Friday, March 31, 2006

Hollywood Visits The Holler

I lead a fairly boring life. When my telephone rings after 9pm on a Friday night, there are only a few possibilities as to why. Someone I know is sick, someone I know is drunk or someone has dialed the wrong number. Most of the time, someone I know is drunk.

So it was earlier tonight when a friend called to report she had just seen Matthew McConaughey walk into her usual nightspot on 4th Avenue. McConaughey is in town to begin filming We Are...Marshall, a movie based on the tragic airplane crash that claimed the lives of the university's football players and several of it's fans. The crash occurred in the 70s. The immediate effect it had on the Huntington community was devastating; how the community responded over time, however, is inspiring and should make for an interesting movie. The town is abuzz and starstruck. Apparently, hanging out at Hank's Piano Bar might get you a glimpse.

I caught A History of Violence last evening. It's a wonderful, dark film that explores if we humans truly have the ability to change our character. And if we can, is it possible to do so for a lifetime. The film is violent, but appropriately so. I highly recommend it. ****

Thursday, March 30, 2006

It's Greek To Me

The iPod my wife and I purchased for our daughter's birthday gift arrived in the mail yesterday. While I was on the phone with work, she opened up the box and turned it on. Then, I heard:

"Hey Dad, I accidentally clicked on 'Chinese' when it asked me what language I wanted to select. Can you fix it for me?"


I studied Spanish for about four years, and could have muddled through that selection. I probably would have struggled through French too, had she accidentally selected that language. But Chinese? For more than 90 minutes I obsessed over restoring the language section back to English, but it was just too difficult. The Chinese was simply Greek to me.

I recalled that West Virginia blogger Raging Red ( posted information recently about an iPod repair company. So, I called them about my dilemma. And they told me how to fix it, even though I wouldn't be paying them a cent for the advice. Because of Raging Red and iPodMods my daughter (and I) get to listen to lotsa cool tunes over the weekend. Thanks a bunch!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Message Received, Loud and Clear.

When I walked into the Chinese restaurant to get my carry-out today, I detected a few odd stares from the staff. When I told the waitress: "I'm getting take-out," I thought I saw her wink as she replied, "Yes, I know." Strange.

Stranger still was my fortune cookie, which read simply:

"A new adventure awaits you this weekend."

My suspicion continues to build...

Hustle and Flow

Hustle and Flow received a lot of critical flack when it first opened. Many critics, particularly, opined that the film depicted characters as stereotypes and cliches instead of as real individuals. I would guess that many of us know few pimps in our everyday lives, and even fewer pimps who want to be rap stars. But we do know people with dreams; people who aspire to something better than their current position in life, who will do whatever it takes to reach their goal. Cliche or not, this is the real plot of Hustle and Flow.

Terrence Howard plays Djay, a Memphis pimp and pot dealer who struggles to get by every day. He pimps his small stable of three girls out dirt-cheap from his car, and gives away more weed than he sells in return for favors from friends. He hits rock bottom when his utilities are cut off and his girls (one of which is pregnant; another who leaves him after a fight) stop producing. In his desperation, Djay turns to his childhood ambition of rap music as a means to survive.

Creating a song that receives airplay becomes an obsession, and takes over Djay's priorities. He struggles to find the hook that all pop and rap songs need to catch on with listeners. He becomes so narrowly focused and desperate that he takes a huge gamble near the end of the film that will either pay off huge, or cause him to fail miserably.

Terrence Howard gives Djay a human quality that allows the viewer to forget that he is a drug selling pimp, and forgive him for occasional outbursts of violence. Watching the character toss all his hopes and dreams into one make-it-or-break-it moment was compelling, and I found myself really rooting for the guy. I also discovered why the signature song from the film won an Oscar for Best Song. The creation of the song is so integral to the plot of the movie that it becomes almost a character itself. I highly recommend the flick. ***1/2

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

This Message Will Self- Destruct...

My fortune cookie from lunch today contained this coded message:

"When you are squeezed, what comes out is what is inside."

My lunch-mate's fortune read: "Turn your scars into stars."

