Saturday, December 31, 2005

Two Films Reviewed

David Linklater's movie Waking Life is a philosophical treatise, presented in an animated style by a series of random people talking about philosophical ideas. This movie made me shift over to the library's website and reserve a biography on Jean-Paul Sartre.
It made me think of college . . . discussions about life, meaning, identity. This movie would make a lot more sense and be even more meaningful if I was smoking pot while watching it, you know?
But, it was interesting, both visually and intellectually.

But, let's talk about visual interest for a minute, okay? David Lynch has always had a lot of visual interest in his films. You don't always know what the hell the films are about, but you are always treated to some interesting visuals. The Short Films of David Lynch is no different. Six films that range in length from 10 seconds, 55 seconds, to about 30 minutes. Subjects as varied as animations ("Six Men Getting Sick"), weird silent pictures on a young boy estranged from his parents ("The Grandmother"), to probably the most accessible film of the bunch "The Cowboy and the Frenchman." Each film is introduced by the auteur himself and the film stretch from 1966, into the 1970s. to 1988, and to 1995.
It would be foolhardy in the extreme for me to try and explain/describe any of these films. If you are a David Lynch fan, check this DVD out. If you don't like Lynch, you wouldn't go near this disc with a ten foot pole topped with $50 bill.

Friday, December 30, 2005

'05 Review, '06 Preview

I've already spent some time reviewing 2005, but there are some items, accomplishments, and thoughts that should be highlighted or thought about in more detail.

  1. Hopefully Lynda won't have such a hellacious year upcoming. She's worked plenty hard this past year. She deserves a bit more normalcy.
  2. I read a lot more this year than in the past. I hope that I keep that up. The best books that I read this year? Well, I really enjoyed House of Leaves, The Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, and Everything Bad is Good for You. Which one was my favorite? Well, I've read Half Blood Prince twice this year, but that doesn't mean it's my favorite. I think that goes to House of Leaves. It's a great idea for a book done in a very arresting and imaginative way. I recommend it to anyone with enough desire to fight your way through its enigmatic design.
  3. I also listened to a lot of good music this year--thanks to Jack T., Spec, and Raisinette. My favorite album this year ?According to iTunes, my most listened to song this year was "Mad World." No surprise there. However the most listened to album that was actually released in 2005 is Coldplay's X&Y. But that shouldn't really be an accurate indicator, since I got a lot of albums within the last calendar year that weren't actually released in 2005--I'm behind the times after all. Beck's Guero and Gorillaz's Demon Days were also high on my rotation.
  4. Other favorite things that happened this year? Well, Sarah made strong improvements in her ability to ride a bike and swim. But she's not ready to solo on either front quite yet. One of the best occurrences of the past year has to be LOST--an imaginative show that broke boundaries, brought people together, made everyone think and talk . . . even if season two hasn't quite lived up to the mighty high expectations.
  5. Hey, what about the big disappointments of 2005? Personally, I didn't host enough cookouts at the house this summer, and I didn't play nearly enough tennis. The depressing arrival of Ben and Jen (part II) and the birth of the Gaffleck . . . well, neither of these events helped my fantasy life, as you might guess. Combine that with a mediocre end to last season's Alias and the end of Alias this season presents one of the least satisfying Jennifer Garner years ever. And of course, Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith sucked really, really bad!

What's upcoming for 2006? Well . . . I hope that I can find a way to simplify our life a bit--and by that I mean heartlessly cull out the junk that isn't necessary. I don't know if I'll be able to pull that off, but I am always confronted by the amount of stuff we have overflowing in our house--clothes, toys, items of various persuasion. I need to either make it useful in some way or get rid of it. If it is sitting in a closet or otherwise gathering dust, maybe we can get along without it. Of course this will probably involve many weekends of wandering through the house with trash can liners and the recycling bin . . . but in the end I think our house will seem more inviting and (possibly) even larger. Decorations for decorations sake--can I make them go somewhere else? Probably also, this will have to be done when Lynda is off on a business trip and she can't be there to veto my actions. (All of this is something that I mention every year . . . but this time, I MEAN it! Come by my house and make me clean it up. Force me to live up to it!

We'll all be better off in the long run.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Memories of Christmas (Just) Past

What can I say about my holiday trip down to Georgia? I find myself at a bit of a loss on how to proceed to be honest. Maybe I've been away from the keyboard for too many days or maybe I'm too far removed from the memories.

But there are a few things that I can mention.

First, there is a distinct difference between being one of the in-laws and being a sibling. Since I spent time with both families on this trip (though I spent more time with my family as it turned out) I can reflect on that issue. Being a blood family member (as opposed to being a legally included member) means you have a depth of experience with those around you that can't be replaced. Lynda's parents and brother have never been anything but welcoming, loving, supportive, whatever you could ask for or expect from your spouse's family . . . but they aren't the same, can't be the same, SHOULDN'T be the same as my family.

I admit that I am biased in this regard. I have always had (as I have stated in this forum before) a blind-spot of love and affection for my parents and siblings. I realize that they aren't perfect and each of them has their own quirks, personality traits and flaws. But they have been a part of my life experiences for as long as I have memories. And I am blessed that so much of it is happy, supportive, nurturing memories. That can't be duplicated by anyone else.

Lynda of course should agree with me, but from the other angle. I see how she interacts with her family and I recognize the rhythms of their shared history, shared memories. I can't intrude upon that and I don't want to.

Second, I was able to spend some time reflecting and having conversations with both of my brothers during the visit, but did not have that same amount of "catch up" time with my sister. This undoubtedly occurred because she now lives in Tifton and has her own home to return to at night. Plus, her youngest son was sick during the visit, so she had more evening time spent with him than at Mom and Dad's place. I get to see them all so infrequently, it sometimes seems that we spend all of our time covering the basics of life (progress of jobs, status of children, movies/books recently watched . . . the typical small talk stuff) and never get to anything more meaningful.

I don't know what I expect this more meaningful stuff to include, to be honest. I recognize that most siblings struggle to even get this stuff out of the way and then what? They don't know where else to go, but they don't really WANT to go anywhere else. But, I hope that I can get more out of my time with my family. They are important to me and I don't want to just go through the motions.

Secretly I sometimes feel like I'm the most outside of my family now, because I am so far away and see the rest of them so infrequently. I know they aren't having monthly dinner parties or anything--they each have their own busy lives. But given my geographic distance I am less knowledgeable of their life and the things that are happening to them. It makes all the small-talk necessary, but it maybe makes it seem more hollow as well.

Ultimately, it's on me I suppose to maintain contact better than I do. So, I guess that will be another resolution for this year (as it probably was for last year as well) . . . do a better job of keeping the small talk up to date. That way, the important stuff can be dealt with when there is time to talk about it.

(To see pictures taken during the trip, click on my Flickr photo box. It's on the right side of the webpage and down a bit.)

. . . jiggity jig

Well, I'm back from the South.

I'll fill in more details later, but it was a good trip and we got to see everyone.

(Whomever can get the title reference will receive a shiny new dime!)

('Cause it's not that hard . . .)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Christmas Blog

You won't be getting a Christmas card in the mail this year.

Sorry. (Hey! Don't complain or next year you might get this version instead!)

If you have received a Christmas-themed email that directed you to this site, Happy Holidays and enjoy your visit. I have a year-in-review retrospective all set up. Just think, if you enjoy your stay, become one of my loyal readers and you can read posts about my random life occurances several times a week!

Think of this as an abstract of the past year, in which I lead you Christmas Carol-style through the important events and occurrences that made this year the one that it was. Along the way, you'll meet all the major players--me, my wife Lynda, and my kids Sarah and Grace (names that were once changed to protect the innocent have now been exposed).

So, how shall we proceed? Well, lets do it by month, shall we? All righty then.


I was mostly stressed with my project that was winding down at the start of the year. Sarah was developing a fascination with Peter Pan's Tigerlily. And we built the first, honest to goodness snowman in our life.


During this month I set out to set down goals to accomplish over the next three years. I haven't yet figured out if I accomplished thirty-three percent of the total by the end of this year, but well, I know I got off to a pretty good start. I also got busted for speeding--coming back from a Bible study no less!


