Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Most Recent Movie Recommendations

I must do this quickly before I die of tired.

Movies I have seen recently:

-Eddie Izzard, Unrepeatable.
Not as good as the first one I saw, but I still laughed most of the way through, and look forward to his other performances. Made me think of Joseph, actually. He has a whole thing about why he's a transvestite (or was at the time, I guess). It's very women's lib. Women can wear any article of clothing and men can't; he doesn't think that's quite fair. I thought of 'Seph and his kilt. And the comments/questions he gets. Izzard says it's always groups of men - five, to be exact - saying "Bloke in a dress! bloke in a dress!" to one another. And when he responds, "Yes. I'm a bloke in a dress," they seem at a loss. That seemed like a very Joseph attitude: "Um, duh? Can I help you with anything else, Captain Obvious? Well then, I'm off to be awesome!"

-Iron Man
Oh my god Robert Downey Jr is my new favorite male lead ever and may his franchise live on and become a huger success with each film and may none of them ever suck because seriously dude has seen enough bad shit already and you can see it in his soulful soulful eyes. ::sighhhhh::

-National Treasure II

-The Assassination of Jesse James by that Coward Robert Ford
I may be distantly related to Jesse James (if he was a cousin to the Younger brothers, I was named after their sister, Sydney Anne Younger) so I have naturally always coveted association with his mythology (who doesn't want a famous ancestor, regardless of how they garnered their fame). I wrote a paper on him in the 5th grade that ended with the poem/song of the same name (the source of the movie's title, if you will) so that was pretty neat. That's why I wanted to rent it. Here is what I thought after I saw it:
It's so goddamned beautiful that I was rendered speechless. I'm not even sure if it's a good movie - although I think it may be great - because I was so stupefied by how beautifully it was framed and filmed. Also, Brad Pitt is just amazing. He's so tightly wound, so dark and terrible and paranoid, and yet so tragic and sad and wounded. You know what's going to happen - title's kind of a spoiler - and you can see it ramping up, but by the time it does, you still don't know whether to be sad for him or relieved that he's dead.
And yes, that is Zooey Deschanel doing a little burlesque at the end.

-Erm... Oh! Right! Girl Movie afternoon at mom's.

-27 Dresses
Not as bad as I expected. In fact: entirely watchable. The lead female isn't simpering or dumb, the lead male isn't trying to get in her pants (at least for most of the movie) and in the end, once they've finally been honest with each other, they're rewarded for their candor. Yay?

And more than that and I'd have to check my netflix queue. Which I'm not going to because I have to sleep. Dag! The cat just crawled into my lap. Oh god, I'm being pierced with cuteness! Next she'll start purring and doing that thing where she wraps her little paws around my forearm and then flexes them in her sleep like a tiny, adorable, furry arm hug. Or she'll start yowling. I think Mom might be right: she must be part siamese. She's so loud! I mean, She's so vocal! ::good kitty::

Monday, May 26, 2008

Public Service Announcement: Don't Watch National Treasure II

Unless, of course, you super love ginormous plot holes, contrived beyond suspension of disbelievablility plot points, characters with exactly one dimension and two facial expressions each, and Helen Mirren's awesome boobs. Okay, actually, strike that last one, because everyone loves Helen Mirren (boobs or otherwise), but you should not watch this movie just for Helen Mirren. Although I will give her this: she tones it down to the exact level of the movie, never once looking out of place. Dang. That lady is super. If there hadn't been a HUGE thunder storm to distract us, it may well have been unwatchable. Here is a synopsis:

[[WARNING: This is extrodinarily long. The reason is threefold: 1) I type at about 90 wpm, so I tend to write way more than I intend to without really noticing it. 2) I tend to blog late at night when all sense of time and length has left me. 3) This post has a lot of short lines. But I can't promise they're all worth reading. Or that it's well edited. So, um, sorry about that!]]

Nick Cage: My ancestor saved the Union in the civil war by burning part of John Wilkes Booth's Diary and dying the same night Lincoln was assassinated.
Audience: [clap clap clap]
Bald Guy: Only he was actually a co-conspirator! See how this other page from Wilkes' diary proves that?
Nick Cage: Oh noes! I better steal some priceless artifacts to prove that this guy is a poopy head!

Young guy: I'm sellin' a book. Dag. No ladies like me. They wish I was Nick Cage. Double Dag! My car is being repoed by the IRS!
Nick Cage: Where's your car, YG?
Young guy: Where's your house, Nick Cage?
Nick Cage: I'm breaking up with my girlfriend, but she gets the house. That is mine. Because I bought it. With my adventuring money from the first movie. Say, you wouldn't be interested in clearing my ancestor's name from a clearly specious accusation, would you?
YG: Yea! My life has meaning again!
Nick Cage: Yea! You can help me break into my house (that my girlfriend gets in the breakup for some reason even though I'm making it super clear we're not married) and steal my girlfriend's ID badge.

YG: B&E is super easy for me and my bag of tech gagets.
NC: Oh no, she's home! With a date!
Girlfriend: What are you doing here? Gimme that. I'm coming too! Adventure! [grumble]

GF: I'm spectro-intrared-cg-analyzing your diary page with my museum curator machines. Which I wasn't going to do even though it's my job until you made me.
NC: A cypher! Let's solve it!
YG: Okay, I'll manually enter every 5-letter word in the English language in this computer program.
NC: Dad, can you remember any more details from a story your grandfather told you as a boy that might tell us the secret cypher key word?
Nick Cage's Dad: Gosh son, I don't know. He said, "Oh, it was scary. And the cypher keyword is "Implausible."
NC: That's not five letters, but good enough!
YG: Yea! I'm being useful!
NC: This means we have to go to Paris.

