the further adventures of

Mike Pirnat

a leaf on the wind

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Rey & Kylo's Greatest Hits, Volume 2

One post wasn't enough to contain all of the Praetorian Guard fight mashups that I made over the weekend, so here's volume 2. As with part one, this post is chock-a-block full of spoilers for The Last Jedi-- you have been warned!


After getting a bit of sleep, I jumped back into mashup action on Sunday, opening with a selection inspired by my college friend and once-upon-a-time radio show buddy Genevieve Mathieson, currently celebrating her 20th year on-air. (Seriously, check out her show, it's awesome!) She opens every installment with this gem:

Here, I really like how the change-ups in the medley fit so nicely with the transitions between the "chapters" of the battle. I can't help but smile.


That got me thinking of my on-air days of yore, and a song that my friend Marie Vibbert introduced me to during the very first episode of my show, and which always delights me when it crops up (as it did in last year's Baby Driver).

There's a nice little guitar note just as Snoke is being cut in half, followed quickly by a great connection with Rey catching the saber. The first saber hits of the battle match up well enough, and then the party really gets started. This almost feels like something in between the "Thunderstruck" and "March of the Pigs" videos to me. Overall the "chapter" shifts do pretty well here too.


I had seen a few requests for Queen's "Princes of the Universe" by this point but without any videos, so I figured I might as well do one.

The lyrics here are kind of... interesting when juxtaposed with the visuals. Clearly they are both "fighting to survive, in a war with the darkest powers" as well as "fighting and free". But a major point of The Last Jedi is that Rey isn't from special lineage, and isn't part of some grand destiny, so the claims of being "born to be kings" and having "blood of kings" run somewhat counter to this premise. I ascribe all the lyrics here to Kylo Ren's perspective, like an internal narration. There's sort of a fun double meaning at play that I really like a lot--just as Freddie Mercury sings "no man can be my equal" we get a zoom-in on Rey, who, like Éowyn in Return of the King, is indeed no man.

Visually, things line up pretty well overall, with especially good chapter divisions, and the "blood" line landing right on the shredder gag.

I'm pretty disappointed that there are so few views of this one--just three at the time of writing, compared to over seven thousand of the Hamilton one, and I think they're all me making sure it uploaded okay.


I really like mid to late 90s industrial music, so Rammstein's "Du Hast" seemed like a pretty good idea.

Lyrically, there's already a double meaning at work: "du hast" functions as both "you hate" and part of a line that translates as "you asked me and I said nothing," lines which tap deeply into the context of the scene. Everyone is dealing with hatreds, and Rey and Kylo had just asked each other to abandon their old allegiances and turn. The lyrics go on to challenge whether they will be faithful until parted by death, answering with a resounding and repeated "no!" that to me encapsulates their turbulent, transient alliance.

Lots of visuals line up well here; I especially like the cuts between Rey and Kylo before the battle starts, and the way the crunchy guitars enter just as the melee begins. As a nice bonus, the sort of angelic backing vocals line up perfectly with moments when Rey is yelling.


"Du Hast" got me into playing with Rey and Kylo Ren's relationship, so what if maybe they were a couple on the verge of a breakup (which they kind of are)?

I imagine this as Kylo Ren trying to convince Rey to stay, offering up banal platitudes like "I guess I was wrong" while they do terrible battle with the forces of darkness and the world burns around them ("and we're falling apart"). I like weird juxtaposition a lot, is what I'm saying.

Visually there's a lot of good timing again here; this one continues to make me happy.


I had seen many suggestions for The Proclaimers, so I stayed with 90s rom-com edits with "I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)":

It's overall just silly fun, with some good alignment in places; the "ta la ta" bits are especially well placed to me. I enjoy the juxtaposition of Kylo Ren pledging to "dream about the time when I'm with you" as he murders the hell out of a guard, as if this whole thing is like his idea of a really awesome date.