Now this was an interesting month, but mostly because I had to spend a good week of it in the hospital. I had a weird problem in my intestines and after spending a good part of the day in the emergency room, the doctor decided to operate. You can read a lot of the whole affair here. It was a difficult couple of weeks, both in and out of the hospital, but good friends and good family helped me get through it very quickly. It threw off some of our plans for visiting San Francisco (more on that later).


During this month I did a lot of pretty boring stuff, it seems. But Sarah and I did go and see Peter Pan at the Palace Theater (the Kathy Rigby version). It was fun.


In May I finished one work project and got started on another. It seemed like it was going to be a very intense and demanding assignment, and much of it was . . . but significant portions never got started this year. None of that was due to any failing of mine, you understand. A management decision was made to halt work on certain parts of the initial assignment until information was received. The fact that this information was NOT received during this calendar year reduced my work significantly. (To say anything more would be to violate my company's Code of Business Ethics . . . and no force on earth can make me do that!)

I continued posting artwork by Sarah during this month. Here is a representative sample with a cool picture at the end.


With June came the summertime. And with summertime comes blockbuster movies. Some are good and some are very, VERY bad.

What else happened?

Well, Grace turned two. And therefore, challenges grew as she grew. Two-year-olds are draining, man!


As always, July was a busy month. It is bookended with two special birthdays and features another important day in between. This year's July also marked the departure of a good friend.


The big news during this month was the trip to San Francisco celebrating our tenth wedding anniversary. I posted several times while we were traveling to, in and around the beautiful city. Rather than tediously provide a link to each post, I suggest that you go to this page for the month of August archive and scroll down to August 17. Read each post, scrolling upward to August 24. Trust me, the writing is so vivid, it's like you were traveling with us! Enjoy the audio posts from the edge of the Pacific Ocean and sepia-toned pictures of the Napa area. Some day we'll go back.

While scrolling around in the August archive, you can read other random stuff that I wrote about that month. Most of it was fairly ordinary, but that's life, right?


Many interesting things happened in this month. Most significantly, I suppose, Sarah (then still under the "Ariel" alias) began Kindergarten. In this linked post, you get some reflections of mine on her growing up along with one of her interestingly surreal drawings.

September also means new TV, something that I pay attention to, both because I enjoy it and because my less-TV-watching friends/readers rely upon me to tell them what is good (or so I tell myself). I am providing the link to each of the three posts in the "fall tv preview" series. To make it even more interesting, I wrote my reviews in haiku. So, it's also educational.

I also had fun at the annual company picnic, though this year's Human Foosball team was less successful than the previous year's version.

NOTE: You will probably notice that throughout much of this retrospective (with the exception of August) I don't write much about Lynda and tend to focus more on the girls and myself. Rest assured that Lynda and I are doing fine and enjoying another wonderful year together, but it's not just my own personal megalomania that has kept her the more silent partner in this blog. You see, her work kept her extremely occupied this year--much, MUCH more than any of us hoped. As I write this in December her nightmare is continuing. This has definitely been her most challenging year at her job and she has tried her best to perform all of her varied duties as editor, mother, mentor, and wife to the best of her abilities. Frankly, I don't know how she continues to stand up every day, knowing as I do how little sleep she has gotten over the past four-to-five months in a row. But, she is soldiering on. Please pause a moment to give her your best wishes and renewed hope for a more stress-free 2006.


October is, of course, the month for Halloween. Here is the rather long post that encompassed much of what I did on Halloween weekend. In that post you also get to read about the trip to Indianapolis that Lynda, the girls, and I took with Lynda's parents to see a nice Lord of the Rings exhibit.

In other October news, I struggled for a while to find something interesting to write about. (Please don't make that comparison to what you are currently reading.) So, what did I do? I relied on photos and stupid descriptions of those photos. Even if you don't care anything about those photos, you can enjoy some pictures that include the girls.

If you would like to see other photos of the family that were (mostly) taken during the past year, then please visit this link.


Nothing incredibly blog-worthy jumps out at me during this month of thanksgiving and preparation. So, I'll just cop-out and provide a link to the entire month's archive. Leave a comment indicating your favorite remembrance from this month's movie reviews, reflections, and random posts.


And finally, we reach this month and this moment. There are a few holiday related items that I wrote through the course of this month. This one was intended to be funny. You can also go here and see some videos of the family putting together our Christmas tree.

If you have stuck with me this far, thanks. I hope your year has been as varied and as interesting as has my families. Let's all be grateful that we have the peace, luxury, and opportunity to engage in pointless navel-gazing rather than fight for survival and wonder where our next bit of food will come from.

I hope to be seeing many of you soon, but if I don't get the chance, I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, a happy New Year and the smooth beginning of another good year to come.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The King (Kong) of Comedy


What happens when you take your friends to an action/adventure film and a comedy breaks out?

I know what I expected . . . special effects, a love story, a tale of man vs. nature vs. beast vs. beauty. I got all of those things, plus more.

I got staged action sequences that would be at home in The Matrix (if Neo was a 25-foot silverback mountain gorilla and the Agents' Smith were Tyrannosaurus Rex). I also got to see what would would happen if that old show American Gladiators would have been like with, well . . . more on that in a minute.

So . . .

What if you are Peter Jackson. You have just made three of the most successful movies in the history of cinema. You have the influence, studio backing, and bankroll to do WHATEVER you want.

What do you do?

Jackson went back to The Movie--the one that he saw when he was 9. The one where he walked out of the theater saying "I wanna do THAT for a living!" All directors have "this movie" I suspect, that thing that gives them the spark to commit. For Peter Jackson, it was King Kong (1933).

I saw some of that 1933 movie last week. It was definitely a film of its era--stationary cameras, black and white, crude motion on the Kong figure, an almost Silent Film quality about the movie itself. It is completely outside of my movie-going mindset, so I won't pretend to give it a proper evaluation.

Peter Jackson made his version of King Kong using all the tools available to him today. The film also reflects its era--over-long (by that I mean over 3 hours, as compared to 1933's 90 minutes), over budget, wizz-bang effects.

But Jackson's affection for the original is clear. Some scenes are lifted exactly from the original and made better with today's technology. Jackson set his film in the Depression era when the original was released. Slimy film director Carl Denham (Jack Black) mentioned at one point, when trying to find a new leading lady for his film that he'd get Faye (a nod to the original "Ann Darrow" as played by Faye Rae), but she is busy with another picture from RKO (the original film's distributor).

There are three distinct segments of the film, so let's break down the significant bits, okay?

Voyage to Skull Island
Film director Carl Denham and his disreputable crew high tail it out of New York City one step ahead of the creditors, the angry film studio, and the cops. Denham has just convinced young vaudeville actress Ann (who has lost her steady gig, is hungry, and is thisclose to becoming desperate enough to work in a burlesque house for food). So, Denham gives her a plate of eggs and she's off to parts unknown to catch her Big Break.

On the creaky boat, the "colorful" crew chat about Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, say Important Yet Clunky Dialogue, and introduce you to such characters as The Captain with Questionable Morals, the African American First Mate with Complete Equality and an (apparent) Degree in English Literature, and the Plucky Sailor Kid Who Will Grow Up the Hard Way. And then there's Lumpy the ships cook, who'll die a gruesome death later.

Ann bonds with the crew, performs her vaudeville act, never gets seasick, always looks beautiful, and charms the movie screenwriter, "Jack Driscoll" (Adrien Brody).

Skull Island
On the mysterious island, the natives quickly capture Ann to serve as a sacrifice to the island's demigod, which is Kong. These islanders eke out a extremely meager life on the strip of hard, unforgiving coastline, with a huge wall separating them from the rest of the island's jungle. Why the choice? Well, the island is just chock-a-block with every kind of monstrously-sized nightmare creature you care to mention. Young Ann will meet many of them and learn to rely on Kong to keep her safe. The ship's crew will meet other creatures while trying to save her. And here is where the unintentional comedy began.

