Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Party of Five: Season Two

More because I am an obsessive viewer of our narrative television culture than anything else, I Netflixed the first disc or two of "Party of Five," Season One, a few months back. I enjoyed it, sure, but I felt that it was still too new and uncertain for me to keep following along too closely. I decided I'd skip ahead and take out the first couple discs of the Season Two, instead, because that's when Jennifer Love Hewitt showed up for her star-making performance, and also because I had a vague sort of hope that everyone might stop pouting in the meantime.

A couple weeks ago the first of those discs arrived in the mail. I took it out and put it next to my DVD player for "when I had time." Naturally, it sat on my TV for a couple weeks, before finally I simply ran out of all other options and I put it in.

I'm now a couple episodes in, and I figured it was time - and I know you agree - for a couple random observations:

A Couple Random Observations about Party Of Five, Season Two (so far):

1. It's just a glaring plot hole - how are we to believe that Scott Wolf does not notice the desperate affection of Jennifer Love Hewitt? It's Jennifer Love Hewitt. He continues to chase girls that could generously be said to resemble a poor man's Molly Ringwald, and continues to be surprised whenever Hewitt appears at his side saying things like "are you taking anyone to the bonfire?" and "where've you been? I called your house three times last night." It's like watching a romantic comedy starring the guy from Memento.

2. The pout-o-meter is still firmly in the red. My favorite is still Scott Wolf's-pining-for-dead-
girlfriend story, which the writers ditch for the first 90% of every episode so he can be charming and flirt with the mediocre girl-of-the-week, then bring back right at the end so the show can end on a downer. Way to show off why the critics gave you that Best Drama Emmy, guys.

3. It's fun to watch Matthew Fox's career backwards. All that vein-popping intensity of "we need to band together to survive!" we see every week on "Lost?" Oh, it's all here, except he's yelling at his little sisters about detentions and breaking curfew. He's about 3 notches too heavy on "Lost" and about 47 notches to heavy here. Great fun.

4. Scott Wolf's Hair, Season One - The "Fluffy Ryan O'Neil"
Appropriateness To The Era: 8
Attractiveness: 2
Comedic Value: 6
Scott Wolf's Hair, Season Two - The "Ex-Military Man"
Appropriateness To The Era: 7
Attractiveness: 5
Comedic Value: 2

5. Matthew Fox's Hair, Season One - The "Eddie Vedder with Conditioner"
Appropriateness to the Era: 9
Attractiveness: 7
Comedic Value: 5
Matthew Fox's Hair, Season Two - The "90's Mullet"
Appropriateness to the Era: 0
Attractiveness: 0
Comedic Value: 10

I'll update you as more observations surface.

I keep meaning to do a "What To Watch This TV Season" post sometime, remind me to do so if you see me. Or, subscribe to TV Guide, which would probably be more helpful.

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The Best Page In The Universe

I'm linking to The Best Page In The Universe, an always enjoyable read from the always enjoyably offensive Maddox, who is the sort of vindictive weblord who posts the hate mail he receives - with the user's e-mail - in order to sic his millions of readers on them. It's rare you see people who send hate mail beg for mercy 20 minutes later, but on his site it seems to happen with some regularity. He's usually too uninformed on all of his bombastic movie pans for me to really recommend those sections, but he's more fun on things like "9 Things I learned about the world from anonymous stock photo models," and his now-famous critique of blogs.

It's pretty lowbrow, so it's not for everyone, but I like people who consistently pull no punches, no matter how dumb their own opinions are.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Christmas List

Our family has a very short-lived tradition (we started it last year) in which we all make a Christmas list and send it to my brother's wife, Heidi, who is about 600% more capable than anyone else in our family, and therefore has to be in charge of this tradition. She picks names and sends out secret e-mails to everyone in the family, telling them who they're in charge of buying presents for that year. Everyone gets stocking presents for everyone else in the family, and then spends a bunch of cash on the person whose name they drew. It's like an amped up Secret Santa, except I get less notes with smiley faces in my locker.

Heidi sent me a "get your Christmas list in" e-mail about a month ago and then a "get your Christmas list in now" e-mail tonight, which I hurriedly responded to because she's about 14 or 15 months pregnant and so I feel it might be unwise to get on her bad side. And I'm already pretty far behind because my dad got his in before she ever sent out any e-mail at all. Suck-up.

I was going to write up about few of those items to maybe up-sell them a bit in case you, like most people, endlessly mimic my opinions and want to acquire the same possessions as me. Then I decided to just put up the list and see if anybody wanted to buy me anything. Then I felt guilty and decided to go back to my original egotistical idea and ignore the narcissistic one.

