PBW: Day at the Bleak

I have a friend who maintains an online album of food dishes, resulting in many a young woman inviting herself over for dinner. He recently suggested that a lot of my photos in the woods are “lonely and depressing” rather than artistic, and I’d be hard pressed to defend this week’s Photo Blog Wednesday. I definitely need to find some cheerier subject matter in the future, but it has been raining nonstop for three days, not just outside but in my office. My drop ceiling is going to collapse, if it hasn’t already. I don’t know, maybe once my dad’s health issues are resolved, I’ll take a real vacation(yeah, right). Meanwhile, I did make it to the beach this past weekend, once I realized the portable DVD player I bought over a year ago came with an adaptor that let me plug it in to my car. So I enjoyed a movie as the rain fell, and when it let up for a bit, I got out and took some pictures, before precipitation inevitably returned and I got back in the car to finish my movie. Brighter days are ahead, just not this week:



Phantasmic Links 3.30.10

This week's PHANTASMIC LINKS are a day late, but after a personal record 2,000 consecutive daily posts, I think I had a good reason to bump them. The nice round number of 2,000 kept me blogging well past the point where I was running out of both ideas and readers, and now that I'm here I'm not sure where to go next. If yesterday wasn't some elaborate ruse, I don't have many other surprises or revelations left to keep people interested. Nothing is definite, but chances are I'll end on an even 6 “seasons” this October. I may change my mind before then and decide 2,500 or 3,000 sound like nice goals. Personal matters like the outcome of my father's heart surgery in less than two weeks, now scheduled for April 9th, may also affect my presence online. I've been working toward a goal, and I'm now in that murky unknown territory beyond reaching that goal. Do I quit while I'm ahead? Do I keep doing the same thing? Do I find some way to make it all fresh and new again? Do I shift my priorities back to “real life”? I honestly don't have the answers to any of these questions at this time, but I thank you all for staying with me this far, and those of you who will stay on until the end, whenever that might be.

For now, I'll stick with what I know:

(1) This Tron Legacy viral campaign quiz tests your knowledge of video games through the years with some clever visual puns. How many can you name?
Hat Tip: Krispy.

(2) Being the President of the United States allows one the privelege of seeing many, many awesome things. My geek envy is high right now.

(3) Chris Sims reviews Lady Death, one of the worst animated comic book adaptations ever.
(I take some pride in the fact that, as a result of my own 2004 review of the movie, the phrase ”demon lesbian consorts” still results in my site coming up first in a Google Search. I've accomplished great things here, lo these past 5.5 years....)

(4) For anyone who ever yelled “DON'T GO IN THE BASEMENT!” while in a movie theater, this new interactive horror movie genre might be just for you.

(5) An artist faces the toughest client of all: his little girl.
H.T.: Curt.

(6) That which has been seen...cannot be unseen. From remarkable parallels to shocking things hidden in cartoons, you will never look at these things the same way again....

(7) Apparently, you should not wash clothes with gasoline. Who knew?

(8) Here are Five Superhero Movies that Should (but never will) Be Made. I sense a list of my own in the near future....

(9) Holy contrivances! Check out some of Batman's Goofiest Gadgets!

(10) Finally, un-jangle your nerves with NerveJangla and see how quickly you can solve 30 nerve-jangling puzzles....

Have a link to a game, movie, article, or anything else you think might be “phantasmic”? E-mail me and it just might appear in an upcoming PHANTASMIC LINKS!



POST #2000!!!!!

How you doin'?

I've grown so much in the past 2000 consecutive days....it's been quite a journey for all of us.

Regular posting resumes tomorrow...?

Labels: ,


WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 36

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 36th WWW:

1) Dragonball: Evolution:
I honestly don't know why I rented this movie. I was never a fan of the cartoons it was based upon, and only had a cursory knowledge of what it was all about. There are these orbs, and these people with spiky black hair that turns blonde when they power up from the orbs, going into something called a “Super Saiiyan” mode. And that was more or less the extent of my knowledge of the Dragonball franchise, beyond the names of a few characters. I'd occasionally catch the end credits of one of the cartoons, which was just the main guy Goku jogging on the back of a dragon. All in all, I probably didn't have enough knowledge of the story to see how badly the film screwed things up, and yet for a long hour and twenty-four minutes I couldn't escape the sense that they had everything wrong. The acting was terrible. The kid playing Goku, an Asian character, was caucasian(although his grandfather was Asian, as was the baby that played his character in a flashback). One character inexplicably turns out to be a were-ape that terrorized the world 2,000 years before he was born. A bike folds up and fits in a girl's back pocket. The story appears to take place in Asia but the kid goes to an American high school. Drawing blood allows one character to change her appearance to look like another. Absolutely nothing made sense. The story was very simplified and probably aimed at a younger audience, and I couldn't fathom what an actor of Chow Yun-Fat's caliber was doing here. I think they were all trying to act like they were in the cartoon, but animé doesn't translate well to live action. I had heard the movie was bad, so I have no one to blame but myself. I was hoping James Marsters might be good, but he was so unrecognizable in green alien make-up that anyone could have filled the role. He kind of reminded me of Frank Langella as Skeletor in that awful Masters of the Universe film. So there's a fair comparison, even though MOTU at least is entertainingly bad enough to attain a cult status on par with Flash Gordon. I don't see that happening with this Dragonball movie. Ever. Sometimes, I wonder if I rent bad movies because they're so easy to review. There must be some explanation...

2) Jennifer's Body:
Horror fans should absolutely love this film, and as desensitized as I've become to some things, even I got squeamish at a few scenes. Megan Fox basically plays a shallow, materialistic version of herself as a slutty cheerleader, while Amanda Seyfried plays her unlikely bookish friend. They were childhood friends, and despite becoming very different people socially by high school, “sandbox love never dies”, according to Seyfried's character. But then something happens, which I won't spoil here, that causes Megan Fox's titular character to get possessed by a demon, that can only sustain itself by consuming human flesh. She's the perfect predator really, as no teenage boy can resist being lured somewhere alone by someone that looks like Megan Fox, only to be devoured moments later when she sprouts razor sharp teeth. Seyfried, whom I'd never seen before this film, shines as the awkward but sweet, intellectual heroine figuring out that there's something very, very wrong with her best friend. Fox delivers some very funny lines and unique colloquialisms, thanks to the inimitable style of writer Diablo Cody. Adam Brody does a great job as the amoral leader of an emo band willing to make an offering to Satan in exchange for wealth and fame. It's a great metaphor for the changes we go through in high school, and how the bonds of friendship might change when we transition from the people we were to the people we're going to be. The film maintains a good balance between teen comedy and horror, and might become the Heathers of its generation. It has a very dark ending, that is somehow a feel-good ending as well, which is hard to explain. I had a sinister smile on my face as the ideal song rolled over the end credits, especially when a few more artistic scenes of vengeful justice appeared. This film won't be for everyone. Cody's Juno fans might not get past the gore, and gore fans might not get past the teen angst and emotional components of the film. Those who like both though, will find the film to be great.