Ann is escaping a huge set of Gila monsters at one point, after escaping Kong. She gets away from them, only to run into a Tyrannosaurus rex. She got away from one of those, only to stumble upon another, and then another. It's almost Keystone Kops, the way she can't escape her troubles. But Kong comes to her rescue, Matrix-style, fighting three T-rexes at once. (You almost expected the camera to freeze in the familiar "bullet-time" slow-mo as Kong rolled one dino over his shoulder while twirling and smacking another one across his jaw.) All the while, he's shifting Ann from hand to hand, to foot, to whatever, being careful not to stomp on her in the maelstrom of fighting.
Kong dispatches one T-rex but the other two dinos, he and Ann are dragged down into a chasm. Luckily, there are many vines that catch them all and keep them from dying. Unfortunately, they are continuing to fight, swinging around (like they used to do on American Gladiators, swinging from the ceiling rings. It's got a "can you believe we thought of this?" feeling.
Meanwhile, the rest of the crew is trying to catch Ann and running afoul of all sorts of terrible things. One sequence where several shipmates fight desperately to avoid being eaten by swarms of giant insects and really gross tube worm things is affecting in its dread-inducing quietness. There isn't much music, just shouts from the crew, the report of tommy guns, and lots of chitenous clicking. It's well done, but done so that you will have nightmares. Jackson at his horror-film best. (Reports are that he wanted to restore this scene, which was removed from the original film for being too frightening.)

Ann has to rely on Kong for survival deep in the jungle's madness, and she comes to see the introspective nature of the beast when he's not fighting giant monsters but enjoying a sunset (seriously). She finds that Kong also enjoys it when women caper for the male's amusement. But, in the end, with many, many closeups of Naomi Watt's pretty, pretty face, we see that she comes to respect Kong as a Man's Man-ape.
In all seriousness, I give Watts credit. She doesn't have tons of lines in this movie and is sure to have spent the majority of her time working in a green screen room staring at a tennis-ball on a stick. To take a situation like that and find some way to emote . . . well, either she did a helluva job or there was a great deal of digital enhancement of her eyes so they would look extra watery and emotional in each of her kajillion closeup shots.

But Kong was eventually captured . . . and somehow shipped back to New York on this boat with a very small hold. He is then displayed as a sideshow freak in . . .

New York City
Carl Denham's theater performance of Kong's capture is embarrassingly stereotypical, but might have been performed that way in the 1930s. But the true embarrassment in this third section of the movie comes after Kong has escaped from his bonds, torn the theater apart and found Ann again. (To her credit, Ann was ashamed of Carl Denham's exploitive plans and had refused to be a part of the show.) Kong and Ann reunite on a snowy New York street where everyone has mysteriously disappeared. They then wander down an extremely quiet side street flanked with brownstones (where Kong looks for all the world like a confused tourist) and then they stumble onto a frozen pond. Well . . . what are you gonna do when you are in an idyllic frozen pond surrounded with Christmas lighted trees? Of course, you're gonna ice skate like it's a freakin' date movie! (At this point in the film, I was truly embarrassed for how the wheels had come off of Peter Jackson's brain. Seriously, is the man so powerful that no one could say NO to this debacle of a scene?)

But reality quickly intervenes, complete with overzealous soldiers firing machine guns. Kong is driven up the Empire State Building (where we knew he'd end up all along).

HERE is where the movie is best. Here the special computer effects are most impressive. At several points I felt vertigo. I wondered at how Ann had no fear for being so incredibly high in the air with nothing to keep her safe. Here Kong met his end, cut down by the dispassionate stamp of technology. Here the beast fell, and the audience felt the fall, seeing the camera swirl above the tip of the building as Kong disappeared below and bi-planes flew across your field of vision. This was the best sequence in the film that wasn't making me laugh.

So, in the end, as I said at the start, the 9-year-old inside Peter Jackson got the movie he'd been wanting to make for thirty years. I got more laughs than I had expected.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Gluttoned OUT

I have reached my gluttony tipping point (which is probably the point at which my desert-distended belly forces my weary body to tip over).

My department has been celebrating its annual Glutton Fest the last several weeks. (WEEKS! people)

This is the Bataan Death March of eating: every morning and afternoon someone brings in new treats. Meanwhile outside vendors send their Christmas Thank You bundles from Harry & David et. al. We've got another week to go!

I can't take it any more. My throat feels thick (probably clogged with fat residue and sugar). Of course, come Monday, my weekend off will probably get me back up to gluttonous speed. sigh

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Pretty "Fly" (For a White Guy)

This post has nothing to do with the song of the same name by Offspring.

Instead, it deals with an intriguing children's toyl (a word I just made up that signifies something that is a toy but has tool-like aspects).

Well, ignore my wordsmithery and read the article.

Quick notes

I haven't posted in a few days and wanted to let all my anxious readers (who don't see me every day) that, "Yep, still here."

Things have been slightly hectic lately . . . part work, part season, part weather, part whatever. I'm trying to help Lynda with her work some (doing simple stuff so it doesn't have to be mailed to someone . . . which takes time and costs). I've also been shepherding the kids around and trying to keep them healthy--both Lynda and Sarah were hit with an intestinal bug during the last few days, but it seems to have been short-lived. Meanwhile Grace has a strong cold with congestion and wheezing. But, it's mostly minor inconveniences and no MAJOR problems.

My efforts to keep with with Christmas preparations are inching along. Not that this means much. About 90 percent of the gifts have been purchased, though none have been wrapped. I need to mail some, but haven't done that yet either.

We have settled on our travel plans--flying to Atlanta on the evening of the 23rd and spending a couple of days in the north GA mountains with Lynda's parents. Then we'll head to South GA for a couple of days, splitting some time with my family and Lynda's brother. No one gets all that they want, but that's usually the way it works.

I am working on a Christmas-related blog entry that is proceeding slowly. This will be in lieu of any card . . . so stop checking your mailbox and start checking the In Box.

(Since I'm not posting much, go enjoy Sven Golly's nice poetic turn on the holidays . . . and his many other interesting and thought-provoking posts on other stuff.)

Friday, December 09, 2005

The Lion, The Witch, and the "Meh"

Full Disclosure: I am not a professional movie reviewer . . . which you might know from my recent reviews from the last month of Netflix selections. Also, I haven't seen any of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (easily the most ridiculously long movie title in, like, forever . . . even in acronym form--TLTW&TW . . . someone get me a macro and a new type of punctuation).

But, what's up with TLTW&TW? Are YOU excited about it? Can you gauge the hype level? Usually I'm relatively up on these things, though, again, I'm not a professional.

I can't gauge opinions on TLTW&TW. I read the C.S. Lewis books when I was a kid, alongside Tolkien's work. I enjoyed them both, but I had a stronger love of Tolkien. However, there are obvious similarities between both book series and the authors. Tolkien and Lewis were Oxford University dons, both critiqued each others' work. But while Lewis' work always had a link to Christianity, Tolkien's Christian influences were buried deeper. His works reflected his academic leanings (linguistics and ancient myth) moreso than his faith. And Lewis' work was built to appeal to children much more obviously than Tolkien's grim tale of the One Ring.

So, is it the whiff of Christianity that has lessened the hype for TLTW&TW? I don't quite think that works, because not everyone knows about Lewis' faith--and it isn't overwhelming in the books.

I haven't been able to come up with a satisfactory answer until tonight when a interesting coincidence of situations combined together to provide a possible theory. The new issue of Entertainment Weekly reached my doorstep with a cover featuring TLTW&TW. Inside the issue is a story on the movie, alongside a review of Peter Jackson's new movie (and follow up to his blockbuster interpretation of Tolkien--King Kong.) The fact that TLTW&TW didn't get a cover until the day that the movie releases says a lot about the failure of marketing for this film. I don't have exact numbers, but I know that Jackson's LOTR and the Harry Potter franchise got at least one, more like two covers in the weeks approaching the release date.

But, back to figuring out why TLTW&TW hasn't' quite captured the public's imagination. The movie reviews of each film provide a clue--here are some excerpts:

On Narnia: "In the lavish, spirited, at times naggingly literal movie version of the hugely popular first Narnia film you're often aware that you're watching child actors roam through a land of concocted creatures and special effects."

