Friday, July 29, 2011

The Best Lip Curlers

I'm a sucker for a sexy snarling lip curl and I know I can't be the only one. Check out the six fabulous curling specimens below and let me know what you think.

1) Elvis Presley- He's still the king, but is his lip curl still relevant?

2) Billy Idol- 80's Icon. Is this bad boy bad enough?

3) Adam Ant- Another 80's boy. His lip curl is more subtle but does it 'Stand And Deliver' anyway?

4) Billie Joe Armstrong- This modern day lip artist is no 'American Idiot.'

5) Clint Eastwood- Will the curl of his lips make your day?

And Finally...

6) Alan Rickman- Whether this villainous actor is snarling at Robin Hood or Harry Potter his lips will make you 'Die Hard.'


Vote for your favorite in the comment section below.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter Books and Movies

I run the risk of alienating Harry Potter fans, but here goes... JK Rowling is a death-eater.

Now hear me out. I just recently finished the entire Harry Potter series. I know, I know, they've been out for awhile, but I was coerced into seeing the first movie, went on my own to the third, and while I liked them okay, I didn't feel an overwhelming need to rush out and read the books.

Then a few months ago, I found myself with some major time on my hands and access to the books, so I decided to give them a go.

(spoiler alert, although I can't imagine who doesn't know the plot of these novels and movies by now!)

Let me say, Rowling is an interesting and alluring writer and I liked the books much better than the films I saw. But she ticked me off. While the first four books each had me salivating for the next ones (Glad I didn't read them when they first came out. I hate waiting!), book five was really dark. It was hard enough to read about that annoying and cruel Professor Umbridge, but then Rowling goes and murders Sirius Black, one of my favorite characters. The poor guy had a messed up life; he lost his closest friends, was blamed for killing them, and then was sent to that hellish Azkaban. He finally attained some happiness and then bam! Not to mention I felt terrible for poor Harry, who was now an orphan again and had to return to the miserable Dursleys.

So book five didn't leave me feeling warm and fuzzy, but I was hooked now and wanted to see how it all ended. So onto book six where, ta da! Rowling kills Dumbledore. Okay, I know it was for important plot reasons, I get that. But if she hadn't already abandoned Harry by killing Sirius, it wouldn't have seemed so terrible. And I was really frustrated that Dumbledore didn't pass on nearly enough knowledge to Harry before he died. It's like if the teacher from Karate Kid dropped dead after only passing on a few defensive moves and a couple words of wisdom. It's bad form to leave your hero high and dry.

Then came Deathly Hollows... This is where my thesis is proven true as Rowling murders beloved characters left and right, even Harry's owl! Really? The owl, Rowling? Poor Hedwig didn't even die heroically, just kinda keeled over unceremoniously in her cage(although I hear they changed it in the film-movie makers know the importance of a good death). That's what Hedwig earned after years of loyal service to Harry- feet up in a cage.

I'd like to say Rowling lost me at the owl, but I was heading out the door already. She killed so many characters, many of them gratuitously, that it'll take too much space to list them all, so I'll just go over my biggest disappointments.

Dobby... Those who have only seen the movies might not care too much as his role there was minimal. I have to admit when I first saw his character in the movie, I didn't really like him, but that changed once I read the books. Here again is another tragic figure who just manages to eke out some happiness before being slaughtered. And by a dagger in the back, no less... if you disapparated, wouldn't you disappear before the knife could get you?! Oh, the humanity! Er, elfity!

Fred Weasley... by stray wand fire. Sigh. I heard somewhere that Rowling felt it would be un-realistic if all the Weasley's survived. Whatever. Still, why not kill Percy then? It would have been much more dramatic. Percy comes to his senses, feels ashamed for how he's acted, steps in front of a spell and takes one for his brother. I'd have preferred that than losing Fred- one of the few comic reliefs in the whole dark series. You don't murder the funny characters!

I'm just glad Rowling wasn't in charge of Star Wars. She'd have killed off Threepio, R2, Lando, and Chewbacca long before the heroes reached Endor.

