Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Frontier Airlines: A Bear Tail, Some Bullish News, and RIP Doc, Sally & Wally

Back in April I wrote a blog post, Sad Buildings, Frontier Airlines and Further Thoughts on The Economy, who knew that the Ch. 11 filing of Frontier would hardly be one of the biggest bankruptcy stories of the year.

In fact, I hardly think that the Denver-based low-cost airlines chapter 11 reorganization hits on the radar of dismissal economic news of 2008.

Alas, it's a story I've been following.

One of my favorite things about Frontier is how each of the planes has a distinct animal on the tail, that serves as a fun airplane identifier. Having flown on a variety of Frontier's planes, I always pay attention to what plane I'm flying on, whether it's Trixie the Fox or Jake the White Tail Deer.

So in honor of this news I present an image of Grizwald the Grizzly Bear on the Airbus 318, pictured above.

But the fact of the matter is, with a Bearish-year, Frontier's beginning to announce some "Bullish" news. Yet Frontier airlines doesn't have a Bull on the tale of any of their planes...just a handful of Moose -- Floyd, Mickey, & Chocolate.

Bullish News For Frontier & A Changing Perception of Business

Hooray for Frontier. Some good news...In November Frontier posted profits! $2.9 Million in net income.

Traditionally the idea of company's making money make us feel like we're being ripped off. We want to complain about airlines, gas companies, car companies, food providers, health care, or any organization who is able to put money in the bank after their financial obligations have been been met.

I hope that out of our current down-turn, in a time when the government is buying up and investing in everything from home mortgages, cars companies, and banks, that perhaps we can hear more and more good news out of the Ch. 11 Bankruptcies and mergers taking place. I hope that the good news of business success is not soured with the doldrums of business-disdain.

Let's hope for continued good news in 2009 from Frontier and it's other Ch. 11 friends, like Lehman Brothers, KB Toys, Washington Mutual and Circuit City.

Rest In Peace Doc, Sally, & Wally

Re-organization has a cost. The bad thing about personifying this planes with the animals painted on the tails is that nothing last forever. Some planes are apt to go out of service, while others are sold off.

This reorganization has meant a number of planes have been sold off in 2008.

So long to the following planes removed from Frontier's fleet in 2008...Wally the Wolf, Ozzy the Orca Whale, Mel the Mule Deer, Lucy the Canadian Goose, Hamilton the Hummingbird, Sally the Mustang, O'Malley the Mallard Duck, Doc the Snowy Owl, and Perry the Horned Puffin Penguin.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Oprah Get's Fooled with the Greatest Love Story She'd Ever Heard

There is something incredibly powerful about true stories. When you have true stories the triumphs are more triumphant, the challenges are more wretched, and the stories and relationships are all the more moving.

But for those who are most trusting and believing, the ultimate tragedy occurs if they find out this amazing true story is all a lie.

This memoir was one that was scheduled to be released in a couple months, called Angel at The Fence by Herman Rosenblat. This fictitious memoir is about how Herman Rosenblat met his wife of 50 years, Roma Radzicki Rosenblat, as a child in a Nazi concentration camp. In the "memoir" Roma, a Jewish woman, dresses up as a Christian farm girl and throws apples over the fence.

Oprah called this story the "single greatest love story" she had ever heard. Well, the story apparently has as much validity as the Jack & Rose Titanic story.

It's really too bad, because I love true stories and memoirs, but the fascination in outrageous and unbelievable stories, steals the spotlight from true stories.

One of the things that makes documentaries have a leg up over memoirs, is that while they still can deal with real stores, a documentary captures footage. Granted people may argue about the editing and commentary associates with a documentary, the fact of the matter is that a documentary at least captures real images.

(If you want to see an example of public outcry, read the comments on these two posts on the documentary Jesus Camp...some of my most commented on post: Becky Fisher closes camp following Jesus Camp Reactions, Becky Fischer's Yoke In Jesus Camp)

I don't think that memoirs need to be fact-checked line for line as if they were New York Times articles...but I wouldn't be opposed to a snopes.com-like-organization that verified and fact-checked books and gave them the "memoir seal of approval" because it's unfortunate to be moved by a true story only to discover it's a sham.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

It's Almost Like Movie Christmas

First I want to thank RC for letting me post on his site occasionally. I've been much busier than I expected the past several months on my own website and life events in general. I love Strange Culture and its community. Thanks for letting me be apart of it.

At no point in the year have I been anxious to see four movies until this weekend. The Oscars have done this to me, and I don't know if I can really forgive them for causing the year to be this back-loaded. The thing that makes seeing these movies more urgent is that I head back to Fort Dix, NJ in January and I won't be able to leave base when I get there.

I plan on dragging my wife from Fort Worth to Plano (an hour drive through The Colony) to see the Clint Eastwood film, Gran Torino. The reviews I've read are very good. I'm a big fan of Joe Morgenstern and his review couldn't have been more glowing. He doesn't describe it as another Dirty Harry movie, like the marketing wants you to believe. Morgenstern says Eastwood is coming to terms with his Dirty Harry persona and that makes it better. I love Dirty Harry and am excited to see how Eastwood brings it full circle.

