Saturday, February 16, 2008

Year Of The Rat

Finally had a chance to watch "Ratatouille"--
viewed the first half on Blu-Ray at my brother
and sister-in-law's, and the second half on
Standard Definition DVD at home. On BD,
you can see a tiny Maynard Krebbs-ish
stubble on Linguini's chin, and also minute
details such as uneven matting of rat fur
and complex reflections in sloshing water.

It contains some ambitious animation, and
some interesting twists and turns. There
are also some "old school" humor sections,
relying on vaudeville-type slapstick,
versus the brain melting content of programs
on the Disney Channel (Why does every line
seem like it's shouted on those TV shows?
What's with the mugging, the guffawing?
It's like "Hee Haw" with more obliviousness
and less banjos. If Clark Kent just changed
his hair color to become Superman, I'm sure
Lois Lane would have caught on faster than
a concert could sell out of tickets).

Some lessons:
*"Anyone can cook!"
Always wash your hands (or paws) before
preparing food (this probably would have
helped during The Black Plague)
*Not all food comes from behind a counter
wrapped in festive packaging, in various
*Your hair follicles are linked to your
motor skills--maybe not
*For some reason the US cut The Dixie Chicks
slack for hating on Bush and the war.
How about some warmed-up leftover love for
the French? The movie avoids jokes about
mimes and body odor, which is refreshing.

I still enjoy Brad Bird's "The Incredibles"
more, but "Ratatouille" definitely deserves
the Academy Award this year.

I remember seeing a Disney animated short
called "Ben and Me" (1953) when I was a kid.
It involved a mouse's influence on Benjamin
Franklin during some of history's most
momentous events (and it sat under his hat!).
I don't think I read any national reviews for
"Ratatouille" that cited this appetizer to
the main course.

Look for a hilarious short on the DVD
that defends rats--including why the
Bubonic Plague was not all their fault!

Some other famous Rats:
Mozart, Winston Churchill, George Washington,
Truman Capote

Friday, February 08, 2008

Driver's Edge

Commuting back and forth from Grand Rapids and
Holland has brought the harsh reality of modern
driver's training into focus for me.

Some new rules of the road that I've noticed:
*Turn signals are out--blindspots are in.

*A 4-way stop means--you stop, then go, no
matter your time of arrival at that juncture.

*Doctors and dentists have bought cars with
headlights ported over from their examining
rooms (eye doctors have handheld versions). These
lights probably beam through aluminum and fiberglass
when they're switched to "high beam". When viewed
in a rear view mirror, there is a risk of
temporary blindness or retinal bleeding for
the focal driver. Maintain a minimum distance
of a foot behind your fellow drivers, to increase
business for the medical profession.

*To "merge" now means forcing your way into
traffic at any cost. If road rage ensues,
utilize driving within a few feet's distance,
along with the doctor's headlights mentioned

*If an extremely expensive stereo system is
installed in your car, it is illegal to listen
to classical music.

*Never fully stop your car, for fear that Newton's
Law may stop working. If you appproach an
intersection or turn, keep your proverbial "foot
in the door" to show others you could easily
intersect their path.

*At a traffic stop, Yellow is now Green, as is Red
if you are more late or important than your fellow
drivers. You can also decide to turn in front
of oncoming traffic when the light changes to Green,
to improve your cellphone reception.

*If pedestrians get in your way, especially in
parking lots, lunge at them and motion vigorously
showing them you have airbags and they don't.

*If yellow lines are present on the pavement,
treat them like suggestive graffiti.

If a handicapped spot
exists, use the "Finders, Keepers" motto.

*If a fellow driver is waiting for your
spot at the gas station, go inside instead
of paying at the pump. Look around the
store for awhile, talk to the clerks,
complain about the coffee, peruse all the
papers on the stand, and then shrug when
climbing back into your vehicle 30 minutes

Blues In (H)D

I noticed a
Toshiba HD DVD player
in Circuit City's ad this week
for $149.99, which also includes 7 HD DVD titles.

Very cheap. Very tempting.

Other gadgets that successfully managed to tempt me:
*Sega Genesis in 1991--$129.99
That gets played quite a bit these days--
by dust bunnies.

*Sega CD ROM a few years later--$199.99
It stopped recognizing Sega CDs; currently hibernating in
some box, along with the Menacer, 32X and Activator.

*HiFi VCR in 1994--$229.99
It started eating tapes in the late 90s,
so it was destroyed like a rogue tiger.

*Laser Disc player in the mid 90s--$299.99
It decided to stop recognizing discs in disgust
of my DVD player, purchased in 1999.
What a great price for a paper weight.

I was really eager to buy a MiniDisc player,
but never got around to it. I was watching
the price of one at Walmart, but it was
clearanced out. Now it's probably deep fried
in the oily MP3 crooning of twangy tarts and

A sidenote:
It's strange that our local TV listing still includes
the Plus codes for all the shows--who is still
using that technology?

For some reason the Blu-Ray players haven't
dropped in price at all. I bet Sony's thinking:
"Who's the Beta now?"

Perhaps I'm not as tempted as I thought.