So here are a few key items for your Christmas list this year. I'll include links in case you just can't help yourself and have to buy one for me:

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible, by A.J. Jacobs.
Jacobs spends the year not just tithing and curbing lust, but not mixing linen and wool, eating crickets, and calling the days of the week by their ordinal numbers to avoid voicing the names of pagan gods. I've heard lots of good buzz about this book the past couple of weeks, so I've gotten excited about the prospect of reading it without even knowing if the author is any good at all at writing. I hope so. What a great concept.

Schulz and Peanuts, by David Michaelis
America's most beloved comic strip was a combination of gentle humor and quiet wisdom, but its creator was a deeply unhappy man who struggled with depression his whole career. Michaelis was given unprecedented access to the family and private papers of Shulz, who was famously quite solitary and averse to intrusions by the press. Nearly 250 Peanuts strips are woven into the biography, demonstrating just how much of his life story Schulz poured into the cartoon. In one sequence, Snoopy's crush on a girl dog is revealed as a barely disguised retelling of the artist's extramarital affair. It's the sort of uncovering that digs into the pain of making something deeply heartfelt, which is the sort of story I really love to dig into.

Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto, by Chuck Klosterman
A thoughtful commentary on Saved by the Bell, Billy Joel, MTV's The Real World, the psychoses and motivations of breakfast cereal mascots, the difference between Celtic fans and Laker fans, and The Empire Strikes Back? Done and done. Sign me up. I'm also asking for Killing Yourself to Live, on his trip around America to visit the death sites of a number of rock'n'roll icons after the discovery of his own imminent death. Why the death sites of rock'n'roll icons? I have no idea, but I'm in.

"Chase This Light," Jimmy Eat World
Apparently this album is as close to living up to the potential emo music never fully realized it had. If it's half as good as 2001's "Clarity" - another hallmark album in emo's short time in the sun - I'll be more than happy.

"Release The Stars," Rufus Wainwright
Like most people, I'm a complete sucker for weird pop songs heavily influenced by Chopin and Italian opera, sung in a quaveringly mournful tone by a singer who freely calls himself the Gay Messiah and holds massive rallies to sing Judy Garland songs. He only gets weirder as he goes along, too, so this album should be amazing.

"Teenager," The Thrills
Some bands sound like they're heavily influenced by 70's rock and folk music. Some sound like they're the genuine article. But the Thrills are so exactly, perfectly of a different era that you almost can't really believe that they're releasing these albums today. They're like a bizarro "Quantum Leap," where a 70's band has traveled through time in order to save music before they're allowed to return home.

"30 Rock," Season One
I've ever seen a comedy so simultaneously loose and unprepossessing, and yet so consistently sharply and wittily written. And characters like Alec Baldwin's Jack Donaghy come along once in 10 years - when you get a character like this on your television each week, you treasure him, it's wrong not to. Thursdays at 9, people.

"Friday Night Lights," Season One
The hype is real: this show is that good. The critics are right. Your friends are right. The guy who works down the hall from you who keeps gushing about it is right. It's that good. Buy it, rent it, Netflix it, borrow it, find it somewhere. Just don't miss it. It'll be gone soon if we don't save it, and the only way to save it is to watch it. We can't complain about the crap on TV if we won't fight for the good stuff, and this is as good as it comes.

Hope that helped your Christmas shopping a little. E-mail me if you need my address for...uh... anything.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Here's How To Give A Better Interview, Dave

David Chase was asked about the increasingly elaborate and slightly crazed theories (the Last Supper theory in particular stands out) “Sopranos” fans have built around the enigmatic final scene of the series finale. He had the audacity to give the “I’m a creative genius, so it’s possible my subconscious created something incredible on a different level that I didn’t even realize was happening while I was doing it” answer. He followed that up with the “our fans our losers for putting so much thought into this, get a life” answer. I now hate David Chase.