Waltzing with Bashir looks fascinating. I love the idea of watching the action while the person being interviewed narrates in his own words. The idea is so simple that I hope it gets copied on more documentaries in the future. Making interviews interesting has to be the biggest challenge of documentarians because there's no action. This allows people to see and hear what they are saying instead of just listening. RC, can a film be nominated for Best Documentary and Best Animated film Oscar?
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button has potential because of the actors. I want to see Brad Pitt and Kate Blanchett perform in another good movie. It may be a bit long for my taste coming in at just under three hours.

I've tried to ignore Tom Cruise since Vanilla Sky, but Valkyrie has potential. I normally like Brian Singer's films and knowing how the film ends I want to see how the movie stays suspenseful. Part of me hopes that Keyser Söze moves the briefcase to the other side of the oak table, but since this movie is based on history, I doubt it.

I've limited it to these four because I don't think I have time for The Wrestler and Frost/Nixon.

If you had one week to see a movie, what would you go see?

Update: My parents, wife and I did see Slumdog Millionaire today. It's a real nice film that uses "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" as a great plot device and it's a great rags to riches story. If you see it, stay for the show choir choriagraphed dance during the credits, it's delightful. RC wrote more about SM than I ever could.

You can read Adam regularly on The Stone Report Blog.

Friday, December 26, 2008

10 Songs I've Been Diggin'

In my last post 10 Songs Post, a handful of people identified the picture of Regina Spector (congrats Grete, JD, Simply Victoria & El Gringo).

My guess is that no one will guess this goofy looking guy posted above. He reserves the #1 song on my top 10 list this go-around.

10. Bend and Break, Keane
9. Pot Kettle Black, Wilco
8. Light Don't Shine, Gregory Douglass
7. Junk Bond Trade, Elliot Smith
6. One Chance, Modest Mouse
5. Tis So Sweet, Jadon Lavik
4. Strawberry Swing, Coldplay
3. Who Is This God, Alli Rogers
2. The Kids Don't Stand A Chance, Vampire Weekend
1. Secret of the Easy Yoke, Justin McRoberts

Other top 10 song list...Dec 2, Nov 19, Oct 16, Sept 17, & Sept 3.

Above Photo via justinmcroberts.com

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Worth the Search: 100th Anniversary of Iditarod Gold Discovery

December 25, 1908...100 years ago today, John Beaton (left, with wife Florence MacLennan) and W.A. Dikeman discovered gold in Alaska on Otter Creek, just off the Iditarod River.

This Christmas day discovery led to America's last great gold rush, bringing out many to the cold rugged tundra in Alaska in search of something of value -- gold.

More than 1.3 million ounces of gold were mined from the Iditarod river, where it was of course transported back, often along the long treacherous Iditarod trail.

This Christmas has been a great joy to me, in many ways I have had a chance to reflect on this past year and the many changes that has come, a new job, a new home in a new state, and of course the biggest change of all, a new addition to our family with our now 6 month old baby girl.

I imagine that for many this Christmas is a Christmas of challenge, sorrow, and anything but joy. We are thankful for family, health, and employment...but most of all, we are also thankful for the hope we have in the reason for the season -- Christ's birth.

Imagine the men who challenged the Canadian and Alaska frontier 100 years ago after gold was discovered...they saw something of worth and went after it, forsaking the cost of potential loss, strife, and separation from loved ones.

For some reason, this story made me think of the wise men who traveled to see Jesus when he was born...these magi traveled very far over months, maybe years to see Jesus...the newborn King.

I hope that StrangeCulture readers have taken the time and effort to search out and look for Christ, and that perhaps in the midst of the busyness the Christmas season has been a reminder. In Christ there is true freedom, hope and peace.

Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Top 10 Reasons I Enjoyed Slumdog Millionaire

This post may/will contain spoilers - read at your own discretion

I loved Slumdog Millionaire...when I watched with my wife, sister, and brother-in-law I think the final consensus was similar in that regard. It's the type of film where you are glued to the story and want to avoid leaving the theater for a bathroom break at all cost. At the same time, the story's seemingly-whimsical premise of a boy who is on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be A Millionaire carries some light weight moments, generally this film is relatively heavy and my wife and sister consistently felt like overall the move was sad or depressing.

Here are 10 Reasons I loved Slumdog Millionaire...

10. Storytelling. This film's story is very well told. It uses simple sequencing/story telling devices. In some movie's flashback sequences seem cheesy or forced, but in this film they are not only appropriate but the story telling device is the spine of this story that everything else is built upon. Vikas Swarup's novel Q & A was excellently adapted by Simon Beaufoy


9. Consistent Characterization by Multiple Actors. The three main characters Salim, Jamal, and Latika are each played by three actors, and I thought each of these nine actors under the direction of Danny Boyle's really did an exception job of capturing the essence of these characters so that the transition from one actor to the next is seamless and believable.

8. Ayush Mahesh Khedekar & Freida Pinto. If this film receives any acting award-attention it will come to the lead-actor Dev Patel who plays the main actor...the oldest of characters to play Jamal Malick. That award attention may come in a supporting form. But if I were to draw out two performers who I would want to see in more films, it would be the youngest Jamal played by Ayush Mahest Khedekar and Freida Pinto, the oldest incarnation of Latika, who really seems to have some potential to be a diverse new face in cinema.

7. Cultural/Social Issues. Slumdog Millionaire is able to touch on multiple cultural and social issues relevant to India's modern history. The story dealt with issues like the mutilation of children for the purpose of begging, religious intolerance, poverty, organized violence, and India's modern economic development. Slumdog Millionaire deals with these issues without being a overt message film.

