Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Buffalo Wings, Beer And Fond Memories

Heard any OJ Mayo news of late?

The disciplinary status of the high school basketball phenom seems the only topic being discussed in town these days. And it isn't just a hot topic here. Hoppy Kercheval has devoted significant portions of his
MetroNews show to the goings-on, and ESPN radio announces at the top of each hour the latest update.

Hell, even local Uber-Con Tom Roten is defending Mayo on his morning radio show.

I understand that the local high school team is ranked as the best in the country. And, I agree that the dramatic events at the game against Capital High a few days ago are newsworthy.

I guess I' m just tired of the hoopla.

In typical backlash fashion, these days I'm sort of rooting for the other team. I loved the psychological chess match that occurred a few weeks ago when South Charleston (WV) High refused to allow their game with Mayo's Huntington High team to be moved to the Charleston Civic Center, giving up a huge payday for the mental edge of a crowded home gym. And I loved the aggressive way Capital High went at the Highlander Dream Team. Toe to toe, without giving an inch.

That's the way I roll, baby. That's why they call me The Film Geek!


It is the way I like to see basketball played, though. Good psychological sparring mixed with tough, no-nonsense physical play. That's because guys like me have to play that way...We make up for having few athletic skills with hard elbows, dogged-determination and good old fashioned rules-bending.

In 1980-something our high school basketball team went up against an Oak Hill (WV) basketball team that produced two Division I players, both over 6'8 inches tall. We were outmatched, and knew it. That's why I walked up to Tom "Speedy" Jones at the jump circle before the start of the game and said:

"Speedy, there's no dunking in tonight's game. If you dunk, I have to cut your legs out from under you. I just want you to know that in advance."

We shook hands, and about a minute into the game he did this:

While he was concentrating on slamming the ball-- really hard-- through the hoop, I was working to position myself under his legs. Sure, it was dirty. But I warned him in advance. After he fell hard to the floor, I helped him up.

"Sorry, Speedy, but I have to do that. Every time you dunk. Be expecting it."

Even though Speedy didn't try to dunk anymore in that game, his Red Devils team beat our team pretty handily. In the end, it didn't really matter that I'd prevented the guy from dunking on me more than once.

Except to me, that is.

I hope this Highlander team enjoys this unusually exciting high school ride, and that many of those players enjoy their soon-to-come college basketball experiences. And I hope OJ Mayo enjoys the NBA--'cause he will get there--and all the shiny things that come with that exciting lifestyle.

Just know that a few years from now it will be equally important for dozens of soon-to-be fat guys across West Virginia to start a story with:

"One time, when I was guarding the post, OJ Mayo came driving down the lane..."

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Black Dahlia

During Junior High football season, some of the guys would walk down to Rite Aid to...

Wait a minute. I've already told
that story.

You remember: me getting caught by the Rite Aid clerk reading Oui magazine? And how I dropped the magazine like it was on fire, ran from the store and didn't go back for years?

That's the one.

Prior to the incident where I was caught looking at porn, I'd often frequent the Rite Aid's magazine rack for other reads as well. (Really, I did.) They had an average selection of comics at the time, and a rack full of goodies that were almost as good as porn.

True Detective Mysteries. Or, True Crime. Or, Master Detective Magazine.

The monthly always had a picture of a beautiful--although, most often frightened looking--barely clad woman on the cover, with the main article titled something a bit sensual sounding, like:The Passion-Mad Slayer, or Midnight Rescue From A Sex Monster.

The magazine name didn't matter, nor did the title. For a 13 year old not yet brave enough to pick up the adult mags, this stuff was gold.

That's how I first discovered the case of The Black Dahlia. A row or two in front of Playboy and Hustler were the True Detective mags. And on that particular day I shelled out a couple of bucks and took one home.

I was fascinated with the case early one. The tragic murder of Elizabeth Short was gruesome, sure. But the lure of the case was that it felt dirty, as if the cops investigating the murder didn't really want to solve it. There were theories that were outrageous--like, for example, the theory that Orson Wells was the killer--and some that seemed plausible and could have resulted in arrest if the leads had been investigated correctly.

