Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Behold: The Power of Interpretation

Same words, different song.

Another Wonderful Day in the 'Hood

I'm thinking of writing a letter — requesting to break my lease — sans financial ramifications.

The only thing preventing me from doing this is the harsh winter reality: it's 7 degrees outside, with promises of getting colder over the course of the next 14 days. Who wants to move in this weather?

I know I don't. But I'm certainly considering it.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, some of neighbors are being evicted for body-slamming too early in the A.M. Meanwhile they've complained about other neighbors for playing their music too loudly during the P.M.

One such neighbor thought it'd be a jumping-good idea to throw a party this Saturday. I actually like this neighbor, though I thought his birthday festivity was in poor judgment, particularly given the situation. He told me that "if the music gets to loud, just come over and join us!"

I didn't take that to be an outright invite, so I made no plans to attend. And I gritted my teeth awaiting the wrath of the evictee — who lives directly above the birthday boy.

In which case, I wasn't the least bit surprised when a confrontration occurred a little after midnight.

"Callll girrrrllll!" I heard shouted in the hallway, followed by a loud THUMP.

I retired to my door, thinking a drunken partier had mistakenly knocked on my abode.

What I saw instead was the evictee kicking the door of birthday boy.

Now, we've been advised by management to not open doors when the evictee(s) come knocking. And whether my neighbor was drunk — or simply felt emboldened by the presence of friends — I'm not sure. But he opened the door.

Words were exchanged. Insults were exchanged. And then one of my neighbor's friends joined his buddy in the hallway, ripping the evictee for his clothing choice just as he was walking away.

Oh, great I thought. That's just what you want to do. You already know he's angry and on the verge of vengeance. Insult him! That's a great idea.

The evictee slammed the front door. Someone at the party shouted "call the police!" and I spent the rest of the night jumping to my feet whenever a door was opened or closed.

It was not a restful sleep.


The situation became all the more real for me Monday night after I returned home from the gym. There was no music in the hallway when I walked in, so I knew the guy across the hall wasn't home.

And there was no music above me in my apartment, so I knew the guy upstairs wasn't at home. And the other tenants tend to be gone more often than not.

So imagine my surprise when I heard a knock at the door when I got out of the shower. I crept to my door, and was at least relieved to realize the knock wasn't intended for me, but rather the guy across the hall. But that relief was immediately followed by horror as I recognized the evictee as the one doing the pounding.

Splendid! I thought. He and I are only ones here.

I finished getting ready, but was constantly on edge. And then later bemused when a loud crash outside my backdoor turned out to be a bag of something (I have no idea what) thrown over the ledge above and onto the walkway below.

Suffice it to say that, when I needed to leave my apartment later in the evening to run an errand, I made sure I was on the phone with someone who could call the police in case I suddenly stopped talking.

I stayed home from work Tuesday out of sheer lack of sleep, which results in migraines when left unchecked. I rarely take sick days even when I'm genuinely, disgustingly sick. But I was in such dire need of sleep, I was bordering on collapse. I had to stay home.

And though I was successfuly able to sleep until about 10, attempts to nap later were thwarted by music once again radiating from above.

And to make matters all the more beautiful, it never got above a chilly 59F in my kitchen. In fact, the only room to make it to the city-mandated 68F was my bedroom, where I can trap in heat by shutting the door.

So my list of grievances is long, considering my living environment is both hostile and freakishly cold. I want to move.

But, again, it's only 7 degrees outside, with no signs of improving.

Who wants to move in weather like this?

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Love that Boy (Movie Review)

What a charming story from Andrea Dorfman — a Canadian writer/director who hasn't quite taken the world by storm... yet.

Love that Boy (2003) is the sort of film you don't really see coming: it starts off a bit strange, essentially requiring the audience develop an immediate disdain for the film's main character (Phoebe).

She's pretentious. She's controlling. And she's plotted out her final year of college into a color-coded planner that's so full of appointments and lessons that she's quite literally a slave to it.

And here — right here — is when I started to like Phoebe. Watching Phoebe add things like "forage for edible wilds" and "kayaking certification" to her "TO DO BEFORE GRADUATION" list was as charming as it was embarrassing. As many of you know, I keep similar lists... and I'm always crestfallen to see them grow exponentially faster than items are crossed off.

[You'll hear more about this personal neurosis another time, I'm sure.]

Phoebe draws her raison d'etre from this list, leaving her wholly unable to relate other people. As for those who happen to find themselves within Phoebe's gravitational pull... well, let's just say she does everything to keep it that way.

But this all changes when Phoebe endeavors to add "find a boyfriend" to her list. She becomes an increasingly likeable character — charming, even. And what ensues isn't nearly as corny as it may sound. I even hesitate to term this a "romantic comedy," as it's far too quirky for that nomenclature, and all the pulp it implies (not to mention, I'm uncomfortable positioning eros at the center of the plot, for reasons you'll understand if you watch it). Rather, Love that Boy reminded me a bit of Harold and Maude — though, for the record, it lacked the degree of novelty and wit that has forever earned Harold and Maude a spot on my "favorites" list.

Even still, I enjoyed Love that Boy enough that I'll be queuing up more from Dorfman's repertoire. If you like quirky movies that cause you to almost root for the most unlikely of scenarios — scenarios that are morally and socially suspect but nevertheless good-intentioned — I suggest you do the same.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Epic Movie (Movie Review)

Yeah, I know. When you go to see a film from the same folks who did all of those Scary Movie spoofs, you have no right to complain if the movie sucks.

I mean you did this to yourself... right?

Thing is, I sometimes find bits and pieces of the Scary Movie sagas to be mildly amusing. And when I saw that riff on Da Vinci Code in a preview for Jason Friedberg and Adam Seltzer's newest, Epic Movie (2007), I thought it'd be at least a little funny.

I was wrong.

But again: I have no right to complain. I did this to myself. I'm just glad I went to a matinee, so the ticket was a few bucks shy of the normal load.

Even the things that had amused me in the previews (see: "So lame the hair of Tom" written in code in the Mona Lisa) were more entertaining in the trailers than they were on the big screen. And while I will confess — blushing all the while — that I did occasionally chuckle, that quasi-laughter was often motivated by scenes that had the potential to be funny.

Still, a better film overall than Benchwarmers, a terrible cinematic experience that may long stand as the beacon by which I judge all unfunny movies that dare to position themselves under the banner of "comedy." Not to mention, I'm always somewhat amazed by how Friedberg and Seltzer manage to parody so many film and pop culture references into a single plot.

The four main characters in this film, for example, are parodies from Snakes on a Plane, Nacho Libre, Da Vinci Code and X-Men 3. The inciting action borrows from Willy Wonka, and the remainder of the plot centers around The Chronicles of Narnia. But along the way to the denouement, the connections to other "epic" films were too plentiful to count.