3) Orphan:
“There's something wrong with Esther.” I thought I knew what to expect going in to this film. I had been underwhelmed by The Omen, and I wasn't in the mood for yet another evil demon child movie. Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard play young parents who have been through a terrible loss. They have two children, a healthy boy and a younger daughter who is healthy other than being mostly deaf. A third died in the womb, and nightmares still plague Farmiga's character, who also struggles with alcoholism. They decide to adopt another child, and welcome a precocious Russian girl into their hearts and homes. Isabelle Fuhrman does a phenomenal job in the role of Esther, pulling off some subtleties in her performance that make the twist at the end that much more satisfying and awesome. Once I figured out where this movie was going, I was glued to the screen to see how it would play out. Farmiga and Sarsgaard have great chemistry and a few steamy scenes, and the other young actors playing their kids do a great job as well. They react very realistically to the things Esther says and does, and find themselves in situations children wouldn't know how to handle. I recommend seeing this film without reading too much about it. All I really knew going in was that there was some kind of twist, and my own preconceptions from the trailer, which turned out to be very wrong. The root of true horror is psychological, and this one is all about ****ing with people's minds.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



Poll of Randomosity Sixteen

What's this? Another Poll of Randomosity? Let's celebrate this sweet SIXTEENTH set of TEN random questions for us to answer together:

1) How do you pose when having your picture taken?

2) Do you know what you're finally going to see on Monday?

3) How do you feel about modern medicine?

4) What was your last weird dream?

5) How much do you use your cell phone to go online or send text messages?

6) Are you a big caffeine junkie?

7) Is it better to look good or to feel good?

8) Does watching television mean a person doesn't have a life?

9) How do you take criticism?

10) Don't you hate pants?

For me, the answers are:

1) I never know what to do with my hands; if they're not in my pockets, then my arms are usually folded.

2) I've already seen it, so yes. It will be new for some of you, though.

3) It's saved my life a few times, and I hope it gets better and better by the time I'm a senior citizen and facing some of the problems my dad is facing. Though worried, I have been taking some solace in the consistent assurances from friends and family that bypass surgery isn't as bad as it used to be even a decade ago. Part of me wishes the doctors would set a date for the surgery already, while another part is glad for this time in case anything goes wrong....

4) Two mornings ago, a dream in which I was the one whose doctors were walking me through what to expect from my bypass surgery morphed in to me alone in an abandoned hospital, slowly cutting off my rotting left hand with a dull pair of scissors. Either I was a zombie in the dream or used a local anesthetic, because I didn't feel anything and might as well have been pulling apart a steak. Even typing this out now is giving me phantom pains in that wrist.

5) It's not included in my plan, and the data charges were steep the few times I did go online out of curiosity, or necessity such as being on a train or on a trip away from my home computer. Somehow, I still incurred charges last month even though I didn't think I had any data usage. Sometimes when I open the phone it looks like it's online, so I may be hitting some button accidentally.

6) I didn't used to be, but free coffee in the office got me in a bad habit. Worse, I go for it near the end of the day when I'm running low on energy. Time was, I'd just perk up from running at the gym after work, but I've been in a bad 4:30 PM coffee habit, which keeps me awake much later, and leaves me more tired the following morning.

7) I may never know.

8) I know plenty of people who watch a lot of the same programs with the same level of attention that I do, and they still manage to have spouses, children, and lives when they're not unwinding in front of the idiot box. I probably watch a lot more shows than they do, and if I did so to the absolute exclusion of any social life then it would be a problem. In the digital age, I find myself less concerned about getting home in time to catch a show, since I can always watch online or wait for the DVD.

9) As a challenge to be better.

10) ”These things are driving me nuts!”

And you, my loyal readers? Where do you stand on these inquiries?



My Worst Movie Line Five

The great scripts of the world contain some of the most memorable and oft-quoted lines in movie in television history. You use them at parties, or in casual conversation around the office. Of course, a really bad bit of dialogue is just as easily seared in to the brain, leaving you wondering what the heck the writers were thinking. These are My Five worst lines on any screen, big or small:

1) “I Can't Bring Nathan Back, Peter. But I Can Sure as Hell Swing a Sledgehammer.”-Sylar(Heroes):
Sylar was once a force to be reckoned with on the show, a serial killer who gained the superhuman abilities of others by cutting open skulls and studying brains, instantly understanding through his own ability how to manifest that of his victim. With each new power in his arsenal, it got to a point where he was too powerful and they had to find ways to keep the popular villain on the show without any of our heroes killing him, or vice versa. By the end of the fourth season, he was trapped in the mental plane of his own mind by Matt Parkman, who hoped his psychic ability could imprison the nigh immortal antagonist forever. Peter Petrelli, who can take on the ability of another superpowered being, used Matt's ability to try and free Sylar, because he needed his help to stop a larger threat. Sylar had killed Peter's brother Nathan, so it wasn't an easy decision for Peter, at least not until Sylar said that ridiculous line, picked up a hammer, and joined Peter in trying to break down the very obvious mental block represented by a brick wall. I don't know which was worse; the line or the fact that Peter just nods and accepts it as an apology as they team up to defeat the wall.

2) “Do you know what happens to a Toad when it's struck by lightning? The same thing that happens to everything else.”-Storm(X-Men):
When fans make a case against Halle Berry's portrayal of the character, 99.9% of the time this nonsensical line, uttered before she dispenses with Ray Park's Toad, is Exhibit A. Her performance didn't get any better in the sequels, but for the most part her lines didn't get much worse. It's definitely the low point in an otherwise awesome first film. Listen and see for yourself.

3) “Did I do that?”-Steve Urkel(Family Matters):
Shut up, Urkel. Just. Shut. Up.

4) “But I was going in to Tosche Station to pick up some power converters!”-Luke Skywalker(Star Wars®):
Put down those lightsabers, Star Wars® fans; I'm one of you, and I can explain. It's not the line so much as how he says it. And I understand that, at this point in the saga Luke is supposed to still be a young, whiny bitch. So kudos to Mark Hamill's portrayal, especially for maturing him through the trilogy as he eventually became a serious Jedi master. I guess maybe he did too good of a job, because you definitely want to smack his character at that point in the film.

5) “What killed the dinosaurs? The Ice Age!”-Mr. Freeze(Batman & Robin):
I just picked one of his corny lines at random, because really they all stank in that ****ing movie(“Ice to see you!”, “If revenge is a dish best served cold, then put on your Sunday finest. It's time to feast!”, etc.). If that was any indication of where Schwarzenegger's career was going, then it's a good thing he went into politics. I'd love to hear him debate global warming with Al Gore some time using dialogue from that film. That would actually be kind of awesome....

I'm sure you can think of worse; go for it....



Two Men on an Island

Two men sit on the beach of a very unusual island. One man wears white and goes by the name of Jacob. The other, dressed in black, never gives his name. No one knows how long they've been on this island, but given the ruins of a giant four-toed statue resembling Set, and other Egyptian symbols and artifacts found on the island, perhaps they've been there for thousands of years.

