting out while the laughs were still going. Very cute.

Machinations: A malfunctioning garage door opener leads to a startling revelation about a politician. Nice cohesive story with a simple, but resonant SF element.

The Un-Gone: Relatively polished entry from the UK explores the question of what happens if your matter transmitter transmits but fails to dematerialize. Fun dystopic comment on technology. Second prize winner.

F*ck You, Pay Me: Another high-budget dystopia, this one follows around a couple of Debt Enforcement Officers through several different cases highlighting different aspects of our consumer culture. Funny, but dark and just plausible enough to be scary.

Life Signs: Computer animated, but in a style that made me think of those computer animation samplers from the late 1980s. A few chuckles, but not otherwise a contender.

Singularity: A paraplegic gulf war vet accidentally creates an AI (by doing a web search. Whatever.) Better than it sounds. Great example of how a good meaty idea and a smart script can have more impact than a bunch of digital effects.

The Tragical Historie of Guidolon the Giant Space Chicken: Story of a movie monster’s attempt to direct his own biopic. Computer animated with a bright painterly style and an irreverent sense of humor. Beautiful and hilarious. This film maker was at the festival and the movie was clearly a labor of love for him (and his understated cheerful enthusiasm made me like the movie even better). Go watch it.

13 Ways to Die at Home: Very short short with quick title cards describing the 13 menaces (“carpet leech”, “poison toad”, etc.) with the action being clips from old 1950s-style household scenes doctored to include the danger in question. The audio seemed to have been clipped from similar sources and was a little elliptical and hard to follow. Went by too fast, I want to see it a few more times. Huge laughs for this one. Interestingly it got the Trumbull award for best visual effects. Also third place overall.

Project K.A.T.: Try at a big-budget actioner except short and low-budget. It was a little hard to follow the action. Highlights the fact that the only real attraction of this kind of movie is the spectacle. Without the spectacle there’s nothing really there.

Transgressions: Look at a dystopia where the law is focussed on punishing what we would consider minor infractions yet ignores what we would consider more major offenses (murder, spousal abuse, little things like that). Excellent pacing and a wonderful twist ending. Well-deserved recipient of the festival’s grand prize.

Agnieszka: Woman finds a little box, takes it home, and all hell breaks loose. The most beautifully photographed of all the films in the festival. There were a few shots that just took my breath away. The leggy scantily-clad Polish lead actresses didn’t hurt either. Nonsense plot, more of a Lovecraftian creeping dread kind of thing. Not that that’s bad.

Maklar, Anyone?: Audience award winner. Kind of a cross between Galaxy Quest and Terminator with a sprinkling of other homages. Very funny. I liked it better after hearing in the Q&A that it was created in a film shootout so it was written and produced in something like 48 hours.

TV Man: What’s with all the dystopias? TV advertising-dominated world love story. A little confusing. Nice production values.

Mizar: I thought this was a shoo-in for the Trumbull award. First off, it was the only movie in the festival shot in a wide enough aspect ratio to use most of the Cinerama’s huge screen, and even projected at that size (and viewing it from the 7th row!) it looked better than some big hollywood pictures. Very pretty visuals. Last year’s Trumbull went to a film that did a decent job depicting zero-gee, and that might point to why this one was overlooked since it had magical gravity generators on its space ship. It also had a nonsensical plot and stilted acting. Lovely to look at, though.

Haunted Planet: Talky story about a woman who sees dead people (and animals) and her theory that it’s all a dream. Great production values, nice effects and a decent script, but the dream thing seemed like something that would sound better in the dorm room after a couple tokes than it did on the screen.

Face Machine: Weird title. Set in a world where the atmosphere is unbreathable so everyone wears full face oxygen masks and images of the human face have been outlawed. Story follows a couple who fight the system for love. Not bad, but needed something to get me emotionally involved enough to appreciate it. Not sure what. Maybe a snack, cause I was pretty much worn out by this point in the festival. Speaking of which, there was no explanation of how people ate with their permanent masks.