6. New Ideas. Some people like to say that there are no new ideas. Truly, this film is unique. If I had to create what it's a hybrid of, I would probably have to say City of God mixed with the documentary Born into Brothels...and that hybrid doesn't begin to touch on the fact that the story is told around the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.

5. A. R. Rahman's Music. In many ways it seems that the 42 year-old Oxford scholar Allah Rakha Rahman has greatly influenced the music of Tamil and Hindi language films in India. With over 100 film scores to his credit, his westernization of Indian-cinema now has the reverse effect as he does a powerful and moving score to accompany this film, allowing his Indian-style to impact Western-cinema.

4. The Credits. Speaking of A.R. Rahman's music, the final credits with the song "Jai Ho" is incredible and really ties in some Bollywood influence with the dance scene and the great song. It helps you leave the theater with an excited feeling about the experience you just had.

3. Quality before Pedigree. I have to believe when Danny Boyle and the production team behind this film where putting together the cast and crew they were far more concerned with getting the film right then they were concerned with soliciting Oscars,critical awards, or even a massive box office take. This film seems to genuine, and it's lack of massive headline names in the cast and crew really seems to show they were concerned with the right casting choices for this project, not just award-love.

2. The Cinematography & Editing. This film is shot beautifully. The shots are so diverse...the editing of these shots is explosive, and the color, angles, and excitement created by these lens and editing is powerful and makes this film an artful done film that's incredible to watch.

1. Unforgettable Experience. This film is nothing short of a unique experience. No one who watches this film will ever forget it or get confused about whether or not they've seen it. It's a unique film that people will want to talk about, that they'll remember, and I believe will hold a special place in cinema.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas: The Ultimate Endurance Event

When I check out this site's traffic statistics for the past three years I've notice a unique drop this last week before Christmas.

Unless you are a teacher or student and are on Christmas break, chances are, you are busy...and probably too busy to read StrangeCulture.

No offense taken. It's not just "a" busy time of year, it really has to be the busiest time of year.

Other than a wedding, and a few other unique occasions, I cannot think of a time where so much energy is poured into one day.

Of course, it really seems to begin the day after Thanksgiving.

It begins with black Friday a day that kicks off the shopping, the great deal of shopping you will do over this next month...of course, you're shopping for gifts to give to your great Uncle Joe from Toledo, but those great discounts and clearance racks mean that many people go home with a few bags of new clothes and that flat screen TV that they've been waiting for to go on sale.

Of course, on Thanksgiving weekend, you are doing all you can to spend time with your family, you try to catch one of the big Holiday movies that has just come out, as if you had hours of free time to spend at the movie theater, when you need to hanging the lights on the house and putting up the Christmas tree. Some of the more adventurous go chop down their own tree or tie one to the roof of their car, while you save time by trying to build a tree that's been stored in a box for a year, and suddenly you realize, you can't quiet remember how all the pieces go in place, and where did you put that Christmas tree skirt last year?

And of course, there's always the task of untangling the lights you thought you carefully put away last year.

There's also the Christmas cards to prepare, and perhaps to save time you decided to skip the Christmas letter this year, but when you send off that card to your former work associate, you can't imagine not putting in an update on how your children are doing because he always took such a keen interest in them.

There's cookies to be made, and updated decorations to be bought, there's sales to scour, and menus to plan.

But this...oh no, this is not enough. Before you can even think about wrapping up those gifts in time to mail off to your niece and nephew you realize that the calender is filling up with Christmas events that somehow fall outside of the realm of Christmas day. There's the work shin-dig and the friend shin-dig and you think, really it would be a nice time to volunteer, being that it really should be a season of giving.

Suddenly, you realize that the day before your work's cookie exchange you are performing in the church's evening Cantata, so after singing your favorite holiday songs in the church choir, you rush to the store to pick up a tin to display your cookies, and you really wish you made one more cookie, so you work on that until 2 a.m.

It's at that moment you begin to second guess your Christmas gift list and realize that you probably should have spent more time shopping by now, and you begin to figure out which people left on your list are going to get gift cards instead of boxed sweaters. You figure they'd rather a gift card anyway.

With less than a week left of Christmas, there's the last minute shoppers...you can hardly believe your friends who say they haven't even started, wondering how they could ever be carefree. You're fortunate that you're not traveling this year because you still have so much left to do, but the vice of not traveling is the people who are coming over to your house Christmas eve, after the evening service, and you have hardly prepared a menu, let alone begun preparing any of the food...and it's then you second guess when the last time you did a full bathroom cleaning.

Your sister-in-law has invited herself over and you need to prepare the guest room now, too.

And by the time Christmas day comes your hard work is shown and it always turns out to be a great success -- and only because you have done it every year do you not even realize how crazy it's been. With all the effort and time, you've become so resilient to this endurance event you go shopping the day after Christmas...as though, you haven't already been to mall ten times over the past month. You send out thank you notes to the people you sent Christmas cards to three months prior, and if you're lucky you'll figure out a way to take the lights off the house and wrap them up so they won't be so tangled next year.

So of course, in the midst of the ultimate endurance event I understand if you don't visit StrangeCulture as frequently, and instead take advantage of the chance to spend time with family and prepare for such an exciting day. I hope you have a blessed Christmas season in every way.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

E-Marketing, Christmas, and that Other Account

Quick poll: How many e-mail accounts do you have? (feel free to respond in the comments)

By simple calculations I have at least four...I have the e-mail associated with this blog, a work e-mail address, a personal e-mail account, and THE OTHER ACCOUNT.

