Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Because I'm That Cheap

Disney has great theme parks, cool urban legends about the frozen head of Uncle Walt and it's super-friendly.

Apparently, though, the theme park can't make it financially without charging ten bucks a day for Internet connection.

So, I'll be back July 2.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Kin


"Hi, I'm Marc," I said as I strapped the seat belt on.

The guy glanced my way--it was barely a glance, but it qualified--and raised an eyebrow. Nothing more, just that small acknowledgement that really meant he had no real interest in getting to know me. So, I pulled out a newspaper and pretended to read.

I knew at that moment it was gonna be a long, long flight.

And it was just that. More than an hour delay on the tarmac, several hours in the air en route to the deep south and not one freaking word from Mr. Sunshine in 4A.

I really enjoy traveling, especially when I'm able to spend time people watching. And airports are great places to watch folks. You can learn a lot about a person while watching how they cope with distress, and how they treat other people. Most travelers ignore others, pretending that anyone outside their personal bubble doesn't exist. Too wrapped up in personal drama, people simply want to be left alone. Relationships--even ones that are brief--require too much of an investment for people. It's just easier to isolate one's self.

Except if you're a West Virginian.

"You going home?" the guy behind me asked, leaning forward to talk. He couldn't have had a clue if I was coming or going, but something in my affect gave it away.

"I am. It's been a long day and this is my last connection, into Charleston."

There was something different about this plane full of people traveling from Cincinnati to West Virginia. There was an exciting energy in the air; people were talking back and forth about the towns they live in, and the friends they had in common. It was as if these strangers were family who hadn't seen each other in years, and were becoming reacquainted.

It's like we were kin.

"Going home's the best part of traveling, eh?" he asked. I smiled and nodded.

It certainly is.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It's More Than A State Of Mind

For the first time in my life, I have a legitimate sports injury.While playing basketball two weeks ago, I got caught somewhere between setting a screen--a helluva hard screen, I'll add--and breaking toward the basket for a backdoor pass.

Now, hitting the lane quick and taking the rock to the hole was pretty easy in my teens and twenties. And I still have the skills to get it done ...in my head, at least. But, it seems the move I planned to make (and which was so seamless in my head) can no longer be replicated in a real life experience.

'Cause I'm old.


As I pivoted to the basket and raised my hand for the ball I heard and felt a small "pop." My left knee felt sore a bit later but I played on, chalking it up to the typical aches and pains that occur when a 42 year old thinks he can play basketball with guys a whole lot younger.

The next day, I couldn't walk up or down the stairs. Seems I've torn a meniscus.

Add this to the Social Security update I recieved in the mail this week, and my mood is fairly obvious.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Notes On A Scandal

Hot For Teacher used to be just a decent song and a way-cool video by Van Halen. In the last few years, though, the phrase has taken on a more sinister meaning. And it's not only Johnny that's hot for teacher; a whole gaggle of professional educators are pulling a Debbie LaFave these days.

I can appreciate the MILF movement as much as the next guy. Particularly as I ...get...older. But c'mon: what happened in our society that permitted the schoolboy crush to be reciprocated? I'm sure Ms. Suiter knew I had a thing for her in 6th grade. She had to; my goofiness when I was near her would have made that pretty clear. If she had reciprocated, though, I would have had a meltdown.

Emotional maturity. The large divide that once existed between adults and children seems to be narrowing.

Notes On A Scandal is a terrific film that highlights this evolution of our emotional maturity. Sheba Hart, played wonderfully by Cate Blanchette, is a teacher who begins an affair with a 15 year old male student. A colleague--an older, prim and proper teacher, played by Judi Dench--discovers the tryst and uses the information to further her own needy agenda. The result is a creepy, intense insight into selfishness, insecurity, lies and loneliness. And the pain that each can cause.

The acting in Notes is top shelf, and it's a more complicated story than you might imagine. A plot that makes the teacher who does a student one of the most sympathetic characters of a story is pretty complex.

Friday, June 15, 2007

It Couldn't Have Been Worse

I freakin' hate Green Lantern.

First of all, his ring was supposed to find the one man on Earth who was fearless, and worthy of it's power. It picked test pilot Hal Jordan, completely ignoring people like Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent who, for large chunks of their day, carried out feats of heroism.

There were no amendments in the Corps. handbook that called for the omission of "fearless humans other than those already engaged in superhero-dom."