Each claims the other to be evil. Jacob lives in the base of the statue of a god of storms and chaos. The man in black alternately wears the form of a dead man, or drifts around as a cloud of black smoke with a raging electrical storm inside. As the smoke he usually uproots trees and crushes people, tossing them around like ragdolls. On a few occasions, he seems to scan their memories, and for some reason, spare them. The one thing those he's spared all have in common is faith, be it in some religion or the island itself, but there's always something in them the smoke can manipulate. The smoke man behaves like the traditional Christian devil, making promises and tempting people. All he wants to do is leave the island.

Jacob behaves like both a prison guard and the Christian God. He does not interfere, at least not directly. He keeps the smoke on the island, and brings people there to prove to the smoke that man is good. He allows people to exercise free will and make their own choices, and more often than not they make the right ones. Making the right choice does not always mean they survive. Many have died, either from a direct attack from the smoke or some other tragedy or selfless sacrifice. But Jacob maintains that the smoke is pure evil, and that the island is like the cork on a bottle of wine, keeping the evil in, keeping it from the rest of the world. The smoke, due to some unexplained rules, cannot kill Jacob. It keeps trying to get others to do it, using some ritualistic knife. It claims Jacob is the reason it has no true body of its own. If Jacob is Set or a representation of Set, is the smoke Anubis, Set's son in some ancient accounts and the god of the afterlife? Or is the reason the smoke has no form is because it is a part of Jacob, two sides of the same coin, the dark side of a Backgammon piece? Is Jacob one being split into his good and evil sides?

The cycle continues. In the 1800s, Jacob apparently conjures a storm which brings a slave ship known as The Black Rock to the island, smashing his statue in the process. The captain, Magnus Hanso, and many men are killed in the crash. Jonas Whitfield, one of the surviving slave traders, proceeds to kill the slaves chained below deck, so they won't turn on him later. The smoke appears, and kills Whitfield and the rest of the crew, but spares the last slave, Ricardo Alpert, after scanning him. Alpert had accidentally killed a doctor while trying to procure medicine for his dying wife, and had been sold in to slavery by a corrupt priest who refused to grant the devout Spanish Catholic absolution for murder, even an accidental one for which he was repentant. Feeling great guilt, Alpert wasn't entirely sure the island wasn't hell.

Eventually the smoke, in the form of the man in black, freed Alpert, and sent him to kill Jacob, promising he'd see his dead wife again if he did so. Jacob bested Alpert, disarming him of the ritualistic dagger he had been given, and convinced him they weren't dead or in hell by dipping him in the ocean four times, a sequence with strong baptismal overtones. Indeed, Alpert was reborn in that moment and subsequently granted eternal life by Jacob. Over the years Alpert, eventually known as Richard(though Jacob would call him “Ricardus”), would serve as an intermediary between Jacob and those who came to the island. In the 1970s, an organization known as the Hanso Foundation(note the family name of the Black Rock captain in there) would fund the Dharma Initiative, and a series of research stations would be set up to study the electromagnetic energy beneath the island and other strange phenomena. These newcomers would clash with the “native” people, Richard and the Others who were there before them. In 1992, Ben Linus of the Dharma Initiative turned on his own people after growing up on the island, and sided with Richard. Ben led a great purge and killed everyone with poison gas, usurping their position.

In 2004, Oceanic Airlines flight 815 is torn asunder after the electromagnetic forces on the island are unleashed when Desmond Hume, a man in one of the key Dharma stations, fails to enter a certain sequence of numbers and press a button. The survivors are diverse, and many of their paths seem to have overlapped in some way before all ending up on that same fateful flight. Many of their names appear on a list given to Ben Linus from Jacob through Richard, though Linus does not know the list indicates those individuals as candidates to replace Jacob in keeping the smoke trapped on the island. Eventually, after enduring conflicts with the natives and the smoke and other hardships, a small group of eight escape on a helicopter while the island is dislodged in time. It was Ben who turned a wheel which dislodged the island, and later John Locke who stabilized it. This left several of the 815 trapped on the island in the 1970s, where they assimilated in to the Dharma initiative. Three years later, several of their friends who had escaped the island would return on another plane, and find themselves transported back to the ‘70s as well. Hoping to change the future, Dr. Jack Shephard, the generally accepted leader of the 815ers, and candidate #23 to replace Jacob, formulated a plan to stop their plane from ever crashing by having a nuclear warhead detonated at the construction site of the station which brought them down. The resulting explosion seemed to only send them back to their present of 2007, where nothing had changed. Even worse, the smoke in the guise of John Locke convinced Ben to stab Jacob, seemingly breaking the cycle of captor and captive. Ben had murdered the real Locke and brought his body back to the island, thinking he had come back to life when he saw the smoke in its disguise.

All may not be as it seems. Jacob still appears to Hugo “Hurley” Reyes, a man who can see ghosts for some reason. And in some sideways parallel timeline, we see how events would have played out if, perhaps as a result of that nuke going off in 1977, the island was on the bottom of the ocean and 815 didn't crash. The plane not crashing would not be the only thing changed by the butterfly effect, and if the island was indeed the cork trapping the pure evil of the smoke, then the evil is free and unleashed on the world in that timeline. Many of the people on that flight still cross paths, despite leading very different lives with changed careers or families. Even people from the island have roles in their new reality, so even though it's a new tapestry it's made with the same threads, just interwoven differently. For some, life seems to be happier, the ideal they always wanted. For others, the same demons still haunt them, and the same rewards still elude them. Life in the new version of 2004 seems to parallel life in the unchanged 2007, and decisions one version of a person might make will echo those of his or her counterpart in the other reality.

The man in white had his newly recruited Richard give the man in black a white stone. Not long after, Jacob visited the man in black in person, and gave him another gift to pass the time and prod his captive, a corked bottle of wine. After Jacob departed, the man in black smashed that bottle on a log. Does this symbolize the loophole of the new reality? Can two divergent paths coexist, or are they destined to collide? With Jacob seemingly out of the picture and no candidate chosen to replace him, will the smoke now escape? Are you as LOST as I am, or are you simply lost?

Don't worry, folks. There are only seven episodes left to figure this all out. With answers coming faster and more furious, many of us are theory-crazed. Truth be told, we've been theory-crazed for six years even when we had the barest snippets of information. Now that most of the blanks have been filled in, we're getting a more accurate picture of what it's all about. Even so, we're probably wrong. I remember a few seasons ago when I thought the smoke was a cluster of nanobots, and the electricity was its power signature when it was scanning a person’s memories, what we the audience would see as a flashback. When we found out a sonic fence could repel the smoke, I thought it lent credence to my theory. Then the show took a more supernatural turn, with a circle of ashes keeping out the smoke. And with all the mythological and religious symbolism cropping up, the explanation is seeming less and less scientific(although Dharma projects did include things like longevity, healing, and other things attributed to Jacob). And I can't help but wonder if it's all as clear cut as one good being and one evil being. Mark Pellegrino, who portrays Jacob, has also portrayed the human host of Lucifer on Supernatural. Maybe he's the evil one. Maybe they're both evil. Maybe they're beyond good and evil, and more like ancient Greek or Roman deities who competed with each other and played with mortals for sport, to alleviate their boredom. Whatever it is, I hope they can address as much as possible in the next two months. Then I can get on with my life.

