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Sunday, October 30, 2005

Sports Injury Breaking News!

Wanna see some pretty cool bruising all over my right ankle (that rolled over during a basketball game last Thursday?) I guess it'll be a couple weeks before I can play again. Click the "cool brusing" link to see a big picture. I've really gotten a kick out of photo-documenting my injuries over the last 6 months. I hope y'all appreciate this service too! BTW, the background on this shot is "Pinky": the big pink hippo beanbag that Soapy gave me. _Bodily Injury

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Saturday, October 29, 2005

Welcome to AMERICA


Carole takes the pledge

A few weeks ago Carole aced her qualifying test and became a bonafied McCitizen. After herding everyone into a stuffy, poorly-lit room they forced the newbies to stand up and embrace becoming an American. She was required to renounce good taste, restraint, and 3 or 4 civil liberties. On the way out, voter registration people and military recruiters were seen bickering about who got first crack at the "fresh meat".

Low point: Watching a music video (which looked suspiciously like a Ford truck commercial) to the tune of I'm Proud to be an American (Where at Least I Know I'm Free.) I think America, Fuck Yeah from Team America, World Police would have been better. _Rants

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

TBTOTI Update

This week's "The Best Thing on the Internets" is absolutely awesome.
After the page loads make sure to "grab" the Bush doll with your mouse and repeatedly smash his head into bubbles, extrude his body though tiny gaps between bubbles, or fling him high into the air so his body can come crashing down against the "rocks". Just the thing to make you relax as we head into election season.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Halloween



John's award winning pumpkin

Clay and Emily threw a great pumpkin-carving party this last weekend. I attempted to thin the skin of my jack-o-lantern rather than cut through it. The result is supposed to create a Chinese paper lantern effect. Accordingly I depicted a Chinese dragon, which resulted in one award for "ugliest pumpkin" and two bleeding finger wounds.

Ala Stave It Off commentor Clay Smith, I'm including a quote in today's post. In contains the true nature of Halloween within.

"Life and death: they are one, at core entwined.
Who understands himself from his own strain
presses himself into a drop of wine
and throws himself into purest flame."
-Rainer Maria Rilke _Photography

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Monday, October 24, 2005

BummerMan Rips I-901

Speaking of being smoke free... I can't believe how stupid I-901 is. I know tons of people are going to run right out and stuff the ballot box for this joke of law, but I beg of you: DON'T.

This election day, reconsider the actual verbiage of this (very flawed) initiative. You may find smokers on the sidewalk annoying. You may dislike going to pubs and clubs because of all the smoke. It's bad for your health, stinks up your clothes and gives you a sore throat. Yes, yes, yes. Smoking is bad, and people ought not do it too close to those of us that like to imagine our lungs pink and clean.

BUT...

I-901 is attempting to make it illegal to smoke within 25 feet of any doorway or window that could serve as ventilation to a building. This would, in effect, make it illegal to smoke anywhere in the urban sprawl of Seattle. Unless you're standing in the middle of a freakin' park (where it's actually kind of rude to smoke) you're bound to be 25 feet from a door or window. Maybe people forget that we're only 20 years removed from people casually lighting up in elevators and grocery stores. We've come a long way and have made it pretty uncomfortable to be a nicotine addict in this society. But now we're pushing it too far. This law is so extreme that it's totally unenforceable. There's no way this will be fairly and uniformly policed. What will happen, is that police will use a law like this to harass poor street kids and minorities. Illegal searches, harassment and bogus fines will be the only result of legislation like this. If people are so worried about clean air and polluting their lungs, why don't they go after big pulp mills and other corporate polluters instead?! What's worse... catching a whiff of an American Spirit while walking though downtown, or having all of Tacoma reek like soiled municipal diaper? _Rants

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Monday, October 17, 2005

One-Year Anniversary


November is actually national quit smoking month, but I'm here to announce that as of right now, I've been denying myself cigarettes for just over one year. The anniversary came on October 12th. I don't know how silly a motivator this is, but I decided to quit just before I turned 31. That way I could compartmentalize the filthy habit as something that I stopped doing at 30. We'll see how that works out. I've quit for about a year previously, but I think this is the longest I've gone without a single "slip".

Another big motivator was Soapy telling me that I couldn't. Big props to Soapster for making this whole thing competitive.

And even bigger props to my basketball crew... especially Kelly, Karl and John B., who consistently checked on my progress (even through a couple of earlier aborted attempts) and were encouraging without ever being intolerant. The same could be said for both my parents, but of course, they weren't down at the bar every Thursday night when temptation was rearing its ugly head.

