Thursday, December 8, 2011

What Is Good In Life?

Good Afternoon Ladies & Gentlemen,

So… you may have noticed from the 6-7 entries finally getting posted in the last few days… but my roommates & I are now proud owners of an internet connection again!!! It only took a month after starting the process (must be a California thing). Also, the backyard is has the basic framework established now… and come spring time, I can start with clearing up the patches of unwanted plant life amongst the wood chips and make it look all HGTV. Observe…

Let’s see… what else has been going on lately? Oh, I’ve actually been dominating & therefore winning a few basketball games with my respective rec teams. On Thursday, my work team & I won in the final moments despite a really sloppy game on our part. I played pretty well scoring half of our points… and after a while they tried doing a whole Hack-a-Shaq kind of thing… until I hit 9-out-of-10 from the line… and then the referees just stopped calling fouls. Regardless, we won on a tip-in in the closing seconds followed by a defensive stop that I called. See, they had this guy who all he did was the LeBron James Crab Walk or whatever it’s called, where he basically just barrels into the lane against the guy guarding him & then goes up strong & shoots drawing the foul. He had been doing it the whole game… but because I was help defense, I would block the shot, but the foul would always be called regardless. So I basically told my team with 7 seconds on the clock that’s what he was going to do… and just do a toro kind of thing to let him slide by when he drops his head… and when he comes up, he’ll be disoriented because he won’t hit anything, there will be no foul called, he’s already picked up his dribble… and he had to face me blocking his shot. Needless to say, they listened… and that’s exactly what happened. We won. Celebratory drinks after the game at Final Final.

On Sunday, it was the playoffs with my other team (that we’ve one once since May). We knew that we were going against a team that likes to beat you on the fast break & just ran a little motion offense (played them before a while back). With that in mind, we devised a strategy that everybody liked & could easily execute. We did a zone on defense with me in the middle because there was no way that they were going to bring it within the three point line… and if they did, then all the other guys had quick hands to deflect outlet passes and start the fast break the other way. Also, that meant a lot of three-point attempts… to long rebounds… to fast breaks for us the other way. On offense, we wanted fast break first… but if they scored (rarely did) or we had to slow it down, it was basically agreed that I would post up low right from the start & if I was single covered, then they’d dump it into me for a quick shot (usually a layup or hard foul sending me to the line). When they started doubling me & the passes weren’t coming in, then the plan was that they were just going to pop a three & I should just establish good rebounding position & keep their bigs out. It worked like a charm… and we ended up leading by 25 at the half & winning by about 35 against a team ranked higher than us. Oh… and we only had five guys so we played the whole game. Next week is round two of the playoffs. Good times.

We’re at just about two weeks until my holiday trip back to Utah to see the family & friends. Now is the time to schedule an appointment as I’m quite the popular guy… but I’ll be there the full week, which is great. The parents are excited to see me… as well as my niece & nephew. They chatted with me over the weekend & they were talking about making cookies with me & the like. They’re such sweethearts. Anyway, aside from that, it was a pretty standard week. Got involved in a little fiasco at work but… whatever, apparently I’m not perfect & I didn’t cover my a$$ so… yeah, lesson learned. Here are a few movies that I saw though…

First up was “Unknown” starring Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger & January Jones (“Mad Men”) as well as directed by Jaume Collet-Serra (“Orphan” & “House of Wax” oddly enough). The story is about a man (Neeson) who awakens from a coma after a car accident to find out that some one has taken on his identity & that no one, not even his wife (Jones), believes him. Who else could he be? He has no identification, no cards or other information that would help him. How do you prove who you are when not even your own wife believes you? Why doesn’t she? Are the doctors right? Maybe it’s a side effect from the coma… but then who am I? I can only be this person. The movie does a great job at putting you in the state of mind that… maybe… the guy isn’t who he thinks he is. The evidence is stacked against him… maybe he just hit his head really hard. However, that would make for a pretty boring movie… possibly independent, though a good one. So with the help of the taxi driver from the car crash (Kruger), he sets out to find answers. I would highly recommend this movie… especially if you like mystery thrillers with a healthy dose of action.

