Kung Fu Panda 2 A Rousing Extended Tale (Pun Intended)

We saw Kung Fu Panda 2 yesterday, and it was a joy to see a sequel that extended the original story so seamlessly and with such generous emotional satisfaction. Ebert liked it too, but thought the 3-D version detracted. Based on that assessment, we saw the “normal” 2-D version, and liked it very much indeed:

“Kung Fu Panda 2” is exactly as you’d expect, and more. The animation is elegant, the story is much more involving than in the original, and there’s boundless energy. I enjoyed it as fully as I possibly could, given the horror of its 3-D. The original film, in 2-D wide-screen, was just fine. But never mind. Hollywood has brainwashed us or itself that 3-D is an improvement and not an annoyance.What’s best about this sequel is that it’s not a dutiful retread of the original, but an ambitious extension. Of the many new elements, not least is the solution of the mystery of how Mr. Ping, a goose, could be the biological father of Po, a panda. In the original film, as nearly as I can recall, every character represented a different species, so I thought perhaps inscrutable reproductive processes were being employed. But no, Po’s parenthood is explained here, and it has a great deal to do with new developments in the kingdom.

via Kung Fu Panda 2 :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews.

I spotted at least 2 Easter eggs or visual jokes – there’s a Pixar reference (this is a Dreamworks film) in a fight scene along a city street (watch out for the signs, Po!) and there’s an old-school gaming reference immediately afterwards that made me gigglesnort uncontrollably. I was already laughing hysterically when at the beginning of the “stealth mode” sequence, Po truly takes on the role of the Dragon (you will, too), but the sequence built on the laughs to a level that was just pure, childlike delight.

Yet the fight scenes were also intense, although true cartoon-animal violence is handled senstitively. The exploration of Po’s backstory brought me to tears late in the movie, where only the reel before I was laughing or chuckling most of the time.

The antagonist this time out, played by a sinister-sounding Gary Oldman, is a royal peacock with parental issues who seems to have mastered the “war fan” style of fighting using his magnificent Chinese-style tail plumage. His encounters with Po are amazing to watch.

In fact, all the animation is just jaw-droppingly gorgeous, and there are flashback sections that are told in a simplified visual style that evokes Chinese water colors. The opening and closing credits are beautifully rendered “Chinese cut-paper puppet” scenes.

Jack Black owns the panda, who’s really come into his own as a skilled warrior (who’s still a plushy looking panda after all).  And there’s just a touch of “skadoosh” too.

Highly recommended – we saw it at a matinee and there were a ton of kids, so think about going later when there might be more adults willing to be seen at a “kids’ movie.”

Ugly Americanisms: Two Countries Divided By A Language

In my ongoing love affair with all things British, I sometimes come up against things that are less loveable, such as the crankypants insularity that is a hallmark of the English national personality. I do understand, really I do; references to our popular culture, fast-food cuisine and security-theater politics are everywhere in the UK where there’s a TV, a McDonalds, or an international airport.

I chuckled at this story, which quotes several peevish readers complaining about the use of American idiom and slang in the Guardian, a left-leaning newspaper. For the record, “clatch” is the German word “klatsch,” we currently spell it “rambunctious” now (note spelling differs from the original one), and “schlep” is Yiddish. Our shared language is as endlessly diverting as it is diverse.

"Can you please ask your journalists and feature writers not to use American English in their articles? Whilst I appreciate that many are either American themselves, or have spent a long time in the USA, they are nevertheless writing for a British readership. Recent examples include clatch, rumbunctious, drag for High Street, dweebish and schlep. I find myself constantly having to reach for the dictionary to find out what your journalists are saying when I am reading the Guardian or Observer because of these ugly and unnecessary Americanisms."

via Lickety splits: two nations divided by a common language | Mind your language | Media | guardian.co.uk.