Baddies: [breaking into NCD's house]
NCD: Humdidum, bringing in the groceries. Oh noes!
Baddies: [knock out NCD] Get his phone. Now we have a copy! This whole process was so profoundly stupid and ridiculous it can only serve as a warning to others that working on films of this nature robs everyone of their most basic sense of verisimilitude.

NCD: Nick Cage, I was totally knocked unconscious! By goons!
NC: [shouting, leaping from chair] I. Am. In. Paris. I. Am. Coming. Home. Right. Now. [This was the most crazily stilted piece of dialog in the whole movie.]
NCD: Nah.
NC: [sitting] O. K. I. Will. Stay. Here. In. Paris.

BG: Now I have a copy of NCD's phone. I am a super genius and also clearly a super bad guy! Bwah ha ha!

NC: Let's use a camera to look at Paris' statue of liberty real close for a secret message.
YG: Okay.
French Policeman: Hey, cut it out!
NC: Let me recite all kinds of obscure historical "facts" that we probably made up on the spot! It makes me look super smart and almost convincing as a scholar. Lucky for me, I'm supposed to be a scholar of the "DaVinci Code" variety. You know: Suckmaster Scholar. FPM, can you tell me which way to Buckinham Palace? I have to break into the Queen's desk!
FPM: I'll call you a cab, Nick Cage! Nothing about that statement seems at all fishy! YG, I'm writing you a ticket! [Wah wah!]

NC: Dad, we're going to England.
BG: (I totally heard that.)

NC: Lalala, breaking into Buckingham Palace is so easy!
GF: I came to help you.
NC: What are you doing here? I'm making a scene!
GF: Oh, yeah, well I guess I'll help!
NC: Now that we're locked up, you should go home while I climb into the service elevator with a large floral display.
GF: No, I'm coming too.
NC: Good thing there are no guards anywhere in Buckinham Palace except for the foyer.
GF: Super good. Let's rifle through the queen's drawers!
NC: Rad. That's why I like you.
GF: Ooh, neat hidey-hole. But what's with the old piece of wood?

NC: Oh noes! Bald Guy! Quick, a car chase!
YG: You drive real crazy!
NC: I'm running a red light for the picture. Tee hee! I just through this SIGNIFICANT HISTORICAL ARTIFACT into the Thames! Good this red light cameras have such high resolution cameras!

NC: Dad, translate this grainy picture of an old plank. It's in Ancient Native American!
NCD: I think it says, "Yes, there was only one language in Ancient Native America."
NC: Hrm. Let's ask mom just to be sure.
NCD: But she hates me! [pouts]

NC: Mom, translate this!
The Always Delightful Helen Mirren: I'm the best part of this movie and I'm not even trying!
NC: Yeah, that's true.
TADHM: Oh, right, your grainy picture of an old plank. Um, it says, "I am a treasure map to a fabled city of gold." You are a silly adventurer, Nick Cage. NCD? I totally still hate you for reasons that make no sense but allow me to holler a lot. Also, I am wearing a necklace with big, oddly shaped beads and all black because I am An Anthropologist!
NC: Helen Mirren, you are always a delight.
TADHM: Aw, that's sweet.

NC: Let's break into the white house!
GF: ME TOO, dangit!
NC: Okay - this time.

NC: Hey guy who wants to date my girlfriend. I'm going to vaguely insult your masculinity and you'll totally let me into the oval office.
NC: Distract him while I poke the president's desk.
GF: Hey, GWWTDNCGF, you wanna have sloppy makeouts while Nick Cage looks for my lost earring in a part of the oval office I never walked through?
NC: Oh noes! The old plank is missing!

YG: The old plank is in the President's Book. It's a thing I made up. It talks about Area 51, because that's the only thing Conspiracy Theorists like me care about ever.
NC: Huh. I'm going to need that.

NC: FBI Guy I know somehow, who is maybe tracking me maybe not, what about this President's Book thing?
FBI Guy: Let's go outside so I can divulge state secrets because I am only an FBI Guy in my office. Outside I am your friend and the rules don't apply. Um, there is a book. But only the President knows where it is. Because it's his. It's the President's Book.

NC: I'm going to kidnap the president.
Everyone else: No! That's a terrible idea.
NC: Two words: Mount Vernon.
YG, NCD, GF: I'm in.

NC: I'm totally breaking into the President's birthday party at Mount Vernon. Good thing the secret service is crap at their jobs. Hey, Mr. President! I brought you a musty old map!
President: I saw in the news your family was discredited. That's too bad. Ooh! I love maps!
NC: Really? Total surprise to me. You wanna shake off these secret service a-holes and explore an old tunnel?
President: You know it!
NC: Now that I've got you in a totally old room, I need to see your book.
President: You're so going to jail.
NC: Maybe. But I'm not really kidnapping you. So, um, can I see your book? Please?
President: Well, you did say please.

