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Water Towers

Thursday, February 26, 2009
Back in the 80's and early 90's I was growing up in North Portland. Crime was high, housing values were low, schools were terrible, and I was just a kid who didn't know any of that. What I did know, at least subconsciously, was that there were water towers all over town. They were a normal part of life, and that was that.

A water tower in North Portland

Fast forward a decade or two and now I'm moving back to North Portland, and back into the familiar embrace of the ubiquitous green water tower. They're all over the place! I didn't realize, until moving around the Willamette Valley, that these large, green spherical towers that parked above the ground like massive alien spacecraft weren't everywhere.

I like them. They're fun landmarks for me. They make me feel strangely comfortable - and I like what they do. It's one of those small, strange things that makes this town feel more like "mine".

Bailing out The General

Thursday, February 19, 2009
All over the news lately (at least, the news I tend to read) have been stories about the viability plans General Motors (and Chrysler, I guess) submitted to Congress as part of their bailout justification plans.

General Motors

Making GM viable apparently means axing Hummer (no great loss), shedding Saturn (GM's one attempt at making good small cars), and letting the Swedes deal with Saab. Oh, and laying off another 47,000 people. Yup, that's what they'd do with our $30+ billion dollars, and, hey, maybe they'd start repaying it in a few years.

Yeah, right.

Perhaps I'm cynical, but I really don't think that givingloaning GM a ton of money to support their operations is going to teach anybody a lesson. What happens is that people will say, "Oh, we've been doing a piss-poor job of running this company... but it doesn't matter, the taxpayers will support us!" Positive reinforcement for negative behavior is not a good model, I assure you.

So here's the thing: they should give me Rick Wagoner's job. Rick Wagoner, CEO, has been there for a while and, aside from Cadillac's resurgence, I haven't seen much good come from it. So give me the job. I'm much more marketing friendly and financially responsible than anyone I've seen lead General Motors in a long time. I could do an awesome job. Seriously! (Though you may have to pay me more than the $1/year that Mr. Wagoner reportedly makes. I have student loans, you know, and no one's bailing me out of those.)

Movie Review: Taken

Thursday, February 12, 2009
I saw the movie Taken last night. In summary? The film was completely awesome and I plan on seeing it again. But let's not jump ahead of ourselves.

The basic plot is that Bryan Mills (played by Liam Neeson) is an ex-CIA something who has retired to try to build a life getting to know his 17-year old daughter. She goes on a trip to Europe and gets kidnapped in Paris, to be sold into a slave trade. Our hero jumps to action and goes to find her, and in doing so does whatever he needs to do without hesitation.

Taken poster

If this sounds like the plot to a movie written by Luc Besson, you're right. It was written by him. Imagine if Kiss of the Dragon had been written without Bridget Fonda's annoying character or an actual, definable bad guy. That's what this is; it's not Liam Neeson fighting his way to one main bad guy, per se, he's just kicking the ass of everyone who's between him and his baby girl.

The movie, on first viewing, never seemed to drag or lack for either action or character development. Okay, there was a lot more action than character development, but the characters had an actual motivation for what they were doing, so that helped. Liam Neeson was, quite simply, amazingly badass in this role. The bad guys were suitably bad, the good guys were suitably good, and there wasn't any point in the movie where I wasn't happy I was seeing it.

Final word on Taken? See it, then see it again, then see it one more time. Then rent it on DVD.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Let me describe a situation I like. I'm walking towards a crosswalk in order to cross the street when I see a person (or group of people) waiting at the crosswalk. Their light turns to "walk" and they, with cars (of course) waiting for them, proceed to cross.

Crosswalk animation

In that scenario? I love running across the street downstream of them, essentially using them to block traffic for me while I steal use of "their" crosswalk. I get such a kick out of that feeling. For some reason it really strikes me as getting something for nothing, but in a clever way, like I managed to steal my way across a street in traffic without anyone having to wait for me.

Okay, so it's a little strange. I'm just sayin'...

Movie Review: Quantum of Solace

Monday, February 09, 2009
I saw Quantum of Solace the other night at the McMenamins Mission Theater.

The movie is a follow up Casino Royale and focuses on a hard-edged James Bond and his quest for vengeance - his loved one was killed, and he's chasing down the organization that was ultimately responsible. He meets a gal who is also out for revenge, and they blow lots of stuff up in a wildly exciting fashion. Good times are had by all.

Quantum of Solace

If you at all enjoyed the last Bond movie, Casino Royale, this is an excellent movie to see. It's still just as coherent as the last one (which, of course, stands in direct opposition to the prior 30 years of Bond films), it's packed with action, and it's almost completely free of the campiness that defined Bond films for so many years. 007 has traded that signature smirk for an angry glint in his eye.

I only have one gripe about the movie, and that's that it was often difficult to understand what the actors were saying. Perhaps it's where I sat in the theater (it was pretty full so I was in the back corner) but I felt like many lines were delivered with a solid British mumble, which was slightly distracting. Other than that, though, when the movie was over (less than two hours after it had begun) I was thoroughly satisfied.

Final word on Quantum of Solace? Definitely worth seeing, though probably too late to catch in the theater.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Network TV

Friday, February 06, 2009
Late one night I happened to catch the pilot for Lie To Me on Hulu and, intrigued, have watched the subsequent episodes. The show stars the always fun Tim Roth (and several other people) as Dr. Lightman, who is apparently a consultant who studies human emotions - especially as they relate to the truth.

Tim Roth in Lie to Me

Interesting concept. Unfortunately, even after only three episodes filled with great acting and interesting dialogue, the show already feels stale. Perhaps it's the idea of various law enforcement agencies consulting with someone just to see if the suspect is telling the truth, perhaps it's the predictability of the plot twists, or perhaps it's just the fact that the show is focusing too much on the weekly crimes and not enough on the meta-plot. I mean, it might as well be a show about Wonder Woman's Lasso of Truth except they've left out all the interesting bits about Wonder Woman and the Justice League. It will get pretty boring pretty fast if they don't start developing characters a little faster.

Anyway, the show's fun to watch, but if nothing changes, I don't think it'll make it past a season and a half. Again, only if nothing changes.



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