The delightfully inappropriate juxtaposition of The Proclaimers reminded me of the classic reimagining of The Shining as a romantic comedy, and so I quickly flashed onto Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" that was featured in the Shining video, wondering if it would work in this context too.

Overall I'd say it's pretty successful, with a lot of the action lining up decently. In particular, Kylo Ren's triple-hit guard kill at the 1:47 mark seems to really connect to the music well.

My favorite coincidence here is getting Peter Gabriel singing "which connections I should cut" with "cut" landing exactly as Snoke is sliced in half.

This one also has tragically few views, so give it a spin and see what you think.


Taking a quick detour from rom-com treatments, I remembered the Michael W. Smith instrumental "Ashton" that I'd been obsessed with in high school, a piece that always got me revved up and made me yearn for the perfect visuals to go with it. I'm reasonably sure that at one point I daydreamed extensively about how it really needed something like a lightsaber fight. Decades later, Rian Johnson has finally delivered. Thanks, Rian!


I wasn't done playing with the Rey/Kylo Ren relationship; inspired by the "Emo Kylo Ren" Twitter account, I started playing with some of my favorite songs by The Cure. I couldn't quite get "Just Like Heaven" to work, and "Lovesong" didn't feel right, but then I got a little more into Ren's head and "Why Can't I Be You" seemed perfect: tapping into a mix of obsession and jealousy that seemed absolutely authentic for Kylo Ren. Secretly--and totally obviously to the audience--he wishes he could be as powerful and amazing as the lovely nobody whose sudden appearance in his life has shaken him to the core.

There's an urgency to the music that pairs really nicely with the scene, I think, and lots of good bits of action that connect well.

At the time of writing, this one is also under-appreciated on views, which is a shame, because I think it explores some interesting territory.


I was on a little bit of a roll with the 80s music/obsessive romance thing, so Depeche Mode seemed like a good next step. I chose a reworked version of "Enjoy the Silence" for the slightly industrial edge to it; I think it pairs better with the battle scene than the original version would.

Things that make me happy here include but are not limited to the lightsaber landing in Rey's hand as we get "here, in my arms", the start of the melee, Rey skewering a guard as the lyrics get to "pain", the guard getting shredded on "harm", "in my arms" as the guard grapples Kylo Ren, and the two syllables of "wanted" as Rey takes down her final opponent.

Moreover, I think this works so well because Rey and Kylo's entire negotiation and agreement before the battle takes place wordlessly. "Words are very unnecessary, they can only do harm."


Still in the 80s, I took things for a silly turn, casting the fight as the ending chase sequence from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Pretty much no one knows the actual title of the song that plays as Ferris dashes through people's back yards as he tries to beat his parents home, so this has a pitifully small number of views so far.


I had started on this next one during the Saturday night binge, but wasn't quite getting it working due to an audio edit dilemma, so I thought I was just going to scrap it. Fortunately, my daughter came along the next day and encouraged me to finish it, so with her help we got it to a reasonable place.

This is the only video so far where I've messed with the audio at all, making a splice from the opening of the song into a spot near the end so that the transition into the start of the battle would be right.

From a timing standpoint, I love the "D-I-Y" matching up with the first saber strikes. Stay to the end for another fun shredder gag.

This has long been one of my favorite KMFDM songs, and I come back to it often when I need a dose of challenge-smashing self confidence. To me personally, "do or die" is metaphorical--the death of soul or spirit if I let myself succumb to whatever is eating at me--but here in the Star Wars universe it is quite literal. As a bonus, I think Yoda would agree: "do or do not; there is no try."


Finally we come to where I stopped for now, having to get back to life with my family and a return to the work week.

I've really fallen hard for this track over the past year or so, and I get chills from having it paired with this fight scene.

I'll let it speak for itself.


I have some ideas for others, so I might do a few more soon, though the meme seems to have died down over the past day. I've stopped getting new attention on the Hamilton video, which seems like a sign that this might be over for now.