On Kong: "The new King Kong is a virtuoso demonstration of the industry's most astonishing advances in computer animation--Kong himself . . . appears as fully real as the luminous, earthy Watts . . . . But what resonates is the story, which is a very human tale of compassion, greed, loss, bravery, creativity, foolishness, and love."

Let's pause for a moment and think about what you've just read. One movie fails to capture the wonder of a children's classic because the artifice can't be overcome by the story. The other movie succeeds mightily, even though it is essentially about a huge monkey tearing shit up. How can this be? I think the answer is, partly, Peter Jackson . . . or more precisely, the people he works with.

Both movies demand and rely upon massive amounts of special effects. But Jackson succeeds where Andrew Adamson missed because Jackson's co producers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens don't care about technical stuff. These two women (that condensed and simplified Tolkien's 1000+ pages) helped create the story for Kong along with Jackson and they create story that Jackson finds a way to bring to life.


While everyone is lining up to praise King Kong, I've got to criticize the insane commercial for the movie that features the Coldplay song "Fix You." It is strange to see a movie set in the 1930s that is accompanied with a decidedly modern song. But, maybe the message is what matters. (Though Jack Thunder helpfully pointed out that it's not the only one.) I tried to link to a clip of the song, but couldn't do it. Go to the official movie site, click on the bottom menu item called Media, then click on TV spots. Select the one entitled "Alone" and revel in the weirdness.

What Happened to Studying the Universe?

Have you seen the new Wendy's hamburger commercial?

It's fairly simple . . . a row of hamburgers pumping up and down like equalizer bars on a stereo to a version of The Rolling Stones "Satisfaction." You can see it here by visiting the website and clicking on the link for the commercial "Equalizer."

All right. Go watch it . . . I'll wait.

Done, yet?

(nonchalant whistling)


Now, leave aside the cholesterol-inducing image of hamburgers with six (SIX!) patties--you can't buy them that big anyway--and answer this question: how did Wendy's convince Stephen Hawking to sing for this commercial?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

To: Resident

It came in a plain white envelope; the return address was P.O. Box 1417 Eustis, Florida 32717-1417.

Inside, it was just a "book" entitled The Secret Terrorists.

The Table of Contents is laid out like this:

  1. Target: America
  2. President Andrew Jackson
  3. Harrison, Taylor, and Buchanan
  4. President Abraham Lincoln
  5. The Sinking of the Titanic [NOW it's becoming intriguing!]
  6. World War One
  7. World War Two
  8. President John F. Kennedy
  9. The Waco Massacre [uh oh]
  10. The Oklahoma City Bombing
  11. The World Trade Center Attack
  12. Religious Terrorism in America

Of course, I had to read it.

The "plot" goes like this. The Catholic Church is out to destroy the United States, and has been attempting to do so for hundreds of years. Andrew Jackson beat back the evil machinations of Nicholas Biddle and his Rothschild-funded central bank. But William Henry Harrison was not so lucky. Harrison, you see refused to bow to the nefarious plots of the evil Jesuits that served as the Vatican's secret ninjas and for that he was poisoned with arsenic by these same Jesuits. (And you thought it was pneumonia.) John Tyler was snuffed out in the same way--though the "book" makes it seem that his death occurred while he was still in office instead of 17 years after he left the White House. (Honestly, who's editing this "book"? Can't they get their facts straight? Oh . . . wait. . . .)

Naturally, the Jesuits were instrumental in killing Lincoln, according to this "book." The Jesuits were instrumental in Kennedy's death. (Naturally. At this point in the conspiracies, the only person not suspected of killing JFK is maybe me and my children.)

You also won't be surprised to learn that the Jesuits were instrumental in engineering both World War I and World War II--to make sure that a centralized government (first the failed League of Nations and then the U.N.) was created to serve as a puppet organization to be operated by the Pope and financed through his connections to the evil U.S. centralized banking system.

And don't forget about the Waco Massacre in 1993. According to this "book" Bill Clinton was also a Jesuit, pledged to do the evil demands of his Papal master in Rome. What was demanded by Clinton's master? Why did the poor souls at Waco have to die? Because they would be the evil symbols of gun-ownership run amok and this would give basis for passing legislation that, according to this "book", "would have torn a huge gap in the 2nd Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. . . . Who has hated the Constitution from the very beginning? From the very inception of this country, the Jesuits have sought to destroy the Constitution. They called the Constitution a Satanic document."

There is much more (the bombing in Oklahoma City and, of course, the destruction of the World Trade Center), but to tell the truth, I worry about discussing it in detail because I am afraid that some unsuspecting soul will stumble across my blog and think that I espouse this mindless set of lies.

Naturally, I find it hilarious and profoundly sad to read. There is a website that allows anyone else who wants a good laugh to read the sordid truth of the United States that no one else is bothering to tell you.

Don't forget to spit on the next Catholic you meet, but be careful . . . they just might poison you if you piss them off!

Inside is a self-addressed postcard with this message:
No donations asked
Do you have concern about the future?
Does a one world govt. (with no freedom) sound good to you? Ever wondered what the mark of the beast is? Babylon? The man of sin whose number is 666?
Would you like the answers to these questions and be able to understand
Bible prophecy? Facts from the Bible, history, and the occult
prove who and what these things are.
Learn these crucially important truths. Learn how the Bible interprets itself. NO opinions of men. Probation is fixing to close.
The end of all things is at hand. Your choice is heaven or perdition. There is
no third alternative. Satan does not want you to have this knowledge. But Jesus
does and He proved His love for you by dying for you Your eternal destiny
depends on how you respond to this choice. For more information, send this card,
or call: ___-___-____.

It all makes me sick.

Rating Washington's Monuments

I really like Slate's photo essays.

I provided one a few days ago that debates the merits of decaying structures.

Today's essay is also on the theme of loss and memorializing time gone by--an examination of the various monuments in and around Washington D.C.

Which are good; which are bad; which over-reach; which are just right?

Read and decide for yourself.

(What do I think? Well, I am glad that the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial were not designed in our time. While I agree that the Vietnam Memorial is excellent in form and function, I have not been enamored with what I've read of the more recent additions--such as WWII and FDR. I should note that I haven't experienced these memorials myself, having last been to WDC in 1989. But I have read about these constructions a bit. They sound overly fussy, if you get my meaning. I worry that the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial will suffer from the same affliction.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

You'll Never Guess! There's a Mutant Baby in the Percolator!

Similar words were uttered by Jack Nance's character during the first, most excellent season of Twin Peaks.

He was warning FBI agent Dale Cooper and Sheriff Harry S. Truman not to drink the (damn fine!) coffee that he'd just poured . . . and then he'd discovered a fish in the coffee pot.

You can imagine that the flavor of the java had been affected.

Well, someone must have put something similar into David Lynch's mother's coffee while she was pregnant, because Mr. Lynch isn't right in the head.

The evidence is right there for all to see in his film debut, which I have finally taken the time to see. Eraserhead is a really messed up tone poem, a black and white scream of subconscious insanity, something very disturbing.

It has some gross imagery, but nothing radically shocking. But you almost wonder that if you could get past the metaphors, the double- and triple-meanings of things, you might really want to scream.

What is the movie actually about? Hard to say, so I won't try very hard. Jack Nance's character Henry Spencer is almost like Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp--but with a huge pompadour of Cosmo Kramer's hair. And the film is basically silent. When people do talk, it occurs in bursts of non sequetors that if strung together might resemble something approaching normal human dialogue.

The "plot" follows Henry's life as it digs deeper into something like madness. But can you be mad in a world filled with pod people. It's like this is Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Henry is the only pod person who doesn't understand the rules.

There are the typical Lynchian tics here (or since this one came first, I guess they should be called something else). But the voyeurism, the flickering lights, the odd dream sequences. It's all there. There is a baby, but a sadly premature husk of a baby. It causes problems.

Basically this film is about one strange man's surreal attempts to deal with his problems. And for all the weirdness, I found at least one or two moments of humanity to connect to, such as when Henry's wife struggles to sleep while the "baby" is constantly whimpering and crying during the night. There might not be another thing in the movie I could understand; but I did understand that.

