Diary of a Network Geek

The trials and tribulations of a Certified Novell Engineer who's been stranded in Houston, Texas.


Review: Taken

Filed under: Fun,Movies,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:26 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

I saw Taken Friday night with a group of friends for a “guys night out”.

First of all, let me say that this was a pretty simple, straight-forward movie in terms of plot and message. Of course, that was one of the things I liked about the movie. The bad guys were undeniably bad and the good guy was, well, a little bad, too, but considering that he was a father saving his daughter from a white slavery ring, I think that’s understandable.
Okay, so this movie is probably not going to win any awards or be very acclaimed by the critics, but I liked it a lot. It stars Liam Neeson as a former CIA agent who sacrificed his family and home-life in his dedication to the job. As a result, he’s become estranged from his now teenaged daughter. In an attempt to fix that, he’s given up his work and moved to L.A. to be near his daughter and his ex-wife and his ex-wife’s very rich new husband. Neeson plays a pretty sympathetic character, I think. At least, he’s sympathetic to anyone who’s ever been a father. He’s quite protective of his daughter, which is understandable both because of the world we live in and the job that his character used to do.
The plot, as much as I can say without revealing anything important, revolves around his daughter going on a trip to Europe. A trip about which she is not quite entirely honest with her father. It’s a classic plot launcher for simple, straight-forward movies like this that the dishonest must pay. And, she does. To start with, things aren’t quite as she’s been led to believe and she’s alone with another girl in Paris. That alone wouldn’t be so bad, but they run afoul of Albanian white slavers. Man, there’s nothing I hate more than Albanian white slavers. (Yes, I’m poking a bit of fun at how often they emphasized the fact that these guys were, in fact, Albanians. I guess someone had an axe to grind.)
In any case, Neeson’s character gets a panicked phone call from his daughter as she’s being taken. He warns the men to let her go or they’ll be sorry, but they don’t listen. Basically, they have no idea just what kind of damage Neeson’s character is capable of dishing out, or that they’re about to feel the full effect of that skill at hurting people.

And, again, without revealing too much, for about an hour and thirty minutes, what you have is Liam Neeson chasing bad guys all over Paris. Chasing them on foot, in cars and on a boat. Chasing them down alleys, hallways, stairways, through rooms filled with parties and criminals. Often, shooting them when he finally catches them. Occasionally cutting them or stabbing them. At least once, hitting them with a pipe and hooking one up to electricity. But, I assure you, he only does that to the bad guys. Oh, well, except for the one time he wings the wife of an old colleague who’s gotten corrupt. Other than that, though, he’s only shooting, stabbing, punching and torturing the bad guys. Honest.

I won’t tell you how it ends, but Taken is a very good action movie indeed. Edited down to a PG-13 here in the States, it was even more violent in other places, so I really look forward to a Director’s Cut DVD. It’s no surprise to me that this is at the top of the box office returns this weekend. It was a great movie and I recommend it whole-heartedly to anyone who digs action without gratuitous explosions. Again, it’s a simple, straight-forward movie, but it delivers on every promise it makes in the trailers, ads and reviews.
Well worth seeing in the theaters on the big screen!


Reviews: Burn After Reading & Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Bavarian Death Cake of Love,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Fun,Movies,News and Current Events,Review — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Tiger which is terribly early in the morning or 5:16 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon


Originally uploaded by Network Geek

Okay, so I saw two totally different movies this weekend.

I’m going to review them in reverse order, actually.
Sunday, at the earliest matinee, I saw Burn After Reading. Now, I have to admit, I went into this with pretty high expectations because, after all, it is a Coen Brothers’ film. Also, from the trailers, I was expecting a total comedy. Well, I’ll say this, I was certainly not sad that I went to see this film. And, it was very, very funny. But, it wasn’t really a comedy.

The story, in a nutshell, is this… Osborne Cox, a CIA analyst gets demoted, but quits in protest. His wife, a castrating bitch, is cheating on him, but also wants a divorce. He starts writing a memoir, which she copies to a disk along with a bunch of financial information to bring to her lawyer. Somehow, the disk gets, well, lost and falls into the wrong hands. In this case, the “wrong hands” is the staff at a health club, each of whom are messed up in their own way.
And, that’s just the first thirty minutes, or less, of the film! Oh, and that’s all without any of the subplots that all become hugely important later. It’s very much like Fargo, in all the best ways, even including a lot of the cast from Fargo, in fact.

Well, as always, without revealing any significant plot spoilers, let me say that this was a good movie, albeit complicated, convoluted and quirky. Of course, it is a Coen Brothers’ film, so I guess that’s to be expected.
The thing is, from the advertising and the trailers, I thought this would be mostly a comedy, but it’s not. Really, I’m not sure what it is, outside of being different and good. Well, it is funny, too, it’s just not full-out comedy. I mean, it’s better than that. It’s kind of hard to explain.
Okay, let’s just summarize and let me say that it’s worth paying full price to see this movie, and I almost never pay full price to see a movie any more.

