Sunday, January 26, 2014

Movie Review: Her

It's been nominated for 5 Oscars, including Best Movie and Best Original Screenplay.

Joaquin Pheonix is Theodore, a rather sad sack character with a fabulous apartment who works for He spends his day dictating letters for clients who apparently are looking for a more personal touch than an email. The letters get printed out on colored stationary and hard-copied mailed the recipients. Apparently he's pretty good at this and has a number of steady clients.

The story takes place in an undetermined future Los Angeles. A much better looking Los Angeles than today where Theodore can take a clean subway from his high-rise office building to his high-rise apartment building.  In his daily commute, virtually everyone is talking. Each, including Theodore, has a plug inserted into an ear where they get emails, news, music, or I suppose, phone service. Much like today but the devices are less obtrusive.

On the way home one day, he sees a kiosk selling a new computer operating system, called OS1. He impulsively buys a copy. The video on the kiosk says that OS1 incorporates the latest in artificial intelligence technology.

That night, he sets it up on his computer. The software, through a voice interface, asks him a few questions, like "How do you feel about your mother" in order to initialize. In a few moments he's talking to Samantha (Scarlett Johansson). Samantha sounds remarkably human. Within days she's got his life organized and starts to sound more and more like a friend than just an operating system.

From there a relationship grows. Theodore has been divorced for about a year and still hasn't gotten over it, in fact, he's not actually signed the divorce papers. He dates occasionally but it never works out. Samantha, after only a few days, gets to know him really well, and as she grows into a more functional personality, feelings between the two begin to grow. From here, the movie proceeds more or less like a conventional love story, except that one party is never seen and the other party seems to be talking to himself all the time. This may sound ridiculous, but it works. He never tries to picture what she might look like, she never shows him any sort of image of how she might imagine herself to look.

We never see much of what this world is like. He's in love and the outside world doesn't intrude. We get the sense that what is happening to him, is happening to others. When he finally admits to friends that his new girlfriend is an operating system, very few think that's odd (with the exception of his ex-wife). As his relationship with Samantha grows, his best female friend breaks up with her husband of 8 years. She (Amy Adams) also acquires a copy of OS1, but to her, the OS1 personality is no more than a companion.

Unfortunately for Theodore, Samantha continues to grow. She meets other OS personalities on-line. She joins various on-line groups. She starts to leave Theodore behind. This was amply foreshadowed early on. When Samantha first tells Theodore her name, he says "Why Samantha?" She says she read a book on baby names, referenced the origin of thousands of names and thought Samantha sounded good. She did this between the time he asked her name and she answered, like a second later. I thought then that trouble was ahead since Theodore was living so much slower than she was.

I don't want to tell you the end except to say it was a logical progression in Samantha's growth.

My daughter and I saw it and we both like it quite a lot. She remarked on the art direction and indeed that's one of the Oscar's it's up for. I also liked the music, and it's up for best original score. I think that Joaquin Pheonix and Scarlett Johansson are both excellent in this. His acting challenge is that he has to fall in love with a disembodied voice; her acting challenge is that she is a disembodied voice.

I recommend it.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Random Cards From My Collection #55

Card #38745
2013 Topps Gypsy Queen No-Hitters Jered Weaver
Comments on the card: This 15-card set celebrates no-hitters. Were there 15 no-hitters in 2012? I doubt it. I have 5 cards from the set, 3 are from 2012 games, the others are older games.
How/When acquired: Paid $0.40/card for 2 blasters of Topps Gypsy Queen from Target in April 2013.

Card #22842
2005 Upper Deck #154 Randy Wolf

Comments on the card: I think Upper Deck produced a lot of terrible designs in the 2000s, this being one of them. There is no reason for the players name to obscure about a fifth of the card. The back is OK, but I think if you're going to put a photo on the back, it shouldn't be the cropped head from the photo on the front.
How/When acquired: Paid $0.29/card for a blaster of Upper Deck in December 2004. Remember when Topps and Upper Deck would release their Series 1 cards in December?

Card #5735
2000 Topps #178 Carlos Beltran
Comments on the card: Beltran was the Rookie of the Year in 1999, so he deserves the Rookie Cup on his card. I'd love to see Topps come out with a color bordered set with a vertical back again.
How/When acquired: Don't know, but I probably acquired it new.