Dave, let me explain something to you: there are only seven answers you’re allowed to give when asked that question, and your answer is not one of them. In fact, it’s not anywhere close to anything on the list of acceptable responses. Here are the answers you can give to avoid complete douchery in the future when asked about a scene’s subtext:

  1. "It’s really touching to see fans reading so much into what’s going on each episode. It makes all our hard work feel worth it.”
  2. “Oh, you know me. I’m lucky if I can ever remember to turn the camera on.”
  3. “I won’t give anything away, but there’s definitely things going on below the surface in that scene. People are right to put a lot of thought into what they’re seeing.”
  4. “I’m Michael Bay. My movies don’t have any significance in literally any context.”
  5. “Half the fun is trying to figure these things out, I don’t want to ruin it for anyone.”
  6. “I built that scene in a very classic filmic style, with an eye towards having it consistent with our culture’s visual history, so if you spot references to certain things in there, it may not be unintentional.”
  7. “Yeah, I stole the idea from an old student film I did in college when I was taking a lot of LSD. I have no idea what the scene means either.”
Any one of those answers is acceptable in any interview, though you can change the language of number four to say “Joel Schumaker” if you wish.

Print this out and take this with you to any interviews in the future, Dave. It seems you need all the help you can get.

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Going into tonight's game, there were two bits of postseason mythology floating around. The first was that Beckett is virtually unhittable, the other was that the Rockies simply cannot lose. One of those, obviously, will have crumbled by the end of the night, but here's the thing: whichever mythos is still standing at that point, that team will win the World Series. I'm almost certain of it.

Pray, please.

My friend John and his wife Kelly could really use your prayers right now. Kelly had an emergency C-section after going into labor only 23 weeks into her pregnancy, and two days later, the child is barely over a pound and everything is still touch and go. They could really use your prayers right now. John's put a journal up that he's updating as new information comes out, and you can contact him through it here.

By the way, the baby is named Kyle Lander Sherrill.

Well, it had to happen.

I may stop posting for a bit, depending on whether or not this new development gives me more free time or less free time.

Anyway, I have $5000 in car payment debt and no car. My life is outrageous.

Monday, October 22, 2007

My world is crashing down on me.

I visited the allergist today, and they did an allergy test on my back, poking me with 72 different allergens to see what I reacted to (this is my favorite style of medical treatment - when medical professionals are actively trying to cause me discomfort). I'd had the test before - they'd done the same thing on my forearm, which I think was a little worse. Not that it hurt more than this one did, the discomfort is minor in both cases, but in that situation I had to see it happen as it went along: watching my arm start to turn red, seeing sections of my arm swell up into little mountains of angry allergen reaction and then start to spread across, seeing those sections start to take over other sections until my arm look like a bubbling see of angry allergens intent on conquering my whole body. This time I just lay there, quietly trying not to scratch and wondering how things looked on my back.

The nurse came in at about five minutes in and glanced at my back, started to walk out, then looked again.

"Wow," she said, an exclamation I am uncomfortable hearing from anyone in the medical profession unless it is immediately followed by the sentence "you are one healthy individual, Mr. Wyman." In this case, it was not. It was simply, "wow."

"What's going on?"
"Well, your dust allergen has already started to really show."
"How bad is it?"
"We rate allergies on a scale of one to four." She paused, looking at my swollen back for a minute. "This is a six."
"Well, what else am I allergic to?"
"Let's see, you've got allergies to Scotch Pine... Mesquite..."
"Like... barbecue sauce mesquite?"
"Yes, but just the pollen. Don't worry. Let's see... oak... cats... dust... and dust mites... chocolate..."
"I'm sorry, what was that last one?"
"Chocolate. You're allergic to chocolate."
"Like, eating chocolate?"
"So I can't each chocolate?"
"No. Also, nothing that has cocoa in it, so no hot cocoa, or Coca-Cola."
"I'm sorry? What was that?"
"No Coke. It has cocoa in it too." She paused, looking over my back one more time, and left the room for another ten minutes for me to choke in my despair. And also for the allergen test to complete.

Now, I know there are a lot of worse things I could be allergic to. Wheat, for instance. Or corn. But I just can't get over the list of things I can't eat anymore.

Cocoa Krispies. Chocolate chip cookies. Double chocolate chip cookies. Chocolate cream pie. Brownies. Milanos. Riesens. Chocolate sauce. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Chocolate Cake. Chocolate-dipped strawberries. Tootsie Roll Pops. Mocha. Raisinets. Chocolate fondue.

Hot chocolate.

Thin Mints.

Peanut Butter M&Ms.

Chocolate chip ice cream.


I'm very, very, very depressed about this. I'm going home, I'm going to make myself some vanilla ice cream and butterscotch and I'm going to weep copiously for my loss. Then maybe I'll pull myself together, make myself some hot apple cider, and throw everything that has chocolate in my apartment off the balcony. And then maybe I'll cry again. I don't think I need to feel ashamed of this. Today, I lost something very important. It's well within my rights to mourn its passing.