NC: We're breaking into the Library of Congress which is apparently both open and full of patrons at midnight.
GF: I'm here because I have a pass!
YG: I'm here because I'm your side kick!
NC: The book! Hooray! It has a photo of the other plank which was burned a billionty-half years ago by some a-hole called Coolridge. Also, Queen Victoria supported the confederacy. I'm totally glad I stole her old plank and threw it in the river!
GF: Oh noes! The FBI!
YG: Time for a daring escape.
NC: If you drive fast enough, your Mercedes SUV can overcome the world's slowest rising barriers.
GF: Weeeeeeeeee!

NC: Dad, I need to translate another plank.
NCD: Yes, let's go see your mother.
NC: No, you need to do it. For some reason. Maybe because I'm being chased by the FBI?
[Um, sorry folks, I seriously tuned out at this point.]

BG: TADHM is a speaker of Ancient Native American!

BG: TADHM, can you look at a thing I have?
TADHM: Um, no. Cause it's bad?
BG: NCD is on his way in here. Don't give him the right translation.
NCD: TADHM, can you save yet another scene with your ability to turn the stupidest writing ever into some semblance of a scene?
TADHM: Without question.
BG: TADHM, get your coat, I'm taking you with me for a reason I won't explain.

BG: We're on Mount Rushmore. I'm going to find a fabled city of gold because I think the civil war is still being fought! Or something like that.
TADHM: This movie is dumb. [Okay, she didn't say that, but she should have. Because it's true.]
NC: Haha! I've totally beaten you here! TADHM sent us a code message!
BG: Fine, we'll all go together.
NC: Pour water on this rock to find the secret passage.
GF: I found it!
NC: Look, a door!
YG: Wee! I just love ruining national monuments!
NC: Oh no, we're falling down a pit!

TADHM: NCD, we're stuck on the other side of some random door thing. Let's dig our way out.
NCD: Okay.

NC: BG, we have to work as a team.
BG: No, me first.
NC: Okay. Let's get out of this totally contrived booby trap.

NC: Good thing we made it through. Wow, this room is full of water.
GF: Oh noes! We're trapped!
NC: Nuh uh. We'll just turn this really obvious lever here.
GF: You're so smart!

NC: A fabled city of gold! Let's no one mention how ridiculous it is for an AZTEC city to be in SOUTH DAKOTA.
Everyone: O K.
TADHM & NCD: You hoo!
NC: Hooray! Helen Mirren is still in this movie! Helen Mirren, your boobs look awesome!
TADHM: Thank you!

GF: Oh noes! It's filling with water!
NC: Let's go through this trapped door thing where one of us has to stay behind.
BG: Haha, it will be you!
NC: Oh noes, the current is so strong! It will be you!
BG: I've been your adversary for no particular reason this whole movie, but now my life is forfeit so I will confess that actually your ancestor wasn't a bad dude after all. I just wanted to make a name for my family! Remember me fondly....
NC: O K! I will! Even though no one will ever explain what my ancestor's name on that list really means! [Here is a thing he should have said: "Also, this room is not filling that fast. If you go out into the larger chamber, we can probably get help down to you before you drown." But he didn't. And BG drowned in the most incredible sudden-filling of a chamber with water ever.]

NC: Look, a light! We're saved!
Everyone: Hooray!
NC: Wow, there's a lot of FBI agents here.
FBI Guy: You're under arrest for kidnapping the President. For 22 minutes.
NC: That's cool.

The President: You are a rad dude. FBI Guys, he did not kidnap me. We were explorin' at Mount Vernon.
FBI Guy: Oh, well then. That's a totally different kind of a thing!
NC: Let us all remember BG.
President: O K. Also, look at tomorrow's paper, which I happen to have here.
NC: Yea! My ancestor's name has been cleared! On the front page of the Post! Because everyone cared about this! And when I blew a hole in the side of Mount Rushmore, someone informed the press that I was discovering a lost city of gold and that somehow meant that my ancestor was a cool dude AND I finally won us the Civil War! Hooray! I'm awesome!
GF: That's true. Also, you should move back in. To your house. That you own. Even though I live there and you don't.

YG: My car is back! Hooray! I will now back it into something! [wah wahhhh!]


So there you have it. I don't feel like I need to say anything else about this AWFUL movie. And now you don't have to sit through it! Unless you're on a plane. Although if that is the case, I suggest you do what Pete and I did with "Dare Devil": Take off your headset, put on an eye mask, and hope to god you fall asleep quickly.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

God I hate Reedies (sorry M!)

This fact was confirmed for me today when I sat in my car listening to NPR for two hours in the parking lot at work because I had left my keys inside the night before. (Or so I thought. Turned out they were at home in my pocket. And a co-worker had snuck inside through the front so I could have only waited an hour if I'd chosen to wait where I could see both entrances. But that is neither here nor there.) I really like Think Out Loud, except that it's too short and on at an inconvenient time for me to catch it very often. Today their topic was WW's story on Reed (related to a recent student death via heroin overdose): are their drug policies too permissive? I really liked both Reed's Dean of Students and the WW writer right off the bat. But the longer they talked (and then argued, however civilly) the more irritating they became. And then a recent Reed grad, the 2005 student body president in fact, joined the conversation and he irritated me from the get-go. Ultimately this was about my feelings regarding Reed, but there were some unrelated things that ired me too. I will list them later so I can get to Why I Hate Reedies Oh My God So Very Very Much Seriously Guys Get Over Yourselves. (Don't worry - it's a short list. But poignant. Very poignant.)

