The True Meaning of XKCDmas

Last year, I went with videos. In this year’s run-up to everyone’s favorite solstice, I figured I’d go with comics.

So let’s kick off the week with one of my favorite online comics, XKCD, where he explores the reason for the season, XKCD-style.

Shall We Play a Game?

While not a secret, I don’t post too much about being a board gamer here, but one of the things I’m most looking forward to during this season of spending time with family and friends is playing a few board games — including some that have not “hit the table” in a while.

I also generally get a game we can play as a family each Christmas (the previous ones, Feuerdrachen and Drachenturm, have been big hits with the kindern). This year, we’ll take a departure from Haba for an adventure game I think the kids will dig.

If you’re toying with the idea of picking up a game or two from your friendly local game store, Ars Technica has what I believe is now their annual board game guide. There’s some solid picks throughout.

Field of Troubled Dreams

If you checked out my earlier post, you know that I’m readying the 2018 edition of my favorite films.

I always add a new crop of films to the sort every time, but I also find time to re-watch some of the old films… and Thanksgiving weekend proved to be a great time to do so.

One of the films was the delightful modern fantasy, Field of Dreams. Sharp-eyed readers will recall that it rankedĀ #29 in 2016 and #22 in both 2014 and 2012. Given my reaction to the recent viewing, I won’t be surprised that it remains in my Favorite 50.

I knew that someone maintained the baseball field at that location out in Iowa, so I was curious what the status of it was.

I sadly found that the field was actually related to two different farms and there was a bit of a controversy (as per this USA Today story from 2014).

It’s apparently in the throes of being re-vitalized as part of an overall baseball destination by a group calledĀ Go the Distance Baseball, LLC. They also have a general website that speaks a bit about it.

I’m not sure if I’ll get there anytime soon, but for those of you looking to make the trek, but it’s still on the list of film locations to visit.

A Well-Used Used Bookstore Gets a Second Chapter

With a family full of librarians, archivists, and history buffs, it comes as no surprise we’re all fans of used book stores.

Close to home, the long-standing Idle Times Books in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, DC is set to change owners (and also change names) as Paul Schwarztman explains in this piece from the Washington Post.

Boxed In

I have a number of rituals at the end of the year. One of them is to do some cleaning and decluttering. I always mean to do “Spring cleaning” around Spring, but it doesn’t always happen that way. Invariably, this means getting rid of a bunch of old boxes and such.

Also invariably, I’m deluged by a bunch more boxes from holiday deliveries. I know I’m not alone. How do all of us deal with all those boxes? Jamie Lauren Keiles explores that in Vox.

I have my caper film!

Well, I mean, realistically, someone else might leap into action and have a caper film on the subject of produce theft, but Rene Chun’s article about a Virginian vineyard being robbed of grapes made me think this could be a movie to be made in my backyard.

In fact, I forwarded it as a possible entrant for Scriptnotes’ periodic segment “How would this be a movie?

So, I guess what I’m saying is I’d be happy for someone to tackle this before I do, but if you don’t, I know one feature I’ll be writing.

Cuteness Break

Okay, I had a weightier post planned for today, but I just needed a break. So enjoy a whimsical village constructed for mice.

My 50 Favorite Films: Prep for the 2018 Edition

The holiday season is upon us and, since it’s an even year, it’s almost time for the biennial ranking of my 50 Favorite Films.

For those of you obsessed with processes or those of you waiting for an appointment and have exhausted old magazines in a waiting room, read on!

You have no idea how many bad films I’ve seen. So, so many…

I’m a lifelong movie buff and have watched literally thousands of movies. Not all of them are good. Some of the good films are, nonetheless, not my favorite films. As I discuss elsewhere, I rank the films by the criteria of quality, watchability, and resonance.

Ideally, I’d see all the “must-see” films of a given year that year. By “must-see,” I’d include the blockbusters and awards bait films that capture some pop culture consciousness — along with my personal druthers (I generally catch most sci-fi flicks and anything with a submarine, because come on! Submarines!).