Also worth noting: The hardest parts are 1) Watching movies like 2046 which make you want to smoke every 5 minutes and 2) Waking up from a dream in which you've just smoked a cigarette. It's an overwhelming feeling of guilt and failure until you realize it didn't really happen. The easiest part is the actual nicotine addiction. This probably just fuels my anger toward the drug companies, but I don't think the patch would have been any help to me at all. My strongest cravings lasted months (and still occur now and then) and weren't triggered by physical withdrawls. They were entirely about the psychological addiction aspect. _Rants

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Monday, October 10, 2005

BummerMan has Field Day!

Oh, happy day fellow schadenfreudist sportsfans! For today a $200 million dollar juggernaut came crashing down. The New York Yankees, they of the record-setting payroll, lost in their opening playoff series to Western Division Champions The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (who not only have the stupidest name in sports... they also have ugly uniforms.) They did, however, do all of us a big favor by beating the accursed Spankees three games to two in their best of five series. Now the Yankees go home and we no longer have to watch Derek Jeter's smug "leadership", Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield's steroid-fueled facial acne, or Jason Giambi and Bernie Williams' pathetic defense.

And then there's Alex Rodriguez. He is the perfect magnet for Yankee-haterdom... as Pay-Rod represents everything insufferable about the Bronx Bombers: overpaid, heartless, and prone to asinine quotes. Perhaps most importantly the Yankees, like Alex, lack a loveable flaw. They are statistically perfect. Collectively, they are the equivalent of Russian boxer Ivan Drago from Rocky IV. And that just adds to the enjoyment when they fall.

Best moments of the series: #3 Chone Figgins diving catch in centerfield preventing a big Yankee rally. #2 Alex grounding into a double play in the 9th inning of game 5 while representing the tying run at the plate. #1 Anaheim fans cheer madly as A-Rod gets drilled in the ribs with a Bartolo Colon fastball.

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C2F Roundup

I seem to be stuck in a relentless quest to watch comic to film (C2F) adaptations. This is no doubt fueled by my reluctance to read even the few words afforded to a comic book page. Or perhaps because I gave up on Robert Redford's attempt to film Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance years ago and instead only look forward to the big screen appearances of other influential characters from my adolescence. In any case, I have three more obscure entries on which to report (though none of these are based on comics that I've actually read!)


French comic artist Moebius gets the C2F treatment in Renegade, which sees his weird western tale "Blueberry" turned into a Hollywood disaster. I can't speak to the quality of the original books, but this is pretty bad. Juliette Lewis, Michael Madsen and Eddie Izzard are particularly disappointing, since all three are talented actors who totally fail to shine in this film. In fact, it's difficult to care about any of the characters in this film. My guess is that the director was focusing on something else. The real stars of the film are the cinematographer and the computer FX crew. There are many visual treats here, including two digitally-rendered hallucinagenic experiences (apparently triggered by a peyote-based tea.) The director seems more interested in the moral lesson (served up as a surprise twist) and the psychadelic journey as an exploration toward that lesson. Its too bad really, since one half of the movie is fascinating and well-crafted. If the acting/editing/dialogue had been significantly better, the whole film could have been fantastic. Final note: It's a strange distraction to see the Old West cobbled together from a European's perspective. You have Mexican Indians incorrectly portrayed like the Great Plains "horse culture" natives (riding around scalping people) and there's an odd assortment of principle characters: an Austrian treasure hunter partnered with an African mercenary, a family of wealthy Spanish ranchers, and a Cajun cowboy complete with a thick French accent.


The Japanese Robotech manga, Appleseed, has also been brought to the big screen. Using entirely CG effects, the post-apocalyptic world of Appleseed is amazing to look at. Humans and robots are intensely lifelike, or cyborg-like, or whatever. Even the rubble looks pretty cool. The action scenes are well choreographed, though there's nothing revolutionary here... Lots of big guns, big explosions, and convenient reasons to include some eye-candy kung-fu. In keeping with derivitive sci-fi standards, the script is based on a cool idea rather than a well-conceived one. Don't think too hard or you'll be overwhelmed with the inconsistancies and plot holes. While the ideas here aren't nearly as impressive as the recent anime masterpiece Ghost in the Shell II, it almost matches GitS2 visually.


Lastly, Immortal brings another French comic book to life. And again, this film features a strong emphasis on visual fx. This time casting a unique blend of CGI and live-action characters. Very outlandish and stylistic in it's realization, this is the most innovative of the three films. It certainly doesn't always succeed, but it takes more interesting risks than the other two. Sometimes this futuristic society looks like the human race was put into a blender with a bunch of 80's fashion designs, but that's still kinda cool. And while some of the ideas here seem meandering and pointless, the film is based on developing a relatively interesting premise: exploring the procreative process of immortals or gods. And the moral ambiguity of the central characters, while typical of French film perhaps, is refreshing for C2F adaptations. The narrative flow of the film, especially at the outset, can be difficult to follow, but comes into focus by the end. This helps Immortal to be the most interesting of the three films. Renegade has its unique charms and Appleseed raises the bar for computer film graphics but Immortal presents the most engaging story. _Cinema