I put away the True Detective mags after a few years, and didn't think much more about the Black Dahlia until the movie was made. Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart sounded like good leads as LA cops who investigated the murder. Casting Scarlett Johansson as the siren of the flick was a good call. And you can't beat Hilary Swank. Her two Oscar wins weren't by accident, you know.

I eagerly put in the DVD, and settled back with some popcorn.

The Black Dahlia is one of the worst films I have seen this year. And maybe one of the worst I've seen in the last five.

The movie tries so hard to create a 1940s feel that it comes off stiff and rigid. The dialogue is hard to follow, and the various plots are somehow never really connected, even in the end. Hartnett and Eckhart never develop any real chemistry in their roles as partners investigating the murder, which allows the film to fall flat when it turns out one of them was secretly on the take.

Johansson is rarely used in the second half of the movie, while Swank is used too much. Seems every scene after hour one has Swank in it. First she's in bed with Hartnet, then she's visiting her father, then in a hotel room with some other guy we've never met...It just makes no freakin' sense!

And the worst offense, for me at least, is The Black Dahlia isn't really about The Black Dahlia. The murder of Elizabeth Short plays a minor role in moving the plot along, but the film's really about this four-some, and the distrust that connects them in so many ways.

Skip this one entirely, and read about the murder in True Detective instead.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Night At The Museum

Although I dissed Night At The Museum back in early December, I read in a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly that the movie has grossed over $360 million dollars worldwide, with over $200 million of that from domestic box office.

I guess all those millions of movie-goers forgot to read The Film Geek
that day.

Never one to judge by cover alone, I and The Film Geeklings hit Pullman Square for a day of fun and amusement.

And between the fun and the amusement, we saw Night At The Museum.

Ben Stiller is Larry Daley, a divorced father who's rather lazy and a bit of a schemer. He's never grown up, really, and as he advances in years he's becoming more and more of a joke. He can't seem to hold a job, moves often to avoid eviction and can't seem to earn his son's pride. To avoid eviction and make points with his kid, Daley takes a gig as the night watchman at the Museum of Natural History. Where, at night, the museum comes to life.


Stiller is fine as Daley, which earns him chops points with me. Many of his scenes had to be filmed alone due to the tech needs, I would presume, and he pulled that off well. Dick Van Dyke has a rather large supporting role, and plays the character Cecile with a lot of zest. Mickey Rooney plays another security guard, an irritable old coot named Gus. Rooney was a riot, and I wished he had more air time. My biggest laughs involved scenes he was in. Robin Williams was really good in his serious role as a Teddy Roosevelt wax dummy.

Night At The Museum is a family-type film, so the laughs didn't come from some of the more risque bits the audience is used to from a Ben Stiller film. Museum relies on some obvious jokes and animal hijinks's (from a monkey named Dexter) to get the crowd to chuckle.

My ten-year-old loved it. My six-year-old says she did. My three-year-old liked it until his ration of gummy bears ran out.


I told you so back in December.

Saw 3

I don't want to like the Saw trilogy. Really, I don't.

I avoided the original Saw like someone else's kid with the flu for months, before Mrs. Film Geek talked me into seeing it. She knows I despise torture porn, and that I keep my eyes closed during those kind of flicks more than I have them open.

Sure, I'm a wuss. But that has little to do with it. I have a personal theory that films like Hostel, for example, are made for a core audience whose personality traits are similar to the kind demonstrated by the fictional characters portrayed in that film.

Sick bastards that get off on seeing other humans tortured, in misery and pain, and then killed.

In agonizing, undignified and dramatic fashion.

"Saw's not like the other torture films,' she said, 'it's really more a psychological thriller than a torture movie." She can stand some gore if the movie is intricate and thrilling.

I trust her. So, I watched the original.

I liked it. It was smart, pretty unique and contained much less torture than I expected. (I only closed by eyes ten or twelve times, for brief seconds each.) Sure, Jigsaw was a psychopath, but one who thought he was doing his victims a favor. Helping them experience their lives more fully. And, I admit, the movie's Lost-like way of slowly exposing connections between the characters was appealing. So on the basis of that experience, I also watched Saw 2.

