Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Home alone

Today's fortune cookie: "You are able to analyze objectively and express yourself clearly."

Cool. Me. Totally. Yes?

The first two days of Val going back to work went about as well as could be expected, I suppose. I've taken her both days to and fro, and back for lunch in order to spend as much time together as possible (yep, we're still in the honeymoon period) since five minutes after getting home about 5:20 I have to depart for work.

Okay, so I overslept my nap today and when Val called at 11:58 expecting me to be down in the parking lot I was putting on my shoes at home, but it's okay (Right, hon? Hello?), she doesn't have a set lunch hour.

Of course, we didn't talk much at lunch, but it's still quality listening time. And by that I mean listening to other people. Today we sat next to a pair of college girls who must have been on lunch break from the Clueless sequel. Lots of "like" and "oh my god," and my favorite part, when the one girl would get out a frantic sentence complaining about someone, and then two seconds later, as if she remembered she was supposed to punctuate her sentences with appropriate vexation, would mumble, "I mean, sh*t." Indeed. Personally, I like my punctuation better, "knowhatI'msayin'?"

I'm adjusting to life as a house husband, though I'm not getting tons done during the day. Still haven't cleaned the guest room or put together the entertainment center, which Dad bought us for Christmas, arrived Jan. 4 and still sits unassembled in four big parts that took two weeks to put together.

Thus far I've taken care of the groceries, enjoyed the requisite Target run, made the bed, started laundry or finished laundry (but never both, lest Val get used to it), and sat bored on the couch watching this weekend's "Battlestar Galactica." Next up, actual chores and cooking!

Now, fun with signs! The first is one I pass every day on the way to work, the latter we pass on the way to Val's work.

That is the worst personals ad ever.

The sign says "Fantasy Homes." It sits in front of a vacant, ugly, overgrown lot. Maybe it should say "Fantasize Homes." It's only "fantasy" if you're a frog or snake.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Hear, hear

The latest quotable Vents posted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

- I tried to pay for something with one of those "gold" $1 coins and the cashier actually laughed and said I couldn't pay with candy money.

- I paid for $20 worth of gas with two rolls of quarters. The girl at the counter asked me, “How do I know these are really quarters?” I replied, “How do I know what I pumped is really gasoline?”

- It’s a good thing that Jack Bauer doesn’t work in Atlanta. Most episodes would just show him sitting on the Connector while Chloe gives him satellite traffic reports.

- I once slipped on a wet banana peel in a Target parking lot and broke my arm. It was worth it just to be able to tell the story.

- If Lincoln had ended his war because it was unpopular and he was losing, you’d be able to find grits and sweet tea in Cleveland today.

- After seeing some of the dresses, it’s easy to see why they call them the Golden Globes.

- My wife and I had words last night, but I didn't get to use mine.

- Like P.J. O’Rourke said: “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.”

- Did I actually hear Rosie O’Donnell criticizing the “American Idol” judges for “ridiculing people”?

- Some people like me and some people don’t. What’s up with that?

- I’ve no doubt Hillary can win the presidency. What I wonder is if the media can go another year and a half without asking her challenging questions.

- Doesn’t it tell you something about the congregation when a church installs speed bumps in its driveways and parking lot?

- I hear they’ve developed computer chips that can play music that can be implanted inside a woman’s breasts. This is a major breakthrough since women are always complaining about men staring at their breasts and never listening to them.

- Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will sit in a boat and drink beer and someone will watch him do it on TV.

- I knew it was going to be a good day when some of the voices in my head started doing impressions of the other voices.

- So far today, I haven’t gossiped, lost my temper or been nasty. But in a few minutes I’m going to get out of bed.

- C’mon Libbies, all together now: “Bush’s ethanol initiative is just to help his greedy buddies in Big Corn.”

- Kudos to those who are making their ends meet. I can’t get mine close enough to wave at each other.

My Vents:

- In response to the new "Go Fish, Georgia" initiative, California started its own, "Do You Have Any Queens?"

- Bill Clinton didn't send Chelsea to Somalia, Bosnia or Kosovo, and I never saw a vent about it. What's with the animosity against Bush's daughters?

- You know it's a cold day when your teeth start chattering and they're still on the nightstand. (Courtesy

- You can tell that this is the cold and flu season. Even the non-smokers are coughing. (Courtesy

- You know you're stressed when antacid tablets become your sole source of nutrition. (Courtesy

- When I asked the clerk why Barbie Gets a Divorce costs $265.00, I was told, "Isn't that obvious? Divorced Barbie comes with Ken's house, Ken's car, Ken's boat, Ken's furniture..." (Courtesy

Top 5 Shows We Watch Together

Val started her new job this morning. I insisted on driving her there, and I'll pick her up afterwards and meet her for lunch, so we can spend time together since I have to work tonight. It was strange, almost like the first day of school. Complete with near tears. By me.

One of the things that stinks is all the shows that we'll have trouble watching together anymore, either because she has to go to bed early or I have to work the evening shift.

Here are the top five shows I watched with my lovely wife during our first three months in wedded bliss:

1. The Price is Right - By now I feel like Val and I could write a book, "The Price is Right for Dummies," and sell it to every person in line who might be called to "come on down!" For example, if you're the fourth and last guesser to get on stage from contestants row, and the highest bid is $800 and you're sure it's higher, don't say $900, say $801. Seems simple, but you'd be surprised how much we're yelling at the contestants. Also, when you design your shirt specifically for the show, leave room on your upper torso for the name tag. Every morning at 11 a.m. we would wake up (Val adopted my late night schedule where we'd go to bed at 2) and let Bob get us started on our day with a smile. We'll miss him dearly when he retires at the end of the year, though based on the number of mistakes he's made the last few months, I guess it's time.

2. 24 and Heroes - Unfortunately they're competing against each other, which is pure evil. 24 is still the first choice, since it's six seasons in and we have a commitment to Jack. Heroes, though, is darn good and compelling, and unlike so many of these mysteries, feels as if we're making progress every week and getting answers. A year ago I would have included Lost, but last fall we found ourselves rolling our eyes a LOT.

3. Playmania - Comes on at midnight on the Game Show Network, a two-hour live show where the audience calls in to win money based on word puzzles and such. Of course, it's really all a scam, but we like guessing the answers together. And by scam, I mean that they pretend that no one is in the "player's lounge" for several minutes at a time, when in reality thousands have called the 1-900 number and text messaged for $1 each, but they randomly pick people. When Mel, Jessica or Shandi is begging you to enter and raise the money in the prize, know that there are people already in line ahead of you and your chances of getting through are miniscule. But like I said, if you watch as if it's a regular game show, it's fun.

4. Deal or No Deal - As you can tell, we like our game shows. One of the best audience participation shows, it's easy to make decisions for contestants that are worth tens of thousands of dollars on Deal. As they get more and more annoying every week, we find ourselves rooting against them, which is kind of funny and more than a little sad. Hey NBC, we like to see people get excited, just not bounce around as if their feet are on fire, over playing the dramatics.

5. Scrubs - The repeats on WGN at 11:30 p.m. are good for winding down a long day with a laugh. It's goofy, like us!

Today's headlines

Fallon says U.S. miscalculated Iraq
Bush retorts: "Whatever, dude. I saw Taxi and that was a pretty big miscalculation, too."

Hobbit Declared a New Species as Debate Continues
For the time will soon come when hobbits will shape the fortunes of all...

"24" Day 6: 11:00AM - 12:00PM

Not to be too harsh, but this was the worst episode of "24" since the cougar threatened Kim way back in season two. After that episode I skipped the rest of the season entirely.

I won't abandon Jack just yet, but another hour like tonight and I'll start to wonder if it's worth making time every week.

What was wrong?

The PC nonsense with the CTU chick who played Audrey Griswold in Vegas Vacation and gets "profiled." Second, Karen wouldn't so hastily quit during a national security crisis because of a threat from a pipsqueak who everyone knows is overstepping his authority. Third, Jack's in the show for approximately three minutes. Fourth, seriously, it took like five minutes for security guards to extract Walid from a deadly situation in the holding pen?

Why will I stick around? Two words: James Cromwell. He could go on The View with an hour-long episode with Rosie O'Donnell and I'd consider watching.

Know what didn't stink tonight? "Heroes." Yep. And I quite like Christopher Eccleston (recently The Doctor on "Doctor Who") as the Invisible Man. Hope he isn't killed off in the next few episodes. Can we add him and nix the NikkiJessica story? Please? And Sulu is Hiro's papa? Awesome!

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Hey folks, Val and I are on the road, in Memphis today then the Louisville area this weekend for Gabriel's birthday party. We'll be back Monday afternoon.

In big news, though, I can report that my lovely wife has her first job in Atlanta! So everyone say Yay!

(And then everyone say, "that stinks," because she'll be working 8-5 while I mainly work evening shifts, so after our extended three-month honeymoon we may actually go a few hours without seeing each other. Boo.)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Church shopping II

Last week Val and I began our local church tryouts with First Baptist Smyrna. This Sunday we tried a smaller church, King Spring Baptist Church, just a few minutes further down the street.

Minor trivia: King Spring Baptist is on King Springs Road. Somewhere the S got lost, like how family names were misspelled as folks landed at Ellis Island. I feel like you should know these things.

