Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy Holidays

So. Christmas? It was spectacularly uneventful, for the most part. Most of my family (save a mostly estranged Uncle) live either 4 hours North in the wastelands of Oklahoma or four hours south in the terribleness of Houston, so I don't go out of town typically. Add to that the fact that I had to work the day before Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas, and it really didn't logically make sense. So. I stayed home, ordered pizza, and was mostly a lazy layabout. I started getting somewhat sick on Christmas itself, but by the weekend it had mostly cleared up.

That was fortuitous timing because a friend that recently moved (back) to LA was in town visiting and we had our friend group Christmas exchange party the Saturday after Christmas. It was a lot of fun! We did a White Elephant/Yankee Swap exchange instead of buying individual gifts, with the stipulation that we spend around $50 and buy gifts that people would actually use and want. This year was a good haul! I bought about 10 classic 80's movies and some boxes of various types of popcorn and the recipient seemed pleased. I ended up with a beautiful box I'm seriously keeping from Darcy, with a $40 gift card to Steam, a box of chocolates, and a twee little candle.

There was lots of food, alcohol, music, lively discussion, and picture taking. I made gift bags for everyone with candy, chocolate bars, snack bags, and candy canes that were fun to put together and seemed to be well received. Cost about $10 each (eep!) but was worth it.

Now, tonight is New Years Eve! BFF Liz is having a party at her place and is expecting 20-25 people, so it should be a hoot. I'll be arriving early to help set up and to get my ridiculous costume of sequins and glitter put together, so that should be fun!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

December movies: (mostly) Christmas Edition

Gosh. Okay. Here's one final blast of movies for the end of the year. Why do I watch so many???

Seen these, not much to say:

A Christmas Story - watched this a good 6 times on Xmas Even and Xmas. Yeah, that's right. I was painting and stuff! This never gets old.
Scrooged - As good as I remember
Bad Santa - Not as good as I remember.

Rapid Fire! Quick!

Don Jon - This was good but the ending felt a little shoe horned, neat, and undeserved. I would have preferred it to not have that ending, otherwise very enjoyable!
Catching Fire - Much better than the first one. Can't wait until the next two, not a lot bad to say about this!
Europa Report - A very low budget film that would have had even more stressful parts if not for Gravity stealing some of the space thunder. If you like sort of slow burning space horror this is worth watching.
Final Destination 5 - Second viewing of this. Not my favorite of the bunch but it amuses me that someone I'm one step removed from was in this.
Parker - Not the best Jason Statham movie, but certainly not his worst. JLo was by far the worst part of the movie and I feel like her entire part should have been reworked or written out entirely.
Brick - This has been on my list for a very long time. The last time I tried to watch it I was tired and a bit sick, so I ended up falling asleep. It was okay, if a bit hokey. Watching what are supposed to be (and some nearly were, I'd imagine) teenagers speak as if in a noir pulp detective story was jarring, and at times distracting. Like watching a high school play or something.
Asexual - It was a bit depressing because one of the people featured seemed very dissatisfied with their life and that's always a little sad. Otherwise, very informative and easy to watch.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Things I watched in December: Documentary Edition

So. Back to movies! I've been watching a lot of documentaries lately because it's easy to watch them while I'm surfing the internet or painting. Good background noise, basically. Here are a few of them that I've seen this month

I won't say much about this to prevent spoiling anything, but I can tell you what we learn in the first minute or so. A man in his mid 40s befriends an 18 year old girl over the internet. Another man ends up dead. This is the true (as far as we know) story of how this happened, and it's fascinating to watch this unfold. I don't think it surprises anyone here that people aren't always who they say they are over the internet, but it's still troubling to know stuff like this happens. Worth a watch!

Best Worst Movie
This has been on my radar for a very long time! This is a documentary based on the infamously bad (Best Worst Movie, you might say!) movie Troll 2. I've long heard amazing things about this doc and I'd say it mostly delivers. If you're a film fan, even if you haven't seen this particular movie or don't especially like it, this is worth seeing. It's always interesting to see what goes on in the minds of people that make unintentionally bad movies, and this provides a lot of that.

I watched this on Christmas day because apparently I'm a masochist. This is about methadone and follows a group of about 8 people using it for various reasons. Depressing, eye opening, and interesting. Probably don't watch alone on Christmas!

American Addicts
I only watched about half of this because while it was interesting and factual, it was also extremely dry. I like my documentaries to be a bit more than just live action news articles and that's pretty much what this was. A lot of interesting facts about prescription addiction and the problem we have with over prescribing but I just wasn't in the right head space to focus on hard hitting pure facts based stuff.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

AFI 100 Movies: Shane Edition

I finally watched another AFI movie! Shane. A 1953 Western based on a 1949 novel of the same name. It, apparently won an Academy award for Cinematography.  Personally, I found it so dull and slow that I had to watch the 2 hour long film in several chunks spread out over a few days. Here's the basic plot.

Shane, a lonesome cowboy, wanders into Wyoming sometime in the mid the late 1800s. He befriends and starts working for the Starrett family. Apparently, there's some drama with a cattle baron that wants to force the Starrett's and everyone else in the area off of the land. I guess... to... give himself... more... land? I... don't really know.

Conflict arises, people die, there's a showdown, good guys win, bad guys lose. The end. I guess all things considered it's a good movie. Obviously it was good enough to end up on this list, but I just do not like most Westerns. Obvious exceptions for a handful. Western Lovers will probably like this, I guess? That's up to you, man.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Dinner with people not named Andre

This is another one of those slice of life posts, so if those annoy you feel free to move on. :) Over the weekend I had the pleasure of attending a dinner party hosted by some friends of mine; Lyn & Brad*.  I've been to their place several times before and it's always fun and informative. We've cooked, hand made pasta, played rock band, and drank the night away. This time I attended kind of last minute as I had previous plans that ended up falling though and therefore had already eaten a light dinner (small cup of soup and a quarter sandwich.)

L made roast beef with a couple different sides, and we had cupcakes and chocolate for dessert. Oh! And Yorkshire pudding. Everything was delicious as always. Both Lyn & Brad are very talented cooks and even better company. Afterwards we played a variety of card type games while listening to records and drinking wine. Yes, records! I also got to play with their adorable kitty who is a total ham and sweetheart.

Dinner parties are something that always make me feel very Grown Up. Probably because my dinner is usually a hot pocket in front of the computer. I don't even have a table! Unless you count tv trays. My dining room has 4 bookshelves and a desk crammed into it. In retrospect I could easily move my desk into my bedroom... but I don't really do much entertaining. Hmm. I don't know. Anyway!

It was a delightful evening and I'm always glad to spend time with them. They are always a hoot and we are usually in a large group when we see each other so being able to actually have conversations is definitely nice!

*Not real names

Friday, December 13, 2013

30x30 Update #4

Another month, another not a whole lot to report.

I watched two AFI movies (one should have been in the last report, but whatever.) Midnight Cowboy (review is up) and Shane (review should be up at a future date)

I read several books, I'm also including one I hadn't previously, I don't think. I feel like I'm leaving something else off though!

Amateur Night at the Bubblegum Kittykatt - a blogger I've been reading for years self published this book, an account of her ennui filled early/mid 20s about when she worked as a hostess at a strip club. I enjoyed it because I've been following her blog for years, I'm not sure I would recommend it otherwise. There's not a whole lot there to grab you, though she does have a decent enough writing style.

Mennonite in a little black dress - Another memoir (big month for those, apparently!) this time about a reformed/former Mennonite that gets a divorce after 15 years of being married. Her husband leaves her for another man and we later find out that they had a terrible marriage, and she knew that he was bi and had been with other men in the past so this wasn't all together surprising. A bit misleading because at first it sounds like it's totally from left field and unexpected. Worth reading if it's either free or cheap, as you do find out interesting things about Mennonites.

I only did one new thing, that I can think of. Ate at a fabulous place called Whiskey Cake, as a friend was visiting and a group of us decided to go. Had a very good cocktail that I can't remember the name of, and some amazing pork loin with grits, and a gigantic piece of whiskey cake. It was pricey, but worth it!

Oh! Remembered another thing. Addison Taste of Chicago - FINALLY ACTUAL CHICAGO STYLE PIZZA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This was so, so good y'all. SO good. Not quite the real thing, and the crust could stand some flavoring, but pretty close to authentic and insanely delicious. I'll probably order from this place way too often.

I think that's it?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Sushi, some beer, and ice storm 2013

I know that this is mainly an outlet to share my attempts to become or be or do more/better/best before I'm 30, but it gets really old talking about just that I'm probably going to run out of content sooner rather than later if that's all I talk about! So, from time to time I'll be posting about things of a more personal nature than just books I've read and movies I've watched.

So, that being said last week had a few particularly note worthy events happen! First of all, a little bit of a back-story is required. (Names have been smudged for privacy reasons) I've known Mr. S for over 5 years now. We met through friends of friends, as you do, and since then I've been to countless parties he's hosted, drank countless beers together, and celebrated his marriage to Ms. F.

Unfortunately, (for us here!) The two of them have decided, due to a variety of factors, to move to a state Far Away. This will be a fantastic opportunity for them and they are both thrilled. We will miss them dearly but are equally happy for them. They have been discussing this for a rather long time and all of it has really come to a head this month. The house is on the market, Ms. F is currently safely settled in their new home, and their going away parties were last week.

On Wednesday Mr. S had a combination going away/plate party at a local bar. If you have 200 different beers (at a max of 3 a day) you are awarded a plate and given a party. This was, I believe, his 4th plate and he finished right on time! They ordered a wide variety of beers for us to all sample and we ended up staying until after midnight. It was a very fun farewell with a lot of laughter and tears. The next night we had a smaller, quieter final sushi dinner at our favorite sushi place that has been our go to spot for years for birthday dinners, celebrations, or just random dinners. This finished up much earlier than the previous night and overnight we got hit with a pretty heavy ice storm!