The whole process was a lot of fun, though, scratching a creative and performative itch that has been nagging me off and on since the demise of Turntable.fm, so I'm grateful to have been able to enjoy the ride while it lasted.

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Rey & Kylo's Greatest Hits

Disclaimer: This self-indulgent post mainly serves as a way to collect a bunch of silliness into a single place for convenience, while also offering a platform for extra context--a sort of "director's commentary" if you will. It also contains MAJOR HELLA SPOILERS OF DOOM for The Last Jedi. Proceed with caution!


It started so innocently.

While skimming Twitter on Saturday, I ran across the start of the thread that quickly came to dominate my waking--and should-be-sleeping--hours:

I saw that people had started making their own in response and I couldn't resist. I had to get in on the fun. I skimmed through to see what had already been done, cast about for a few ideas, and then made this:

Fun fact: I almost started working with "Yorktown" instead, but suddenly I realized that after this battle, there are no witnesses to what occurred in Snoke's chamber. Literally NO ONE ELSE WAS IN THE ROOM WHERE IT HAPPENED!

My first attempts at this mashup had stronger timing for the opening beats as Rey catches the lightsaber, but adjusting things to gee the "click/boom" payoff was worth the sacrifice.


After rendering that out and getting it tweeted, I was flush with excitement and ready to make one that would channel how pumped I was feeling. I was also starting to feel some time pressure since I had social plans to get to. Enter "Thunderstruck":

I was really happy with how the timing worked out here. Besides getting the "thun-der" synced with the opening lightsaber strikes, it also timed perfectly with the cut to the wide shot of Snoke and the twitch of Kylo Ren's fingers that summons the blade, the red light on Kylo's face as he ignites his own saber, and the cut to the wide shot as Rey and Kylo pivot into battle. I also like how the "ahhs" in the opening match up to Rey shots. In general there are some good places where beats line up with saber strikes and sparks, which make me really happy.

Lyrically, I like how "what could I do?" lines up with Rey being caught by the guard just before she skewers him, and the "yeah" as Kylo Ren makes a guard-kabob of his own. I do wish that "tore me apart" was a little closer to the guard being shredded, but one can't have everything, especially when the "you've been... thunderstruck!" connects so perfectly to Rey's saber drop.


I came back from visiting friends and was both sad and happy that no one had made my next idea, which feels like it should have been more obvious: "Battle Without Honor or Humanity," AKA "that song from Kill Bill."

There's some more good timing here: Snoke getting chopped, the cut from Kylo to Rey, and especially the opening saber strikes, as it turns out there's a third hit where Kylo's saber connects with the ground, giving a satisfying payoff to the "bam-BAM-bam!" Lots and lots of the melee hits line up on strong beats; there are some particularly fun moments with Kylo just before and as he's grappled that are really delicious, and we get a pretty decent effect for Rey's saber drop.


I was still feeling the Kill Bill vibe, so my next pick was "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood":

I love this song for a sword battle, but I also love how it plays with the who's-going-to-turn psychology of the scene. It's probably funnier to consider the lyrics as being Kylo Ren's point of view, and I adore how his face lights up red just as the lyrics get us "seem to be bad."

Once more we get good beats on saber strikes and Kylo being grappled, and a good sync with the guard being shredded, but my particular favorite bit is how the music goes with Rey being reeled in by the guard. I also like the "oh, Lord" as Kylo scans the room, the brass riff during Kylo's pirouette around the 1:44 mark, and the strings as Rey throws her saber to Kylo.


Next I wanted to connect with the raw energy and chaos of the opening of the melee, and nothing says that to me quite like "March of the Pigs" off of The Downward Spiral:

I enjoy the synth kicking in just as Rey rises into the frame, and it meshes nicely with the cuts back and forth between Rey and Kylo before the battle, but what makes this for me is the "step right up!" as the guards approach and the guitar kicking in on those first saber hits, and the chaos of the start of the fight.