My guess is that you have one of these "other accounts too." My other account for the longest time was my primary account, but over time started collecting junk. Before that I had a spam filled junk account that I had abandoned, but my current Other Account is one that I still regularly check...I just don't have the time to completely clear out, and it's an account I don't usually read, instead I delete.

That's because this is the account I give when I buy stuff online or am asked by companies for an e-mail address for any reason.

I don't particularly like for so many companies to have such a direct online way to market to me, but at least I have it quarantined so it's not interfering with e-mail I'd prefer reading

At the same time, there's occasionally benefits I'm interested in being aware, especially if I can ascertain a coupon for something I'm planning on buying anyways.

Yet...as expected this time of year those e-mails and marketing come flying to that Other Account like never before. It's almost like a reminder of gift's once bought and stores once shopped at.

This year is a tricky year, which such a horrible economic climate it's hard to get in the holiday spirit at times when the news is filled with horrible news, the economy is tanking, and there is so much uncertainty.

The heavy marketing, especially online, seems to add to that burden, rather than bring a spirit of holiday cheer. For example, yesterday I received an e-mail for Staples suggesting that as other office stores downsize that Staples is here to stay. They're e-mail communication encouraged people to click a link to be come acquainted with there closest Staples stores since Office Depot would be downsizing.

I thought this is was very bizarre and unfortunate marketing. Just because it is relatively affordable to throw together an e-mail blast, doesn't mean you just send barf into cyber-space. This e-mail has not been the only e-mail communication that at the same time it encourages readers to shop it also reminds them of economic uncertainty.

It's hard to tell what 2009 is really going to look like -- but I know for me, that I'm so excited to have the opportunity to give gifts to my family and celebrate the season with them, but I know I am looking for holiday cheer in other places besides gifts. I am just thankful for all that God has done in my life, and I am thankful for the reason for the season and those who I get to celebrate it with.

I want to think about and celebrate Christmas without referencing world events, the economy, or any other devastating news. And so for the rest of this month, I'd have to say, I'm just about done checking that Other Account.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Modern Challenges of Family Pictures

Back in "the day" I'm sure it was much easier to take a family picture. Sure it was a challenge because you had to stand really still, and you needed to change the lightbulb in every shot, but figuring out what to wear had to be easier.

You only had one or two nice outfits, the women probably sewed them from the same bolts of fabric. Clothes were all from the same color families...black, white, browns. And even if you weren't trying to match colors, the sepia and black and white tones would make every one's clothing in the same shades of gray or brown.


My parents have coordinated a photo session with my wife and daughter, as well as my sister and her husband. We've wanted to take an updated family picture, but haven't all been at the same place at the same time for awhile, and now have the perfect opportunity.


Except, coordinating with a variety of closets to find coordinating outfits is almost as impossible as getting all of us together at the same time and place. My mother, thinking her idea was simple, thought we'd try to match, maybe wearing similar sweaters in similar tones with the same color pants.

Somehow, this has been more difficult then expected. My mom would ask around...do you have a blue sweater, a brown sweater, a gray sweater...only to find that no one had matching articles.

It's interesting to really think about how diverse our wardrobes have become. I look in my closet and realize that nothing I own is really that unique, but the various styles and colors really demonstrate the diversity of options out there, especially in terms of clothing.

Even when we tried to figure out black pants, blue pants, khakis, browns, and jeans, the diversity of our wardrobes became even more apparent. We're used to the stylized portraits and coordinations we see in advertising and media, but the fact of the matter is there are so many options that while one person has tradition dockers, another has suit pants, while another wears designer denim, one pleated patterned skirts, and the other wears cargo pants...okay, our styles are not so completely diverse, but coordinating has been surprisingly tricky.

I feel like after saying all that I should wrap it all up with some big point, some lesson about our expanding frontier of options, or our convergence and differences that occur over age or generations...but really, I have no such wise point. Instead I look forward to the family picture we will take later this week, knowing that years down the road we will all look at the pictures and make fun of our clothes no matter what we wear and comment on how young we looked and how we wear our hair so differently now, and so forth.

You can hardly look at a family portrait down the road with out some sort of mockery when you look at it. The only exception of course is the saving grace of children who are always cute no matter how big their bangs are, how poofy or outdated their clothes are, or how clearly the background of the photo describes the decade.

So with that I leave you with a picture from a 1970s JCPenny's catalogue of an advertisement with a family dressed for Christmas in matching sweaters. Yes, as all the details have been worked out we too will be wearing matching sweaters...no reindeer's or argyle, just solid colors...guys in one color, girls in another. We still don't know what pants we're wearing, but it'll all work out I'm sure. No matter what we wear we will make fun of it ten, twenty, and hopefully fifty years from now.

Above pictures from VintageCDArt and PlaidStallions.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What Were They Thinking? Meatloaf Recipe with Gerber Baby Food

This truly is so disgusting.

Our baby Linden started eating "solid food" when she was four months old - mainly rice cereal, and at five months moved beyond rice cereal to a variety of foods...beginning with peas.

For the most part, we make most of her "solid foods" with the exception of the baby cereals...of which she has rice, barley, and oatmeal.