Friday Morning I wake up and the city was covered in a thick sheet of ice. The entire nearly half an hour long walk to work it continued to sleet and when I did finally make it to work I found it nearly deserted. Luckily I had already planned on the following Monday and Tuesday being off! By the time I left (slightly early) there was practically no one on the road and every available surface was covered in nearly an inch of ice. I get home and the electricity was out. Oh joy!

Luckily, I had already planned on being out as a friend was having a party that evening, so thankfully a friend of mine arrived not long after in his trusty 4 wheel drive truck to pick me up. That night we had a small party that surprisingly had more guests than expected considering it was still terrible outside, and we partied hard late into the next morning. Saturday was spent mostly taking it easy until the evening when we went to a nearby friends house for a Christmas bash where good times were had by all.

After we finished there we went for a short (but extremely memorable!) joyride in a nearby field and danced the night away to various Whitney Houston songs and other 90s hits. Sunday I get home and electricity has been restored! Temperatures remain cold so I don't even leave my apartment until I have to on Wednesday (which is technically tomorrow according to this post...), at which point most of the ice had melted. Hoorah!

So there we have it.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

December Watch List: An Incomplete List

Grouping these by genre instead of in order of when I watched, for easier reviewing! Here are the standup specials that I watched.

Bo Burnham: What
This is a brand new special that was put out for Netflix just this month. It was an interesting (and expected) mix of singing, playing piano, some skit type stuff and one liners. His stuff isn't stand up so much as it's performance art, but it's very funny regardless. Now that he's older it's interesting to see how his work is evolving, and you can see some typical "No one understands me" angst going on. Which is understandable considering the fact that he's been in the spotlight since before he even graduated high school.

Comedy Central Presents: Donald Glover
This was moderately new, I think from 2012? I had never really seen much of his stand up before so this was totally new for me. It was incredibly hilarious! Riffing on things like race, gender, dating, growing up, politics, etc. He's a very intelligent and perceptive person but isn't afraid to dip into the juvenile humor well from time to time. There was a particular story he told about a teacher farting once that had me laughing for a good minute straight.

Comedy Central Presents: John Mulaney
I had heard most of this special before via Pandora but it was still fun to watch and see the actual physical part of the show. Mulaney is a very dry and sharp comedian that does a lot of storytelling type of stuff and this one has a really funny bit about "What's New, Pussycat?" that is worth listening to. I really like this guy a lot and hope he continues to make stuff!

Comedy Central Presents: Mike Birbiglia
Much like Mulaney I had already heard most of this act before (It was from 2006, I think, well before he became famous) but again, it was nice to see it actually acted out because Birbiglia does some pretty amusing physical comedy stuff that benefits from being able to actually see him. If you like his later stuff, you'd like this. Though I did notice that he's been using some of the same material for awhile now, which I'm not used to after following so much of Louis CK's stuff!

Comedy Central Presents: Marc Maron
Hulu has a lot of Comedy stuff, okay?? This is the second bit of actual stand up type stuff that I've seen from Maron. This was also pretty old, probably 2007? So it was before he divorced his second wife, which was interesting. It reminded a bit of Louis CK's stand up from before he got a divorce, where you could tell they are in an unhappy (or at least not working) marriage and it's not at all surprising that they ended up divorced. I think I liked this better than his newer stuff, because he seemed to be in a more grounded head space.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Getting paid to judge people

I don’t know if I mentioned my intentions to cut down posting to twice a week (likely Tues/Thurs) but that’s the plan from here on out! And now, for something completely different, my experience with jury duty!

Okay, first of all the process itself was relatively smooth and efficient. I was told by my paperwork to arrive by 8:30am and I did (well, a bit earlier!) and I was sitting in the actual courtroom awaiting whether I'd be chosen or not by about 10:15. I'd estimate at LEAST an hour of that was waiting for lame ass jabroni late people to show up (A WHOLE BUNCH) or for people that didn't either mail in their paperwork OR fill it out online ahead of time to do that. LAME. 

I get my assigned court and wait about 15-20, maybe, to go into the courtroom with the other 23 people. Introductions were made and the Defense had Grumpy SMU Big Cheese, Nervous Noob, and the Defendant. It was announced upfront that Nervous Noob was not yet an Actual Lawyer and this was his very first trial experience!!! Prosecution had ADA and Slightly Flustered Firstimer. We did not find out until later that this was her first trial (after verdict had been reached and we were out of the courtroom) but I guessed as much. She was confident and less flustered than Nervous Noob but she still made quite a few "mistakes" that made it pretty clear that she didn't have a lot of experience. 


Defense side I'd say about 60% was handled by Nervous Noob. His mentor spent a lot of time loudly whispering in his ear what to say or do, even when it seemed clear that he already did. From my position I could clearly hear Big Boss loudly whispering, despite the fact that I was closer to the Prosecutor. Which is to say he wasn't given a chance to speak first in a lot of cases. On the Prosecution side it was more like 90% Flustered Firstimer. When the ADA did have input he would quietly give her an aside and despite being as close as possible to both of them, I couldn't hear a word. All 4 participated in closing arguments. 

Now, as for the case itself I won't get too specific more out of respect than for any legal reasons. I will say that nearly two years ago a man (I'll call Dennis) was pulled over for speeding and ultimately arrested and subsequently charged with a DWI and that's what we were there for. After a couple of hours of back and forth, the police officer on the stand, a defense expert called up, and watching the entire 45 minute dash cam we were sent to the jury room where we found him guilty.

Random Thoughts
* I exited the area with him RIGHT BEHIND ME and held the door open for him without noticing at first and then was like OH CRAP but he did not say anything to me or appear angry. 

*We had 6 people. 5 women and 1 man. One of the ladies originally jokingly suggested the guy be the foreman (because foreMAN har har har) and he demurred so I said bitch I'll do it. (Did not say bitch)

To start with we all wrote down our verdict and placed them in the middle. 4 guilty, 2 not guilty. 1 of the not guilty people honestly I don't think, um, well. She agreed with our assessment that he should be found guilty but was quoted as saying "he deserves a second chance" which is totally irrelevant. The other person was Not Guilty but leaning towards undecided. The 4 of us (mostly myself and another lady) laid out our justifications based on evidence presented.

Leaning Lady made some counterpoints, we discussed those, sort of batted the ball back and forth on this and that. Very civil and logical. After maybe half an hour Leaning Lady decided that she agreed with the Guilty verdict and Second Chance lady (apparently) realized that oh wait this is a court of law and we were deciding Innocence vs Guilt not la la la this person deserves a "second chance" for whatever bizarro reasons she was thinking. She did some thinking out loud, basically, and determined that there was sufficient evidence to declare him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. We then all verbally confirmed that our verdict was guilty, multiple times. I signed the paperwork stating as such and pressed a button to summon the bailiff. 

* Turns out, in the county of Dallas (and possibly state of Texas) you do not need to prove a BAC of 0.08 or higher in order to arrest/prosecute someone for a DWI. In fact, at the time of the arrest (nearly two years ago) they were moving away from performing breathalyzers in general in favor of doing actual blood tests. Additionally, at the time of arrest you could refuse a blood sample (the defendant did) and the officer could CHOOSE whether to request a warrant for said blood. Now, it is standard that the officer will request a warrant if you refuse a blood draw, but at the time it wasn’t.

So yes. You can be convicted of a DWI even without having BAC evidence. He was, based on the 45 minute arrest video we watched, incredibly intoxicated and he admitted on tape repeatedly that he had been drinking. Out of a possible “drunk scale” (my words!) of 0-18 (based on the field sobriety tests) (I think it’s 18, I could be off on this) he received a 16. It’s either a 6 or an 8 that is considered intoxicated. Dude was super wasted.

*We did discuss that the Defendant admitted to drinking 80 ounces of beer (He was a shorter man of average build, for the record and that's just what he had admitted to!) in no more than 45 minutes. (Based on the time he was pulled over and the time he says left work.) We also had an extensive discussion on whether or not his incredibly slow and yet very slurred speech in addition to his inability to properly perform any of the 3 field sobriety tests could entirely be due to nerves. It was very interesting and a lot more difficult than I expected!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I watched these because I wanted to: November Edition

Short thoughts on some of the movies I've seen so far in November! Another post with more will be coming up next week.

Pontypool - I've seen this before, and I like it just as much  now as I did then. Lots of suspense, an interesting twist on typical "Zombie" type movies. It's not really even that, but that's the best way I can think of to describe it. Infection movie might be more accurate? It's an incredibly small movie cast wise and was almost certainly done on a pretty low budget, but you never really feel that. There are only 4 total people acting in it, with on main additional voice on the phone and some misc people calling in. Set in a very small, rural Canadian town during a snow storm and Trouble Happens outside. Very fun!

Robot and Frank - a pretty adorable buddy... uh... caper? Movie. About an old, retired thief and his helper robot. Surprisingly sweet and touching. In the future we have robot maids/butlers/helpers/companions that are pretty advanced and are programmed to do a wide variety of things. An older, retired thief gets one gifted to him by his frustrated and guilt fueled son in an effort to make sure he's taken care of and also to lighten his own load in taking care of him.

The Last Will & Testament of Rosalind Leigh - This was unexpected and different. Very moody, you should watch it with your full attention (I didn't, and feel like it suffered because of that) I watched it while distracted by a variety of things and missed a lot of the moody, subtle, compelling bits of atmosphere and gloom. The basic story is that a guys mother dies and he goes back to her home to tie up loose ends. I suggest watching this with all the lights off and putting away your phone.

Serenity - This was not my first time seeing this, but they were having a showing at the Alamo Drafthouse and how could I not? It was super fun to easy again on the big screen with a big group of people that really wanted to see this. If you haven't already seen this well you're weird and me explaining it won't convince you otherwise.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Coming Clean: A Memoir

Extraneous books get their own post! Why? Because I said.


