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June 2008

June 21, 2008

Waste of 124 minutes and $6.75

Filed under: Movies — Bob @ 4:45 pm

Eileen and I finally saw the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones “trilogy plus one”. To say I was disappointed doesn’t come close to accurately capturing my mood as I left the theatre. Shock, dismay, and anger would be more appropriate. Really? This is the best Indiana Jones film that can be made for $400 million dollars?

I didn’t really have high hopes even before I went to the cinema, but nobody prepared me for this. But, alas, I should have known right from the beginning when I saw the story credits included George Lucas. Somebody should really tell him that his scripts are terrible.

And he should listen up, and learn that CG of nuclear blast out in the desert, Communists chopping down the Amazon rain forests, aliens from somewhere other than Earth, and a big-name director are not suitable replacements for a well-written script. There was almost no redeeming value in this script, which I can only suggest is likely better to wrap up dead fish than to use in a high-talent action film.

Had it not been for the nostalgia of the original Indiana Jones movies, I would say this is the worst movie I’ve seen in a very long time; The Scorpion King, maybe, is still leading by a little bit. The most recent Star Wars movies are certainly in the running as well (and guess who was also involved in those scripts!) I think I see a pattern… It makes me wonder who really wrote the original Star Wars script.

In addition to George Lucas there is another name credited with the story. If I were Jeff Nathanson I would have asked to have my paycheck delivered to my house but my name dropped from the credits. David Koepp, the poor fellow credited with the screenplay, should have asked for similar treatment. Apparently the production went through eight writers, probably they just kept firing and hiring until they found someone who could tolerate working with the story as set out by Mr. Lucas.

This film was so cliche, so predictable, and so sloppy that it is possible that even Steven Spielberg must look back and think to himself “oh crap how did I get roped into this one.” Fire ants the size of grapefruits? The character Mutt swinging from trees like Tarzan? Mutt is the son of Henry Jones? Area 51 aliens? Shudder. Even a great director can’t fix a terrible script.

As you might have guessed, I won’t be picking up the Indiana Jones boxed DVD set for Christmas.

June 14, 2008

And the winner is…

Filed under: Commentary — Bob @ 3:33 pm

After ten or so days of serious investigation and debate, Eileen and I bought a new 2008 Nissan Altima today to replace the blue Saturn. We originally bought the Saturn off the showroom floor ten years ago and it had been a really good car, but we expected to replace it later this year. Having to buy a car on short notice made it much more difficult though. After careful consideration, the Altima was the right combination of features vs. price. We got the 2.5 litre SL package in a dark metallic grey exterior with a black leather interior.

The first car we drove was a 2009 Acura TSX and we found it to be a feature-rich car with excellent “sports sedan” appeal. A bit expensive though, for the features we really value.

The second car was a 2008 Infinity G35X. Wow. That car is amazing to drive. Fantastic handling, great engine (300+ hp) and sounds like a lion roaring when accelerating. The Bluetooth and iPod integration is the best I’ve ever seen in a car. Three things against it though: my head rubs against the ceiling, and it is thirsty for fuel, and it was well above our pain tolerance for price. Certainly the last one closed the deal there. I have no doubt that it is a great car, perhaps the best one we looked at, but we do have a budget to mind. Maybe in the future…

We also looked at pre-owned cars. I have nothing against a recent model pre-owned car but I never like buying privately (can’t be sure of what I’m getting) and dealer inventory is hit-or-miss. Since we didn’t have a lot of time our options were limited. We looked at a 2007 Lexus ES 350 and very seriously considered that car, right up until we realized that we aren’t (yet) Lexus people. Maybe our next car will be a Lexus: very plush, outstanding reputation and great finish. Hopefully people will think that of us if we are driving one!

We also looked at Volvo but discounted them due to lack of features at similar price points. Nice people, silly cars. I’m always reminded of that old movie line “They’re boxy but good!”

