Friday, August 31, 2007

Tempus Fugit

Last night while jogging I wandered upon an older man, leaning onto a fence post for support.

He had a plastic bag in one hand but was using both to steady himself, completely motionless as I ran past.

Motionless, that is, except for his eyes.

His eyes looked up at me, their bright blue making contact with my blue-green (I looked over at him, concerned that perhaps something was wrong).

But I kept running all the same, making my way further and further from the lake until midway down the block I stopped. Turned.

And saw that he still hadn't moved.

So I made out that I was tired, and needed a break. Walked to a nearby newspaper stand and read the headlines, wondering if I should go back and ask him that age-old (no pun intended) question that could easily offend anyone with silver hair and an arched back.

"Are you all right?"

I ran over various permutations in my head, trying to determine the most inconspicuous way to determine whether or not I was, in fact, OK to continue on.

All the while hoping, of course, that he'd show some sign of life — even if only by changing that blank, terrified expression upon his face.

But, still, he didn't move.

So I walked back to him, relieved when he shuffled his feet — first his left, and then his right — and eased his right hand along the metal post.

He was walking again, ever so slowly.

And towards one of many nursing homes along the street. I go past many such "rehabilitative" centers on this route, in fact, and it's not entirely uncommon to see old women with walkers making their way to the lake front, or even men in their 40s to stare down at me — sometimes calling for my name, as they did last night — as I run past the neighborhood halfway house (the porch of which is encased in bars).

The one thing all of these people have in common — regardless of age, and regardless of gender or disability — is their solitude.

The people on the porch, for example, generally exist in groups. But they sit alone, never talking amongst themselves. Just shouting random words at passersby, or nodding quietly to the voice in their head.

And then there was this man, too, probably in his late 70s or early 80s. Either exhausted or disoriented or both, but trying nevertheless to make a go at things. I wondered if perhaps making it all the way to the corner might have been a tremendous feat, and part of me was ashamed to have even stopped — out of fear that he may have noticed my hesitation to continue on, and understood why.

I didn't want to embarrass him.

I imagined that once upon a time he may have been married. Happy, virile and strong. Successful in his career (was he a laborer? a writer? a poet? did he have a desk job?). And above all other things: proud.

As I resumed my jog, and pushed play on my iPod, and those melancholy tunes filtered in, I saw this old man become decades younger. Saw his hair turn from silver to black; saw him stand straight up and join me, jogging along busy city streets.

And then, as suddenly as the whole thing began,

He was old again. And I was, too, my knees stiff and my hair gray. I couldn't move and my lungs ached to breathe.

And cars were zooming all around me. People were laughing and shouting and crying and swirling and I couldn't hear myself think. I didn't know where I was, and all I needed — dear God, all I need — is to understand where I was going. Where I belong.

I was scared, and confused, and above all other things:


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Neglected Studies

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

For the Love of Beer

Gott und Mann

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Tangled Up in Blue

Haiku/Gesundheit (Volume XLXII)

on seeing 30 seconds of jerry springer on a television with rabbit ears
(or, "funny how static changes perception")

today's show features
a butter love triangle
talk about messy

on being hit on at the laundromat by an admitted gang banger

you seem nice enough
but you've clearly been smoking
hey, where's your laundry?
talk about a weird night

i'm done with laundry
till i have my own machines
so what if i stink
on almost being killed in the ghetto
(or, "thanks to the city police for shutting down an important road late at night")

there's no place to turn
so i turn south and then west
worst detour ever
ok, so i wasn't almost killed but you get the idea

bars on all windows
and embers of death falling*
from broken wires

*We were driving late at night in honest-to-goodness gang territory — one of the most unsafe neighborhoods in the city, where weekly some innocent person (oftentimes, sadly, a child) gets caught in the crossfire of rivaling gangs. While ascertaining I maintained at least a full car length between us and the car ahead (so we could do a 180 if necessary), I then had to take evasive measures to dodge sparks — actual, electrical SPARKS — flying down from above. Washington cleverly termed these "falling embers of death." We decided at one point that our commute home was something straight out of Grand Theft Auto.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Flowers on a Tombstone

The City at Dusk

In Sync

I don't care that it's dark & grainy — this photo has nothing to do with camera work.