Coming Clean: A Memoir – By Kimberly Rae Miller


This is yet another memoir (I seem to be really into those these days!) and was also written by a blogger I’ve been reading for YEARS. I read a lot of blogs and hardly ever comment on them, but I think I’ve made an exception for hers before. It’s a pretty good blog that’s sort of fitness/healthy eating orientated but it has a lot of personality and slice of life stuff. She’s always seen like a relatable person and one that I would enjoy hanging out with. She fairly recently got engaged so yay to that! Anyhow, moving on.


This story is mostly about her childhood and what it was like living with a hoarder father and the toll it took on her growing up and the ways it still impacts her today. It was really shocking when she announced what it was about because this was something she kept very much a secret even from the people close to her. Even as an adult she was still trying to deal with this as there were many times she would have to help her parents clean/organize so they could move again or in one case when her mom got incredibly sick. These were things she mentioned in passing, almost casually, on her blog but in this book we find out about the chaos behind the scenes.


If you have any interest in what it’s like living with a hoarder this is definitely worth reading. Well written, eye opening, and compelling. It’s amazing what you get used to and the ways you can adapt to deal with whatever problems you’re facing. I have a lot of respect for her and the way she both chose to handle writing about this and for the incredibly love and patience she seems to still have for her parents, when some people would have just thrown in the towel. I would recommend this book to just about anyone.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

I really should be watching Bridge on the River Kwai: November Edition Part 2

More November movies for you! I've been watching quite a few.

I just realized I skipped one from October. Oops! I think I listed it but didn't go into it, so here's that.
The Woman Who Wasn't There - incredibly fascinating and gripping documentary about a woman that survived the terrorist attacks on 9/11. Except... she didn't. The subject matter is incredibly interesting, the woman in question bizarre and inexplicable, and the way that the documentary itself is presented is fun to watch.

Now, onward to November!

Prisoners - A pretty intense movie, great acting all the way around, very brutal and dark. The Basics: Two little girls get kidnapped, and this details how each of the families deal with the stress, grief, helplessness and impotence that such a situation creates. Outstanding performances by Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhal. Not really what you'd expect and some interesting roads are taken. Worth watching but keep in mind it is a very dark and brutal movie.

Jarhead - This is one of those movies I've been meaning to watch for a long time. Stumbled across it on Hulu one night and decided to give it a shot. It stars Jake Gyllenhal as a man that decides to join the Marines. He gets thrust into the role of a sniper and then partially through his tour of duty Desert Storm happens. It gives a fascinating look into the lives and minds of member of the military and the special bonds and heartbreaks associated with it. I don't know how authentic it is but it certainly feels real.

Burn - A documentary about Detroit firefighters. This was pretty well done and interesting to boot. People with Crazy Jobs always fascinate me. Firefighters, military, police officers, bodyguards, etc. In addition to learning about what it's like as a firefighter you also learn a fair amount about the city of Detroit itself and the unique problems and issues they have with regards to abandoned buildings, homeless populations, and fires. Totally worth a watch!

Don't Stop Believin: Everyman's Journey - perhaps only interesting if you're a fan of Journey? I found it really interesting as I AM a big fan of Journey and it's neat to be able to see what has happened since Steve Perry left. They had one replacement Other Steve for 9 years but evidently his vocal chords up and gave up. One of the band members, Noah, took to scouring YouTube, of all places, for a singer and stumbled across this guy Arnel from the Philippines. An absolute dead ringer for Steve Perry and it's a very compelling story to watch unfold. Can you even imagine???

Donnie Darko: Not my first watch, felt like seeing this for some reason? It holds up, I think, but I'm not sure how'd I would feel if watching it for the first time now. If I watched it for the first time as a 29 year old I might not like it as much as I did when I was in my early 20s and watching it for the first time.  Another Jake Gyllenhal movie. 3 in one month! Goodness. Not obsessed, I promise.

I might be missing something? Hrmmm.

Monday, November 18, 2013

November LOLS

These aren’t really movies, per se, but here are a few stand up specials that I’ve seen recently!


Marc Maron: Thinky Pain – If you like the neurotic style of comedy this is pretty good for that. It’s fairly long, over 90 minutes I think, and he’s either shooting from the hip or is trying to see like he is, if that makes sense. If you’re a fan of that style, it’s pretty decent. Not a whole lot of laughing moments, but it was interesting to listen to regardless. It felt more like a therapy session than anything else, and the stories he told were enjoyable to listen to if nothing else.



Dan Cummins: Crazy with a Capital F – I’ve heard a lot of his stuff on my Pandora comedy station, it’s okay? Not a lot of laugh out loud moments. He talks about parenthood and other stuff. I’m not sure how I’d classify his style. He’s not super edgy, in your face, or loud. He doesn’t have a shtick, he just is sort of your everyman with a slight misanthropic bent? He has some bits about being a parent that are probably more authentic and relatable than a lot of comedy in that vein is. He doesn’t sugar coat it or attempt to glamorize it.



Aziz Ansari: Buried Alive – If you like Aziz, this was pretty typical for his stuff. I enjoyed it a lot.  He’s less zany than he has been in the past, I think largely due to the fact that he’s getting older, and his stuff was really easy for me to relate to, being that we are about the same age. He has some really funny things to say about dating and relationships in this era (and OkCupid in particular) and he does it all in a really funny way. Totally worth watching!


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Update the Third: The Updatening

Not going to be much of an update this month! I haven't been... spectacular about following much of anything. I would blame the holidays but honestly I think it's just ennui. That being said, I did manage to accomplish a couple of things:

New places:
Jersey Joe's: a cute little sandwich shop. Good sub, nothing spectacular to write home about but decent enough and on my way home. I believe I got the Italian sub
Cindy's NY Deli: very good, a place I've been wanting to try! Inexpensive, large portions, and very delicious. I believe I had the... um.. salami open faced sandwich?
Strangeways: a very neat, dark, interesting divey bar. It's way out of my way but I would love to go back.

Books:  I feel like I'm forgetting something, but we did Handmaid's Tale for bookclub October (November was kind of a disaster because I got fed up with Maps and Legends, a book of essays by Michael Chabon... let's not go there.)

A Year of Biblical Womanhood - I got pretty bored by this, I thought it would be interesting to read about a (Christian) woman trying to follow biblical ideals of being a woman but it turns out? Nope.

Voluntary Madness - Norah Vincent, the same woman that wrote She's the Man decides to spend a few months trying out different mental health facilities. It was... interesting. I feel like at times she was too critical/had too high expectations and she even agreed with that, pointing out that she didn't have any better solutions for the problems she brought up. Worth a read if the mental health field interests you in anyway!

I think that's really all I have update wise! It's not nothing, I guess.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Leeds United

So, I had the opportunity a bit ago to see Amanda Palmer in concert. It was a very small venue benefiting Girl Power or some such? Some local organization that is supposed to serve as a positive encouragement for young girls of the community. It was a very small space, not even really a concert space, and there weren't a whole lot of people there. Unknown to me they also had an open bar (????!!!!!!) I don't know how that's possible, but there you go.

The concert itself was amazing. I've been a fan of her work for awhile but never seen her in concert and she is amazingly, shockingly gorgeous in person (pictures do NOT do her justice at all) and her singing voice is just as lovely. It was just her, no other band mates. She had her ukulele and there was a piano onstage. She did a pretty decently long set, mostly just taking requests and playing what she could. At one point an audience requested Making Whoopie and she came out into the crowd to sing it to him and his lady friend, who were directly in front of me! So that was cool.

It was an absolutely lovely concert, she's incredibly talented and kind and genuine. I think a lot of that sometimes might get lost in her online presence or perhaps come across as calculated or manufactured but she absolutely seems to really feel and believe in all of those things. It gave me a lot of renewed respect for her as both a person and an artist. A++++ would concert again.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Cowboys only come out at Midnight

So. This is an interesting movie! From all the way back to 1969 we've got Midnight Cowboy. The story of a small town man from Texas (played with great aplomb by Jon Voight) that moves to New York City because he (literally) wants to become a male escort. While there, he befriends a slimy little grifter played by Dustin Hoffman.

Now, first of all, Hoffman and Voight knocked it out of the park here. Voight was basically the very definition of "Oh, bless his heart" with his bumbling naivety and ineffectual attempts to navigate life in a city that swallows up even the most hardened people. Hoffman is incredible as a street smart, but otherwise pretty dim, sickly, limping, con artist.

The story is perhaps typical, and certainly by this point played out, but it's still a heartbreaking joy to see it played out on the screen. New York City is shown as both dingy and glitzy. Harry Nilsson's "Everybody's Talkin" is played repeatedly to great effect. Directed well by a man with a long career, but nothing that would nearly rise to these great heights. Part of that can perhaps by attributed to the source material. A book of the same name written in 1965 by James Leo Herlihy.

For a movie that was rated X (!!!) at the time, it is surprisingly light on anything inappropriate. At least to modern eyes. The X rating was in fact awarded due to the "homosexual frame of reference". Two years after it was originally released it was granted an "R" rating without any changes being made.  It was an interesting movie made more so but the lack of tying everything up in a neat little bow or attempting to give everyone a happy ending. Life is bleak, at times, and it's nice to sometimes have movies that (mostly) reflect that.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Things I watched, mostly in October (though really, who knows)

Movies that I watched in October and didn’t get around to posting about. There are a lot so I’ll keep the reviews short!


Gravity – it’s difficult to put this movie into words. It’s too late for this but it was absolutely worth seeing this in IMAX 3D. Heartbreaking, heart STOPPING and incredibly beautiful to look at. Just watch this one, okay? Seriously good stuff.