And, yes, before you ask: I was easily one of the oldest people in the theatre. And most of those older than me were generally parents chaperoning a herd of 12-year-olds.

Which just goes to show that Epic Movie may have a target audience that couldn't be more thrilled with the final product. But I'm certainly not a member.


Sunday, January 28, 2007

Quiet Desperation

So I have this 12-inch die-cut image of Walt Whitman at my desk, compliments of a friend.

A few days ago someone walked past and said "Hey, isn't that Walt Whitman?"

"Yeah, it is," I said, rather excited to have someone recognize him — thinking, too, that I might be able to chat about Leaves of Grass for a spell.

"Hey," they continued, "Did you hear anything a couple years ago about some developer wanting to build condos where his pond was?"

"His pond?" I asked, eyebrows raised. "What do you mean?"

"Wasn't that what he wrote about, living in Massachusetts? That pond where he stayed."

And at that precise point, dear readers, I nearly fainted.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Rings of Saturn (Book Review)

"Memories lie slumbering within us for months and years, quietly proliferating, until they are woken by some trifle and in some strange way blind us to life." ~W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn (1998)

This book is just under 300 pages — mere child's play back in my college days. Something that would've taken a week to read, or perhaps a single afternoon (if I timed my schedule just right).

And yet, it took me months — literally months — to finish this one.

And, no, that doesn't mean W.G. Sebald's Rings of Saturn is a bad book. Quite the contrary.

Rather, an unhealthy lack of free time — coupled with unyielding waves of existence-related anxiety — made Rings particularly difficult. I'd read 10-20 pages here and there, and then find myself with no relaxing time alone for a couple weeks, at which point I felt it was best to simply start over.

I believe I read the first 20 pages a dozen times before I joined a gym in my "new" neighborhood, where I could read whenever a stationary bike was available.

And yet, even still, four more months passed before I turned the final page — just yesterday afternoon.

The novel begins in a Norwich asylum, where the narrator (presumedly Sebald himself) was sent in 1992 to recover from a nervous breakdown. The cause of the breakdown isn't immediately certain, except to say that it followed a year of leisurely travel around the English countryside.

The pages that follow are a recollection of said travels. Or you might even say: the pages that follow implictly relay not so much the events but the sensations that precipated the narrator's collapse.

This is, as you've likely surmised, a rather peculiar piece that has the appearance of non-fiction (though it may, in part, be fiction). It's a travelogue that explores everything from the people that Sebald encounters, to all of the conversations, explorations and contemplations that result.

This is, for lack of a better expression, a beautifully sad book.

I was constantly amazed by Sebald's ability to blur the past with the present, describing century-old events as though he witnessed them first-hand. And all such accounts would begin when the narrator steps foot inside a new hotel or hostel: he meets the inhabitants and the staff and tells their stories — and the stories of their ancestors — as though they were his own.

There are stories about wars; executions; first loves... and last.

In fact, these aren't so much Sebald's memoirs as they are those of the people he ecounters.

In this regard the text was, at times, rather confusing. Other people's history becomes so inextricably interwoven with the author's that you often forget who's talking. The complete and total lack of quotation marks and paragraphing doesn't help matters, either.

And as annoying as I sometimes found that to be, this technique (an MLA nightmare) was not without purpose. It reveals, instead, a Walt Whitman-esque "oneness" with the universe.

But unlike Whitman, Sebald doesn't strive so much to sound a "barbaric yawp" as he does an existential whimper.

And so with poetic prose and beautiful descriptions that conjure all of the senses, you come to understand — clearly, and painfully — the author's bittersweet awareness of what he terms "traces of destruction, reaching far back into the past."

It is for this reason — and this reason alone — that I had I difficulty finishing Rings, even when time presented itself.

I was ultimately at the gym to work out, after all. But some passages in Rings were so... real... to me, I often had to choose between packing up and going home... or closing the book.

And though I regularly chose to shut the book, that's not to say the nausea, and all that it implied, quickly passed.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Lee Friedlander's a Punk

The first time I saw a Lee Friedlander exhibit, I was appalled. It was just over a year ago, and I've been fuming ever since.

I mean, I'll be the first to admit I'm not a good photographer. I've never taken classes; I don't know what I'm doing; and I only just learned how to adjust the f-stop on my Sony (just in time for it to break — perfect!).

But at least I had a style. At least I had an eye for various oddities that others typically pass by with nary a glance.

I photographed my own shadow (see profile picture); my reflection in mirrors. Old barns; the instrusion of the city in the country (and vice versa); hay fields in motion; silly road signs. Etc. I've been doing this for years, with little-to-no awareness of what professionals had done before me (Ansel Adams and Eugene Smith notwithstanding).

Most people saw my photography as an indication of borderline mental crises. But some select folks have actually found amusement in it (including a few of the artists I work with), which is all that matters in my book.

So imagine my surprise when I'm introduced to the work of this Friedlander guy — a guy who has ENTIRE EXHIBITS christened in his name alone — and I find out that he's been taking pictures of shadows; of reflections; and rural life in motion for, oh, a couple or three decades. At least.

And, as you might expect, he does so considerably better than I do. He doesn't just have a style. He has style.

And to make matters worse, he actually knows how to use a camera. The nerve!

(c) Lee Friedlander

(c) Me

So I'm talking to a co-worker, and she mentions she recently went to a photography exhibit in a nearby city.

"You'd really like this guy's work," she says. "It reminded me a lot of yours, actually. I wish I could remember his name..."

"Was it Lee Friedlander?" I asked. "A lot of 'self-portrait' and shadow shots?"

"Yes, that's it!" she exclaimed. "You know him?"

Know him? I thought. He stole my best ideas before I was born.

Lee Friedlander photos lovingly borrowed from Masters of Photography.

Only One Letter Separates "Loner" from "Loser"

A recent picture of Maude (along with other photos) arrived in the mail yesterday. I shoved the stack into my bag, and re-disovered them this morning when retrieving my padfolio.

I figured so long as I had the picture out, I may as well show those 2 or 3 people who've heard so many Maude-themed horror stories. It seemed harmless at first, but I quickly realized that I'm just two steps away from having wallet-sized prints made. Perhaps even a "100% Maude" flip book.

So, yes, it's official.

I'm one of those people.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Thank You for Reminding Me Why I'm Such a Loner

So I'm walking through the cafeteria when I see this female, about my age, standing and talking to a group of three other females, also about my age.

The conversation was visibly jovial, and ended when the girl who was standing said "I'll talk to you guys later," smiled a big smile, and walked away.

