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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Munich

On company time, with company dime, I saw Munich last week. In a few weeks I will be charged with leading a discussion group for Jewish seniors who would like to trade opinions about the film over coffee and bagels. I'm looking forward to the experience but terrified about discussing a movie that I found totally devastating and powerfully ambivalent toward Israeli policy with a Jewish audience. I don't have much hand with this crowd, so my plan is to sit back and try to observe how the conversation goes without getting emotional.

During the actual movie, I remained unemotional until the ending credits, when I held my head in my hands and cried until the music stopped and the lights came up. I've never seen a movie that had such a delayed emotional impact. I have to tip my hat to Mssrs. Spielberg and Kushner for engaging me in a taught drama through to the end (although I further distracted myself from my emotions by spending the three hours furiously attempting to scribble notes on a legal pad in the black of the theater.) Afterward, the sheer futility and seemingly unsolvable tragedy of it all overwhelmed me. And this is why I don't believe Spielberg or Kushner have forsaken their Jewish brethren or even the Zionists among them. Central to the script is a heartbreaking attempt by the Israeli assassins to fit their actions into the schema of their religious faith... but ultimately they fail; as would anyone who tried to fit the moral questions of a nation into the ethical framework of our individual lives... especially a nation at war. We are, as individuals, unequipped to handle the ethical responsibility of assassination. We (Israel, the US, the PLO, the IRA, etc.) have always demanded that our citizens perform acts of butchery and have never been able to pick up the shattered pieces of those soldiers' souls afterward. Spielberg and Kushner are not crucifying Israel, instead they have built their tragedy on this moral paradox. There is no right answer. And though there are always zealots who find that view unacceptable, it is the truth. And it is not unpatriotic to say so.

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Saturday, January 28, 2006

Eagle-Watching Trip Along the Skagit River


The best shot I got of an actual eagle.


While everyone else was enjoying the Seahawks victory over the Panthers, I was working. Luckily "work" consisted of touring the Skagit Valley with a busload of senior citizens. We we're seeking out the migratory bald eagles, who visit the Skagit during the annual mid-winter salmon spawning runs. Since I needed to photograph the event for Jewish Family Service publicity anyway, it was a nice opportunity to do some field photography.

This sight was typical of the rural foothills architechture.

Here's a variation of my usual rust lust. This time it's yellow streaking on cement... a fungus perhaps?

And then here's what you've come to expect from me.

This is my favorite shot of the day... taken at one of the salmon hatchery tanks.

While walking along the riverside, I discovered evidence of what happens when Raven Daemons get angry with Dog Daemons.

Also along the riverside, I found this... which I post for Courtney's benefit.

This landscape was taken at the Skagit mudflats, where the river deltas into the Puget Sound. This was our last stop before heading home.

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Saturday, January 21, 2006

Fun project alert! Help needed!

In the next few weeks I'm hoping to produce a recording of a Justice League cartoon featuring an all new soundtrack. I'm hoping that Walaka, Jimbo5, Soapy, et al will help me create the required audio. Then we'll have to dub our audio track over the ripped video file and rerecord the whole mess. When we're all done, I think it'll make for a good Spectration Spectacular at Casa Walaka. With enough beer and popcorn, I'm sure we'll all agree it was a raging success.

Originally I planned to write an entirely new script, but now I'm thinking it'll be enough work just to reproduce the existing dialogue. Instead of laughing at a postmodern commentary juxtaposing superheros and socialworkers, we'll just be laughing at Walter's impersonation of Batman! Considering how much effort will go into the sound effects, new music, voice acting, and editing, I'll be getting a huge "creative outlet" workout without bothering with the new script. And if we find it's not impossible to create this thing, maybe we can try something more ambitious.

So I chose a favorite episode of Justice League Unlimited to work with. It's titled "For the Man who has Everything." It features a small cast, tight story, lots of graphic violence and a fair bit of sentimentality. I'll need to cast Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, Mongol (a dastardly villain), Superman's imaginary son Van-El, Supe's father Jor-El, Supe's imaginary wife (A Lois Lane type), a male robotic voice, Joe Chill (a thug) and the young Bruce Wayne. That may seem like a lot of voice talent but it's half the cast of any other episode... and some people may play multiple roles. So let me know if you can make it over to Walter's house some weekend in the near future and want a piece of the action.