Okay, so when I finally got into my office I was going to post on their blog about this. But for reasons that are not worth going into, I was thwarted by their login system. And this is probably for the best. I will copy for you here the text that I wrote in anticipation of a future post and you will see that this is most likely not the kind of thing I want to post on OBP. I'd like to look like, you know, not a huge asshole. (I know, it's a small goal. Baby steps!) Also, when I'm angry and trying not to swear, I come off sounding like a hugely pretentious prick. Keep in mind, I had like half an hour to stew before getting a chance to put fingers to keyboard. You can imagine how pretentious and douchey an earlier draft would have sounded. Also, I've added anything in [brackets] because the tone was kind of uneven and I would have cleaned that up before posting it anyway.

"As I listened to this program, I found myself more and more irritated. Reed students and faculty talk about the school in a very insular way: it's always us versus them. "We" this and "our" that, in a way that is completely different from any other University with which I am familiar. In some languages it is possible to distinguish between "we" inclusive (you and us) and "we" exclusive (just us, not you). English is not syntactically or morphologically one of them, but pragmatically Reedies have found a way to exclude everyone with their We. Somehow when I hear administrators or students from either of my alma maters (U of O and Georgetown) talk about their community, about their "we," it always feels more inclusive, like "we at the U of O" could be extended to "and state schools in general" or "and Oregon Universities in general." As a sociolinguist, I'm almost tempted to study this phenomenon. But as a listener, I'm too irritated to really consider it.

Did you notice how both the Dean of Students and the ex-Student Body President both talked about Reed like it's the only college to ever have intellectual students bent on serious academic pursuits? [sarcastically] Yes, we at the University of Oregon were only interested in cavorting and picking our noses. And at Georgetown… well, don't get me started on how unserious the students were at that place!

Reedies work very hard to set themselves apart, but not in the quiet way of people focused on action and effect; rather in the noisy way of people desperate for attention and approbation from the very people from whom they claim to be so far apart. Harvard alums may mention their alma mater in the first five minutes of any conversation, but that word stands alone as a symbol of intelligence and academic excellence (even when the act of mentioning it without context is irritating and belittling). What does it say about Reedies that it isn't enough to simply mention Reed, but requires a minor soapbox about how intellectual and above everyone they are. Insecure much?"

Yes, I am a mature adult. And everyone cares about my opinion. I MUST SHARE IT WITH YOU NOW!


Sorry. Moment of introspection. ::cough:: I think it's passed now.

I will now summarize the experience of listening to the reporter and the dean argue with this brief one act play.

Reporter: I was working on a different story when this kid died. I interviewed a BUNCH of people. Plus, I live in Portland, so I've heard all about Reed.

Dean: Yes, Reed has a drug problem, but so do all universities. I was a little sad that you chose not to talk about that.

Reporter: Sure, they all have drug problems, but Reed is perceived as particularly permissive and I wanted to investigate that.

NPR Lady: Dean, what would you change about the story if you could?

Dean: I was very very disappointed at the characterization of Reed as untouched by the student's death. We were all very upset! VERY UPSET!

Reporter: Yeah, I know. I talked to the kid's friends and family. What I was commenting on in my article was the fact that no policy changes have been made. The administration has seemed virtually unmoved from a policy standpoint.

Reporter: But you're not making policy changes.

Dean: Yeah huh. But we were reviewing that policy before anyway. It's very complex. Reed has a very complex view of the world and its students. But Reed is very open too. We welcome everyone. Our students are intellectuals.

Reporter: I was physically escorted off campus four times.

Dean: Well, we're open all but three days of the year. Our Ren Fair is only open to Reedies. Who are intellectuals.

NPR Lady: Why is that?

Dean: Because, we want to keep out undersirables. But Reed is very open. And intellectual. And complex.

NPR Lady: Undesirables? Did you seriously just say that?

Dean: You know - high school students - it wouldn't be appropriate - and people selling... things... that would be... bad. But Reed is very open. Except during Ren Fair.

Reporter: If it's so open, why was I asked to leave four times?

Dean: You shouldn't have come at Ren Fair.

Reporter: I had a pass! I went through all the official channels - I was the invited guest of an alum! I didn't interview anyone, I didn't ask any questions. But within five minutes of being on campus I heard some kid screaming like an animal on a bad psychotropic trip.

Dean: We have a tent set up for that. Reed is very open. Reed is very complex. VERY COMPLEX! Our community is very complex. We're intellectuals. SO SMART!


So there you have it. The implication throughout was that Reedies are too smart for anyone else to get them. My favorite part was probably when the reporter asked the dean why it is that Reed only graduates 72% of its students whereas comparable "elite" colleges graduate 95%. Could it maybe be the drug problem? I will give the dean this: he started out by saying "It could be, I don't know! I've never seen a study looking at that, so it's possible. We can't know that." And then he went on to say that basically a lot of students come to Reed and don't get how Intellectual and Complex it is; they can't hack it and they leave. Please note: I've only known two Reedies (that I'm aware of). One is brilliant and flourished, graduated and went on to bigger and better things. The other was a HUGE pothead, became a bigger pothead, was suspended (or something), given second chances to clean up his/her act, and then dropped out to go to a school where people just cavort and pick their noses all day. (Potheads are known cavorters.) I don't think that says anything about Reed, necessarily. I think the us/them thing says everything, though. (Please to note: my successful Reedie friend never talks about Reed in those terms. Ever. It's like it's just another school and we all went to school.)

Here is my list of things that bugged me in general. It's only two things; does that even qualify as a list?