We have bought Gerber brand, but the most recent purchase had the most disgusting thing on it...a recipe on the back for Garden Vegetable Meat Loaf.

This is not a baby meat loaf recipe...no, it's a regular meat loaf recipe made with baby food.

I've uploaded the picture on the box above...if you can read the recipe, you'll notice this recipe is made with traditional meat loaf fair...ground beef, eggs, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, and garlic.

This recipe has two unique (disgusting) additions...Gerber Baby Food Green Beans (1 3.5 oz container) and 1 Gerber Baby Food Garden Vegetables Container (1 3.5 oz container) and 1 cup of Gerber Oatmeal cereal.

This is disgusting. And messed up. The other boxes have advertisements for Gerber baby food bowls and info about Gerber vitamins. This recipe on the back of the Gerber Oatmeal cereal box is completely unappealing and simply does not make sense to me. What were they thinking??

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Wolverine To Host Oscars

Hugh Jackman will indeed be the host of this years Oscar ceremony.

Apparently, they're going a different direction with the award show...with the past decades filled mostly with comic host, who would have predicted Hugh Jackman?

Thoughts???

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Corruption: Governor Blagojevich and Governor Hubert "Happy" Hopper

Governor Hubert Hopper & Mr. Smith Goes To Washington
Governor Hubert" Happy" Hopper isn't a real governor...but his character certainly plays off certain challenges that must exist for governors who are placed in the powerful position of naming a Senator.

In the classic 1939 film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, the basic premise of the film relies on a corrupt leadership in unnamed state (that for all purposes, might as well be Illinois). The corrupt governor is in a position to chose a Senate replacement for the deceased and loved senator Sam Foley. His political boss Jim Taylor (Edward Arnold) has a corrupt plan in place...and has the perfect man handpicked for a dam-building graft scheme.

Governor Hopper is torn on what to do and eventually deviates with his own plan (or a plan led by the fate of a coin) and chooses an unknown man who he expects will fall in line with the also-corrupt senator from their Illinois-esque state, Senator Joseph Paine (Claude Rains).

Of course...mayhem ensues, plans get foiled, and there are various surprises along the way and in the senate chambers.

Governor Rod Blagojevich & Reality
The reality of stories, especially to the extreme of what has come over the past couple of days, and truly sounds like the stuff of fiction, not reality.

It's too bad that conversations the past couple of days have discussed which state of the union is most corrupt. People can name examples out of New York, Alaska, and Louisiana and the stories, and list go on and on. For a country that prides itself in it's liberties and democratic process it really is disheartening to know what secrets, conspiracies and agendas are kept behind closed doors.

I do not excuse Blagojevich one bit for the mockery he has made of the democratic process. At the same time, to have the authority to chose a US Senator (including the option of "promoting" yourself) seems like a lot of power to be had for one person, and the outside influences and voices that might lead to any given choice is certainly exhaustive to imagine. I would hope that this situation would be the catalyst to create better protocol.

It bothers me when people try to suggest that the moral character of a political candidate is not important or essential, because when it comes down to it, it seems to me, that character is one of the most important characters of a good leader. In a position of power a persons honesty and integrity is really put to the test, and if there are cracks in their character to begin with, then I can only see that spelling disaster.

Jefferson Smith and ???
I would hardly argue that America needs a true Jefferson Smith (Jimmy Stuarts, boy ranger leader with no experience who goes to be a US Senator) in leadership. I think America needs people that are smart, creative, reconcilers, and true leaders in positions of power. But I think that in a world of 30 second smear ads and car bumper stickers even these character traits are hard to evaluate. But even harder is to evaluate a person's honesty and integrity.

Frankly, I don't think the political process is built in such a way that people with strong character can really get elected in our current political arena. Is this pessimistic, fatalistic, and the hopeless? I hope it's not true. But I find myself increasingly disappointed by the Blagojevich's, and all those around him who are aware of what's going on, and refuse to blow the whistle.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New York Film Critics Awards - Happy Go Lucky & Milk

That's Sally Hawkin's character in Happy-Go-Lucky, but after today New York Film Critics Circle awards about Sally Hawkins is making that face too.

Sally Hawkins not only won the LA Film Critics award, but she picked up the New York Film Critics award today.

Happy-Go-Lucky also picked up a best director award for veteran Mike Leigh.

The other repeat winner is Penelope Cruz who's performance in Vicky Christina Barcelona who won with the National Board of Review AND LA Film Critics. I'm sensing an early pattern.

The other big winner was Milk -- the film won Best Film, Sean Penn won best actor and Josh Brolin won best supporting actor. The N

The winners...

Best Picture: Milk
Best Actress: Sally Hawkins, Happy-Go-Lucky
Best Actor: Sean Penn, Milk
Best Supporting Actress: Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona
Best Supprting Actor: Josh Brolin, Milk
Best Director: Mike Leigh, Happy Go Lucky
Best Animated Film: WALL-E
Best Screenplay: Jenny Lumet, Rachel Getting Married
Best Cinematographer: Anthony Dodd Mantle, Slumdog Millionaire
Best Documentary: Man on Wire
Best Foreign Film: 4 Month, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
Best First Film: Courtney Hunt, Frozen River

**Also the Broadcast Film Critics Nominations came out yesterday as well - see them here**

(My most recent Oscar predictions for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Picture)

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

LA Chooses a Suprise Best -- Wall-E -- It's Got to Be Those Eyes

I love when the critics groups have a variety of choices for best and don't just try to match the Oscar buzz top 5 choices...

