Monthly Archives: August 2006

Review: Finding Neverland

Finding Neverland wasn’t boisterous, or exhuberantly full of wonder. It was, if anything, understated and simple in its execution. Despite the drama of a crumbling marriage, oppression, depression, and death, there were no histrionics, no yelling, no overwrought grief – these things were just facts of life to be dealt with. This was a movie where the actors checked their egos at the door and let the story be the star. And I think that is exactly why it worked so well.

Without sacrificing the reality of the situation, this movie managed to take you into one man’s imagination and remind you of the simple truth of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. As Dustin Hoffman put it in one of the included documentaries,

“Don’t grow up; never grow up. Be an adult, be mature, but don’t be a grown up.”

The story of Peter Pan itself focuses much more on the “Don’t grow up” part of that sentiment. Finding Neverland strikes a perfect balance of both sides of that coin. Johnny Depp does a superb job of playing an adult in turn-of-the-century English society, complete with the seriousness and reality that the role demands, and the importance of imagination in that man’s life. He was in no way childish, but rather infused the wisdom of playfulness into an adult world.

And he did a pretty convincing Scottish accent, too (not that I’m any expert). :)

This was a very mature movie. It’s a shame there aren’t many more like it.

[tags]Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie, Neverland, movies, maturity, imagination, playfulness, Johnny Depp, Dustin Hoffman[/tags]

Adding Technorati Tags to posts

SimpleTags – A WordPress Plugin for Technorati Tags

Found a [tag]plug-in[/tag] for [tag]WordPress[/tag] that makes it dead easy to create [tag]Technorati tags[/tag]. Easy enough that I may actually do it! And those of you who know how lazy I am, will truly appreciate the gravity of that statement.

[tag]SimpleTags[/tag] is a WordPress plugin that will allow you to easily generate Technorati tags at the bottom of your blog entries. There are several plugins already available for this purpose, but they all require you to use custom fields within WordPress. The SimpleTags plugin eliminates this need, so you can now easily generate tags with your preferred method of posting, be it by email, a blogging tool like w.bloggar or from WordPress itself.

I’m not really sure why I should do it, but if it’s this easy, why not? Besides, not understanding has never stopped me from doing things before…

[tags]blog, indexing[/tags]

Agassi’s last first round win

Agassi in 4

Andre Agassi began the end of his professional tennis career tonight with a great match vs. Andrei Pavel.

Like many people, I’ve been watching Andre Agassi for almost his entire career. Along with a very few others (including Sampras, Conners, and McEnroe), he has brought the sport to new heights of both talent and popularity. He’s also had his slumps. But when he was “on,” he was remarkable to watch.

As his body has started to succumb to injury he has lost some of his famous speed and power, but he is still a world-class tennis player. Tonight, he came out with guns blazing, gaining a quick break in the first set, then quickly found himself in a battle with Pavel, who refused to give Agassi any ground and broke him right back. At the end of the first set, Pavel firmly had the upper hand through the tie-breaker.

The second set had some great shots, and though it was close, Pavel continued to give Agassi trouble and again forced a tie-breaker. But this time, Agassi pulled through with a 10-8 lead.

AgassiComing off that little victory to even up the match, Agassi should have been raring to go, but instead he faltered, seemingly unsure of himself and making unusual errors. I’d seen this happen to him in the past, and it’s the moment I dread in his matches. Typically, when he mentally loses the game it becomes a blood-bath — and this was no exception. Suddenly the two-hour old match seemed likely to end in short order, with Agassi down 0-4. When he called for some new rackets, however, he completely regained his focus and came alive, winning 5 games in a row.

With the third set score now 5-4, Pavel stepped it up enough to force yet another tie-breaker, but by this point it was obvious that Agassi was all but unstoppable. Agassi easily handled the tie break and began the fourth set with two quick breaks on his way to a 6-2 victory.

For the entire match, it was obvious that the crowd was firmly behind Agassi. When he lost the first set, there was almost complete silence in the stands. As the match progressed and the cheering for every Agassi point increased, Pavel was obviously annoyed by the fans’ partisan (and disrupting) behavior. By the time the final points were played at nearly 1am, the entire stadium was on its feet.

