Monthly Archives: December 2007

Follow up to On Christmas: in which I discover that the fanatics writing reviews on Amazon have their heads up their asses

In my last post, I compared the many wonders of my shiny new Blade Runner Four-Disc Collector’s Edition with the trauma caused by attempting to purchase a DVD of Star Wars to begin the indoctrination of the children (who are currently attempting an escape from their room — just a moment — there we go), due to the hundreds of bad reviews of every DVD version of Star Wars available.

Having actually watched the “theatrical release” version on DVD yesterday with the kids (at least, with the Princess — Junior decided that if he couldn’t talk at the top of his lungs and jump up and down on the sofa during the movie, he didn’t want to watch it), the Mrs., my father-in-law, and my brother-in-law (yes, I married into a family of Star Wars fanatics), I have come to one conclusion:

When it comes to Star Wars, just ignore the reviews.

The same could probably said of any blockbuster. Did you really wait for the reviews of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows? The people who are reviewing the Star Wars DVDs aren’t reviewing the movies themselves (“Low budget, cheesy effects, stiff dialogue, and my God! What did they do to Carrie Fisher’s hair?”). They’re reviewing the DVD, and clearly, the people who wrote the reviews I saw must have been watching the movie on a theater-sized screen, because it looked just fine to me, and our TV isn’t small.

Yes, Edward, I know, it’s smaller than yours.

The point is, when the review is being written by fanatics, it probably isn’t going to be terribly objective. When it is being written by fanatics who have been burned by the creator of their faith (and Episodes 1, 2, 3 certainly constitute “being burned”), I think it’s safe to say that the reviews might be more than a little picky. I saw one technical issue with the print they used for the theatrical release version on the DVD (slightly discolored rectangles around the TIE fighters in the fight scenes with the Millennium Falcon and at the Death Star). Other than that, it was fine, and certainly in better condition than some of the prints used at the theaters where I saw the movie originally in 1977. It wasn’t enhanced, it was simply, as advertised, the theatrical release.

Princess loved it, and Junior is pretending he loved it (although clearly, it’s no Batman). We all had a great time, and now Mrs. Unfocused and I can bask in the warm glow of having imparted the important messages of Star Wars (believe in the Force, close your eyes before you shoot, talking robots are really annoying, some people won’t stop giving you advice even after they’re dead, light sabers are cooler than blasters, and so on) to a new generation.

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On Christmas: in which I completely geek out

Day four of not going into the office. You’d think I’d be more rested.

Mrs. Unfocused and I were up until 2:45am last night, wrapping and tagging presents for the kids, and Princess was up at 7. It was all worth it, though, watching their happy faces as they opened their presents. Princess, two months shy of turning 7, opened her gifts in approximately 3.4 seconds, a new record. Junior is still young enough to want to play with his presents as he opens them, and the second package he opened was the Geotrax train set he has been lusting after for months. He liked his other presents, but the train set was really all that mattered, and you could tell that even when he was opening another present that he liked, he still wanted to go back to the train set.

I’m sure he’ll become interested in the bike in the spring.

The Mrs. even liked her gifts, which I always worry about. This year, I had her with the new L.L. Bean slippers — everything else was gravy.

As for me, in addition to several surprises, Santa (or, more precisely, Mrs. Claus) brought me exactly what I asked for: the new Blade Runner Four Disc Collector’s Edition DVD package, with the original 1982 U.S. theatrical release, the 1982 international theatrical release, the 1992 director’s cut, and the 2007 “Final Cut.” I’m in nerdboy heaven, and will be scheduling a screening soon.

I can’t have the Blade Runner screening until after we have the official first viewing for the kids of Star Wars, which we may do tomorrow. Not the new stuff – Episode Four, Star Wars 77, A New Hope, the original. At least, as close to the original as Lucas will let us get on DVD. Check out the reviews of the various DVD versions of the original Star Wars trilogy on Amazon.com to see what the complaints are all about (essentially, the remastered versions have new material added, and the “original” version available is not remastered or even from a particularly good print) and you’ll see the contrast with the new Blade Runner collector’s edition.