I love Styx's "Come Sail Away" without a trace of irony, so I had to do it at some point:

I chose this mainly to get the electric guitars to drop in as the melee starts, but there are plenty of good saber hits, Rey's skewer-and-toss with is nicely accompanied, and I like how the gag with the shredder works here. Lyrically, I love Rey and Kylo Ren coming together to "try, best that we can, to carry on!" though Yoda might admonish them about whether or not there is a "try."


Fun fact: "Come Sail Away" was released in 1977, just like Star Wars! Since I had just steeped in the above nostalgia, and since Star Wars is about heroism, it seemed fitting to pick up another classic tune from 1977, David Bowie's "Heroes":

I read the lyrics here as Kylo Ren talking to Rey about their doomed relationship. "You will be queen" as Rey rises up, "nothing will drive them away" as the guards close in... "We can be heroes," opines Kylo Ren, but alas, "just for one day." Nothing can keep them together.


Around the time that I posted "Heroes", I saw that someone had done "Gangnam Style", which popped me out of the nostalgia and straight into internet meme territory, and I simply had to do "The Fox":

Sadly the video clip isn't long enough to accommodate the full first verse, but that's made up for by "frog goes croak" as Kylo cuts Snoke in half (because "ha ha, double meanings LOL"). Also Snoke's torso hits the deck right on "toot," which makes me giggle. I mainly timed this around getting "fox say" to match the first saber strikes, and I'm very amused by how each of the fox noise segments line up with different parts of the fight. The shredder gag makes a decent showing ("your fur is red, so beautiful"). I do wish that the last "what does the fox say" had lined up better with Rey's saber drop move--ideally I'd have "fox" on the knee swing and "say" on the headshot.


It's gotten way too late, so I'll have to follow this up with a second installment to cover the rest. Until then... May the Force be with you!

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The Morning After

The Morning After

I woke up to the news of the horriffic shooting at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. A showing that I had considered attending, since it was practically walking distance from the hotel where I spent the night after my arrival in Denver, but decided against due to the travel and time difference. I heard all the sirens shortly before going to bed and knew something wasn't good. Turns out I was more right than I thought.

On the plus side, jet lag may have saved my life. So there's that.

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92/365: Shapes of Recovery

92/365: Shapes of Recovery

By Saturday night, the vertigo cleared, and Sunday I felt blissfully alive and well on the road to recovery, so Liz and I escaped for a date night: The Hunger Games movie, followed by dinner and drinks at the Bar Louie in Crocker Park, where I realized I hadn't shot anything for the 365 yet.

This one speaks to my obsession with geometry; we have circles (some concentric), lines, squares, rectangles, triangles, spheres, even hexagons. Of course it's entirely possible that I was also at a creative nadir and the previous remark is how I try to make myself feel better about it.

One interesting note of trivia: I have reached the 25% point in the 365 project (admittedly with some posts to backfill as I process what I shot during the Great Discontinuity of vacation). I'm pleased that I've gotten this far, and more than a little intimidated that even with this milestone, the vast bulk of the work is still ahead of me.

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Lately

I haven't been posting much lately because I've either been too busy to write anything or too not-busy to have anything worth writing about. So here's a quick recap of what I've been up to, in more or less random order.

I'm thinking of moving our blogs to private hosting on WebFaction, partly because I like WordPress, and partly because the sale of LiveJournal to SUP makes me uneasy about paying LJ any more of my money. I've been hacking on a Python program to crawl my journal and re-emit it as a WordPress XML export file, suitable for slurping up into WP with just a few clicks, and it's pretty much done. I just have a few decisions to make (should I keep userpics attached to all my exported entries?) and then I think it'll be time to pull the trigger.

At work, we've wrapped up our first big run of cafeteria-free lunches (58 straight lunches, of which we had a repeat-free streak of 56 lunches before hitting some of our "greatest hits" before the end of the year). Naturally, we're blogging it so that we remember where we've gone.