This being Agassi’s farewell event, it came as no surprise that the crowd would be firmly behind him, but Pavel should be proud of the way he played, and of the game that he gave Agassi and the fans. It was certainly the most exciting first round match I’ve ever seen. I haven’t been that emotionally invested in a match in years.

Corporate Learning Forum – why?

Corporate Training & e-Learning Blog: Corporate Learning Forum is HERE!

In the blog above, Jenna Sweeney talks about a new listserv for corporate training professionals – the Corporate Learning Forum.

I received an “invitation” to this forum at work. Maybe I’m being dense, but I don’t get it. Why would I want to pay $50 a year to be a member on a listserv? Why should I pay for the privilege of being bombarded by email?

As the member of a few free listservs, on topics of great interest to me, including training & technology, it has struck me that, at best, half of what gets posted is useful. For free, that’s annoying, but the price of getting to that other half. Paying to do that with no guarantee of improved quality seems like poor judgement to me.

So what’s the value proposition of this new venture? Why should I pay for something I can get for free in most other industries (access to people with experience)? Is it a status thing (“ooo… I’m in the club!”)? Or is there really something worth paying for that I’m not catching from the marketing?

Maybe the marketing is the key. I will say that this is the only listserv (or any kind of online discussion) in the training industry that I’ve seen actually marketed. Maybe that will bring in people who wouldn’t usually get on a listserv in the first place. But really, all that means is more potential emails in my inbox. It doesn’t guarantee me that those emails will be any more useful than the ones I already get for free.

I really don’t get it. I hope someone can explain it to me.

CEOs – taking more than their share?

Corporate Training & e-Learning Blog: BIG for 2006: LCMSs, Podcasting, and Outsourcing
I ran across this quote while looking for something totally unrelated – examples of podcasts as currently in use for internal corporate training – but it blew me away. I knew the split had grown, but holy cow…

The ratio of average CEO pay to average production worker pay:
1982 – 42:1
1990 – 107:1
2001 – 525:1
2004 – 431:1
At least the gap may have started to close the last few years.

I don’t know. Something seems wrong about that kind of disparity. I do recognize the stress and difficulty that the higher level executive positions entail, and I accept that their pay rate should be higher because of the responsibility they carry. But this kind of a gap just seems wrong. It would be interesting to see that number from longer than just 24 years ago. Have there been jumps and resets like this before?

Odeo podcasting

Well, I’m working on podcasting technology for work, so I figured I’d better get my feet wet and learn how to do it. As such, here is a lame example of me talking into a microphone for 16 seconds (approximately):

Incidentally, this player is Google’s, as seen in Gmail. Not the prettiest, but it’s the only one I could figure out how to use with WordPress, so far.

As podcasting hosts go, Odeo.com seems pretty good, and pretty much free. I’ve also tried Gabcast.com, which has its benefits, but I think I’m leaning towards Odeo at the moment.

In the end, I doubt I’ll be using any hosting service, though, since the goal is for the podcasts to only be available inside the firewall at work. This is just a convenient way for me to test out some ideas.

Review: The Upside of Anger

(This will be a short one, but only because I’m tired. No reflection on the movie.)

The Upside of Anger is about a woman full of anger and the effect she has on her daughters, and their progression toward healing. It manages to be funny, touching, dramatic, and very real. I’m actually having a hard time figuring out why I didn’t like it as much as I might have. In talking with my wife, I think it comes from the fact that the male lead, played by Kevin Costner, really didn’t grow as much as I thought he should. It really is a very good movie, though. It’s very picturesque in many spots, and the acting is excellent – especially from Joan Allen as the mother, which is good since the role was written specifically for her.

I wish I could pinpoint it. It just seemed lacking something to put it over the top for me. I’d still say it’s above average, though. Three & 1/2 stars.

Best line in the movie:

Shep: That’s the problem with being a deviant: everyone sees you as one-dimensional.