For a Good Time Call – this was okay. It seems like it was trying to be a subversion of tropes, rom com clichés, and a modern day feminist tale but it really turned out to be all of those things it tried to avoid and was partially unsuccessful in what it tried to accomplish. If you don’t take it too seriously it’s fine.


Tent City – A great and eye opening documentary about a group of homeless people in the south that live(d) in a large outdoor area known as Tent City. Goes into a lot of what the homeless population has to deal with, the stigmas attached and so on. Very well done and worth a watch.

The Woman Who Wasn’t There


RIPD – This was basically lambasted by reviewers and viewers alike. I can understand the problems they have with it, but I found it inoffensive and mostly enjoyable. Of course, I didn’t pay to watch it so there’s that. There are worse ways to spend 90 minutes of your time, for sure.

Skeleton Key – If you like Haunted House/Ghost/Possession type stories this is relatively decent. It’s not necessarily any of those things, but those are the best descriptions that I can think of for what it actually is. Pretty moody and atmospheric. Not the best but good for being what it is.

Trick R Treat – not sure if I posted this one or not, this was a special Halloween rewatch. A very fun and enjoyable Anthology type movie with three stories that all loosely tie together. The going ons that happen in a small town on Halloween. Scary, funny, cute, and well written!



Monday, November 4, 2013

Oh Sure Bro

One of the items on my list was to write letters of thanks. Which, yeah. I know. It sounds pretty hokey. BUT it's a way of *barf* putting positive energy out into the universe. People like to know that they're appreciated and this is one way to let them know as such. It doesn't time more than a bit of time and a few pennies to buy a stamp.

I made a list of various people that I would like to express my appreciation to and at the top of the list was a little something you may or may not have heard of. Uhh Yeah Dude. UYD is a podcast I've been listening to since late 2007 or early 2008. The description of the show is "American through the eyes of two American Americans." Or sometimes "Saving America from herself." It features two hosts, Jonathan Laroquette (yes relation!) and Seth Romatelli.

Jonathan is a mid 30s native Angelino with a father almost all of you would know. He is many things, a rastifarian, a dog lover, a musician. He's in an electronic band with his friend Amir and they go by the name Jogger. Seth is newly 40 and has lived in LA for 18 years now. He was born and raised in Haverhill, MA (a suburb of Boston) and has been sober for a decade. He came out here to act and has had a few gigs here and there. His day job (so to speak) is at a medical mj facility.

The podcast started in Feb of 2006 and just recently released episode 389. With very few exceptions they have put out a podcast every single week in the nearly 8 years since they started. It is almost exclusively Jdawg and Sethro. A handful of times while J has been out touring or otherwise occupied Seth brought on his mother, Marcia, to cohost. On at least one occasion, possibly two, they also called up Jonathans dad for a short moment. Mostly though, it's the two of them.

They discuss pop culture, current (popular) news stories, local or more obscure news stories, and share personal events from the present or past life. It's been almost perfectly golden the entire run, but most people agree that in the 60s it really ramps up, and in the 100-120s it is firing on all cylinders. Despite the fact that they do sometimes talk about major news and pop culture, it rarely feels dated and an episode from 4 years ago could just as easily have come from 3 months ago. The chemistry, love, and friendship between Seth and J are second to none and a major part of what makes the show so great.

They also have an impression amount of interaction with their fans. In addition to the usual facebook, twitter, email, instagram, etc they also have an 800 number that Seth listens to personally and often calls back listeners, and Jonathan has his own personal cell number that he uses to text or phone fans. For a good 5 years he gave out his number on every show for fans to contact on, but due to a series of events he had to get a new number. He has given out his new one on a couple of episodes, but it's no longer common knowledge and he doesn't encourage contact that way (though neither does he DIScourage it either.) Seth has also let it be known that he is "in the book" meaning phone book and sure enough, he is! Phone number and address are readily available and if you call he will answer and chat if he's free. I feel a little weird about doing that, even if he is okay with it!

Boy howdy, I'm ramblin'. ANYWAY. Sep 20th was his 40th birthday and last month I decided to write him a letter/send him a card to celebrate this fact. It included a big, multi section, 3D western card, a couple page letter, and some random cowboys swag. I wrote that nearly two months ago now, and the very night I went home and discovered that for the first time in the history of ever, they'd be doing a live show in Dallas! I was thrilled beyond words and immediately bought two tickets. It still took me nearly a month to MAIL the dang thing, but it indeed made it in time for his birthday.

Imagine my shock, when a few days afterwards, I received my OWN mail from Seth. It's glorious and wonderful. A few days before the show was scheduled (11/03) I also called the voicemail to wish him luck and a safe trip. A few hours later he actually CALLED ME BACK but despite the phone literally being inches away from me I missed the call due to it being on silent. UGH. On one hand, I'm super disappointed, but on the other, I'm a little relieved! Who knows what I would have said to him!!! Ugh, so awkward.

The actual show was pretty freaking awesome. They started a little late, and I was in the beginning stages of food poisoning, but it was so very cool. Seth wore a Cowboys hoodie and was clearly pretty thrilled about seeing them the next day. I stood in the merch line only to be heartbroken by the fact that they only took cash. I stupidly had none on me and I was too flustered to properly formulate a game plan to get some. I was able to meet and take pictures with both of them, as well as get my ticket signed. I was so over the moon. You guys! So excited. I really hope I'm able to see them again in the future. I need to also call the VM and ask Seth how he liked the game! He didn't even discuss it. For shaaaaaaaaaame.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


The FINAL ULTIMATE movie for #10daysofjezoween is the 1990 Science is Probably Evil movie Brain Dead. (NOT Braindead aka Dead Alive.) A movie that stars both Bill Ps. Paxton and Pullman. Which is confusing. Anyway. It's about brain scientists and the troubles that plague them.

It's got a sweet ass synth score that is bomb as hell. So that alone means it's aces in my book. Basically we've got this Brain Science Man, Pullman, that studies brains in jars. He is approached by an old chum, Paxton, who is a Business Guy and needs some help. The help? A super smart Math Guy goes fucking nutso and kills his family and Paxton wants Pullman to try to... uh.. figure out why? I guess? Things eventually go sour, as they do.

The two Bills play well off of each other. Paxton is fucking hamming it up as Evil Business Man and Pullman is a bit of a sad sack Ethical Doctor Forced to Make Hard Choices. It's directed by a man that hasn't done much but written by the late, great Charles Beaumont. A man that was prolific in the horror/sci fi world and wrote many famous Twilight Zone episodes.

It's fairly serviceable. If a bit heavy handed. It does follow "Show, don't Tell" but spends a little too much time showing. It's not subtle foreshadowing if you're basically spray painting it on the wall. It's a little dark and dreary, in execution not tone. There's nothing terrible impressive about the camera work or set design. There are some interesting dream like sequences that were well done.

On one hand, the subject matter is pretty terrifying. I've read a lot about mental illness, brain surgery, lobotomies, etc. The knowledge that I might have to go down that road one day was especially frightening. An elective lobotomy and tumor removal are obviously two entirely different things but pokin around in brains is scary business! It's unsettling.

It raises some interesting questions that are just as relevant today as they were nearly 25 years ago. Man playing god, science vs nature, is it okay to meddle in the affairs of the brain? What needs fixing and who are we to decide? Madness, reality, and the intersection between the two.

I give it 2 out of 5 butts, and one brain, which sort of looks like a butt. Butt!


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Day 9: The Stuff

The penultimate movie for #10daysofjezoween is the 1985 campy horror movie *The Stuff*. Basically someone finds some… stuff. It’s coming out of the ground, it’s white and creamy (lol) and it tastes delicious as all get out. Problem? Well it’s also like an alien species or something? It basically becomes the next best thing since Diet Coke and everyone in the universe starts eating it. Big Ice Cream takes umbrage with this because it drastically hurts their sales so they hire an Industrial Espionage person. Hilarity ensues.

Larry Cohen wrote and directed it. It’s in a weird spot where it’s not quite campy or funny enough to be a horror comedy, but nowhere near frightening enough to be straight up horror. It presents some interesting thoughts and ideas on mindless consumption and how gullible the American people can be but doesn’t do it in any really interesting ways. They Live came a few years after this one, but it is a much more effective and enjoyable film.

It’s not terrible or bad, but it’s not really something I can see myself ever watching again. I can see this being a good introduction to younger kids to the genre at large, as it’s not especially scary and has a younger kid as the lead. The special effects are almost exclusively practical and pretty well done. They aren’t especially gory in a realistic way, but more fun and interesting looking. Overall I give it 2 out of 5 butts.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Day 8: Bay Of Blood

Day 8 of #10daysofjezoween! As enjoyable as this has been, I’m looking forward to the end. Being forced to watch (and later write about) a movie every single day is kind of exhausting. I just want to watch reruns of What Not to Wear! Anyway, our movie for today is *Bay of Blood* a 1971 Mario Bava movie that is as influential as it is disgusting.

Plot? Eh, who cares. A family is trying to kill off anyone that stands in the way of their inheritance in as gruesome and bloody a way as possible. Look, I know that everyone likes to consider Black Christmas (1974) or even Texas Chainsaw Massacre (’74) to be the great grandfathers of the slasher films but as South Park would say “Bava did it!” Well, I would extend that to most of the Italian schlockmasters, Bava, Argento, Fulci, etc. Anything that was done in American Horror Cinema was done by the Italians years or even decades before. This predates the aforementioned Black Christmas and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It also predates Halloween, Friday the 13th, I Spit on Your Grave, Cannibal Holocaust, and yes, even Last House on the Left. Those that bemoan the recent trend of so called “torture p**n” would do well to remember that the Italians have been produced this for FORTY YEARS. Not that it excuses this, but it’s by no means a recent phenomenon or sign of the times or evidence of social decay, or anything along those lines.