Claire continues to grow and change. Having just passed the 100-day mark, she can now sit in her Bumbo chair, enjoys standing practice, and is really excited about grabbing her toes. I continue to shoot and post tons of cute photos.

We've been doing weekly videoconferences with my parents instead of phone calls. They get to see Claire, and Claire gets to stare at my screen and be confused. Plus my parents get to be the envy of all other long-distance grandparents that they know, who are in awe of their "technical savvy." So, kudos to iChat for making it stupidly easy.

I am in love with Rock Band and want to marry it. If that's not possible, I'd settle for going over to my friend's place to play it on a regular basis. (Turns out that after a couple beers, I am pretty decent on vocals--scary!)

Egad. I have almost 8 GB of music (over four days' worth!) in my "new and unrated" playlist needing review. When am I going to have time for that?

Last night we watched Paprika, the latest film from anime director Satoshi Kon. I'm utterly blown away by it. The coolest thing I've seen in a long time. It's a little bit Dreamscape, a little bit Ghost in the Shell. Good, good stuff.

Not sure if it's the kid (probably) or what, but I've fallen off the deep end of the Christmas season and am starting to scare Liz with my sunny holiday cheer. Usually I'm pretty down on the consumerism and not too hip to whatever religiosity seeps through the month-long shopping orgy of December, but this year things are different. I'm giggling as I wrap presents for Liz and Claire, and--much to Liz's annoyance--bouncing off the walls waiting for the big day to arrive. Is it Christmas yet? Is it Christmas yet? IS IT CHRISTMAS YET???

Speaking of Christmas, I'm happy that I managed to get the annual card produced and out the door relatively on-time. One of these years, I'm going to have inspiration and time in November so that I can get full-bleed, professional printing done, but I'll take what little victories I can get. I may post the images or a PDF at some point if I get motivated enough. (Here's your opportunity to convince me...)

Finally, if it's at all possible, I'd like to be your personal penguin.

Okay, enough of this foolishness. Time to go be Dad for awhile. Cheers!

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Saturday: Photo Progress, DVD Recap

I spent most of the day doing the first big pass through the photos from our trip to Washington, doing some color correction and putting a rating onto everything. The next step will be culling through the good stuff--of which there is a surprising amount!--to find the things worth uploading to share. I can tell I've really improved with the DSLR; I made a point of never taking it out of 100% manual mode for the trip, and more than ever I am getting what I consciously want from what I'm shooting. Although I'm perfectly willing to enjoy the happy accidents, or the tragically awful shots that become beautiful after radical post-production alteration.

As a side bonus, I've also been plowing though a bunch of the music that I'd ripped but not really gotten around to listening to. I finally picked up a copy of the Cranes latest disc, Particles and Waves, which for the past couple of years has been import-only or completely unavailable (and which now seems to finally have some stock in the US). It's mellow and quite enchanting, and I'm really digging it.

Meanwhile, Liz and I are fighting a desperate battle to get caught up on library DVD's... Last weekend we watched For Your Consideration (better than I had expected) and Stranger Than Fiction (quite good but definitely not a comedy, no matter what the trailers would have you believe).

Thursday we watched Children of Men, which (in my estimation) is possibly the best science fiction film in the last ten years, and easily the equal of Blade Runner and Twelve Monkeys. Michael Caine's performance (apparently inspired by John Lennon) was a particularly nice surprise, a ray of sunshine in an otherwise grim and gritty world. I was especially amazed by some of the very, very long shots--including a nine-minute shot during an ambush and chase early in the film, and a mind-blowing six-minute shot near the climax (this article discusses the VFX work involved; use BugMeNot to skirt the mandatory registration). It's a bit heavy, so it might be some time before I can rewatch it, but it's so richly detailed that I think I'll definitely have to see it again at some point.

Last night was This Film Is Not Yet Rated, an entertaining, infuriating, often-humorous, strongly biased, and somewhat ethically dubious documentary that attempts to penetrate the veil of the MPAA's super-secret and rather arbitrary movie ratings system.

