Thursday, July 29, 2004

An Izzard-Inspired Photo Essay

DNC Delegates:  Oh, look, Edwards is doing the "big arms" thing!

Howard Dean: I want to do big arms too.

Al Sharpton: Yeah, me too!

Ted Kennedy: I'm having some trouble with the big arms thing.

Edwards: Look, we can't all do the big arms.  I'll do the big arms, and you can all look at me and go "wow, he's doing big arms".

THK: Teddy and I are having the same problem.

Barrack Obama: If they get to do big arms, I get to do REALLY big arms.

John Kerry: That's enough.  No one's going to do big arms but meI own "big arms."

UPDATE (1:46 p.m.) :

John Kerry:  Oh yeah, I so  own "big arms."

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Not quite observational humor...

Unless, of course, you think it's funny.

Some thoughts on last night's speeches at the DNC in Boston. 

I did not get to see Barack Obama give his speech.  I turned on PBS (shock!  a conservative who watches PBS!) right afterwards, when he was being interviewed.  He seemed to be a very polite, well-spoken man, self-effacing and sincere.  A good first impression.  And I read the text of his speech online.  A well-crafted speech.  There were things I disagreed with, of course, but there were also things I connected to.  But there was one disconnect I kept running into. 

Here's the section in question: 

Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America — there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.

Now, this sounds great.  I like it.  But it doesn't jive with the stance of the party.  John Edwards' entire presidential campaign is based on the idea of two   Americas, not one.  Even now, he's riding the back of this idea that there is a huge gap in this country between the rich and the poor, between whites and non-whites, between the oppressors and the oppressed. 

I'm not going to get into the argument of whether this is true or not (yet, anyway), but I just find it interesting that Obama said the complete opposite, and the crowd ate it up.  Obama's message is the real message of hope.  That there is not an insurmountable gap.  That you can achieve and succeed, with hard work and limited outside help. 

There's a disconnect there.

SPEECH 2: Ron Reagan.  Ron, Ron, Ron...  Ron talked about embrionic stem cell research, and while the speech sounded rather persuasive, there were two big problems.  First, he didn't distinguish between no research and limited research.  And there is a substantial difference.  He implied throughout that stem cell research is being completely stonewalled by the Bush administration, and this is simply not true.  Argue all you want, "not good enough" is not the same thing as "not at all."  Secondly, he argued for stem cell research with such urgency that you want to believe that all of these terrible diseases can be cured during the next presidential term.  But the fact is, it may not be for another generation or two of intensive research.  I'm not using this as an argument against, mind you, I'm just questioning the delivery of the message.

One phrase of his jumped out at me.  He said, "it does not follow that the theology of a few should be allowed to forestall the health and well-being of the many."  For some reason, this bothers me.  We hear this rhetoric about the "tyranny of the majority" and how the "rights of the minority are protected" in this country.  And clearly the rights of anti-ESCR aren't necessarily being crushed or even this point.  However, this line of rhetoric can be a very dangerous one.  Fill in the blank: the theology of the few should not be allowed to dictate/interfere with the ______ of the many.  Lifestyle?  Ambitions?  Wants?  I don't know.  But marginalizing religious conviction as a quaint practice of the few is a rather uncomfortable thought for me.  Maybe I'm wrong.

Ron finished the speech by implying that a vote for Kerry (an ESCR supporter) was a vote for "the future", "reason", and "true compassion", as opposed to "the past", "ignorance", and "mere ideology."

That says it all, I think.  If you have a religious conviction against it, it's based on ignorance and ideology, a relic of the past.  Is this where the Democratic party stands?  Tell me, you who claim it, I want to know.

The last speech of the evening was from Theresa Heinz Kerry.  I won't go into the typical mockery of her, because she appears to be a sincere woman.  I thought her use of all five languages was really a bit hammy, but that's to be expected.  But what jumped out at me about her speech was that it all sounded a whole lot more substantial than it was.  She touched on every major issue of her party: women's rights, the environment, the economy, America's reputation in the world, America's dependence on foreign energy. 