Now, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist is an entirely different animal.
As I wrote on Flickr, guys, if you take a date to see this movie and you didn’t get laid? Duder, you are doing something seriously wrong. I am not kidding.

Okay, look, I’ll admit it. I have a secret weakness for romantic comedies that are heavy on the romantic. Nick and Norah is such a film. It may not win any Oscars, but, if I had to pick a must-see movie, behind Dark Knight, of course, this would be it.
Two kids, seniors in different high schools in the greater New York area, have a mutual acquaintance in common. Nick’s ex-girlfriend and Norah’s arch-nemesis. They also share a love of music, which is featured through out the film.
Nick, the only straight member of an otherwise gay band, finds himself dragged out in search of a mythical band “Where’s Fluffy?” as he tries to recover from being dumped. Norah, a nice girl with a couple of self-image issues, gets dragged out to take care of a friend who invariably ends up drunk and, of course, by the lure of finding “Where’s Fluffy?”. Somewhere in the middle, they meet and…

Well, in my fine tradition of not ruining films I review with spoilers, I’m not going to tell you if they actually get together by the end of the film. But, let me reinforce that guys, if you are even the slightest bit nice, kind, sweet, gentlemanly, caring sort of guy that Michael Cera plays? This movie should pretty well make any normal, romantic, sweet, “bring her home to meet the parents” sort of girl you ought to be dating totally melt. As long as it’s your idea first, not hers, and you totally buy into the romance of this flick. You have GOT to believe it, brothers, or it will not fly.
But, uh, yeah, I need to find a date while this movie is still in the damn theaters. Like, pronto.

It’s been a great year for movies so far, and the rest of the year looks pretty good, too.
Stay tuned for more reviews. Oh, and another book review later in the week, too.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"It is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong."
   --Warren Buffet


Review: Spook Country

Filed under: Fiction,News and Current Events,Review,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:35 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Late Friday night, I finished reading Spook Country by William Gibson.

Even though Spook Country follows the trend that Pattern Recognition started, taking Gibson further away from science-fiction, I still loved it. For that matter, I loved Pattern Recognition when I read that. Both books take place in the recent past, and share some characters and invented, Gibsonian organizations. (In fact, while Googling some things in the book, I found two websites that “create” a proto-magazine from both books, called Node.)
Gibson’s latest work takes us through a twisting landscape populated with former spies, current criminal families, GPS-programming gurus, and assorted other mystery-men of action. Not to mention a mysterious shipping container, Cuban folk religion and governmental shennanigans. The result is pure Gibson and highly entertaining.

The MacGuffin, the thing that drives the story, is a mysterious shipping container and its equally mysterious contents. Everyone seems to be looking for this container, or trying to figure out why someone is looking for it. Along the way to finding it, which eventually happens, Gibson takes the reader on a tour of pop culture and through a winding maze of artistic landscapes that are so avant garde that they still seem like low-grade science-fiction. One of the things I like so well about Gibson’s recent work is how true it all rings to me. Now, I’m far from being tapped into the art world, but I am fairly tapped into the tech world and when he describes tech, Gibson is very accurate, very real. Yet, somehow, he doesn’t seem to date himself too much either. That’s a real trick when you’re dealing with tech. And, as always, his characters are just strange enough to seem real, like people I might have met once. One of his two main characters, Hollis Henry, former “singer in an early-nineties cult band” The Curfew who’s trying her hand at journalism, put me in mind of a friend of mine who’s an artist now, but used to be the lead singer in a punk band called Culturcide. And, well, I’ve known assorted esoteric hackers of all stripes, not to mention former Special Forces guys, and I’ve even met a former CIA field agent, who was a friend of my father’s.

Oh, and, eventually, Gibson does reveal what’s in the shipping container, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what it is.


Friday Fun Links

Filed under: Art,Fun,Ooo, shiny...,Red Herrings,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Hare which is in the early morning or 7:01 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

Oh, these are strange, but good.

Here’s a link to a DefenseTech article about the CIA’s Online “Personality Test” which is supposed to open our eyes to what it’s really like to work for the CIA.  Apparently, it’s not ALL like James Bond.  Who knew?

And, in a totally different vein, this is the most disturbing wallpaper I’ve ever seen.  Look really closely at it.  Hmm, maybe for one of the guest rooms…

But, finally, for the geeks, How to Make StarTrek-style LCARS Panels.  I cannot make this stuff up!

So, go, link and enjoy.  It is, after all, Friday!  Whoops!  Now, I’m late to work!!