The NBR chose Slumdog Millionaire, but the LA Critics have a surprise choice (as they sometimes do, like their 2003 selection of American Splendor) for best film...they chose Wall-E (which did make the NBR's top 10).

The LA Film Critics awards are important in Oscars predictions to me because these critics often choose more "critical" fair, but they chose the smaller-type of pics and performances that might need the critical buzz to get them into the top 5. An LA Film Critics endorsement is a big bonus.

I've posted the winners and runners up below...but as I see it...the big buzz winners are...Sally Hawkins & the Happy-Go-Lucky film as a whole, as well as Wall-E, Melissa Leo (who's probably competing with Hawkins for spot 5), and The Dark Knight & Christopher Nolan(who have increased validity as a best pic nod with the LA endorsement), and Waltz With Bashir (will it get an animated nod at the Oscars??? ).

I figure Ledger, Rourke, Penn, Cruz, and Viola Davis were in good Oscar position anyways pre LAFCA.

Picture: "Wall-E"(Runner-up: "The Dark Knight")

Director: Danny Boyle, "Slumdog Millionaire" (Runner-up: Christopher Nolan, "The Dark Knight")

Actor: Sean Penn, "Milk"(Runner-up: Mickey Rourke, "The Wrestler")

Actress: Sally Hawkins, "Happy-Go-Lucky" (Runner-up: Melissa Leo, "Frozen River")

Supporting actor: Heath Ledger, "The Dark Knight" (Runner-up: Eddie Marsan, "Happy-Go-Lucky")

Supporting actress: Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and "Elegy"(Runner-up: Viola Davis, "Doubt")

Screenplay: Mike Leigh, "Happy-Go-Lucky"(Runner-up: Charlie Kaufman, "Synecdoche, New York")

Foreign-language film: "Still Life" (Runner-up: "The Class")


Documentary: "Man on Wire" (Runner-up: "Waltz With Bashir")

Animation: "Waltz With Bashir"

Cinematography: Yu Lik Wai, "Still Life" (Runner-up: Anthony Dod Mantle, "Slumdog Millionaire")

Production design: Mark Friedberg, "Synecdoche, New York" (Runner-up: Nathan Crowley, "The Dark Knight")

Music/score: A.R. Rahman, "Slumdog Millionaire" (Runner-up: Alexandre Desplat, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button")

Last Years LAFCA winners were probably a little more in line with eventual Oscar winners then this years...but who knows...maybe the LA Film Critics will set some trends we'll see followed up??

(My most recent Oscar predictions for Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Picture)

Will The Real Bee Vang Please Stand Up?

Awhile back when the buzz for Clint Eastwood's new film Gran Torino kept on growing, I began to wonder who else was in the cast...of course, that's what IMDb is for, and so you can hardly imagine my shock to see that Eastwood's co-star was an unknown from Fresno, California named Bee Vang.

You see in my current job I regularly deal with a variety of people online and through e-mail that I've never met face-to-face, or even spoken with directly. One of those people who's name I see constantly is an associate who works out in California named Bee Vang.

Now, my local co-workers have discussed previously whether we thought with the name Bee Vang we were dealing with a male or a female and this was a constant random curiosity we would hypothesize about.

So when I saw that Clint Eastwood's film stared a male Bee Vang, I couldn't help but wonder if it was the same Bee Vang I dealt with on an almost daily basis...my hopes in this prospect dwindled when I saw that Gran Torino's Bee Vang was born in 1991...I assumed that the Bee I worked with wasn't only 17...but how could I know?

So, I decided to check out facebook - I was suprised to see if there were more Bee Vangs in this world than I might have expected.

To my surprise there was/is. In fact there are 44 Bee Vangs currently with profiles on facebook. Interestingly enough they are both male and female, so the question of my work associates gender was not solved...nor did I know for sure if the Bee I worked with could possibly be an upcoming star.

(Incidentally, these 44 Bee Vangs seemed to live mostly in Minnesota and Wisconsin, not California).

So...after further discussion in my office about the possibility of us working with "The Real" Bee Vang, we found out the answer for ourselves...and the illusion died.

The other day there was a situation that warranted a phone call to Bee Vang in the office. One of my friends who pondered these questions about Bee's identity called to discovered "our" Bee Vang was a female, and thus not "the real" Bee Vang.

Needless to say, we were disappointed.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Newspapers - Some Thoughts

All signs point to an escalation in the newspaper collapse...something I feel like has been going on for awhile - and now a very weak economy is serving as a catalyst to cause an increased decline.

One of the reasons is for many the news in the morning paper is already old news after they have been following stories online, cable news services, and on the google, apple, and blackberry phones.

There are simply so many different types of media options available that have crowded out the role for the newspaper in it's traditional format.

There are certainly other reasons, but I would argue that the collapse of the news industry is not a decreased interest in news, rather that the newspaper aren't gaining readership, and new design and story writing styles isn't going to change all that.

It is expected that Tribune Co. (owner of the Chicago Tribune, the LA Times, other papers, the Chicago Cubs, and Wrigley Field) will file for bankruptcy soon. Obviously, this is very sad to see large prominent institutions (like Tribune Co., or any of the other struggling industries, fail, go bankrupt, or fall off the map...many of course, excluded from the opportunity for a government bailout).