Rot in Peace

I can't claim the title, because this is swiped from a Slate photo essay, written by Caitlin DeSilvey.

Only in this country would be find a way to justify our trash, which we've got lots of as well as explain away how quickly we make and then throw away.

I don't deny that there is something artful (if composed by a good photographer when the light--and the camera's light filters--are adjusted just so, but are we that desperate for historical meaning that ruined shacks become significant?

Monday, December 05, 2005

My Christmas Tree is Trying to Kill Me

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
With faithful leaves unchanging;
Not only green in summer's heat,
But also winter's snow and sleet,

It seems like a nice tree, but it's NOT. You would think that it is only here to brighten the holiday season, but that's NOT TRUE!

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
With faithful leaves unchanging.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Of all the trees most lovely;
Each year, you bring to me delight
Gleaming in the Christmas night.

Yeah, sure. Gleaming. Probably laughing at me inside those "faithful" leaves. What did I do to deserve this, huh?

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Of all the trees most lovely.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Your leaves will teach me, also,
That hope and love and faithfulness
Are precious things I can possess.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Your leaves will teach me, also.

What exactly will the leaves teach me? To despair? You want to talk about hope? You want to talk about faithfulness? I've GOT faith, Jack! I put you up every year. I think this year will be different. I am ALWAYS wrong.

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine Blatter!
Du grunst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit,
Nein, auch im Winter, wenn est schneit.
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
Wie treu sind deine Blatter!

Sure, the tree SEEMS innocent. It looks like fun for the entire family, doesn't it? But the tree is just lying in wait, sensing its chance to destroy.

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!
Wie oft hat mich zur Wiehnachtszeit
Ein Baum von dir mich hoch erfreut!
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!

Every day I come home from work and you're sitting there, patiently waiting to ruin my Christmas spirit. The outside lights don't want to hurt me. They seem ready to do their part. I plug them in and they start twinkling and gleaming. Instant Noel!

O Tannembaum, O Tannenbaum,
Dein Kleid soll mich was lehren!
Die Hoffnung und Bestandigkeit
Gibt Trost und Kraft zu aller Zeit.
O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
Dein Kleid soll mich was lehren!

But every time I plug you in, the lights won't cooperate. First only the top strand blinks. I unplug and try again. Now the bottom one's blink but the top won't. I unplug and plug in halfway, jiggling the plug in the receptical for some assanine reason. Now . . . nothing blinks AT ALL!! (Oh, you're good Mr. Tannenbaum! Do you have a green card, by the way?)

O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
With faithful leave unchanging.
O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,
Of all the trees most lovely;
Each year, you bring to me delight
Gleaming in the Christmas night.

Now, I have given up in defeat. I'll accept the one paltry strand that blinks. Yeah, that one there about two-thirds of the way down the tree. I wanna know how you did it Tannenbaum. These were brand new lights, bought last year and completely unopened until two weeks ago. How did you make it happen. Most important . . . why?! Why are you trying to kill me?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Some Random Bits

I found a fun site that presents The Magazine Covers of the Future.

It is really a website for the Magazine Publishers of America, but some of their ideas are funny.


In my Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire review, I noted that there were problems with the movie. Well, this website goes into much more detail, with considerably more anger than I. But we both agree that the cuts made for this movie would seem to have negative repercussions on the potential directions for the next movies. (And yes, there are spoilers. You have been warned.)


Here is some video of Lynda trying to get into the Christmas spirit. Unfortunately, I had to do a wee bit of work (hardly any at all . . . I just like to complain) to make it happen.


Just finished watching Trainspotting.

A good movie. Not redeeming or anything . . . hey, its about drug addicts and scuzzy individuals. But, it was well acted and engaging.

Plus, there is something fun about Scots and Scottish accents. Maybe that is why I like Billy Boyd a whole lot (He played Pippin in LotR.). And I've always liked Ewan MacGregor. He was definitely the most interesting thing about all of the Star Wars movies.

Funnily, I remember when Trainspotting came out, people talked about how gut-wrenching it was and how dirty and filthy everything was. And while it wasn't an afternoon spent in a museum contemplating Monet, it wasn't gross or anything. Have I become numb or has the culture changed since then or is it something else entirely?


[updated Monday morning--and then I'll leave this post alone]

Yesterday I handled one of the communion chalices for the first time in our new church. And, I swear (though I know this can't be true) it felt like I was being hazed as the new guy. Now, I have been a chalice bearer before, for several years, in fact. But we have been getting our feet wet slowly at our new church. Plus they don't need us to do everything.

But anyway, I am standing up there with the smaller intinction cup (so people can dip their communion bread rather than drink from the chalice). And it seemed like EVERYONE from my half of the main aisle was in line for me rather than the chalice.

Naturally, this makes sense . . . people have colds and don't want to spread germs (even though the chalice lip is cleaned after every sip). But it really felt like 80 percent of the communicants were waiting on me.

In public I don't react well when people are waiting on me. I get a bit nervous and slightly flustered. So, rather than focusing on the sacredness of the ritual, I was thinking about how everyone was waiting on me, worrying about not spilling anything, feeling my leg muscles cramp, just being generally uncomfortable.

Next time, I hope the first-time-back jitters will be gone and I can focus more.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Gaffleck lives

Reports are that Jen and Ben are now truly the parents of a bouncing, baby girl.

Is it notable that the report took pains to state that Affleck: "was with his spouse 'the entire time.'"

Where else was he supposed to be, I wonder? [No reports or unconfirmed sources stating that Ben had set up his regular poker game in the delivery room while being with his wife and child.]

Also no reports that little Violet's middle name is Rambaldi.

More's the pity, I'm thinking.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Hell No-el

You know, not everyone loves the holiday season.

Even those that DO love the meaning of the holidays and the opportunity that it affords to eat desserts, wear that red sweater, give and give gifts, worship your favorite deity and/or cultural construct . . . well, even given all THAT, the overwhelming cultural force that is The Holiday Season can be a bit crushing to the spirit.

So, in the spirit of giving those depressed holiday sufferers a bit of hope, I offer this idea. I heard about it on a TV show just moments ago and said to myself . . . "Dude! You've gotta talk about that."

And so I have.

Tonight's fortune cookies

Sarah got You will be rewarded for your kindness to others.

Lynda got Guard yourself against evil temptations. (She thought her temptation was to NOT work tonight.)

Grace got Take a vacation, you will have unexpected gains. (Lynda claims that this fortune was actually meant for her.)

I didn't get one, as we only ordered three entrees . . . and my life is therefore dependent upon the actions and choices of others.

Kids Stuff?

I've mentioned this graphic novel before, but this Slate article provides an interesting story on the comic and its relative importance in the comics world.

I enjoyed Watchmen, but enjoyed The Dark Knight Returns more. While both g. novels do essentially the same thing, TDKR does it to a character that everyone know something about. Watchmen's superheroes were "fictional" in the sense that they had no existence outside of this one book. They were definitely based on other superheroes in other titles, but there wasn't a sense of a canon of work being turned on its head.

Check Watchmen out from the library sometime. You might enjoy it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Goodnight stars, goodnight air, goodnight common sense everywhere

I do know the book Goodnight Moon, having read it to Sarah for many a night when she was more on the wee side.

I am sorry to hear that it is in the center of a media maelstrom!

Can't people relax about anything anymore?


After many, many, many hours (more than I should admit, actually) I added a custom banner to my site.

You've probably already noticed it by now.

If you haven't . . . WAKE UP!!!!!

A great deal of thanks goes to E. Anderson who tried her absolute best to help me with my original image concept. I didn't end up using it, through no fault of her own, but because I didn't give her the proper instructions in the beginning.

Also, thanks to Paige Pooler of Eyes Wide Apart who's banner started me on this odyssey.

This may not be the absolute final WWYG?! image, but now that something is there, I think I can obsessively change it until I get the perfect visual.

But for now, whew! It is done.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Wax off, "Alias"

According to this Entertainment Weekly story over the weekend, what we all knew would happen is now official--Alias is not long for this world.

