Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The 12 Days of Christmas Movies NOT About Christmas

I missed this by a couple of days but here it goes anyway...

The top 12 non-Christmas movies that happen during Christmas, mention Christmas, or have some portrayal of Christmas. Watch one movie per day until Christmas. You might have to double-up on a few to finish them all in 2011. These are presented in "top 12" order.

Day 1: Edward Scissorhands - not many people knew what to think of this movie when it came out, my parents included. Hence I didn't see it until I went to college. Still one of Johnny Depp's best roles.

Day 2: Ghostbusters II - The much-lessor of the Ghostbusters movie, this one is kind of fun with a good message.

Day 3: Any of the "Harry Potter" movies - They all have a Christmas scene. Watch one of them and you're covered. Watching all of them is not required, unless you are on Christmas break with nothing better to do.

Day 4: Nightmare Before Christmas - Gotta love a Halloween movie about Christmas. We watch this one just about every year. And then I have to put up with a week of my kids singing the Oogie-Boogie song.

Day 5: Trading Places - One of my favorite comedies of all time. Works on the question of nurture vs. nature with comedic results.

Day 6: Lethal Weapon - Gotta love an action flick with Christmas in it.

Day 7: The Family Man - Arguably the most ultra-pro-family movie EVER. Yes, I cried the first time I saw it. And the second. Very well written and acted. Best Nicolas Cage movie by a long shot. An interesting take on the "It's a Wonderful Life" formula, but with life choices.

Day 8: Die Hard, Die Hard 2 - Explosions, guns, Alan Rickman, and Christmas. How can you top that?

Day 9: Red - This is how you beat Die Hard. To the amazing Bruce Willis you add Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, and Karl Urban. Even Ernest Borgnine gets into the act. Amazing.

Day 10: Gremlins - The first nightmare I ever remember having was about this movie. It still holds up after all these years, except for the special effects. The book has the best chapter ever, only 2 words long: "Billy forgot."

Day 11: Catch Me If You Can - One of my favorite movies of all time. The Christmas scenes are quite touching and emotional, showing how isolated and alone each of the main characters really are.

Day 12: The Star Wars Holiday Special - One night when I was young my parents let us stay up late to watch a show that had "Star Wars" in the title. After a few minutes my folks lost interest and left me and my sisters to finish the entire show. We were blown away as only pre-8 year olds can be with Han, Leia, and Luke. The following morning my parents thought we were insane when we told them about the rest of the show (song/dance numbers, a cartoon with Boba Fet, Chewbacca's home world). My father continued in disbelief for decades until I found a boot-leg copy at a flee market and showed it to him. Now we have the interwebs to help us remember what Anthony Daniels joking calls, "The horrible Holiday Special that nobody talks about."

"OK" Choices
These will work in a pinch but I can't totally recommend them for various reasons...

Sleepless in Seattle - What some people call the ultimate chick-flick. It has some charming moments but you won't see me running out to watch it again.

While You Were Sleeping - Hmmm, another movie with Bill Pullman? Yet another chick flick but with a very pro-family message. Worth a watch if you haven't seen it.

Steel Magnolias - The movie my wife quotes the most. What does she quote the most? Tom Skerrit's line, "I have to get rid of about a zillion birds before Shelby’s reception this afternoon, or I will have to deal with my wife. And I make it a point never to deal with my wife!"

Home Alone - I remember watching this in the theater as a teenager and having a good laugh. Years later it doesn't hold up that well but I'll eventually show it to my kids.

Bad choices - Some folks like these movies but I cannot recommend them.

Batman Returns - Wow. Like so many other Batman films, it had so much potential but was squandered in the end.

Bridget Jones Diary - Not going to dignify this one with a link or trailer.

Now go out and celebrate Life Day!

er, I mean Christmas!


Monday, December 19, 2011

Geek Links of the Week - 19DEC2011

It's never really "safe" to come back to my site (i.e. go on the web), but don't take my word for it. Now for the good stuff...

My Geek Links of the Week!

Link #1: Universal Says It Can’t Be Sued for Bogus Megaupload Video Takedown
“Universal Music acknowledged late Thursday that it was responsible for taking down from YouTube the infamous Megaupload video in which pop stars — from Mary J. Blige to Kanye West and others — sing the praises of the notorious file-sharing service. But the record label said there’s nothing Megaupload can do about Universal Music taking down the video, even if Universal doesn’t own the rights to it.”
This is the story that keeps on giving. It started when the website Megaupload released a promotional video on YouTube featuring many popular artists, including Will-i-am, P Diddy, and Jamie Foxx. Universal Music decided, for some strange reason, that the video infringed on some rights of theirs and used the YouTube Content Management System (CMS) to delete it. When Tech News Today, a daily tech news podcast and one of my favorites, played part of the video their newscast was censored from YouTube by UMG as well.