It's either that or move on to obsessing over FlashForward....


PBW: Spring at Last

I hope, at the risk of jinxing myself, that I’m done shoveling snow until the end of the year. This past weekend saw some clear sunny days, absolutely beautiful weather in which the first crocuses popped their heads up as if to say, “What’s up, Photo Blog Wednesday?”



MCF's Old School 100: Part V

MCF's Old School 100 is a list of 100 memorable things from my past, things that take me back to the good old, old school days of my life. For a little over a month I've been compiling this list, and I could probably put this list on this list at some point. Maybe it will be number one on my next list in 30 years; I should have enough to finish this one now:

81) Shrinky Dinks.

82) Colorforms.

83) Playmobil.

84) LEGO®.

85) Recording my favorite songs off the radio and making my own mix tapes, often “DJ”-ing and doing little skits and introductions between songs.

86) Climbing trees.

87) Learning to ride a bike with training wheels.

88) Riding my bike everywhere in the days before those dopey helmets and not riding on the sidewalk became mandatory.

89) Riding on a scooter that was as wide as any skateboard and had tires that were a little over 6 inches in diameter.

90) Handing wrenches to my dad while he fixed a car, instead of vice versa.

91) McGruff taking a bite out of crime.

92) ”Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?”

93) My Buddy & Kid Sister.

94) Crispy Critters “INDUBITABLY!”

95) Playing with blocks, just plain old painted wooden cubes with letters of the alphabet etched on them.

96) Walking up to a television set to change the channel using one of two dials, setting the VHF dial to “U” when I wanted to use the second UHF dial to get other, fuzzier channels higher than channel 13.

97) Having one doctor as a general practitioner who took care of everything, instead of a system of specialists that requires you to go to someone different for every ailment.

98) Those playground structures that looked like giant hollow blue mushrooms or hamburger buns with holes in them.

99) Running through the sprinkler on a hot Summer day. By sprinkler I don't mean anything fancy, just this little metal thing on wheels that screwed on to the end of the hose, and had three prongs that had little holes in them for water to escape, and would spin with the water pressure.

100) A themed metal lunchbox with a matching plastic thermos inside. My Marvel Superheroes one, which I still have, was of course my favorite, and the one that taught me the names of those characters.



Phantasmic Links 3.22.10

I'm tired, but it's a good kind of tired. The weather was perfect on Saturday when I played for the feast of San Giuseppe, and I enjoyed both wine and special pastries, a Zeppole known as a “Sfinge” which is basically a sweet roll with a canoli filling. SO good. On Sunday, I caught Alice in Wonderland in 3D, which was of course amazing. 2D movies are going to start looking so flat to me now. I got a lot of other things done this weekend too, and though I'm exhausted, I'm using my last erg of energy to share some PHANTASMIC LINKS with my people:

(1) NASA takes us inside a real alien ant farm.

(2) Banana Phone returns with a vengeance. As you can imagine, it's not pretty....

(3) Behold the sheer bricky awesomeness of LEGO®'s underground vault. I want to go to there.
Hat Tip: J-No.

(4) The real-life invisibility cloak is coming along nicely....

(5) If it were real, I totally would have collected a Batman and L'il Preacher crossover.

(6) ”GIMME BACK MA SON!!!”...remixed....

(7) ROBOT wants KITTY! With your help, and prowess in collecting upgrades, I think Robot's going to get Kitty....

(8) The Happy Meal: Timeless, and gross in its timelessness.

(9) This may be the greatest spoof yet of the recent Avengers ad campaign. I think I'd actually read a book about that team(although McCain would probably be more useful in battle...I'm just saying....)

(10) In Condition, a space station is out of control and gelatinous creatures are running amok. Only you can make your way through the station, defeat the bad guys, and save everyone on board.

Have a link to a game, movie, article, or anything else you think might be “phantasmic”? E-mail me and it just might appear in an upcoming PHANTASMIC LINKS!



WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 35

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 35th WWW:

1) A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon:
The one thing I remembered about this late ‘80s teen movie is that the title had the unfortunate side effect of causing all the kids in my middle school band to call our teacher “Jimmy”, a familiarity we probably wouldn't have taken on had he not shared a name with a movie character. In any case, over the years I figured its protagonist was some less popular Ferris Beuller that never gained the same cult status. So when I finally saw the movie this week after all these years, I found that wasn't the case at all. Sure, Jimmy has a way with the ladies in the film, at least every one except the one he seems to truly care about, but he's not as together or sure as Ferris. He comes from a working class 1950s family, but thanks to his father's hard work, he grew up going to school with rich kids. Faced with the dilemma of going off to business school while his friends go off to real universities, Jimmy is as out-of-control as any teenager, fueled by his hormones and his emotions. Even when he tries to help his buddy(a ridiculously young Matthew Perry) get a girl, his own charisma and libido get in the way. When he drives his mother's friend home, he lingers far too long, giving in to temptation and widening the gap between him and his girlfriend. And as cool and collected as he seems with his beatnik poetry and quick wit, we gradually see that Jimmy knows less than those around him. He's not the manipulator; that's just what those manipulating him want him to think, and it gets him in trouble more than once. It's a coming of age story, a reckless journey of self-discovery as he finds out where he's supposed to be, and who he surprisingly has the most in common with. This was one of the late River Phoenix' earliest theatrical films, and only hints at his potential. Other than Perry, other notable stars include Ione Skye and a blink-and-you'll-miss-him appearance by Johnny Galecki as Reardon's kid brother. This won't stand the test of time or attain the cult status of other teen films from that decade, but it's certainly worth seeing at least once.

2) The Time Traveler's Wife:
Eric Bana stars as a man with an unusual genetic anomaly that causes him to leap through time at various points in his own life. He can observe, and even interact, but he can never change things. Or perhaps he already has, since his visits to his future wife through the years since she was a little girl almost guaranteed she would fall in love with him when she met him in the present. The “science” behind these leaps isn't dwelled upon, nor the main focus of the film. Rather, it's interesting to see the contrasting perspective of his wife, Rachel McAdams, who experiences things in a linear fashion, against Bana's character, who wouldn't have memories of things he hadn't done yet. So when he meets her for the first time, she's already known him her whole life. It is only later in his own life that he first travels back in time to visit her in the past. His trips are usually brief, and completely out of his control. His clothes don't travel with him, but since he seems drawn to certain key times and places, he learns to have clothes lying around just in case. It's a thought-provoking romance that, despite the time travel, isn't too hard to follow. Rather, it raises the question of destiny and true love, and how we'll always be drawn to the people we're meant to be with, in any place, at any time. Time may flow in one direction for us, but certain moments are eternal.