My wife and I have never subscribed to a paper. If we didn't live in our current age of news technology, I can guarantee we would subscribe to the paper in another time. We are interested in news, locally, nationally, and in the world. But we can find that information where we want and when we want it -- without all the clutter and reliance on one a local daily.

Yet when we moved into our new house recently we received the benefit of receiving the remainder of the former owners newspaper subscription
...rather, two papers. She receives our cities two daily newspapers...so every day we have not just one, but two newspapers waiting for us.

Because our mornings are not necessarily leisurely, these newspapers usually end up in the trash...which of course, feels very wasteful. But what I have enjoyed is that we get the Sunday paper.

It's not the colored comics I've enjoyed...because frankly, I rarely laugh when I read any of them...but rather, it's the coupons. The Sunday coupons in the paper are often significantly different then what I'm used to getting in my mailbox.

It has been enjoyable to cut out the manufacture coupons and when I go the store hand them over to the checker at the grocery store and see dollars fall off my purchase. I've also enjoyed being able to peruse the holiday deals in the paper from the different companies, clipping coupons, shopping the deals, and being aware of various promotions that I would have a hard time knowing about otherwise.

It is unfortunate that the most redeeming thing I find about the paper is the coupons and ads.
This is especially sad since the lack of readers is probably also driving down the ad rates creating a double-whammy of loss revenues. Not to mention how slim the classified section is when people can sell there old furniture, instruments, and vehicles on Craigslist and Ebay.

I'm not sure how much longer we'll be getting our papers, but I do know I'll be glad to be done throwing away the Monday papers, but I think I'll be sad not to get the Sunday papers. And while I can do without a paper, I'm curious how newspaper failures might effect the industry, as well as the way older generations get the news, comics, obituaries, ads, and so forth.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Supporting Actress & Supporting Actor Oscar Predictions

I actually feel like the supporting actor race in one that I've been closely monitoring all year. The possibility and buzz surrounding Heath Ledger caused me to early on begin assessing the other contenders. Early predictions always get you into trouble. For example, I was sure that Michael Sheen and Robert Downey Jr would both getting supporting nods for playing journalist, but Downey's role in The Soloist, first went from supporting to lead, and then The Soloist got postponed to 2009. Like Downey Jr.'s Soloist role, Michael Sheen's Frost/Nixon role is being campaigned as lead for the part of Michael Frost...despite the fact that Frank Langella seems to be the primary lead, and presumably the only actor to score the lead nod.

The love for Robert Downey Jr. didn't die with the Soloist though, suddenly upon the announcement, the possibility of a Supporting actor nod for playing a black actor in Tropic Thunder suddenly picked up buzz.

I am a little disappointed that lead actor Dev Patel is being pushed for supporting actor for Slumdog Millionaire because it seems like complete category fraud, and I just don't like category fraud...but as time goes on, even the list of potential nods in this category seems to dwindle...but I still believe there are room for surprises in this category...especially with all the Milk boys (Emile Hirsh, Josh Brolin, James Franco competing against each other) and the uncertainty of how voters will react to less traditional performances, like Ledger's in the Dark Knight, Downey Jr.'s in Tropic Thunder, and Brad Pitt in burn after reading.

On the other hand the supporting actress race hasn't really interested me at all this year. Partially because the short list and buzz hasn't really adjusted throughout the year, and the scope of possible Oscar nods in this category is limited. In the category for Best Animated Feature, the have a rule that states that there needs to be a certain number of contenders for there to be 5 nominations, if there are less than only 3 films are nominated. Similarly, I almost feel like this race would be more interesting if only 3 actresses could get nominated, because at least at this stage in the game, I don't see the contenders...perhaps I'm wrong, only because so few of the buzz films have not had any sort of wide release yet. I feel like the golden globe nominations in this category specifically will really set the tone and direction for the eventual Oscar nominees in the supporting actress category.

I am also curious if the Academy/Globes/Critics will buy into the category fraud of Kate Winslet being pushed for supporting in her lead role in The Reader.

With that, I am presenting my predictions of the best supporting actor and supporting actress nominations, with the inclusion of those who are waiting in line should one of these supporting characters not get the neccesary attention for a nod.

Best Supporting Actor
My Predicted Nominees
1. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
2. Josh Brolin, Milk
3. Phillip Seymore Hoffman, Doubt
4. Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road
5. Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder

Maybe, Maybe, Maybe.
6. Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire
7. Brad Pitt, Burn After Reading
8. Liev Schreiber, Defiance
9. James Franco, Milk
10. Bill Irwin, Rachel Getting Married
11. Peter O'Toole, Dean Spanley
12. Eddie Marsan, Happy-Go-Lucky

Best Supporting Actress
My Predicted Nominees
1. Viola Davis, Doubt
2. Penelope Cruz, Vicky Christina Barcelona
3. Tranji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
4. Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
5. Kate Winslet, The Reader

Maybe, Maybe, Maybe
6. Rosemarie Dewitt, Rachel Getting Married
7. Kathy Bates, Revolutionary Road
8. Amy Adams, Doubt
9. Debra Winer, Rachel Getting Married
10. Hiam Abbass, The Visitor
11. Elsa Zylberstein, I've Loved You So Long
12. Tilda Swinton, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I *heart* National Board of Review Awards

I love the National Board of Review because they give us a peak at what might be getting the love through out award season.

The national board of reviews do awards in a way that don't mirror the Oscars, so they leave some mystery while also being an incredibly strong precursors.