And We Drown

We have lingered in the chambers of the sea,
By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown
Till human voices wake us, and we drown. ~T.S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sail Away

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Stardust (Movie Review)

If you loved The Princess Bride (1987), there's a 90% chance you'll at least "like" Stardust (2007).*

The two are alike in their charming campiness, their tongue-in-cheek humor, and their re-interpretations of fairy tale conventions. The primary difference, execution-wise, is something that's more of an alert for parents: Stardust is considerably more graphic than Princess Bride, and I actually felt bad for the five-year-old sitting behind me at the theater.

[Not to mention, I quickly grew tired of her kicking my seat, but never mind that.]

Still, I rather enjoyed Stardust and found it to be one of the more delightful films I've seen this summer — Harry Potter aside, of course. It chronicles the adventures of a young man who lives on the outskirts of remote British town that shares a "wall" with a magical world. He goes on a quest to retrieve a falling star for the girl of his dreams, only to find that "falling stars" in the magical world take on a human form.

But just as the charming young man hunts for the star to woo a narcissistic, materialistic female, the star (Clare Danes) is likewise hunted by a witch (Michelle Pfeifer) and three princes on a quest to inherit the throne of their magical kingdom.

I'm not doing the film justice; though I still have an obvious, possibly nostalgic preference for The Princess Bride, this is the first film I've seen in years that even comes close to creating the same sort of movie experience.

I'd recommend it to anyone who could use a good dose of clever escapism.

Emphasis on clever.


*I'm short on time, so I'll keep this briefer than I'd have liked.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Every / No Thing Belongs

Thursday, August 23, 2007

I Couldn't Bring Myself to Cut Them
(So I Took a Picture Instead)

Maude: I should like to change into a sunflower most of all. They're so tall and simple. What flower would you like to be?
Harold: I don't know. One of these, maybe.
Maude: Why do you say that?
Harold: Because they're all alike.
Maude: Oooh, but they're *not*. Look. See, some are smaller, some are fatter, some grow to the left, some to the right, some even have lost some petals. All *kinds* of observable differences. You see, Harold, I feel that much of the world's sorrow comes from people who are *this*,
[she points to a daisy]
Maude: yet allow themselves be treated as *that*
[she gestures to a field of daises]

***These aren't the flowers from Harold & Maude, but you get the idea.

Flight from Death (Movie Review)

I'm hopelessly behind on about a gazillion things, and — sadly — don't have the time to do this documentary justice while it's still fresh in my brain.

Rather, allow me just to say that if you've ever wondered why (not how, but why) civilizations exist, or you've ever wondered why people get married and have families and spend their days occupied by everything (or so they think) other than their ultimate fate, you should read Ernest Becker's amazing text, Denial of Death.

Just don't blame me for the long lasting side effects, which include a certain clarity about life that revolves around our mortal conclusion.

And then, after you've read that once. Or twice. Or maybe three times.

Watch the documentary that was inspired by Becker's philosophical treatise. That's where Flight from Death: The Quest for Immortality (2003) comes into play. The film has its gaps and shortcomings, but for the most part it offers a fairly accurate visual interpretation of Denial — a text which is not the least bit short of genius.


I Wouldn't Drink That If I Were You

Unlimited refills.*

*May contain dangerously high levels of ammonia.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Rolling Rock

I've been a terrible blogger again — sorry. I only have photos to post on account of a backlog of images saved as drafts, and I've been woefully inconsistent when it comes to reading everyone else the past few days.

Promise I'll catch up as soon as I can.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


Monday, August 20, 2007

Save, Save, Save! (Yourselves)

Nothing says "Buy a car or else!" quite like a big, giant inflatable lizard.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

To (Mis-) Quote Whitman

"And if you should seek me, look for me at Winter's blog. There you may find me."

Winter is on the move (literally) and asked me to guest post over at her place until she returns. Even if you don't check out my post(s), you really should take a peek at Winter's blog, if you haven't already. In addition to always being an interesting read, Winter has most recently demonstrated a knack for using her wit and witticisms to draw rather amusing cartoons.

So. Yeah. Don't delay.