King Spring had 117 in attendance last week and looked to be about the same this week, whereas First Baptist has three times more members according to the Southern Baptist site, two worship services and even the second service we attended looked to have at least a few hundred there.

There's no question we felt welcomed by the members of the church. We were mobbed by five women just walking in the front door, then another bunch as we walked in the sanctuary, and during the welcome and fellowship people walked all around the aisles and everywhere we turned there was someone trying to shake our hands and ask about us. It will never not be cool to say, "I'm Jeff, and this is my wife, Valerie."

Of course, I don't remember anyone's names, but that comes with any subsequent visits. Especially if there’s food involved. After the service they gave both of us a bag with freshly baked banana nut bread inside. Of course, because of the nuts I can't eat it, and Val doesn't like banana bread, but that’s not the point. In mid-February there’s a luncheon for new and potential members, and it’s free, so we’re totally there, especially if there’s any of the following: Casserole, lasagna, spaghetti, chili and/or garlic toast with sweet tea.

The church has a very young pastor, Rev. James R. Auton, who started a little over a year ago, and a young music minister, both obviously picked to lead an older congregation (though not "old" old, if you know what I mean) and try to recruit younger members. I didn't see more than two teens who could be youth, and a handful of couples in attendance, so maybe it's no wonder that everyone was so happy to see a vibrant, happy, attractive and modest couple as ourselves.

The pastor was beginning a study of the book of Daniel, 1:1-21 this week, and he actually read all 21 verses. Last week I mentioned how Val would prefer a message that incorporates the Bible more than the preacher’s own thoughts. No problems here. Rev. Auton actually went through the entire history of the book and had far fewer anecdotes, which may be due to the fact he's so young, too young to have gathered so many homespun tales. Of course, I also drifted in and out more often than last week, but that could also be due to a lack of sleep, having gotten off work at 2 a.m. that morning.

Like First Baptist, the bulletin had a page for notes, which Val tells me is normal for almost all churches nowadays. I've only attended one church (semi-) regularly since college, so I admit I'm out of practice. (Update: Going through old files I actually found a bulletin from a service at Bellevue in Memphis from August, 1994, and it had a section for notes. Guess I should have paid more attention to these things, i.e., actually taken notes.)

Being smaller, the church looked like a homey chapel, pointed to the top, one center aisle and about 20 pews per side. They have stained glass windows, something not even big First Baptist had. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Here’s something you don’t notice as a youth. Adults prefer to sit in the back, too, eh? The first seven rows to the pastor's right were nearly empty save for a couple on the far side near the wall around row five. Then again, the adults aren’t giggling and passing notes, or like me, drawing golf courses around the bulletin, so I’ll shut up.

King Spring’s faithful weren’t dressed as formal as many churches, including First Baptist. Maybe a third of the men had suits, and they were all officials in the church, and the women were dressed for comfort instead of style. Although, actually, there were so many adorable little old ladies, that might be what's in style for them, so I may be wrong.

The choir wasn’t remarkable (am I allowed to say that?), perhaps due to being small and older, seemingly the kind you join "because it's what you do." They weren’t dressed in robes, and unlike First Baptist they didn’t have their own screen to read the words and thus actually had to read the words (shock!). There was a little praise band that seemed mostly made up of youth, and they weren’t bad. The congregation wasn’t afraid to clap and “amen” after songs, too.

Only two of the five songs picked by the minister were difficult to sing, and once again we didn’t have to crack open a hymnal. So those are just for decoration now, eh? At Merton Avenue Baptist in Memphis back in my youth days, we used to hold the hymnal in front of us until the minister told us which page to turn to, and then we’d race to see who could win.

I should also note that if you don’t open the hymnal, you miss out on fun games like adding words to the hymn titles, like, “…in the bathroom.” You know, like, “Surely the Presence of the Lord … in the bathroom.” Good times. Sorry God.

Speaking of potentially offending the Good Lord above, I won’t even volunteer to pray in front of zoo animals or babies, but why let that stop me from offering a primer to those who are asked to give the benediction at the conclusion of the service?

We're Southern Baptists. We're ready to skedaddle. Olive Garden is calling and if we arrive at 12:20 there will be a wait. Please keep the prayer short. I'm not exaggerating when the gentleman who gave Sunday morning's closing prayer went on for five minutes. I thought he was going to start naming every person in the room and their pets, thank God for the flowers, the instruments and Kleenex with aloe.

On the visitor form there was a line asking if we wanted someone from the church to contact us, with only boxes marked "yes" and "no." I understand why they ask the question, since some visitors are only that, while others are seeking a new home church and want help with spiritual matters.

However, as a church shopper I wanted to respond, "Only if that's what you normally would do." Write me a letter, visit me because it's part of your outreach program, like how First Baptist sent a deacon an hour after the service last Sunday, and sent us a letter a few days later. It turns out that the pastor took a middle route, sending me an email Monday thanking us for our visit.

I think we'll definitely visit King Spring again to see what the Sunday School is like and meet other young couples. Val thought the old folks were "so cute," and I had to concur that we felt very much like they wanted us to be there and apart of what they think is a church on the move.

This Sunday: Nothing. We're heading out of town until Monday. The Sunday following? Still up in the air. Perhaps a Sunday School tryout at King Spring.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

We don't need another hero

Dear producers of "Heroes,"

Thank you for making the most exciting and well-made show of the year. Please continue to churn out some of the best writing, characters and story ...

BUT ...

Could you get wherever you're going with the whole Nikki/Jessica story? Not only do I have no clue how it could fit into the rest of the goal of the Heroes, I don't care about her/them/whatever.


Jeff's Third Annual Oscar Contest

UPDATE 6:30 p.m. - Remember, you can change your picks right up until the pre-show begins. To send me your picks, either post them here or use my email address in my profile. Also, like the previous years, prizes will be awarded for first AND last place! Good luck! (Or not!)

The Academy Awards were announced this morning, meaning a return to potential glory and bragging rights here on Thanks For Noticing Me! (Oh yeah, and an actual prize! Usually a movie gift card, so it's not like this is for nothing.) And now that I'm married, I expect and hope that I'll have even more entries than usual.

My brother and brother-in-law, Scott and Joe, respectively, took home the initial prize in 2004, Scott's friend in Nashville, Jeremy, was our 2005 champ, and I won last year, though since I can't rightly claim victory in my own contest, lil' sis Stephanie officially "won."

Don't worry, you have plenty of time to get me your picks, and I'll keep hounding you until you do! And no worries that you haven't seen most of the nominees; nowadays, few outside of art houses in New York and L.A. have, either. I've seen exactly one of the nominees for best picture ("Little Miss Sunshine"), which is one more than last year.

Here's the complete list:

1. Best Picture: "Babel," "The Departed," "Letters From Iwo Jima," "Little Miss Sunshine," "The Queen."

2. Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio, "Blood Diamond"; Ryan Gosling, "Half Nelson"; Peter O'Toole, "Venus"; Will Smith, "The Pursuit of Happyness"; Forest Whitaker, "The Last King of Scotland."

3. Actress: Penelope Cruz, "Volver"; Judi Dench, "Notes on a Scandal"; Helen Mirren, "The Queen"; Meryl Streep, "The Devil Wears Prada"; Kate Winslet, "Little Children."

4. Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, "Little Miss Sunshine"; Jackie Earle Haley, "Little Children"; Djimon Hounsou, "Blood Diamond"; Eddie Murphy, "Dreamgirls"; Mark Wahlberg, "The Departed."

5. Supporting Actress: Adriana Barraza, "Babel"; Cate Blanchett, "Notes on a Scandal"; Abigail Breslin, "Little Miss Sunshine"; Jennifer Hudson, "Dreamgirls"; Rinko Kikuchi, "Babel."

6. Directing: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, "Babel"; Martin Scorsese, "The Departed"; Clint Eastwood, "Letters From Iwo Jima"; Stephen Frears, "The Queen"; Paul Greengrass, "United 93."

7. Foreign Language Film: "After the Wedding," Denmark; "Days of Glory (Indigenes)," Algeria; "The Lives of Others," Germany; "Pan's Labyrinth," Mexico; "Water," Canada.

8. Adapted Screenplay: Sacha Baron Cohen and Anthony Hines and Peter Baynham and Dan Mazer and Todd Phillips, "Borat Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan"; Alfonso Cuaron and Timothy J. Sexton and David Arata and Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, "Children of Men"; William Monahan, "The Departed"; Todd Field and Tom Perrotta, "Little Children"; Patrick Marber, "Notes on a Scandal."

9. Original Screenplay: Guillermo Arriaga, "Babel"; Iris Yamashita and Paul Haggis, "Letters From Iwo Jima"; Michael Arndt, "Little Miss Sunshine"; Guillermo del Toro, "Pan's Labyrinth"; Peter Morgan, "The Queen."

10. Animated Feature Film: "Cars," "Happy Feet," "Monster House."

11. Art Direction: "Dreamgirls," "The Good Shepherd," "Pan's Labyrinth," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," "The Prestige."

12. Cinematography: "The Black Dahlia," "Children of Men," "The Illusionist," "Pan's Labyrinth," "The Prestige."

13. Sound Mixing: "Apocalypto," "Blood Diamond," "Dreamgirls," "Flags of Our Fathers," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

14. Sound Editing: "Apocalypto," "Blood Diamond," "Flags of Our Fathers," "Letters From Iwo Jima," "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

15. Original Score: "Babel," Gustavo Santaolalla; "The Good German," Thomas Newman; "Notes on a Scandal," Philip Glass; "Pan's Labyrinth," Javier Navarrete; "The Queen," Alexandre Desplat.