I'm beginning to think the restaurant owners are trying to tell me something. It might take me a few weeks to piece this puzzle together, but I'm dedicated to figuring it out!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Weatherman

Dave Spritz, the central character in The Weatherman, just can't catch a break. He is conflicted, insecure and impotent (in the psychological sense of the term). Throughout the film Spritz seems to be searching for some way to restore dignity and sense to his life. He expects improvement to come from some event or happening; a new, flashier job, love and respect from his father, adoration from his kids or reconciliation with his ex-wife. Spritz believes, like many of us, that the green grass over there is more appealing than his current standing. And, like many of us, he is wrong and doesn't know it.

Nicolas Cage plays Spritz as a sad-sack going through a helluva middle age slump. His children have behavioral problems, his ex-wife distrusts him, his dying father doesn't understand or respect him and his job as a local TV weatherman is unrewarding and dull. Spritz spends much of the film trying to patch these problems, but his efforts are superficial and unsuccessful. Only when he realizes that it is through acceptance, tolerance and understanding does he begin to develop a sense of peace.

Several times during the film Spritz comments on how the weather cannot be truly predicted, that the best one can do is establish some sort of general variance that lets us know how to dress for the day. It is a strong and appropriate metaphor for life. Sometimes knowing whether to put on shorts or slacks is the best we can do.

The Weatherman is a solid, character driven film with terrific acting by Cage and Michael Caine, who is strong in his role as Spritz's father. ***

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Good Night, and Good Luck Staying Awake

I so looked forward to watching Good Night, and Good Luck. It was advertised as everything I like in a film; smart dialogue, strong acting and a focus on characters. Add the black and white look, and I'm buying without the test drive. So, I popped it into the DVD player last night, hit "play" and fell asleep almost 50 minutes later. The movie kept the same pace and rhythm throughout, causing me to fall into a deep, hypnotic snooze.

Good Night, and Good Luck is not as much about the McCarthy/Edward R. Murrow feud than it is about the journalistic process that ended the tyranny of McCarthyism. In the modern era of 24-hour news channels, sound-bite journalism and Fox News it is easy to miss the idealism and integrity of golden age reporting.

An aspect of Good Night, and Good Luck that I did like was the parallel between the witch hunt led by McCarthy in the 1950s with today's Bush-invented War on Terror. Both men questioned the patriotism of anyone who disagreed with them. Both had an intensely narrow focus, and limited ability to see the perspective of others. Both benefited personally from power and authority. Both were bastards.

Such similarities!


Skip the movie. You already know how the McCarthy thing turned out. Hopefully the Bush era will be equally embarrassing 60 years from now. **

His Name Was Pat?

Rufus "Pat" Jobe, an acquaintance during the last fifteen years, died this week. Three years older than me, Rufus was a genuinely nice fellow. Optimistic and curious, Rufus was well-suited for his career as a librarian at Cabell County's main branch.

Rufus lived near me, and a couple of times we shared rides home. A few times we had lunch together. Mostly, though, we enjoyed each other's company on the reference floor of the library, talking about politics, religion and people. I didn't know Rufus well--in fact, according to his obituary he was best known by his nickname, "Pat," which I didn't know--and we didn't agree on much, but we loved to talk. He was more conservative than I, and more certain of his beliefs. I admired that.

His sudden death, and the fact that he was only slightly older than me, has me stunned. And reflective. His passing has me questioning most of my actions, passing them through a "Rufus filter" for checks on morality and values. Even in death I respect his perspective. Hope he knows that, somewhere.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Celtic Green and Still Black and Blue

There was pandemonium at my house this morning, when my nine-year-old daughter realized she had nothing green to wear to school. I dismissed her worry, I suppose, and told her to wear something else. St. Patrick's Day, I said, was a silly holiday anyway. She looked at me as if I had suddenly started speaking in tongues. And then let me in on the real worry: "If I don't wear green, Dad, the kids will pinch me."

I suddenly recalled a St. Patty's Day pinchin' of my own. In second grade I was pinched on the arm, by classmate Flavia Corbett, so horribly that it raised a welt and caused a really nasty bruise. I was even wearing green! I hated him for that...

So, I threw a green shirt into the fast cycle of the washer for my daughter, and we arrived to school 10 minutes later than usual.

Stay safe, me lass...Stay safe.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Lord of War

I like Nicolas Cage movies that are dark and edgy. His is such an odd delivery that he seems to really connect with characters who struggle with moral dilemmas (think Raising Arizona and Leaving Las Vegas...not Valley Girl). That's the biggest reason I enjoyed Lord of War.