I am not surprised about this but it still makes me sad. I was an Alias fan from the beginning, from the very first episode when Sydney's fiance was killed by Sloane. Over the years, I have grooved to an awesome theme song, been the happy witness to many an outlandish plot device, a great deal of club scenes, some memorable Super Bowl lingerie in an airplane, and one season 1 latex dress.

Most people seem to agree that the show peaked at the end of season 2, start of season 3. I think season two was best, when Francine was cloned, when she and Sydney had an incredible throw down in the apartment, etc. Plus, the whole Rambaldi plot was so outlandish that it defied belief . . . but was really fun at the same time.

Anyway, a few years ago I would have been really worked up about this show's demise, but now I can accept it and move on.

Of course, all Hollywood deaths are Tom Cruise's fault, and this is no exception. If Tom hadn't sunk his claws into J.J. Abrams and gotten him directing/writing Mission Impossible III then maybe Alias might have survived. But maybe it is time to die.


Speaking of Hollywood deaths, goodbye Pat Morita. I remember you from Karate Kid of course, but I loved you best as Arnold on Happy Days or as the thoroughly Americanized Korean soldier who occasionally dropped by the Swamp and played poker on M.A.S.H.

I hope you didn't cross Tom Cruise and rather died a peaceful death of a life satisfactorily lived.

Run Lola Run

If If If you you you took took took a a a simple simple simple plot plot plot and and and showed showed showed it it it three three three times times times in in in succession succession succession, , , changing changing changing small small small elements elements elements of of of that that that plot plot plot each each each time time time but but but ended ended ended each each each version version version at at at the the the same same same moment moment moment . . . . . . . . . you'd you'd you'd have have have Run Run Run Lola Lola Lola Run Run Run.

This This This movie movie movie is is is more more more like like like an an an experiment experiement experiment than than than a a a film film film. . .

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Where's Your God Now?

We set up our Christmas decorations yesterday and today. Constructed the tree, put the ornaments around, decorated other parts of the house. Today I put outside lights up and those are now twinkling merrily in the November darkness.

All of this invokes memories of my childhood, but I would rather remind you of other Christmas miracles from years past.

But seriously . . . one of the traditions when I was a kid was putting together the nativity set (the manger, baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, the angel, the three wisemen, etc.).

Over the years, I would try to be as literal as possible, in that I would place the wisemen far away from the rest of the manger grouping and advance them across the house as time progressed.

Yesterday I realized that we had, for the first time, a good place to put our manger scene. Last year, we bought a small shelving unit to sit at the end of our entrance foyer, under the picture that we bought on our honeymoon in Charleston. This three shelf rectangular piece fits perfectly in the wall space that divides the hallway from kitchen. Normally, in more secular times, we have a plant, some pictures of Sarah and Grace, and diapers, wipes, diaper bags, etc. all residing there on different levels.

But now, it is the designated spot to commemorate the birth of our lord and savior--as depicted in miniature, figurine form. (This is also good because it gives us a place to drape the holiday-colored table runner that Mom quilted for us years ago. So now Baby Jesus is birthed on a south Georgia table runner--and I wouldn't have it any other way.

But a word on the nativity set itself. It was given to us by my parents and they bought it while they were living in Brazil for six months several years ago. So, the Holy Family and everyone else involved in the Blessed Event has an ethnic cast--which suits me just fine, thanks.

So, this is great. Jesus finally has an honored place in the scheme of holiday decorations, right? Wrong! Because, as perfect as this place is, as perfectly positioned as it is to remind our every guest that "Jesus is the Reason for the Season," it is also at the perfect height for our girls, who would like nothing better than to play with each and every figurine. Yesterday Sarah immediately had Baby Jesus flying through the house like Neo on his way to defeat Agent Smith.

I remain steadfast, however. I want the Nativity to stay there. I don't have a better place to put it right now. I'll try to keep an eye on the kids and hope that the better angels of their natures come to the fore when they are tempted to play.

I just hope we don't lose our God in the name of Better Housekeeping.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Lynda and I took advantage of the holiday-ness of the day after Thanksgiving today and went to see a movie--HP and the G of F.

The daycare was open today, you see, and since we pay by the week, we had already paid for Friday. We decided to take advantage of that and therefore planned to watch HP at 10:45 this morning.

We took the kids to school, dropped them off. Lynda then went to work for a few hours at the office and I waded into the day after Thanksgiving shopping to get some of the kid's Christmas giftage out of the way. The audio post below gives some of that experience.

About the movie, and YES . . . there are SPOILERS ahead (but you've probably already read the book anyway):

Speaking of the book . . . well, it IS 734 pages long, and unless you are Spike Lee or Peter Jackson, you aren't gonna get enough movie time to cover a book of that length.

So, stuff got cut, and I'm really okay with most of it. Hermione's Society for the Promotion of Elvish Welfare (S.P.E.W.) sub-plot is completely removed, as is any trace of house-elves. In fact, the entire intricate mystery of who is out to get Harry is simplified greatly in the movie. These things I can understand and accept.

What is lost--and what is a more significant loss in terms of the entirety of the story arc that runs throughout the books--is the process of knowledge acquisition that Harry undergoes in this pivotal book in the series. Here in Goblet Harry begins girding himself (thought he doesn't recognize it until the end of this story) for the coming battles ahead. But this movie, by focusing on the "movie-ready" Triwizard events and skipping over the months that elapse between each event, don't give you the sense that Harry has become proficient in various spells and charms that his classmates haven't had access to. Therefore, it might become less understandable in the upcoming Order of the Phoenix movie why Harry's classmates turn to him specifically to teach them Dark Arts spells?

But, I am nit-picking. Steve Kloves, the screenwriter who has adapted each of the four books made into films, is in a no win situation here. If he adapts the movies well, no one notices. Generally, people only pay attention when stuff isn't there. So, soldier on Kloves. You're doing a difficult job well.

Overall, I found the movie VERY enjoyable. It was funny where it should have been, scary everywhere else. And this movie IS scary. This book, as I mentioned is the turning point in the series, where the childish wonder of the magical world is pretty much replaced by the growing battle between good and evil that takes up Order of the Phoenix (Year 5) and Half-blood Prince (Year 6).

I cant'/won't speak for anyone else, but I would NOT take Sarah to see this movie. I wonder if she will be ready to watch it when the DVD comes out. If so, we'll be skipping a lot of stuff. I just think a great deal of the imagery in the film would stick in her mind and cause nightmares for many days afterwards.

So, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire: A.

The Truth Revealed

It's time to come clean.

It's time to admit the truth.

Burb isn't my real name--my parents were smarter than that!

My name is David, but you can think of me as Dave if it suits you.

Why am I telling you this now, after more than a year of lies?

Well, I find that it's been harder to maintain the duplicity once I started adding more and more audioposts and now, Why Won't You Video?! (Don't miss my new video additions--one from San Francisco, one from the 2003 camera archives, and one of the girls playing in the snow two days ago.)

It just doesn't make sense to try and keep all the aliases straight in my head. So, I'm putting it all out there, come what may.

Other important names that you should know:
  1. Tegan is Lynda, my wife.
  2. Ariel is Sarah, my oldest daughter.
  3. Ruth is Grace, my younger daughter.
  4. Kevin Spacey IS Keyser Soze.
  5. Senator Palpatine is actually Darth Sidious.

Holiday shopping--LIVE!

this is an audio post - click to play

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Thanksgiving Illustrated

It allows me to do this with as little typing as possible.
I give thanks for my lovely wife Tegan (the hardest working woman in the Midwest!)and my wonderful daughters Ariel and Ruth.

I give thanks for my parents, brothers, and sister, and all of the spouses, nieces and nephew. I wish I could see you all more often!

I give thanks for all of my most excellent friends. I don't have a picture that captures you all, but you are all there every day, making a difference, making me laugh and think.

I give thanks for life in general. It is a gift worth reflecting on and blogging about!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Ice Storm

I watched this as we prepare for our first snowfall of the season--nothing too bad, mind you, but it provides an opening for this observational movie review.

This movie was directed by Ang Lee, based upon the book by Rick Moody. Previously, I had only seen his craptacular The Hulk. This movie is so much better for many reasons, not the least of which is the cast: Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood, a pre-brainwashed Katie Holmes, and my man Tobey Maguire. (Tobey even has the opening lines of the film, discussing comic books no less! Be still my heart.)