Next up was “Super 8” starring… a bunch of kids really. Kyle Chandler (“Friday Night Lights” TV series) was in it but it’s mostly kids… and directed by JJ Abrams (“Cloverfield” & “Star Trek”). Set in the summer of ’79, this group of small town teenage kids are out filming for their own zombie flick… when all of a sudden there’s a horrific train crash that they witness. Searching through the rubble, they run into one of their respected townspeople & he gives them an eerie warning… and then the military comes in to immediately clean up… and basically, there’s a mystery to be solved. That was on the train? What did the guy mean? Why is the military shutting down the city? Of course, only this band of young’uns can help save the day. It’s pretty much “Cloverfield” meets “The Goonies” in a way… and I really liked it, being an aspiring filmmaker myself (but with no initiative… or friends really). The way that it was done too was pretty good so that all ages could watch it… though it does get a little intense so maybe only desensitized children should check it out. Oh… and there’s a teenage love story. Sell that to the ladies in your life…

Saturday, my roommate & I watched “30 Minutes or Less” starring Jesse Eisenberg, Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride & Nick Swardson… and directed by Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”). This raunchy comedy is about a pizza delivery guy named Nick (Eisenberg) who has a bomb vest strapped to him by a pair of idiotic criminals (McBride & Swardson) and instructed to get them $100,000 by the end of the day… or explode. How do you get that kind of money in a day? Rob a bank, of course. So he asks his friend Chet (Ansari) to help him out in this crazy quest… and hijinx ensue. Of course, I really liked this movie because it involves bank robbing… and it’s just hilarious… and there are even great cameos by Fred Ward & Michael Pena. I would highly recommend it. Though I kept having trouble figuring out why the guy who made Facebook needed to rob a bank… but once you get past that, it’s pretty good. HAHA!!! “Social Network” reference… and I’m easily amused.

Sunday night was watching the “Conan the Barbarian” reboot starring Jason Momoa (“Game of Thrones”), Stephen Lang “Avatar”), Rose McGowan (“Planet Terror”) & Rachel Nichols (“GI Joe”)… and directed by Marcus Nispel (“Pathfinder” & reboots of “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” & “Friday the 13th”). Based on the comics, it chronicles the story of a young barbarian named Conan (Momoa) from a savagely gifted young boy whose father is killed by an evil warrior bent on world domination through a magic crown (Lang) and his sorceress daughter (McGowan). His life from then on is to find his father’s murderer… and of course be the most badass barbarian there is. Twenty years later, he finally finds out where he is & oddly enough it’s about the time he runs into this “pure being” (Nichols) who is the key to his father’s murderer unlocking the power of the crown & controlling the world. Now… I’m pretty sure that I’ve told you this… but I’m a huge fan of the original. Why? It was the real start of the Governator. Also, think about it… barbarian is in the title… so what better way to tell his tale then basically having a narrator (in this case, the one & only Morgan Freeman) setting the stage of this fantasy world for the first 30-45 minutes… and basically all you hear the barbarian say is grunts & shouts during fighting & training sequences and the occasional “CROM!” or other one liners? It was PERFECT in its simplicity. How simple was it? The aforementioned dialogue or rather lack thereof, the main character wanted nothing to do with a love interest, he was there to do one thing & one thing only – To crush his enemies, see them driven before him, and to hear the lamentations of their women. Well… I’m a little old fashioned, so I like stories to be well established and THEN go into the action or conflict… but that doesn’t work for today’s audiences. Start off with blood, guts & nudity… with a healthy dose of CGI & keep it coming. Throw in a tale of vengeance & a love interest with a happy ending… and boom, you’ve got a movie. There’s nothing wrong with it. I’m just saying it’s the norm… and an effective one. That being said, I enjoyed this movie even though it was pretty predictable. However, I enjoyed the original movies much much more. For the reasons already stated… and honestly, do you remember the scene before Conan’s big battle?