Secondly, the ring--which is supposed to be the most powerful weapon in the universe--has been used mostly to conjure up giant green power-drills and bubbles in which non-flying comrades could be carried by GL as he flew them to a mission.

What a waste...

So, when I took the Which Superhero Are You? quiz while visiting the DC Comictician site, I was more than disappointed in the results.

"Your results:
You are Green Lantern"

I wanna be The Batman!!

Check it out yourownself.
Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Paranoid? I Ain't Scared A-Nobody!

I used to play high school sports with a kid named Rick who was, without a doubt, one of the most paranoid people I've ever met. That word gets used too lightly these days, and should be reserved for serious bouts of He's-Talkin'-About-Me-itis. But the term worked with Rick.

He was that paranoid.

And because he was that paranoid, other kids taunted him. Once they realized that every side glance, smirk and whisper would cause him discomfort they were like sharks. Every day, all the time. Snide comments, loud whispers to others in the locker room, raised eyebrows: all designed to cause Rick to freak out and blow a gasket.

He did just that on occasion, although I'm never sure he knew exactly what paranoid really meant. Once, after a kid teased him, Rick threw the biggest tantrum ever. The kid, who became kinda scared at the outburst, yelled: "Jeez, why are you so paranoid." Rick answered:

"Paranoid? I ain't scared a-nobody!"

Then, he punched the wall.

I don't know what happened to Rick after graduation. I do hope, however, that he found some peace in his life.

I consider myself more hyper-observant than paranoid. Always have been so inclined, but particularly during my adulthood. Being that aware of small things that go on around you is more of a curse than it is a blessing. Hyper-observant folks tend to notice behavioral trends that other people overlook. Habits, routines and tics that stand out in dramatic fashion, regardless of how subtle the context.

The biggest curse of being hyper-observant, though, is presuming one's own trends and tics are equally obvious and apparent to everyone else. Although I suspect it's an incorrect assumption, it seems logical that if the ability to notice things comes so easily to me, it must be common for others too.

No matter how many times I say to myself: "She didn't notice that I did that," I really do think that she did.

For example:

1. I sometimes wear the same pair of pants two days in a row.

I don't have to do that; I have plenty of pants from which to choose. But sometimes when I get home and change I realize my pants aren't dirty. Maybe I didn't move from my desk all day. For whatever the reason, sometimes my pants are clean. So, when that happens I fold them nicely and set them aside to wear again with a different shirt on the next day. While that's something I'd spot others doing, no one has ever called me on it. So, I'm not sure they notice.

2. I talk funny.

I do. I've been told that by people who love me, so I'm sure it's true. And I realize it, sometimes. I seem to have an aversion to using verbal contractions, and on occasion will speak in song lyrics or metaphors. It's about the rhythm, I think. There seems to be a constant, natural cadence in my head, and I adhere to it most of the time.

I do sometimes try to use current language trends in everyday language, just to fit in. But it never comes out right. Not long ago I was talking to a person who was very upset with a friend, to the point of anger. He was venting to me, and venting hard. As he finished his rant, he paused, during which I commented:

"Damn, that's whack! You should get all up in his grill."

"What?" he said.

I gulped.


"I said damn, that sucks. Sorry that happened." His reply?

"Oh..."

No one--and I mean no one!-- sounds cool and hip when they have to repeat the attempt.

3.I rarely look people in the eyes.

I don't avoid eye contact because I'm telling a lie. I avoid it for two reasons: First, it's rather uncomfortable for me. I'm not sure why, but it is. So much so that extended eye contact during conversation will cause me to be discombobulated. Second, I stare off into the horizon or against the wall behind you while we talk because I'm visualizing things you are saying. I think very visually, and need to conjure up images of what I'm trying to express.

I can't count the number of times I've talked to people who, as they notice me staring over their left shoulders, think someone is standing behind them. Just this week I had a fifteen minute conversation with a new co-worker who, as we talked, kept looking behind her. She was noticing my eyes drifting to her left, and thought someone was walking up behind her. I had to offer an explanation that ultimately sounded just plain goofy.

4. I am often mesmerized by things small and trivial.

I'm a pretty good multi-task-er, until I see something shiny that catches my attention. Several years ago some artist in Flash comics used a new visual technique to show super-speed. It was amazing, and I thought about that technique for days. I even talked to people about how cool it was, even though I knew they didn't really care. They humored me, and I knew it. But I was obsessed.

5. I walk in a constant rhythm.

See number 2.