16. Original Song: "I Need to Wake Up" from "An Inconvenient Truth," Melissa Etheridge; "Listen" from "Dreamgirls," Henry Krieger, Scott Cutler and Anne Preven; "Love You I Do" from "Dreamgirls," Henry Krieger and Siedah Garrett; "Our Town" from "Cars," Randy Newman; "Patience" from "Dreamgirls," Henry Krieger and Willie Reale.

17. Costume: "Curse of the Golden Flower," "The Devil Wears Prada," "Dreamgirls," "Marie Antoinette," "The Queen."

18. Documentary Feature: "Deliver Us From Evil," "An Inconvenient Truth," " Iraq in Fragments," "Jesus Camp," "My Country, My Country."

19. Documentary (short subject): "The Blood of Yingzhou District," "Recycled Life," "Rehearsing a Dream," "Two Hands."

20. Film Editing: "Babel," "Blood Diamond," "Children of Men," "The Departed," "United 93."

21. Makeup: "Apocalypto," "Click," "Pan's Labyrinth."

22. Animated Short Film: "The Danish Poet," "Lifted," "The Little Matchgirl," "Maestro," "No Time for Nuts."

23. Live Action Short Film: "Binta and the Great Idea (Binta Y La Gran Idea)," "Eramos Pocos (One Too Many)," "Helmer & Son," "The Saviour," " West Bank Story."

24. Visual Effects: "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," "Poseidon," "Superman Returns."

Monday, January 22, 2007


Remember all that talk about how Democrats aren't against the U.S. in the war in Iraq, just President McBushitler? Hogwash.

From Mark Steyn:
That poll about Iraq I mentioned right at the beginning was very interesting. It came out last week and it posed various questions about whether folks thought the "surge" was a good idea or not. Including the following:

"Do you personally want the Iraq plan President Bush announced last week to succeed?"

And here's how the American people answered: 63 percent said yes, 22 percent said no, 15 percent said they didn't know.

Let me see if I understand that. For four years, regardless of this or that position on the merits of the war, almost everybody has claimed to "support our troops.'' Some of us have always thought that ''supporting the troops'' while not supporting them in their mission is not entirely credible. But here we have 37 percent of the American people actually urging defeat on them. They ''support our troops'' by wanting them to lose. This isn't a question about whether you think the plan will work, but whether you want it to work. And nearly 40 percent of respondents either don't know or are actively rooting for failure. Which is to say: more dead American troops and more dead Iraqi civilians. Asked whether they want the surge to succeed, 34 percent of Democrats answered ''No,'' and so did 19 percent of independents and 11 percent of Republicans. What were the numbers like for D-Day?
Read it all.

I'm still special!

Yeah, but the other 70 only wish they could be me!
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

(Hat tip: Erin.)

UPDATE 11:53 a.m. - Speaking of names and popularity, the Baby Name Wizard is always a fun site.

MLB can bite me

Unbelievable. Ridiculous. Preposterous. Pathetic. Frakin' asinine.

That's about all I can say about the news today that Major League Baseball signed a deal with DirectTV to air MLB Extra Innings for the next seven years, meaning the package won't be available unless you have DirectTV.

I don't. Can't, either, because my apartment doesn't face south.

This deal smells like smells like a used diaper filled with Indian food. It smells like a turd covered in burnt hair.

I'm a Red Sox fan. My wife's a Cardinals fan. We live in Atlanta. Last year I had Extra Innings. This year? If MLB doesn't offer MLB.TV to watch our games on the stinkin' computer, we're out of luck to see our teams play unless they're on cable.

As one commenter on Deadspin said, "Because nothing says 'I'm a baseball fan' than sitting hunched over your PC watching tiny streamed video of your favourite team, with out-of-sync audio."

Benedict Arnold Major League Baseball, you are no talent a** clowns, and Evil Empire DirectTV can just go straight to hell.

Not that I'm emotional about this.

Netflix reviews - Superman Returns and Little Miss Sunshine

In case your curious, the former came from my queue, the latter from Val’s, although I was probably more interested in seeing the little independent flick than the big summer blockbuster.

Superman Returns

No matter what Brandon Routh does, he will never be Christopher Reeve. No matter how unfair that is, I can’t overlook that fact. Routh cannot deliver that grin and wink at the end like Reeve did, and right there shows that Routh doesn’t have one-tenth of the charm that Chris Reeve brought to the role.

The problem was with the actors and the plot. But other than that? No problem.

Routh does give it the old college try, though in the end he ends up bland, mostly humorless and that cape is too big for him. Still, at least he’s better than our new Lois, Kate Bosworth, who is every carbon copy blond bombshell in Hollywood. This movie would have been 33 percent better if only Bosworth had been replaced with, say, Rachel McAdams.

Superman is supposed to have made his mark, wooed Lois and then gone away for five years, but the actor’s all look 20-years-old so it’s hard to believe any of them were old enough to get into clubs without fake IDs, let alone have professional journalism careers.

The story’s not too bad. Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey milking every scene) never had much sense to come up with a plot to make tons of money without alarming the populace and the Man of Steel, so his odd plan of using crystals from the Fortress of Solitude to create a new continent almost works.

Why does Superman have to be on the road to being a home wrecker? Couldn’t we have given Lois a kid without a boyfriend/father-of-her-child being around? Instead, poor James Marsden is played for a fool. His Richard is a genuinely good guy, and doesn’t deserve to have Lois treat him like a backup plan.

I guess what I’m getting at (“Finally!”) is that we don’t need another Superman movie. Yes, hearing the music was fun and took me back to my childhood the same way Rocky Balboa did, and seeing the Daily Planet is a hoot. It’s not enough. There are too many special effects that look obviously fake, and too many holes in the plot. Let Superman return to cinema history.

Little Miss Sunshine

The “it” independent flick of 2007, I’m surprised but not really surprised to see the movie get so much recognition during the awards season. Every little film nowadays has to have an unexpected cast (Steve Carell as a gay suicidal professor, for example), odd characters and a quirky script, so I expected to enjoy myself though I knew I wouldn’t see any new ground forged. I was right. And yet I was also moved a few times and laughed often.

Initially Val and I weren’t sure we’d last. Everyone’s so unhappy. The only people enjoying themselves is a na├»ve little girl and a druggie foul-mouthed grandpa. Those two performances make this a picture worth seeing: Abigail Breslin and Alan Arkin.

Breslin is a delight, pure and adorable, and her Olive makes the movie. Because of her innocence and sweetness, I almost cried. Twice.

Otherwise this film is filled with bitterness. I couldn’t see Greg Kinnear and Toni Collette as a married couple, and the stereotypically rebellious “I hate everyone” teenager (Paul Dano) is obvious, yet sympathetic once you see how his family operates.

In fact, Dano and Carell might as well be our narrators, watching their surroundings with as much horror and bewilderment as the audience. They’re the most normal adults, despite the fact that Carell tried to kill himself after a student left him for another professor, and Dano took a vow of silence.

When the family hops in the VW bus to get Breslin to the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant finals in California (from New Mexico) , the movie takes off and at least everyone’s unhappy but moving and interacting and learning and dealing with adversity like a family, however abnormal.

So many endings rely on the final prom or talent show (Napoleon Dynamite, About a Boy), yet this one still delivers and fits into the movie. You can’t help but think that they’ll turn out alright, though with some major bumps and annoyances along the way, like a car horn with a mind of its own.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Stop. Go. Stop. Jump. Jump. Jump. Stop.


Big fan of owls

A Hooter's restaurant across the street from a middle school in Orlando changed its sign that read "plagiarism saves time" after complaints from a teacher.

Hooter's changed the sign back to read what it originally said, "Hey boys, come see what your tween girlfriends will look like in ten years!"

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Jeff's Top Five Anticipated Movies of 2007

Obviously, I was a tad distracted last year, which is why I went to so few movies in the theater, but I also think it's because there were so few films I actually had to see. Hopefully that will change now that I'm settling into happily ever after as a married man. Let's find out how the rest of the year looks.

1. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (July 13) - Every Harry Potter movie has gotten better, as the books have, so my expectations are sky high and hopefully not too high. One thing is sure, now that I'm married there won't be any more awkward comments about Hermione. Now Ron, that's another story ...

2. The Bourne Ultimatum (August 3) - With Identity and Supremacy, the Bourne franchise supplanted 007 with the action and intrigue. Can the third be just as good as the first two? It's difficult, but possible.

3. Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End (May 25) - Sure, Dead Man's Chest was more follow-up FUBAR than Matrix Reloaded, and Revolutions was a let-down as well, but that doesn't mean the third Pirates installment can't turn the series around, right? Right? Please?

4. Blades of Glory (March 30) - Will Ferrell in a comedy spoofing the world of figure skating. That's all I need to know.

5. Transformers (July 6) - I'm just so, so curious to see if this really is more than meets the eye. How to turn a childhood favorite into a live-action summer blockbuster? I have got to find out. Will it be Godzilla or Jurassic Park? Did I mention this is a Michael Bay film? Yeah. Not helpful.