“Crom! I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you, will remember if we were good men or bad. Why we fought, or why we died. All that matters is that today, two stood against many. That’s what’s important. Valor pleases you, Crom; so grant me this one request. Grant me revenge! And if you do not listen… then to HELL with you!” Seriously, that gets me more riled up than a Ray Lewis pregame speech. Yes, even better than Tebowing. Anyway… maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s the whole anti-hero aspect of Conan. He’s not doing it for good or justice or all the oppressed people of the world. He’s doing it for himself. He’s doing it for vengeance. He’s just getting his dad’s sword (legacy) back. He’s not a complicated man. Or a simple man. He’s a barbarian. Pure & simple.

Panda Update – Speaking of pure & simple, I thought that I would end this entry with the latest installment of panda cuteness. A pair of pampered giant pandas arrived in Scotland on Sunday to a reception of cheering and flag-waving crowds while British officials said the 10-year loan of the bears by China strengthened ties between the two countries. Tian Tian and Yang Guang (whose names in English are Sweetie and Sunshine) arrived at Edinburgh airport after flying in from Chengdu, Sichuan province, and were later greeted at Edinburgh zoo by around 450 people waving Chinese and Scottish flags. "Scotland's relationship with China is hugely important and the pandas represent a fantastic opportunity to deepen our business, cultural and diplomatic ties," said Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Since the 1950s, China has given away pandas as gestures of goodwill in what has come to be known as "panda diplomacy." Modern China gave its first pair of giant pandas to Britain in 1974. British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said: "I know that a huge amount of work has gone into securing their loan and they will be a great showcase for UK-China links in science and research." Afforded a reception worthy of a state visit, the bears' journey on a private plane was no less extravagant, with four crew members, two attendants, one veterinarian and a cargo handler among the retinue. Ahead of the flight, veterinarian Tang Chunxiang said he was worried about the pandas' nerves and fear of flying. "They might get air sick, they may get a bit dizzy on the plane," he said. "...if there is any problem, we have brought some simple medicine." Glenfiddich, I’m guessing. Visible through clear containers after being unloaded from the plane, the bears appeared nonplussed by the fanfare, one munching on food calmly as a photographer snapped away nearby. The eight-year-old pair, raised at the Giant Panda Conservation and Research Centre in Ya'an, Sichuan, will become Britain's first pair of breeding pandas in 17 years. Iain Valentine, director of conservation and research at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, was pleased that five years of negotiation with the Chinese authorities had finally paid off. "This is the exciting bit, this is the bit I have been waiting for a very long time," he said. Tian Tian and Yang Guang will not go on display at Edinburgh Zoo for at least a week, until they have settled into their new surrounds. They will remain there for 10 years, after which they, and any young they have, will be returned to China. Edinburgh Zoo said that, as part of the loan deal, it would pay $1 million (637,105 pounds) a year to China, 90% of which would pay for conservation and genetics research. Yeah, you read that right… a million per year just to lease them. The zoo will also have to find up to $100,000 a year to provide around 18,000 kg (almost 20 tons) of bamboo shoots, most of which will come from a special nursery outside Amsterdam (tehehe, it’s funny cuz it’s true). Considered a national treasure, the giant panda is seen as having come back from the brink of extinction, but remains under threat from logging, agriculture and rapid urbanization. There are an estimated 1,600 living wild in China, almost all in Sichuan. Around 300 are in captivity around the world, the vast majority of them inside China. Pandas are notoriously difficult to breed because females ovulate only once a year and can only become pregnant during a two- or three-day period. Also, most males have little to no idea what they’re doing… which is where my invention of panda porn over six years ago has really helped out… but that’s not the point. The point is… if you’re ever checking out Edinburgh (which you definitely should) then now you can see a panda too. Probably wearing a dress & bagpipes if you play your cards right.

Anyway, that’ll end it for today. Oh… except to mention that the University of Utah will be playing Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl… but in the Kraft Hunger Bowl, which I have tickets for on New Year’s Eve Day, instead we will get UCLA against Illinois. I’m a little disappointed because I would much rather see the U & G-Tech’s triple option… instead of two teams with a combined losing record & no coaches... but whatever. I also don’t have to go to El Paso to see it. I can take a 30 minute bus ride. Have a great day everybody!!!

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