Another visit to the Infinity/Nissan dealer brought us to look at the Altima. I was initially skeptical but after a drive and a look at available options I changed my mind quickly. The 2.5 litre engine with the CVT transmission makes it quite responsive and we could get a huge list of features for a quite moderate price.

Another strong contender was the 2008 Volkswagen Passat. Eileen is driving a 2003 Volkswagen Beetle convertible and loves it, and our experience with the car and dealer has been excellent. However for the price was higher than the Altima for the similar features, so we just couldn’t bring ourselves to spend the extra money when it wasn’t necessary (e.g. the dealer isn’t that nice).

We spent a while driving around in the Altima today and we are thrilled to own one. I think we are off to a great relationship with that car, not the least because the Bluetooth phone integration with voice command is so much fun to play with!

I don’t think Eileen enjoyed the car shopping experience. I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it but it was moderately entertaining and we met some really nice people along the way.

June 1, 2008

Absolutely Smashing…

Filed under: Commentary,Food & Wine,Holidays — Bob @ 5:00 pm

Eileen and I went up to the Okanagan valley on our annual pilgrimage to the wine country of B.C. Every spring we go to visit old favorites and try the newer ventures. We had a fantastic long weekend, leaving home on Thursday and getting back on Sunday. The weather was really outstanding and the guest house at Burrowing Owl is very luxurious, enough so that it is easy to get relaxed in a matter of hours rather than the typical days of decompression it might take on any other holiday.

Our return trip this morning started off with very unusual weather: rain! Good thing we had decided to head out early such that we could pick up the dogs from their “spa weekend” on the way home. Unfortunately things didn’t go as planned: on one of the sharp turns outside of Princeton a car crossed the center line and smashed into the driver’s side door of our blue Saturn. The picture pretty much says it all. Fortunately no one seems to have been injured, and the story ends better than it might have.

It is a bit weird having an accident outside any major population center; there was no cell service for anyone’s phone and there was limited traffic passing by (although all who did pass stopped to see if they could help). We packed ourselves up and headed back 20km to Princeton to find the local RCMP detachment and look into how we might want to get our car back to Vancouver. Princeton isn’t exactly a major destination spot in B.C. One tow truck service, no car rental options, and quite limited choices for pretty much everything else. We stopped at the Husky gas station as it was the first place we came to, though the staff was moderately unhelpful. We got cell service and started calling around to the RCMP to report the accident.

Someone else had already reported it however, which explained the police, ambulance and fire rescue service vehicles we passed on the way back to town. I guess they weren’t taking any chances on whether we were lying a pool of our own blood and body parts, potentially pinned under a blazing car. Better safe than sorry, which is fine by me. The only downside was that we had to wait while they got out to the site, concluded there wasn’t anyone to rescue, then drove back to town to interview everyone involved.

After some waiting, then some explaining, then more waiting, we were handed our police report and sent off on our way. During part of the waiting we occupied ourselves with talking about how lucky we’d been and also trying to recollect whether we thought our car was too badly damaged to drive or not. The impact was low speed and from the side such that our airbags did not deploy. I recalled kicking open the door to get out, while Eileen’s door was pinned against the concrete barrier that protected us from driving off the road to relative safety. We weren’t really sure whether there had been damage to the wheels or not.

We got a tow truck to take us back out to the scene and investigate whether our day was going to get much, much longer. Turns out with a sharp kick to force the door securely closed, careful removal of the debris from what was left of the door, and some duct tape to secure the remaining dangling plastic fragments we could drive the car safely enough to get back to Vancouver.

All in all, we were amazingly lucky. I’m very impressed with the way our Saturn weathered the damage, but I wouldn’t want to try it again. The white Honda Accord that hit us didn’t hold up nearly as well, tearing away the front quarter panel and front bumper.

Besides not sustaining any injury and only moderate damage, the other good thing is that our six cases of wine in the trunk were not damaged at all. Whew.

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