R.I.P. Chocolate. Someday, in another life, I hope we meet again. And then our joy will only be strengthened by our long separation.

Though before then Halloween is coming, and I am gonna be pissed at you.


It just feels good.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Time to switch out those TVs, people!

Well, the Smart Growth Conference has ended, and it seems to have gone pretty well. There were a number of little idiosyncrasies, though: for example, you know how I said I had just discovered I was hosting a tour of our facilities? Well, unfortunately, that tour ended up getting printed a couple of different times in the program in spots where it wasn't supposed to, so I ended up having to do a number of different tours in spots where I'd been counting on crashing for an hour or two. By the time the first day finished up late last night, I was running camera for a one-man interpretation of "Blue Like Jazz" (it was pretty good, by the way. Much better than you'd ever think), and I was falling asleep at the camera. I don't mean like "oh, I'm not on screen right now, I can snooze for a bit." I mean, "doing a slow zoom in on the lead actor and blacking out for a split second midway" sort of falling asleep. I was that tired.

Anyway, the post today highlights my friend Taylor Vinson, who graduated from Asbury in May, and after only two and a half months working in the shadows as a production assistant at a news station, has gotten on a piece on the six o'clock news - as on-air talent. For those of you who don't know how the hierarchy in news stations work and what it takes to get on air: that's a big deal.

Here's a link to the story. And here's to Taylor!

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Friday, October 19, 2007

Smart Growth!

The entire Communications Department stayed up all night to create 300 Smart Growth binders that had to be pushed off till the last minute because a good deal of the staff at the church apparently can't be bothered to check their emails. Or their voicemail. Or talk to their assistants. For up to two weeks. So the whole project ended up having to come together at the last minute at an all-night Collating Party at Kinko's. I'm really tired and I discovered I have to lead my session twice today because my listing was accidentally printed twice in the schedule, which I know because it was in those binders we stuffed all night.

This counts as posting. That is all.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Picture Posting

I don't have time to post because we have our Smart Growth Conference coming up tomorrow - I'll say no more about it in order to keep my job, but I'll put it this way: Yesterday morning, I thought I was doing almost nothing for the conference. Yesterday afternoon, I discovered I was speaking at two seminars, in charge of producing the video recording of all of the major sessions, and hosting a tour of the media department. Ha ha! Also, I'm stuffing 300 binders tonight.

Since I can't do anything more interesting, and I spent a good part of the afternoon yesterday writing my last post, all you get today is a picture or two. Let me find one...

Ah! Here we go! This was my day on Monday - after returning from the laundromat, I had to park my car on higher ground in a nearby parking lot and wade through thigh-deep waters on the road to get back home. I couldn't bring my clothes out of the car until the next morning. This is the parking lot I had to drive through in order to park my car on higher ground. The really deep water was on the road behind the cars.

It was awesome. Every store and restaurant worker were just standing outside of their stores, watching. Chris and I kept going out on the balcony, watching the rain all day.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Laundromats Aren't Nearly As Fun As You Think

I went to the laundromat the other day, and while I was waiting for my clothes, took a few pictures with my cheap Target camera before an employee approached me and told me to stop (He thought I was some sort of spy, come to steal the laundromat's secrets). I'd only taken about six pictures by then, four of which were variations of this shot, so I only got two prints, but I'll post the other image I got at the end of the article.

I realized that I never managed to post about my last trip to the laundromat, which was memorable. I started a whole post about how I'd always romanticized laundromats, which are actually pretty boring. It seemed every television show I watched as a child featured a small escape hatch in one of the dryers leading to a secret underground lair, or else it was a portal to another world. And often shady businessmen and gangsters would make deals in these establishments; or the hero would offhandedly flirt with the cute girl loading the machine next to his, which almost always led to lots of hot sex later, sometimes right there in the laundromat. Or maybe that was a beer commercial. Anyway, I had never really been in a laundromat, and I had high expectations.

Well, you can imagine my disappointment. But even considering that, my first laundromat trip was an experience.

I came into the laundromat and loaded up the first washer I saw, poured in some detergent, pumped in four quarters, and pushed the button. Nothing happened. I poked around a bit and discovered that this machine cost $2.50. Figuring there was nothing for it at this point, I put in another six quarters and hit the button again. The machine started cycling at this point, but as I turned to look at my laundry - and I had a lot, all my sheets and blankets and towels and virtually all my clothes - I started doing some mental calculations and blanched. Then I turned around and found another row of machines that did washes for only a dollar. Oh.