This movie, above any other, I would probably classify as such though I am loathe to use that term. It is intensely violent, gory, and bloody. That being said the gore is well executed, Oscar winner Carlo Rambaldi (Um, ever heard of Alien? Yeah) can be thanked for that (heh), the direction is stylish and striking, and the overall production is relatively top notch. There are some beautifully well done shots and the landscape itself is quite lovely to look at. This is probably the most influential and important movie in the slasher genre. It kicked start the 1980s trend of teen horror films and even still today 45 years later it still manages to inspire and demand homage. Friday the 13th, Part 2 directed cribbed at least two death scenes nearly shot for shot. I Know What You Did Last Summer? Cribbed it.

Another interesting thing to note that while this movie was almost exclusively ABOUT the death scenes (13 in all) in the previous year Bava made 5 Dolls for an August Moon which is a murder mystery film without any actual murders witnessed. An interesting juxtaposition when viewed together. That being said I would recommend this movie to almost no one. It’s hugely influential and important to the genre but it’s also difficult to watch. It’s as brutal as it is beautiful and the score is effective and haunting but it’s also a hard pill to swallow. This is for (heh) die hard fans only. Those with sensitive constitutions should stay away. I give it 4.3 butts out of 5. The point 3 is because someone hacked away most of the butt so you’re just left with a tiny, bloody chunk.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Day 7: I Saw The Devil

Today I will be sharing Kim Jee-Woon’s 2010 film *I Saw the Devil* a South Korean movie that’s probably more in the revenge thriller genre, but here we are regardless. This is a film that has been on my list since it was released. After Jee-Woon’s previous films (A segment in 3 Extremes, A Tale of Two Sisters, and The Good, The Bad, and The Weird) it was already on my radar. Add to that the fact that the entire horror blog community was nearly universally praising it? (A feat which is about as impressive as Comic Book Nerds agreeing on the quality of a movie. If there’s anything genre fans enjoy more than slap fights over whether a movie is “hella cool” or “hella gay” I’d be hard pressed to think of it.)

The fact that it was subtitled AND nearly 2.5 hours long kept getting it pushed off. I knew I would need to devote my entirely attention to it for a long time so I always turned to something else. But I’m glad I finally did. This movie has a lot of things to praise it for. The original score is full of lush, sweeping, orchestral music. The cinematography is perfectly done and the film is as brutal as it is beautiful. The writing, special effects, choreography and direction are all top notch and there’s little to fault here.

It is exceptionally brutal.  The basic premise is a man’s fiancée is murdered and he goes on a quest to find her killer and avenge her death. This is a movie that pulls no punches. There’s plenty of blood, gore, and even nudity but it never feels gratuitous. It never feels exploitative. This is a movie about grief. A man so consumed by it that killing the cause of it wouldn’t even begin to solve it. But how do you lift it? How do you reconcile that level of loss? The rock that’s sitting on your heart isn’t going to disappear just because you put one on someone else. There’s a saying that when embarking on a quest for revenge you should dig two graves. One for Them and one for You. What a lonely place. I think some of us have felt how helpless earth shattering grief is. That level of emotional pain makes you turn outward. To push that energy out into something. Into someone. You can’t always cause that emotional pain but you can certainly accomplish something *physical*. A broken heart for a broken heart.

It is this extreme that drives our Not Quite Hero. He is blinded by his pain. He is consumed with revenge and making the killer feel the same pain that he feels. That his fiancée felt. It is an empty quest because it won’t actually solve his ultimate problem. It won’t give him peace or happiness. It won’t fill the gaping void inside of him. It won’t help him sleep at night or heal his wounds any faster. We feel the same suffering he feels. Between bouts of violence there are scenes dotted with his grief. The loss is palatable and felt in every beat between takes. We never forget what he’s fighting and why. It’s never lost in the impact of a hammer or cut of a scalpel.

We are on this journey for a reason and at the end we feel the same void. That nameless, inevitable void that cannot be filled with blood nor vengeance. Two graves have been dug and we fall screaming into the waiting earth. The guilt, shame, longing, and haunting memories fill in the spaces between the dirt. Revenge is a cold blanket, let us wrap ourselves in it and settle in for the night. I saw the devil and now I can’t look away.

5 out of 5 butts the highest possible honor.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Day 6: Cherry Tree Lane

Anyhow, Today for #10daysofjezoween I will be discussing Cherry Hill Lane. A movie that has been much buzzed about since it's 2010 release but I've been avoiding because it features sociopathic teenagers being annoying ass sociopaths (or so the brief netflix synopsis tells me) and if there's one thing I really hate in life (there are hundreds) it's smug ass teenagers being little smug ass shitheads. It just fills me with so much rage. With all that in mind, was it worth it?

The movie starts with a pretty interesting and mood setting score and we get a nice little "stuff happening on stove while character is out of focus talking" shot that seems like a trope but I can't really think of many examples of it. Maybe it's more of a "mundane domestic activities before the chaos starts" that's a trope. Either way it's effective.* It's a fairly tense lead up because we know something is going to happen but you don't know when so you're watching Boring Domestic Stuff and waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

When it does I immediately hate the chav motherfuckers as you're SUPPOSED TO but I just hate them so much. I hate smug, self righteous, think you're tough ass motherfuckers SO MUCH. Especially when they're teenagers. Ugh. It just gets my goat so much. I much prefer QUIET MENACE or INEXPLICABLY CALM AND THREATENING.

I am amused by a scene characters are watching tv and they switch to Night of the Living Dead is on for about two seconds. 

All these considered it's a very short movie at 77 minutes and much of it is little to no action with just the intruders being douchebags and saying douche ass fucking things. Thinking they are entitled to shit just because they are the Have Nots and these people are the Haves. It's infuriating and it made me just wish they'd die in a gigantic fire. Regards of their reasons or justifications I don't even care. 

Basically, everything that Funny Games was commenting on and chiding us for (railing against violence inflicted on others by wishing violence on those doing the inflicting) is present here and I'm aware of that but I really just don't care and want them to be punished. 

The camerawork is good, the score is well done, and there's very little violence or gore. I wouldn't even really classify this as a horror movie. An interesting thing is that it's basically (if almost exactly) in real time. 

Anyway, I wouldn't say I'd really reccommend this movie to anyone. It's basically horrible people doing horrible things and even if it does have things to say about class and race and SOCIAL ISSUES I don't really care because you can say those things in other, more effective ways. I've heard complaints about the ending but I mostly found it satisfying.

*while typing this up today I heard what SOUNDED LIKE LOUD SCREAMING but was just sportsball excitement. stupid sportsball

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Day 5: Relic

I didn’t have a lot to say about this movie. The monster design was pretty nifty but by and large it was pretty predictable and used way too many violin stings (which I like but it’s a total crutch so… mixed bag. 2 out of 5 butts mostly due to the nifty monster. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Day 4: Return to Horror High

Day 4 of #10daysofjezoween brings us to Return to Horror High. A 1987 movie that I would see on basically every trip to the local video store. It had a skeleton wearing a cheerleading skirt on the cover, so it was pretty distinctive!

Anyway, basic premise: 5 years prior a series of horrible murders happened at the local high school. Now, in 1987 a film crew returns to make a movie about the subject and the same thing happens to the film crew. 

It starts in the Now with the police investigating the film crew murders, with regular flashbacks to the film crew and their antics. It switches back and forth to the present day investigation and will sometimes switch to the actual Movie being shot (that you are watching as an actual movie.)  So it's an interesting format of Now Police Investigation flash to the In Movie Movie, then In Movie Actor will break character and it will be Making a Movie mode. It's pretty neat because you have actors playing Actors, and then playing Actors Acting. Whew! It's confusing to explain but it works pretty well in movie.

During the Making a Movie parts we get a lot of interesting meta comments from the film crew about making a movie, audience expectations, and artistic integrity. There's some gore, both in the form of deliberate fake prop stuff and then the real actual killings. Some pretty unique kills and the idea of a slasher running around while a slasher is being made was a pretty unique subject matter in the late 80s. Of course, Scream 2 and Scream 3 took that subject and ran with it in its own interesting ways much later. The killer reveal was absolutely insane and hilarious and the actual ending was fresh and different (for the time period; it’d likely be seen as cliché and expected these days.)

This isn't the first "meta" level horror movie, I'm sure, but it's early enough that I'd consider it one of the fore fathers. Due to the format of a movie within a movie it’ manages to do so without seeming pandering, too self-aware, or camera winky. Does that mean it's perfect or amazing? No, not particularly. But it's pretty fun and interesting and short enough to make it worth your time. 

Neat facts: It stars Maureen McCormick (Marcia Brady) and George Clooney! This was his first movie role and very early in his acting career. He would of course go on to a steady gig on Roseanne, ER, and the rest is history.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day 3 of Jezoween: Sorority House Massacre

Day 3 of #10daysofjezoween featured *Sorority House Massacre*, a 1986 movie produced by Roger Corman which basically should tell you everything you need to know.

Overall it’s a pretty dull affair that is basically Halloween: Sorority Edition. Heavy on kills but light on gore. Middling acting that is neither outright terrible nor anywhere near good. Exposition that is barked out repeatedly and “subtle” foreshadowing and unrelated events happening that directly tie into everything that happens in a way that is literally explaining the entire movie in plot, themes, and structure. But not in a meta or self aware way. In a babbys first film type of way. Indeed, this was the director Carol Franks first and only writing/directing credit.

They did a few things, if not well, at least decently. There were dream sequences and hallucinations that were somewhat creative and creepy. The music was about as cheesy as humanly possible but in a warm, comforting way. Boobs were basically everywhere. There was a five minute “dress up” scene that was basically just an excuse to show three girls boobs over and over and over. The camera work was adequate. The movie was short. I didn’t hate it.