3) Surrogates:
I didn't find this film as bad as people said it was, either because I enjoyed ‘90s sci fi or because I haven't read the graphic novel yet(although it is in my collection somewhere from the days when I designed catalogs selling such things). Perhaps this may be a case of concept versus execution, because while the execution falls a little short, both with some predictable “twists” and a running time that was just under an hour-and-a-half, I did like the concept. In the not too distant future, real human interaction has declined. People don't leave their homes, but rather remote link up to robotic facsimiles of themselves, of their most ideal selves. So we get to see Bruce Willis look like he did back in the days when he kept a full head of hair, and an aged, haggard version of the Bruce we see these days. The whole thing is an overt but good metaphor for the digital age of social networking. We do it with the internet. We put up our best photos, or no photos at all, and there's never any guarantee that the person you're communicating with is who you think she is. The film(and presumably comic) take this to the next level with walking, talking almost-real stand-ins. A small percentage of the population remains natural, lives out in the world, and opposes this new, artificial society. Mankind lives without consequences. Robots can't catch diseases from one another, and the user faces no danger of death. Society becomes decadent, but the feeling of immortality is removed once someone unleashes a weapon that not only takes out a surrogate, but sends feedback that fries the user as well. It had potential and the notion that our world could go this route isn't that far-fetched, but I really do need to check the source material, and see how it compares.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



Lot in Life

I like things I can control and predict. I like setting goals, making lists, and checking things off of those lists. I do it with work. I do it with movies. I do it with my weekends. There's a certain order to tasks that I find safe, and I'll choose predictable over unpredictable every time. Lord knows life throws us surprises every day, whether we avoid them or not.

I'm still taking off on Monday, even though my dad's surgery got postponed. We're all a little frustrated with some of the reasoning. I can understand needing to meet with a vascular surgeon before having the carotid artery procedure, but after he meets with that doctor on Tuesday, the only other obstacle is the heart surgeon, who's going on vacation and won't be available until mid-April. At that point, my dad will need x-rays and echo cardiograms and all the other pre-surgical tests all over again. We can't understand how this surgeon went from telling my dad he had five months to live and shouldn't wait, to saying he'll do it when he's back from vacation. Obviously, they're considering different doctors now. I'm being objective about it, and reasoning that when the surgeon originally wanted to go in a few weeks ago, he didn't have the additional information about the blocked carotid artery, which changed his assessment. And I recognize he has other patients as well as the need for a vacation. Just because I don't take vacations, or stay late to compensate for days I do take off, doesn't mean I begrudge anyone else from taking a break. I'd rather this guy be fresh and rested than stitching my dad up in a hurry so he can make a flight. It's just hard to be objective when the life of someone you care about is at stake.

We all get busy, and we all get distracted. My dad asked me to check on his lot this week, a small strip of property with a garage and a driveway near my office that belonged to my grandfather until he passed away, at which point my dad's lovely sisters sued him for the property and the family house. They got the house; he managed to keep the lot, and we've taken care of it ever since. It borders on residential property on the right and the back sides, a street in the front, and a warehouse on the left. The warehouse changed owners a few years ago, and the new owner has been letting his fence slowly crumble, arguing that we need to fix it, even though it faces his property, is anchored on his property, and was put up by his predecessor. So neither party has done anything while wood slats rot, and whole panels lean in.

So, with everything I've had on my plate in my personal and professional life, I just didn't get there this week. We haven't been there since before the Winter, but left it in good shape except for that fence. I'm particularly proud of how I've squared off the once unruly front hedge, towering over a stone wall my grandfather built. The lawn is nice and even, and overall that LAND is SCAPED like I'm a professional. After two or three months of major snow storms and rain, anything was possible. Fortunately, one of my coworkers lives on that street and stopped by my office on Friday morning, to let me know the fence had fallen over and, worse, the gate to our driveway was wide open. He thought maybe the plows had pushed it. I had other ideas, considering we found evidence of a party in the form of beer bottles and other litter a few years back.

Due to interruptions and my own inimitable short attention span, I didn't get done half the things on my list, and coffee or no coffee, I wasn't inclined to work past 7 PM on a Friday night. With the sun about to set, I wanted to check on the lot before hitting the gym. Sure enough, our driveway gate was open, but very deliberately. Someone had clearly opened the latch and removed a metal ground post that holds both gates shut. Also, the gate to the lot portion of the property was blocked by a supermarket shopping cart. I left it for now, because it probably was used by one of the denizens of the apartment building across the street. Also, the supermarket was a mile away. I couldn't put it on someone else's property, and I wasn't about to return it to the supermarket myself. My first priority was checking on that fence.

I propped things up as best as I could, hammering in some posts with a piece of metal. It will hold up until the next strong wind, which is probably early next week. I'll have to go back with proper tools, and I suspect the gate was open because the warehouse guys had tried to fix the fence at some point during the Winter. There was evidence, like a single discarded work glove in our driveway. I don't mind that they trespassed to fix the fence; they would need to work from both sides. And if neither of us is going to buy a new one, I don't mind it being propped up. I even understand that the quick fix didn't withstand the last storm we had. What I don't like is that they left the entrance gate wide open like that.

Sooner or later, I'm going to inherit that property. Despite everything that my dad is going through right now, I'm praying and hoping for later. But I do need to take on the responsibility now, and give him less to worry about, and since I work ten minutes from there I have no excuse to not do a drive by at least once or twice a week. I'll have to thank that guy at work again for giving me the head's-up about the problem. Even though my dad was worried and asked me to check since we hadn't been over there in so long, I was definitely on the road to forget. Life gives us new responsibilities every day, and we always take on that which those before us shouldered. The checklist always gets longer, but once something new is added, it becomes part of the routine very quickly. The unfamiliar becomes familiar, and we soon forget a time when the new item wasn't on the list. It's no wonder the days and weeks seem shorter all the time. Time is fixed; it's our lot in life that grows larger than the time we have allotted. There will always be something left to do the next day, and the reality is that we'll never get everything done. All we can do, is do the most we can in the time we have, and live with not doing the rest.


My 2010 Anticipated Movie Five

No matter what this year brings, no matter what any year brings, there are always a few movies I get excited about. 2009 started off strong with movies like Watchmen and Star Trek, let me down a few times during the Summer with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, then redeemed itself with the likes of Inglourious Basterds and District 9. I can't predict what 2010 will be like, but I'm looking forward to a few, and these are My Five most anticipated movies:

1) Iron Man 2:

2) Hot Tub Time Machine:

3) Kick-Ass:

4) Toy Story 3:

5) Tron Legacy:

What are you looking forward to?



Heart Strung

”Did you put in to take off Monday?”

“Yeah, of course! Why?”