Lord of War follows Cage's character as he becomes the most successful arms dealer in the world. The film isn't really about that, though. It is really about how the character handles success, what (and who) he is willing to sacrifice for money and power and how those around him are affected by his greed. Cage delivers the moral angst with such conviction that, while watching, I found myself curious if the film was based on fact.

I'm highly recommending Lord of War. Check it out. ***1/2

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Pass the NyQuil

Just woke up from my long Winter's Oscar nap...Did Dolly finish her song?

Most Over-Exposed Celeb O' The Evening Award: George Clooney.

The man is seriously talented and handsome-enough-to-make-me-stare, but c'mon...The Oscar buzz and chatter about Clooney made him out to be some West Coast Bruce Wayne.

Most Obvious Award O' The Evening Award: Ang Lee.

The guy is out-Spielberg-ing Spielberg. The man is brilliant. (And, he seems quite nice, too.)

Best What The Hell Award: Three 6 Mafia.


Best Chick I'd Never Stand A Chance With Award: Jessica Alba.

I'm painfully aware that if she and I were alone in a bar late at night she wouldn't start the conversation. So, stop telling me that!

Best Moment To Go Make Some Popcorn Award: Dolly Parton's live rendition of Travelin' Thru.

Heard it once before, when it was called Coat of Many Colors.

Overall, I thought the show was a "D." What about you?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Oscar, 16 Blocks and a Seat In Between

Oscar finally arrives this weekend. While I hate the pomp and bling that happens on the over-extended red carpet, I do typically like the show itself. And Jon Stewart should be a fun host. I'm picking Philip Seymour Hoffman and Charlize Theron in the acting categories, and Brokeback Mountain as Best Picture. Ang Lee for Best Director...nothing short of brilliant.

I saw 16 Blocks with a friend last night. It was a so-so movie (rent it on DVD). More interesting, though, was watching all the men who attended this guy flick with their male buddies. Most --nearly all-- sat with one seat separating them. Why do we guys need to communicate so loudly to others in the theater that: "We're not a couple. I swear! See...a seat separates us. We are straight!"

It's just plain silly. Lucky for me, my friend Bobby not only sits beside me, he buys me concessions and opens doors for me as we enter and leave. Hmmm...

Thursday, March 02, 2006

From The All You Can Eat Buffet

The slip of paper from my lunch-time fortune cookie today reads:

Your way of doing what other people do their way is what makes you special.

It can also be what makes you a criminal, a sociopath and a pariah. It might well be a signal that you have an emotional disturbance, or that you have a personality disorder.

By the way, the lucky numbers for today are: 47, 5, 28, 36, 19 and 7.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Aristocrats!

I love Penn and Teller. In fact, I saw them perform live several years ago, and the evening is still one of my favorite memories. But, I'm not a fan of their Showtime program, Bullshit. It seems forced sometimes, and a bit pretentious.

Tonight I watched The Aristocrats, the documentary produced and directed by Penn Jillitte (spelled with a G in some shows, for some reason). The documentary captures over 100 comedians dissecting a decades-old joke which ends in the punch-line "The Aristocrats." The joke is more than blue; it is vile, repulsive and quite funny.

The movie, though, is not. There were very funny moments--Sarah Silverman is a hoot--but frankly the film seemed a bit too inside. I like to look behind the curtain, and I love talking to the carney about how the games are rigged...But not for ninety minutes. I get it, the joke is vulgar, and is so open that it allows each comic to riff. Now, tell me another.

Did I Read That Correctly?

Vince Young, the Uber-QB from Texas, will clearly be one of the first three players chosen in the upcoming NFL draft. Young is working out for NFL scouts at a combine in Indianapolis, and word out today is that he scored a 6 (which has since been adjusted up to a 16) on an exam called the Wonderlic Personnel Test. Nearly three million job applicants in the US are given the Wonderlic each year. Examples of Wonderlic questions are:

1. Of the following, which is the ninth month of the year?
A. October
B. June
C. July
D. September
E. May

2. Which number of the following group of numbers represents the smallest amount?
A. 7
B. 8
C. 31
D. 33
E. 2

3. When rope is selling at $.10 a foot, how many feet can you buy for 60 cents?

There are 50 questions on the test, making each question worth two points. I'm terrible at Math, but I'm pretty sure I just got a Wonderlic score of 6 based on those three questions alone...

Reminds me of a former sister-in-law, who struggled to understand how illegal immigrants from Mexico made it to the US on foot when they had to cross the Atlantic.