1. Both the Reed Alumn and the Dean of Students misunderstood about 40% of the questions they were asked. It wasn't that they missed the point. It was like they only heard 2 words out of each sentence and were guessing at what the question was like some kind of horrible Jeopardy-Scattegories hybrid. The irony of this was intensified by the fact that they both kept harping on how brilliant everyone at Reed is. So brilliant they can't listen to full sentences OR so proud they can't ask for clarification. But mostly the former.

2. There just wasn't enough time. The NPR moderator kept asking for people to call in and they only had time for two, maybe three calls. "Have you ever been addicted to drugs? Have you ever known someone who has? Call in and tell us about it!" Then ten minutes later - no calls answered, by the by - "Are you a college student? What is your schools drug policy like? What do you think of Reed's" and of course none of those calls, assuming there were any, were answered. I would have called in, except I kept expecting my boss to show up and let me in the building and that would have been embarrassing. Also, I probably would have just shouted into the phone "glarbedyglarbdityaaahglefrazzlebagglebaggledybuh!" I was so annoyed by the end. (And the two Reed guys would have been like, "Ah, you must have attended a state school!")

So there you have it. That is my Reed Rant.

Reed: if Georgetown and Harvard can manage to talk about their student body inclusively, so can you. Please get over yourselves, your holistic evaluations, your organic vegetables and your COMPLEXITY and INTELLECT.

Also, is "snuck" not a work? Doesn't that sound right? If it is, what's wrong with my dictionary? If it isn't, what's wrong with English?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Masculinity Personified

Clint Eastwood.

I've been watching Westerns on ACM lately - Silverado, Hang 'Em High - and there is no one else who can do all of his character development in the first ten seconds of a movie. I know, Clint isn't in Silverado, but it's Silverado as compared to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly or A Fistful of Dollars. Silverado was just a mess of a movie. I mean, just a mess. It has about 70 plot points, but no actual plot to string them together. It has too many characters with no chance for character development. And it was pre-Dances with Wolves (which turned the Western motif on its ear, being about society as the insurgents rather than society plagued by insurgents, if I remember my Pop Culture and Anthropology class correctly), so it had a lot of standardized tropes with which to work. Silverado was not trying to turn anything on its ear. Which is why it is so shocking that such a predictable movie could waste so much time on an overly complicated plot and visual exposition cum character development. I mean, it has a petty criminal/gambler turned barman, a kingpin turned sheriff and mayor, a slick gambler called Slick, a petty criminal/prettyboy, the brother of the prettyboy, the free blackman/sharpshooter, the midget lady saloon owner... and their families, and their friends. Kevin Klein (yes, Kevin Klein in a western!) is the most convincing. He delivers his lines quietly, a man made of sheer confidence. And they're all lines like, "That's my hat," and (about his horse), "Can't you see she loves me?" Kevin Costner is (of course) the pretty boy, and he's (of course) very good at that. But that's all the more we get to know about his character because he's not capable of or allowed to use more than the broadest of strokes. Don't ask me why Klein gets to use subtlety and Costner is asked to ham around and look like he was told nothing about his character or the plot beyond "you're a sexy cowboy with ADHD that none of the ladies can resist." Only there aren't really any ladies, so a lot of the time he looks lost and confused.

Silverado has an all-star cast. Besides the Kevins there's Danny Glover, John Cleese (plays an Englishman in America), Jeff Goldblum (Slick), Rosanna Arquette (okay, so there are a couple ladies), Brian Dennehy (playing a very convincing low-talking kingpin turned sheriff) and some guy called Scott Glenn, who movie nerds probably recognize. You would think that each of them would be able to embody and demonstrate their respective cliche in less than a minute, but the movie works tirelessly to reinforce the stereotypes with scene after pointless scene of each character reaffirming who he is. And the plot. Oh the convoluted and yet entirely too simple plot.

Here is the plot, in a nutshell: Two guys who meet by happenstance. One wants to be a bartender. One wants to move to California with his brother. And they do.

Everything else that happens is impossible to follow. But I have an analogy. A piano can only play 88 specific notes. Your brain fills in the midtones to make scales sound smooth. A guitar has infinitely more variation possible - you can actually make the midtones on the instrument. (And if "midtone" isn't a real word, too damn bad, it's the one I'm using.) Silverado is like a piano: it has lots of set plot points, but nothing in between. Your brain is supposed to fill in the plot between Kevin Klein in the desert, left for dead and Kevin Klein discovered by Scott Glenn. Then they are in town. Then Kevin Klein shoots a guy to get his horse back. Then he makes out with the horse. Then he sees Dennehy, an old friend. Then he has new clothes. Then he turns down a job with Dennehy. Then he misses his hat. Then he goes with Scott Glenn to some other tiny town. Then they have dinner. Then the hotel discriminates against Danny Glover. Then... You see, it's all discrete events, but there's no real connection between them because they have to rush on to the next plot point at breakneck speed to make it through the ridiculously complex story.

But what has this to do with Clint? Clint Eastwood knew (and probably still knows, but is no longer making westerns, mores the pity) that the point of cliches was to cut to the chase. You don't have a crusty loner with no past because you want to delve into the depth of his past. You have a crusty loner because you want the viewer see everything he cares about for themselves. A crusty loner is a kind of tabula rasa. The thing is, everyone knows you don't just wake up one day crusty and alone. A past is inherent. But it's going to be a bad past, a sad past, of trespassing or being trespassed against. It is mostly irrelevant. Clint knew that and he worked it. In the first minute he's on-screen in The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, you know exactly who he is. With one look he banishes the need for a past. With a flick of his wrist and a light to his cigarette he banishes the need even for a name. He wears the cliche like a suit and it looks good.