Books Most Likely to Be Binned In Britain

Dan Brown’s scat-illogical* books are at the top of the Oxfam list of books most likely to be donated to the charity, which runs a chain of 686 second-hand bookshops. But the Top Gear presenter my husband David and I most love to hate is the first non-fiction author to make the Oxfam list of “most donated” books.

The rants of Jeremy Clarkson, meanwhile, have made the Top Gear presenter the first non-fiction writer to enter the charity’s top 10 of authors most likely to be donated to its 686 shops: either his readers are notably generous, or unwilling to keep his titles on their shelves once read.

Via Dan Brown tops Oxfam’s ‘least wanted’ chart | Books | guardian.co.uk

Oh, what joy! Rapture! to read this, because anything that reveals Clarkson to be the great bloviating boober he is makes me laugh like a happy schoolgirl. His booming sarcasm and bullying presenting style is nearly entertaining enough to get him arrested in at least 2 American states, if not a small South American country. For example, in a recent episode the Top Gear gentlemen of motoring were told they could not be too entertaining, as their visas did not allow them to act as entertainers. Viz:

Oh, those scallywags! Everybody knows you don’t drag race on the main drag, you drag race on an isolated stretch of asphalt out in the boonies. Didn’t you see “American Graffiti?” Fortunately for their future travel to America, they managed to be unentertaining enough so as not to violate the terms of their “non-entertainment” visas.

By the way, that wasn’t their first attempt at driving while being asshats; the last time they japed their way across the American landscape, they almost got the crap beaten out of them in Alabama. They decided to take on protective coloration – by decorating each other’s beater cars. This was in 2008 sometime.

Clarkson is the loud one, who can be quite amusing but is often overbearing. The others are Hammond (the small hamstery one, very popular with caravan ladies) and May (pleasant company if you don’t mind lots and lots of technical detail).

I won’t be buying Clarkson’s book – his opinions and politics would fit right in at FOX news, although he’d be much, much funnier than anybody else they have on. But we’re quite fond here at Chez Gique of Top Gear (we became aware of it on one of our trips to Britain). I’m happy to see it getting some press in the US, even though it’s mostly stories from the Beeb about who The Stig really is (look it up yourself, I won’t spoil you).

*Yes, yes, it’s really meant to be “eschatological,” a word I heard just today on WBEZ, describing an even crappier end-times tribulations book than Tim La Haye’s “Left Behind.” Brown’s bin-liner books, although not strictly eschatological (yet), are confusing crap, so there you are.

NBC Had Better Renew #Chuck Or ELSE

Don’t Make Us Send Some Ridiculously Large Number of Packages of Nerds Candy to NBC Headquarters!


Yes, I’m a nerd. A proud nerd. I like to watch shows nerds watch. So does my husband. And we like to spend money on things nerds like. We would buy a DVD set of “Chuck” should one become available. We (mkay, I) would buy a Jeffster t-shirt. We buy many products that are product-placed on “Chuck” already, but when we see them, we don’t groan with dismay, but chuckle (get it? WE CHUCKLE) because the placements are both clever and relevant to the characters and the action on the screen. We get it, this show. Why don’t you renew it, so we can all continue to chuckle, laugh, guffaw, and get it some more?

We usually watch on a slight amount of delay with TiVo, but sometimes I’ve watched episodes via Hulu (because that’s how I roll). I actually pay some attention to the ads on Hulu, because they’re funny. I like funny.

I like Chuck. A lot. If you NBC executives don’t renew Chuck, you’ll suck @nomtweets. And that is a very bad thing.

Please don’t cancel Chuck, NBC. Don’t be like those total jerks from the Hollywood Buy-More.

Chuck: An open letter to NBC to save it – Sepinwall on TV – NJ.com

An open letter to Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff, co-chairmen of NBC Entertainment, and Angela Bromstad, president of NBC Entertainment, on the subject of “Chuck,” which airs its penultimate episode of the season tonight at 8 on Channel 4:

Dear Ben, Marc and Angela: I know this is a busy time for you. Two weeks from today, you’re going to be announcing your prime-time schedule for the 2009-10 TV season, and you still need to figure out how to make that work when you’re devoting the 10 o’clock hour to Jay Leno five nights a week. So I’ll get right to the point:

If that schedule doesn’t include “Chuck,” I’m going to be very unhappy. And, I think, you might come to regret it, too.