Others: Live Free or Die Hard (June 29), Spider-Man 3 (May 4), Shrek the Third (May 18), Ocean's Thirteen (June 8), National Treasure 2 (December 21), Fanboys (August 17), Evan Almighty (June 22), 300 (March 9)

NFL Final Four Picks

Who's going to Jeff's Super Bowl? The Patriots and Bears. Who will I be rooting for? The Colts and Bears.

But unlike many, many years, I'm fine with whomever ends up in the big game in two weeks. Pats-Bears, Pats-Saints, Colts-Bears, Colts-Saints, Daniel LaRusso-Johnny Lawrence, whatever. All would be compelling matchups for different reasons.

Let's break open the chips & dip, pizza and wings, and now that I'm in my 30s, the Pepcid Complete and watch some football!

UPDATE 6:47 p.m. - 1-for-1 with Da Bears manhandling New Orleans. Not to put too weird an analogy on the game, but wasn't it like the Battle of the Bulge, with Chicago as the Allies pushing through Axis lines, the Axis fights hard briefly but ultimately is overwhelmed. Or the Saints couldn't hold onto the ball. Either way.

UPDATE 10:20 p.m. - Good for the Colts! Even better for Peyton! Nice to see them finally get that Patriots monkey off their backs. And all the folks who tired of seeing New England have no excuse for Super Bowl XLI in two weeks. Early edge for the game? I've gotta say the Colts, but the Bears defense is so good I don't think I would confident betting my own money. No matter how much praise Peyton gets, though, he still has to win the Super Bowl or he'll forever be compared to Dan Marino.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Just passing through

Tuesday night I finished up a run of 11 days of work in a row, the first nine of which were the late night shift, so Val and I are enjoying the three-day weekend at the end. This is why posting was heavier than usual a week ago and has been light the last few days.

Stay tuned for more posts, including mini-reviews of our Netflix movies of the week, Superman Returns and Little Miss Sunshine.

Now, if you'll pardon my absence, team Valfrey is on the way to Cleveland, Tennessee, a few minutes north of Chattanooga, to see the esteemed duo of Kevin and Robyn Trowbridge. Kevyn? Robin? Kevrob? I'll ponder that over the next two hours while my wife plays her electronic Deal or No Deal game.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

It's not Minneapolis Idol, thank goodness

The first two hours of American Idol on Tuesday did not inspire confidence that we'd be blown away this season.

Do you ever wonder if this show's fan base is made up mostly of shut-ins who just want to get outside, even though it makes them look foolish?

Our favorite? Rachel, the Army Reservist with a hubby in Iraq. She was sweet, cute, fun and had a decent voice, even if she has no chance to make the top 12.

The best singer, however, was Sarah Krueger, who sang "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" even better than 2006 runner-up Kat McPhee.

We missed the first few minutes tonight, but apparently that's a good thing because all that rain in Seattle makes the citizens angry, unattractive and tone deaf.

Blinking again

Because I know y'all are dying to know how my saga with the non-blinking/fast-blinking turn signal went, an update.

Do you want to know why Wal-Mart succeeds where others fail, and why I don't mourn for the decline of smaller operations? For the exact reason that while Advance Auto Parts and Pep Boys didn't have my 3057K or even a 3057ALL bulb, Wal-Mart did, and now my rear blinker works again.

Yay Wally World!

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Airing of grievances

The latest quotable Vents posted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

- Isn’t it a little weird that Nikki Taylor, who nearly died in a car wreck, just married a guy who races cars for a living? (Jeff note: This one was by our own Michael Christopher)

- Seen on bumper: "If you object to logging, try using plastic toilet paper."

- The Legislature is in session. Make sure the hand in your pocket is your own!

- My middle-aged friend just bought his first hat. He said it is more affordable than Rogaine.

- My memory's not as sharp as it used to be. Also, I don't remember nearly as much.

- If the Republicans had called for a five-day workweek and then canceled House sessions for a nighttime college football game, the AJC would have made it a front-page story.

- I visited a friend who lives in a gated community, and boy, was I impressed. My crummy subdivision only has speed bumps. They have “residential speed control devices.”

- I could win both the Powerball and Big Game jackpots tonight and still not get as much as a fired CEO.

- I’ve discovered those new 50 percent-less sodium soups on the market taste pretty good. They just need a little more salt.

- A man spoke frantically into the phone: “My wife is pregnant and her contractions are only two minutes apart!” “Is this her first child?” the doctor asked. “No!” the man shouted, “This is her husband!”

- Has anyone ever actually slipped on a banana peel?

- AutoBarackaphy: A tell-all memoir written at the beginning of one’s political career rather than the end.

- I told my wife that if something I said could be interpreted two ways and one of the ways makes you mad, I meant the other way.

- Liberals on Iraq sound like those namby-pamby parents who tell their kids that "Winning isn't as important as how you play the game."

- Would the study of which “ology” is which be called “ologyology”?

- My friend denied having a beer gut. He calls it a liquid grain storage facility.

- The media crucified George Bush for past alcohol use. Now that media darling Barack Obama has admitted using marijuana and cocaine, it will be interesting to see the media reaction.

- The Legislature is in session. Do not stand in front of the fan.

- After days and days of testing, New York City has identified the unusual smell in the city as “fresh air.”

- When the members of the American Dialect Society greet each other, do you think they say, “What’s the latest word?”

- I’m not fat because I am lazy. I am fat because a bacon cheeseburger and french fries taste a whole let better than steamed veggies.

- It is not politically correct to say your wife nags you. She’s only being “verbally repetitive.”

My Vents:

- Civil rights used to be about treating everyone the same. But today some people are so used to special treatment that equal treatment is considered to be discrimination. (Courtesy Thomas Sowell)

- As I sit in yet another traffic jam on the Downtown Connector at 5:30 p.m., I can't help but look around at the other cars and wonder, "Oprah doesn't have to put up with this, why should I?"

- So if government can raise wages by decree, why are the popular proposals so stingy? What good is a measly buck or two extra? Let's really do something for the poor. Let's raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour. Even better, $50! (Courtesy John Stossel)

- It's not that I don't believe email couldn't come back in time from the year 2038, but I'm pretty confident that those are from spammers.

- Fine, I'm a chickenhawk, as is every single liberal who advocates U.S. aid to Darfur and doesn't enlist as a peacekeeper to fight the Sudanese government.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Let there be light

Quickly, without warning and ability to avoid it, like the latest Trump-Rosie barbs, my front left turn signal started blinking so fast I wondered if some cocaine had been sucked into the grill. Meanwhile, in the back, the turn signal acted more like it had rolled through some pot, lethargic and still, lit yet not blinking.

Some unscientific research (i.e. Googling "fast turn signal") seemed to point to changing the rear blinker even if the light was still working. Okay, that should be the easy fix, then. Better than the alternative. Doesn't everyone roll their eyes and see dollar signs (which, if literally, suggests an expensive migraine on the way) when someone says, "Did you check the fuses?" Light first, then fuse.

Off to Advance Auto Parts, for what my Aztek manual says is a 3057K bulb. There are four rows full of 3057LL bulbs, no sticker for 3057K, and the row for what I'm guessing is a generic and desperate-only choice, "3057 All" is empty.

Not that I would have been able to change the bulb in the parking lot, anyway. To open the compartment to change the light, apparently I need some sort of wrench, except that the screws are in an inset between the light case and the hatch door, and I have exactly one inch of room on either side to twist a wrench. Maybe I have to use pliers? Or prayer?

I admit that when you look up the word "proficient," you should check the antonym to describe what I know about cars, but why do they have to make it so difficult to change a bulb? Is there a problem with bulb theft?

I guess I should be thankful; up front to change the headlamp I have to unscrew multiple thingamajiggies, pull up some plastic whatchamacalit and match up some prongs, all the while listening to Mozart and dancing the waltz. It's in the manual. Why would I exaggerate?

"You still look like a 15-year-old girl, but not hot."

Even the trailer to Will Ferrell's new gutbuster, Blades of Glory, has more usuable quotes than most other comedies produce in two hours:

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Church shopping

Val and I finally began our search for a church home here in Atlanta. My old church, Johnson Ferry, is a good half-hour away and not easy to get to from our home, so we're looking for a church where we can leave at 10:30 for the 10:45 service and still be early.

Why is this important? Because I've been working the 6p-2a shift at work every Saturday night for two months, and I'm getting six hours of sleep, tops, if we go to service, and about five if we tackle Sunday School. For the first two months of marriage I let this be my excuse, but no longer. Time to set the alarm. (The "Raiders of the Lost Ark" theme on my cell phone.)

So this morning we were up at 9:30, had our bowls of cereal (me: Cookie Crunch; Val: Cocoa Puffs) for breakfast and made our way a mile to First Baptist Smyrna with time to spare for the service. We even had a minute for some deacon to come over and say that he didn't recognize us and thus figured we were visitors. Nice guy. Always nice to get to tell people that we're a young (yes, YOUNG) newlywed couple looking for a church to call home. The lady next to Val was similarly nice. Not that I expected them to thumb their noses at us and ask why I was wearing a polo shirt instead of a tie, and, "your cold sore scab is HIDEOUS." Or, "Please stop licking the pew in front of you."