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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Pop Culture Crossover

The Blackalicious album Nia features a track called Reanimation that is clearly shouting out to The Cheat! The Cheat must be moonlighting as a hip hop DJ to get such props... click the lyrics to hear it.



It's The Cheat
Tearing up the drum and bringing heat
Rock shock thunderous beat
Blastin' on your local ghetto street corner
The Cheat uh-huh

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Splash of Midweek Blog Color

Many moons ago (when I lived closer to water and had a great roommate) my living room glowed with primary colors and featured an excellent coffee table. Lately I've been realizing that "excellent coffee tableage" is what I miss most in the world. After moving, the table found a new home and now Walter and Courtney enjoy its sublime excellence. Just to prove that other hipsters agree about how ultimatly cool it is, I present this trendy album cover (starring my old table, which will be on display this weekend and for the forseeable future at Walter and Courtney's apartment)


She only looks cool. The table is cool!

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Computer Upgrades

Just before blowing $150 on illegal car-parking, I blew a similar amount on new RAM for my desktop. A couple of half-gig, DR400, 2CL sticks ran me $140 at the local hardware store. Upgrading from 256MB of ram to a gigabyte makes an amazing difference.


I also decided to follow the advice of practically everyone and install Mozilla's Firefox. I'm going to testdrive it by surfing for as much porn as possible over the next two weeks to see if I can infect it with something wicked. There can be no greater challenge for a browser than to sully itself in the dark waters of online porn and emerge VD free. If it passes that test, I'll consider switching for all my important browsing as well.

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Paying the Stupid Tax

Last Friday started out ambitiously: First a long decadent lunch at Cafe Septieme with Nedra, Diane and Eric... Huevos ranchero and cup after cup of coffee. I had parallel parked into tight spot just up the hill toward 12th Ave. Patting myself on the back as I headed toward the cafe, I should have recognized the danger inherent in my hubris.

My plan was to leave by 3ish and head downtown to the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry. Once there I would take my car across to meet my mother and a former coworker Phil Davis (superhero of history teachers) for dinner at the Cabo Grill in Poulsbo. We'd have a grand old time reminiscing and sharing our wildly unrealistic plans for the future. Then Mom and I would go see Munich at the Poulsbo cineplex before going back to my sisters house for late night conversation and beer drinking. But none of this actually happened.

The conversation at Septieme was too good; my lunch ran long. We left just after four, and I hustled back to my car thinking I could still make it to the grill by 5:30. But my car was gone. And the cars I had so masterfully parallel parked between were gone too, which naturally meant I was mistaken about where I had parked. It must have been another block south. Repressing my panic, I walked another block south, but my car wasn't there either.

Wait, there was my car. There it was attached to the back of a tow truck! It was being towed right before my eyes. The evil truck was going to drive right past me. As it did I looked for my license plate... Yes, there it was. God damn it... There goes my car! I gave chase. For another block I sprinted after the truck, hollering once or twice. I stopped when I realized that there was no way in Hell he was going to stop. It's not in his job description to stop. If he stops, there's a chance he doesn't make money for his company. If he stops, I could turn violent. If he stops... well, I suppose the only positive thing that could happen is that I might bribe him to release my car. I guess I don't much look like the kind of guy who carries a hundred bucks in my pocket. Instead, I just looked like the kind of guy who idiotically chases tow trucks hoping they'll abort the screw job they routinely give.

But there was a brief detail of validation. I managed to run along side the truck and read the phone number of the towing company. Cell phone in hand, I quickly ascertained where my car was headed. The next problem was finding someone who could drive me to 6th and Mercer. Serendipitously, Carole called at just that moment. She was heading off to work and was only a block or two away. She got me to the impound lot before they had finished unhitching my car in their yard. I jumped out in the middle of the intersection and ran over to the shitty little office trailer. The tow truck drive seemed to deliberately take his time, finally finishing his paperwork after I spent another 15 minutes waiting. This allowed the strange little man at the counter to collect my $120. He also politely handed me my $38 parking ticket which would be a separate fee to the city. Ah, the humbling joys of paying the stupid tax.