When I walk, I count my steps. I'm not sure why, but I do. In multiples of 7's, mostly. On the sidewalk, up the stairs, down the hallway: it doesn't matter. If I'm walking, I'm counting in my head. So, there is a natural rhythm that comes with it. It's likely a stress reducer that I stumbled upon accidentally years ago but it's always there, even when I don't notice it.

Well, that felt kinda good to purge...

I really do wonder from time to time about how Rick's life turned out. He was a stand-up guy, mostly, and he was pretty decent to me. I never taunted him back in the day. First, it's not my style to do that.

But more than that, I understood.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

C'mon, It'll Be Fun

Take a moment and check out DC Comictician on Star Trekiology. It's incredibly creative, and really an interesting read. Be sure and check out the post about why the blog exists in the first place. It's a prerequisite.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Apocalypto

The red envelope arrived Thursday.

"I can't watch this," I told her. She asked why.


'Cause I promised myself I wouldn't. Don't you remember the anti-Jewish, sugar-tits rant the guy went on last summer?"

"Send it back," she said.

So I did.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Surf's Up

Originally, the kids and I had planned to see Shrek The Third.

They--and I--really liked the first two, and they were eager to see Eddie Murphy's donkey character make for some more funny.

But, I talked them into surfing penguins.

"Surf's Up looks pretty cool," I said. ' Watching a penguin waddle when it walks always makes us chuckle, so a surfboarding penguin will really make us laugh."

They gave in pretty easily. They are only 6 and 4 years of age, after all.

I didn't even have to move on to my other points of debate: (a) That using the voice of Jeff Bridges as the surf-guru Big Z was inspired casting, designed to capitalize on his character from The Big Lebowski, and (b) I've seen the trailer for Surf's Up at least five other times, and I've been eager to see it for months.

No kids in short pants were gonna keep my outta that theater!

Surf's Up tells the story of young penguin Cody Maverick who, when he was very young, met penguin surf-boarding legend Big Z. The meeting affected Cody dramatically; his life became devoted to being like Big Z. Living in the moment, and enjoying the waves. After Big Z apparently dies in a surfing accident a Big Z Surfing Memorial is established, and Cody sets his sights on winning that tournament.


Winning it will honor his hero, and it will help him escape Antarctica, which he desperately wants to leave.

The computer animation that created Surf's Up is the best I've ever seen. Most times what was depicted on the screen looked real. It really is remarkable. And the story is told in a unique way for an animated film designed for children. It's told in a reality show, documentary style. That means there are cut-away interviews, occasional interactions with producers off camera, and dialogue that seems real between the characters.


While I enjoyed it a lot, I'm not sure that the kids in the audience got it. Most seemed to have some difficulty following the story in this format, and at times seemed bored. A saving grace, however, is that the word poop is used at least three times in the film.

That makes any kid, whether 4 or 42, laugh hard.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Blood Diamond

Quick: Name the 2007 Best Supporting Actor Academy Award Winner.

I had to look it up, too.

While I have no quarrel with Alan Arkin's win--I thought he was terrific in Little Miss Sunshine--Djimon Hounsou's work in Blood Diamond is remarkable.

Maybe the role of a lifetime.

Hounsou's Solomon Vandy is a fisherman and father living in civil-war torn Africa in the early 1990's. As was--and still is--all too common, his life is disrupted when his community is invaded by rebels: his son is kidnapped and forced to be a child-soldier, while his wife and another child become lost in the confusion.

After discovering, and hiding, a rather large and incredibly rare diamond, Vandy finds himself surrounded by lots of folks who agree to help him find his family so they can get close to the diamond. Danny Archer (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), a former soldier-turned-diamond-smuggler among them.

DiCaprio's acting is fine in the film, but it's overshadowed by the performance of Hounsou. The supporting actor allows the viewer to share the experience as he searches for his missing son, dodging military personnel, rebels and greedy bastards (read Archer) along the way.

Blood Diamond is a very good movie. Djimon Hounsou, though, made it great.

Friday, June 08, 2007

My Top 5: Movies That Give Me The Danny Gut

Mrs. Film Geek proudly announces, when the opportunity for the topic comes up, that she dated one single guy from the beginning of her dating years all the way through 12th grade. Danny, her high school sweetheart, was an athlete and a pretty popular guy from what I can gather. There are a lot of pictures of him in her high school yearbook, which reads more like an "Ode To Danny" than it does a class memorial.