Tonight's film was Curse of the Golden Flower, a stunningly beautiful (and rather melodramatic) family tragedy that unfolds in the early 900's within the Imperial Palace. Truly, this is a movie with everything: Swords! Poison! Rebellion! Incest! Revenge! Ninjas! Embroidery! Betrayal! Gong Li's boobs! Suicide! Horticulture! Moral ambiguity! Janitorial staff like nothing you've ever seen before! Good stuff.

Unfortunately, in between photos and movies today, Liz and I took a two-hour nap, and now it's almost 0200 (again) and I'm wide, wide awake. I always have a terrible time readjusting to Eastern time after being out west, but this is really starting to hurt...

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DVD Extravaganza

We've had a hard time getting out to see movies lately, but we've been making up for it by making heavy use of the library's online reservation system. All it takes is knowing what you eventually want to see, and a little patience, and suddenly you're inundated in cinematic goodness. Recently:

Elizabeth I, starring Helen Mirren, who won a Golden Globe for this part, and an Oscar for her other royal portrayal in The Queen. This story of the two of Queen Elizabeth's greatest loves features Impeccable costuming and sets, flawless performances, great casting (I'll admit that, in spite of my ardent heterosexuality, Jeremy Irons is pretty delicious), moving speeches, and--since it's HBO--some surprisingly vivid gore. In case you were ever curious about what being hung, drawn, and quartered might be like, wonder no more! Especially shocking (and rightly so) is the execution of Mary Queen of Scots, as the camera stays close on her for both blows of the axe. Highly recommended.

Rome is another fabulous HBO series. The bulk of this first season relates the events leading up to the assassination of Julius Caesar, starting with his alienation from lifelong friend Pompey Magnus and weaving a dark and inevitable descent into civil war, Caesar's rise to power, and culminates in his termination. But in a stroke of remarkable insight and cleverness, the heart of the show is in two lowly legionnaires who find themselves caught up in swirl of greater events. In addition to being chock full of amazing performances from pretty much the entire cast, and brimming with excellently recreated period settings and costumes, Rome is also unabashedly and unflinchingly adult, practically overflowing with vulgarity, carnality, and violence--all probably quite appropriate to the setting. Oddly, there's a strange inverse relationship at work: the more interesting the sex is, the less we get to see of it, which seems to emphasize the relative importance of the acts in question. And the dramatic arena battle is unlike any you've seen before--it had Liz gasping in shock and me hooting in surprise. Likewise, highly recommended.

It's gotten some mixed reviews, but we really enjoyed the first season of Weeds, Showtime's black comedy series about a suburban mother who turns to dealing pot in order to maintain her family's upper-middle-class lifestyle after her husband dies suddenly. It takes a few episodes to find its feet, but it's full of giggles and guffaws, punctuated by the occasional solid wollop of pathos and drama, and is overall quite enjoyable and deserving of your time. As long as you have a sense of humor, you'll probably find something to like here, even if it's just the charmingly perfect use of Malvina Reynolds' "Little Boxes" in the opening titles.

Not even close to recommended, however, is The Illusionist, which I found to be a flaccid, lifeless excuse of a movie, with a decent cast wandering aimlessly about in search of something worthwhile to say or do. In begins with ten minutes of flickery flashback exposition to the title character's youth, so we already know everything important about the him before Edward Norton even gets to do anything. The wanna-be Shyalaman-esque twist ending will probably only surprise small children, and it's telegraphed from before the halfway point of the movie, and ultimately offering little payoff other than the strangely frightening toothy laugh of Paul Giamatti. The film's opening ought to have been my warning sign, but I kept watching in a desperate hope that it would start redeeming itself. The only reason that we stayed with it was because we each had a cat asleep on our laps, and couldn't bring ourselves to disturb them. In short, The Illusionist is 104 minutes of my life that I will never get back.