Still holding onto a silly hope of meeting Phil and my mother, I tried to navigate my way past Pioneer Square to the ferry line entrance. By this time (just after 5pm,) trying to drive across town was a nightmare. Every time I waited at a changing of the lights as only one or two cars were able to pull forward I felt a vein twitching in my forehead. I got to the ferry lines well before six, but was absolutely deflated when I saw the back up. There was no way I was getting over to Poulsbo before 8 o'clock. There was nothing left but to go home and wrap myself in comfort.

I never did see what parking sign I was guilty of violating, but apparently that "no parking from 4 to 6" stuff is taken seriously.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Top o' the Year To Ya!

Since I've blogged so many movie reviews this year, you'd think coming up with my own top 10 list would be a snap. But the difficulties are twofold. One, I don't like comparing across genres... or feeling the need to represent all genres in a given list. Two, I'm not sure there were 10 great films released last year. Nevertheless, I'll attempt to do just what I hate... Issue forth a meaningless list of my favorite films of the last year.

I started the process with this list of better than average movies released in 2005: The Squid and the Whale, Serenity, Brokeback Mountain, Roll Bounce, Capote, King Kong, Good Night and Good Luck, Walk the Line, Howl's Moving Castle, 2046, Aeon Flux, Batman Begins, Broken Flowers, Constantine, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Look at Me, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Millions, Mirror Mask, Nobody Knows, Walk the Line, Kingdom of Heaven, Crash, Sin City, Unleashed, Match Point and The Constant Gardener.

Then I started whittling away. Capote may well be the best picture of the year, but I wouldn't know because I didn't see it. Therefore, in good conscious, I cannot include it. Same goes for Woody's new film Match Point. Walk the Line, as impressive as Joaquin Phoenix is, just seems too formulaic. Mirror Mask, though creative as hell, never gelled for me. Unleashed and Kingdom of Heaven are undone by the gratuitous violence propping up their pacifistic claims. Too much hypocrisy. Aeon Flux, Batman Begins, King Kong, Sin City and Constantine all have fantastic visuals and are just deep enough to be interesting... but they don't quite make the grade as excellent movies. Nobody Knows and Good Night and Good Luck are too serious. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is too silly. See how this works? You just eliminate films that are "too" anything.

So here I am... left with:
10 Roll Bounce (Feel-goodest movie of the year)
9 Serenity (I laughed, I cried, I got resolution on 15 episodes worth of story arcs)
8 Look at Me (Poignant French film)
7 2046 (Beautiful to watch and effectively depressing)
6 Millions (Irresistible)
5 You and Me and Everyone We Know (Quirky scores many points with me)
4 Brokeback Mountain (Important)
3 The Constant Gardener (More important)
2 Howl's Moving Castle (Absolutely fabulous... makes me wish I had a daughter.)
1 The Squid and the Whale (Small, interpersonal conflict film does everything right.)

That's my list. If you're gonna argue with it, then justify your own top 10 first! _Cinema

I also apologize for skipping any reference to: Downfall, Hustle & Flow, 40 Year Old Virgin, Jesus is Magic, Corpse Bride, Wallace & Grommit, Grizzly Man and Murderball. I wasn't able to see any of these during the year either.

And, just for kicks, here's the worst (that I actually saw) of 2005 list:
1 Fantastic Four
2 Elektra
3 Coach Carter
4 Gunner Palace
5 Land of the Dead
6 Madagascar
7 Proof
8 StarWars III
9 A Dirty Shame
10 Crash

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Musical Trivia

Check out the lastest on the rotating play station. It's a tune by the electro-lounge act, The Dining Rooms. As the vocalist trots out his list of names, I marvel at his elocution. What a wonderful voice he has. It's also a fun way to test how much "culcha" ya got. So... how many allusions were you familiar with? _Music

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