When I filled out the guest card Val worried that we'd get visitors who wanted to hang out in our cluttered apartment, but I said that's exactly what I wanted to check, if the church had a good outreach program. The answer so far: Indeed. Not two hours after we got home, ate Subway sandwiches (the new Roasted Garlic & Peppercorn Steak is delicious) and laid down for a nap with the football game on, we got a call from the front gate because "Fred from First Baptist" was visiting. Impressive. And Fred only wanted to say hello and give me some materials from the church, not come in and visit, so that worked out nicely.

We both enjoyed the visit, but not enthusiastically. Val would prefer a younger music minister, and we didn't get out until 12:15 (hey, we're Southern Baptists, 11:55 is a rule) due to a long list of announcements at the end and the Lord's Supper. Which shouldn't be a complaint, since neither of us had had it in some time.

I did like that the bulletin had a page designed for taking notes of the sermon. The five topics were listed, with blank lines below to fill in the verses or write down the key points. Today's topic was on encouragement, and the challenge was to refrain from speaking critically the rest of the day.

I'm going to fail miserably right now.

Regarding the sermon, however, Val would have preferred that the preacher used more examples from the Bible instead of what seemed more like the preacher's homespun advice. Similarly, when giving the Lord's Supper, he didn't say the verses associated with the special event, instead throwing out his own reasoning of why we were eating the teeny tiny crackers and teeny tiny thimbles of grape juice.

Know what would be neat? If a Southern Baptist church was bold enough to order outside of the SBC catalog and pass loaves of bread to the congregation, allowing us to tear off pieces of actual bread to eat. Of course, we'll also need to upgrade at least from a thimble of grape juice to a shot glass.

Then again, it's nerve wracking enough when you're waiting for the plate of crackers - and especially the tin of grape vials - and you just know you're going to drop Jesus' body and blood all over the pew and the new carpet, and be silently judged by all the people around you. What, they've never spilled anything? Hey bud, I saw you put five bucks in the collection plate. Is that really just ten percent of your earnings? I didn't think so.

Okay, so here's something that I don't want to wrinkle feathers, but might if you take it the wrong way. I'm not criticizing it, either, just an interested observer. First Baptist Smyrna spends several minutes before the offertory and sermon singing hymns with the congregation standing, with an invite to come to the altar and pray or talk with a minister up front.

My observation is who actually takes up the offer. At least half of the people who come up front, maybe more, are teens and college-aged kids. Why is this? Val and I have three theories: Are they more fearless than adults who might worry what others around them think? Are kids in youth groups more immersed and spend more time in church and at church functions that they are so much more in tune with their feelings and beliefs that they feel "the call" to go up front? Or are they "showing off" their faith to peers and adults with whom they seek acceptance? I don't say that to criticize, just that peer pressure is strong, even in religion.

Also not criticizing, just observing (and yes, I'm aware that I'm in Talladega Nights territory of "Just because you say 'with all due respect' that doesn't mean you get to say whatever you want!"), but it also seems that the adults who do go up to the altar during such times are also the ones you're more likely to see enthusiastically nodding during sermons, saying "Amen" out loud when no one else is, and raising their hands during the hymns. This is about .01 percent of Southern Baptists, so naturally we notice. We don't judge, and frankly sometimes I wish I had similar fearlessly outward faith, but I also feel there are certain number of these who are boasting their faith by drawing attention to themselves.

With all due respect, I mean.

If you are one of those believers and are offended, I apologize, and feel free to reply, asking me why I'm not more confident and fearless in my belief, or whatever.

By the way, I've read discussions of whether it's okay to be critical of Christian music, since after all, we say that it's from the heart and flowed from prayer and what the good Lord put in your thoughts. Similarly, is it okay to be critical of a church, which is, after all, doing the Lord's work? I think so, since I'm not so much as judging the church as noting positive and less-positive points for selecting it as a permanent home to nurture our Christian walk.

One thing that never changes is the feeling I get when someone gives their life to the Lord. This morning a 15-year-old boy did so, and I got chills as always. In my mind I picture the idea that a dozen angels are surrounding the boy, cheering and celebrating another soul saved, as in Frank Peretti's "This Present Darkness" series, and even though it's not Biblically based, I like to think that's exactly how God and his kingdom acts when another person chooses to be saved.

Next week, Val and I will attend another church, and another, and another, and revisit First Baptist eventually, since we know that you can't pick a church based on one Sunday, and we did like it overall. Not too big (attendance is about 500 in services), not too small, but what could be the most important factor is whether any church has a good number of young couples to meet and greet and kick their butts in Movie Scene It.

Here's another topic: Do most churches charge for Wednesday night meals? Val was pretty surprised when I told her that First Baptist charges four bucks.

Final statistic: Eight hymns sung, four of which were difficult for the normal (read: tone-deaf) parishioner to sing. That's a pet peeve of mine. If you expect me to sing out loud and not just mouth the words, I need to feel comfortable doing so, and not worried that the people in front of me will drop to their knees in pain, praying to God to make it stop. Because He is busy answering the prayers of the people up front at the altar.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Pitchers and catchers report in one month!

ESPN's Tim Kurkjian this week named Fenway Park the best ballpark, and fills out the rest of his top five with Oriole Park at Camden Yards, PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Wrigley Field and AT&T Park in San Francisco.

His least favorite Major League Baseball park? Dolphin Stadium: "That's what it is, a football stadium turned into a baseball ballpark. It looks even worse when only 10,000 fans show up, which has been often in recent years."

David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution responded by rating all of the ballparks, and disagrees, although No. 1 is a common one:

1. AT&T Park, San Francisco: "Spectacular views, great location, a varied lineup of upscale restaurant concessions, aroma of garlic fries in the cool air, fog rolling in at night, a Willie Mays statue out front … and Barry in his recliner occupying one side of the clubhouse. OK, nothing’s perfect."

The rest of his top five:

2. Wrigley Field, Chicago
3. PNC Park, Pittsburgh
4. Fenway Park, Boston
5. Petco Park, San Diego

His least favorite:

25. McAfee Coliseum, Oakland
26. Shea Stadium, New York
27. Metrodome, Minneapolis
28. Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg
29. RFK Stadium, Washington
30. Dolphin Stadium, Miami

My turn, although I admit my choices are rather limited since I've only been to a handful of ballparks, and a few more that are now parking lots for the new stadiums:

1. Fenway Park - Come on, you expected anything less? You wouldn't believe me if I said that even objectively this is the greatest park for any sport in the country. I'll just say that it's an experience unlike any you've had. You feel the history, you sense a buzz throughout the game from the crowd, and the players seem to care more when they play there. Imagine going to your favorite restaurant, musical, movie and watching the birth of your baby, rolled up into one.

2. Busch Stadium - Okay, so seeing as how this is my wife's team, you probably feel that my list can be tossed, but much to her chagrin I would also like to point out that I have very fond memories of the old Busch Stadium. Good times. When we visited in August it was a rocky hole.

3. Turner Field - It's amazing what they were able to do by snipping the Olympic Stadium in half and closing up the end to create this retro park. There are great views from everywhere, and if you pay for the Lexus level you get to hang out indoors for food and restrooms. Because it's so much easier to go when you're not dripping in sweat from the 99 degree heat and 100 percent humidity in July. (Too much?)

4. The Ballpark at Arlington - The Devil refuses to attend anymore games there. Says it's too hot. Also says Rosie O'Donnell is an annoying blowhard, but that's unrelated to baseball. Other than that, the view's nice, the food's good and you can get a ticket behind the plate for about 1/100th the price of the same at Fenway.

5. Dang Yankee Stadium - Sorry, but I wasn't enthralled by this bit of history when I visited with Dad this past summer. You have to go to the Bronx, for one thing. Well, you have to be in New York in the first place. Plus, I didn't see one ghost of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig or Reggie Jackson (oh wait, he's not dead).

6. AutoZone Park - Okay, it's really the Memphis Redbirds' downtown retro minor league park, but still better than the next two, if only for the BBQ nachos. *drool*

7. Dolphin Stadium - It's hot, it's difficult to get to, the food's not great and it rains every day on the few fans who do survive Miami traffic to show up.

8. Tropicana Field - Even if it rains all the time, at least Dolphin Stadium is outdoors. Baseball doesn't feel right on a carpet inside a concrete bowl that's mostly empty and quiet except for a) Chanting Red Sox fans, b) D-Rays fans who boo chanting Red Sox fans, yet still don't cheer for Tampa Bay.

What's in a name?

See this picture? This is a woman, and her man who is whipped in love.

Mike Buday and his wife, Diana Bijon, are suing the state of California with the ACLU because the state makes it so hard for him to take his wife's name.

In California, a man who wants to take his wife's name must file a petition, pay more than $300, place a public notice for weeks in a local newspaper and then appear before a judge.

First off, it's silly that only six states (Georgia included) "have statutes establishing equal name-change processes for men and women when they marry." They're right that it's too difficult. All Val had to do was change her name at the local Social Security Office, and use the marriage license to change it when getting a new driver's license and car tags, plus place a call to her creditors. Took a little time and effort, but nothing as crazy as what California requires.

Second, that guy's a hippie weirdo. Getting married and changing your name isn't about "gender equality for both men and women," it's about tradition. It's about family trees having an easily visibly continuous line. You want to honor your wife? Use her maiden name as your first kid's middle name or something. Her family's doing just fine. They've been rooting for her to get married and change her name. They think it's strange, too.