As soon as she walked on, the remaining three faces drastically changed their expression. They huddled together, one of them laughing, and I heard the words "Did you notice she..." as I continued past them just out of earshot.

I walked on to the ice dispenser; filled my "Life is Good" Nalgene bottle; and returned to my desk, where I ate my sandwich, surrounded only by photographs and dog-eared book pages.

The Naming of Pets Instead of Children

So my sister is facing a crisis of sorts:

What to name her child, 7 1/2 months in the making. A couple months ago, she enlisted my help. And we even devised a unique game for her baby shower, the sole purpose of which was to name her progeny.

I've come up with some good ones, I think. Sebastian. Noah. Jonah... I can't recall them all, but I know I've sent her dozens of ideas.

Her response occasionally resembles the following:

"I like that name, but I know someone called that. And I don't want them to think I'm naming the baby after them."

But, almost invariably, it's something more to the effect of:

"Can't. I had a pet rat named that." (yes, my sister had pet rats)

or even

"That's the name of one of my cats."

To which I now say to the rest of you:

Never name a pet something you would name a child — especially if you, like my sister, rescue stranded animals and so go through a lot of names. Because even if you don't think you'll ever procreate, you don't want to have assigned your best ideas to a rodent.

Just a thought.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Royal Flush

Recent trips to public restrooms — primarily those at work, the gym and movie theatres — have revealed to me a rather disconcerting trend.

Something that has called into question the very way in which I flush a toilet.

So you know how you'll look for feet under a stall door to determine whether or not the, eh, "seat" is taken?

On more than one occasion, my glance has been timed with the flush — itself an indication that you need to mosey along to the next stall.

But my issue isn't with the flush itself, but rather the manner in which the toilet was flushed.

You see, as my ears heard the flush, my eyes noted only one foot was on the ground.

A pretty clear indication that — yes — the person had raised the other foot to flush the toilet.

And here I've been using my hand all these years.

My question to you is: Have I been doing it wrong?

Or perhaps even more importantly... which is worse: touching a handle that's been jingled by other (unwashed) human hands — or the bottom of a shoe that's been sliding around on the dirty floor?

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Last King of Scotland (Movie Review)

If The Last King of Scotland isn't the best film of 2006, at the very least Forest Whitaker certainly delivers the best male performance.*

And I say that knowing full well that I've missed many great films from last year's calendar. It's just that I can't imagine it getting any better than this.

Whitaker stars as Idi Amin, the (real-life) President of Uganda for much of the 1970s. Amin was a military general who overthrew the previous prime minister, a coup supported by Ugandans and the international community alike.

Amin was charismatic; he had ties to the British Army; and — most interestingly — he was in awe of all things relating to Scotland (a fondness which, in part, would later lead him to call himself the "King of Scotland").

But this story is not told through Amin's eyes. Rather, this film places a Scottish doctor at its center, with James McAvoy playing Nicholas Garrigan... a doctor fresh out of a med school in search of adventure (or, at the very least, a means to delay his predictable life's story). Garrigan arrives in Uganda to volunteer his expertise to an impoverished village, an occasion that coincides with Amin's rise to power.

Their paths expectedly cross — thereby giving way to the rest of the film's narrative. But rather than risk ruining the plot, I won't divulge the nature of their idiosyncratic relationship. But I will say that this films spans nearly every degree of emotion, from light-hearted frivolity to absolute horror (and just about everything in-between).

This is not, shall we say, a film to take your kids to.

But it is a film that explores some very complicated issues: psychological collapse; political instability; and blind colonialism, among others.

And perhaps what I loved most about The Last King of Scotland wasn't so much Whitaker's amazing performance as it was the ever-changing tone. That is to say, The Last King isn't the steady surge of gore and violence that marked Apocalypto. And while it's true you'll be subjected to a couple stomach-churning scenes in The Last King... there's also much more to the story.

My main grievance with The Last King is simultaneously an element that perhaps made the film all the more compelling: the intermingling of fact with fiction, with no clear way to discern one from the other. Did Doctor Nicholas Garrigan actually exist, for example? I don't believe so. But the possibility sure makes things interesting.

And yet, I also battled with "Garrigan" for other reasons. I couldn't help but wonder if he was created (likely based in part on a British colleague of Amin's; in part on Amin's Ugandan health minister) to typify the white man's ongoing — and at times completely ignorant — paternalistic treatment of the African continent. Or, rather, if he existed primarily to make the film more "palatable" for a white audience.

On one hand, I couldn't entirely get rid of the nagging feeling that it's the latter.

On the other... I appreciated what was possibly the filmmaker's subtle treatment of the "Scottish" physician. His role in The Last King is more complex than immediately meets the eye.


*I do believe the Golden Globes have supported this assertion


It's true. I generally don't get "into" professional sports. I mean, I'll jump on the chance to get cheap tickets to games, but I won't watch the regular season on television. There are too many teams, too many games. And nowhere near enough time.

But when a team I have some sort of affiliation with — be that a team in a city/state I once resided, the team I grew up rooting for via my father's loyalties, or a team from a region that's home to a good friend — I'll turn on my 19 inch Magnavox and watch if (and only if) one such team makes the play-offs.

In which case, I wholeheartedly embrace my status as a fair-weather fan. I pay attention at the end of a season when a team I like is doing well, in which case a great many a' Super Bowl games have gone completely unwatched by me. And whereas I may cough up the $20 to go see the occasional baseball game, I haven't the cashflow to afford the $80 a seat football tickets.

Truth is, I really only care about two teams. But in the right year and when watching with the right people, there are about five teams total I'll pay attention to. And this year, of those five, four made it into the play-offs. And three of those four played last night.

And of those three, my top two — I mean the two I'd most like to see win — will be playing each other in the final game.

I'd like to think I can count it as a victory regardless of who wins, and I can't really imagine I'll "choose sides."

But I do think it'll be interesting to see just where my loyalties lie, once the game begins.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Yeah, I Can Dig That

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." — H.L. Mencken

See also:

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Eviction Notice

Sure, I write the occasional haiku about a real-life event. Or, yeah, I'll post a quote-of-the-day. Or detail an incident that happens on some random road trip. But for the most part, I like to think I keep the gory details of my life off of this blog. I keep the gory details of my life out of most conversations, in fact.

But sometimes something happens. Something just distracting enough that you have a hard time thinking about anything else.

Now is one such time.

Late Monday evening — around 10:20 p.m. to be (slightly more) precise — I was sitting at my computer in my PJs when there was a loud knock on my door. You know the sort of knock that interrupts quiet and causes your heart to race?

It was that sort of knock.

But I was tired when I returned home from work that evening, and had been lounging around my apartment in flannel pajamas for hours. So Washington, who was watching television in my living room, went to see who was at the door.