And it all sounded good.  But there was no substance.  She said, "With John Kerry as President, we can, and we will, protect our nation's security without sacrificing our civil liberties."  Sounds great; I'm on board.  How are we going to do that?

"John believes that we can, and we will, give every family and every child access to affordable health care, a good education, and the tools to become self-reliant."  Awesome.  How?

"Isn't it time we began working to give parents more opportunity to be with their children and to afford to have a family life?"  Absolutely.  How do we make that happen?

Now, I know, I know, she's not the candidate.  And I didn't really expect her to be throwing out policy.  But I think this is the biggest problem for the Kerry campaign as a whole, at this point.  All great rhetoric, sounds really awesome, emotionally appealing--no meat.  Cotton candy politics. 

I'm likely wrong on this, but can any of you intelligent readers give me some concrete, consistent "nuts and bolts" of how Kerry is going to accomplish these things?  Because I haven't heard it.  And unless he figures out a concrete plan to sell the American people, he's going to lose.  That simple.

I heard Michael Moore say yesterday, "Most people would rather vote for their right sock than George W. Bush."  If that's so, then Kerry should be fine.  Because he's provided a right-sock's worth of concrete election platform to stand on. 

Well, I promised myself I wouldn't be snarky.  Almost made it.   Instead of dipping into Ann Coulter land, I'll end with this:  I'm convinced that because of their utter hatred for the President, the Democratic party and its supporters are suffering from some heavy-duty hysterical blindness.  That's the only way to explain that, despite their talk about the evils of the super-rich and their talk about how much they hate war (esp. Vietnam), they are going to nominate two multi-millionaires who are class-warriors at the same time, one of whom is a "war hero" responsible for killing Vietnamese people in that "evil war."  How quickly Vietnam vets have been transformed in the Democratic mind from "warmongers" to "war heroes."

Something's just not fitting.  Please explain it to me.

The most important question Americans face today... "Which Simpsons character is coming out of the closet and having a same-sex marriage???"

This, according to the show's producers, is an upcoming episode plot.  Homer will get ministerial credentials over the internet and will begin performing gay marriages in Springfield.

(The fact that gay marriages aren't there already may indicate that the mystery state where Springfield is located is not Massachusetts?)

So who will it be?  That's the question burning in the mind of the American public.  Time for your predictions.  Let 'er rip.  The obvious choice is Smithers, but Matt Groenig doesn't go with obvious choices.  So far I've heard theories that it might be one of Marge's sisters, Lenny/Carl, the Simpson's pet, and others.  It could be Moe--that story was done famously in "All in the Family" and might make a good tribute episode.  Or even Comic Book Guy.  What do you think?

I guess I should address the "moral implications" of this issue, such as they are.  The local talk radio station was trying to make this into a big deal.  Call me calloused, but I just don't think it is.  The question raised was "do we need a kids' cartoon show to start doing "gay" stories now?"  But for anyone who has seen the show, the obvious answer is "when have they not?"  I mean, come on, Smithers is obviously gay.  Up until now, it's been strictly innuendo, but if he "came out", would anyone really be surprised?  But it's always been there.  I heard one person say that you can tell, because the gay characters always have the exaggerated eye-rolling and smiles.  I don't know if this is always true, but I've seen it sometimes.

But a gay cartoon character has already been done.  (Paging Mr. Garrison.)  So my question is, should we really be surprised by this?  And aren't there bigger issues to focus on?

I don't know.  Maybe I am too calloused.  It's just that I think that in the light of the barrage of gay characters on TV and films of the past several years, any outrage or indignation about a Simpsons character is just a bit silly.

 Maybe that's just me.  *Eyes rolled*

(Just kidding.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Y2K? Y NOT 2k!!!

I think that's the cheesiest title ever.  Well done me.