When I got home from work on Wednesday evening, I wasn't sure why my dad was asking me a question for which he already knew the answer. I told him I was taking off. I knew his heart surgery was all scheduled, and that he needed to be at the hospital at 6 AM. I was mentally and emotionally prepared for a long day, and I was trying not to think about the worst. At times he had told me I didn't need to take off, that if he was going to “kick the bucket” I wouldn't be able to do anything to change that, but I really don't know if I could have focused on my work, and I certainly wasn't going to leave my mom alone in a waiting room for three or four hours.

As it turns out, the reason he was asking was because his surgery was postponed. I couldn't believe my ears. After telling a man he had five months to live if they didn't act, after the surgeon was ready to do the operation two weeks ago when an angioplasty failed, now they were going to wait until April 13th. At least that's not a Friday. I couldn't understand. Wasn't this an urgent matter? Apparently, the doctors thought otherwise. Apparently, for insurance reasons, he needs to make an office visit to the surgeon who would be working on his carotid artery. He was all set with the heart surgeon, but then they determined that he needed this other procedure done at the same time as his bypass and heart valve operation, and after getting a scan on Tuesday that confirmed for sure that the carotid artery was 70% blocked, he found out he needed to make an appointment with this other surgeon first.

I'm very confused and bewildered, as I'm sure the old man is. When I reminded him about the five month thing, he told me that he now had 30 days--! After speaking with my mom, she cleared that part up. He's had all these presurgical x-rays and scans done, and he has 30 days for doctors to act on those test results. After 30 days, he would be required to go through all those tests again before the surgeons could act. So now he's going to meet the carotid guy next Tuesday, and then in a few weeks when the heart surgeon gets back from his vacation they're going to fix my father. We hope. April 13th will actually be past those 30 days, so they're trying to get in there sooner. So we don't actually know when it's happening, just not next Monday.

It's a little annoying and frustrating. I can't say that I'll ever be prepared to lose one of my parents, but I was prepared for the possibility. I didn't tell my boss, but in the back of my mind I wondered if I would be back at work on Tuesday, or if I was going to lose my dad on Monday. If I was thinking that, I'm sure my mom was thinking that. I know my dad was thinking it. Now he's having second thoughts, wondering if it's worth all this trouble to get a few more years instead of a few more months. These doctors are stringing us all along on a tumultuous emotional roller coaster, while we do our best to live our daily lives and routines as though everything around us wasn't being shaken up.

My dad canceled a gig he could have done next weekend because he thought he'd still be in the hospital. I took a vacation day on a day when I had three meetings, which I was sticking with one of my friends. Now I don't know whether to go in anyway, or use the day to do some much needed repairs on my car, which will never pass inspection while that “check engine” light is still on. I probably should go in to work. I don't know yet. I've been writing some posts in advance, anticipating late nights in the hospital. I've been staying late at work and trying to get all of next week's workload finished this week. My mom still hasn't gotten our tax papers together for our accountant, not that I'm ever in a hurry to find out how much I owe. We've all made adjustments to our plans, because this seemed like an important matter that couldn't wait, and suddenly it gets pushed off. Is it not as urgent as we were told? Should my dad even bother to go through with it now? He had talked himself into it, and now may talk himself out of it. And I honestly don't know what is the right play.

I guess in a way this is a reprieve, but in another way it's like pulling a Band-Aid off a hairy arm very, very slowly. It's like getting on a plane that's flying in a holding pattern rather than landing on schedule. I'm too tired to think of any more metaphors right now.

What next?


PBW: Various for a Rainy Day

I managed a lot of camera expeditions throughout the Winter, and the snow not only didn’t stop me, sometimes it enhanced my subject matter. Sooner or later though, a weekend was bound to come along like this past one, when it poured for two solid days and I couldn’t go anywhere to take pictures. But over these past few weeks, there have been photos I’ve taken here and there that didn’t merit a post of their own, and didn’t fit anywhere else. These shots make up this week’s Photo Blog Wednesday:

(You can click those last two cat images to get a larger, 1024x768 desktop-sized image)



MCF's Old School 100: Part IV

I'm still reliving my “old school” days, and with my crazy brain and the occasional friendly reminder(Thanks B13!), MCF's Old School 100 should be complete in another week. Here's another twenty for the list:

61) Highlights for Kids, a stapled staple of any dentist or pediatrician's waiting room. (I was always more Goofus than Gallant.)

62) Dynamite!, the ultimate repository for all pop culture from my childhood.

63) The first generation monochrome Gameboy, and its most addictive game, Tetris.

64) The Disney Afternoon....DuckTales started it all for me and Darkwing Duck was also cool, but Gargoyles rivaled many of my favorite ‘80s cartoons....I wish they could have put that whole series out on DVD.

65) The ‘90s animation renaissance:Batman: The Animated Series. The aforementioned Gargoyles. The Tick. Spider-Man. X-Men. Superman. Big Guy and Rusty. Batman Beyond. It was a good time to be a comic book geek.

66) Mac Tonight, one of the creepiest fast food mascots ever. In Hell, I expect he and the Burger King will fight over my soul....

67) Remember when potato chips first came in stick form? Best elementary school snack EVER.

68) Thriller.

69) Choose Your Own Adventure books. I used to keep my fingers in the pages so I could backtrack to other choice points when I hit dead ends. My favorite was one called “Hyperspace” which included two pages of text that could only be reached by flipping randomly in the book--no other pages would ever direct you there.

70) McGurk mystery books, which first made me want to be a detective, and The Three Investigators, who would reinforce that desire up until middle school, when I got beat up for carrying a magnifying glass around and one of the school security guards told me, “What did you expect?”.

71) Being called in from playing in the neighborhood for dinner. My mom and my friends' mothers would simply open a door or window and shout out our name, and we'd either come running or shout back a futile, “FIVE MORE MINUTES?” In those days, kids didn't have cell phones, so we had to play in earshot. We didn't know it then, but those were good days.

72) The old drive-in movie theater. I regret never actually going to a movie there, but I fondly remember being in the car with my folks as a kid when we'd go shopping and drive past those big screens at night. There's an indoor stadium theater on that site now which is pretty nice, but I imagine it's not the same.

73) The Big Wheel. I used to ride that thing around my basement for hours as it clacked away, imagining I was The Fonz and I was rescuing Pinky Tuscadero or whatever girl I had a crush on in second grade.

74) Wearing baseball caps backwards.

75) Portable basketball hoops with plastic bases that you filled with water to weigh them down.

76) Keepaway. (Why did my mom send me to school in a Winter cap for a pom-pom on the end of it? Those things were like beacons, begging for the hat to be snatched from my head and tossed back and forth between two of the cool kids....)

77) Cartoon machines in malls, outside supermarkets, or in arcades. For a quarter you could watch a few minutes of some old show like Heckle and Jeckle.

78) 75¢ comic books.

79) Keeping money in my sock because my shorts didn't have pockets.

80) Rotary phones. (Up until 5 years ago, my parents still had one in their kitchen...)

The final 20 to come next week!