Before I even had any idea who was on the other side, he opened the door a crack.

From there, I could only hear bits and pieces of the conversation.

I could hear Washington saying things like "You can talk to me, or I'm shutting the door" and "As far as I know, no, she didn't."

And from the slurred voice on the other side, I could make out the occasional expletive.

Eventually Washington shut the door, shook his head, and filled me in on the missing pieces.

Two tenants in my building, who live together, are being evicted. But they have until February 28th to get out, and they're on a mission to determine whose noise complaints precipitated their eviction. The seemingly drunk man behind the door was insistent on talking to me (and not Washington), but did eventually turn around and motion to the door of the man across the hall from me, shouting sundry foul names before leaving.

But Washington didn't even have to tell me who was on the other side; I could recognize the gruff voice under the slurs.

The man in question is not, shall we say, a friendly man.

He and his live-in moved in about six months ago, and the first time I ran into this particular guy in the stairway, my "Hello!" was matched with an indecipherable grunt. He's visibly agitated whenever our paths cross and — on one occasion — I was entering the front door as he was walking down the stairs inside the building.

I said "Hello!" and opened the door for him. He glared at me, his only greeting the "GO TO HELL" printed in large red letters on his black t-shirt.

Needless to say, I was fairly taken back by that encounter.

Parallel to these run-ins, the hallways in my building took on the ever-present stench of stale cigarette smoke & ammonia. An odd mixture that had my head racing with fears of meth production. I tried to rationalize it, instead, as the mark of smokers "cleaning up" their new place (my own apartment was a MESS when I moved in, and required LOTS of cleaning). The cigarette butts I'd find in the hallway were, I liked to think, indicative of this.

But this smell persisted for 2-3 weeks, by which point I was on the verge of formally expressing concern. But, much to my relief, the smell stopped.

But that's not to say this particular neighbor didn't look "out of it" whenever I'd see him. He was always flustered, but angry, and only once in the recent past did I really get a genuine, friendly "hello" out of him.

I considered it to be a mark of progress. But that was just two weeks ago, and now my anxiety concerning him has increased ten-fold.

You see, I have never filed a complaint against any neighbor. And as I have since found out, I'm only one of two tenants who didn't complain about these guys. Apparently, they fight loudly and obnoxiously — both verbally and physically — late into the night. I've never heard it myself; though their apartment is in the same "section" as mine, we don't share any floors or walls. So I wasn't necessarily privvy to their body-slamming.

I've also since learned that myself and other tenants are being cautioned to "Call 911" if we notice any suspicious activity and/or we again have unwelcome guests at our door. Seems management has noted that "retaliation" is a possibility and — given the personality of this one man in particular (his partner is generally a bit more friendly) — it could be violent.

"Why couldn't the eviction be more immediate, then?" you ask.

Because they need to be caught doing something explictly illegal first.

So now I'm worried about leaving Maude at home alone. I don't want to stay there myself, but I also don't want to leave her. I don't even want to be at work, because I'm worried about what may happen when I'm gone. At least if I'm there, I can grab the munchkin, my computer, and get the heck out of dodge.

I mean, I've had some questionable neighbors before — including one drunk who would come knocking late at night "just to talk" — but I've never quite felt this unsafe.

I didn't really realize just how much this was affecting me until I returned home Tuesday to find one of my locks unlatched and the inside security lock engaged (in other words: I tried to unlock my door but couldn't get inside because the lock that can only be engaged from the inside, well, was).

Let's just say my heart rate shot well above the zone for a good cardio-workout. My first thought was, naturally, "He's on the other side."

But after much pushing and pulling, I was able to get in. Turns out one of the pins on this security lock was out of place, but not so much that I couldn't make it snap back. But that realization didn't keep me from walking around and inspecting my apartment, with my cell phone at the ready.

So, yeah, I don't want to live there any more.
And you know — as crazy as this may sound — a part of me is able to empathize with these guys. I've come to realize they were part of ongoing fueds with other tenants regarding noise levels. These two were complaining about loud music; and the tenants playing loud music were complaining at the 3 a.m. judo matches.

And though I never heard those brawls, I don't doubt they occurred. But I also know that their complaints of loud music were justified. I mean, as much as I like the guy across the hall from me, he does sometimes play his music very loudly. And though I can usually only hear it when I'm in the hallway, I bet the people above him (these two evictees) hear it whenever it's playing.

And as for the guy who lives across the hallway from the evictees, he also happens to be the one who lives above me. I've often termed his music playing "thoughtless." Since he moved in 3-4 months ago, quiet-time at home has become a thing of the past. For awhile there, I heard his bass almost constantly. I even suspected he didn't work, because the music was there regardless of the time of day.

When it mysteriously stopped about three weeks ago, with only the occasional exception, I was relieved beyond belief. And yet, I likewise suspected he was out of town for the holiday and would return at any moment. But now I realize he had probably been asked to turn it down because of complaints from these two (soon to be evicted) tenants.

In which case: even if this eviction goes smoothly — sans injury or damaged property — I now suspect that once they're out, the music from above will start again.

And me with a few months to go on my (recently renewed) lease.
So, yes, the evictees have always made me feel uncomfortable. And more recently, I've felt rather unsafe.

But even the impending eviction date offers only minimal comfort, as it likewise signals the return of that agonizing THUMP THUMP THUMP.
I have a friend here who makes a living out of helping people find apartments and condos. He's given me some advice on this situation, and he's also on the lookout for a new place for me.

Until then... I can't get out here soon enough.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Da Vinci Code (Movie Review)

For admittedly juvenile reasons, I had no desire to read the book that prompted this movie.

In short: if something receives too much publicity, either good or bad, I lose interest. It's like hearing a song played on the radio over and over again... no matter how good it is, there's a chance you may grow to resent it.

I felt that way about Dan Brown's bestselling hit, The Da Vinci Code (2003). Everyone I knew seemed to be reading it. It was all over bookshelves, bus stops, train seats. Even my father tried to get me to read it, at which point I almost complied.

But I just couldn't do it. Da Vinci's popularity had reached such proportions, I threw Brown in with a variety of pulp writers (including Danielle Steele) I refuse to read. I felt somewhat guilty about this, having spent much of my younger years wondering why the "Stupid Academy" kept giving out Oscars to artsy films I wasn't allowed to see, rather than the "good ones that people actually watched."

My adult persona is often at odds with that childhood observation.

As I "grew up" and immersed myself in academia, I realized there are actually quite a few people out there who refuse to read certain books or watch certain movies on principle alone. And when it came to The Da Vinci Code, I was one such person.