I'd just like to take a moment to thank you all.  I'm currently four shy of reaching a grand total of 2,000 visit(or)s, in just two months of counting.  That makes me feel really good.  And flattered.  And while I know that a good 60% of those are repeat visits, I still feel good about it.  Because it means I haven't pissed you all off yet.

I have high hopes, though--the election season is just starting to pick up.

But again, many thanks.  You are why I (still) do this.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Another Sign that Society is Rotting Away

If I didn't see it for myself, I would never have believed it.

Yahoo! and Planned Parenthood are now selling "I Had an Abortion." tee-shirts.

I don't care where you stand on the issue, this is sickness.  It's one thing to allow or even offer abortion as an option for unwanted pregnancy.  It's another thing entirely to celebrate it, let alone to make money selling tee-shirts about it.

This is really troubling for me.  I shouldn't be surprised or shocked, but I can't help it.

(via Drudge)

UPDATE:  One of PBB's preferred readers tried to access the link, and was redirected to the main PPFA store page, where no such t-shirts exist.  So the question remains: was Drudge fooled?  Or did the PPFA webstore gurus pull the product off the e-shelves after Drudge's story?

--A bit of digging reveals that Google has the page cached (which means it did exist at one point).

--A Fairfield Weekly article discusses the shirt and sports a photo of a progressive young woman wearing one.

--This article from Northern Colorado also features a picture of the shirt.

Still digging.


--I tried to access the Fairfield Weekly article twice more.  Once, it didn't come up at all, and the other time, it came up--with the picture of the girl/t-shirt missing!   Finally figured out what it was: the Hartford Advocate ran the same story sans t-shirt pic.  I was confused for a second.  Here's another link to the Fairfield story, in case the first one isn't working.

--Cover story of the New Haven Advocate: with picture (for now, anyway).

--Soapboxinc also talks about the shirts being sold at a rally by the girl in the Fairfield pic, I believe.  Lucky for us, it has contact information so we can all run out and order one.

So we know that the shirts exist, and that they're being sold.  Still no explanation as to why they suddenly vanished from PPFA's online store.  You can see the advertisement by googling " 'I had an abortion' shirt", and pulling up the Cached version of the page. 

Strange happenings, friends.

I'll keep you posted.


Brief Recap of the Weekend's Events, and an Early-Week Forecast

(In fifty words or less.)

"Bourne Supremacy" was choice.  Go see it.

Moving next weekend.  Stoked and wiggin', simultaneously.

On the dating front:  to quote Paul from "Beautiful Girls"--"ahh, they're all sisters."

Got a new cell phone.  Cutting the landline.  I'll email the new number soon.

And I'll post something meaningful eventually.  I promise.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

"The Mouth of the LORD has spoken."

 "Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the house of Jacob their sins.  For day after day they seek me out; they seem eager to know my ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them. 

" 'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?' Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.  Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. 

"Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD ? 

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 

"Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.  Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

"If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.  The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.  Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings. 

"If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the LORD's holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the LORD , and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob." The mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Book of Isaiah, chapter 58

You must read this...

Everyone--on both sides--please read Michele's post on perspective.  We all need some.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Song of the Day

"Sanctify" by Delirious
Here i am
in that old place again
Down on my face again
Crying out
i want you to hear my plea
Come down and rescue me
How long will it take
How long will i have to wait?
'Cause all i want
is all you have
Come to me, rescue me,
Fall on me with your love
And all You want
is all I have
Come to me, rescue me,
Fall on me with your love
i want to be set apart
Right to the very heart
Prophesy to the four winds
And breathe life to this very place
How long will it take
How long will i have to wait?
(Repeat chorus)
Lifted up
i've climbed with the strength i have
Right to this mountain top
Looking out
the cloud's getting bigger now
It's time to get ready now.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Rant Introduction: All My Friends and Lovers