There's a moment in Hang 'Em High (he's in the brothel having fallen from his horse after a grueling three day round up of some cattle rustlers and a guy who tried to hang him at the beginning of the movie - see, lots of plot, none of it in isolation!) when the prostitute who is bringing him breakfast coyly asks if there's anything else she can do for him... he's staring at her hard and angry, like he stares at everything throughout most of any movie, and then she asks in this little knowing voice, and his face kind of lightens, and then he smiles so sweetly, with something like genuine pleasure. Character development! Now we know he's not dead inside! And it took no exposition, no unlikely conversation, and it didn't waste valuable plot development time.

Now: is Hang 'Em High a good movie? Well, that's a fair question. It's very predictable. It's about lawlessness and what happens when the rule of law is as unconcerned with justice as the brigands. And two lonely people who were violated by lawlessness find love, some amount of healing and bring true justice to the west. Or so I assume. I'm only about 3/4 the way through it. But they let Clint smile at the Broken Girl, so I'm guessing they totally do it by the end. But Hang 'Em High does it's job, mostly because Clint is so awesome. It lacks the artistry of Sergio Leone. (But what doesn't, am I right?) But I will tell you this: Hang 'Em High is a better classic western than Silverado by a long shot.

None of this really makes a case for Clint being the very soul of masculinity in our times, but it does make a good case for him being an awesome badass, so that's something.

My conclusion: Clint Eastwood is so manly I think I may be pregnant.
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It was only like 80 today and I'm already too hot. (It may have something to do with hot ridiculously hot my computer gets too.) It's supposed to be 95 tomorrow. 95! but back down to 68 by Monday. Ah Portland... I had actually forgotten what naturally hot air felt like. I'm not kidding. I went on a little walk to mail a letter today and I was just giddy. I skipped through a sprinkler. Well, around it really. But it is too hot. I hate shorts and I think I may be low on work-appropriate skirts. Seriously: this is the thing I have most to worry about right now. Life is pretty good. (Yes, the sunshine has activated ALL of my serotonin and I'm freakin' high as a kite on Love For Everything In The World Oh My God It Was So Beautiful Today. Aren't you glad I'm not an actual drug addict? Can you even imagine what I'd be like on meth or heroin?)

Also, "For your blue" is a really sweet song. If Pete were ever to write a song about me, that's the kind of song I'd want written about me. It's just nice and fun and sounds like someone who both loves his wife and enjoys spending time with her. Fancy that!

Oh, double also: Pete wins. All other husbands can just quit; it's over. He is, hands down, the best ever. This week when I casually asked if he had any ideas for dinner, he volunteered to run to the store and get the stuff for galettes and berries for dessert. So we had buckwheat crepes stuffed with ham and gruyere and topped with an egg for dinner and raspberries over vanilla ice cream for dessert. He also vacuumed, took out the trash and even though he was dead tired, made extra crepes before he went to bed so we would have some for lunch the next day (crepes reheat very well, by the by). So yeah, Pete wins. Also, he smells good.

It's late. I'm rambling. Did you know kids get high off Axe body spray? What is wrong with them! This is quite possibly the funniest thread ever. Old ladies are adorable!

Edit: the last paragraph and the last statement in the penultimate paragraph are not related. Pete just naturally smells good. And he's not huffing. I don't secretly fear for him or anything. Although given his reaction to when we've idly smelled Axe body spray at the supermarket, imagining him trying to huff the stuff is pretty funny. It would be all grimaces and sneezing.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


There are good neighbors and there are bad. Pete and I have had both. The worst were probably in Eugene our senior year. The guys upstairs left their empties in the hall and fell asleep in the laundry room; the people next door were drug dealers who partied late into the night on weeknights. (I called the police non-emergency line on them multiple times when they were non-responsive to polite requests for quiet so that those of us with morning classes could get some sleep.) Mostly I think of good neighbors as ones you either know well, like those I grew up with, or ones you never know at all. Right now, I consider our across-the-hall neighbor pretty good (I can't remember her name, so I will call her The Pretty One because she's pretty, if very skinny). She's quiet, she keeps to herself, when she has people over it's never very many and then the only sounds that carry into the hall are of laughter and talking. I'm not sure about our upstairs neighbor right now (I will call them Other Lady and Guy). They seem pretty good, except for one or two loud domestic disputes that went something like this:

Other Lady: [loud indistinct shouting and maybe crying]
Guy: [Angry responses]
Other Lady: [Punctuated retorts] Now! [Indistinct shouting and definitely crying, but of the angry variety]
Guy: I don't even know what you're so mad about!
Other Lady: [Screaming crying stomping door slams]
Guy: Fine! [front door slams, runs down stairs, down hall, out front door]

We don't know what they fight about, but I'm guessing they don't know how loud they are. The Pretty One is single and so if she has a boyfriend and fights with him, it's at his place of residence. Pete and I are very quiet. We don't really fight, and when we do it's more of a silent resentment kind of fighting punctuated by long discussions in which I explain how even though I know he didn't mean to hurt my feelings he still did and that is a valid emotional response to the situation, and he tries to explain that it's past midnight and he's pretty much already asleep and definitely not able to follow what's going on, and then he falls asleep for real and I stare at him resentfully until I fall asleep. (And in the morning we either very quickly agree on a solution to the problem (real or imagined) or can't remember what we were fighting about and decide that that's as good as a solution.) So I'm sure they have no idea how well voices carry around here, unless they've heard my incredibly loud sneezes or inappropriately loud laughter at things on TV. (Seriously: there is something wrong with me. I cannot control the volume of my laughter while watching sitcoms. Pete can attest to this.)