[And, yes, I haven't failed to recognize the hyprocrisy inherent in my intense love of (and appreciation for) the similarly-despised Harry Potter series.]

So when the film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code was released, I decided I'd watch it as a compromise of sorts. I know screen adaptations are seldom (never?) as good as the book, but this was the best I could offer.

Having never read the book, I thought I was in a good position to enjoy this Ron Howard rendition of Brown's story (2006). I mean, I wouldn't know what was missing... right?

Suffice it to say, it didn't take me long to realize this book didn't translate well to film. Instead of developing characters and building up suspense, I spent the first half of this film laughing at the blatant placement of all those quentessential plot devices. I mean, there's even a poisoning you see coming a million miles away, and you can't help but wonder why — on earth — the victim didn't see it coming too. Afterall, hasn't just about every mystery book known to man contained a similar situation?

But the fact remains, I did find Brown's analysis of the Da Vinci paintings as well as the resultant cryptology — and Howard's visual representation of both — to be fascinating. I also enjoyed the second half of the film substantially more than the first. It seemed to actually get interesting after the first in-depth look into Da Vinci's Last Supper.

Even so, the film never becomes a real nail-biter for me. This is where I suspect the material works better in book format: it's hard to build up suspense and keep people guessing when you present something in 30 seconds that would've taken 20 minutes to read. For this reason, it becomes easy to "call" the outcome of each scene sometimes before it even begins.

Watching the film also caused me to wonder why the book was difficult to keep on the shelves whereas the Illuminatus Trilogy (1975) has only a cult following. Illuminatus, much like Da Vinci, deals with conspiracy theories, codes, the Knight's Templar and other secret societies — all intertwined with actual events that have occured throughout the world up to the time the books were written. An intriguing story, though difficult to read (for multiple reasons).

But back to the film, whose actors I've thus far avoided: I had a tough time "buying" Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou in their lead roles, again, until about halfway through the film. But I'm not sure that's entirely their fault. I mean, it's difficult to "solve" riddles on screen — or relay events from the past so as to fill in narrative gaps — without sounding like you're reading from cue cards.

Not to mention, Hank's hair was entirely distracting. Was the brush-back mullet really essential to character development?

ton hit kin

At the very least, the film did give me some idea why everyone went gaga over the book. I just hope it's better than the movie.

(I suspect it is.)


Disappointment 101

See? I was right. No tripod + after sunset + reflective surface + lacking ability = bad photo.

At least you can't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Another Lesson Concerning "Perspective"

ME: Actually, I'd like some snow. Just enough to go snowshoeing in, maybe snowmobiling. But I don't want it to get too cold. I can't control heat at my place; when we did have a cold spell early December, it got at low as 48 degrees in my apartment. Which is a great temperture if it's outside in the middle of winter. Not so great if it's inside. Last winter there were even some nights when I went to bed wearing a hat and gloves. And during our short cold spell this winter, there were a couple nights when I'd wake up to use the restroom, and then I'd be shivering uncontrollably by the time I returned to bed.

MY BROTHER: Yeah, I know what you mean. When I was with Special Forces [in the mountains of Afghanistan], our tent was cold enough that our water would develop a layer of ice on top. And you'd have to put on your boots and walk through the snow to use the bathroom. It wouldn't have been so bad if they'd given me winter boots, because those would've been warmer. But they ran out of my size. [PAUSE]

So I know what you mean. You should get some of that clear wrap for your windows.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XXXVIII)

the shopping chronicles

on spending eight hours bargain-hunting
(or "that's about six hours longer than i can handle")

i'm not catholic
but jude is my patron saint
please no more shopping

on purchasing something at j crew for the first time
(or "the fashion industry, global warming & you")

part i
j crew puts receipts
into envelopes green like
gases... and envy

part ii
no offense but how'd
you do that without laughing?
i'd prefer gift-wrap
thoughts concerning over-priced stores

sure it's expensive
but it's sixty percent off
so i'll take two please
on receiving my online order from rei

times like these i wish
our winter was less mild
have boots, will snowshoe

Friday, January 12, 2007

The Saga Continues

I know, I know. I should stop with the camera drama already.

But this story's a wee bit different from my previous two. In fact, this story involves my actual capturing of the broken Reality Bites CD.

Yes, that's right — I got it!

But as previously mentioned, I worked it up so much, the "reality" truly does fall short of any preconceived notions of what the picture should be (I blame myself for that).

But this isn't one of those "I-just-heard-the-juciest-rumor-but-I-can't-tell-you" type entries, either.

Rather this is, if nothing else, another tale of irony.

I was doing my laundry last night — a chore that you've likely heard me rant about before. It's not that I mind doing my laundry, per se. I just hate having to go to a busy laundromat to do it. First there's the task of lugging two unwieldy containers — detergent stacked on top — down the stairs and out of three sets of doors. Then there's the task of making room in the car, driving to the laundromat in the (sometimes doomed) hope of having enough available washers and dryers to complete the task in a decent time.

Between lack of availability, trouble finding parking and washers and dryers breaking down in the middle of a load, doing laundry is — for me — generally a three hour commitment. Four if you add in folding time.

So, yes, "laundry day" is generally my least favorite day of any given week. If by chance any other day winds up being worse... then. Well. Then that's a really bad week.

But I digress.

I took my semi-dysfunctional camera with me, thinking I might take a bit of a walk in search of the now-legendary CD.

So I threw my clothes "into the wash" (as my grandmother says) and took a slight detour in the necessary direction, thinking the chances of it still being there were pretty slim.

But as luck would have it, this city doesn't clean its streets anywhere near as often as they claim. And as I made my way past the Dunkin' Donuts cup. The (presumedly empty) box of Tampax... the dirt-stained plastic wrap.... and about a dozen other items of refuse, I found my precious CD, still broken (naturally). And still nestled into the same bed of chlorophyll-drained leaves. The only change, really, was that it was no longer propped up against the exposed root.

Time was working against me, however. It was already dark by this point, and I didn't have a tripod. And when you use the flash on an reflective item, it's bound to either drown out any text... or illuminate every spot of dirt on the surface.

So I took a shot. And then another. And another. Changing my settings all the while (to see what worked best) until a man — who had pulled up behind me, removed groceries from his car and proceeded to a gate — turned around and said:

"Excuse me. But may I ask what you're doing?"

I was embarrassed for a moment as I proceeded to tell him about my (possibly clinical) neurosis (that is to say, my obsession for irony and my need to capture such things with a camera).

He asked more questions. Like "Do you take pictures of anything else?" and "How long have you been taking pictures like that?" and "Have you ever thought about taking pictures professionally?"