Friday, August 17, 2007

As You Wish

Thursday, August 16, 2007

You Know You're Immature When...

You'll go out of your way, blinkers on, to take pictures like this.

Melinda and Melinda (Movie Review)

Seems every review of a "new" Woody Allen movie is determined to compare it to old Woody Allen.

Melinda and Melinda (2005) is no exception. Reviews are a fair mix of "another Woody Allen flop" and "a breath of fresh air in comparison to most of the other films Allen has put out in the past decade."

I'll reserve my frustration for these comparisons for another day (suffice it to say I think we as a people have a difficult time moving on). I mean, it's true Melinda and Melinda is no Annie Hall, but then again... how many movies are?

In Melinda and Melinda, a dinner party is sitting around discussing the differences between comedy and tragedy. A member of the group offers a snippet of a true story, and then asks them to determine whether it's comic or tragic.

What unfolds, then, are two stories, both involving a heroine named Melinda. Melinda's down on her luck and though each "writer" (both comic and tragic) forges the "facts" of the story to suit his comic or tragic needs. And if each interpretation is intended to be analogous with everyday life, I couldn't help but wonder what Melinda's REAL story would've been, had it not been intentionally skewed to conform to a particular mold.

But if the point is that life, comedic or tragic, is all a matter of how we interpret events as they unfold before us... then. Well. Yeah, I get that.

Ultimately, though, I didn't care too terribly much about either Melinda. And though I appreciated the idea of the split narrative, I was otherwise unmoved.

I did like the ending, though I appear to be the minority there.

Final Grade: C+

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Live & Learn

So I just found out this week that I've been shouting the wrong thing at baseball games.

It's "Buy me some peanuts and Crackerjack" not "Buy me some peanuts and Crackerjacks."

I don't consider myself to be old, but I certainly think I should've realized the error of my ways some years ago — maybe about the time I realized it was "wind chill" factor and not "windshield" factor. Or of course the day I realized most people don't pronounce the "t" in "often."

Guess I'm still learning.

This Photo Makes a Serious, Underappreciated Philosophical Statement about Life

The Cat Lady of Shallot

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Along Came Polly (Movie Review)

I was desperate for a laugh when I watched this movie, and viewed it with friends who love enough to watch it over and over.

In which case, I liked it quite a bit more than I otherwise would have. There are funny moments, no question, but it's generally trite. Still, I give it a tad more credit than do most reviewers. It's rated sufficiently rotten on the Rottenometer.

In it, Ben Stiller plays his usual charming self as the practical guy who plots out his life — including marriage to a perfect woman — only to have her cheat on him on their honeymoon. He goes home crestfallen and meets "Polly" (played by Jennifer Aniston): a happy-go-lucky semi-granola chick he knows from junior high.

I laughed, though some of the funniest bits were reminiscent of much more entertaining (e.g. Something about Mary) Ben Stiller flicks.

Final Grade: C+

Why Am I Upside Down

When my nephew asked the question, he meant literally — in the spoon.

I don't know how old I was when I started asking that question metaphorically of the world. I just know I haven't stopped asking since.

Ikiru (Movie Review)

Forget what I said about those photos in a recent post. Because if there's anything that sucks around here, it's me.

Case and point: I just don't love Akira Kurosawa's films as much as everyone else. I watched Seven Samurai a few months ago, and when a friend found out I didn't give it a glowing review, she recommended Ikiru (1952) as a "better" sample of Kurosawa's abilities.

And I did appreciate it more than I did Samurai. That's true. But I also found it to be needlessly long, with certain scenes dragging on well beyond a reasonable conclusion. And the main character, Kanji Watanabe, is so timid, so soft-spoken and repetitive that — though I recognize his personality was integral to the plot — I often found him to be as annoying as he was sympathetic.

I realize I'm talking about one of the most highly regarded films of all time. And best as I can tell, much of the fondness for this film is sentimental: the title, "Ikiru," is Japanese for "to live" and the message implicit to this film is simply that: to live.