We followed up with Hollywoodland, which is a much, much better film. In case you've been living on another planet, you're probably already aware that it explores the life and death of George Reeves, the actor who portrayed Superman in the original TV series, and calls into question whether his death was suicide or murder. It's a modern-day film noir with a dash of nostalgia, intercut with what you might expect from a pretty good biopic. I never thought I'd find myself saying this, but Ben Affleck really delivers something special in his performance as Reeves, with numerous, uncanny moments in which it's difficult to remember that we're not actually watching Reeves himself. Reeves' rise and fall is intercut with the story of private detective Adrian Brody's investigation, highlighting the disintegration of his personal life as he becomes increasingly obsessed with Reeves' fate. The film is utterly absorbing, up to the point near the end where the wheels start to come off a bit, and we're left with an ambiguity about the exact nature of Reeves' ending that, after all that has come before it, doesn't feel very satisfying. In spite of the somewhat hollow conclusion, there's definitely enough here that's worth watching in this exploration of the downfall of superheroes, be they last sons of Krypton or just Los Angeles fathers.

Liz and I were both completely surprised and bowled over by how much we enjoyed Flushed Away, Aardman's entry into the world of feature-length CGI animation. The story is cute, the voice acting is tip-top (Ian McKellan and David Suchet were especially fun), and it's loaded with great references and little details that had us continually jumping back to get a kick out of the little extra sprinkles of humor that'd been tucked in. Especially pleasing is that the facial animation is not digitally polished into perfect smoothness--it is deliberately a bit chunky, which brings the feeling of Aardman's hand-crafted claymation to the digital world. Funny, fun, and full of the soul that's missing from so much of modern animation. I think we'll have to pick up our own copy soon.

Finally, a documentary that asks Who Killed the Electric Car? Narrated by Martin Sheen, this traces the history of electric cars from the early 20th century to the dawn of the 21st, and focuses largely on the Saturn EV1 and similar too-good-to-be-true vehicles that bloomed briefly under California's short-lived zero-emissions mandate. Just as these lease-only vehicles were poised to make a major impact on the world, they were recalled and eventually destroyed. WKtEC explores many different suspects for the demise of this promising technology, and casts damning blame on most. If you feel like being pissed off about how The Man is keeping us down and screwing over the planet, this is the movie for you.

One thing I love about getting movies from the library is the surprise factor--we never know what we're going to get, just that it's something we wanted to see and never got around to, which saves us a lot of bother trying to figure out what we want to watch. And with the library just down the street, it's a whole lot cheaper than Netflix too.

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Germany Photos: Intermission

Bloody hell, it's been almost twelve days since I've posted any new photos from the Germany trip. Harrumph. I guess that's what happens when I let myself get distracted by other things: houseguests, complete disassembly of the office/computer space to prep for painting, work, catching up with Tivo (I can't believe I've gotten Liz hooked on "Eureka", woot!), catching up on long-overdue library DVD's (Paradise Now, Munich, and, somewhat embarassingly, Aeon Flux, which at least I didn't have to pay for), slogging bravely through Neal Stephenson's The Confusion, and going to Oktoberfest with [info]geoffimusprime.

Today was part one of the annual two-day company pep rally thing for this year, which, on one simple fact alone, instantly qualifies as the best so far: free beer coupons for happy hour. Hooray, beer!

I have at least rated, retouched, and sorted the remainder of the vacation photos; hopefully I'll get around to posting them over the coming days. And then I'll have to find something else to blog about for a while. ;-)

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Being Uncle Mike

My recent vacation photos hiatus is in part due to spending last weekend being all responsible and grown-up and stuff--Laura, one of my nieces, came to visit us for the weekend. Note the use of the word "my," a big step for me, as for most of the past seven years, the girls have been "Liz's nieces." Maybe they're just growing up to the point at which I can relate to them, but they're really, finally feeling like family.