I washed all my other clothes (it took five more loads) in these washers, and when they finished, the first washer was still going. Figuring that maybe this just meant it was a special washing machine, and hence the extra cost, I put all my other loads in the dryer. But every time I went back to check, it was still going, turning my clothes over and over.

I bided my time reading and watching Spanish television (no one at the laundromat speaks English). A few seats over from me, a mustached man wearing cowboy boots and a distanced look in his eye that announced perhaps he'd rodeoed a little hard in his younger days sat watching the tv. I never saw him go up to check on his laundry - I'm not even sure if he brought any in - but he seemed to be enjoying the entertainment show dishing on Hispanic celebrities I had never heard of.

By the time all my clothes were out of the dryer, I'd decided that the first washing machine must be some sort of washer/dryer, and that's why it had cost extra. Surely my clothes would be coming out soon, clean and dry. To while away the time, I started folding all my other clothes.

By the time I'd finished folding, I'd been in the laundromat for over four hours and the laundry had still failed to come out of the washer. I decided it was time to end this once and for all, so I reached out and turned the handle (it was a front-loading washer) to open the door. The handle - and door - did not move. I started tugging harder, but to no avail. Alarmed now, I looked around for an employee, but there was no one in the store but me and the entranced cowpoke sitting on the bench up front.

I wandered back to the front, where the cowboy greeted me joyfully. "You jus' missed it - a black fella an' a white fella were fightin' like crazy, punchin' n' stuff, 'swas great."

I looked at the television; it had switched over to news and seemed to be doing a piece on border patrols. "I'm sorry I missed it," I said, eyeing him cautiously.

The man grinned, his eyes not leaving the TV. "I love this stuff, man. I can't understand a word of it, but I love it." He leaned back in utter contentment, and I started to wonder if maybe he came here every day, for the scene. I wandered off to try to find an attendant. I had realized by this point that the employees were evidently exploiting the fact that customers were unlikely to walk off with the machines and therefore they were free to come and go as they wished, which is a plush job to have but didn't seem to be doing me much good at the moment.

About 45 long minutes of Spanish television later (if I'd seen that particular episode of "Gunsmoke" in English, I might've enjoyed it more), an employee wandered in and I pounced on him.

"Sir, can you tell me how long those metal washers are supposed to go for?"
The man glanced over. "About 25 minutes."
"My washer has been going for about five hours. Can you stop it?"

He wandered over and looked at the washer, shaking his head remorsefully.
"Sometimes this happens when you leave change in your pockets. Do you have any pants in there that might have change?"
The man nodded gravely. "Well, that's what happens when you have change in your pockets."

He wandered back to the desk and grabbed a screwdriver. A few minutes later he had the front panel off and was poking around at the quickly-rotating machinery underneath. My confidence lowered as I discovered that his mechanical method was to simply poke items in the machine with the screwdriver and see what happened. He was very systematic about this, like a doctor working with a stethoscope, testing each spot. Every few seconds there would be a whirring noise, or the sound of a belt squealing, or sparks flying out the bottom of the washer. Finally, there was a WHIP-CHUNK-PING noise, and screwdriver disappeared out of his hand and into the machine.

"Woah-hoh!" he said, looking up at me with one of those "look what you did!" looks, the sort of look you'd get if you showed up at a mechanic with a car on which you'd tried to reattach the wheels with scotch tape. He got up and walked over to the wall where all the power sources plugged in and started pulling out cords. "Did that work?" he'd shout. "No!" I'd shout back, staring in disbelief as washers and dryers around the store stopped dead. He finally unplugged every cord from the power source and discovered that my washer, along with about half of the other washers in the store, were still running. I looked up at his face and got to see the exact moment when he realized that there must be another power source somewhere in this store and he had no idea where it was. Undaunted, he turned and opened up the breaker box and started flicking switches. The lights went on and off, as did the electric signs, and the television, though the cowpoke didn't move. Finally, my washer ground to a halt.

Since the handle still wouldn't open, the man opened the door with a screwdriver and I removed my clothes, still wet despite five hours of tumbling. At this point, more and more employees started to drift in, as evidently the store pays about a half a dozen employees simultaneously in the vain hope that at least one of them will be in the store at all times. As I loaded my clothes into the dryer, they all congregated around the washer, gazing curiously at its innards.

