Monday, April 30, 2007

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Happy Anniversary, Dawson!

April 22 was the one-year anniversary with Dawson!! He's a great dog. Very similar personality as Scooter and tolerates the youthful energy of Oliver.

What will those Coke guys think of next?

I'm a big fan of Coke Zero, preferring it's taste to Diet Coke. From time-to-time, people at work ask, "What is that 'Coca-Cola Zero' you are drinking?" I tell them it's better than Diet Coke due to chemically-altered ingredients that hopefully won't cause me to grow a third arm.

Anyway, those Coke guys are at it again: Diet Coke Plus. What's the plus, you ask? Vitamins and minerals! Whodathunkit?!? I can now pass on the veggies -- Diet Coke Plus includes "25% of the recommended daily allowance of niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 as well as 15% of the RDA for magnesium and zinc in each 12-ounce serving."

And, you can still get plenty of good ol' aspartame!! Which leads me to SCOODOG'S TIP OF THE DAY™: To tell if your product contains aspartame, look for the following friendly message on the product's label:
And just as I was coming to terms on a balance of Coke Zero and Diet Coke Plus in my diet, I stumbled across the following new Coke offering:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"We spend too much time hiding illness"

Two thumbs up for Roger Ebert!

The Chicago Sun-Times film critic and co-host of "Ebert & Roeper" plans to make his first public appearance since last summer when he went into surgery to remove cancer in his jaw. As he explains on his web site, Roger will be attending the 9th annual Overlooked Film Festival (aka Ebertfest) later this week, despite some facial disfigurement.

But what really stood out to me were his words of strength and inspiration:
I have received a lot of advice that I should not attend the Festival. I'm told that paparazzi will take unflattering pictures, people will be unkind, etc. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn. As a journalist I can take it as well as dish it out...

I have been very sick, am getting better and this is how it looks. I still have my brain and my typing fingers...

We spend too much time hiding illness. There is an assumption that I must always look the same. I hope to look better than I look now. But I'm not going to miss my Festival...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Let's hear it for the "Dog"

My freelance review:
Year of the Dog is a new movie opening wide (including the St. Louis metropolitan area) in a few weeks. This is an early review.

Dog stars Molly Shannon (from Saturday Night Live, 1995-2001) as Peggy, a woman living a simple life with a simple job, a simple house and a simple dog, a beagle named Pencil, who she adores immensely.

Peggy's simple life turns upside-down, though, when Pencil dies of a very sudden illness.

Knowing this about the film, it may come as a surprise that Dog is also quirky, off-beat and full of dry humor -- much like life itself. The rest of the movie follows Peggy and what is ultimately a life transformation for her.

This is not a predictable film. Released under the "Paramount Vantage" specialty-film division of Paramount Pictures, Dog is a ultimately quite the treat. It has its messages and it doesn't hesitate to tell them. But it does so in a way that ultimately works.

Strong credit for the success of the film goes to Shannon. This may end up being her career breakthrough role. She could have easily played her character with quite a bit of goofiness -- this is, of course, the actress who was hilarious on SNL as Monica Lewinski opposite frequent host John Goodman's Linda Tripp! Instead, here Shannon delivers what I interpret as a dramatic performance.

Her character of Peggy -- reeling from having lost her canine companion, her best friend -- plays it very straight and dry against a number of off-beat eccentric characters, played by John C. Reilly, Laura Dern and Regina King.

A stand-out supporting performance comes from Peter Sarsgaard, a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, as an animal activist who shows concern for Peggy and helps her.

First-time director Mike White (writer of Chuck & Buck, Nacho Libre and The School of Rock) seems intent to take the viewer into the world as seen by Peggy. Many of the camera shots are taken from Peggy's direct perspective. The unconventional camera work fits nicely in what is essentially an unconventional film.

If you are a dog lover, see this unconventional film.

If you like good movies, see this unconventional film.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Wet dog

A fun photo of Mark's dog Andy, recovering from a bath. I think the expression on his face says it all.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Remembering Brandy

It was one year ago today that Brandy passed away. She loved the cold weather and the snow so much!! She is missed.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Remembering Maddie

It was one year ago tonight that Maddie passed away. She was sweet.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Visual World

Duane Keiser, the artist behind the ice cream painting video I featured earlier today, offers some interesting philosophical thinking on his photography blog. He observes a growing interest in a movement called "A Painting A Day" -- and he speculates on the underlying attraction to the idea of making a painting a day.

Keiser's thinking is insightful. In this day and age, are people reacting to having become spectators in their own lives? Are they seeking to become participants again?

He suggests:
On the one hand [a quiet moment alone with ourselves and to savor something that we find to be interesting or beautiful] is a brief respite from the electric hum of modern life but on the other it is the opposite -- a way to face and thus reenter our visual world.
Click here for the full blog posting.

Ice Cream

Here's a fascinating video from artist Duane Keiser. The video is eight minutes long but it's worth the time, I think. Just don't give up on it. You'll realize that things are not quite what they seem...

I've added Duane Keiser - YouTube to the links listed on the right hand side of this page.

What hath Hillary Swank wrought?

My freelance review:
"The Reaping," the new movie starring Hillary Swank, supports my theory that movie makers are too concerned with style over substance.

But I'm still awfully puzzled to understand what Hillary Swank was thinking. This is not a movie that a two-time Academy Award winner stars in.

"The Reaping" is a bunch of satanic mumbo-jumbo about a small Louisiana town suffering from what appears to be a bunch of biblical plagues. Enter Swank as a renowned expert in disproving religious ties to such phenomena. But, as you can only expect, this will be the case where Swank's eyes will be opened...

Blah, blah, blah. To describe the story is to relive the movie, and that is far more terrifying to endure than the attempted (and failed) scares offered up by this horror film wannabe.

The incoherent story could have been a cue to Swank to stay away! Another one might have been the director: Stephen Hopkins, whose resume includes such weak fare as 1998's "Lost in Space" and 1994's "Blown Away" with Jeff Bridges.

Throughout the movie, there are a plenty of special effects. Like an entire lake being blood red. Like grotesque maggots emerging from meat on a grill. And so on and so on. The makers of this film must have applied their focus on the "cool" special effects -- at the risk of a half-baked story spoiling it all. I have a name for such special effects: EMPTY special effects.

This is one of those movies where the audience laughs out loud at how ridiculous some of the situations are. It's THAT bad, folks. Save your money. Spend your time in some other way.

My message to Swank is to learn from this mistake and to use some of her two-time Academy Award muscle to demand quality movies!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Happy Easter

I've stumbled across a very interesting blog -- A Painting A Day (or a drawing). The artist told me that she wants "to develop a habit of painting every day. I am usually working on several at a time and posting them as I finish them. But many are done in a day."

I find her art to be beautiful. Here are two recent paintings:
I've added A Painting A Day (or a drawing) to the links listed on the right hand side of this page.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Dog still lost

The search for Mattie continues. Numerous tips and possible sightings have been received and checked out. More than thirty strays, all Mattie look-alikes to various degrees, have found new homes (including my home). I've made some new friends along the way. None of us knew each other before the search began!

The hope is that someone who doesn't know about the search nor the reward has taken Mattie into their home. So, to further help getting the word out, advertisements like this one will start appearing soon inside Bi-State buses in the St. Louis area:

Special thanks to Lamar Advertising for their assistance and community support in making this happen.

Monday, April 02, 2007

576 megapixels

That's how many megapixels -- 576 -- of image data that the human eye is estimated to see, according to a report from deviantART.

The namesake of this blog, my dog Scooter, just informed me that dogs can see FOUR HUNDRED TRILLION megapixels.

And we humans think we are so superior...

Elementary or not, pay close attention

My freelance review:
"Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure" closes out the 40th season at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.

I had high hopes for this show. With fond memories of last year's season closer, Agatha Christie's "Witness for the Prosecution," I was hoping for another gripping, compelling mystery.

With such high expectations, I was bound to be a bit disappointed. In fairness, though, the genres are not quite the same. What I came to appreciate from this production was that the story is less about the mystery at hand and more about the man, Sherlock Holmes.

Based on the original 1899 play by William Gillette and Arthur Conan Doyle, the show focuses on Holmes and his investigation involving a kidnapped damsel, a stack of scandalous letters and the menacing citizens of London's seamy underworld, including Holmes' arch-nemesis, the evil Professor Moriarty.

It was fun to watch Holmes put together what seem to be the most insignificant of clues. As Holmes, Joris Stuyck delivered a solid and enjoyable performance against Howard Kaye's Doctor Watson.

The story is one where you must provide your undivided attention. Let your mind wander for even a minute and you will be challenged to keep up. I must confess -- that happened to me.

The production values of the show were top-notch, as we come to expect from the Rep.

And such quality is likely to continue into next season. Prior to the start of the show, Artistic Director Steven Woolf thanks the audience for their patronage and announces the line-up for the Rep's 41st season. With shows including "The History Boys," "Dracula," "Tuesdays with Morrie," "Twelve Angry Men" and "Altar Boyz," I can hardly wait! Here's to the Rep!

"Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure" plays through April 15.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

More dirty and rotten than good

My freelance review:
"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels", now playing through April 8 at the Fox Theatre in St. Louis, is a big musical wannabe. It comes close. But not close enough.

Based on the 1988 film that starred Steve Martin and Michael Caine, Scoundrels focuses on two suave con men who compete with each other as they woo and swindle wealthy women out of their fortunes on the French Riviera. The two step on each others' feet and realize that one of them has to go, so they make a bet where that the first one to bamboozle $50,000 from a young heiress stays while the other must leave town.

The pace of the show is uneven. The first act is highly episodic until the story starts to build in preparation for the second act. This allows the way-overlong second act to start out strong before things become overly episodic again.

At 2 hours and 40 minutes -- including intermission -- the show is like a visiting friend who refuses to give any indication of when -- or if -- they might be leaving.

Another notable flaw was a technical one and was actually more bothersome to me: the sets! They didn't fit the large Fox Theatre stage. It's as if they were designed for a much smaller, more intimate stage, such as the St. Louis Repertory Theatre. They felt lost and cheesy on the Fox Theatre stage.

The acting and singing was solid. And there are some good laughs, too. Be forewarned, though, of some occasional and jarring foul language that seemed out-of-place.

I really wanted to like Scoundrels. At its core, the show had a lot of potential. But its flaws ultimately overpowered things. Maybe someday there will be a revival of Scoundrels whose production is tighter, snappier and bigger.