So! Laura braved the increased airport security, water bottle fascism and all, and arrived last Friday. Liz picked her up, and after getting settled in at the house, took us all out to lunch at Phnom Penh; to my amazement, Laura loved her loath chha! That evening we hit our local Winking Lizard and then went out to Will Farrell NASCAR movie (hilarious, recommended), got ice cream on the way home, and stayed up far too late playing Munchkin. Saturday we caught up on "Monk" and "Psych", then went out to friends' for their Wild Game BBQ, where there was much delicious food, frosty beverage, and wacky croquet fun, then zipped down to Blossom to chill out under the stars and experience the Cleveland Orchestra playing the scores to Bugs Bunny cartoons (and incidentally seeing a lot of folks that we don't always bump into). Sunday we had brunch downtown, spent a few hours at the science center (note to self: don't try the "virtual hang-glider" right after eating...), tried to get Laura hooked on "Firefly", and played a lot more Munchkin and Apples to Apples.

Laura was up and out the door early on Monday to get to her flight on time; by all accounts she made it back home safely. I'm still trying to wrap my head around her pronouncement that I'm "an awesome uncle," but for the most part I guess that's pretty cool. The entire experience has left me a lot more optimistic about the idea of being a parent, a mental paradigm shift that is simultaneously comforting and scary as hell.

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Better Days

Luckily, fortunately, thankfully, I've had a string of pretty good days lately.

Liz had to work for most of Saturday, so I used the time to knock a bunch of things off my to-do list, including a trip to the library to refresh my influx of new music, and a half-day of being able to work in peace in the office. Saturday night, she took me to Grovewood Tavern for dinner, which was utterly fabulous (I had the "Quackitori", seared duck breast yakitori style, and I highly recommend it, especially paired with the Parallel 45 Cotes du Rhone). After dinner, we hit the Velvet Tango Room for post-dinner cocktails, where I was introduced to the shimmering delight that is the French 75. I totally dig VTR's vibe, and I got an especially geeky thrill from recognizing Winchester '73 playing on the TV by the bar. VTR is a bit pricey, but the experience--especially on the weekend, where your lady friend gets a perfect rose--is worth it.

On Sunday I managed to get more stuff on my list done, and then we hit the local movie theatre for a matinee of Thank You For Smoking, a cheerfully subversive little movie that anyone with two brain cells and a sense of humor should see as soon as possible. Seriously--run, don't walk; it's that good. My only issue was with the quality of the audience, as we seemed to be seated directly in front of, next to, and behind people who insisted on sharing their running commentary, explaining jokes to each other, and so forth. Sorry, folks, but if I wanted the commentary track, I'd buy the DVD, and you wouldn't be part of it. Though it was almost worth it to hear the person next to me try to explain a joke and then, verbally, loudly, not get it... (Seriously, she didn't understand why it might be funny that the firearms lobbyist set off the metal detector at a security checkpoint. "Must be something metal," my next-door Ebert observed.)

Monday marked a return to workplace madness, but it ended early as Liz and I had picked up tickets to see K.T. Tunstall at the House of Blues. It was a pretty much spur-of-the-moment decision a couple of weeks ago when I realized that she was in town. I admit, I'm a total poseur, and it took her solo appearance on NBC's "Today" show for her to arrive on my musical radar... I wasn't sure what to expect from seeing her live, but I figured I wouldn't be disappointed, and the ticket price was pretty fair, so I figured there were worse ways to spend a Monday night. We had a nice dinner at the HOB (assisted in part by a small parade of happy-hour mixed drinks), and then proceeded to be completely blown away by her live performance. She's touring with a band to back her up, which helps fill out her sound nicely, and there were particularly nice bits featuring various band members soloing on drums, keyboards, trumpet, guitars, and cello. Mellower tracks had a nice dash of psychadelia that reminded me of early Pink Floyd, while the more raucus, upbeat numbers struck me as the perfect soundtrack for blasting down a desert highway, windows down and stereo cranked. In short, even if she's getting mainstream radio (and worse, grocery store!) airplay, K.T. is the real deal, and you should check her out, especially live. Seriously good times.

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