Universal has clearly overstepped their bounds and they have partially admitted that they were wrong but have also said that Megaupload has no recourse and should not be able to sue for damages. I think most judges will disagree.

Rich Warren and daughter
Link #2: Father’s open letter to Google: ‘Thanks for making my daughter cry’
“Father Rich Warren sounded off Sunday on social media sites Reddit and Google+ about his upsetting morning: He had woken up to find that Google had suddenly, without warning, shut down his daughter’s e-mail account and blog. His daughter had used her Gmail to send e-mail to her grandparents, friends and classmates, and had started the Blogger blog as a class project.” - Elizabeth Frock, Washington Post
This is a tricky one. How do you weigh the online protection of a child while allowing them to express themselves online? Google has responded (see original article), saying that their policies are not to allow children under the age of 13 to sign up for Google services unless it is done under the guise of their educational product suite through their school. There are some laws on the books, particularly COPPA, that do limit the amount of information that can be collected about children under 13 unless supervised by a parent/guardian.  My young kids, all under 10 years old, already asking about getting Gmail, Windows Live Messenger, and Facebook accounts. 13 sounds like a good age to start, in my book, but there should still be parental supervision.

Link #3: How to thwart the high priests of IT
“There are a lot of good IT pros who earnestly want to help their employer do well by providing and maintaining the technology systems that conduct so much of business today. Then there are those who are the company's enemies, whether they realize it or not.”
Disclosure- I'm an Elder, not a High Priest. And I'm have been in IT at a Fortune 500 company for nearly 11 years, 4 more at a start-up in the dot-com era.

I hesitated to even include this story but I can't help myself. This train wreck of a blog post, which would be mistaken for a comment-troll on my blog, is arguably one of the worst IT hit-pieces of recent memory. The comments from the article and on on the Slashdot article are not kind but reflect the same sentiment I have for the article and its author.

I think this guy is fishing for readers and hoping to increase his ad revenue: that's the only scenario that makes sense. I have yet to find a serious IT or programmer who agrees with him. Even the /. nerds are crucifying him, which says a lot about just how ridiculous his premise ultimately is. His aim in starting the blog was to talk frankly about the "consumerization of IT" but instead his opening salvo has not only missed the target but gone outside the firing range and hit the very people he was trying to persuade: developers and technology enthusiasts.

My favorite comment from the article: "Author needs less amphetamines. Someone's been up for days raging because they couldn't bring their toys in to work."

Link #4: Paul Allen space venture begins with 'largest aircraft ever constructed'
“Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen on Tuesday launched a speculative space-travel business that calls for building "the largest aircraft ever constructed." The twin-fuselage, composite-plastic plane, using systems cannibalized from two 747s and powered by six jumbo-jet engines, is intended to fly to an altitude of about 30,000 feet before launching into orbit a rocket slung underneath its wing.”
This is just TOO COOL. Paul Allen and company are going to build the world's largest plan, longest runway, and do it all in the name of privately-funded space industrialism. YES! Finally someone with some really big plans is stepping up and it isn't NASA or affiliated with any governmental organization. I love the idea of using existing engineering (i.e. cannibalizing existing planes and engines) and laying new designs on top of it to reduce cost (why re-invent the wheel?). I hope they are successful. This could end up being the grand-child of the space-shuttle program.

Link #5: Silicon Valley Library Lends Google Chromebooks
“If you find yourself in Silicon Valley and you need a laptop, try the library. In a first-of-its-kind pilot project, the Palo Alto, California Library will soon be loaning Google Chromebook computers to library patrons for as long as one week at a time. The program highlights the Chromebook’s ability to operate as a kind of “disposable computer,” as Google puts it. With the Chromebook, most all data and applications reside on the Web — not the local machine — so it can easily be passed from person-to-person. It’s a very Googly setup, and the search giant hopes it will reinvent the way businesses use computers.”
I like it. It was only a matter of time before a library somewhere picked up this idea. Using it as a platform that can be checked out is like a tool checkout at a workplace: you use it and give it back when you are done, up to a week in this case. When it is returned the user state information is easily wiped since the whole point of the Chromebook is to store everything on various cloud-based services, like Google or iCloud.

While this is a good idea I'm not sure how far this will spread until tablet/laptop prices fall below $200, maybe even sub-$100. The best market for devices like this are poor areas but they usually lack the funding for expensive tech projects. Sounds like yet another pet-project for a state-senator somewhere...