It was another half an hour before my clothes dried, and it was a long half hour. The employees had decided I had deliberately sabotaged the washer for some reason, and eyed me everywhere I went in the store. I would walk by the washer, and five of them would be crouched there, all of them holding screwdrivers, poking away. As I walked by, five heads would turn and give me a double-barreled glare of unspoken accusation.

Six and a half hours after loading my first pile of whites into that fateful washer, I emerged with clean laundry and a completely shattered dream. Six and a half hours in that laundry room, and no briberies or secret lairs and not even the hint of hot sex. I didn't even see the black fella and the white fella fighting like crazy. It was, all and all, a most disappointing experience.

Oh, and here's that other picture.


This is my favorite news story of the day. My favorite part is how excited Lynne Cheney was about the whole thing.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Red Sox Comeback

Well, in about another 15 minutes it'll be official, and the Red Sox will be down 3 games to 1 in the ALCS. I certainly haven't lost hope (see ALCS, 2004), but it's a dire situation. These Indians are good, and they've absolutely outplayed us.

Still, before things get into the whole inevitable finger-pointing situation that happens during each playoff series where the favored team ends up on the verge of elimination, let me make a couple points.

1. Terry Francona was absolutely right to start Tim Wakefield tonight. Wakefield had a great season (17 wins), he's the perfect sort of pitcher to put into a game when you're struggling in a playoff series because he's a knuckleballer and he throws hitters off their game, he was rested and starting him means that Josh Beckett is going tomorrow on a fully-rested arm.

In fact, let's review the possible situations:

A. If Beckett pitches on three days rest and wins, bravo, you're a genius, the series is tied, you get to start Schilling in Game 5 and Dice-K in Game 6, and then Beckett in Game 7. Great choice.
B. If Wakefield pitches and wins, the series is tied and the next pitcher you face is a fully-rested Beckett, who is nearly unhittable, and the game is in Boston. All of a sudden, the series swings back completely into the Red Sox's favor.
C. If Beckett pitches on three days rest and loses, the series is essentially over. Now you've got a very shaky Schilling going up against odds-on Cy Young winner C.C. Sabathia in a deciding game. Ouch.
D. If Wakefield pitches and loses, you get to go into the next game knowing you've got Beckett to fall back on, and so there's still hope.

We end up with Option D, unfortunately, but it's better than Option C. And Option B was better than Option A, so either way, Francona made the right choice. Plus, the statistics on starters going on three days rest are pretty horrific (I don't have them here, and I'm not looking them up). It's a big sign that says "we don't think we can win this game our way. We're desperate now." Three games in, when you're only down one game, you don't want to be holding that sign.

2. Outside of Beckett, none of our starters can make it past the third inning. That's not winning baseball, no matter how good your relievers are.
3. Of course, no one is hitting in any runs early in the game, which means that when Cleveland finally does break through (and always in the fifth inning), it's always disastrous for us. The energy just disappears. When Blake homered off Wakefield in the fifth, it was like the game was over right there, and yet we were only down one run. Part of the problem with being a knuckleballer is that big homers tend to happen - when you throw the ball at 65 MPH, it only takes one bad pitch for everything to turn around. But since we had no runs to back up Wake... it was a crusher for us.
4. And, of course, a good half the team isn't hitting at all. Ortiz, Ramirez, and Lowell have done - almost literally - all the hitting. Pedroia, Varitek, and Lugo are all well below the Mendoza line, and Drew asn't exactly been earning his salary. Meanwhile, Ortiz has an OPS of 1.8 this postseason. Ramirez's is 1.6. That's outrageous.

I'll be there in front of the tv for the next game, cheering an clapping (I really do clap, even when it's just me alone in front of the tv), but I'm worried about this team. We succeded all season even though half the team wasn't hitting. The pitching slacks off, and suddenly all that hitting trouble comes back to bite us. Sigh.

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Update Later

I'm going to update the site after the Sox game tonight - it might end up technically being Wednesday, but I am going to update. Promise .

Monday, October 15, 2007

New Goal

I've decided that for the next two week - the longest period of time I can keep anything going consistently - I am going to post on this site every day. Actual content is unimportant, what's important is consistency. This will likely dissolve into posting about my fantasy football team very quickly. But a post every day, four sentences minimum.

Still, let's give it a try.