Then we come to Snape... we all know Snape must die. It's just inevitable. And I'd predicted long before this book that he was only pretending to be on the bad side, so I was hoping for something really climatic and heroic. How does he get it? By Voldemort shoving him unceremoniously at Nagini, the snake, while Harry hides in a corner watching. Snape didn't even get off a spell. That's like killing Darth Vader with stray blaster fire before Luke gets to him. What a let down. Snape deserved a better death than that. Yet again, a character with a dark and depressing past who draws the short stick on glorious death. I didn't even get the satisfaction of a confrontation between Snape and Harry.

My version would have had Harry learning important skills like Legilimency from Dumblodore during all those extra lessons instead of just trips down Pensieve lane, so that he could confront Snape, read his mind, discover Snape was really on his side, and then Snape could die some other way that involved protecting Harry. Something far more heroic than simply falling to the floor and passing off his old memories. Poor tragic Snape...

Finally... If you take the time to write about someone in a seven book series, they should at least get better than, "oh, yeah and by the way, that guy is dead too." There were some major secondary characters who we still have no idea how they actually died.

Besides the deaths, there were a few other things that bothered me:


Harry didn't grow and improve nearly enough to become a capable hero. If it weren't for Hermione, he'd still be wandering around lost in that forest. He doesn't find the items in the quest as much as the items find him. Who was his mentor? Inspector Clouseau?! I would've liked to have seen more magic ability and common sense out of him by the end. Yeah, he did a brave and good thing confronting Voldemort, but his moral fiber was never in question and didn't need to evolve; he was always that good a person.

Harry couldn't have used his invisibility cloak to escape from the Dursley's? I think that motorcade thing was written just to kill off characters.

You might be thinking, "Yeah, but what about that ending!" Ah, yeah. Liked the ending. But I was too bloody teed-off about all the deaths and my other frustrations to care by the time I got to it. I threw the book across the room so many times that the binding has dried paint chips on it. I've never wanted to take custody of a character so bad in all my life. Poor Harry! From the Dursleys to all the mishaps and deaths, I suspect Rowling subconsciously hates Harry, or someone she based Harry on, and decided to take her literary revenge.

I guess I just prefer my fantasies to be a bit less dark. And I prefer to admire my fictional heroes, not feel sorry for them. Maybe it's just old age creeping up on me. Life can be tough and I read fiction to escape life's problems, not be reminded of them.

So no, I won't be seeing the final movie. I'm sure it'll be really good but I'm also sure it'll be pretty loyal to the novel and I just can't relive all that darkness. As for the books, I've kept the first four and I will pretend the last three don't exist. In spite of my negativity, this review is actually a testament to Rowling. If she hadn't created such an interesting world and such captivating characters, I probably wouldn't have felt so strongly about what happened to them.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I've never subscribed to Netflix, although I was considering it recently. I have Satellite and I was maybe going to cancel a few movie channels(not HBO, never HBO!) to substitute Netflix. Now, with their price hike announcement, I'm re-considering considering them!

First of all, I'd have to upgrade my DSL anyway to ensure proper streaming.

Secondly, I don't have a wireless system in my house to run streaming from my Wii. I don't want to watch streaming strictly on my laptop. I like watching movies on my nice 40 inch HDTV. So a lot of things would have to change in order for me to change my service. Their previous ten dollar deal could have offset the extra costs.

And third, with their streaming not having as much selection as their DVD plan, I wouldn't sign up for one or the other. I'd want both. $10 bucks would have been okay as a supplement to my satellite service.

Why don't I just dump the satellite? Well, I like getting multiple channels in multiple time zones so I can watch favorite programs when I choose. I also like watching current TV programs as they come out, not days or months later. And my TV is often on as background, so I don't want to concentrate on finding stuff to stream. I just want to flip to known channels I want to, er, listen to, while I do other things.

Back to the Netflix thing. I think the real discouragement, beyond the price change, is the principle.