Princess asked me if she could watch Blade Runner. She’s a good kid, but I don’t think I’d be doing her any favors by exposing her to Philip K. Dick at this tender age, even filtered by Ridley Scott. I told her that she had to wait until she was at least 7.

I don’t mean to imply that the whole day was about presents. We had a great afternoon and evening with family, a wonderful Christmas dinner, and watched a couple of classic Bugs Bunny cartoons for the edification of the children. Very low pressure and nice. Also, did I mention the new Blade Runner set I received?

I hope your Christmas was as nice as ours, whether you celebrate it or are simply an innocent bystander, that the coming year brings peace and prosperity to you and your family and, most importantly, that you too receive the Blade Runner Four Disc Collector’s Edition.

Merry Christmas.

On Being Santa: the joys of some assembly required

I’ve done it! It’s 1:05am on Christmas Eve, and I have completely assembled the Spiderman bike that Santa Claus will bring for Junior tonight. I have achieved 50s fatherhood nirvana!

On Racing: in which the countdown begins to the 2008 racing season

It’s official: Bank of America is the official sponsor of what had been the LaSalle Bank racing series. I just received an email notifying me of the upcoming registration dates for the 2008 Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle (March 30; registration opens January 1) and the 2008 Bank of American Chicago Marathon (October 12; registration opens February 1). The race websites haven’t been updated yet, though — they still show LaSalle Banks as the sponsor, and the 2007 information. I hope they maintain LaSalle’s commitment to Chicago racing, but my fear is that in a few years, after the merger is old news, B of A will let the sponsorship go, following the pattern of out-of-town companies drastically reducing their community involvement after they take over local companies. I hope I’m wrong — it’s a big commitment to sponsor these races, and big sponsors are hard to come by.

I’ll register for the Shuffle right away — I’ve only missed a couple since my first one in 1998 (at least, I think it was 1998 — it could have been as early as 1995). No marathon for me in 2008, though. All signs point to another busy year at the office, and I won’t be able to put in the training time. Instead, I’ll concentrate on half marathons for distance, and getting my 5K time down to below 20 minutes. My fastest time is 20:36, so the 5K goal is in the realm of the possible, although I don’t think it will be easy, and I’m going to have to make much more of an effort with my speedwork than I made this past year. In 2007, my 5K time came down precisely 0.0 seconds. It was a busy year at work, with a lot more travel than 2006, and sometimes just staying level is a victory.

On Holidays: in which the Christmas plague visits our home

From The Parents’ Dictionary:

The Christmas Plague: any of the many viruses or bacteria that infect a household right before Christmas. See also: Hanukkah Hack, Valentine’s Day Virus, Independence Day Illness, etc.

Mrs. Unfocused, who is singing a tricky piece in church tomorrow, has taken a vow of silence for the day — last night, her speaking voice started sounding rough. This morning, it hardly sounded at all. She got through her rehearsal, but wants to conserve what she has until the concert is over.

Junior woke up this morning with a truly horrendous sounding cough. It isn’t croup, yet, but I have a feeling that he and I may be taking a trip to the emergency room tonight. He’s just about four years old, so croup is still something to worry about for another year or so. I think that the Unfocused Princess stopped getting it once she turned five.

The Princess and I are fine. But for how long? (Key the creepy music)

I still have hope that everyone will feel better by Christmas Eve. Last year at Christmas, the Mrs. was still recovering from a godawful sinus infection/flu/pneumonia that hung on for a couple of months, including two rounds of antibiotics. Two years ago, the Princess woke up at 4am on Christmas Eve day with a raging ear infection — she and I spent the morning at the Children’s Memorial Hospital urgent care clinic. Three years ago — who can remember three years ago? Probably the fish had the sniffles.