I pointed to my camera, mentioning that it wasn't exactly a tool widely used by professionals. I said it wasn't a talent, just a hobby. But that maybe if I ever improved my skills, or my equipment...

He paused.

I could actually see a look of consternation of this stranger's face. Like he was thinking of saying something. And then changing his mind. And then thinking again...

"You know, I just started a business. And we're looking for a photographer."

"Oh, really?" I said. "What kind of business?"

"Advertising, actually."

He returned to his car, in search of his business card.

The end result of which was, ultimately, a job offer.

And all because of a silly, broken CD.
Before you ask: I'm very cynical about things such as this and will most definitely proceed with caution. I mean, I don't really know how to take a good picture. And I presently have no way of confirming this company is legit.

In which case, I don't expect a career-switch to result from this. Worst case scenario, this chance encounter makes for an interesting end to the story. Best case scenario, I moonlight to earn a little extra cash.

And I might use that to purchase my very own washer and dryer...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Maudenetic Poetry

Wouldn't you know it: Maude likes to write poetry, too.

Or should I say: she likes to chew on various words I've posted to my (metal) kitchen cabinetry.

And though I've figured out how she makes her way nine feet in the air to sit atop the cabinets... and though I've figured out how she knocks the post cards off of my fridge... I'm not entirely certain just how, exactly, she manages to knock off the magnets.* I mean, they appear to be firmly in place. And yet, on several occasions, I've returned home to find various words on the floor, some left untouched; others torn to shreds.

My only solace here is the knowledge that Maude has yet to eat her carefully chosen words. Were she to do so, that would doubtless result in yet another trip to the animal hospital.

And though I thought she was possibly making a statement about how much she despises my own magnetized poems... a co-worker has suggested that she may actually be "writing" me a secret message. In which case, I should wrangle up all the words she's chewed to see if it forms a complete sentence.

I'll let you know what I find out.

*I do have a theory and — in order to altogether remove any temptation Maude may have to eat the magnets — I'm taking measures to make it more difficult for her to acquire them.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Camera Crisis (Update)

OK, so it works sometimes now. But not all. Maybe 30 percent of the time.

In any event, I'll either need to manufacture my own fix... or buy a new camera. And I hesitate to do the latter, as I've grown quite fond of this one. Not to mention, parting with cash is one of my least favorite things to do.

All this to say a photo or two may be on the way.

But not the "Reality Bites" shot. Not only has my camera continued in its fits everytime I've tried for the shot, but if I do capture it, I won't be able to post it.

I worked it up too greatly. Anything I actually take, then, will fall tremendously short of expectations generated by my previous post.

Personal Tragedy for the Moderately Privileged
and Terminally Neurotic

When I returned home from the gym last night, I wasn't in the best of moods. I spent the three-block walk to my apartment waxing contemplative and — as a result of my contemplations — I felt more than a little down.

Which is perhaps why I found it to be rather fortuitous when I saw a random CD in that strip of grass that separates the cracked city sidewalk from the street. Not that the mere sighting was a sign from God himself, but that upon further inspection I saw that it was the soundtrack to Reality Bites. The CD was broken in two, but the title itself was perfectly in tact, taunting my camera-less self from the cold, brown/green, leaf-covered grass.

It was even somewhat propped up, though a little off-balance, by the exposed roots of some random tree, as if begging me to capture it in all of its ironic glory.

(For those of you who make fun of my tendency to carry a camera everywhere I go, this is precisely the sort of picture I'm terrified of missing.)

So I made a note to myself to pack my camera Wednesday morning, which I did rather promptly after getting out of bed.

But I was in a hurry (as I am most mornings), so I quickly unwrapped my camera from its case while I made the bitter walk to my urban chariot (winter is here at last!).

I got out my three-year-old Sony. Turned it on. And then smiled a crooked little smile when I saw the broken CD supine in its original resting place.

(This all the while a fellow tenant — to whom I've never spoken more than "hey" and "hello" — walked past, turning her head and raising her brow as she tried to figure what on earth I was up to).

But I wasn't so much worried about securing my status as "that strange girl in apartment B" as I was with the task at hand. So I hit the shutter, only to be greeted by a punch in the stomach.

And by that I mean... a heart-wrenching message flashed on the LCD:


I confirmed a memory stick was in place, took it out, and put it back in. I tried again.


I took the memory stick out again, confirmed it was "unlocked," and then flipped the switch from SIDE A to SIDE B.


I tried again. And again. But always to that same, miserable end.

I boarded up my camera, threw it into the car, and drove onward.

Later it occurred to me to try a different memory stick, since my 256 MB card isn't made by the camera's manufacturer, though the 32 MB backup is.

So I sucked in my breath, uttered a couple hail Mary's, and tried again.


OK, I thought. Stay calm. When a laptop acts up, one of the first pieces of advice is to remove all peripheral devices, including all sources of power.

So I took out the battery, and the memory stick. I waited 30 minutes, and put everything back in.


I did this again, the next time waiting two hours before re-inserting the battery.


It was about then that I acknowledged the cold, hard fact that my camera was likely broken. And these digital dohickeys are as difficult to repair as they are expensive to replace.

Or, to sum it up,

[drumroll please]


Dummy (Movie Review)

I'm not entirely certain how I feel about this movie.

It's cute on one hand; quietly creepy on the other. The main character (Steven, well-played by Adrian Brody) and his love interest (Lorena, played by Vera Farmiga) are both compelling. But other main players — including the loud-mouthed wannabe rocker played by Milla Jovovich — are so irritating by definition, they couldn't be saved by decent acting.

Even Dummy's (2003) raison d'etre left me with mixed feelings. Essentially, it's a film about pursuing one's life ambitions — no matter how ridiculous they may seem. More immediately, it's about a man (Brody) who loses his low-level office job on the dawn of his 10-year high school reunion. On his way home from his last day at the office, he makes two stops: one at the unemployment office (where he meets the lovely Lorena), and another at the magic shop (where he picks up a ventriloquist dummy).

But Steven still lives at home (as does his older sister), where dysfunction is integral to every familial interaction. His parents and sister alike take regular verbal shots at one another, with Steven emerging as the lone spot of sensitivity in the home... despite the fact that he's a regular victim of their criticism.

Having myself once dreamed of a life as a biloquist (a shout-out to Charles Brockden Brown for teaching me the term!), I found it easy to empathize with Steven's quest. And while I understand why this softspoken high school "reject" increasingly needs the dummy to speak for him as he emerges from his own life-imposed shell, I also often had a tough time sitting in my seat as he takes the dummy shopping, out on dates, etc. In this regard Dummy was, at times, uncomfortable to watch.

But this, too, is integral to the story. And the fim is, in its own quirky way, a nod to anyone who wishes they'd chosen a different path in life.