Now, none of this changes the fact that if Val had asked, I would have quickly and eagerly changed my name to "Jeffrey Wayne Howell."

January Madness

Not that you care or anything, but this is my site and my ego, thus here are my playoff picks for the second round of the NFL postseason:

Colts at Ravens, 4:30 p.m. Sat. - Let's be honest, Peyton Manning in January is like Nicole Richie at an all-you-can-eat buffet: Awkward, everyone knows they don't really belong there and it's all for show. Ravens stop the Colts and manage enough offense to win going away. Baltimore 27-14.

Eagles at Saints, 8 p.m. Sat. - This is the one game I'm truly stumped. On the one hand, the Eagles have played brilliantly the last month. On the other hand, N'awlins is at home, has plenty of offensive weapons and had the week off. I'm tempted to pick Philly, but I'm going with home-field advantage. New Orleans wins a close one, 20-17, but by halftime the crew calling the game will have me doing the impossible, rooting for Philadelphia, because I'm already frakin' tired of hearing about how New Orleans is somehow owed a Super Bowl because of Katrina. I rooted against the dang Yankees less than two months after 9/11, so don't push me, Fox.

Seahawks at Bears, 1 p.m. Sun. - Bold prediction: Mike Ditka comes out of retirement to quarterback da Bears, Chicago still wins easily, 35-10.

Patriots at Chargers, 4:30 p.m. Sun. - I know, I know, San Diego is the sexy pick to win the Super Bowl this year. But Philip Rivers is in his first year at QB, Marty Schottenchoker is 5-12 when it counts, and Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have teamed up to go 11-1 in the postseason together. Charger fans recuperate by realizing they live in San Diego and we don't. New England in a nailbiter, 24-20.

UPDATE 8 p.m. - The Colts won for five reasons:

Adam Vinatieri.
Adam Vinatieri.
Adam Vinatieri.
Adam Vinatieri.
Adam Vinatieri.

Anyone else think Mike Vanderjagt is liquored up right now?

UPDATE 11:19 p.m. - Congrats to the Saints, they deserved this win, and they'll likely be favored to win the NFC title game next week no matter if it's at Chicago or home against Seattle. Deuce McAllister is invincible, like that boulder rolling downhill in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

UPDATE Sunday 4:30 p.m. - Da Bears! Sexy Rexy didn't blow it, and the Bears defense held Seattle over and over when it mattered most.

UPDATE Sunday 8:30 p.m. - Called it! Patriots over the Chargers. Do NOT bet against Brady and Belichick in the playoffs, next week included, though I'll be pulling for the Colts.

Friday, January 12, 2007

What you're not hearing

Since the mainstream media spends all of its time telling us that Iraq is lost and Bush is a moron for refusing to accept defeat, there are stories that the media covered in other wars but refuses to acknowledge today. Specifically, that our troops are amazing heroes. From Thursday:
Bush awards Medal of Honor to Iraq war Marine

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A young Marine who fell on a hand grenade in Iraq two years ago, giving his life to save comrades, was given the Medal of Honor Thursday by President Bush, becoming only the second Iraq war recipient of the prestigious award.

Bush awarded the medal, the nation's highest military decoration, to the late Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham of Scio, New York. Dunham's parents accepted on their son's behalf during the somber ceremony in the White House's East Room.

"He was the guy who signed on for an extra two months in Iraq so he could stay with his squad. As he explained it, he wanted to `make sure that everyone makes it home alive,' " the president said. "Corporal Dunham took that promise seriously and would give his own life to make it good." ...

In April 2004, Dunham, a 22-year-old corporal, received a report that a Marine convoy had been ambushed, according to a Marine Corps account. Dunham led his men to the site near Husaybah, halting a convoy of departing cars. An insurgent in one of the vehicles grabbed him by the throat when he went to search the car and the two fought. A grenade was dropped, and Dunham covered the explosive with his Kevlar helmet, which along with his chest plate absorbed some of the blast.

He died a few days later.

"I've lost my son, but he became a part of history," Dunham's mother, Deb, said after the ceremony. "It still hurts as a parent, but the pride that you have from knowing he did the right thing makes it easier."
Just as well that the media didn't show you the pictures of the ceremony; they'd try to paint Cpl. Dunham as a victim of "Bush's folly."

Women stink at math

- Kidding! This coming from a guy who had to get tutoring to get a B in Algebra II. But Nancy "Mother America" Pelosi sure seems to have problems grasping addition and subtraction:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was touting a plan to push six bills through a Democratic House in 100 hours or less as early as June of last year. She's reached the halfway point--in fewer than 20 hours, according to her count.

But just as the official clock for a basketball or football game stops for time-outs and commercial breaks, Democrats aren't counting the minutes spent on business unrelated to those six designated bills.

So while the House has been in session for almost 48 hours since the 110th Congress was sworn in Jan. 4, the clock on Pelosi's Web site says only 17 hours 48 minutes have elapsed.

- Today's headline: "Drive Carefully, Avoid Black-Ice Problems" -- headline, Des Moines Register, Jan. 12

Why does Mother Nature have to focus on race?

- Today's headline II: "Nipple covers, hair and other red carpet secrets"

Sounds like every Saturday evening in the Rushing household.

- Today's headline III: "Visitors to Eiffel Tower climb to record in 2006"

Yeah, but most took the elevator down.

"There are Klingons in the White House"

This is what happens when Democrats embarrassingly try their hands at pop culture:

Not to get all geeky, but if he really wanted to say that Bush is like a Vulcan but not really, he should have said that the administration is made up of the evil Vulcan cousins, Romulans.

Although, it's pretty clear this Rep. Wu drowned in vats of Romulan Ale before making this speech.

(Hat tip: The New Editor)

Empty box

Let's just imagine if a male Republican had said this to a woman appearing before a committee in front of the cameras ...
From the New York Post:
Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer, an appalling scold from California, wasted no time yesterday in dragging the debate over Iraq about as low as it can go - attacking Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for being a childless woman. ...

Rice appeared before the Senate in defense of President Bush's tactical change in Iraq, and quickly encountered Boxer.

"Who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price," Boxer said. "My kids are too old, and my grandchild is too young."

Then, to Rice: "You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family." ...

The junior senator from California apparently believes that an accomplished, seasoned diplomat, a renowned scholar and an adviser to two presidents like Condoleezza Rice is not fully qualified to make policy at the highest levels of the American government because she is a single, childless woman.

UPDATE: In "Democrats-Have-Nothing-On-Republicans-When-It-Comes-To-Scandal" news, Nancy Pelosi has some 'splainin' to do:
House Republicans yesterday declared "something fishy" about the major tuna company in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco district being exempted from the minimum-wage increase that Democrats approved this week.

"I am shocked," said Rep. Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican and his party's chief deputy whip, noting that Mrs. Pelosi campaigned heavily on promises of honest government. "Now we find out that she is exempting hometown companies from minimum wage. This is exactly the hypocrisy and double talk that we have come to expect from the Democrats."

On Wednesday, the House voted to raise the minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour.

The bill also extends for the first time the federal minimum wage to the U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands. However, it exempts American Samoa, another Pacific island territory that would become the only U.S. territory not subject to federal minimum-wage laws.

One of the biggest opponents of the federal minimum wage in Samoa is StarKist Tuna, which owns one of the two packing plants that together employ more than 5,000 Samoans, or nearly 75 percent of the island's work force. StarKist's parent company, Del Monte Corp., has headquarters in San Francisco, which is represented by Mrs. Pelosi. The other plant belongs to California-based Chicken of the Sea.

"There's something fishy going on here," said Rep. Patrick T. McHenry, North Carolina Republican.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Global yawning

2006 is said to be the warmest ever on record, due to either El Nino or "global warming," depending on whether you're talking to a scientist or someone with an agenda. Of course, the top ten includes the years 1934, 1921, 1931, 1953 and 1954. Not sure how Al Gore could have prevented the dangerous warming of those years.

My favorite part of the story? "The climate center said the unusual warmth in early winter reduced residential energy needs by 13.5 percent compared to average conditions for the season."

That should crinkle the brow of some libs. Hmmm ... saying global warming is bad is a good way to beat up Republicans and enact socialist legislation, but high energy costs is a good way to link Bush to oil cronies. What to do?

The firing power inside my crater is enough to annihilate a small army

Considering life as a Bond-esque villain?

You can buy your own tiny "country" (actually an old WWII anti-aircraft platform) off the coast of England.

I give you Sealand!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The question rages

Spaghetti: The perfect leftover food?



Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton have decided that they don't like it when their fellow Baptists don't agree with them on, you know, petty issues like like killing unborn babies, so they're forming their own (read: liberal) Baptist fellowship.

Even going back to the old days when Henry VIII split from Rome so he could kill his wives in peace in order to marry new ones to eventualy kill when they didn't produce an heir, I believe this is known in elite religious circles as "Taking your ball and going home."

'Twas merry, indeed!

All of the pictures are now posted and captioned (I went back and did some, too, that you've already seen) from A Very Merry Valfrey Holiday, our first Christmas together!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Around the news

- So the BCS Championship game just ends, and I'm glad Florida won, since I'm an SEC guy and rooting for a Big Ten school is like pulling for the Banker in Deal or No Deal, but that's not what this is about. Having aired all five of the BCS games, Fox decided to end with a long credit roll and music over highlights. Now, when CBS does this with "One Shining Moment" at the end of March Madness, it's gold. As "The ball is tipped ..." begins, Niagra Falls. Weep City. I'm looking forward to see what Fox has planned ... some kind of opera song with lots of Mariah-esque high notes and a guy who sounds like he's getting a wedgie. The entire moment fell flat. Terrible choice, Fox Sports guys, terrible.