Why, when you have such a tight schedule, would you bring back a show that routinely finishes a distant fourth in its time slot? Well, beside the fact that it’s one of the most brutal time slots on television — up against “Dancing with the Stars,” “House” and the CBS comedies (not to mention “Chuck” co-creator Josh Schwartz’s “Gossip Girl” on the CW) — I can think of a bunch of reasons, both creative and financial, for continuing to follow the comic adventures of nerd-turned-spy Chuck (Zachary Levi) as he saves the world while trying to get that computer of government intelligence out of his head.

Ugh, I can’t stand crap like Dancing with the Stars, and I don’t watch Gossip Girl, either. House is okay, but after Chuck started, our TiVo got reprogrammed so that the cute nerdy guy with the computer in his head totally dominates the cranky drug-addled doctor with the cane.

Here are the reasons Sepinwall mentions – MoRyan of the Chicago Trib put me on to this:

1. Product integration can be boiled down to three little words: “Five Dollar Footlong.” Also, anything Big Mike happens to like for dessert (lately, it’s been Dunkin Donuts). Not to mention the occasional rapturous appearances of big-ticket appliances, like the matched washer-dryer set Devon originally bought Ellie for their anniversary, which he prudently exchanged for the ginormous flat-screen TV. All the brand names are clearly visible or discernable every time there’s a scene in the Buy-More, and the vehicles are often referred to affectionately by their nicknames. Hello?? Want to stimulate the economy much?? Mention US-made cars that appeal to nerds, geeks, and early adopters. All the cool kids are watching this show. And hello again??? MAC. Who do you think Chevy Chase is actually spoofing? Definitely not Bill Gates, that’s for sure.

2. Recession escapism means that this show makes people happy. A lot of people look forward to this show, and it makes them feel all giggly and warm afterward, a lot like you’ll feel if you watch this video:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/rLdQ3UhLoD4" width="425" height="344" wmode="transparent" /]

See? “Chuck” is almost as irresistable as this adorable slow loris getting tickled. How could you not want people in today’s America to feel that good after watching?

3. Good press as in, SRSLY, have you checked out the Internets tubes lately?? Twitter will go nuts if Chuck is cancelled, and God knows how many “Save Chuck” Facebook groups have been created already? (five, at last count, with varying numbers of exclamation points. Ignore that guy in the homemade kilt, though). You’ve got a ton of TV critics and entertainment journalists and ordinary pop-culture geek-bloggers begging you to SAVE #CHUCK. Don’t make them do something crazy, like fly a frakkin’ skyad banner over the auditorium where the 1995 Emmy Awards were held, like the Earth2 fans did when you cancelled their Emmy-winning show. Don’t make them send you Nerds candy, like fans of Roswell sent Tabasco to the WB. Don’t make them come up with something completely crazy and creative, because it will get great press and you will look like total “loosers.”

4. NBC Tradition – oh, by all means, live up to the good tradition of putting on quality shows, and please don’t live down to the tradition of cancelling “sci-fi” genre shows that had strong fan support, like a little franchise fan letters kept alive for a couple of seasons… what was it called? Star Trek? And there was another little thing you had on for several years… Quantum Leap (starring Scott Bakula, remember?). And yet another one called Earth2 (see above) and there were a fair number of people who loved Seaquest:DSV, I guess… Remember, you cancelled Scrubs after a season, but it went on to some success for several more seasons on ABC. And good God, you cancelled Father Knows Best after picking it up from CBS? And cancelled SCTV? Philistines! We need the warm, fuzzy, and funny!