It is tiresome to hear big corporations who release record earnings reports, scream about costs when it is their business practices which have caused their problems.

Corporate greed has:

**Screwed over the housing market and our economy because of unethical business practices. Swaps/derivatives anyone? Yes, I know these issues are more complicated- the greedy homeowner, the government/politicians, etc. But the homeowner wouldn't have had access to the loans if the banks hadn't disregarded their standards. And politicians, let's face it, are owned by the corporations, so lets just skip the middle man, shall we?

**De-regulated, allowing the big fish to swallow up their competition. How can you claim a free market, which is supposed to regulate itself, if you ARE the market? When I was a tot, we had basically ten watchable channels, but they were independently owned. Now there are thousands of channels that are all owned by basically six corporations. More channels less ownership. Of course they are going to screw with prices.

**Adopted hiring practices like making employees do more for less or same pay, in-sourcing cheap foreign labor, and outsourcing to boost their bottom lines so that the average American earns less or the same for years on end if they are lucky enough to have a job at all. The movie industry consistently outsources. They go to Canada or other countries offering tax breaks. But this isn't enough. Most of their profits/salaries go to 'above the line' people(producers, actors, studio heads, etc.) but they claim rising costs of production(i.e. the little guy) cuts into their billions so they have to raise prices. Meanwhile, those highly compensated people are responsible for the often poor product that is causing their loss of customers. Of course most people will wait until dvd or streaming to watch the formulaic junk they put out. Original product went out the window with studio moguls and FCC ownership rules. Now the industry is saturated with corporate stooges who have no interest in art and are only concerned with bottom line. They don't realize that much of the good, profitable cinema came from non-marketable, un-chartable ideas. The kind of movies I couldn't wait to see in a cinema. They are conditioning people to not want to go to the theater. Also known as cutting their own throats. But, alas, I digress...

Netflix might very well become the lightening rod for Americans who are fed up with corporate greed. At a time of record unemployment in a poor economy, which corporations are highly responsible for, they jack up our prices. The little guy is hurting these days. They see the middle class disappearing while Ebenezer Corp is sitting in the back room counting his gold. Netflix raising their costs 60% is seen as shooting an American while they are down. Yes, TV is a luxury, but for some people that escape is the only thing they have. Salary-challenged people can't afford vacations or concerts or even a movie ticket. It is one more pleasure being yanked out of their hands by a society more interested in a bottom line than the bottoms in line.

What do you think? I'd really like to hear, so please comment below.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Quick Five Faves- Cool Songs for the 4th of July

No Neil Diamond or Lee Greenwood(singing, anyway) on this list. It's the five coolest songs, not the five songs most likely to make you cry or gag(Diamond!)

1) 4th of July by X. It's pretty self-explanatory!
2) Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen. When people around the world think of this Jersey boy, they think of America, but as far as this song for celebrating Independence Day... don't go too deep, just enjoy the chorus!
3) Living in America by James Brown. Get down, Brown, with yer bad self. I feel good!
4)Star Spangled Banner by Jimi Hendrix. Who needs words? Brilliant!
5) Proud To Be An American by Beyonce. She makes the Greenwood song cool.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Count Of Monte Cristo Movie V.S. Book (Spoiler Alert!)

I saw the movie first and really liked it(the 2002 version), so while perusing all the free selections for my Kindle, I saw the book by Alexandre Dumas and couldn't resist downloading it.

At first, I couldn't stop comparing the book to the movie, but it didn't take long to forget all that and get absorbed in the story as written. Several days later(it is a very long novel), I finally finished the book and decided... I love both the novel and the movie, equally and for different reasons. This doesn't happen often. I'm usually a 'books are better' person. I was a highly disappointed Ludlum fan when they changed Jason Bourne's character for the movie. Occasionally, the movie is better than the book. Jaws, Bridges of Madison County and Fight Club anyone? And from what I've heard about the book version of Forrest Gump, I won't be reading that any time soon.