It neither delivers nor offends and for that I give it 2.5 out of 5 butts. It gets an extra butt because there is a scene where a fully nude man runs away and you see his butt and it was very funny because butts. Thank you and goodnight.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Day 2 of Jezoween: Altered

For our next edition of #10daysofjezoween I bring to you a sleepy little 2006 direct to DVD creature feature film directed by Eduardo Sanchez of Blair Witch fame. *Altered.* I’ve been hearing buzz about this movie for years from friends and through horror geek blogs but managed to mostly avoid it. I tried watching it once but according to Netflix only got 5 minutes into it and likely switched to watching reruns of Golden Girls after that. I’m glad I came back.

The premise of the movie is pretty simple. 15 years ago a group of rednecks were abducted by aliens and now they turn the tables in a poorly thought out revenge fantasy. Spartan in both idea and execution it surprisingly serves up some pretty hefty themes that may or may not have been intentional.

What appears to be on the surface a relatively straight forward alien adventure film turns out to have a lot more lurking beneath. A shockingly well done examination and exploration of male sexual assault and the psychological ramifications that echo through the years. Shame, guilt, humiliation, and impotent rage are festering beneath the surface of everyone involved even years after the fact. Driven by revenge their lives are consumed with vengeance. They are incapable of moving on. They are plagued with paranoia, doubt, alcohol problems and criminal records. Their relationships falter and crumble, they cannot maintain jobs or any semblance of stability. They isolate themselves both emotionally and literally.

They were abducted, probed, and by their own admission Altered. (Hey! That’s the title of the movie!) This can’t be a coincidence. You could replace the alien with a human and change only a few bits of dialogue and story and you’d have just a cohesive film. It’s not just revenge or justice, it’s a quest for peace. You can feel the pain and grief radiating from each person and the different ways they deal with it. How do you reconcile something like this? How do you deal? You can’t tell anybody. They either wouldn’t understand or they wouldn’t believe you. Why did they pick *you*, what did you do to get their attention? It festers. Over years. The pain piles up until you’re so full of it that there’s no room for anything else in your life. And so you do the only reasonable thing you can think of, you go after it. A suicide mission that will either end in retribution or your own death.

This may seem like reaching or overanalyzing but having seen my fair share of alien abduction movies, hostage situations, exploitation/revenge films, and kidnap thrillers I can tell you this is all very unique in terms of presentation, dialogue, and story. I suspect that the screenwriter either explicitly intended for this to be an allegory or they have their own personal experience with such things that subconsciously colored their work. Either way, it serves as a fascinating glimpse into the intricate nature of the male mind and what happens when internal strife manifests into external violence when left unchecked.

All this aside it was also just straight up a well done picture. It was pretty low budget but this wasn’t a handicap for the most part. The actors aren’t as well known (or in some cases known at all) but they do a good job with the material. The sets are extremely limited but in a way that feels organic to the story so it doesn’t feel particularly cheap or hastily done. The set designer, if indeed it was a set and not an existing garage/workshop, did an exceptional job. The creature effects were pretty well done and chilling, and the gore was all practical, no CGI.

I would give this 4 very surprisingly thoughtful butts

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The List: Day 1 (The Host)

So, in the spirit of Halloween I’ve decided to do a “10 Movies I haven’t seen yet, yes I know, no I don’t know why I haven’t watched that yet, I just haven’t okay?” list. Every night I will watch a different movie I’ve been meaning to watch but haven’t gotten around to it yet and then write about it the next day.
I went about this very scientifically by scanning my legacy dvds, perusing my torrent site, and browsing the Horror section on Netflix. What I watch each night will depend on A) How much time I have and B) my particular mood.

Anyway, on with the show! Slight spoilers (mostly about the size and visibility of the monster), but nothing major. The first movie up? The 2006 Bong Joon-ho movie The Host! I know, I know, how had I not seen this yet?? Despite the fact that a good 10% of my jezoween movies are foreign I have to be in a very specific mood to watch something with subtitles because I have a gnat like attention span at times. Regardless, I had been meaning to watch this for many years but it kept being pushed off so I could rewatch Tremors for the 300th time or watch another show about Midgets.

Anyway, the film is part monster movie, part political commentary, and part satire. The basic premise is a land/sea monster runs free in South Korea and one family attempts to rescue a member of their clan. It was the highest grossing movie in South Korea at the time and is relatively unique in its vision. Not only do you see the entirety of the monster almost immediately (and often) but it’s also comparatively small; about the size of a large bus.

It’s also very slightly based on a true story. The opening scene (and the ultimate cause of the monster) is actually pretty closely based on actual events. However, no sea monsters have yet to be unleashed. (Or have they??? WHAT ARE YOU HIDING NORTH KOREA???) It features a lot of commentary (and criticism) of both American military and culture. Due to this it is actually praised by North Korean authorities, a very rare feat for a blockbuster film.Not to be seen as throwing too much shade on the US, we also see the South Korean military as ineffective, apathetic, and mostly useless.

In large parts, the film works. There are some moments that are darkly funny when they should be serious, and some moments that are darkly serious when they should be funny. The main flaw is that perhaps everything is played a little too straight and not self aware. A notch to the left and you’d have a very tight, suspenseful, dark monster flick that subverts tropes and hits you when you least expect it. A notch to the right and you’d have a blackly hilarious satire of a stereotypical monster movie that both addresses the tropes that the genre was built on while at the same time avoiding the very clichés it brings to light.
As it stands it’s somewhere between the two, which weakens it a fair bit. It seemed as if the director couldn’t pick the tone and decided to play with both sides of the fence. 

That being said it still largely succeeds. If you don’t mind strapping in a bit and putting on your safety helmet (the tonal shifts might give you whiplash otherwise) I can highly recommend this. I give this 3.5 out of 5 butts, but they are really cute butts.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The two books for month #2

I read two books for month #2, in addition to my bookclub book (We’re reading The Handmaid’s Tale in case you were wondering.) Here are my thoughts on them!

Book #1 The Kid by Dan Savage I saw this in my interlibrary ebook loan system so I checked it out (ha!) on a whim. It was written in the late 90s so it’s pretty outdated, but it mostly serves as a platform to provide some light autobiographical details about Dan in addition to chronicling the adoption process of two gay dads in the Pacific Northwest. It provided some interesting anecdotes and that is a process I knew very little about.

Of course, now it’s pretty likely that some of the rules and regulations described have changed but it was still interesting reading. Dan had his typical dry wit and it was a pleasurable and sometimes humorous read. I find it particularly interesting that I was reading it while I was learning about Rutherford B. Hayes and it featured a chapter called, I think, Rutherford B. Finger. Apparently Dan’s proctologist is the great whateverson of our 19th President! How funny. I thought that was an interesting coinkydink.

Book #2 Dr. Sleep by Stephen King I have two schools of thought on this book. On the one hand, I really enjoyed reading more about Danny Torrance and what he grew into as an adult. I thought making him a (recover(ed)ing alcoholic was a believable, if somewhat predictable, path to take. I loved most of the parts with him, his new life, etc etc. What I didn’t like? Well, the basic premise of the book itself. The supernatural justification for writing it to begin with. The True Knot? Felt shoehorned in, haphazard, and never once like any sort of legitimate threat. Like most of King’s books this absolutely fizzled in the last 15% or so and went out with not even quite a whisper so much as a cough.

I love King. I really, really do. But his strengths lie in his *characters*. I would have loved a 400 pages book that dealt with Danny and his life post The Shining. Just a guy, fighting his (not literal) demons and going through recovery and starting over. That’s the book I want to read. King is GREAT at thinking up grand and terrifying ideas but often the execution and especially the ending fall flat. Maybe this is why the Dark Tower are some of my favorite books of his, they have so much world building and character development that in the grand scheme of things to actual supernatural/hinky stuff take a far back seat.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sometimes new is good.

After a long absence (a week, oops!) I return with actual updates. As you can see from my previous post another month as past and with it there are new things to report. Thingero today! Also known as thingero #15 on the list. Do at least one new thing a month. I got that covered and then some! Here are the various new things I did/tried roughly in the order they were done did.

Jasmine’s – This is your basic, run of the mill, Chinese place. I didn’t actually go into the physical location, it was delivered. I had sesame chicken and an egg roll. The chicken was pretty standard, no complaints (or brags) there. The eggroll was mediocre, it was pretty empty inside. Not a lot of substance there! They do deliver to me (and constantly leave menus on my door) so if I desire Chinese food in the future I’d probably go with them.

Norma’s Café – After a late night nothing beats diner breakfast at Noon! I’ve been meaning to try this place for a long time and was pretty pleased. I had a very cheesy omelet and managed to eat the entire thing. I think there was a side (probably potatoes?) but everything was delicious, the price was right, and the interior was fun and retro. IIRC the seats were Texas themed, which is always nice!
Texadelphia – This is in front of my office building but in 1.5 years have never been. I tend to prefer a lighter fare for lunch but it was pretty good. I had a standard philly cheesesteak with a side of fries, probably? Wait, no. Chips and queso. Both good. I probably won’t eat there *often* but I would be fine with going back.

I went to the State Fair and Oktoberfest which in and of themselves aren’t new, I go to the fair every year, but I did do some new *things* and ate some new food. Also at the fair I visited the Big Tex flashback type exhibit, which featured a lot of relics from Big Tex throughout the years. We also got to see the brand new actual Big Tex. He burned up in a massive fire last year and so this year he’s all new. Neat stuff!

French Camp Build Day

I am not a burner, by any means. I hate camping with a fiery passion. Or rather I don’t want to do it with a fiery passion. BUT. I do know a lot of people involved in the community. Somehow a friend of mine lured me (aka, invited and I accepted) to a build day. I spent about 4-5 hours painting, moving around heavy pieces of wood, standing around, eating donuts, moving around wood, standing around, painting, standing around… You get the idea. It was actually pretty fun and I enjoy a little (light) manual labor. So, I think that’s probably it? Good times!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Second Month Update. Haven't given up yet!