5. Yvonne Strahovski‘s character is the glue that keeps Chuck from coming unglued. She keeps “the asset” on an even keel and gives him hope for the future. And Yvonne is an amazing actress – sure, she’s gorgeous, but she’s also believable in a very physical role and delivers an emotional punch too. Don’t you want America’s little girls growing up with a role model like that?

6. It’s (arguably) the best show on your network right now, as Sepinwall says. It’s consistent, it’s funny, it’s pure entertainment. Also, it’s the most sharply written slice of American life on television right now – take away the spy element, and it’s a workplace comedy that’s got something to say about “dead end” jobs and the unlikely communities that form wherever people are working for a living.

Don’t make us send you crap. Renew this show… or, make us send you crap, write some sight gags into future episodes of 30 Rock, and renew this show. Please.


Pastafarians celebrate National Day of ARRRRRRRRRRRR – Uncyclopedia, the content-free encyclopedia

UnNews:Pastafarians celebrate National Day of ARRRRRRRRRRRR – Uncyclopedia, the content-free encyclopedia


CORVALLIS, OregonOregon State University (OSU) hosted the country’s largest and only congregation of Pastafarians to participate in the US government’s National Day of Prayer celebration. While the FlyingSpaghetti Monster and his high-cholesterol suffering followers are still not yet recognized by any of the world’s legitimate governments, it is still considered a more believable religion than Scientology and all its stupid Alien DC-9s and Thetan crap.

Darn! I totally missed this shit! Well done, OSU, our pants are off to you! Maybe we can all have spaghetti for dinner later and reflect profoundly on His Noodly Glory.

Well, at least I found the wonderful Uncyclopedia today. Icanhascheezburger.com cited their comprehensive section warning against the dangers of kitten huffing.

The Internets is so interesting! I’m sure the Lord FSM (sauce be upon him) had this in mind when S/he created all things.

(p.s.: I have an open mind about the Meathead’s gender, and also reject the concept of the Antipast.)

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Holy Moly: The End and the Beginning

Enough time has gone by since Holy Innocents closed that I think I can now deal with telling the story of the last 2 services held there. There aren’t many photos, because I was struggling with the settings on the camera and also because much of the time, I was holding either a hymnal or the Book of Common Prayer.


Christmas Eve was pretty but… it’s already faded into a sort of mish-mosh of previous years. However, a couple of things stand out. First, someone forgot to clue Fr. Steve in on using the little hand-candles for a candlelit portion, usually centered on singing “Silent Night.” We didn’t even sing “Silent Night,” let alone use the hand-candles. And the choices of hymns wasn’t up to our usual standard, either. Then I realized that the person who usually did that was one of the ones that’s declared they
won’t be coming along to “St Nicholas with the Holy Innocents,” and that someone else had stepped in to choose hymns and do the bulletin. There was a little buffet afterwards, and lots of people stood around visiting. We had a pretty good crowd, at least. But I left feeling a little… spiritually underinflated. It was the first Christmas since losing Mom, too, so there was that. I didn’t even bother putting up a Christmas tree or decorating, other than collecting holiday cards on the mantlepiece and lighting
candles a few evenings. It was a very meh-y Christmas for me, although we did have a lot of fun earlier in the evening at Mitch and Gloria’s house, making our own pizzas.

The closing service (or “Farewell Liturgy” as I termed it) was really, really good though. Here’s the final dismissal:

Farewell Liturgy 12-31-2006 1-10-19 PM 2193x1615

I chose this image from just afterward because everyone is smiling and applauding. The one of the moment after the dismissal is a little blurry, but you can still see how a couple of people are fighting to maintain their composure.

Farewell Liturgy 12-31-2006 1-10-14 PM 2490x1831

Full house, almost; but then, it was another one of those “single service” Sundays when our numbers were swelled by the St Nicholas people. Great music. We had Kris Abel, our first-string and favorite “guest organist,” and the builder of the organ and his partner were also there to add a little polish to the musical offerings. Robert, the builder, lives in Madison. He’s a relatively young guy, so he must have been just out of college or grad school when he built the organ. We’re hoping the diocese will agree
to let him take whatever parts he wants, as he’s built another organ… at his house!… as a practice instrument.