It was freakin' torture porn!

Even that deviant Mrs. Film Geek thought so.

I had poor expectations last evening, then, when I popped in Saw 3 for the rubber match. Round 1 was won by Saw, with Round 2 clearly going my way. This third and final round will determine the winner and World Champion!

(Sorry. I became lost in some type of sports cliche and couldn't get out.)

Saw 3 finds Jigsaw and his apprentice Amanda doing what they do, kidnapping people who have become bored with life or who live an emotionless existance. People who have shut down after experiencing a traumatic event, or who have caused tragedy in the lives of others and wish for redemption.

The characters are dramatic exaggerations of you and me, really. People who struggle--sometimes daily--to find meaning in their existence. Something that validates who we are as people, as family members, as members of society and as humans. People who haven't felt that spark-of-whatever-it-is-that-revives-us for far too long.

Saw 3 is loaded up with these sort of characters.

The movie is highly stylized, especially when compared to the first two. It has a darker theme than the others, with characters working through the tragic death of a young child and the marital troubles that were the result. The movie's color scheme has a darkness to it--lots of dull blues, and greys--that help reflect the feel it's going for. Jigsaw remains a psychopath, although one who continues to remain true to the rules of the games he creates. And that's not the case with his apprentice, Amanda.

A psychopathic killer can't get good help these days!

As intricate and well developed as Saw 3 is, it's violence and torture is much more graphic than in the original. And, some of it was just unnecessary to the plot.

Clever it was. But, clever torture porn. I win Round 3.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Anybody Seen Shoeshine Boy?

Forget Ghost Rider.

By Disney Enterprises Inc

There's no need to fear, Underdog is here.

(Well, in August he will be anyway.)

This is one superhero flick I am really pumped up about!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

It's a Maime...I Mean A Mime. Oh, Damn It! It's A Meme!

Or: Why I Lied When I Said I'd Never Publish A Meme.

(Hey, it came from the coolest guy I know. Live with it.)

Who was your best friend?
His name was Joe. We dated sisters, and once discovered a Peeping Tom looking in the window of their house. We chased the guy. Joe grabbed a hammer to use if we caught him, while I picked up the closest thing I could find to hurl at his head.

A basketball.

Joe never let me live that down.

What kind of car did you drive?
A mid-70s model Cutless Supreme. It ran great, but was an incredible color of bright yellow. In the summer of 1983 my Dad bought a fancy new paint spray gun, and he decided to test the quality of his new tool toy by painting the Cutless. I helped.

Later that summer I was in an accident, and had to have some dents taken out at the local body shop. The conversation went like this:

Body-Shop Guy: "Say, uh...Who did that paint work on your car?"

Me: "Well, [long pause, with awkward eye darts] It was some traveling handy-man, who stopped by our house one day and said he could paint it for cheap. Dad let him."

Body-Shop Guy: "You got ripped off."

Me: "Sure. That's what Dad said too."

It’s Friday night, where were you?
Nowhere I shouldn't have been.

And I regret that.

Were you a party animal?
Nope. I was the guy sitting in the corner watching the party animals.

Were you considered a flirt?
By everyone who ever knew me, yes.

Ever skip school?
Yep. During my senior year in high school, the Art teacher asked Tom and me to stay after class for a couple of minutes.

"Boys,' he said, 'how would you two like to make B's in this class without even attending?"

We never saw him again. And my GPA improved.

Were you a nerd?
No. And I'll kick your ass if you ask that again!

I wasn't. Promise.

(Nerd-dom came later.)

Did you get suspended/expelled?
No, but I came close once for making fun of some guy named Doug, who was bragging about having sex on the school bus while traveling home. His story made no sense: his angles were all wrong, and the things he described doing were out of natural sequence.

I knew.

But, Doug hated that I taunted him, so he told the principal. I was called out of Social Studies to the Principal's office one morning, a couple days after the argument I had with Doug, where I had the most amusing conversation of my senior year. It's too complicated to go into here, but I will say that it took me longer than I expected to manipulate the Principal into saying the phrase "anal sex."

It took at least 10 minutes. I'd figured less than five.

Can you sing the fight song?
Nope. I was usually in some locker room during times the fight song was being sung.

Who was your favorite teacher?
Mrs. McMillion. I credit her with my interest in English, and in writing. Once, in English class, she sighed really hard and said: "Marc, you exasperate me!" I thought the word sounded cool. The interest in words stuck.

Favorite class?
English. Although Shop Math comes a close second.

What was your school’s full name?
Nicholas County High School. There were two high schools in the county,but somehow we got the County name. That led to lots of fights with Lumberjacks back in the day.

School mascot?
Some might say it was a grizzly. I'm pretty sure it was Paula S.

Did you go to Prom?
I did, a couple of them. Although I only danced at one. I'm not only a bit shy, I'm incapable of rhythm. I'm particularly challenged when rhythm is combined with chicks and flashing lights.

I danced with Tonja for three-fourths of Freebird, before begging off when the guitar began to wail. She thought I was a wimp for that.

So did I.

If you could go back and do it over, would you?
Nope. Not for a second.

What do you remember most about graduation?
Two things I recall about graduation: (1) Steve Copenhaver announced that he had joined the carnival and would be leaving town that weekend. I was envious. (2) Mark Hanshaw set the robe of the guy in front of him on fire, thinking it was funny. It wasn't.

I think Mark did some time a couple years later...

Who was your high school sweetheart?
The daughter of the State Police Sargent. She was cool.

Sarge? Not so much.

Where were you on senior skip day?
Summersville Lake. In truth, it wasn't fun, but there was no place else to go.

Did you have a job your Senior year?
Not a formal job, although I did work a few weeks hauling away hundreds of large rocks and a broken down cellar (block by block) for some guy who paid me $25.

Soon after, I applied to college.

Have you gained weight since then?
How rude of you to ask.

What did you do after graduation?
Loaded up the truck and moved to Bever-lee! (Hills, that is.)

When did you graduate?

Who was your Senior prom date?

Are you going to your 10 year class reunion?
It has already occurred, as did the 20 year reunion. I went to Summersville that weekend, but decided not to attend. Steve Copenhaver was somewhere else running the Ring Toss anyway.

He's the only person I wanted to see.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Snow Day Blues

Local schools were cancelled today because--and I kid you not--there is about half an inch of the white stuff on the ground.


I think I may start a Regional Bikini Slalom Race. That would be loads of fun. It's something I'm going to look into, and investigate.

A lot.

Anyway, the Snow Day has me hanging out at home. While the kids ride sleds down the hill, I'm drinking hot chocolate and staying warm.

I.Hate.Snow. I hate it hard!

So much, in fact, that I have the Snow Day Blues (SDB). The SDB's can affect people in different ways, but they make me a bit manic. And, they make me easily annoyed. Those qualities are probably not a terrific combination, in that they can be the cause of distress, moodiness or annoyance.

Or, the basis for a pretty poor blog post...

My list of Snow Day Annoyances include:

Over-exposed: USA Today reports on a new website, ParisExposed.com, that provides access to an "array of Hilton photographs, home videos, diaries, love letters, recorded phone conversations and phone numbers of friends and celebrities."
Seems the socialite left these items behind when she vacated a LA-based storage facility.

I guess her U-Haul was too crowded with bling to fit in all the important mementos of her personal life, and those of her friends and family.

Not again: Look, I love comics. And, comic themed movies rock! So, don't mistake my complaint. I'm happy that Ghost Rider is coming soon.

But, Nic Cage?!?

The guy showed some incredible chops with
Leaving Las Vegas. Then, hit the action scene hard. Every time I gather some hope he is coming back to do real character work, he signs up for films like this.

Paydays are important to all of us, I suppose.

So what: The only thing I care less about than the Rosie O'Donald feud is the battle the media is trying to brew up between Rosie and Oprah. The Roprah Feud.
This one will fizzle out soon. The Queen of Daytime is good at the silent treatment, and rarely calls people out.

I mean: She's never complained publicly about me.

Photo: Kenny Kemp, Gazette
We Are...From Other States: It just seems ironic that the biggest intra-state college game of the year, called the Capital Classic and played in front of a bunch of part-time state legislators features no starting players or coaches from The Mountain State.

And it won't next year either. Even though all the great players from Huntington High will be playing in college games somewhere, it won't be the Capital Classic. It's a shame.

Thanks for listening!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Ron Carey

Like Soap and Hot L Baltimore, Barney Miller was considered a bit risque in my house during it's run from 1975-1982.

All the better for me to catch every delightful minute that I could!

One of my favorite characters on Miller was Levitt, the cop who was short in physical stature, but large in ambition. The actor who played Carl Levitt, Ron Carey,
died recently from a stroke.

He was 71.

Carey also appeared in some Mel Brooks productions, including
History Of The World: Part 1.

His character Swiftus spoke my favorite line from that movie:

"Oh, you are nuts. N.V.T.S, nuts!"

...Maybe you had to be there.

Thanks for the laughs, Mr. Carey. And for making me think from time to time.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Sisters

The Sisters, I've discovered, is based on Anton Checkov's The Three Sisters, and is just the latest in a fairly long line of adaptations about siblings who struggle to overcome their dismal existence.

In Richard Alfieri's screenplay, the Prior siblings--three sisters, and a brother--are academics who hide themselves deep within sarcasm and cynicism they've mistaken for intelligence.

Maria Bello has the meatiest role as the oldest--and clearly, the most disturbed--sister, Marcia Prior Glass. Marcia is antagonistic, petty, mean-spirited and vulgar. She seems to dominate her siblings through cruelty, while sister Olga remains analytically cold and aloof, and younger sister Irene struggles to find her own identity. Brother Andrew is clearly an outsider in the family; he is tolerated by the sisters but viewed with contempt, even though his character appears sympathetic and sincere to the audience.

Subplots involving infidelity (with Marcia) and a love triangle (with Irene) are prominent in the film, but take a back seat to the unveiling of the reason for the dysfunction that so clearly exists: Marcia, the oldest and most attractive of the daughters, was molested by their father. The cynicism and dysfunction has been formed from years of confusion, repression and denial.

Healing wounds that deep takes some seriously deep, surgical incisions. The Sisters is about that process.

The film is difficult to watch for a variety of reasons. It's designed like a play with heavy dialogue, minimal movement and few scenery transitions. And despite the obvious reasons for the dysfunctional behavior that exists among the sisters, there isn't a likable character in the entire cast. And finally, the movie's ending wasn't neatly wrapped like we find too often in today's pre-fab flicks. This ending keeps you curious about the family, and what may have happened to the siblings.

Here's a tip before you rent the DVD: If you liked Glengarry Glen Ross, you'll probably like The Sisters.

If you didn't, take a pass.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Step Away From My Pride

It had been a while since we last spoke, so I was eager to catch up when she called earlier this evening.

"Hi," she said. "I won't keep you long. Actually, I wanted to talk about blogs."


"Yep. I've been reading the message board a lot, because my job is sort of boring. I've been checking out your site as well as some others, and I'm really starting to get into some of the blogs. If you have a minute, I wanted to talk with you about something."

I figured she wanted my take on a movie she had rented. Or, maybe some advice about how to start her own blog.

I bet she wanted to have her new site linked to The Film Geek!

"Listen, do you read Step Away From The Barbies? 'Cause, I love it! So much that I read it every frickin' day! It's so damn cool. I mean, Jimmy The Neighbor is such a loser, and ...blah blah blah blah blah."

Uh, yeah...I dig it too...

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Missing That Big Ol' Outdoor Screen

A friend mentioned that he recently saw the latest episode of Rocky (and really liked it!), which caused a flood of memories for me. Back in the Carter era--Sweet Jesus, I'm old enough to recall another "era"--I was just at that age where going to the movies was something of a rite of passage.

It was, after all, the best place for a pre-teen kid who lived between two mountains to meet chicks.

There were
lots of terrific movies in 1976. I didn't see a damn one of them at Grove's Theater, though. And I blame Rocky! Week after week I'd glance up at the theater marque, only to see, again:

"Held Over For The [insert week number here] Week: Rocky!"

Week, after week after week after freakin' week...Summersville loved them some boxing.

Sometimes when the theater was so booked, my parents would load the kids up in the car and head to the Craigsville, WV drive-in. Dressed in pajamas and surrounded by snacks smuggled in, we kids would gorge ourselves on popcorn and soda until we fell asleep. This usually happened about the time John Wayne shot his first bad guy in The Shootist, or sometime before Wayne figured out who killed his best friend, in McQ.

My Dad sure liked The Duke. Still does.

Me? Never cared much for the guy. His movies were too predictable, his characters too superficial.

But, I loved the drive-in! Everything about it. I loved that you paid by the carload and not by the individual. Loved that you had to walk outside to get popcorn (after you finished the popcorn you smuggled in, of course), and could smell that carnival, state fair smell that comes from damp, packed-down grass and hay. Loved the speaker you had to attach to the window, before drive-ins went high-tech and began using the better-quality-but-less-cool radio frequencies to deliver the sound.

And, chicks loved the drive-in. A lot. That--in addition to the damp hay smell--was enough for me to fall in love with the drive-in.

The first formal date Mrs. Film Geek and I went on was at a Huntington drive-in. Looking back on it, I don't think she was that keen on packing a cooler of snacks, a couple of blankets and watching
Edward Sissorhands from the hatch of her Ford EXP. Beside cars full of people we didn't know. But the night was magical for me, at least.

It was the night I knew.

That drive-in, like most in West Virginia, closed in the mid-90s. A Wal-Mart was built there, then later a medical center. I was sad when the lot was torn down; it was as if part of my life was deleted.

A really important part of my life.

While traveling to Cincinnati this past weekend, Mrs. Film Geek and I drove past what I suspect is one of the last functional drive-ins in the area. Somewhere North-West of Portsmouth and South-East of Cincinnati was an honest-to-goodness movie drive-in, less than an hour from my home.

Gotta stock up on the Jiffy-Pop.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Prestige

Obsession and a compulsive lifestyle are not based merely in eccentric, quirky behavior. True obsessive and compulsive behavior is based in how pervasive a thought or action becomes in our lives. Want something badly, yet can control your desire so that you can function typically on a daily basis? You're just pining for something, my friend. Does everything else--including family members, relationships, careers and your own safety--take a back seat to something you've been intently focused on for years?

You got the OCD. Bad.

The Prestige is a movie about two illusionist in turn-of-the-century England, both of whom apprentice with a master magician before becoming headliners--and rivals--themselves. Christian Bale's Alfred Borden is a technical marvel who lacks showmanship, while Hugh Jackman's Robert Algier is all style with little substance. Borden and Algiers are two sides of the same coin: together their skills would make them a master performer, but separately they are less than either of them ever expected to be. The men become obsessed with outdoing the other. They become petty, as a result, and each becomes insanely jealous of the success of the other.

Their jealously ultimately consumes them.

Directed by Christopher Nolan (and written by Nolan and his brother Jonathon) The Prestige keeps the audience looking at the top hat. We know the damn rabbit is gonna pop out, it's just a matter of when. And if we keep watchin', we can figure out how the trick works. Nolan's success, though, is in making the audience forget that the real trick isn't the rabbit and the top hat.

It's what goes on below the table on which the hat rests.

Although we never take our eyes off the hat, the rabbit always appears. In dramatic fashion, and in a way that makes one wonder if magic really can exist.

Just like The Prestige.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Children Of Men

Directed by Alfonso Cuaran, Children Of Men gives the viewer front-row insight into an overwhelmingly bleak, totalitarian society that could well be our future. Based on a novel by P.D. James, Children Of Men is a cautionary tale. It reminds us of the results of apathy, and how simply hope can be restored if and when the doldrums of apathy are shaken off.