Stargate SG-1: Over and Out?

Stargate powered downGateWorld – Cooper: SG-1 will go on

On the heels of the long-running series’ landmark 200th episode, the Sci-Fi Channel has chosen not to renew Stargate SG-1 for an 11th season. This is coming as a shock to some fans as we approach the mid-point of the series record-breaking 10th year in production – the longest continuous run for any science fiction television show. Oddly it seems to be a shock to the people working on the show as well. Ever since the fourth season, the writers have written every season with the threat of cancellation and have had a series finale on deck – until now. This year, both creatively and contractually (for the actors), the series had a plan for the next season. So of course, the hammer would fall now.

But there is hope, according to series executive producer Robert C. Cooper:

“As far as the future I can’t comment yet because nothing has been confirmed,” Cooper said. “What we want to emphasize is that the franchise is not dying. SG-1 will go on in some way. We’re just not ready to announce how.”

It’s hard to imagine that another network will pick the show up, though it’s certainly a possibility. There have been plans for a movie a few times, so that’s where I’d place bets. And if this season’s finale doesn’t wrap up the storyline, I would think they’d have to create a movie — at the very least a tele-movie — to complete the arc.

Spin-off series Stargate Atlantis has been renewed for a fourth season.

Review: Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest

I’m a little hesitant to review this one, because it doesn’t feel like it would be fair to do so until I’ve seen part three and the end of the story. But I’ll put down my initial thoughts anyway.

This is a fun movie. I’m glad I went to see it in the theater, and I’ll definitely go see part three. The special & visual effects were great, especially for Davy Jones and his crew. Exceptional work there. Also had an engaging (if convoluted) plot, and the energy was pretty high throughout the film.

That said, I think it was longer than it needed to be. It seemed like it was trying to reach “epic” status, when “good story” would have done just fine. There was almost no point to the whole cannibals island scene, for example, other than to put the crew together with Orlando Bloom, which could have been accomplished in a shorter timeframe. The first piece with the Carribean “oracle” seemed a bit overblown, too.

Finally, the ending seemed a little flat. Obviously, things are not what they seem, and Jack will somehow escape. No surprise there. I did like the re-introduction of Geoffrey Rush, though they could use a little explanation there. I assume that will happen in the third movie.

One cool thing was the visual homages to the Pirates of the Carribean ride from which the movie is named. There are a couple scenes that incorporate pieces of the ride that were fun to see.

But as I said, the story isn’t finished, and this is decidedly not a stand-alone film, so it’s hard to give it a fair shake at this point. I’ll revisit it next year once I’ve seen PotC III.

Review: Hellboy

I wasn’t feeling well today, and there wasn’t much on the tube, so I tuned in to the only movie playing that I hadn’t seen before: Hellboy.

In sci-fi, comic book, geek circles I had heard that this was a pretty good movie, and from the previews it seemed like it had some decent special effects and some humor in it. It even spawned a cartoon and I think they’re making a sequel. So I had expectations that it would be a fun movie with a worthwhile plot, despite it being about a demon-superhero, a concept with which I have a problem.

It had a moment or two, here and there, but overall I have to say this movie bored me to tears. I almost quit watching it a couple times. If there had been anything else mildly interesting on, I would have switched. The characters were all one-dimensional, the mysteries were unsatisfying, and the battles were all the same. Couldn’t have cared less about a single character, except maybe the doctor. Well, the fish guy was kinda interesting too, but he turns out not to have had too much of importance to do with the plot. He wasn’t even in the last third of the movie.

The plot had aspirations of greatness, with Good vs. Evil, pseudo-religious overtones, and the concept of free will all stuck out there front-and-center, but it never got beyond mediocrity. I got to the point that I kept looking at my watch, wondering how so little could happen in so much time.

It doesn’t quite match the depths of stupidity that Starship Troopers mined – I was actually mad that I paid to see that one – but beyond maybe 5 minutes worth of special effects, there wasn’t much worth watching in this film. I’m glad I caught it on TV and didn’t shell out the rental money.