Justin encouraged me to listen to a book reading David Sedaris (author of Me Talk Pretty One Day) had on YouTube, called "Six to Eight Black Men," about Christmas is the Netherlands. I'll link to it here, it's a marvelous bit. While listening, I decided (again) that I need to join a library down here in Texas. I'd made an effort a few months ago when I first discovered I lived quite near the Barbara Bush library, which seemed the sort of place one cannot turn down the opportunity to be come a member of. Unfortunately, no matter how many times I drove up and down the road the map directed me to, I could never locate it. So I never became a member, which is a shame because that would have been a real talking point if I ever ran into Barbara Bush, and would have greatly increased the odds of us becoming fast friends. And - really - I think Barbara and I would get along swimmingly, given the chance.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

New YouTube Videos

Hey guys,

I've put a few videos together of the past couple weeks - because, it is, you know, my job - and I figured I'd show you a couple. The first is the first song from a concert I helped shoot that I'm editing for Zach Hendricks. This song is called "So Slow." The other songs will go up as I get to 'em.

Here's the link if you have trouble.

The second is a video intro I threw together for the Loft. The instructions were "shoot a shot of yourself as a defendant and then another one with you as the prosecutor. Just do it in front of a blank wall somewhere. Also, it's due tomorrow." However, whenever I get a slightly more wide-open opportunity like this, it's more fun to try to push it a little further.

Here's the link if you have trouble.


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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Things are looking up

When I first moved into my new apartment, I complained a lot about it. I had a right. No A/C, no stove, no fridge, broken toilet, broken sink, broken lock on the door, trash everywhere, etc. I was pissed, and I think I had a right to be. And my apartment complex adopted an incredibly laissez-faire attitude about the whole thing, passing the whole thing off, ignoring it as much as I would let them. But finally I got a stove and an fridge and an A/C and a lock and a sink and a toilet in, and so even though everyone was telling me I should just move out, I stuck around.

Well, I should've listened.

Since we moved in about six weeks ago, we have had:

1. A shooting in our parking lot. I wasn't there for this one, but Chris called me to let me know to be careful on my way home. Believe me, I was - I even had him unlock the door as I was pulling in, so that I wouldn't have to spend any time fumbling for keys.
2. Domestic disputes. Our next door neighbors are a somewhat troubled live-in couple who have about six kids who live with them. Every now and then they'll get in a fight and and one of them will call the cops, or one of them will come over and have us call the cops for them. By the time the cops arrive, the dispute is always taken care of, so they'll inform the cops that "nobody called them." As a result of this "prank calling" on our part, the cops don't like us much. On the other hand, the couple next door are our best friends at the complex by far.
3. A dead body in our parking lot. I couldn't go to work one morning because when I went out the door, the way out was blocked by police cars. Our landlady told me that there was nothing to worry about, and that the man had died of natural causes and wasn't a resident. This seemed a bit callous, and also probably untrue, since this didn't explain why there were 8 patrol cars and a detective examining the scene of this natural death. Our next door neighbor said he thought he'd been shot, but by then it was mid-morning, and so of course he'd already had a few.
4. A lot of angry men sitting in their vans staking out our apartment complex. I don't know who they're waiting for, I'm just glad it's not me.
5. A lack of good parking spaces.
6. Groups of brutish looking twenty-somethings pounding on our door, looking for "Luis." We don't know who Luis is, but we wish he'd stop giving people our address and telling them it's his.
7. A mass arrest. This afternoon, Chris arrived home to discover a group of undercover cops had come and arrested a good portion of the neighbors. We don't know what they did.

So it's been an interesting month and a half. What's funny about this is that my mom wanted me to move away from my old apartment because it was so dangerous, and I lived there a year and there was only one murder, plus my mailbox and car getting broken into a couple times. So really, in comparison, it was a very safe environment, a veritable Seahaven. How naive we were.

Still, maybe things will get better. Maybe this mass arrest is a good thing - it might solve some of the problems mentioned above. If nothing else, it should at least solve the parking situation.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Review: The Kingdom (2007)

I’m not a film critic.

I mean, well, I’m not a real one. I’m certainly very critical of films, but I’m no Pauline Kael. I’m not even Peter Travers. No one, in all likelihood, is going to ask me to replace Roger Ebert anytime soon (scratch that – the guest hosts they’ve been having on that show seem to be selected a bit randomly. Wait, a bit randomly? It’s like they’re pulling names out of Men’s Fitness and Cheerleading Today’s mailing lists and putting pancake makeup on them. The E! Channel finds more qualified and substantial hosts, and they do most of their shopping right outside of Dr. 90210’s waiting room).