And so at the movie's core is a beautiful story that's sadly familiar to most. The protagonist discovers at the beginning of the film that he has stomach cancer: a veritable death sentence for a man who spent 30 years of his life caring for his son and slaving away at work, only to realize:
  1. The love a parent feels for a child is not the same as the love a child feels for a parent (in other words: his son is too busy living his own life to demonstrate true concern for his father); and
  2. He's done nothing but stamp papers and pass that veritable buck at work (the epitome of bureaucratic red tape).
The few remaining months of his life are spent very much so like the previous 30: his timidity persists even as he searches for a means to make the most of his days. He keeps his eyes down when speaking to others, can scarcely be heard when talking, and is fond of expressions such as "what I am trying to say" and "in other words." He's a man who's uncomfortable interacting with others, a point that I agree needed to be made with Watanbe's mannerisms. I just wish it hadn't been so overdone.

But our protagonist does make one discernible change in his life: he's driven to somehow make a single positive change in the world before he dies.

He does so with a note of tremendous sadness. Loss implied not by his impending death, but rather by the number of years wasted previously. You feel sick watching Watanabe, knowing full well that in the 55 years that have passed since this film was made, the mass of men still lead those proverbial lives of desperation.

And somewhere along the lines, there's a poignant reminder that we're not all given the chance to have this sudden "memento mori" epiphany that instills in us a new lust for life. Most of us simply just die, little by little, day after day.

And for that, I appreciated the film. Even if it is too long, and even if the point is a bit over-stated. It is otherwise scattered with beautiful phraseology and replete with amazing cinematography: some so much so that I couldn't help but wish I could acquire a couple stills for my wall.

So if you tell me Kurosawa is one of the best filmmakers of all time because of the art inherent in his camera direction, or even the core message he intends to convey... I just might give you that.

But if it's for his editing or even his "subtlety." Well. We'll just have to agree to disagree.


Monday, August 13, 2007

Objects in the Mirror

These photos don't do this particular sunset justice: it was absolutely stunning. But the resultant images are a bit out of focus, and I didn't zoom in enough. But to my credit, I did shoot them while driving — and by that I mean I was at the wheel — on an interstate.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Why Can't You Just Love Me for Me?

I don't meant to brag, but in the past week or so, the number of visitors to my blog has skyrocketed. I mean, I went from a measly 15-30 hits a day to 70-150.

Ordinarily I would be really stoked about this. But I must admit, it's a wee bit humbling to realize that 9.5 out of 10 hits are precipitated by search words like "baby buffalo lion" and "lion tossed by cape buffalo" and even "tiger eats baby buffalo."

No kidding, I've apparently become *the* prime source for that amazing video on some search engines — which is funny, when you consider all I did was embed the You Tube link a few weeks ago.

And, no, none of these people look at anything else on my blog. No one looks at the pictures or reads the entries; and if they return to this page, it's just so they can view the video again.

I mean, I've had nuns check out the video, for crying out loud. People at NASA, and even the freakin' President of the United States of America.*

So just in case you missed it the first time around, I though I'd repost it. Because it's apparently the hottest thing on the net — aside from my brilliant collection of haiku, of course.

Everyone wants in on that.

*Just kidding about that last one. We all know the Cyber-Nanny Dick Cheney installed on Bush's computer blocks access to You Tube.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Bourne Ultimatum (Movie Review)

This movie isn't perfect, but it is nevertheless a thrill to watch.

And by that I mean: the Bourne series continues to be one of the best of its genre, trumping the usually empty plot lines (typically sacrificed in the name of special effects and action sequences) and offering up something that is just as exciting to watch as it is compelling to witness.

But there were times when I found characters' actions to be a wee bit unbelievable, or particular circumstances unrealistic.

But when you compare that to other "action" films, it's still a gem of the genre. And just in case you think need to watch the first two Bourne films to understand this one: I saw the first, but not the second, and still followed this one just fine. Though, to be fair, I was confused on a few points and think this installment, entire of itself, left a few of those proverbial stones unturned.

For those of you entirely unfamiliar with the series: Matt Damon stars as Jason Bourne, a highly trained military man who finds himself hunted by the very people he used to work for. As he searches for clues to piece together his past (he has no memory, save for occasional hazy flashbacks), he fights to remain alive as the U.S. government continuously puts assassins hot on his trail.