Set in Connecticut, 1973. The movie focuses on two well-to-do suburbanite couples and their attendant children. Everyone has too much time on their hands and is too confused with the world. They are searching anywhere for personal fulfillment--alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, self-help books, casual sex, whatever. Plus, as Jimmy Carter said, they are lusting in their hearts . . . and often acting on that lust . . . to achieve what, I don't think they truly know.

The kids in this movie aren't adults, but they sort of are, because the actual adults are too spaced out or confused to pay them much attention. So the kids fend for themselves and make all sorts of mistakes.

One of the two families lives in a contemporary home that reminded me of Miles van de Rohe's Farnsworth House. But I can't seem to identify the actual home used in the film. Does anyone know?

This movie reminds me strongly of American Beauty, because of the ennui evident in the characters and in the sparseness of the soundtrack, which has a very Thomas Newman quality.

I liked the movie, even if I don't really know where it might be going in the fictional future that stands ahead of the Hood family when this movie is over. I suspect you can get a better sense of that from the novel, which probably did a more explicit job of describing the internal motivations of the people. Ang Lee is more interested in showing you their confusion and their inability to choose than he is to have you hear that confusion.

Still, recommended.

Monday, November 21, 2005

This one goes out to others

This past week was Christ the King Sunday--the last day of the church calendar year. Next week begins Advent, the preparation for Christmas.

I tell you this because Fr. Rick had a great sermon this past Sunday that got me thinking.

The Gospel reading was Matthew 25 (Whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do to me.) The point--there are TONS of people in the world that need so much help, so much support.

I am NOT one of them.

Therefore, this year, if you are planning to buy me something, please don't. Yes, I did create an Amazon wish list on Saturday morning. But upon further reflection, getting another book about J.R.R. Tolkien's writings, the LOST season 1 DVD, or a big book of Calvin and Hobbes cartoons matters very little. If you have already spent money on a gift, hey great and thanks a lot. But if you haven't maybe you can consider doing this instead.

1. Calculate what you would have spent on me.
2. Give it to an organization that is trying to make someone else's life better. How about the Red Cross? Certainly Habitat for Humanity needs funds. Amnesty International does good work. What about Heifer International?

Or donate to a local organization--a Meals on Wheels in your area, your local food bank, heck, give a check to the local police department or local fireman's organization.

(If you get solicitation phone calls and increased junk mail from this, I am sorry. But if more of us tried to use the holiday season in this way, then maybe they wouldn't NEED to carpet bomb you with leaflets in the future.)

Anyway . . . it's a thought. Please don't be offended. Just make your hard-earned money work harder for someone who needs it more, okay?

I promise, I'm not going to suffer.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

A Farcical Dystopia

That is the best way to describe Terry Gilliam's Brazil.

Our hero is named "Sam Lowery" who is introduced to us in some sort of Icarus-suit in a setting that looks exactly like the old Tri-Star logo where the pegasus is galloping/flying through the clouds.

Sam works in one of the many divisions of the Ministry of Information, apparently the only government agency, certainly the most powerful. The reason for this is that tracking information, cataloging it, stamping it, filing it, is the most important thing in this bureaucratic world gone wrong--something that Hermes Conrad from Futurama would understand.

A incomplete collection of interesting things that I noticed while thoroughly enjoying this movie that I have wanted to see for years:

  1. Almost everything has a serial number (As a related point of interest--my cubicle at work is id #PRPL 33.).
  2. This movie has the absurdity of Dr. Strangelove, the Rube Goldbergesque contraptions of Wallace and Gromit or the oddly complicated technology of 12 Monkeys (another Gilliam favorite of mine). There are tubes everywhere--even wonderful pneumatic tubes, strange rubber bladders inflating and deflating, ducts running from floor to ceiling.
  3. Enemies of the state and suspected terrorists (who are bombing randomly throughout the movie) are trussed up in burlap bags with grommets, interrogated and/or counseled while swinging along ceiling-mounted tracks like sides of cattle.
  4. The soulless, vast empty bureaucratic spaces remind me of the upper reaches of the Hudsucker building
  5. Teletype machines constantly clacking evoke in me memories of the Prayer Machines mentioned in The Handmaid's Tale.
  6. The ending of the samurai battle dream sequence is lifted straight out of Luke's confrontation of Vader at Dagobah--but since both movies came out in 1985, who thought of it first?
  7. There are funny government propaganda signs everywhere. They say such things as Suspicion Breeds Confidence; Don't Suspect a Friend, Report Him; Trust in Haste, Regret at Leisure; Mind that Parcel. Eagle Eyes Can Save a Life. There is also an advertisement for Mellowfields Top Security Holiday Camps--Luxury without Fear, Fun without Suspicion, Relax in a Panic-Free Atmosphere.
  8. The ducts, the persistent rectangles of the buildings, the boxy subway-like transports--everything reminds me of the Borg cubes.
  9. Robert DeNiro played wacky long before Analyze This. One scene in particular was an odd echo of Godfather II--when the young, immigrant Vito Corleone (played by DeNiro) has killed the white-suited neighborhood Don, on what I think was Easter Sunday or at least some sort of Catholic Italian religious holiday. He then dismantled his gun, throwing the pieces down various chimneys. In this movie DeNiro's "Harry Tuttle" is a
  10. 'terrorist"/unauthorized plumber against the Ministry-run government. Near the end of the movie (on Christmas Eve--another religious holiday) Tuttle threw parts of his terrorist garb down a Keep Your City Tidy tube.
This random list of observations doesn't capture the Britishness of this movie, the senseless bureaucracy, the efforts to rail against mindless authority. An excellent film that you should see.

Less with More

What do I want for Christmas?

Well, probably the most useful thing would be a water-proof digital voice recorder that I could hang in my shower and use it to capture all of my good blogging ideas before they disappear somewhere between the rinsing and the toweling.

As I was taking this morning's shower, I ruminated over Sven Golly's first anniversary post (congratulations!) and his observation that his site is pretty simple--which I like and support. The phrase "Less is More" came to mind. From that thought came the idea that we are living in a world where everyone tries to do Less with More.

Let me explain:

Lulu is busily trying to get her holiday house in order before the arrival of Marky Mark. So she got me thinking of putting together Christmas lists, both for me and for the other members of my family. Doing this is hard and easy at the same time.

It's hard because none of us need anything. So trying to find something that isn't obnoxiously useless, might be creatively fun, and not take up to much space amongst all of our other stuff is challenging.

It's easy because the Internet allows you to search for anything under the sun and place it handily on an Amazon wish list (I am working on it now). These Amazon lists are easy to put together and convenient for others to access and view. But what do they really tell you?

That's where I am going with this . . . we live in a world of More choice, More options, More of everything. But at the same time, we are narrowing ourselves down into the sum of our consumption. Amazon, Netflix, Kroger . . . everyone is tracking the items you buy, the "I Give This Movie BLANK Stars" button and the "I Own This" link. It's useful in that it helps them target market you. (For instance, did you know that I might like "Antics" by Interpol, since I own "Franz Ferdinand.") But, as I go through these lists and dutifully identify my ratings, my previous ownerships, etc. I find that the computer search algorithms are sending up everything I already own. I guess after I spend a day or so cataloging every purchase I've ever made the computer will know me perfectly . . . and then what?

I'm sorry Dave. I won't open the pod bay doors now.
Why don't you take a stress pill and we can play a nice game of chess?

Will the computer then start accurately serving me stuff I don't yet have? And what about everyone else? Do they know me? Do we actually know anyone?

Can you read my blog and get to know me? Sort of, yeah. But wouldn't it be better to sit down with me and ask questions? (Am I gonna stop blogging? No. ) I guess my concern is that the world tries to pin all of us down and try to make sense of all of us, but that won't work. Many many science fiction movies have proven that artificial intelligence always goes bad in the end.

Do I sometimes worry the computers getting all of my personal information? Don't I worry about identity theft. Various bits of my life are already spread out there in the internets and sure, there are people that might try to put it all together, task their satellites, and spy on me in the backyard (I saw Enemy of the State . . . and if I liked that, I might also enjoy The Pelican Brief.)

