Akeelah and the Bee

Akeelah and the Bee (Widescreen Edition)

My wife and I watched a wonderful movie a few days ago called Akeelah and the Bee. After watching it over a week ago, my wife’s Granny called it simply, “The best picture I’ve ever seen.” I couldn’t put it any better, myself.

When I was a kid, I read Charlotte’s Web probably a dozen times. Every time I read it I cried when I got to the page where the spider dies. I mention this only to illustrate that I’m quick to cry (and I’m not ashamed to admit it—all real men cry), and I tend to enjoy and return often to stories that bring tears to my eyes. Akeelah and the Bee has secured its place in my DVD collection by making me cry twice.

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The Weepies

Say I Am You

I confess. I’m addicted to The Weepies. I just bought their latest album, Say I Am You, on eMusic.com and can’t stop listening to it.

The group is fronted by singer-songwriter duo Deb Talan and Steve Tannen. They have a rustic folky sound that is in some places poppy but in other places pretty mellow. Their lyrics are playful, yet deeply poetic, and Deb’s beautiful alto voice (that has elsewhere been compared to Karen Carpenter’s) and Steve’s perfect harmonies give the album a rich character.

I first heard The Weepies in an NPR interview (click “Listen” just under the article title to hear the interview). Their personalities and their history together struck me as much as their music did, which prompted me to buy their album. I’m not a huge fan of the folk genre, but I pride myself in my eclectic taste in music, so it was inevitable that I would find some folk music I can really enjoy.

I’m pretty stingy with my five star ratings in iTunes. Most songs I like are marked three stars, the best songs are marked four stars, and I save five stars for those songs that are simply amazing. That said, I’ve marked no less than six songs on this album with five stars: “Take It From Me”, “Gotta Have You”, “World Spins Madly On”, “Painting By Chagall”, “Nobody Knows Me At All”, and “Living in Twilight”.

In short, buy this album. If you’re anything like me, you will not regret it.

The Settlers of Catan

Settlers of Catan Board Game

I played a fun board game called The Settlers of Catan the other night with my parents and Janene. I don’t think a game of this caliber has been released since Monopoly.

The game is complex enough to make it fun, but not complex enough to have a steep learning curve. The point of the game is to score 10 points. Points are scored by building settlements, upgrading your settlements to cities, and using various “development” cards.

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Robots

Upon hearing that Robots was more action-packed than most computer animated films, I was looking forward to another The Incredibles. Unfortunately, Robots was a huge let-down.

To it’s credit, the movie had some fun characters. Robin Williams is good in just about everything he does, and his character, Fender, provided some much needed comic relief. Shamefully, nothing else in this film was funny.

The plot was sub-par and the characters were two-dimensional. The animators really pushed the envelope in terms of complexity on a lot of scenes, but that only served to make those scenes seem disjointed from the rest of the movie.

Unless you really love CG eye-candy and aren’t opposed to sitting through a crummy plot, my advice is to spend your money somewhere else.

BoxWave miniSync Review

Judging by the reaction I got from mentioning my latest purchase, I’m not sure anyone will be interested in this review, but I don’t want to go back on a promise, so here goes.

My “BoxWave miniSync”:http://www.boxwave.com arrived faster than I thought (only a few days after I posted my first entry about it). I’ve been using it now for a couple of weeks, and I’m very impressed.

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Mozilla Firefox 0.9

I hesitate to write this review. I’m quite afraid that someone reading what I’m about to say might not want to try Firefox. Please don’t get the wrong impression. I absolutely love Firefox, and I whole-heartedly recommend it to _everyone_. The story below is simply what happened to me during an upgrade, and is not intended to reflect negatively on Firefox or the Mozilla Foundation in any way.

“Mozilla Firefox 0.9”:http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox was released to the general public yesterday morning. I was so excited I could’ve wet my pants and not noticed. As soon as I knew it was available, I immediately went and downloaded it, taking care to check the release notes so I could avoid having a bad experience upgrading. Little did I know what was in store for me.

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Mozilla Firefox 0.8

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Mozilla Firefox 0.8 logo

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On Monday, Mozilla announced the release of version 0.8 of their standalone browser, formerly named Mozilla Firebird. Version 0.8 carries a new moniker: Mozilla Firefox. The name took a few minutes to grow on me (after I got over the initial question, Why a name change?). “Firefox” is apparently another name for the Chinese red panda.

I’ve downloaded the new browser on my work and school computers (haven’t done it at home or on Janene’s computer, yet), and so far there aren’t a whole lot of differences other than a spiffy new logo and icon set.

One thing worth mentioning is the new download manager, which can be set by default to download things directly to your desktop (or any old place) so you don’t have to click through two or three dialog boxes to get a file you want. Like the previous download manager, it also keeps a list of previously downloaded items and has the ability to pause and resume downloads.

Another enhancement is that version 0.8 has a Windows installer. While this dumbs down the process of installing the program (I’m not sure how smart you have to be to unzip something, but whatever), it has given me a little trouble on my school computer because I don’t have admin privileges. I get an error every time I start Firefox at school, complaining that some-such DLL file is missing.

With the new branding, they are really starting to market Firefox. Consequently, this release has caused a lot of downtime on Mozilla’s web-servers. I was able to get the program and all of my favorite extensions yesterday at school (extensions aren’t compatible between milestone releases), but today the extension room seems to be down.

New Honda Commercial

For some reason, I’ve really been tuning into commercials lately…

Have you seen the new Honda commercial? This guy is walking along the beach staring at all the ladies in bikinis (the women are kindof blurred out so the guy is the main focus). As he’s walking along he’s not paying attention to where he’s going, and he bumps into a new Honda. I can’t remember if it’s a new Accord or Civic, but it’s a pretty nice looking car.

As soon as he realizes what he’s bumped into, he begins staring at the car as he walks around it. When he gets around the car he starts walking backwards, still staring at it. Then he bumps into a woman in a bikini.

Though this commercial still involves bikini-clad women, it doesn’t promote sex like the AOL commercial I critiqued last week. This one was done in a much more tasteful manner. I think it’s pretty funny.

Indecent AOL Commercial

Who’s seen the new AOL commercial for their built-in popup blocker? It starts out with a woman in a swimming pool with a bikini on. She swims to one end of the pool where there is a set of stairs coming out of the water. She begins to climb out of the pool, but just before her chest comes out of the water a popup window comes onto the screen. Then, as she continues to climb out of the water, popups appear over other sensitive areas of her body until there are so many popups all you can see is her head and some of the background. Then, a mouse pointer comes on the screen and begins to close the popups, and you can just barely see her behind there putting on a towel. By the time all the popups are closed she’s got the towel completely covering herself. Then, an announcer says, “Annoying, isn’t it?”

This commercial bugs me. I get calls every day from people trying to use ContentWatch’s PopupProtect software to stop pornographic popups from appearing on their computers. Here AOL is actually trying to convince us that we should buy their newest version of AOL so we can block the popups that obstruct our view of all the porn. Doesn’t AOL have parental controls built in? What kind of double-standard is this?