[I suspect most of us fall into that category, or have at some point.]

Overall, Dummy is a film I hesitate to call "charming," even as I can find no other single word to describe it.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

At Least I'm Not Bitter about It

So I sucked it up and purchased a Far Side desk calendar, fifty percent off, to make up for my previous misguided selection.

But I purchased it last week and threw it in my desk drawer, figuring I'd return it if "Eats, Shoots & Leaves" started to deliver better material. And because I dread to spend more money than is absolutely necessary, I certainly hoped it would.

(not that the calendar is a necessity, but that buying two definitely isn't)

Here's today's entry:

"It's tough being a stickler for punctuation these days. One almost dare not get up in the mornings."


There's only one man who can save me now.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Children of Men (Movie Review)

If you think this movie looks dark or depressing... you're right. On both counts.

But it also happens to be thought-provoking, well-intended and well-crafted.

In short: it's hard to not be pulled into the story line, even as various plot-holes emerge.

That is to say, this movie isn't without flaws. But they're not the sort of informational gaps that have rendered a great many science fiction films laughable, and altogether implausible, in my eyes (see: Serenity). Rather, any concerns I had weren't crippling; just... moderately distracting. I walked away with questions brought upon not so much by the ending, but rather the events that led up the story's inciting action.

As is often the case with any new film, I didn't know too much about Children until I walked in to see it. I knew it was a dark piece of science fiction that takes place in the not-so-distant future.

Here's some more information that may prove useful without spoiling the viewing experience: it takes place in the UK in 2027, but relays the events of 2009 onward. In 2009, the last human baby is born, as women worldwide inexplicably battle infertility. Clive Owen stars as an ordinary Joe who used to be a political activist. Julianne Moore and Michael Caine co-star as members of Owen's circle of friends. And, yes, they were once activists too.

As you might expect, the inability to conceive has resulted in a bit of an existential crisis that takes man's fear of death to an entirely new level. It's no longer limitations of a single lifetime that force man to (in-) action, but rather the fear of humanity's imminent collapse that results in transnational chaos. Violence erupts, and with it religious fanaticism. Parallel to this is Britain's battle with illegal immigration, as people flock to this "stable" empire after the collapse of their own.

I'll leave it at that, except to say this dynamic adds a bit of a philosophical slant to the movie. Unfortunately, this philosophical undertone (with its notions of existence and sterility, among others) takes the backseat to the film's more blatant political statement regarding immigration. I find this to be unfortunate insofar as Children thereby fails to reach its full potential.

And, naturally, in order to want man to survive this "procreative" snafu, you've got to find the main players likeable. They are, and I do. In fact, the scenes involving Owen, Caine and/or Moore are some of the film's warmest, offering respite (for Owen and the audience alike) from underlying anxiety. Kudos, too, to big screen newcomer, Claire-Hope Ashitey.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

An Honest-to-God E-mail from Me to a Co-Worker

I have a tasty Subway sandwich with your name on it at my desk. It's untouched by my hands — and it hasn't touched the floor — but the guy who made it did clean up a disgusting floor spill before he threw on my chicken and wrapped it up (without changing his gloves or washing his hands).

That dawned on me halfway back to the office. So now I'm too grossed out to eat it, but it's yours if you want it. Or is that crossing a line for you, too? I know how you like these challenges.

Let me know.


I ain't afraid of no ghost.


He ate it.


What would you have done?


I've been misled. Beguiled, even. Duped. Hornswoggled. Bamboozled and flimflammed.

Whatever you call it, I'm disappointed.

You see, one of my favorite New Year's procedures is something I like to call "The Buying of the Discounted Calendar."

I go to a bookstore and pickup a calendar or two for 50% off sometime between December 26 and January 1. This year I'd already purchased a wall calendar in advance for home (and had been gifted one for work), so all I needed was a page-a-day desk calendar to add a bit of humor to the daily grind. So I ventured into a nearby Borders to cash-in a gift card and take advantage of the post-holiday savings.

They had Peanuts. Far Side. The Onion. Know Your Monty Python. Common Grammar Mistakes. Poem-a-Day. French-Lesson-a-Day. Even one of those fun "Survival Guide" calendars that tells you want to do in case of a bizarro emergency (e.g. you've been knifed by a parrot or you're choking on bird feathers).

I grabbed one of each of these and pondered my "Which To Choose" conundrum when a beam of light, promptly followed by a choir of angels, directed my attention towards yet another page-a-day desk calendar.

"Eats, Shoots & Leaves."

It was based on a book I've long wanted to read but have never found the time, so naturally it piqued my interest. I mean, I do find certain grammar mistakes to be especially amusing, and I find the metamorphosis of the English language to be altogether fascinating. And for some reason I thought each "day" on the calendar would reveal a comedic error found in some hifalutin newspaper or — at the very least — an example of how a word, phrase or comma changed history. After all, that's what the back of the box led me to believe.

So I chose it from amongst all the rest, made my purchase, and tucked the calendar into my work desk, awaiting the arrival of the new year.

When I returned to work after the long weekend, my first act of business was to retrieve the calendar, remove its packaging, and tear away the first day.

And that, dear readers, is when disappointment struck, jinxing my 2007 with an unfortunate start.

For it appears that each page reveals not a grammar mistake, semantic nuance or even a bit of British v. American linguistic history, but simply a short passage from the book.

Mind you, the "book" may be great as a whole... but, it only took me from January 2 to January 4 to realize it makes an awfully boring desk calendar. Basically, each day I get 1-3 sentences from the book — taken entirely out of context, mind you.

Here's what the January 3 entry read, for example:

While significant variations exist between British and American usage, these are matters for quite rarefied concern. You say "parentheses" while we say "brackets"... but to people who call an apostrophe "one of them floating comma things" it doesn't matter very much.

I can certainly understand how this might appear clever as part of a larger passage. In which case, it might make an OK page-a-day calendar for someone who has read and worshipped the book and so knows the context.

But for someone like me... For someone who was misled to believe each day was an interesting snippet of misplaced commas and improper usage... For someone who hit every traffic light on her way to work — how is THAT supposed to teach me anything and/or bring a smile to my face on a Thursday morning?

It's going to be a long year.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


For me, the worst part of any "New Year's" celebration is that inevitable question:

"So what's your resolution?"

I generally bite my tongue and search for pretty words to doctor up the truth:

I don't believe in resolutions.

OK, sure, I believe in resolutions in much the same way I believe in umbrellas and speed limits: I know these things exist; I just don't like to make regular use of them.

Ditto with "New Year's Resolutions." And I apologize to anyone I might offend when I admit, in writing, what I tend to flower up with my tongue.