A Gift

Filed under: Advice from your Uncle Jim,Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Life, the Universe, and Everything,Personal,Things to Read — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Rooster which is in the early evening or 6:22 pm for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waxing Crescent

I’m not an alchoholic, but I know a few.
Normally, I only do fun stuff on Fridays, but this is important. Today is the birthday of Alcoholics Anonymous, at least, according to the e-mail I get from the Writer’s Almanac. Started by a stock broker and a surgeon, who had both lost everything, they started a program that would save countless lives. I doubt that they knew how far their program would go seventy years ago. Just two guys with problems trying to make it through another day.

When I was a teen-ager, I knew a guy who used to work for the CIA. He was a friend of my Dad’s, though, I don’t know how they met. I do know that he managed agents in the field once and saw some of them get killed right in the street, in front of his eyes. It was done, I was told, as a message that the government on whom they were spying knew about him, and them. A pretty strong message. Well, as you might imagine, this had a fairly strong effect on this guy. So strong that he couldn’t cope with it and, instead, he started drinking. A lot. He lost everything. His job, his family, most everything he owned. Then, he found Alcoholics Anonymous and the Twelve Steps saved his life. I know because I saw him after he got sober. He was a nice guy, but he was a little quiet and, well, a little “spooky”. Working for the CIA just has to do things to you, I guess. But, he was sober and he had a new career and he was doing pretty well. So, when folks try to tell me that A.A. and the Twelve Steps are just a crutch or a cult or even just an excuse, I shake my head in wonder. I’ve seen them save lives. Me, personally. Not third-hand accounts or anecdotal stories passed down from cousins. I’ve seen first hand recovery. So, why would someone else care? If it works for those folks, does it matter if you don’t believe? Isn’t there enough room for all of us to find our own way, as long as we aren’t hurting anyone else? Even if we did once, but learned better?
I always wonder what it is that those folks who are so against the Twelve Step programs are fighting against. Is it so bad that other people find hope and joy and renewal this way? Maybe it is. Maybe those poor unfortunates just can’t let go of their own familiar maladapted coping skills long enough to try and find a better way. More’s the pity.
In any case, there’s a good article that sums up my response to those “nay sayers” of the Twelve Step programs on Beliefnet: A.A.: Not Religious, Not A Cult.

Advice from your Uncle Jim:
"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine."
   --Proverbs 27:22 (KJV)


Who The Heck?

Filed under: Criticism, Marginalia, and Notes,Deep Thoughts,Fun Work,Geek Work,News and Current Events,Personal,The Network Geek at Home — Posted by the Network Geek during the Hour of the Snake which is just before lunchtime or 11:49 am for you boring, normal people.
The moon is Waning Crescent

Strange addresses watch my web page.
Who on the other side of disneyOC3-gw.customer.alter.net would be interested in my web page? Does Disney run Novell? Is an imagineer looking for Linux tips? I just can’t imagine what the interest might be, myself. Though, it is cool that I seem to have a fan in South Africa. Never been there, but it always looks beautiful in the documentaries. Besides, that’s where Charlize Theron is from, right? So, that’s all good.
Again, though, who the devil at Winn-Dixie.com would be interested in little, ole’ me? Is this another Novell site? I have a feeling that there are a lot of big Novell shops that are rather “stealth”, if you take my meaning. Of course, I get hits from all kinds of state and local governments, too, but I expect that considering how highly entrenched Novell is in the government sector. Though, I have to admit that the hits I get from .MIL always make me wonder. Is the NSA actually monitoring my communications? Or, Army Intel? Or even, the CIA? In any case, I think it’s great that so many people in the Washington, D.C. area are interested in my website.
Contrast those sites with the all the anonymous browsing sites that hit my page, though. I find that very interesting, indeed. After all, if the United States military isn’t embarassed to be browsing my website and blog, who would be? It certainly can’t be anyone from big business, since, in part, that’s who I cater to here. Is there a closet Novell geek out there who’s afraid his boss might find out? Or, perhaps, she’s afraid that her husband might catch her at something? Oh, whoever you are, just come on out of the closet and say hello! What could be the harm? (Oh, if you’re interested in using any of those free anonymous browsing systems, you can find a decent grouping of them here. Thank you, anonymous fan, whoever you are, for giving me that bit of information!)
Naturally, I find it particularly interesting that a device labeled “virgo-gw.customer.alter.net” seems to like hitting my website. Gee, do I have a secret admirer who just happens to be a Virgo? Well, what the heck, it can’t be worse than any of the Capricorns I’ve known! Say, just what is compatible with a Sagitarius like me? Ah, well, it doesn’t really matter, I guess, since I don’t believe in that hokum. Still, it is fun to speculate, isn’t it?

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