Illegal in Most States

Because You Deserve to Know What Your Tax Dollars Aren't Paying For

The last time I posted first hand encounters regarding the way in which our troops were treated in Afghanistan, my sitemeter registered a fair few hits by U.S. Government officials — including the Department of Information (no idea why they don't even bother to cover up where they visit on the 'net).

Shortly thereafter, I saw that people at an undisclosed military facility in Colorado were viewing that particular entry after they were e-mailed the link.

(Scary how much these sitemeters tell you, isn't it?)

Hoping those visits were just a bizarre coincidence — but fearing I could get my "source" in some sort of trouble — I removed the post. Though, yes, I realized it may have been too late.

That was more than a year ago. Suffice it to say that in the meantime I've had a difficult time holding my tongue about similar concerns.

Like last night, learning the demographics of platoons we are "training" for deployment to Iraq.

One non-commissioned officer and a couple dozen boys, 18-19 years old, fresh out of boot camp.

That's it. One low-ranking sergeant leading a group of kids. One person who's there because he wants to be, and countless others because they needed the money offered by a sign-on bonus. I mean, let's be realistic: look at all the incentives the Army now offers kids who sign up; look at the number of soldiers with decent test records and passable grades (and compare that to past records — it's sickening how the Army has lowered its standards); and tell me it's safe to send a group of those boys and girls into the desert.

I hate to say it, folks, but if that's not treating soldiers like slabs of meat, I don't know what is.

Or as one co-worker put it: "It's like they're looking for bodies to stop the bullets while they build their embassy."

And so: yes, I think this is a bogus war. And save that initial invasion into Afghanistan (which we botched terribly), I've never supported this.

But, please, if you're going to send Americans into Iraq by the thousands... make sure our soldiers are qualified. Make sure they're there because they want to serve their country, and not because they needed the money. Make sure they have their diploma and please — whatever you do — stop waiving criminal records (rumor has it "soldiers" are stealing equipment from members of their squad). Make sure they're well-trained, and have all the supplies they need.

And while you're at it: change your strategy or get the heck out. Because increasing our head count isn't doing a damn thing.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Parents These Days

So there I was hot on the prowl for laundry detergent when I hear a tiny little voice say "f*ck you!" over my shoulder.

As I turn to see the source of this otherwise innocent sound, another much older voice responds with: "No, f*ck you!"

At about that point I realize this is an exchange between a young boy (about 2 years-old) and his father, who is pushing a shopping cart alongside a woman I assume to be the boy's mother.

The father smiled at his son, poking him gently in the belly.

"No, f*ck you!" the boy screamed back, laughing.

This repetitive parley continued as I rounded the corner and thought about what I'd seen.

Meanwhile outside a 10-year-old boy rides his bike several feet ahead of his friends, demonstrating just how deft he was at cycling without the aid of hands.

He proved this by raising both to shoulder level, palms pointing in and squeezed to a close.

On each hand, his middle finger was raised to the world, serving as a stark reminder to passersby of just how important it is that every child have a parent who teaches them — what else — but the vulgarity of cool.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Can Someone Please Tell Me What This Is?

My imagination is getting the best of me (found on a random city sidewalk).

The Simpsons (Movie Review)

About ten minutes into this movie, I wished I'd gone to see Hairspray instead.

I mean, it's not bad — and most critics have raved about it — but the fact is, it's a lot like the show. And the show, as well all know, is meant to be taken in 30 minute intervals.

To be fair, I was in a poor mood and was relying entirely on this film for a light-hearted distraction. In which case: I got a couple laughs out of it, so it wasn't entirely a loss. Still, I think this is something better off rented.

But I've long been a die-hard Simpsons fan, which is part of the reason I consented to pay $9.75 to see the film version. And I suspect in a better mood, it could've been more amusing.

Besides, I've heard some reviewers call this the best animated film ever made.

So what do I know.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Always the Photorapher's Assistant,
Never the Photographer

And for good reason. See below for details.

Though, I did take a few shots that were in focus AND included people's faces. But I didn't figure they'd take too kindly to being exposed on a random blog such as this.

And, never fear, the "real" photographer got some great shots the newlyweds are bound to love. I mostly just help carry around equipment, and then take a few random shots here and there.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Ma Vie en Rose (A Study of Color)