Yep, I can understand how his down vest and Bay City Roller hairstyle really rocked the chicks back in the day. He had it going on.

Except for the smarts. I once had a couple of beers and a conversation with him. I swear to god, I talked to that guy for 45 minutes, and barely understood a word he said between the heavy swigs of beer, oddly-timed belly laughter and the mumbles.

As I understand the story, Danny called an end to the relationship during the senior trip, or soon after graduation, or during some other milestone event. Regardless of when it happened, the result of the break-up was several weeks of The Danny Gut.


You've had it. That nauseous, I-cant-stop-thinking-of-you and can't-eat-with-this-lump-in-my-stomach feeling we all have when we suffer emotional pain.

Although The Danny Gut originated back in 1984, the name for the condition stuck. Ask Mrs. Film Geek or any of her friends from high school how they feel when upset or recovering from the flu, and "I got the Danny Gut" is a likely answer.

Man, that's a legacy.

And in honor of it, here is My Top 5: Movies That Give Me The Danny Gut:

Glengarry Glen Ross:
"Put that coffee down. Coffee is for closers. "

What a movie! Watching a desperate Shelley Levene (played by Jack Lemmon) try to maintain some sense of dignity while recognizing his career and livelihood is over was an incredible experience. I already had great respect for Lemmon's huge body of great work but his performance in this flick topped anything he had ever done. I couldn't get the dialogue out of my head for days.

Requiem For A Dream: Dream was jam-packed with disturbing imagery and dialogue. Addiction--to anything, as this movie points out--isn't emotionally healthy and will often have pervasive and long-lasting consequences. One of the final scenes, of Marion hugging a bag of heroin she degraded herself to obtain, is one of the saddest scenes I've seen in movies.

Natural Born Killers: The current torture porn trend might make Natural Born Killers seem a bit tame if it was released today. But in '94 I felt like I was being held captive and forced to go along for the ride with Woody and Juliette. Whether I was repulsed by them (which I was at times) or invested in them (which occurred as well) I couldn't turn away during the scenes of violence.

And that disturbed me even more than the movie.

Boogie Nights: This movie brilliantly demonstrates how a lifestyle of excess can cause personal and professional devastation. Most of the characters in Boogie Nights were desperate for emotional and artistic stability, but incapable of achieving or maintaining it. The scene where Eddie, played by Mark Wahlberg, snorts cocaine for the first time is incredibly disturbing, particularly when you recognize that he did it simply to be accepted. As he raises from the mirror and wipes his nose, he asks something like: "Did I look cool doing that."

Chills, still.

Death Of A Salesman: The poster-flick for despair and hopelessness, Death Of A Salesman demonstrates how each of our lives can turn out if we allow ourselves to become irrelevant. Watching Willy Lowman believe his own delusions is riveting, as well as incredibly disturbing.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Whatever Happened To...Jack Baker

Wonderbug, which anchored the Krofft Supershow for 22 episodes beginning in 1976, was a clunker of a dune buggy that seemed barely able to drive up and down the side roads. When it's magic horn--that's right, I said magic horn--was sounded, the rustpot transformed into Wonderbug, a sleek crime-fighting hip ride that had cool super powers.

Teens Barry (David Levy), C.C. (Jack Baker) and Susan (Carol Anne Seflinger), who found Wonderbug rotting away in a junkyard and rejuvenated it with the (cough) magic horn, traveled with the super car, fighting crime and righting wrongs.

Along with Electra-Woman and Dyna Girl, Magic Mongo and Dr. Shrinker, Wonderbug topped off my Saturday mornings with it's idealistic themes and morality based stories.

There are many legends about celebrities that took a different path after their shot ended on national TV. Most are simply urban legends, and are not true. For example: Ken Osmond, who played Eddie Haskell on Leave It To Beaver, was a Los Angeles police officer for 18 years after his show ended.


He did not--no matter how many times you are told otherwise--become a porn star.


But Jack Baker (far right) did.

He tried the mainstream route. Soon after the kid show cash stopped, Baker was seen on episodes of Happy Days, M*A*S*H and The Kentucky Fried Movie.


Mainstream projects began drying up fast.

Baker eventually starred on more than 20 adult movies, most with titles that suggest producers were targeting a particular hardcore audience.

Sadly, he died of bladder cancer in 1994, at age 47.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

So I Had A Bad Day

It's the little things that I didn't notice doing at the time that, as I reflect on them at night, tell me how bad my day actually blew.