Clive Owen is Theo Faron, a 40-something former political activist who lives in England in 2027. He's apolitical now, burned out on personal tragedy and efforts that produced no real progressive change. Faron's England is a police state, governed by those who capture, cage and torture illegal immigrants (called Fugees) on a daily basis. Eighteen years earlier--and for reasons that are never explained in the film--women became incapable of getting pregnant.

Humanity is dying, and no one can reverse the process. There is no future to live for, and societal values have broken down.

The inability to produce children is a terrific way to illustrate the devastating hopelessness that exists in this future society. There is something compelling about the innocence of an infant. Untouched by evils like greed, selfishness, ambition and envy, babies remain the hope for our future. We hope our kids can be better people than we are. We hope they can make the world a better place. If we couldn't, maybe they can.

If that hope is taken away, what else is there to live for?

Faron becomes involved in an underground uprising, which is focused on overthrowing the totalitarian rule. While assisting a Fuggee in her attempt to get out of the city unharmed, Faron discovers that she is, miraculously, pregnant. Getting her to her destination now becomes even more important. He's no longer simply helping another human being navigate through dangerous circumstances; Faron is now delivering hope to the rest of mankind.

Hope in the form of an infant, with a future-full of possibilities.

Children Of Men is clearly a flick inspired by political events of this decade. Connections are made early with the War On Terror and the war in Iraq, and how those events influenced how future societies are governed. The inability to produce children is a terrific metaphor for the loss of hope for many in the world. We are reminded that apathy can lead to destruction, but only if we allow it.

Children of Men is a terrific, thought-provoking movie. You should check it out.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Friday, January 12, 2007

Turn The Page

I drove a little too fast to the school, I admit. I was excited! All week I had been looking forward to reading to my daughter's kindergarten class. Griffyn was excited too, she said, as long as I behaved myself and didn't embarrass her.


I've been known to do it, I suppose. But not today. Not to her. I needed to pull this 20 minutes off with flair, but temper it with something that at least appeared like adult behavior.

I went over the rules in my head as I drove, the things that I shouldn't do so as not to upset her:
No profanity, or language that might be misconstrued as such;

No references to smoking cigarettes or drinking alcohol (before, during or after the story);

No calling any of the kids "Hey, Bud;"

No telling stories about spending a night in jail.

I pulled up to the school at just the right time, and scampered inside. I was so excited.

The kids seemed a little distracted as they were herded into the room. But they sat down politely, and listened as I read. I tried to get them involved in the story, and a couple of kids seemed eager to participate.

And Griffyn couldn't stop smiling! At least for 20 minutes, her Dad was a rock star.

But still, there was something odd about the vibe in the air. Something unspoken, like it feels when you ask a girl on a date and she meets you there with her best friend. Awkward, and quietly uncomfortable.

I shrugged it off, though, and gave Griffyn a hug as I headed for the door. The teacher thanked me, and I waved to the kids as I left the room. I paused briefly just outside the door to search my pockets for my car keys, and overheard:

Teacher: "OK, kids. Are you ready to go finish watching High School Musical?"

Kids: [with dramatic enthusiasm] "YES!!!!!"

...I so can't wait for the next Parent/Teacher conference.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Just Waking Up From His Long Winter Nap

Have I missed anything?

Photograph: Yui Mok/PA

James Brown's still hangin' 'round: Someone might wanna call those guys from Weekend At Bernie's.

Caricature Zone
The Donald vs. Rosie Feud: Bennifer and Brangelina are such cutesy ways to illustrate the over-the-top power of celebrity couples. I've tried with these two, believe me, to come up with something cool: The Dosie; RoDon; Donaldosie; The Beast(s) That Ate Manhattan.

Nothing worked.

So, I've settled on calling this partnership: The Rosie O'Donald.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Wonder How Much Will This Stamp Will Cost?

Dear God:

It's been a long while since we last spoke. That's my fault, really, and I'm sorry. I've just been caught up in life stuff, you know? One thing after another. But, I reckon you do know.

The grand design is yours, after all.

I'm writing today about Pat Robertson, that 700 Club guy. I'm not sure if you've kept up with him during the last few years, but he's putting your name out there left and right, tacking fear to it in what looks like attempts to scare people into following you. Or maybe to keep himself in the spotlight, which brings him more money. (Or maybe both. After all, if he scares folks into following you, they might send him more cash.)

Anyway, the guy is out of hand.

Last year Robertson said a tsunami would hit the U.S. in 2006, and that it would kill lots of people. Before that he blamed you for causing the stroke of Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon. Now, he's predicting that terrorists will attack America in 2007, and the result will be "mass killings." In case you don't read the papers, here is his latest.

Here's the kicker: He says you told him all this.

Now, I may be out of place trying to tell you how to run your business. (Although if you are inclined to take polite suggestions, we could use a tad more peace across the globe these days.) If you are talking to Robertson though, there may be some things of which you are unaware: First, he's not always quoting you directly, and that sometimes causes confusion. For example, he said this of your most recent game of "grapevine":

"I'm not necessarily saying it's going to be nuclear. The Lord didn't say nuclear. But I do believe it will be something like that."

Secondly, using Robertson as a mouthpiece may not be best for your public image. Most folks view him as a snake-oil salesman. A carny, barking out anything to get people to come to his booth and put down a quarter. Sure, people give the guy millions every year . But you have to ask yourself if you want to be associated with that type of image. Maybe it's time to find a new prophet.

I think it is.

Letting Robertson speak for you only serves to water down faith in you. And some of us--OK, me--struggle heavily with faith. I've just gotten to the point where I actually have some. Keep letting Robertson deliver your mail and the small amount I've been able to nurture these last few years may die out.

If you aren't giving Robertson some inside scoop, then I apologize for my remarks. If, though, you are feeding him the occasional inside tip, I hope you'll consider telling the guy to put a sock in it.

He's doing nobody any favors.


The Film Geek

Monday, January 01, 2007

The Ant Bully

Humanist Carl Rogers often spoke of empathy, and the importance of sharing an emotional journey with another person.

More than just walking a mile in the shoes of another, the concept of empathy as developed by Rogers was about being in the moment with another person. Understanding needs, desires and motivations because you can experience them, too. It didn't matter if you disagreed with the person (or even that you shared his or her desires), having that empathic experience let you see life from another perspective.

Understanding the needs of another in such a complete way allowed you to interact more fully, and most honestly, with other human beings.

Empathy was a core component of Person-Centered Psychology, an approach to mental health counseling that Rogers developed. He didn't limit it to therapy, though. He believed the core concepts--including empathy--could be used in a variety of environments, including politics

He was probably right. His paradigm depends upon one thing, however, that doesn't often occur in politics:

True diplomacy and altruism.

But, greed and the hunger for power that seems inherent in politics--and in life-- get in the way too often.

I was reminded of Rogers while watching
The Ant Bully. In the animated flick, Lucas is a timid and small child who gets bullied. A lot, mostly by kids who are bigger, louder and more powerful than he. In order to feel more powerful, Lucas turns to bullying things even smaller: ants.

He torments them daily, flooding their anthill and disrupting their colony.

His actions are legendary within the ant colony, so much so the ants create a name specifically for him: The Destroyer.

Lucas the Destroyer is kidnapped by the ants one evening, and reduced in size. (How that happens is rather silly, but a necessary plot device to allow the film to continue.) He is put on trial for his crimes against the colony, and sentenced to live among the ants so that he may learn more about them. He does, while the ants also learn more about humans. They learn to work as a team to overcome difficulties, and learn to trust each other.

They also learn their respective needs are not mutually exclusive; both ants and humans can live in harmony, if they so choose.

The Ant Bully isn't necessarily innovative in style or animation. The voices used for the characters aren't terribly distinctive--even though mega-stars were used--and didn't serve as a distraction. Nope, there is nothing that distinctive about The Ant Bully to separate it from all the other animated flicks of 2006.

Except the message.

Empathy, understanding and peace.

I hope 2007 is that kinda year for you, and for me.