After “the big finish,” Robert played the final postlude, an arrangement we’d made with Kris’ full support. Then there was a reception downstairs, and some people started packing up the treasures almost immediately. Early in this process, I heard the organ playing and went back into the sanctuary to find a small crowd around the console, with Robert playing a warm-up piece.

Then they started singing favorite hymns. I grabbed my camera and my hymnal.

Farewell Liturgy 12-31-2006 1-24-57 PM 3072x2048
Farewell Liturgy 12-31-2006 1-25-49 PM 3072x2048

A few of the people in the shot are people who left last year, just after Easter, or was it the year before? They used to be deeply involved in choir and acolyte/altar party stuff. I was glad to see them, but struggled like others to keep my mouth shut about Touchy Questions. Such as “why exactly did you leave? Would we still be closing if you were here? And now that the likely reason you left is no longer an issue, why didn’t you come back?”

Yeah. I’ve spoken to someone who was so angry about how people drifted away in the last year that she didn’t feel that we should make sure that invitations to the closing service should even be sent out to people on the ‘inactive’ address list, but I don’t think she really feels that way anymore. It’s a process.

I spent some time downstairs at the reception, and then came upstairs to find that trucks had been backed up to the church door, and the larger “treasures” were already in, covered up, padded, and ready to go. They’ve since been installed in new places of honor at SNWTHI (yes, it’s a mouthful to say AND to type) and I have to say, they look very nice in their new home.

I started working in the sacristy, boxing up glassware and Eucharist items to go over that afternoon. After about an hour, I came out and was shocked to see how the entire sanctuary had been cleared out; whole sections of the chairs were corralled off so that they could be either stored, donated to a former vicar, or given to the Diocese. Most of the “treasures” were down and packed, although a few had given trouble. One parishioner was banging away at this Celtic cross, trying to remove it from the wall:

Station: Risen

Earlier, the altar had looked like this (this photo was actually taken last year:


About 90 minutes or so after the end of the service, it looked like this:

Farewell Liturgy 12-31-2006 3-34-33 PM 1264x1423

And this:

Farewell Liturgy 12-31-2006 3-38-14 PM 3072x2048

Fortunately, there is a lot of cause for hope. We got word this week that the Diocese has approved the immediate purchase of a brand new Allen digital organ. I don’t know which model, and I don’t know if we’re getting the least expensive digital, or a pipe/digital hybrid that fits our space, or something in-between. Our new music director, who has stated that she’d like to come back in the next life as a boy soprano at Christ Church,
Oxford or some other great Anglican choir school, has already mapped out what we’ll be singing through Easter (Joy! Rapture!) and has a pretty good idea what we’ll be doing for… Christmas 2007. Also, she’s bringing some “ringers” with her from her former place.

Reports from Steve on how the rest of the meeting went were very, very positive. Both bishops love us and hope the best for us, and think we’re poised to make great strides, now that we’ve combined our strengths. Truth be told, we’re shedding some weaknesses, especially from the Holy Moly side. We’re learning to have faith, dream big, and dare to try.

We’re starting 2007 in pretty good shape, financially. The next steps are to sell a couple of pieces of property, which will finance an addition on to St Nicholas (and Fr. Steve is still determined to recreate the Holy Innocents worship space. I think in the next life he wants to come back as an architect).

That reminds me, I’ve got some emails to send to press people regarding the food pantry. More later.

If You Thought Seven Dwarves Were Tough To Remember

((deep, raspy Movie Guy voice))

In a world where evil trolls lie in wait, thirsting for blood, and cruel goblins lurk deep under the middle-Earth, a great treasure lies at the end of an arduous journey…guarded by… a dragon.