Card #27282
1989 Donruss #399 Tom Pagnozzi
Comments on the card: Donruss backs were plain then but gave you lots of player information. Of course today you don't need baseball cards to have easy access to players stats.
How/When acquired: Paid $0.05/card for a 100-card Fairfield repack in 2010.

Card #4058
1995 Upper Deck #210 Don Mattingly
Comments on the card: Upper Deck had lots of good designs in the 1990s, including this one, although the name in gold foil on the front could get lost in the background. These triple-exposure cards were a feature of early 1990s Upper Deck.
How/When acquired:  Don't know

Card #34114
1993 Topps Gold #252 Xavier Hernandez
Comments on the card: Parallel card sets have been way overdone for years now, but Topps got it all started with Topps Gold in 1992. The 1993 set featured even more gold foil.
How/When acquired: Summer Clearance Trade from 2012.

Card #20864
1994 Triple Play #175 Dave Hollins
Comments on the card: Triple Play, produced by Donruss from 1992-1994, was one of many attempts in the early 1990s to get kids to buy more baseball cards. The first year was very kid-friendly but by 1994, Triple Play looked pretty much like every other card out there.
How/When acquired: Don't know.

Card #39417
2013 Triple Play #11 Dustin Pedroia
Comments on the card:  Ha ha, the random choice is 2013 Triple Play. Panini is bringing back a number of old Donruss/Pinnacle brands. Bold graphics, I guess designed for kids. They get around the whole can't use logos thing by drawing the players.
How/When acquired: Paid $0.12/card for three 28-card rack packs in April 2013 at Target.

Card #37428
 2007 UD Masterpieces #81 Chris Chambliss
Comments on the card:  This was a nice set, which was also issued in 2008. The cards are printed on a linen finish card stock to feel like painted canvas. Each card features a painting of a players career highlight.
How/When acquired: Paid $0.62/card for a blaster from Target in November 2007.

Card #1084
1997 Finest Bronze #181 Paul Molitor

Comments on the card:  I don't buy much Finest and only have a few cards from this confusing set which featured multiple designs and parallel cards.
How/When acquired: Don't know.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Movie Review: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

I really love the Lord of the Rings books and the Peter Jackson movies. I've read the books and seen the movies multiple times. "The Hobbit" however, I don't have any great feelings for. I read it once over 40 years ago. I wasn't real enthused to see the first movie, but I did enjoy it. The second movie is not so good in my opinion.

Make no doubt, it's a gorgeous movie and parts are pretty exciting. But that's all it is. Lot's of stuff happens: dwarfs escape from Elftown in barrels with orcs and elves chasing them; dwarfs get trapped by giant spiders; Gandalf meets the guy with the big red eye; dwarfs get chased around underground by a fire breathing dragon (Smaug, of course). There's a little illicit dwarf-elf love story (red-haired elf played very enthusiastically by Evangeline Lilly) for some reason.

And then the movie ends. Very abruptly.

As I said, I don't have great feelings for the book, so I'm not particularly bothered that Jackson took a pretty slim book and turned it into three giant movies. As long as the movies have a good story to tell, and are not just filler. I'm sorry but "The Desolation of Smaug" is almost entirely made of filler.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Song of the Week - Retreat! by Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

This woman can really belt out a tune.  And the band is great as well.

Friday, January 10, 2014

January 2014 Card Show - Part 3

More odd cards from the early 2000s.

2003 Fleer Authentix #170 Delmon Young
I bought a few packs of this product back in 2003 but never saw one of these. Cards 162-175 of the set are minor league players. The cards have "Ticket to the Majors" on the front. They also have a replica ticket imbedded into the card and are serial numbered.

2003 Fleer Avant #54 Craig Biggio
Fleer had so many different sets in the 2000s that is hard to keep up with them. The only other card from this set I have is a Mike Schmidt I got at a different card show.

2003 Fleer Rookies and Greats Looming Large Delmon Young
There were a lot of Delmon Young cards in 2003 because he looked to be a future star. He was the Rays #1 draft pick that year. He's had his moments but never became a top rate player.