Unlike one of my brothers, who is a fellow cinemaniac, I am not able to catch every film out in the theater — or even when it’s first out on video (e.g. DVD, BluRay, streaming). So that means I may go a couple years before seeing all of the a “year’s best.”

Some of these films will, under no circumstances, crack my top 50. They are Gallipoli-like machine-gun fodder for the sort.

But, he said we were going over the top into the sort…

It’s about as cruel to abstract concepts as you can be, but if you think this ain’t fair, you should see some of the films. All get their chance, but some are going to fall to the bottom. As you may recall, to save time on the sort, I don’t actually sort all the films in the bottom half because after 150 or so, the rankings really lose all meaning unless I were to include every film I’ve ever seen –or at at least a disproportionate number of them. For both my and my family’s sanity, that won’t happen. Still, adding new films with every sort, including films I know I don’t love, helps get the sort going as they contrast well with films I do love.

Here are the films that came out or I’m just first watching or I’m first adding to the sorting list:

The Adjustment Bureau
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
American Gangster
An American Werewolf in London
Ant-Man
Apollo 13
Avengers: Infinity War
Bait
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Beetlejuice
Bend it Like Beckham
The BFG
Big Hero 6
Black Panther
Blade Runner 2049
Bridge of Spies
Captain America: Civil War
Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie
Coco
Conspiracy (2001)
Deadpool
Doctor Strange
Downfall
Dunkirk
Extinction
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Fiddler on the Roof
Finding Dory
The Finest Hours
Fury
Ghostbusters (2016)
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
The Girl on the Train
Godzilla (2014)
Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters
The Good Dinosaur
Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 2
Hail, Caesar!
Hidden Figures
Incredibles 2
Infini
Innerspace
Ip Man
Ip Man 2: Sadly Not Wing Chun Boogaloo
Jason Bourne
John Wick
John Wick: Chapter Two
Kung Fu Panda 3
The LEGO Batman Movie
The LEGO Ninjago Movie (can you tell I have kids?)
Logan
London Has Fallen
Looney Tunes: Back in Action
Meet the Robinsons
Millenium
Moana
The Monuments Men
Murder on the Orient Express (2017)
Northern Limit Line
Outlaw King
No Escape
Paddington
Pete’s Dragon (2016)
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Shooter
The Siege of Jadotsville
Sing
Spider-Man: Homecoming
Solo: A Star Wars Story
Spotlight
Spectral
Spectre
Spy
Star Trek Beyond
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
Thor: Ragnarok
Train to Busan
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
The Wave
The Wolverine
Wonder Woman
X-Men: Apocalypse
Zorba the Greek

You can safely assume some of these are the aforementioned canon fodder films. They’re never going to be my favorite films, but can serve as a comparison for how much I like a particular film. For example, I have seen every cut there is to see of Apocalypse Now there is to see, usually in theaters with nice prints. It’s critically acclaimed and technically masterful in many respects.

It’s never going to be one of my favorite films.

So if I don’t like a film better than Apocalypse Now, how much do I like it, really?

On that note, and as I mentioned for the 2016 list, I’m dropping some films from the sort because they’re just not going to rank highly. That includes The Exorcist.

So are there some films I absolutely, positively must fit into the next two weeks? Let me know in the comments.

Being a “Useful Writer’

Perhaps it’s the human predilection for pattern recognition, but because of the recent passing of William Goldman, I’ve been thinking a good deal about writing as it relates to getting one’s writing produced in Hollywood… and how random the process can sometimes be.

In Mark Evanier’s latest intallment of his “Rejection” series (which is worth checking out if you haven’t already, he notes that elusive, yet absolutely real writer quality of being “useful.”

You absolutely want to be a useful writer.

Video

Space: Above and Beyond the Myths

Astronaut Chris Hadfield debunks some myths about space in a wonderfully wonky first-hand way that only he can do. If you’re worried about cooking tomorrow’s turkey just right, remember, you can’t do as bad as exposing it to the hard vacuum of space. I’ll let him explain: