Monday, December 19, 2011

Here and There: A Random Assortment of Thoughts - December 2011 Edition

It is time for the ol' hodge podge of thoughts and musings.

1. Thanks to a rather hectic weekend where I ended up working all Sunday (and gallivanting throughout stores on Saturday), I just found out that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il passed away from a heart attack. Though as some have said on Twitter, I'm sure North Korea would rather pass it off as Kim entering a competitive sleeping contest (death isn't really appealing for self-proclaimed demigods). The passing of Kim Jong-il either has potential of being a massive turning point in North Korean politics or end up being the biggest dangling carrot of the year.

There is hope and talk that this could allow for a loosening of the iron grip that the government has over its people and a chance for substantial talks regarding nuclear disarmament. The reality is the new leader is likely Kim Jong-un who has traveled with his father and likely been deeply indoctrinated in North Korean policy. It is likely going to take far more than just the death of Jong-il to wipe out the decades of propaganda, censorship, dictatorship, and ruthlessness. Hopefully, we do see a push towards peace talks and the possibility of giving food for the North Korean people in exchange for shutting down the nuclear program. Part of me thinks it is going to be a matter of the citizens tiring of the decades of brainwashing and realize they're completely mistreated that will lead to them finally rising against the leaders, which will allow for real change to begin in that country. It is definitely a "wait and see' affair on finding out if there will be a positive change or more aggression towards the South (things are on high alert currently) or everything remaining the status quo.

2. It is officially time to say good bye to the Chicago Bears' playoff hopes. This has to be one of the harder seasons for me to sit through. I can take a dreadful season where my team squanders several games, but it is much harder to watch your team go on a 5 game win streak and look extremely strong then to drop four straight to now have a 7-7 record. I can whine about how it is all due to losing Cutler and Forte to injuries, but even that excuse doesn't hold up to the disaster that was yesterday's game. I'm guessing that frees up Sunday afternoons for me now.

3. I caught the Survivor finale, even though I missed the last two episodes preceding it. I had a long day yesterday and was in need for some reality TV drama to appease my mushy brain -- plus I knew it was unlikely I'd be able to catch up on the show any time soon. Anyway, next paragraph is going to have spoilers, in case you haven't watched it yet.

It was a fun finale with Ozzy making one hell of run in Redemption Island and then in immunity challenges. He was my definite favourite after Coach's clan was able to wipe out all of the Savaii tribe. So, it was a bummer when he wasn't able to pull off the win in the final immunity challenge and it was now clear he was getting sent to the jury. Ozzy can talk about Coach's promise, but there was no way Ozzy wasn't winning this game if he made it to the final tribal council -- so he had to get voted out once there was a chance. It was the right move, but a bummer since Ozzy became such a likeable underdog.

I ended up totally being off in my prediction of Coach being a guaranteed winner if he made it to tribal council with two of his own tribe mates. Though, I really think Coach's performance at the final tribal was what cost him the million dollars. He started apologizing for betraying several players (which is a fine approach and what has to be done), but he then went on about how he wasn't a good strategic player, which allowed Sophie and Albert to jump on that by saying they masterminded it. I do think Coach called the shots, and I think most of the people on the tribal believed that too, but his speech then got them thinking otherwise. I could also be way off on this, and Coach may have lost more due to bitter players getting duped by him (same reason Russell lost two times in a row).

4. Speaking of reviews, I've got about 5 movies and a mountain of books that I've finished and I kept meaning to do reviews on. I've been finding myself dreading to do the reviews, because sometimes the process is about as enjoyable as French kissing a walrus. If I get bored writing some of the reviews then I don't want to imagine the pain some may have reading them. Then again, based off the statistics I have, most of the time people just skip out when they know it is a review post. I'm probably changing my strategy to doing a review when I'm really motivated and have something to say, otherwise I'll let it float away into a black hole to never be read. After all, the purpose of this blog is just to be a place where I write what I want and how I want to -- I'll leave the hard work for the stuff I get paid to do.

5. Despite just talking about not doing reviews, I do want to quickly comment on a few things I've watched and read in the last few months.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes: I had a discussion with a good friend right after we watched the movie, and we essentially agreed the ape portion of the film is fantastic. The CGI of the apes is unbelievable and probably some of the best CGI I've seen in any movie. The story of Caesar gaining control over the other apes and starting up a resistance is incredible storytelling. Unfortunately, the human part of the film is much weaker and drags the film down a bit. Luckily, the main part of the film is about the apes, and so it remains a really great movie. The big problem is the whole time issue, where they'll jump ahead five years to allow Caesar to age, but the human characters apparently haven't talked to each for that entire time or interacted with anyone outside of their homes. I understand why it happened, but it made some of the story come off as a little sloppy (you wait five years to find out how the guys got the ape?). Despite that criticism, this was easily one of the best movies I saw this summer and probably X-Men: First Class would be the only competition for top film.

Albert Nobbs: I saw this at the Toronto Film Festival, and Emily and I loved it a lot more than the person we went to see it with. Glenn Close does a marvelous job in the starring role, and I hope she gets some serious Oscar buzz. The interesting part of the film is how it analyzes the concept of love. It is clear based of the main characters upbringing and challenges in her life that she doesn't entirely understand the concept nor fully be able to relate to the emotions of others. For her, everything is more like a business arrangement. It is a good 'have a coffee and discuss' kind of movie, but it appears it isn't getting the type of attention from critics that I'd have expected.

Night Shift: I want to do a full review on Stephen King's first short story collection, but just wanted to say that this may be some of his best work (even if it some of his earliest). The stories aren't as diverse as the ones in Skeleton Crew, but he brings the usual great dose of character development along with genuine scares. I read a few of the stories right before bed, and I found myself a little less comfortable laying in the dark and much more perceptive to the sounds around me. The collection is over 30 years old, but still just as scary and fun as ever.

The Walking Dead:
An amazing first half of the season, and they really left us with a hell of a cliff-hanger. I'm intrigued to see what type of fall out there will be from Shane's complete meltdown. I'm assuming the crew will be kicked out on the road now, but there is likely going to be even more tension among them. I love the friction that is building among many members, and think that interplay is even more interesting than all the dead folks walking around. The character development in this series is phenomenal and some of the better storytelling that has ever been on TV. The final twist at the end was predictable, but still incredibly heartbreaking. It was the ending you didn't want, but now it will have some interesting implications for some of the characters like the mom and Darryl (who was so sure the girl was okay). The show starts up again in February, and I recommend you to catch up before then if you haven't seen this great series yet.

6. We've gone to all the prenatal classes. We've bought most of the pressing baby supplies. We're now almost in week 38. It is pretty crazy to realize that I could end up being a daddy any time over the next few weeks (or even days). During a time when people are counting down to Christmas, the holidays are hardly on my radar as I continue to focus on the due date of January 4th (which admittedly, is nothing more than a number when it comes to baby). I'm getting asked on a daily basis if I am excited, and the answer is 'yes' but it also can be pretty overwhelming at times. I am one apt for drama and theatrics, and becoming a father may be the ultimate in emotional roller coasters. Any time I get worried, I just put my hand down to the belly for a 'high five', and I'm reminded how much I already love and adore that little person in there.

7. I like pie.

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