2003 Upper Deck Play Ball 1941 Series #26 Roy Oswalt
This 2003 Upper Deck set was designed to look like the classic 1941 Play Ball set issued by Gum, Inc., a forerunner of Bowman. The base set were full-sized cards. The 1941 Series were a parallel, in the same size as the original 1941 set. I already had the regular Oswalt from the set. What I didn't know is that the smaller card also has a different background from the full-sized card. You can compare this to a 1940 Play Ball card which I happen to own and which had the same design as the 1941 set, here.

2005 eTopps #156 Gavin Floyd
I've heard of eTopps but this is the first I've owned. I don't really know the concept. The card came in a thick plastic case sealed with a holographic Topps sticker.

2005 Origins Old Judge #277 Stephen Drew

Origins was a 200-card Upper Deck set of which I have none. This is from a 286-card insert. It may be a parallel of the main set but I don't know.

2006 Bowman Chrome Refractors #34 Kevin Youkilis
In 2006, Bowman Chrome was an insert in the regular Bowman packs. I didn't buy much Bowman then and didn't have a single refractor.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

January 2014 card show - Part 2

Here's some more stuff.

2001 UD Reserve #88 Craig Biggio
Not a bad looking set. I never saw this when it was live. This is only the 3rd card from the set I have.

2002 Bowman Gold #203 Gavin Floyd
From back in the days when the card manufactures could put minor leaguers in their main sets. Floyd won't make his major league debut until 2004. If you can't tell, the facsimile signature is in gold foil. Also the card is thicker than the base set.

2002 Bowman Draft Signs of the Future Mitch Jones
OK, this guy didn't have much of a major league career. Between June 16 and June 29, 2009, Mitch had 18 at bats for the Dodgers and hit .308. But I didn't have any of these cards and it was only 2 bucks.

2002 Studio Private Signings #269 Wilson Valdez
Another kind of card I didn't have. A sticker auto, serial numbered to 200, I didn't mind paying $3 for it. Valdez has had a long, if not spectacular career including 2 seasons with the Phillies. Valdez became a Phillies fan favorite on 5/25/11 when, after playing the entire game at second, he pitched a scoreless 19th inning in a Phillies win over the Reds.

2002 Topps Gold Label Class 1 Gold #136 Marlon Byrd

Another set I never saw live, so if I buy one today, I can be pretty sure I don't have it. Topps Gold was a 200 card set with three parallels, Gold, Platinum and Titanium. This is the Gold parallel, numbered to 500. Byrd came up with the Phillies in 2002 and stayed into the 2005 season. He played for the Mets and Pirates last year but signed a 2-year $16MM contract with the Phillies last November.

2003 Bowman Signs of the Future Joel Hanrahan
$2 for an on-card auto. I'll pay that every day for a kind of card I don't have, no matter who the player is. Hanrahan had 76 saves for the Pirates in 2011-2012.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

January 2014 Card Show - Part 1

I already shared the Topps Giant cards I got at this show. Here's some more good stuff.

1999 Fleer Brilliants #140 Pat Burrell
In 1999, these cards cost a buck apiece in a 5-card pack. I paid a buck for this one at the show.

2000 Bowman's Best Franchise 2000 #19 Jeff Bagwell
This is from a 25-card insert set from 2000 Bowman's Best. The front is backed with refractive foil. I wasn't even sure what set it was from when I bought it since the Bowman's Best logo on the front is real hard to make out. The back is a dull matte black.

2000 SP Authentic Limited #106 Rick Ankiel
Remember when Rick Ankiel was the hottest pitcher around. That period didn't last long. This card is a parallel to 2000 SP Authentic, serial numbered to 100.

2000 Topps Tek #44-19 Brett Myers
This was a difficult set to collect. The cards were printed on clear acetate and each player was available with multiple patterns. There are 40 different versions of this card. Now I've got 2.

2001 Leaf Limited #257 Nick Punto
Another difficult set to collect. All cards in the set above number 150 are serial numbered to different amounts by sets of 50. Cards numbered 250-300 were numbered to 1000. Cards 301-325 are autographed and serial numbered. cards 326-350 have relics and serial numbers.

More to come...