In a moment designed to (a) get a brief sense of respite and (b) experience the pleasure that can come only from sex or chocolate, I read the newspaper and ate a Klondike Bar while sitting on
the toilet in my locked bathroom.

That's just not right.

Because I Said So

Mandy Moore is cute and shows some pretty good acting chops in her major role as Milly, the daughter of uber-helicopter mother Daphne (played by Diane Keaton). The rest of the movie? Not so good. In fact, I think you should avoid it completely.

Why, you ask?

Because I said so.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Deja Vu

I've often thought that Denzel Washington films are hit or miss. The actor has such a presence that he can sometimes lift a film above common plot problems, or the typical frustrations that come with a badly written story.

Washington is one of those actors who stars in a film that either works, or it doesn't.

The past few movies in which Washington has starred, particularly Inside Man and Man On Fire, have worked. Both films had intense action, and required Washington to stretch his skills a bit to play character types with which he was previously unfamiliar. That torture scene in Man On Fire--where he tapes the hands of a criminal to a steering wheel and cuts off a finger every time the criminal lies--was unlike any character I can recall Washington playing.


And I loved it.


Washington teams up again with Man On Fire director Tony Scott in Deja Vu.


The movie starts out as a typical whodunnit before morphing into a sci-fi flick complete with time travel and alternate endings.

Washington plays Doug Carlin, an AFT investigator with a rep for being able to figure out tough cases of domestic terror. He is called to the scene of a horrendous crime: a ferry, carrying civilians and America navy personnel is blown up, killing hundreds. Carlin quickly recognizes the act of terror, and joins the FBI in it's investigation.

That alone is a fine movie plot, with enough material to entertain for 90 minutes. But, Deja Vu doesn't stop there. It transforms into a sci-fi thriller that incorporates the government's ability to investigate a crime by looking back in time. Carlin isn't content just to collect evidence by watching the event unfold again. Nope, he wants to prevent it from happening.

And to do that, he's gotta quantum leap back, to four-and-a-half-days before.

Deja Vu has some minor problems, such as being fairly predictable and selling out a bit on the ending. But Washington--like always, it seems--elevates this movie above it's otherwise pedestrian status. He makes it interesting, and makes the audience invest in him enough to care about the characters and the outcome.

Deja Vu; he did it again.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Queen

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed The Queen. I expected a boring, stiff docu-drama about Her Highness and the royals. What I watched instead was a well acted expose of the generational and social class gaps that exist between members of the royal family and, well...everyone else.

The Queen centers on how the royals handled the tragic death of Princess Diana; mistakes were made that caused commoners to question the relevance of the monarchy. Although the royals eventually gave in to the mounting social tension created by their stubborn refusal to comment on the tragedy, they never fully understood the hate that commoners had for them during that week of silence.

Helen Mirren carries the film as The Queen, who seems entirely comfortable with style and less so with substance. She perceives protocol and procedure as "dignity," all the while hiding her emotions and her compassion behind behavior she views as proper. Faced with a serious problem or dilemma, she and the other royals simply ignore it, or pass the time waiting for the dilemma to end.

Over the course of history, repressing emotions become more than a coping mechanism. It became a normal way of life.


The Queen was supposedly researched quite extensively, and provides excellent insight into how those of incredible privilege perceive their place in society, and the place of others. The flick was a much-better-than-expected two-and-a-half star movie.

Friday, June 01, 2007

National Donut Day

June 1 is National Donut Day, eh?



Who knew?

And me, not gettin' you anything.


Huntington used to have terrific bakeries downtown, and many of them made wonderful donuts. Ward's Donuts, though, was my favorite. Located near campus, Ward's was a small eatery where you could drink hot coffee, eat a bowl of chili and talk to local prostitutes while watching your dozen being cooked in a large vat of oil.

Urban legend was that if the "
H O T" sign was lit up on the marquee, hookers were ready and available. I can't verify that. I can only tell you the donuts were great.

One year--in must have been about 1988--I and several of my friends were watching some guy sing Jimmy Buffett covers while tailgating at Prindle Field before a Herd football game. As the evening progressed I became less and less aware of, well, anything. My next conscious moment was sometime after 2:00am, when I realized I was at a table in Wards eating chili, talking with a friend and the guy who was singing the Buffett covers.

I don't recall his name, or what we were talking about. I just remember getting really freaked out and leaving. Fast.

So, Happy National Donut Day. Please accept my uplifting and inspirational story as my gift to you.