They are not heroes… they are not mighty warriors. They are refugees on a quest to reclaim their golden birthright. But they've got a problem…  thirteen of them. Bad luck. 

They're about to change their luck… by taking on one more traveler, who has no idea what fate awaits him… right after a wild, crazy, and quite unexpected party. Underground.

Tom Cruise, in the role he was born to play… on a mission more impossible, a riskier business, than ever. He's the maverick, swashbuckling, barrel-riding thief who's out to grab for the golden Ring. Tom Cruise… isBilbo Baggins.


Thirteen Dwarves

[tags]The Hobbit, Peter Jackson, Hollywood, Dreck[/tags]

Hey, It’s That Guy!

A couple of times recently I spotted a familiar face playing a role in one or another favorite television shows. The first time, I knew in advance that they had a guest spot, and I didn’t recognize him. The second time, I had no idea (or missed the opening credits due to watching via TiVo.

In the most recent CSI episode, “Living Legend,” I missed the first 10 or 15 minutes or so. I’m not sure I would have recognized Roger Daltry in the first two roles he played in heavy makeup, because I didn’t recognize him in the second 2 roles. I had twigged to the fact that the same person played 2 of the 4 suspects, just before he tore off the prosthetic makeup. I even knew in advance he was appearing, a fact that
I admitted on HIGHLA-L, the Highlander fan mailing list, because back in the day, Daltry’s recurring character Fitzcairn was a fan favorite.

I went back and rewatched the beginning, and if you know what to look for, you can see it. There’s something oddly puffy and inexpressive about the characters’ faces. This doesn’t stop Daltry from belting out a really good version of “That’s Life” as a murderous karaoke singer, though in closeup you can tell that there’s something about the makeup that limits the range of motion on his mouth. He used different accents with all the “murderer” personae he adopted, and used his natural accent for his character’s
real identity. It’s only around the eyes that you can see they all resemble each other, which is exactly how he’s caught out by the CSIs.

Excellent job by all: Daltry, makeup people, wardrobe. In a related article, it was all filmed in 2 days, which is an amazing feat when you consider the amount of time it takes to design, apply, and remove just one character’s makeup, let alone 4 or 5.

Before that, we had watched CSI: New York. In “Sweet 16,” a peripheral character is the father of a young man being questioned about the death of a pigeon trainer, found dead on the roof in their building. The father? The second I saw his profile and heard his voice, I hollered “Hey, that’s Barry from ‘The Flash,’ John
Wesley Shipp
.” He wasn’t even fully visible for a few seconds, he’s quite a bit older than the last time I saw him, and still no amount of makeup would have disguised him. His voice, body type, and the shape of his nose in profile are pretty distinctive.

And no, I’ve never watched “Dawson’s Creek,” but I was a big “Flash” fan for the one season it was on. In closing, enjoy playing the “Hey, It’s That Guy” game at home. The site has been around for a while and isn’t being updated, but they leave it up for weirdo geekfans like me.

This American Life Backs Into The Future

the future is yesterday � This American Life to offer free podcast

Hurray! Hurray! We’ll get to listen to TAL any day! The blogosphere may sneer at Chicago Public Radio’s archaic method of getting the word out to the masses (they used a traditional news release) but the news is good nonetheless: I’ll be able to listen to TAL when I want, and not accidentally by being in the car when the show is on. That is, apparently they’ll offer the podcast of each week’s show free for 7 days, then it’ll be archived, where you’ll have to find it yourself. Reportedly, all those Audible.com subscribers will be refunded the money they paid just so they could listen to TAL when they wanted, rather than mess with their rather clunky but free archiving setup.

It’s odd, but I never seem to tune in to listen while at home – it comes on several hours after our favorite Saturday morning shows on WBEZ, after some things we don’t care for as much. It’s also broadcast on Friday evenings, but at a time that we’re likely to be watching one of our many Friday night sci-fi shows. So this development, although a mite tardy, is welcome.

Via Boing Boing, who make modern life easier to take.