I love how National Board of Review essentially makes a top 10 list, but only tells us who's #1, while giving us ten more top films...but in alphabetical order.

The 2008 NBR best film winner Slumdog Millionaire.

Only twice in the past two years has the NBR winner not received a best picture nod...2000's winner Quills and 1998's winner Gods and Monsters.

Slumdog was way high on my Oscar best picture predictions (#2), and a potential winner. I think the NBR recognition only supports the fact that it will get an Oscar best picture nod, but I think Curious Case of Benjamin Button will still be the film that walks away with the ultimate prize at the end of awards season.

The NBR's top 10 Films for this year are (in alphabetical order of course are)...Burn After Reading, Changeling, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Dark Knight, Defiance, Frost/Nixon, Gran Torino, Milk, Wall-e, The Wrestler.

Notable exclusions that didn't make the list include: Revolutionary Road, Doubt, Australia, and The Reader.

The biggest surprise to me is the exclusion of Revolutionary Road and Doubt. Sure they still have a chance to get into the best picture race, but there chances got slimmer. The inclusion of The Dark Knight seems to me to help it's chances of getting in with critical support as a reasonable consideration for best picture.

A big suprise to me was the Best Actor pick...the NBR chose...

Clint Eastwood as the Best Actor of 2008 for his performance in Gran Torino.

Four of the past 5 years NBR winner has gone on to win the Oscar...my most recent Oscar Best Actor prediction placed Clint in the 6 spot, just missing the nod...but perhaps I need to re-think that, in fact, this makes me think I may need to reconsider Gran Torino's role at the Oscars completely, especially since they awarded Gran Torino best Original Screenplay of the year.

The NBR Selected Anne Hathaway as best Actress for her performance in Rachel Getting Married.

The last time that the NBR's best Actress pick did not go on to an Oscar nod was in 1990 when they awarded Mia Farrow for her performance in Alice. I do have Anne Hathaway in my top 5, but her questionable position is certainly has an increased chance for a nod. Although, I don't expect Hathaway to sweep the critics awards like Mirren did in 2006/2007.

Best Supporting Actor recognition went to Josh Brolin in Milk and Best Supporting Actress Honors went to Penelope Cruz in Vicky Christina Barcelona.

The National Board of Review has frequently been a poor Oscar precursor for these categories, but that is partially do to the fact they often award actors and actresses who have played multiple supporting roles in the same year (for example: Joaquin Phoenix for Gladiator, The Yards, Quills, or Julianne Moore for an Ideal Husband, A Map of the World, Cookie's Fortune, & Magnolia).

I would expect that Josh Brolin and Penelope Cruz both have excellent chances for picking up more precursor love this season, including Oscar nods...although wins might be less likely.

The complete list of NBR winners can be found on their site. Congrats to the winner's a let Award season begin!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

10 Songs I'm Diggin' Now


Can you name the artist pictured here?

I've realized as I've posted songs that so few songs are female vocalist.

Well this week's number 1 song I'm digging comes from a female artists.

Here's the top 10 songs I'm digging this week. This weeks list generally has a lot of piano driven songs, and the heart that follows.

10. Instead of the Show, Jon Foreman
9. Brothers in a Hotel Bed, Death Cab for Cutie
8. All Will Be Well, The Gabe Dixon Band
7. Trusted, Ben Folds
6. Night Swimming, REM
5. Trouble, Ray LaMontagne
4. Cathedrals, Jump, Little Children
3. Four Leaf Clover, Badly Drawn Boy
2. Measuring Cups, Andrew Bird
1. Fidelity, Regina Spector


Other top 10 song list...Nov 19, Oct 16, Sept 17, & Sept 3.

*Pictured above is Regina Spector. Was that your guess?

Monday, December 01, 2008

50 Fifty Year Olds - In Honor of My Mom's 50th Birthday

My Mom regularly reads StrangeCulture, and today is her 50th Birthday!
In honor of her 50th Birthday, I thought I would post the names of 50 people who are also currently 50. You might be surprised at what a hip club of AARP eligible people you are now apart of.

Albert II,
Mitch Albom,
Kevin Bacon,
Alec Baldwin,
Angela Bassett,
Annette Bening,
Bill Berry,
Andrea Bochelli,
Wade Boggs,
Tim Burton,
Steve Buscemi,
Bruce Campbell,
Drew Carey,
Mary Chapin Carpenter,
Chris Columbus,
Mark Cuban,
Jamie Lee Curtis,
Ellen DeGeneres,
Michael Clarke Duncan,
Kenneth "Baby Face" Edmonds,
Colm Feore,
Jeff Foxworthy,
Alan Jackson,
Keith Haring,
Patricia Heaton,
Marg Helgenberger,
Susan Helms,
Orel Hershiser,
Holly Hunter,
Ice-T,
Michael Jackson,
Matt Lauer,
Simon Le Bon,
Lex Lugar,
Andie MacDowell,
Madonnna,
Viggo Mortensen,
Gary Oldman,
Donny Osmond,
Michelle Pfeiffer,
Prince,
Miranda Richardson,
Tim Robbins,
Ray Ramano,
Joseph Saddler (aka Grandmaster Flash),
Sharon Stone,
Hal Sutton,
Charlene Tilton,
William Watterson,
Keenen Ivory Wayans


Happy 50th Birthday, Mom!
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