I dunno. The part of me that doesn't worry about such things thinks that social historians in the future are so lucky. The wealth of information available to them about the comings and goings of Average American will be the greatest in the history of historians. Sifting through it will probably be relegated to computers (uh oh) but the opportunity to accurately distill daily life will be better than ever in all the eons of written records.

I wonder where I'll fit on that scale? Will I be comfortably in the average portion of the societal Bell Curve? Most of the time I am positive of it. We'll let our cybernetic overlords (which, I for one, welcome) sort that out.

What was my point?

Saturday morning play

this is an audio post - click to play

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Silence Falls

I had a brief moment tonight . . . a small flash of insight or quietude or something.

Yesterday's audio post was somber and I have been feeling a bit out of sorts the last few days. My personal life is fine, but many around me are facing various struggles. It makes me realize that I am extremely blessed and I guess tonight I internally paused to appreciate that reality.

It was after dinner. I was downstairs in the basement sorting clothes, hoping to take advantage of my evening by doing some productive chores. Tegan and the girls were upstairs. Ruth and Ariel were eating their desert brownies and watching a little bit of The Lion King before heading upstairs to put on their pajamas and begin the bedtime transition.

I had my back to the door that divides the finished half from the unfinished "utility" half of our basement, sorting delicates from whites from colors, placing each in their respective laundry bins (the organizing and the sorting is the satisfying "pre-flight" prep before the laundry washing begins).

And then Ruth was there behind me; she said "Hello, Daddy" in her small, quiet voice. She had been unable to find Tegan upstairs and so felt it necessary to come down to the basement (I had left the main-floor door open) to give me the empty bowl that her brownie had once been in. And that was it. She turned and went back upstairs to watch more of her show.

My relationship with Ruth has, as you know, been rocky at times in the last year. But, it feels like we have turned a corner recently. We don't clash as much as we were doing a month ago and she is more willing to let me do things with her, whereas in the past, she often demanded Tegan over me.

After she delivered the bowl and left, I continued my sorting and reflected upon the atmosphere in the house; it was quiet, still. It felt really comfortable and relaxed. That is a wonderful feeling, and as much as yesterday's winter sky made me feel somber, tonight I recognized the other aspects of winter.

Winter encourages you to bundle up--in comfortable jeans, corduroy, or sweaters. These thick fabrics cushion you and provide a softness. It helps muffle sound and provides a thickness to the things around you. When it is cold, people pull inside. If the wind isn't blowing, you can really capture the stillness and recognize the quiet that is such a rare commodity in our world today. This is especially true if you go outside at night after a snowfall. The blanket of snow muffles sounds, all the animals are somewhere else, no one is running around outside. The lights bounce off the snow and there is silence.

I love that feeling of stillness, solitude, warmth--even when there are three other people in the house with you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

To Whom It May Concern

Dear makers of Crest "Glide" floss:

I am a big fan of flossing. I want you to know that right away. Heck, I floss EVERY day. Do most people do that?

I also have been using Crest toothpaste for practically my whole life. I like your paste and this Colgate is vile stuff. So, please, hear me out.

I tell you this because I have some complaints about your floss product.

1.) The packaging--I grant that the molded plastic exterior is "cool." The green color on my particular container (which I got free with a tube of paste, by the way) makes it stand out. But, the lid is hard to open. Please remember that I, and likely many others, floss in the morning when our bodies are still half asleep and our fine motor skills are still warming up.

2.) The floss--You are claiming on your website that your floss is coated to make it slide easier between teeth and provide less irritation on the gums. All of these things are helpful and if it makes more people floss, I can support you. BUT, what did you coat it with . . . space polymers? That stuff is TOO slippery. When I wind it around my fingers, it is too slippery to stay put while I jam it between my teeth. Can you back off the glide factor a wee bit? We don't need a complete lack of friction. Save that for the Space Shuttle's exterior, okay?

3.) Tensile strength--This may be a result of my holding onto the floss really hard (see complaint #2), but today, your product broke in half mid-floss, resulting in me smacking myself in the face in a cartoonish manner. I don't need such slapstick occurrences to wake me up in the morning, thanks. My two young daughters rumbling and grumbling about putting on their clothes provides quite enough stimulation. Please rectify this problem.

Thank you,

A Disgruntled Customer with Healthy Teeth and a Sore Cheekbone.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Sunday/Monday "mix tape"

(This post was begun on Sunday afternoon and I am finishing it up tonight. Its randomness is the reason for the title.)

Yesterday I was raking leaves in my front yard, listening to my iPod. It occurred to me that there are lots of people like me, approaching/ensconced in middle age who own iPods and use them to enliven their normal household chores. But why doesn't Apple depict this demographic in their ads? Instead you have young hipsters monochromatically gyrating to the latest song from the Gorillaz or other spiffy band-of-the-month.

If Apple listened to me, you could still have the young hipsters but you could also have their parents jamming to Bob Dylan while cleaning the gutters, mowing the lawn, or whatever.

Who would be against this idea? Anyone, really? Is Apple not interested in selling their iPods to just about everyone with $200? Wouldn't it benefit the company to do this? And if Apple won't do it, then maybe Creative or the iRiver people will do it?

Go ahead anyone who is reading this. Send the idea to Steve Jobs. I don't need credit for the idea, I just want to see good ideas come to fruition.

Someone tell me what I should do about King Kong.

As I have told some of you before, I am of two minds on this movie. Peter Jackson earned a lot of credit with me by making three excellent adaptations of The Lord of the Rings, but I am not sure if I am excited enough for this movie's subject.

Individually, I love a lot of the people involved in the movie: Jackson, Naomi Watts, even Jack Black. But the twenty-five foot monkey is a stumbling block. And, for some reason, the fact that it is set in the 1920s is a problem. Maybe I hate the clothes? I don't know.

I'll probably go see it, but I am not overwhelmed by it. Is that wrong? Am I growing up?


Speaking of growing up.

Here is a drawing that Ariel drew a long while ago and I just now decided to reduce it so that it could fit on my scanner bed. Unfortunately when it was reduced the picture lost some of its quality and the details aren't quite as sharp. Sorry about that.

The picture shows two houses, one on the extreme left edge and another one near the middle of the page. In the sky above are several blue birds. There is also a kite flying in a sun-filled sky between the flock of migrating birds and the houses below. Also between the houses is what I think was a yellow school bus.

The blocks of text are her "story" of the picture, dictated to me:

"At home I got a book and I threw it. I went inside my house and I looked at something else. Mom told me not to throw my books. And then I went to go pet Dog. And I looked everywhere but I could not find my dog." [Shades of Terry and Hopkin Green Frog here?]

"I didn't check in the living room and I saw my dog. It was fun. So we both went outside to play. I threw my dog a bone. But my dog could not chew it. He did not like the bone so he went inside. I did not want to play with the dog so I played with my dolly. [Preferring inanimate objects over living things?] But I accidentally broke it. And I yelled, 'Mom!' And I looked everywhere for Mom."

Really, it's a sad tale, a search for life fulfillment, as described by a five-year-old.

If you didn't like that bit of child-like creativity, you might enjoy this. Last month, on Columbus Day Tegan and I didn't have to work--but the daycare was closed. So I stayed home with the kids while she went into the office to try and keep up with her Project from Hell.

While I was home, working on the computer, the kids were playing with some spare yarn (from Tegan's pregnant and knitting phase). When I stopped to see what they were doing, I was confronted with this complex (multi-roomed!) masterpiece of yarn art.


Other entertainment news:

1.) The demise of Arrested Development on Fox is for certain, but there is some hope that the show might be resurrected by Showtime. So, people with lots of disposable income will benefit from intelligent humor while the frugal and the poor will suffer.

I wonder if I can adjust our budget to squeeze enough money out to subscribe to premium cable? Maybe if I can buy some Malk (now with Vitamin R!) rather than that expensive milk.

2.) You might have hated Aquaman in the late October episode of Smallville, but soon you will be able to hate Aquaman each and every week. Hurray? (No, not really . . .)