Our downstairs neighbor is what I would consider not an ideal neighbor. She's not a bad neighbor: no loud parties, no empties at our doorstep, no selling of drugs. But she is a stoner of the highest degree and has this awful hacking cough that sounds like someone vomiting that can be clearly heard from anywhere in the apartment. After Eugene, I knew I wasn't crazy about the smell of pot. Now I know: I hate the smell of marijuana. It is sickening. I don't have anything against people doing it - victimless crime and all that - but please please please, not in shared spaces. What ever happened to the days of trying to cover up the smell of your three-times a day habit? I think I might actually prefer pachoulli or nag champa to the reek that is our shared hallway. (Ask anyone who's visited us: if you're looking for a contact high, bring a lawn chair and breathe deep.)

But as gross as the vomitoughing is and as much as I hate the disgusting smell wafting under the door, she is an ideal neighbor compared to those next door. Yes, the worst neighbor is the Club/Theater. The music routinely continues past 10 (which, as I was informed by the neighborhood watch, is the legal noise ordinance time for weeknights), their patrons vomit in our alley, they leave empties and garbage out front, and garbage from their dumpsters overflows into our little parking lot. Mostly the patrons are disaffected goth or emo kids who roll their eyes as you pass and try to kill you with the sheer force of their nihilism and angst. I kind of like those kids. They want to hear some loud music with a boring bass line (that's really all we can hear - we've only lived here in cold months, so the doors are closed; I bet we hear a lot more as it heats up) and feel like they belong to something. Go ahead: aim your laser beam angst-vision at the squares entering the house next door. But not for too long or people will know you care and your cover will be blown. The patrons who pushed me over the limit were the Insane Clown Posse family-member band (whose name escapes me; I doubt it matters). If you are not familiar with ICP, then lucky you.

These face-paint wearing, generally fat, 30-somethings started showing up at 5 on a saturday to shout obscenities at traffic and chant "FAM-I-LY! FAM-I-LY!" at each other. They dropped empties, they harassed passers-by, they were drunk and idiotic. One of them - in full green and black clown make-up, mind you - shouted, "What're you lookin' at?!" at a car waiting to turn left. Pete was like, "Um, you and your desperate bid for attention, you painted douche?" Yeah, that's probably it. They were just so so so depressing, on top of being scary (they kept threatening to get fucked up and fuck shit up, etc.) because the scariness wasn't from their ICP look, or whatever: it was from the fact that a bunch of adult males, presumably with jobs and desires for their futures, put on clown paint to come stand in front of a very small venue and chant "Family!" with a bunch of other lonely losers for four hours just to see a band that is vaguely related to the group that actually represents their purported ethos. Plus there were the white supremacist overtones inherent in any costumed, aggressive gathering of young-ish white men. (Note to comic nerds: comicons don't count because they're not aggressive. Yes yes, I know, you're very aggressive when dressed as Wolverine because you're "in character," but seriously. Comics. Not scary. Now put down your Japanese purple-heart oak bo and calm down. Here's you're inhaler. Yes, that's a good nerd: deep breaths! It's okay. You don't have to be scary and aggressive to be masculine. We all like you just the way you are. Now run along before your "adamantium" blades wilt any more.)

Anyway, I'm thinking about this tonight because the club is actually quiet for once (and has been since 10!) and when I started writing this half an hour ago my downstairs neighbor was hacking up a lung (it's so so disgusting sounding. I cannot impress upon you enough how nasty her coughing is) and the hall is, shall we say, "fragrant," and it got me thinking. I like this apartment, I don't mind my neighbors most of the time, but I'm beginning to think my standards might be rather too low. Perhaps I should think back to the days of my youth and the neighbors I had then and that is what I should shoot for. But I don't think we'll achieve that kind of situation until we can afford more in rent each month. Until then, try not to smoke yourself too stupid, Stoner Lady! Hey, we can hear you fight, Loud Couple! Um, you're doin' just fine, The Pretty One! Stay Classy, San Diego? (Damnit! I've spent too much time with my brother recently and now I'm broken.)

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Local Politics III: Profiles in Audacity

Okay, so did all the republicans in this state get together and say, "Let's just say whatever we want in our ads and see if anyone notices"? Mike Erickson is running adds accusing Kevin Mannix of being pro-tax. I mean, I actually agree with Mannix for once: Erickson doesn't understand what is and what is not a tax.  In the immortal words words of War, "This really blew my mind."

Erickson's campaign thus far has been kind of interesting in that he focuses on one issue at a time (ONLY ONE ISSUE!) whether it is relevant or not. First it was illegal immigration.

Mom thinks he had these in the can months ago, trying to predict what the top issues would be. You can see the logic: economy getting worse -> job loss -> fear of job loss/job stealing -> anti-immigrant pandering. Now he's on to taxes.

I will try to find the Mannix one when I get home from work. It's just craziness. I mean, I know why he's using these ads: it cost something to make them, so he can't waste them. But seriously: this is not a strategy. I can't believe that his constituency is like, "Yes, Mike, tell us what to care about. We have no important questions of our own that define, for us, the current political climate."