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Sunday, October 09, 2005

))<-->((

Movie night this weekend was an improptu trip to the Crest to see the Miranda July project You and Me and Everyone We Know. The expression "back and forth" has been forever tainted now. Go see the film and you'll know why. Three cheers for the Northwest's own superstar performance artist and her charming little film. _Cinema

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Monday, October 03, 2005

3 Movies: Reviewed

Today is all about movie reviews. Spending too much time at the movie theater is wonderful way to while away the weekend, and now I can inform y'all about three films you may be considering for your own entertainment needs. Reviewed briefly, and in the order seen, I present:



BowWow, all growed up and sans the "Li'l", stars in the near-perfect Roll Bounce. The film plays out masterfully: set up with teeny bopper stars, goofball humor and slick dance scenes, then it knocked me over with surprising depth and character development. I expected to laugh, and I did (especially at the two garbage men... Dingo pointed them out as the blaxploitation equivalents of Shakespeare's gravediggers.) And then I cried... Since that heartless bastard intent on curmudgeoning my experience, BummerMan, stayed home.

The film's lingering resonance is that of a "black movie" that addresses the "what it is to be a man" question without all the ghetto trappings of Boyz 'n the Hood or Do The Right Thing. This is an oddly innocent, lower-middle-class film. No one gets shot. No one even gets shot at (with anything more dangerous than a waterballoon.) Even the principle villain, Sweetness, proves himself a softy. Some critics may see this as pandering to family audiences or dumbing down... but the opposite is actually true. How many of you, if a movie was to be made about your lives, would need to cast a true villain? Are our lives actually filled with evil and hate and fear, or is that more a manipulation of the media and our storytellers? I think the greater challenge is to produce a work of beauty and significance without falling back on the dramatic technique of pitting good against evil. This film (mostly) succeeds admirably in what it attempts and balances levity and drama deftly. 4 big stars on this crowd-pleaser. I don't know why it didn't come out during the height of summer fun films; it could have been the hit of the season (since the competition was weak!)

Proof

I hear Sir Anthony had to change his last name to Hopkyns in order to get cast in this crap-fest. I've heard that the play was better and I believe it. Paltrow is a capable actor, and handles her extended closeups well; emotions and hidden thoughts play across her face enticingly. BUT... Gyllenhaal and Paltrow have zero chemistry together. Paltrow is the only character with any depth, and the mysteries of her character just aren't that interesting. And there's one more big problem: the film is supposed to be about math nerds... but oddly enough, they all talk like lit majors. They don't struggle with expressing themselves. They don't act like people that live mostly in their own minds. They don't stumble around confused by basic human emotion. Maybe I should focus on criticizing the movie for what it is, rather than what it isn't, but I would have liked watching a film where the math geek angle is played up rather than understated. Though difficult to write well, it would have made a delightfully complicated mess for us to sift through if the characters showed any believable level of geekdom (or if Paltrow better conveyed the nascent tendrills of mental illness that are supposed to be consuming her.)

I was teetering between 2 and 3 stars for this film until BummerMan reached out and slapped me. Two stars it is!

Lastly, the cast and crew of Joss Whedon's truncated television trial Firefly are back for a feature length finale. Firefly was better than crack for sci-fi starved Generation X'ers. It featured writing better than anything Star Trek was doing, a character set much more human and believable than Andromeda Strain or Babylon 5, and a universe crackling with political intrigue WITHOUT any stupid looking aliens running around. In fact, there are no aliens at all. What is sci-fi without aliens you ask? It's brilliant.

Serenity is the best blockbuster movie I've seen this year. The special effects are understated (by sci-fi standards) but perfect. The humor is laugh out loud funny. The themes of leadership, life after the war, and the creation of "found family" are strongly developed. The ongoing story arcs from the television series are given plenty of space here to develop (ala the X-Files movie) and, in some cases, to climax. Unfortunately, letting a few central characters shine also means moving several favorites (like Inara and Shepherd Book) into the background. And a few things are glossed over too easily. Book's fate, for one, needed stronger writing and one less theme-building platitude. And there's one big plot hole that is annoying: Just how is it that the savage space cannibals (the Reavers) are able to maintain a cooperative society while living in a state of constant bloodlust frenzy? But these problems don't outweigh the gunslinging, quit-witted party that is Serenity. BummerMan may have tried to encroach on my enjoyment but this time I shackled him to a bedpost. Given all that could have gone wrong in the making of this, I was overjoyed at how good it was. Maybe it's only a party that fanboys and fangirls of the original series can really enjoy. In that case you should probably go rent the 16 hours worth of original episodes now in order to enjoy Serenity in the theaters! It's worth it. And, if you already have developed some love for these characters, bring your hanky to this one too.
Another 4 out of 5 rating. _Cinema

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