I don't believe in making false promises to myself. And while I find changing oneself for the better to be a noble concept... it's embarrassingly sad how few "resolutions" the average person actually keeps.

It's discouraging, in fact, and for that reason alone I don't "resolve" to do anything on January 1. That's not to say there aren't things I'd like to improve about myself or my life — indeed, that list is far more lengthy than I care to admit — but that I believe in the Nike way of doing things.

And by that I mean: JUST DO IT. Whether it's January 1 or March 15. Whether it's your birthday or a Tuesday. If you want to change something — really improve your game — you don't wait for the start of a New Year to make it happen.

Though, again, I understand why people do it. It's the notion of a fresh start for a new year. But I translate that to mean imminent disappointment. And to me there's nothing quite so disheartening as giving up on oneself.

Seems to me we waste much of our lives wishing things for ourselves that are always within reach. We make excuses, we consider. We reconsider. We procrastinate. And then, after decades of "wishing," we look back on our lives with no one but ourselves to blame for a long list of what-might-have-beens.

January 1, to me, recapitulates a million lifetimes.


I dreaded last night's workout because I knew it was going to be chaos. I've been working out 4 to 7 days a week for almost four years now (I started on a Thursday), and I've been regularly going to a gym of some variety for the last two (with a brief exception after last year's move).

And if a series of New Years has taught me anything, it's that a hefty chunk of Americans resolve to "get in shape" every New Year.

That's fine — if you're going to stick to it. But as January fades into February, and February into March... that annoying influx of burgeoning athletes dwindles with each passing day. And by the time spring arrives, only a handful of the New Year hoard remains.


I considered that last night, pacing the gym in search of cardio equipment for a sufficient cool down. There were lines for all of the equipment and — though it wasn't quite as bad as I'd expected — I found the situation to be nevertheless depressing.

It's hard to not sigh, witnessing those high hopes on their inevitable decline.


And I don't mean that with an air of condescension. I may work out regularly, but I honestly don't appear to be in that great of shape.

Rather, being there last night was depressing for an entirely different reason. For reasons alluded to above — if casually — in the third person.

Truth is, this isn't about them. This isn't about those other people. This is about me, and my own life, and all the changes I've failed to make.

It isn't easy: watching people who remind you so desperately of yourself, caught in various stages of hope's decay.

The Village (Movie Review)

One of M. Night Shyamalan's more recent films, The Village (2004) is better than his 2000 film, Unbreakable, but not as good as the box office hits, The Sixth Sense (1999) and Signs (2002).

I began watching this movie knowing only the basics: it was another psychological thriller, written and directed by Shyamalan. Trailers for his films often mistakenly posit his body of work into the horror genre, though I'm pleased to report they're nowhere near as bloody as that general ilk. I had avoided watching The Village until now precisely because the trailers had once again fooled me into believing it was more horror and less psychology.

Luckily, this wasn't the case. And Shyamalan once again struts his proverbial stuff, leaving you constantly to wonder what (literally) lies ahead. The characters are compelling and there's always a much-welcome level of suspense — driven primarily by human emotion — in the air.

But this suspense is merely for the immediate future, as the overall direction of the film is far less daunting — a bit disappointing when you consider Shyamalan is known for his bet-you-didn't-see-that-coming endings.

At the risk of sounding like a know-it-all: I called out this film's "surprise" within the first 20 minutes. Maybe even 15. It almost seemed like Shyamalan was trying so hard to make a political statement (for fear of ruining the film for you, I won't say about what), that he didn't care so much about making sure the ending was a surprise. That's not to say no one will be caught off guard.

Also of note, the dialect spoken in this film drove me bonkers. I was literally rolling my eyes at the 18th century English, particularly since it didn't quite match the timeframe for the costuming. And while I suspect one could argue this served a purpose, that doesn't make it any less annoying. Ditto with some of the activities in the film, which sometimes disregard fine writing in a strict attempt to further the plot.

Still, kudos to Shyamalan for creating yet another interesting story.


Ocean's Twelve (Movie Review)

Watching Ocean's 12 (2004) made me wish I'd actually seen Ocean's 11 (2001). That's not to say I found the film to be altogether brilliant, but that I enjoyed watching it.

(There's a difference — I promise.)

It's a fun movie, with a reasonable level of energy. But the plot is also riddled with holes and other devices that had me scratching my head, annoying my movie-watching companion with comments such as "Now that just doesn't make sense" and "Why is he even doing that?".

The very premise struck me as being absurd. Basically, this film is about the group of charming thieves from Ocean's 11 joining forces once again to steal enough money to pay back — with interest — the money they stole from the guy in the first movie. Of course, someone new joins their gang — hence the "12" of this sequel's title.

I appreciate this "clever" ironic twist, even as I wonder why they were sharp enough to pull off the heist, but not to keep the bounty. Among other things.

I suspect it didn't help matters that I didn't see the first film — the more I watched 12, the more I felt like I needed to see 11 first.


Art School Confidential (Movie Review)

When I first saw a trailer for Art School Confidential (2006) — about a month or so before it was released in the theatres — I thought about adding an entry to my blog just talking about how excited I was to see it. It looked like a brilliant dark comedy that playfully poked fun of art-school types, but then the early reviews were so poor, I decided it wasn't worth the $9.25 to rush to the theatre. So I waited for the DVD.

And as much as I hate to agree with the critical vox populi, they were certainly on to something. But their criticism was so harsh, I almost felt sorry for this film — not to mention, the cast. So I was a wee bit more forgiving than were my predecessors. In short: I didn't hate this film. Sure, it wasn't anywhere near as good as my initial hope... but it wasn't entirely without merit.

Art School is another one of those quasi-independant films with a few big name actors (e.g. John Malkovich) that has an OK story line, but is otherwise missing that certain something at its core. Not to mention, it's a little more "dark" than I had expected... and with a little less comedy. It certainly wanted me to take it more seriously than I had any intentions of doing.

In short: it's a movie about an art school freshman who's quite gifted when it comes to accurately portraying what he sees, but who otherwise has no discernable style (or so his classmates say). His battle, then, is to either prove that his art is better than everyone else's more abstract paintings... or change his style.


Monday, January 01, 2007

Indecent Exposure

Also known as "A girl with a pocket-sized digital camera learns how to manipulate the f-stop."

Sad thing is, I've had the same camera for three years, and I'm only just learning how to take the occasional night shot without always resorting to the infared "night shot" function. Of course, the recent addition of a tripod to my tool kit certainly helps.

Now that's a cool job!

One of these "lights" is the moon (I swear).

Should be a tad easier to tell from this perspective...

I'm calling this one "A Certain Slant of Light" (Sorry Emily)

I never realized traffic signals were so festive!