Phantasmic Links 3.15.10

It rained on my parade in more ways than one this weekend. I couldn't get out to take pictures or work on my car. And though the parade I was supposed to be in on Saturday was still on, my band leader opted to cancel our group. I hope we still get hired back next year after that move, even though part of me was relieved I didn't have to work in the wind and rain. I lost an hour of sleep this weekend too, but there was one bright spot. On Sunday, I finally caught Avatar. Sure, the metaphor is a little heavy-handed at times, and the story borrows from things we've before, but things we've never seen like this. At times, the 3D was so real that I was swatting at flies that were in the movie, and not in the theater. It kind of stinks that they apparently make you buy the $5.00 glasses every time, strongly suggesting you turn them in at the end, but other than that my first 3D theatrical experience was awesome. Even the real world looks 2D to me after that, and certainly PHANTASMIC LINKS won't be as vibrant:

(1) Movie buffs will appreciate honest new titles for this year's Oscar films. Comic geeks will appreciate these renamed comics.

(2) This Academy Award-Winning Movie Trailer reminds me of something, but I don't know what. Follow-up sentence to humorous sarcastic statement, whose meaning will be more apparent after viewing link.
Hat Tip: J-No.

(3) Will Hugo Weaving, Hollywood's go-to villain, become the Red Skull? Or is there an even more obvious choice if John Krasinski becomes Cap?

(4) Now let us flash sideways and see how the lives of the cast of LOST might have differed if they never starred on the show....

(5) Demolition Dude uses his head to take down buildings.

(6) Zoom in and behold the terrifying beauty of insects and spiders under an electron microscope.

(7) Did Sauron draw inspiration from Beyoncé?
H.T.: Curt.

(8) Some of these 5 Second Films are really ****ed up, but it's amazing how much of a story they can tell in so short a time.
H.T.: Krispy.

(9) ”I am Iron Man....I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I am Iron Man!” If you think that trailer remix could give you a seizure, then you probably haven't seen the Cop Out one....

(10) I Was Hungry, But There Were Cannons.

Have a link to a game, movie, article, or anything else you think might be “phantasmic”? E-mail me and it just might appear in an upcoming PHANTASMIC LINKS!



WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 34

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 34th WWW:

1) Naked Lunch:
I like things that are a little weird, odd, and/or disturbing, and David Cronenberg's films certainly fall into that category. And with Naked Lunch, I thought I was in for a true feast of weirdness. Peter Weller portrays an exterminator in the ‘50s who keeps running out of his yellow bug powder because his wife is addicted to it. When the police bring him in for questioning, they leave him alone with a giant talking insect claiming to be from “Interzone”, some weird alternate dimension. The thing was Cronenberg freaky, speaking both through its mandibles and a hairy anus beneath its abdomen's exoskeleton. Now there's a sentence I probably never expected to type. As the film gets weirded and weirder, introducing typewriter bug hybrids and esoteric “Mugwumps” whose Snork-like head tubes ooze narcotic substances, it becomes very clear that this is not a movie about extradimensional invasions and conspiracies, but just a guy on a really bad trip. It's done really well, perhaps too well. I was tired when I started the film, paused it to take a nap for an hour late on Sunday afternoon, and awoke in total darkness from horrible nightmares about giant insects criticizing my work. In the end, I had to do some research to figure out what the hell the point of it all was, and learned it was a semi-biographical account of William S. Burroughs, and how he came by the novel of the same name. Basically, Burroughs realized he never would have become a writer had he not accidentally murdered his wife, a pivotal moment in his life. So the film, told through the eyes of a drug addict, takes us through this disturbing process of confused sexuality, reality, and perverse creativity. Instead of admiring the bizarre, we're left feeling a little dirty. Maybe it was that one scene in which a typewriter sprouts an erection. Perhaps it was seeing Roy Scheider with breasts. I can't put my finger on it, but there was something about this movie that disturbed me greatly. And, given my tastes, that's saying a lot.

2) El Mariachi:
I've seen Desperado about half a dozen times, maybe more, and at least three times in the theater, which is rare for me. It's one of my favorite movies; it's just so ridiculously cool. For some reason, I always thought it was just a remake of El Mariachi with a bigger budget, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that Desperado was a true continuation of a character whose origins lay in the previous film. Robert Rodriguez made this film for $7,000, and while it might show in low quality film and non-professional extras, his signature style, action, and humor show as well. Carlos Gallardo is fitting as the title character, a true musician and innocent until he is mistaken for another man with guns in his guitar case and a score to settle. Our hero quickly finds himself the victim of mistaken identity, but manages to take care of himself and even fall in love. If you've seen Desperado, you know the resulting tragedy that leads this musician to become a true gunslinger. Gallardo had a supporting role in Desperado, but the character he previously portrayed was played by Antonio Banderas, as El Mariachi has attained legendary status, thanks in no small part to tales like the one inimitably spun by Steve Buscemi at the beginning of the sequel. Gallardo is a fresh-faced innocent, while Banderas brought more of a roguish quality to the character. In both films, the line between nightmare and reality is as much a theme as that between reality and legend. Ordinary people put in extraordinary situations will accomplish extraordinary deeds, that will be passed down and exaggerated from generation to generation. But the little things that made the legends human, things like the Mariachi's penchant for soda pop, will always ground them.

3) Ink:
“Tick tock; this man got rocked.” Ink is low budget, but proves that with a compelling story, and good thematic use of even the most basic digital effects, you can make a good movie. It's hard to describe, but basically tells the tale of dreams versus nightmares, with the real world caught in the middle. Ink, a tortured and disfigured soul, wants to be one of the Incubi, a prideful group with creepy screen facades, responsible for giving nightmares to the living. The price of his admission is the sacrifice of Emma, a little girl with great imagination and spirit despite some tragic events in her life. When Ink takes Emma, it's up to the heroic Storytellers from the dream world to save her. But, they'll need the help of her father, a businessman who threw himself into his work after a great loss, and without the ability to directly affect the physical world, they have a major challenge and not a lot of time to overcome it. This is a wonderful modern fairy tale, classic elements blending with heavier concepts such as non-linear perceptions of time and events. There are some truly compelling and interesting characters, such as the pathfinder Jacob, a blind man with black X's taped over his eyes, who perceives more than the others because he can hear the beat of the world. There's humor as well as sadness, and a great emotional score. At any given time, the hue tells us where we are. Normal colors? Real world. Vibrant gold? The realm of dreams. Desaturated tones with a hint of green and a grainy appearance? Welcome to the nightmares. Your brain may get lost piecing together the overlapping realities and different moments in time, but you'll find great satisfaction as you start piecing certain things together, and a great payoff as you learn that you were right about some of your suspicions. Because of the low budget and small distribution, there's great risk of people missing this one. I can draw comparisons to What Dreams May Come or Dark City, but ultimately it's a unique experience that you have to see to fully appreciate it. “It's all about the beat.”

