Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Movie Review: Pan's Labyrinth

Expectations have a way of affecting a person's perception of a movie. If the movie fails to meet your expectations, it can turn into a negative experience. Going into a movie like The Village, most people expected a horror movie, but the ending didn't fulfill their expectations. Ultimately, the marketing damaged the movie. Pan's Labyrinth flirted with the same mishap, but the quality of the material eclipsed the potentially misleading marketing.

Pan's Labyrinth is the story of Ofelia, a young girl caught up with her widowed mother in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. Her pregnant mother Carmen who lost her husband in the war has married Captain Vidal, a ruthless military leader of the Franco regime. Together, Carmen and Ofelia travel to a mill in rural Spain to meet Vidal. Nearing the end of her pregnancy, Carmen becomes ill leaving Ofelia in a strange, violent place with only the housekeeper Mercedes as a friend. It is Mercedes who tells her about the nearby Labyrinth, a place in which Ofelia seeks refuge from her situation.

Based on trailers and stills from the movie, I originally thought Pan's Labyrinth dealt almost entirely in fantasy. Instead, Guillermo del Toro masterfully blended two very different movies into one and somehow captured my interest so thoroughly that all the potential disappointment melted away. The only connection he gives us between fantasy and reality is Ofelia, and Ivana Baquero plays the part so convincingly that you feel assured you're watching the next Haley Joel Osment or Dakota Fanning.

Ivana Baquero's performance as Ofelia is just the icing on the cake, though. Strong and convincing portrayals are found throughout with Sergi Lopez as Vidal and Meribel Verdu as Mercedes standing above all others. Doug Jones also knocks another one out of the park for del Toro in his creature work as Pan and the Pale Man. If you've seen the trailers, you've seen Jones work his magic.

For non-Spanish speaking viewers, be aware that this is a subtitled film. However, del Toro's storytelling is so well executed that you don't feel like you need to read them most of the time. In fact, the visual nature of del Toro's approach is what lifts this film above others, and it leaves you questioning your own interpretation of what you saw long after the credits roll. I highly recommend it if you want to see something unique and thought-provoking. Just keep in mind that it's extremely violent and not just about creatures and special effects.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Susie and Mosier

Mosier entered our lives in 1994 less than a year after my wife and I married. Susie came along shortly thereafter, and even though they looked like oil and water together, they were soon inseparable. In the ensuing years, they've been physically apart only a handful of times, times kept brief by necessity. In 14 years of marriage, they have been our constant companions and us theirs.

In March 2006, we were forced to say goodbye to Susie after a degenerative back problem stole her from us. It goes without saying that we were all sad, but Mosier was crushed. His entire world had been turned upside down. The man who couldn't stand being even a room away from his companion now had to carry on without her. As such, neither my wife nor I had much time to mourn Susie's passing. All of our emotion poured into pulling Mosier through his difficult time. Our feelings took a back seat, as well they should. This wasn't our loss as much as it was Mosier's.

Except for Mosier, I was Susie's closest relationship. She instinctively knew my moods and always took time to engage me in ways that alleviated sadness, enhanced joy, and calmed madness. When she was gone, Mosier grew much closer to me. So close, in fact, that he began to exhibit the same anxiety toward separation with me as he had with Susie. Looking back, I wonder if he was trying to hold onto Susie through me.

Whatever the reason, he became an even larger part of our lives. He grew closer to our son even staying in his room at night once. At one point, our son even said, "I wish I was Susie." After I asked why, he said, "So Mosier would be happy."

Three weeks ago today, Mosier was diagnosed with inoperable oral malignant melanoma. The Doctor gave him just two weeks to live due to the size of the tumor. Little did anyone know the aggressiveness of the cancer and even less so Mosier's resolve. He outlasted the Doc's estimate by a week living 2 full weeks with a tumor on his tongue at the back of his throat big enough to fill the normal void. Oddly enough, he seemed healthier and happier in his final 3 weeks than he had been since Susie died.

Yesterday, Mosier died. Now we mourn both Mosier and Susie. They were our adopted kids, our friends and confidants. Though I'm sure they miss us, at least they're now together again. They were good dogs.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Adware + School Kids + Substitute Teacher = Porn Conviction?

How is this possible? How can we ruin a woman's life over the rampant security holes in Windows? If you've ever dealt with Spyware and Adware in Windows, you know this woman is most likely telling the truth:

Teacher Convicted in Porn Case; from Yahoo News

Did she make some common sense mistakes? One could make such an argument but to put her in jail for failing to act decisively in the situation is ludicrous. If you want to place blame, work your way up the chain...the school for failing to update filtering software, the school for failing to educate the substitute teacher on how to use the machine, the Adware/Spyware companies for pushing through the porn, and what about Microsoft?

Let's throw out those issues for a moment. What about due process? How can you convict if the defense isn't given an opportunity to present their review of the computer for Spyware or Adware? Is this what our country is coming to? Obviously there's reasonable doubt if an expert reviewed the computer and found Spyware and Adware.

Now, do I actually think Microsoft should be held responsible? No. The Adware/Spyware companies should be held responsible and nobody else. The substitute teacher might need a slap on the wrists for failing to turn off the monitor, but that's about the extent of it.

Is this a case where a jury of your peers (tech. illiterates) is a bad idea?

Defense's Expert Witness Comments on the Case

Saturday, February 03, 2007

What Does the "E" Stand For?

It seems PETA doesn't quite live up to its acronym:

PETA Worker Apologizes in Animal Dumping

Now, what does that "E" stand for again?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Best Friends: Merck and Rick Perry

We all know shady things happen in American politics, but they're usually hidden well enough not to attract too much attention. Okay, that first sentence may not pass the laugh test, but read on...

It looks like Governor Rick Perry of Texas decided to throw caution to the wind. Reading between the lines in an article on Yahoo titled Texas Requiring Cervical Cancer Vaccine for Girls, you can't help but form the opinion that Merck bought an executive order. What would cause Governor Perry to side-step regular legislative process in the state? Why shouldn't the state representatives vote on the measure?

Beyond the executive order, even the title of the article shows the massive influence being exerted by Merck. This isn't a Cervical Cancer Vaccine...it's an HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) Vaccine, and only a vaccine for a subset of the strains of HPV at that. Some easy googling reveals nobody thinks this is a silver bullet. In fact, one site remarked that it might prevent 70% of all cases of Cervical Cancer.

Before you get the wrong opinion, I think the availability of this vaccine is wonderful. I'm certain 2-3 of my relatives would have benefited from this vaccine if it had been available years ago, but why does the government think they need to make the choice for them?

As the article states, the vaccine has been "shown" to be safe. How will Governor Perry feel when the first major side-effects start showing up in his state? How many deaths will result? Before you manage to say "FDA blah, blah, blah", tell me this. How many of the currently mandatory vaccines are 100% safe?

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