It makes sense that this case is different. The book version of 'Monte Cristo' is far too complicated for a good two hour movie. I thought Kevin Reynolds did a great job condensing the novel for film, while still capturing the essence of the book(and he left Kevin Costner behind this time!).

In the movie, the three betrayers are condensed into one main antagonist, Ferdinand Mondego. He is portrayed as Edmond's best friend, which makes his betrayal more meaningful and the final climactic scene between them more powerful than in the book. Danglars and Villefort are both in the movie, but their roles are heavily reduced and what happens to them seems more like Edmond getting justice rather than revenge. In the book, Edmond's revenge is divided equally among the three traitors and made up of intricate plots that simmer and slowly evolve into fruition on all three men equally and on their families as well. I couldn't imagine seeing that done properly in a popcorn movie.

In the book, the Count's soft side is shown through his relationship with Morrell and his offspring; in the movie, it is shown through his love for Mercedes. Both versions achieve what they are meant to, i.e. show the chinks Edmond's vengeful armour.

In the movie version, I like that the Abbe Faria teaches Edmond sword skills as well as book knowledge while they are in prison. It makes Edmond's transition seem stronger. Like he can handle anything thrown at him while pursuing his revenge.

In the book, I like when Edmond teaches Maximilien Morrell, through the Valentine storyline, that "only those who have known great unhappiness can enjoy its opposite, ultimate bliss." A wonderful lesson Edmond learns that is not in the movie.

I like the greater role Morrell and his family play in the novel. In the movie, the significance of Morrell's role is reduced to telling Edmond what has become of his father and Mercedes when he returns to Marseilles. The character who does that in the novel, Caderousse, is not in the movie at all.

In the movie, Edmund Dantes comes full circle and regains his relationship with Mercedes and the boy who turns out to be his son(a great plot twist). I liked the closure aspect of this ending. He was unfairly denied the life he'd been pursuing before he was arrested, but it comes back to him in the end.

In the book, Edmond does not reunite with Mercedes, the boy is not his, and he ends up with Haydee, the slave girl he purchased for revenge purposes. I liked this ending as well because it showed Edmond moving on and teaches us that even if you can't go back, you can always go forward. Although I do feel sorry for Mercedes in the novel because the injustices of her life were rectified the least.

The transformation of Edmond is more gradual in the book and the lessons he learns more profound, but that is to be expected, as a novel is a more detail oriented medium. Cinema is a visual medium, so many of the lessons were portrayed ambiguously, relying on the intelligence of the viewer to get the point. In the end, both mediums get the message across about revenge. The movie does this by portraying Edmond as tortured about the revenge he is taking, while in the book, Edmond is cold and calculating until his gradual, yet fully explained, transformation at the end.

The movie had a more obvious and happier ending, which I liked, but that doesn't take away my appreciation for how the book ended. When I see a movie, I want to see things turn out well because the complexities of an ambiguous ending cannot be explained nearly as well visually as they can with the written word. I want to feel satisfied by my viewing and reading experiences and both the movie and the book manage to leave Edmond at peace, which, in my opinion, is essential for a satisfactory ending.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Website Worth Mentioning

Free YouTube to MP3 conversion. I used this site recently to make an MP3 out of a political speech I'd heard on the news.

Simply copy the URL of the YouTube video you wish to convert onto this website and they will provide you with a download link for an MP3 version. The site cannot convert copyright protected pages, so choose your URLs wisely.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Quick Review: Earth Balance Buttery Spread

In my never ending quest to reduce my intake of unintentional antibiotics, I went ahead and bought the organic version. I used to use Smart Balance, which is made by the same company. The reason for my change in spreads is due to an intensive study of my previous spread's label. While Earth Balance is higher in sodium and fat than it's cousin, it doesn't contain the preservative TBHQ. 

Most of the time I just use butter, but it's hard to apply stick butter on toast in the morning, especially when you are in a hurry. I have to admit, Earth Balance isn't quite as tasty as Smart Balance, but I feel better about putting it in my body.