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



Every Day is a New Day

When you're a kid, you go to school most days of the year. When you're an adult, you work. And when you're a senior citizen, you go to the doctor. It seems like that's all my folks do when they aren't going to the supermarket or pharmacy. Every day is a different doctor or new prescription. Occasionally they might switch things up and go to the vet, especially now that we have a blind, aging cat who requires regular steroid shots. It's not easy for any of us to get old, but it still beats the Cobain route.(Or would a Haim reference be more timely?)

With my father's recent problems, he's been to a different doctor almost every day. And every night when I come home from work, it seems like they're finding something else to do. A bypass, potentially a triple one, was supposed to take place on March 22nd. Then they found that his carotid artery was clogged too and might need to be addressed prior to his heart. Then they wanted to do both surgeries at the same time, which sounded insane. But I researched the procedure, called a carotid endarterectomy, and found it was fairly common to be done at the same time as a bypass. A clog in the Carotid, which leads to the brain, can cause a stroke. Before repairing stenosis or clogging to the heart, it is important to have that major artery clear. And studies have shown more success when the surgery is done together.

I found it interesting that dizzy spells are associated with a clogged carotid artery, and may even be mini-strokes. My dad has had a handful of mysterious dizzy spells in the last two or three years, usually in the morning, which resolve by the afternoon. He always speculated it was a reaction to some new medication, which he would immediately stop taking, or perhaps that he'd had more salt than he should have. I've always hated his tendency to stop a medication without consulting his doctor, either because he thought it had a side effect or because he was impatient and assumed it wasn't helping him if there were no immediate results.

So, he has a lot on his plate, but this seems more and more common for people in their 80s. Barbara Bush had her aortic valve replaced last year and thought it was no big deal. Granted, women have a higher pain threshold than men, but she's also a few years older than my dad. And my dad just turned 80, so he's barely an octogenarian. Of course, when I got home on Thursday and learned that he was probably going to have his aortic valve replaced with a mechanical one, I wondered what else they could do to this guy. I do appreciate the idea of cutting a person as few times as possible, and it only makes sense to fix everything that needs fixing while they're in there. I had no problem with a surgeon removing my healthy appendix a few years ago while he was correcting an intestinal birth defect that almost killed me. That was an ordeal I wouldn't want to go through a second time, so if he saved me from the possibility of more abdominal surgery later in life, more power to him.

Friday was the first time I heard somewhat good news. My dad met with yet another specialist from this team planning to rebuild him, to make him stronger. He's scheduled an MRA for next Tuesday, a noninvasive magnetic angiography that will give the clearest picture yet of which arteries are clogged, which are narrow, and how the blood is flowing through them. If things are 90% clogged, then surgery is inevitable, but if they're more in the neighborhood of 70%, he thinks the surgery might not be necessary. Whether that means they still proceed and address the less risky carotid problem first, or explore medical options, I know not. I do feel confident at the idea of finally getting a clear picture of everything in order to plan a strategy, and I can stress to my dad enough to follow doctor's orders to the letter, following what they prescribe and being patient for it to work.

So, life is going on. Work continues to be busier then ever, and I even got tapped by human resources to show a new hire around next week as part of their “buddy” system. I still remember my tour like it was yesterday, but I'm one of the regulars there now. Parade season is starting this weekend too, although if it rains as hard as they predict I hope they cancel this one. I've got my poncho ready just in case, because it wouldn't be the first time I worked in a full downpour. We're just taking things one day at a time, and if my dad finds on Tuesday that he'll need to have those operations on the 22nd, I'll have to miss a few meetings and get some friends to cover for me at work. I'm also trying to work ahead in case I need to be out for more than one day, although it was tough this week since I was covering for someone else already. It does seem like my dad will miss the one gig this month he was going to play, an easy and short indoor one at a catering hall, but the band leader will more than understand when we tell him why. Right now, we're taking each day one at a time, and not planning too far ahead. Who knows what tomorrow will throw at us next?


My Movie Introduction Five

Some movies start of good, but then disappoint. Others get better before the end credits roll. It's a rare few that go down in history as classics, movies that you know from the very introduction will be great. These are My Five favorite movie intros, the scenes that promised I was in for a great ride, and the films which delivered:

1) Batman:
Remember the doubts? Remember when we first heard Tim Burton was going to try a serious, dark and proper gothic take on the character? Remember our fear and incredulity when we heard Michael Keaton got the role? Say what you will about the sequels, especially after Burton left, but I'll always remember THIS SCENE which established the tone of the movie and removed our doubts about who was Batman.

2) Ghost Busters:
The opening scene of Ghost Busters is somewhat subdued. I think I picked the movie, but at the very least I agreed to it if it was my parents' choice. In any case, as a fidgety 10-year-old watched an old librarian push a cart through a library, I wondered how this was any different from any Friday afternoon when my mom would take me to our local library. I was, dare I say it, bored until the first ghost appeared. More impressive, upon later viewings, I recalled that we never actually see ghost in this scene, just some flying index cards and some lights off camera. It's all in that lady's reaction, and the sudden tone shift as the logo appears and the now classic theme song first blares. From that moment on, I wasn't bored, and I was glued to my seat as I soaked in the sheer awesomeness of what remains one of my favorite films:

3) The Naked Gun:
Not only do they not make comedies like this anymore, I don't think they can. The political and world climate has changed so much that, as absurd and over-the-top as it was for Leslie Nielsen to single-handedly battle all the leaders from the “evil” countries, no writer or director would even dare attempt it today. But, there's no need, since Nielsen did it so perfectly, and it's a big enough sequence to show that the theatrical continuation of the shortlived Police Squad was going to be tackling threats on a much larger scale. “And don't ever let me catch you guys in AMERICA!”

4) Raiders of the Lost Ark:
When we first meet Indiana Jones, he's deep in the jungle on a dangerous expedition for some rare relic, surrounded by guys he can't really trust. Harrison Ford dispenses with a threat before he even steps in to the light to fully reveal himself, and we realize this is a larger-than-life action hero. Then he goes into dangerous ruins with Doc Ock, trades an idol for a bag of sand so as not to trigger a pressure sensitive trap, and ends up triggering it anyway, resulting in the now infamous boulder sequence we all know and love:

5) Desperado:
Robert Rodriguez leads with a great bit of storytelling, introducing us to the legend Antonio Banderas would portray not firsthand, but through a classic barroom narrative by the one and only Steve Buscemi. The bartender, Cheech Marin, and the other patrons take it as a joke at first, but Buscemi weaves the tale masterfully. We know that it's hyperbole, that he's a herald meant to build up the reputation of el Mariachi and strike fear into the hearts of the men Banderas will soon battle. It also establishes that anything we see going forward might be viewed as a legend, as an exaggerated retelling of events that happened. Buscemi represents Rodriguez on a smaller scale of storytelling within the larger story. Every beat in this scene is perfect, from the soundtrack to Buscemi's timing to how the reactions of his audience change as the body count in the tale increases. He works the room, and he works it well, and it all sets the tone of the balance of action and comedy that would soon unfold:

Those are some of my favorites; what are yours?