- Scientists say that climate change was responsible for wiping out two ancient civilizations, the Chinese Tang Dynasty and the Maya in Central America more than 1,000 years ago. Al Gore came out with a follow-up statement today, saying that, "If the forces of the Bush cronies hadn't been selected-not-elected, these precious people would still be giving us their wisdom. I mean, didn't you see Apocalypto? That Tiger guy wanted to smooch his wife more than I did to Tipper at the 2000 convention!"

- Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are telling President Bush that they will cut off money if he tries to insert more troops into Iraq. Hmmm ... a Democrat congress cuts off funds for a hippie-unpopular war during a Republican president's term, berating troops and leaving allies in the lurch ... Where have I seen this before?

- Stem cell researchers reacted with enthusiasm and reservations to a report that scientists have found stem cells in amniotic fluid, a discovery that would allow them to sidestep the controversy over destroying embryos for research. The Democrat leadership released a statement on the matter, which says in part, "We're opposed to this reckless and dangerous research. We're not really sure why, but it seems to make Republicans happy, and we can't have that."

- A survey by urban planners says that New Orleans' infamous 9th Ward can be brought back largely as it existed before Hurricane Katrina flooded the area. Yeah, that's a brilliant idea. (/sarcasm)

UPDATE 8:13 p.m. - The difference:

A Moroccan accused of helping Sept. 11 hijackers has been sentenced to 15 years in a German prison.

The United States acknowledged it had carried out its first known military action in Somalia since 1994 ... Among the senior Al-Qaeda figures were one or two believed to be responsible for the 1998 bombings of US embassies in east Africa.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Trailer Park

The Simpsons - There's one clever gimmick ("the rock and a hard place"), but like the show, it goes on too long, is too obvious and stopped being funny a long time ago. (July 27)

Blood and Chocolate - I didn't think it was possible for a preview to suck worse every single second, but this Werewolf Craptacular On Parade succeeds.

Epic Movie - It doesn't matter what I say here. You're either going to see this spoof, or you're not. I'm most likely not. But maybe on Netflix. Maybe.

Ghost Rider - Too many special effects what with the flaming head and all, but the second trailer focuses more on the plot and story than the first trailer, so that's a good thing. But it doesn't change the fact that the protagonist has a flaming skull. That has to put a kink in the love life.

300 - Can I see this movie, the story of the Battle of Thermopylae in which King Leonidas and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes and his massive Persian army, without it being done in the style of Frank Miller (Sin City)? 'Cause this looks freaky-deaky. Have to admit, though, "Tonight we dine in hell!" is a kicka** line.

Lucky You - I'm going to cut and paste the movie's premise from the trailer site, and see if this is a movie I will ever see: "In Lucky You, a professional poker player (Eric Bana) gets a lesson in life from a struggling singer (Drew Barrymore) as he collides with his estranged father (Robert Duvall) at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas." 1) Professional poker player as a profession in a movie. Lame. 2) Drew Barrymore. When she's not pratfalling I'm in her adorable corner. 3) Eric Bana. Played The Hulk as a sleep aid. 4) Bana has daddy issues. Whatever. 5) Robert Duvall. He's still around?

Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer - The first movie was pretty much a snoozer, but this teaser, featuring the fire dude chasing this chrome liquid surfer dude is decently exciting. (June 15)

Transformers - Um, I, well, I'm kind of looking forward to this now? (*ducks flying toys*) Considering the special effects, I hope it's exactly what meets the eye! Still, I can't help but wonder, if the movie succeeds, will we finally get that dystopian Go-Bots movie we've all craved? (July 4)

Miss Potter - It's 1905, and Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor fall in love even though for some reason they're not supposed to, and there are drawings that move and, frankly, it's a typical romantic story with a good cast. If my wife wants to see it, I won't say no.

UPDATE: Some more suggestions from my readers ...

Curse of the Golden Flower - I told my big bro, Scott, that I was tired of these Chinese martial arts films like Hero, but doggone it if I'm wrong. This trailer is neato. It's downright peachy keen, even. The colors pop, the action looks incredible, and the chick is, um, wait, I'm married now. Never mind. Except Chow Yun Fat in the middle of the preview looks too much like that Cowboy (sorry, Cao Boi) dude from the last Survivor, and he was annoying. But I'm pretty sure that's not him, but if Fat starts telling off-color Asian jokes, I'm out.

Pany's Labyrinth - Until my sister, Stacy, suggested it, I'd never heard of this movie, except in passing from my wife. I think. Maybe not. But if she had mentioned it and I didn't know what movie she was talking about, I didn't want to get in trouble and I apologize. I'm sure I was thinking of the millions of ways I love her and adore her and plan to shower her with affection and gifts. Now, the movie trailer ... Certainly looks imaginative and all, but I have no idea what the story is about other than Germans torture people and this little girl visits a world with lots of ugly creatures. A Netflix pick, most likely.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - My most anticipated movie of 2007, I studied this trailer like the stinkin' Zapruder film. (July 13)

Spider-Man 3 - Okay, no one suggested this one, but it is one of the biggest releases of 2007. I was underwhelmed by the first two, and can't get excited about the third, either. Okay, Spidey gets all revenge-y and dark, but the first two focused on serious topics as well, so it's not like we haven't seen our superheroes get dark. Heck, they all do now.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


Lifelong Red Sox fan Kathryn Gemme, who followed the team since the days of Babe Ruth, has died at the age of 112.

To put that in perspective, as an 18-year-old she attended her first game at Fenway Park in 1912 shortly after the ballpark opened, and about 89 years before my first time at the hollowed grounds as a 25-year-old.

At 109, Gemme was greeted by catcher Jason Varitek and former player and coach Johnny Pesky during her last game in May 2004 and team officials brought the 2004 World Series trophy to her 111th birthday party in November 2005.

Gemme is survived by her daughter, four grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and millions of Red Sox fans who hope to live as long and happy.

The article says that Gemme credited her long life and health to simple living, but considering she lived through 86 years of insufferable heart-attack inducing Red Sox games, I'm going to claim that she was actually a robot from the future.

His casket cost 10 cents

Momofuku Ando, the Japanese inventor of instant noodles, has died at the age of 96. Which, coincidentally, is the average life span of a bowl of his Ramen noodles.

New year, same vents

The latest quotable Vents posted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

- Christmas needs some tweaks for the South: “Deck the Halls with Boughs of Kudzu,” “I’m Dreaming of a Wet Christmas” and “Peanuts Boiling on an Open Fire.”

- Miss Nevada saying that her raunchy pictures “don’t represent who I am” is like me saying “my singing isn’t as bad as it sounds.”

- I told my friends I wanted to be a comedian. They laughed.

- My wife always gives me sound advice. It’s 99 percent sound and 1 percent advice.

- Golfers think it’s an achievement to shoot their age. With all this Christmas eating, I’m trying to keep my waistline under the speed limit.

- With the passing of Gerald Ford, I note how quietly former Republican presidents conduct themselves. Meanwhile, those two Democrat ex-presidents just won’t shut up.

- I’m so old that whenever I eat out, they ask for the money up front.

- Surely our Atlanta baby panda will be named Buh Buh.

- Life Lesson No. 1643: Never call the woman you’re married to your “present wife.” (Jeff note: Using "my new wife" doesn't sound any better when I do it.)

- Within days, Gerald Ford, James Brown and Saddam Hussein died. We lost a man Americans could trust, a man whose music was a must and a man whose life was a bust.

- Shooting begins this year for the next Indiana Jones movie. What will it be called? “Indiana Jones and the Geriatric Tower” or “Indiana Jones and the Fountain of Geritol?”

- Saddam had to be executed before appeasement-minded Democrats could return him to power.

- Our astute son wonders why the new Nanotechnology Building at Georgia Tech needs to be so big. If it’s staffed with microbiologists, couldn’t it be smaller?

- Now that Britney Spears and her friends have started the no-undies fashion trend, we have bets at our high school on how soon this dress code violation will occur here.

- I swear I heard the newscaster say the other day that “James Brown is survived by at least four children.”

- It is great that Oprah is building a school in South Africa, but what about the schools in the country that has made her so rich?

- If you are an achiever in this country get ready to be demonized. The Democrats are taking over.

- Law of Probability No. 3: Your probability of being watched is directly proportional to the stupidity of your act.

- I will not abbreviate this year to ‘07. It’s 007.

My vents:

- As a newlywed I'm learning the rule of reading Vents with my spouse: The anti-husband ones are funny; the anti-wife ones are not.

- If "global warming" is the reason New Year's Day was sunny and 60 degrees, then I say, bring it on!

Friday, January 05, 2007

Don't blame us

I would like to point out that all of the stories about how it is sexist that Nancy Pelosi's wardrobe will be unfairly scrutinized are being written by women.

By the way, anyone else think that if the first woman Speaker of the House were a Republican, it would be in the "Washington in Brief" column on page A15?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Valfrey note for Thursday, Jan. 4

Good times this weekend. Val finally got to join me, Amy and Michael for trivia Wednesday night. We led going into the bonus round and finished out of the prizes (future note: California has the most death row inmates), but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.