As with last year’s lineup I found something to appreciate in every single film. And that made me a little bummed for the film makers who didn’t win one of the five awards the festival gives. A number of excellent films didn’t get any recognition at all. Except for being chosen for the festival which I guess is something. Still, it disappoints me to see so much great stuff get brushed aside when it comes time to give the awards.

The festival also makes me really curious about the economics of short films. Does anyone make any money off a short film? If so, how? You don’t seem to be able to buy them. Is there a market on some cable channel somewhere? As with last year, I’d love to be able to buy a DVD of all the films. Only a couple of the films are available online. Are they just portfolio pieces? If so, why aren’t they all online? Color me confused.

December 31st, 2006 at 10:46 pm

2006 in review

In 2006 I read only 31 books (a couple of reviews aren’t up yet). This is even worse than the 36 I thought was so scandalously low last year. All the same reasons apply.

We did do some pretty cool things this year that might have eaten some of my reading time.

We also watched a bunch of movies, so like I posted last year, here’s what we saw and what we thought of them.

The notes are about where we saw the movie and who saw it. “T” indicates we saw it in the theater. Other letters indicate who attended. The default is Becky and me. If only R appears then Rachel saw it with us. If just “J” or “B” appear then only the one of us saw it. “B, R” means I skipped that one, etc.

rating Title Notes
**** Capote
**** The Fifth Element repeat
**** The Ice Storm repeat
**** An Inconvenient Truth T Karen, Erik
***+ Breakfast On Pluto
***+ Brick
***+ Broken Flowers
***+ Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
***+ Match Point
***+ Wordplay
*** The Aristocrats
*** Batman Begins
*** Brokeback Mountain
*** Cars T B
*** Charlie and the Chocolate Factory R
*** Clerks 2
*** Donnie Darko
*** Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
*** Friends With Money
*** Hard Candy
*** Iron and Silk
*** King Kong T R
*** Little Miss Sunshine T Steve, Hazel
*** The Matador T
*** My Neighbor Totoro
*** The Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio
*** Proof
*** Reefer Madness
*** Saved!
*** Shadow Voices: Finding hope with mental illness
*** Shopgirl
*** Sin City J
*** Slacker repeat
*** The Squid and the Whale
**+ The Bishop’s Wife B
**+ Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) repeat
**+ Calendar Girls
**+ Casanova T B
**+ Code 46
**+ Connie and Carla
**+ Corpse Bride R
**+ Dickie Roberts B
**+ Duck Season
**+ Elizabethtown
**+ The Family Stone B R
**+ Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle
**+ I Am Trying To Break Your Heart Rod
**+ I’ll Take You There
**+ In the Realms of the Unreal
**+ Junebug
**+ Memoirs of a Geisha
**+ Monster House T Steve, Hazel, Rosalind, R
**+ Night And Day B
**+ Prairie Home Companion T
**+ Sketches of Frank Gehry
**+ Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow
**+ Something New B
**+ Super Size Me
**+ Thank You For Smoking
** The 40 Year Old Virgin
** Art School Confidential
** For Your Consideration T Larry, Ann
** Freeway
** Fun With Dick and Jane
** People Will Talk B
** Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest T R
** Reefer Madness 1936
** Scotland, PA
** Stage Beauty
** Superman Returns
** Topper Returns B
** Topper B
** The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
** X3: The Last Stand
* The Brothers Grimm R

That’s 75 movies (only 10 in the theater) and doesn’t include everything we watched that we’d seen before. We don’t actually use stars when we rate movies, we use words. I’ve translated our “Don’t Miss” to ****, “Pretty Good” to ***, “Okay” to **, and “Don’t Bother” to * if that helps you make sense of this. If you’re wondering whether you’d like something on here, leave a comment or send email and I’ll blather on.

November 1st, 2006 at 12:00 am

output here