This is the second update in the grand 30 by 30 list. This was a busy month! Both personally and list wise.
(2) Healthy Eating – better at this, but still not perfect! I am eating a lot more fruits and veggies and cooking actual meals at home! (Did I have chips and queso last night for dinner? MAYBE I DID)
(3) Save money – I am doing very well at this! I must say. I’m still *spending* money though, so I should work on that next? Spending less? I managed to reduce to price of my cable bill though, so there’s that.
(6) Watch every movie on the AFI Top 100 list. – Two more movies down! Double Indemnity and Do The Right Thing. I posted reviews on the blog. I need to start watching more than just two a month.
(7) Finish my duolingo French lessons - I started this up again, though progress is slow! It also (apparently) takes away points as you stop using it so I am backtracking quite a bit! Which is good because I forgot a lot of things, again.
(8) Watch The X-Files. – Finished Season 1! I had to slow down a fair amount due to the fall tv season starting up again, but I was able to catch up over the weekend. I’ll be taking another break to watch Season 2 of Supernatural (I’m alternating) but hopefully I’ll at least get started on S2. (9) Cook one semi elaborate meal a week – I’ve been cooking a LOT more. Nothing really elaborate, but I’ve been creating meals more and I’m going to count that as a win.
(11) Start doing writing exercises. – I’ve been writing on the blog pretty regularly. I missed last week but other than that have been fairly consistent!
(13) Volunteer – This isn’t a monthly goal but I did donate blood this month, help out some dirty hippies with building things/painting things, and have been doing a lot of research into volunteer organizations.
(15) Do one new thing a month – This I covered in spades (what does that mean??? I should look it up.) Tried three new restaurants (Jasmine’s, Texadelphia, and Norma’s Café), went to an Amanda Palmer concert, and participated in a build day for French Camp. More on the blog later!
(18) Talk to my family more – talked to my brother!
(20) Learn a lot about one thing (Presidents!) - This month was Milliard Fillmore. I’ll be putting something up here at the end of the week, likely!
(21) Read more – My goal was 2 books a month and I have been successful so far! (That’s in addition to whatever we’re reading for book club, so it’s really 3/month.) This month I read The Kid by Dan Savage and Dr. Sleep by Stephen King. I’ll be putting up a post on the blog about these both later!
(22) Book club – still going strong! Figured out my groove and am enjoying it so far
(26) Send letters of thanks – I wrote a letter to my dad, but I need to mail it. Oops!

Overall I think I’m doing pretty well. I did lose a little bit of focus, but honestly not nearly as much as I expected. I’m doing pretty well at keeping my monthly goals up, but I need to start focusing on the more nebulous ones as well. That’s something to improve on for my next update! I’m finding this to be a pretty positive experience so far. It’s making me make more decisions consciously, with purpose. I don’t also think “is this something that fulfils a list item?” and it’s not something that I obsess over in my day to day, but I do think about it. If I’m bored at home and about to turn on Netflix I consider (though sometimes reject!) whether I want to watch Random B Movie #458985 or an AFI movie. When hungry and picking out a place to eat I consider whether I want to eat somewhere I’ve been a thousand times or go somewhere new. I’m thinking a lot more before doing.

Next month I would like to do a couple of things in addition to the regular monthly stuff I’ve been doing: Get back to the where I was before in Duolingo. I lost a lot of ground and I’d like to get back to my previous level. Doing at least one lesson a few times a week should get me there. Jump into researching Amsterdam trip. I need to at least lock in the month (likely April) and figure out a rough plan of action. Is there going to be travel to additional cities or countries? Is there a general area that’s preferable? Are there any specific touristy things I want to try to visit? What do I want my overall budget to be? (I’m hoping for $2,000, so I can put it all on my discover and have it paid off by trip time, minus food and incidentals, of course! No clue if that’s realistic, but hey, research!) I’ll probably throw out a post at some point soliciting ideas, so if you have any save it for later!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Moving Pictures AFI probably disapproves of

I know, I know. I need to be watching more AFI movies. But here are the non AFI movies I’ve been watching, in order of watchitude. I feel like I’m missing some? Maybe I haven’t seen as many movies this month as I thought? Additionally, I’m including two items that probably should have been on the previous one. Whatever!

The Fartist Notice the F in front there. This is another standup special, this time from Brian Posehn. I don’t have a lot to say about this. It was entertaining? If the title of the show made you laugh, you’d probably enjoy this, basically.

My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend This isn’t a movie, it’s actually a standup special from Mike Birbiglia. Calling is a stand up special isn’t entirely accurate though because while it’s *funny* it’s not the traditional setup punchline joke repeat repeat. It’s more of a storytelling/performance piece. Regardless of all that, it is definitely worth watching. It’s funny, touching, at times sad and highly relatable. I really enjoy Birbigs, schtick? I guess? His style. He’s a funny guy and charming and, yes, disarming. I loved Sleepwalk With Me and will continue to watch his stuff.

World War Z I understand why this received the criticisms that it did. It shares nothing in common with the source material save the central premise. But, I knew that going in and so I was going to judge it entirely as separate from that. The book would make for an incredible HBO style series. I forget how many chapters there are but they could probably even do one or two 12 episodes seasons with each chapter being an episode… Anyway. SO. How does the movie stand up as a movie, not an adaptation? Not terrible. But, you know, not exceptionally great either. The first problem is length. At 2 hours not only is it far too long but it FEELS like longer than that. I honestly thought it was 2.5 hours. Regardless, they easily could have trimmed it to 90 minutes without losing a whole lot.

Another problem? It’s too amped up. There’s a constant sense of either action or direct danger. There’s very little downtime. There is almost no levity. Never a break, never a moment of calm. I get that. I do. I understand the WHY but it just doesn’t work for me. I like my “Scary” movies to have moments of (intentional) levity or farce. A small chuckle or big laugh between being chased by (whatever.) It doesn’t have to be a laugh riot comedy (or zomedy) like Shaun of the Dead, either. Dawn of the Dead 2004 did a great job of balancing things. Night of the Living Dead (original) didn’t really have any chuckles but it had plenty of calm quiet time. You need a chance to breathe and WWZ didn’t really offer this. It wasn’t scary, it was just TENSE.

JASON TAKES MANHATTAN Despite the title the majority of this film takes place on a boat and that’s where the majority of the action/entertainment lies. Once they hit dry land the movie, I’m sorry but I have to do this, loses a lot of steam. It’s not the best Jason movie, but it’s also not really the worst. I went to see it at the Alamo Drafthouse on Friday, the 13th at 9:13 and it was pretty entertaining with a fully packed crowd. I would probably never see it otherwise or likely watch it again. A couple of important notes:

First of all it has Jason literally punching someones head off. Which is a sight to behead. Sorry, beHOLD. (I’m out of control! Cant stop me now!) Secondly, it actually manages to pass the bechdel test. For those of you that don’t know what that is it’s pretty simple. Does the film have at least two female (named) characters? That talk to each other? About something other than a man? The answer here is yes. It would shock you (or maybe not, if you’re reading this you’re a bright cookie) how often this ISNT the case.

But here, a horror movie where a guy LITERALLY GETS HIS HEAD PUNCHED OFF, it manages. Think about that you writers, directors, producers, even actors. Because I know so many of you are currently reading this. Thank you and good night!

INSIDIOUS 2 I really enjoyed the first installment of this, and the 2nd one, while not quite as good, was still pretty decent. It kicks off basically immediately after the first one and plays out more as a drama with ghosty bits. It lacks the veering into silly third act that the first one suffered from, and didn’t have nearly as many jump scares. It wasn’t a perfect film by any means. There is a nearly completely superfluous third child that did not need to exist, but due to a somewhat minor part of the first movie is required to be here, otherwise he would be weirdly absent. Or maybe not. I honestly forgot he even existed, but whatever. Overall: Not bad, though I am unlikely to choose to see it again.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Lots of Wind Up, not so much pitch

Now that I’m not ruminating on Breaking Bad, I can discuss something else.

SO. September book: The Wind Up Bird Chronicle. My tl;dr is: Not a fan overall.

The protagonist, Toru, is an interesting character. He is not what one would expect out of a stereotypical Japanese business man. To even American standards he’d be considered a slacker, by Japanese he’s downright sinfully slothful. He quits a well paying job at a law firm that offered him a good career track for… nothing? Ennui?

It starts off as an interesting examination of a man bucking societal expectations and the fallout in his life and marriage as a result of that. Had it remained about this, I probably would have enjoyed it much more. As it stands, I liked Book 1 the most and Book 3 the least. I think the book largely suffered for trying to mix the mundane with the magical. Some authors manage to do this successfully, but here it oftentimes felt like two entirely different books had been sliced together. It didn’t always flow or make sense *within the narrative* and the abrupt pacing changes were jarring.

I found it to be an easy read overall, as in I was able to read it very quickly, and it did have a lot of the lyrical prose that Murakami is known for. It does a lot to explore and examine the history behind Japan’s involvement in WW2 and all that happened well before Pearl Harbor.

The book throws a lot of questions, side plots, and nonsensical elements at you along with enough red herrings to fill an entire boat. The point of this seems to be the subvert the expectations and conventions of western detective stories and instill a sense of wonder and whimsy in readers. The lines between fantasy and reality are blurred and reason and logic do not apply to this story, much as they often don’t apply in real life.

He is mostly successful in a storytelling sense, but whether or not that makes it a welcome literary contribution is up for debate. It at times seems to defy order for the sake of it and the lack of cohesion and closure feels less like an artistic choice and more like he fell asleep at the typewriter and picked the plot back up 10 pages later.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Sometimes life is Fair

This isn’t really related whatsoever to the list, but whatever! I went to the fair today, which isn’t especially note worthy because I’ve gone every year I’ve been in Texas for it since moving here. It was slightly different than usual, though.