Thursday, Valfrey went to O'Charley's for lunch, since I had a massive O'craving for my new O'favorite food, their Chipotle Chicken O'Tenders. It doesn't matter that I have no idea what "Chipotle" means or how to pronounce it, that dish is O'freakin' O'tasty!

Afterwards, we learned even more what a small world we live in. For Christmas, Val bought me a new study Bible, but didn't have time to get in engraved, so we did that this afternoon. When we walk in, it turns out that the girl behind the counter was one of Val's student workers at the Union library last spring. Turns out Rebecca graduated and was biding her time before grad school.

To put that in perspective, in nine years of working at CNN, not once have I ever run into any co-workers around town. And yet, several years ago when Steve and his family drove up for the Cards-Braves playoff games, sitting directly behind us was Patrick's fraternity "big brother." It's apparently easier to run into fellow grads from a small Tennessee college than anywhere else in Atlanta.

This afternoon was spent on errands, running to the mall (which ended up being a side trip to Cheesecake Factory for dessert - guess what we had?), TJ Maxx and Best Buy for returns, and Target for jeans and Christmas stuff on sale.

Tonight we went out to our favorite Mexican place, The Border, for dinner. I had a fixin' for tamales, and Val wanted her customary fajita nachos. I wanted them as well, but one of the benefits of being married is that she'll never finish her entire meal, so whatever she starts I finish. So I got tamales AND fajita nachos, and all is well. Except my fatty tummy.

Speaking of The Border, one of the other fun things about being married is finding favorite places. Val's parents are big fans of Casa Mexicana in Atoka just north of Millington, and even we request dinner there at least once every trip. Besides The Border, we frequent Outback, Longhorn, and Cheesecake Factory frequently, plus Cold Stone Creamery for dessert, etc.

When I was single, I ate out only at the nearest sports bar because it was the one place I felt comfortable eating at alone, 'cause folks knew I was there to watch a game and play trivia. It's fun eating out all the time with a wife, no matter the damage to our bank account and "diet." I suppose these places serve salads, and we don't have to eat blooming onions, but where's the fun in avoiding the fun stuff?

And no, I did not get married just so I could finally go out in public without feeling awkward about doing stuff alone, like eating out and movies and kayaking.

Okay, two out of three ain't bad.

Tomorrow, it's time I stop putting off my manly duties. I have to clean and organize the guest room (a.k.a. "my room" since it has all my clothes and memorabilia), put together the baker's rack and entertainment center her parents and my father got us for Christmas, and since it's going to storm all day, kick back and watch Netflix movies. Val watched the Battlestar Galactica miniseries with me Tuesday night. I sure do love that woman.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

What liberal media?

The Media Research Center put out its annual Best Notable Quotables of 2006: The Nineteenth Annual Awards for the Year’s Worst Reporting. Among the "winners":

"It wasn’t supposed to be this way. You weren’t supposed to be graduating into an America fighting a misbegotten war in a foreign land. You weren’t supposed to be graduating into a world where we are still fighting for fundamental human rights, whether it’s the rights of immigrants to start a new life, or the rights of gays to marry, or the rights of women to choose. You weren’t supposed to be graduating into a world where oil still drove policy and environmentalists have to fight relentlessly for every gain. You weren’t. But you are. And for that, I’m sorry." — From New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr.’s May 21 graduation address at the State University of New York at New Paltz, shown on C-SPAN May 27.

Co-host Rosie O’Donnell: "As a result of the [9/11] attack and the killing of nearly 3,000 innocent people, we invaded two countries and killed innocent people in their countries."
Co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck: "But do you understand that, that the belief funding those attacks, okay, that is widespread. And if you take radical Islam and if you want to talk about what’s going on there, you have to-"
O’Donnell, interrupting: "Wait just one second. Radical Christianity is just as threatening as radical Islam [loud applause] in a country like America where we have a separation of church and state. We’re a democracy." — Exchange on ABC’s The View, September 12.

"I don’t support our troops....When you volunteer for the U.S. military, you pretty much know you’re not going to be fending off invasions from Mexico and Canada. So you’re willingly signing up to be a fighting tool of American imperialism, for better or worse....I’m not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn’t be celebrating people for doing something we don’t think was a good idea." — Los Angeles Times columnist and former Time staff writer Joel Stein in a January 24 column.

Anchor Katie Couric: "Gas is the lowest it’s been all year, a nationwide average of $2.23 a gallon. It hasn’t been that low since last Christmas. But is this an election-year present from President Bush to fellow Republicans?"
Reporter Anthony Mason: "...Gas started going down just as the fall campaign started heating up. Coincidence? Some drivers don’t think so."
Man in a car: "And I think it’s basically a ploy to sort of get the American people to think, well, the economy is going good, let’s vote Republican." — CBS Evening News, October 16. As Mason spoke, the camera zoomed in on the driver’s bumper sticker, "GOP: Grand Oil Party."

Katie Couric: "A passionate student of history, Condi Rice believes turmoil often precedes periods of peace and stability. And she rejects the notion that the U.S. is a bully, imposing its values on the world."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: "What's wrong with assistance so that people can have their full and complete right to the very liberties and freedoms that we enjoy?"
Couric: "To quote my daughter, 'Who made us the boss of them?'"
- CBS' "60 Minutes," Sept. 24

"[Russia’s Vladimir Putin is] the only one of those leaders who goes in there [the G8 summit] with a commanding popularity among his own people, because he is perceived to be an effective dictator. What we have in this country is a dictator who’s ineffective." — Newsweek contributing editor Eleanor Clift on The McLaughlin Group, July 15.

"We now face what our ancestors faced at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering: A government more dangerous to our liberty than is the enemy it claims to protect us from. . . . We have never before codified the poisoning of habeas corpus, that wellspring of protection from which all essential liberties flow. You, sir, have now befouled that spring. You, sir, have now given us chaos and called it order. You, sir, have now imposed subjugation and called it freedom. . . . These things you have done, Mr. Bush - they would constitute the beginning of the end of America." - Keith Olbermann in a "Special Comment" on the setting up of military trials for terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, MSNBC's "Countdown," Oct. 18.

What goes up should only come down on stupid people

Gravity: It's not just a theory, folks.

This is from Atlanta. I'm so proud.

When the clock struck midnight, the 20 or so revelers who had gathered at a Mableton house retreated to the back yard and rang in the new year in what, police say, has become an all-too-common practice: firing guns into the air.

But early Monday morning, one of the bullets fell from the sky and hit a 52-year-old guest in the back. His death is believed to be the first fatal shooting in metro Atlanta in 2007.

Two other guests at the Moselle Drive gathering were clipped by bullet fragments, but they were OK.

The panicked partygoers called authorities and told officers the victim had been wounded in a drive-by shooting, said Cobb County Cpl. Dana Pierce.

Police had their doubts.

For one thing, the shooting occurred in the backyard of the ranch-style house. For another, neighbors did not recall seeing a car speed away, Pierce said.

One neighbor said he heard fireworks at the house at the stroke of midnight, then three shotgun blasts at 12:02 a.m., followed by police sirens.

Still, the story of the drive-by shooting circulated throughout the day, worrying residents who had considered their community safe and quiet.

By Monday evening, police had determined that partygoers had fired "numerous weapons to celebrate the New Year." And they charged a teenager who lived at the home with firing the fatal shot that killed his uncle, Charles Duncan.

Wasn't celebrating New Year's Eve just fine when we were only firing exploding rockets at one another?

Monday, January 01, 2007

Top 5 Movies Of 2006

Actually, it should be titled, Top 5 Movies I Saw In 2006, which is to say, not many. Especially between April 24 and mid-November. Gee, I wonder why that is ....? Truth is, there were only a handful truly worth making a special trip to the theater to see.

1. United 93 - The only "must see" film of 2006, even if you can only manage to do so once due to the magnitude of the reality it presents. Well done, very subtle, immensely moving.

2. Casino Royale - Except for some slow parts towards the end, this "Bond Begins" is entertaining and Daniel Craig makes for a brilliant 007.

3. A Good Year - If you're surprised to see this on here, you're not alone. When the trailer came out, I rolled my eyes and assumed it would be a formulaic romantic comedy and barely a decent one at that. I was wrong. This is Russell Crowe's movie, and the romance barely figures into the engaging story of a man coming to grips with reality after his grandfather's death.

4. Thank You For Smoking - Satire is difficult to make, and even harder to get right, and this hits the mark at nearly every turn. Aaron Eckhart is superbly slimy and you can't help but root for him even as he's trying to kill you.

5. Inside Man - A fresh look at what avoids being a rote heist thriller movie, if only due to Denzel and Clive chewing every scene with ease. I'm ignoring that I just put a Spike Lee movie in my top five of the year.

In case you're wondering where some of your favorites are, first I'll list the rest of the movies that I saw in the theater in 2006:

The Sentinel
V for Vendetta
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Night at the Museum
Eight Below
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
The Nativity Story
Mission: Impossible 3
The Da Vinci Code
X-Men: The Last Stand
The Lake House
The Break-Up
Snakes on a Plane

Here are the movies I wanted to see the most, but never got around to it:

The Departed
Stranger than Fiction
Superman Returns
The Prestige
Flags of our Fathers
Clerks II