But I digress. My point is that despite my insubstantial writing resume, I consider my a bit of a good study (fine, mediocre savant) on movie criticism. As you might’ve noticed if you’ve been to this site more than once or twice, I have an endless interest in What Critics Love and What Critics Hate. Why have they gathered fawningly around one movie while ignoring, sometimes glaringly, a similar one? Why do they call some movies with $35 million box office grosses “a triumphant success” and others “a financial disaster?” You’d be more than hard-pressed to get one to admit it, but it usually has more to it than just the cost it took to make the movie.

Most people feel they already know the answers to these questions, giving one of three answers:
1. Movie critics are staunch liberals touting films that coincide with their way of thinking.
2. Movie critics are overly-educated intellectual bigots intent on filling the world with their snobbery.
3. Some combination of 1 and 2.

It’s unfair, of course. But like most things, there’s a grain of truth to it, it’s just that it’s rare to see a real example where the critical consensus is so obviously gathered in one corner that it becomes quite obvious what’s going on. And this brings us to The Kingdom.

Reviews have been startlingly mixed for a movie as well-directed as The Kingdom is. It has a lot of things critics like: relevant, politically-charged subject matter, a jittery documentary style carried off with great aplomb, certain actors (the four leads are always great favorites, along with critical darlings like Jeremy Piven, Kyle Chandler, and Paradise Now’s Ashraf Barhom and Ali Suliman), and the urge to dig a little deeper into the subject matter than a standard popcorn flick would. But maybe that urge wasn’t strong enough to win them over.

It’s a stereotype, sure, but critics love “films.” They love movies that turn genres on their heads, or that seem willing to leave the action set pieces at the door and just focus on issues for a while. Not many people are willing to see these sorts of movies, because, frankly, action set pieces are kind of fun and if they’ve paid good money to see a comedy, they usually like to see an actual comedy and not a black mockumentary/drama disguised in comedy clothes. Critics hate this about people. They want them to not just like these movies, but also be well-versed in the backstory of the movie so it can be discussed afterwards. “I thought we could discuss the differences I’m Not There presents between the real and the public Bob Dylan - ten minutes on Wikipedia wouldn’t kill you?” For this reason, movie critics are not fun people to go to movie with.

The Kingdom is not a "film." It is not a deep thinker whose meanings will unfold before you as the weeks since you watched the movie pass. You will not remark in ten years how The Kingdom changed your whole view on U.S relations with Saudi Arabia (well, I guess that depends on how stupid your opinions are right now). But it’s also not without social commentary or political gravitas. That’s just not its main intention.

This annoys critics. Critics love context, meaning behind films, particularly something applicable to a particular political situation of the day – and yes, one that perhaps disparages the current U.S. President. What’s ironic is that while they appreciate subtext so deeply, they’re always quick to place these movies into the broadest possible category. The Kingdom has been repeatedly compared unfavorably with Syriana, a movie filled with politically-charged subtext. But critics never really appreciated that Syriana was a broader statement on decades of mercenary U.S.-Saudi relations, they saw it more as an criticism of an oil-thirsty regime. What’s more, by comparing the two movies, it only reveals their prejudice of putting all movies about Saudis into one box, the equivalent of comparing The Color Purple with Soul Plane.

Syriana is a movie about oil in which the subject matter is much more important than the story line, which is why such long periods go by in the movie in which nothing happens. The Kingdom is a movie about a terrorist in which a bunch of American hardworking good guys fight off American bureaucracy in order to travel to Saudi Arabia and join the Saudi hardworking good guys, fight off Saudi bureaucracy, and then go fight the actual Saudi terrorists.

The Kingdom is not without real world-changing type intention, but its real intention is intense, gripping filmmaking, which is frankly a lesson the makers of Syriana could have learned. It is neither cheap popcorn fun nor political commentary, but a happy combination of the two, bringing the thrill of political drama to the visceral fun of a bullets-flying action flick. It elevates its genre – not a lot, not poignantly or gracefully, but it strains for greater things, greater truths, while still allowing its heroes to chuck grenades around without discretion. And critics hate that. They wish the movie would be one or the other - either mindless fun or deliberate political commentary, ideally anti-war commentary. And the idea of having all these soldiers come in and shoot guns around and prove to be the good guys - well, that's just not acceptable. This is our modern world and our modern war, and if you don't have something mean to say, well, don't say anything at all. A movie that finishes with fairly positive impression of U.S. military figures? Well, that's just jingoism. In fact, critics have even been using the word "jingoism," which is code for "a political opinion so far unlike my own it must be idiotic and dangerous."

Frankly, I could use a lot more movies like The Kingdom at the theater these days. I could use some good guys.

And, for the record, I really like Peter Travers.