*This year I took a half day and arrived shortly after 1 on opening day. Surprisingly enough, opening day (or night) typically isn’t that busy. This had more people than it perhaps would have otherwise though due to the unveiling of the new Big Tex. Even still, lines were mostly pretty short and we didn’t have to fight the crowds too much.

*New Big Tex! Our previous Fair mascot burned down in a horrific (if slightly hilarious) fire on the last day of the fair last year, while thousands of onlookers stood by in horror. He’s just as creepy as he used to be but he has a new outfit and I imagine a new voice, since the previous dude was let go for vague and mysterious reasons

*They had an exhibit featuring previous incarnations of Big Tex, which is kind of cool to see. What is NOT so cool is the room where they had his charred hands (the only remaining part of him that wasn’t destroyed by the fire) and a disembodied head from the original Big Tex on display together, for some inexplicable reason. What the what state fair?

What the what. Lots of fried foods were eaten and shared amongst ourselves. The standout being the King Ranch Casserole. It’s basically a cheesestick in the shape of texas. With a tiny texas flag stuck in it! So good. Cuban roll was decent, but not great. Thanksgiving dinner was basically a ball of deep fried stuffing, and the golden millionaire pie was super delicious. I will be returning again in a couple weeks, and there are a few more things I look forward to trying!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Double the Indemnity, double the fun!

So, the most recent AFI movie I watched was Double Indemnity. A 1944 film about an insurance salesman that gets conned into killing the husband of a woman he falls in love with. I have a lot of thoughts about this movie.

First of all. Wtf? So, we have or protag, Walter, that pays a house call to the Dietrichson house to renew an insurance policy. Mr. Dietrichson isn’t there so he speaks to his wife, Phyllis. Immediately upon meeting this (married) woman Walter is making creepy come ons and insinuations. They spend a total of maybe 5 minutes together which is apparently enough for Walter to fall ass over teakettle for this woman. I’ve had longer conversations with the barista at Starbucks.

So, Phyllis arranges for Walter to come by a few days later, conveniently on a day when neither her husband nor the maid are around. She brings up killing her husband without actually bringing it up and Walter is smart enough to nope.com out of there. Of course, the damsel ends up at Walter’s later that night spinning a tale of woe that’s less woe and more zzzz.

Her husband neglects her, they no longer have a lot of money, he works all the time, sometimes he slaps her when he gets drunk. She has a step daughter that doesn’t respect her. All these things add up to divorce, sure, but not murder.

Anyway, Walter is in a mad boner rage and eventually agrees to this terrible life choice. Where was *his* sassy gay friend? Oh, right. 1944. Gays didn’t exist yet. Have I mentioned the fact that the two leads have basically zero chemistry? Because they totally don’t. ALSO. When they kiss they just mash their mouths together. It’s like the director told them to high five but right before the cameras rolled he screamed out “BUT DO IT WITH YOUR MOUTHS” and the actors were like did he just say high five with our mouths? And the director was like “DO IT OR THE REST OF THE MOVIE WILL USE SOCK PUPPETS.” And so they did and this is what happened.

Is that just how they kissed in movies back then? I mean they seriously just smooshed their mouths together for about 10 seconds. Was French kissing against standards and practices back then? I might have to look this up. Where was I? Right. SO.

He agrees to this tremendously stupid decision and wow he ends up paying for it later. I got side tracked by my tangent and now I’m not sure what to say. Why is this #29 on the list? I’m going to go read Roger Ebert’s review and see what he has to say. I’ll play some hold music while I’m gone.

*Plays Baby Come Back* Ebert also points out and notices that there is a distinct lack of passion between the two. Is this intentional? He gives the movie 4 stars but recognizes that it’s less a movie about a man killing for love and money and more a movie about a man killing because the plot dictates that he do so. Almost as if it’s a parody of genre films before the genre became a parody of itself. Does that make any sense? Probably not. But neither did anything the characters did.

I really feel as if I missed something with this one. I like the film noir genre. I like smart quips and quick comebacks. I like murder plots and complications and things that don’t go as they should so why don’t I like this one? I love most of everything Hitchcock ever did which is nothing but tales of bad deeds done by good people for the wrong reasons gone awry.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Do The Right Thing

Okay, I’m going to be a bit of a nerd and rage on about color corrections and transfers and what have you. This movie is set on the hottest day in Brooklyn all year. That is, in fact, the entire concept of the movie. The temperature is hot and TEMPERS are hot. Heat makes everyone crazy especially when idle hands are already the devil’s work and you’ve got troubles so hard. Now, when filming this Spike Lee (for both logistical and financial reasons) was unable to do so during the heat of the summer and instead filmed, I believe, in the Springtime. For this reason it was decided in post that a warm orangey filter to would added to give the impression of sweltering heat. And it did. You could basically feel the sizzling black top and smell the sweat dripping off of everyone. The heat itself became a character.

That is until the blu ray release of the movie. In the effort of restoration and “betterification” they did a significant amount of color correction. Instead of hot orange everything has been regulated to cool blues. The heat no longer sizzles. The viewer no longer feels a sympathetic drop of sweat creeping down their face. The heat is not only no longer a character but you find yourself wondering, what’s the big deal? You don’t identify with the heat and you lose some of the identification with the characters because of that. At least, that’s what I think.  BUT, I am admittedly a total nerd about things like this so, whatever.

Anyway, now that’s I’ve whined about the precious sanctity of dvd transfers how about I discuss the actual movie, eh? So. It’s a hot day in Bed Stuy. In a neighborhood that’s almost exclusively black we find a family owned Italian pizza place and a Korean owned convenience store. Even one is bored, hot, and listless. Tempers flare, tragedy strikes, when the chips fall who is left standing and who is to blame for what transpires?

The thing I appreciate about this movie is, while it’s not remotely subtle, it doesn’t entirely point the fingers of blame either. While it does lack in any subtlety it features neither cartoonishly villainous or heroic characters. Everyone is flawed, and everyone makes mistakes. It’s a story with no clear winners or losers because everyone comes out behind. It tells the story that you’ve got to do the right thing but sometimes there is no right thing and sometimes even if you do what is right you end up with a losing deck. Life isn’t simple and everything is complicated. Sometimes you want to fight the power but where do you turn when you’re surrounded by equally powerless people? Who do you fight then? How do you confront the enemy when it doesn’t have a face?

There are no clear answers to any of this. The story is left (mostly) unresolved and nothing gets wrapped up in a tidy bow. Apparently seeing this was Barack and Michelle Obama’s first date, which is hilarious to me because it features a decently long love scene complete with nudity. Also, the ending itself isn’t exactly one to inspire romance.

Overall I agree that it’s a worthy film and probably one of Spike’s best. It has a very clear message but isn’t too preachy or finger pointing. I watch it coming from a place of privilege and acknowledge that my perceptions of it are likely colored by that. What’s next on the list? Not sure yet!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Grunge, desert storm, and why George H.W. Bush is personally responsible for the decline of the Sax Solo in American music

Hahaha. I found this in my draft folder on my work computer. I wrote it awhile back when I asked people to give me writing prompts. I'm pretty certain a friend of mine submitted the thought, something about the decline in popularity of sax music. The inside of my head is a disturbing place to visit.

The saxophone has long been an instrument rich in sound and culture. With roots that date back to the jazz age it managed to survive even the disco era to reach a newfound popularity in the 70s and 80s. Foreigner, Bruce Springsteen, CCR, and of course Kenny G. ushered in a new trend of having a saxophone on steady rotation as part of your musical repertoire. During the 80s it was King to be a sax player. No longer regulated to play the occasional jazz toot they had finally come into their own! Kenny G's flowing locks were a testament to the respect and adoration that would soon be theirs. Or would it?

The Me generation of the 80s, known for its love of excess, hedonism, and over the top in everything was slowly being pushed aside for the Cynicism to come of the 90s. Reagan gave way to the first Bush. The peace of the end of the Cold War gave way to the first Iraq war, Desert Storm. Upbeat, synthy pop not afraid to be frivolous gave way to the angry, guitar heavy, oh so serious Grunge music. 

The world was angry, disenchanted. People were dying in a war no one thought was justified and those coming of age were raised by beatnik hippies that were NOT going to take it anymore.  That anger and rebellion translated to their music. Loud, shrill, shredding guitar solos and words screamed into the mic or halfway muttered under their breath quickly replaced the bright, soothing, dance ready 80s songs filled with sax and jazz.

Playing a sax in anger is an impossible task. Playing it with a detached air of irony is even more impossible. It's an instrument that reeks of Trying. It screams Making an Effort. With every bleat and blatt it broadcasts to the world that you care enough about something to learn. You can't appear to lazily strum. It requires not only both hands and your mouth but also your whole body. It moves with you and you with it. There's no sulking or angrily hitting the strings. It's fingers furiously moving, your face going red with exertion, cheeks puffing and sweat dripping down your forehead. Can you imagine Kurt Cobain with a sax in his hands?

No, the 90s were no place for the saxophone. Not with grunge, heavy metal, and angry chick rock dominating the air waves. It almost had a second chance with the brief popularity of swing and ska music but even that remained fringe. It briefly appear on the airwaves following the Presidency of Bill Clinton and with his sax and under the desk bjs. It almost seemed as if America was ready for a revival but much like Lewinsky it was there and then it was gone.

Today, with both Sr. and Jr. Bush gone from the White House and our everyday lives we have had a few brief puffs of sax heavy songs topping the charts. Katy Perry did it complete with an appearance from the Sax man himself, Kenny G. Lady Gaga did it without the tongue in cheek wink and a nod we got from Perry.  With the second war in the Middle East officially over and another Dorky Dad Cool Democrat in the White House maybe we are finally ready for the happy go lucky sax rips that we used to be so fond of. There's less anger and more optimism. We aren't afraid to have fun. We aren't afraid to dust off our dancing shoes and do The Carlton.

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