I did manage to write the introduction to the professional article I’m working on. It’s one of the two writing projects I have committed myself to completing before NaNoWriMo starts on November 1 (and yes, one of these days I’ll post without referring to NaNo), and it is probably the easier of the two, since it’s based on a speech I gave over the summer on a subject I know pretty well. I have most of the research done and outlined in my speech materials, so writing the article is mostly filling in around the dry case descriptions in my outline (and livening up the descriptions). I got the writing done by getting up a little before anyone else did, and then by ignoring the kids while they made a mess in the back room while the Mrs. was at rehearsal (easier said than done).

Time to make some lunch for the Princess and the Plague victims. Here’s hoping the Christmas Plague passes over your house this year.

Update at 2:05pm:

Perhaps I spoke too soon. My nose has started to clog, and I’ve got a funny tickle at the back of my throat …

On Commitment: in which I waste my morning signing up for something that doesn’t start for almost a year

This morning I made myself late for work by signing up for NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, which starts next November 1. Each November since 1999, a group of people register for NaNoWriMo and attempt to write a 50,000 word draft of a novel between Nov. 1 and Nov. 30. According to the website, last year more than 100,000 people registered, and more than 15,000 people actually completed the 50,000 words (and yes, NaNoWriMo counts every word — I’m told they have special machines that sort the words into piles nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc., and then the words themselves are counted by a team of accountants from PriceWaterhouse).

2008 will be my first year for NaNoWriMo. If there are any Wrimos who have good advice for a newbie, please leave it in the comments.

About Me: in which I begin yet another project with no clear way to finish

Husband (married my college sweetheart years ago).

Father (two great kids).

Lawyer (that’s what it says on the business cards).

Runner (when I can get my sorry butt out of bed early enough, or break out of work long enough to head for the gym).

Writer? Not lately.

It has been a long time since I wrote anything for pleasure. I write all the time for clients — briefs, memos, complaints, settlement agreements, nastygrams (wait — I’m going to see if anyone has registered nastygram.com … it is, and it’s a porn site, as I should have expected — when I say nastygram, I mean an aggressive, snarky letter to opposing counsel), etc. But nothing that I felt compelled to write for my own reasons. Nothing, frankly, that I didn’t know in advance that I would get paid for.

When I was in high school, I was the first one of my friends to get a rejection slip. I probably have a dozen or more in a box somewhere, from Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. I collected a few more while I was in college, although I slowed down my fiction output and focused on acting and my column for the student newspaper.

I wrote a little more during law school: 75 pages of a coming of age novel (with, I must say, a really good mugging scene, but nothing much else worth salvaging), and a few humor pieces for the law school newspaper at my first law school.

No, I didn’t get kicked out. I transferred. The future Mrs. Unfocused was still living in Chicago, and I wanted to come back before she found someone more focused.

That was it, though. I’ve jotted down some story ideas since, and somewhere in the study there’s a spiral notebook with 20 handwritten pages of a comic science fiction story (or novel) that I started maybe four years ago, but otherwise, nothing.

Between the age of 11 and the beginning of law school, the only thing I wanted to be when I grew up was a writer or journalist. Even as I started law school, I thought I would keep writing and end up with that as my real career.

I surprised myself (and everyone who knew me, except, I think, my mother) by actually enjoying law school. I got to spend three years reading about other people’s problems and arguing with a bunch of really smart people — what’s not to like? I also found — again, to general disbelief — that I liked, and continue to like, being a lawyer. I like solving problems, and I like a job where there are winners and losers. Not every day, not all the time, but far more often than not.

So I like my career, and I’ve had some success with it — nothing that’s made the papers, but I’m doing alright.

But.

It’s time to start writing again. I need to put words on a page for no better reason than that I want to put them there, that it pleases me to do it. This blog is my way of getting started.

It is 10.5 months until the start of the next NaNoWriMo — by November 1, 2008, I want to be in a mental space where I am ready to participate. Before then, I plan to write one professional article that I have been thinking about but putting off for months, and to complete the first draft of one of the short stories I have notes on. In the meantime, I plan to use this blog to push my self to write something — anything — a few times a week, to practice writing in my non-lawyer voice again.

That’s it for now. More tomorrow.