Friday, May 09, 2008

Best... Craft... Ever...

I'm on a crafting kick. Because I am a huge nerd. And I love to have unfinished projects haunt me for all of my days. Anyway, I recently needlepointed a boat (with the poorest of poor techniques) and have developed the beginnings of calluses on my right forefinger and thumb. This is very exciting for me. It's like crafting-cred. I don't want to lose it, but I have completely forgotten about how to needlepoint, so before I go back to a project I care about, I wanted to get a small one I didn't care about to fuck up and get it out of my system.

The problem with this plan is that small + cheap = Michael's + dolphins/horses/kitties/trite maxims. Things I will needlepoint in a pinch to warm up: flowers, various natural scenes... um, did I mention flowers? They're kind of the safe bet. The problem is that I don't want to be stuck with whatever it is I make because, as something cheap, it will be some kind of wall hanging or display. I was once very lucky and found a spray of roses that covered the whole square canvas that I thought I could turn into a small pillow. (Hm, I wonder what I did with that?) But today... today was just epically bad. I did find something, but I'll wait until I'm done and if I like it okay, I'll post a picture. Otherwise I will deny this conversation ever happened. Such as it is. My second choice was a kitty picture - it was actually a kitten hanging miserably over a rope and seriously said "hang in there" at the bottom. I considered purchasing this awful thing and sewing it up, only with the text "I hate you guys" at the bottom. I mean, who put that cat there in the first place? But then I realized I would actually be creating a "hang in there" poster and withdrew my hand from the rack.

The two things I saw that I wanted - oh did I want them - were both cross-stitch, which is not adequate practice for needlepoint. Now first here is something to understand about cross-stitch: there are two kinds, stamped and counted. In my opinion (and that of little old ladies the world over, I'm sure) the only real cross-stitch is counted, where you fold your aida cloth into quarters and mark the center with string and then count where your stitches should go based on a printed pattern. Stamped cross-stitch, on the other hand, has the pattern printed right on the aida cloth so you don't have to count anything. I assume this is for beginners, lazy people and people who are planning to craft as they fly somewhere (it sucks trying to count stitches and the little tiny squares between then on a turbulent flight). I think some of the printed pattern always shows through the stitches (which are not as tight as in needlepoint) and it looks even chintzier than regular cross-stitch. (I love it as a craft, but man, there is nothing more useless.)

Okay, so now you understand what it means when I say that I very very badly wanted to purchase and take home with me the Stamped Cross-Stitch Last Supper. Oh my God (no pun intended), it was so wonderfully awful. The most horrible part of me wanted to just take it home and set it on a shelf. Just to have it there. This kind of surreal artifact from another world. But I know there are little old ladies across the country who think this is just precious. Their eyes are failing them, they want to honor their Lord and Savior in the best and least useful way possible, and then God just sets down this $23 Honor Buffet right in front of them. But seriously. It's just terrible. Pete pointed out that if I had gotten it, we would have just come to find that Katie already had it attached to the flap of her satchel or something because she's just that cool. And then I then I would have had to hide my objet d'art so that no one would know my secret secondsies shame.

The other thing I wanted so very very badly was this Magnificent Wizard. By Merlin's beard, I feel his glorious wizardry just looking at him defeat that dragon! Or maybe the dragon is just waiting for the batteries to run out on his nerd-stick so he can eat him. Either way, how could you not want to make this and send it to your favorite Dungeon Master? ::ahJOEem:: Alas, at $40 and god only knows how many hours of work, I just couldn't justify the cost for the joke. I mean, irony is all very fine, but one has one's limits. (Mine are apparently $22 and the vague risk of offending some old ladies who will never know or $40. Who knew that vague old lady offense risk was worth $18?)

So there you have it: those are the best crafts ever. I may have to go back for the last supper one. Or order it on eBay. And I may have to find that matching satchel. Katie is probably the only person I know cool enough to pull it off, but it would likely horrify her parents. Or give them false hope. Ooh, I smell a social experiment!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Local Politics, Part II

This morning - not five minutes ago! - I saw a Gordon Smith ad against Merkley and Novick. I commented to Pete that the worst thing Smith had on Novick was "he thinks taxes are good." (Not that what he says about Merkley is so bad; just another example of low-level hypocrisy I think is inherent in living a public life. Lord knows I wouldn't stand up to that kind of scrutiny. Not that I'm an apologist for hypocrisy - but if my choice is "universal health care and some publicly acknowledged, legal campaign finance shenanigans" or "the current system," I'll probably go with the former. But I digress...) Pete said, "Oh man, have you seen this?" and ran it back (woot, TiVo!).

"Did you see that?" he said at the end. "Huh? Oh, no," I said, not really paying attention. He played the end again. "There," he said. I had no idea what he was getting at. "Okay..." I said. He quoted the end of the ad: "More of the same, it's time for a change." I still did not follow. I mean, that's what every political ad sounds like these days. "He's the incumbent." And then it all clicked and I was left with a feeling of pure strange.

Yes, Gordon Smith. It is time for a change. Let's not have business as usual with those tax-loving politicians who enact campaign finance reform. That's exactly what the last eight years have been like.

Also, here is another Novick ad. This is the first one, from January 2008.

Sunday, May 04, 2008


Just to let everyone know, we did not win the lottery this evening. But we DID donate $2 to the Oregon schools.