Most of my friends from college are Democrats.  I normally have better sense than to push the issue of politics in that group, for the sheer fact of being outnumbered (with the exception of a recent and unnecessary comment-skirmish on a friend's site--again, friend, apologies.)  Being the minority voice is intimidating, after all.  I changed the subject often.
I believe what I believe.  I was raised in a Conservative Republican home, flirted with switching parties for a little while in college, and then decided against it.  I'm a Conservative.  I'm registered as a Republican, though I'm not a party-liner.  I lean to the right.  That's it.
But most of my friends are Democrats.  Many are liberals.  As are several of you, my lovely readers.  And that's fine.
But I'm not.  I can't be.  The reasons why, I'll explain in depth at a later time.
My last girlfriend was a left-leaning moderate.  She would jokingly cite her Oregon upbringing.  When I was with her, I was not as outspokenly Conservative.  Because I was with her, and whatever she said was pretty much fine by me.  This was not her fault at all.  It was mine.  I'm a follower.
Most of my friends are Democrats and/or "liberal".  And most of my favorite bands too.  It really bums me out. 
The alternate title of this post is "My Favorite Music Gets me Down."
Ben Folds?  Yep.  Dave Matthews?  Yeah.  Damien Rice?  You betcha.  Crows?  Mostly.  U2?  Yep.  Bowie?  Probably.  Morrisey?  Oh yeah.  Radiohead?  Yeah.
Getting the picture?  I can barely listen to the radio.  The Beastie Boys' new album has a few tracks that are specifically anti-Bush.  Everytime I turn on the news, it seems like there's another DNC benefit concert featuring the band in my CD player.
But wait--it gets better.  My favorite authors?  Sure.
Most vocal is Dave Eggers, a writer I greatly admire, whose website not only has the "Daily Reason to Dispatch Bush", but is also hawking its Dictionary of the Future, which contains definitions of an overwhelmingly anti-Conservative, anti-administration nature.
At this point, you--my beloved readers--are likely divided into two camps.  On the one hand (guess which), there are those who say "geez, Dave, that sucks" or some incomprehensible rant about "the liberal media at work."  On the other hand, there are those who will no doubt respond with some degree of "figure it out, Dave--we're all right, you're wrong, and Bush is (a/the) stupid/evil/liar/oil-whore/Hitler/Antichrist."
Feel free to flood the comment box with both sides.  In the end, it doesn't matter to me, because I still believe what I believe.  I still think what I think.  I have weighed the ideologies in the balance and found one just slightly better than the other.
But what bothers me is the hysteria that surrounds so much political discussion, hysteria that I've certainly contributed to at one point or another.  There are red states and there are blue ones.  There is one side and there is the other.  And an infinite gap in between.  So-called independents are just playing semantic games.  Nader voters aren't in the center, they're just farther to the side than the others. 
But when there are political topics opened, everyone plugs their ears and starts screaming.  And in the end, we're all deaf.  And blue-faced.
I will try to spell out as clearly as I can, in the coming weeks, why I believe what I do, why I will vote the way I will vote, and what I think and feel about certain pressing social issues.  Not that it will do any good.  Half of you will simply think that I'm a conservative due to the fact that I was raised properly and I'm a good Christian, and the other half will write me off as just a mindless neo-con clone, out of touch with the real world.  Both groups are wrong, I think.
What is to come (not immediately, but soon) is for the sliver of you, the one or two of you, who haven't already decided that a) the Dubya Administration is plotting the downfall of humanity; or b) George W. Bush is the greatest president America has or will ever have. 
I believe you're out there, somewhere. 
This is for you.

The Scam that Wasn't

"Well, you never had a first date."
"Yes we did. I sat across from her at a mall. We ate together. We ate. That's eating. Sharing an important physical event."
"That's not even a scam." 
"What's a scam?"
"Going out as friends."
--Corey and Lloyd, from Say Anything
I don't even know why I want to share this with you.  Sharing personal events online is always a bad idea, even in the pseudo-anonymity of the faceless web.  Maybe that's why I'm doing it.  Slipping as discreetly as possible into my digital confessional.
Bless me readers, for I have scammed.
My tale begins with those four words that doom every lovelorn idiot since the birthcries of time: "See, there's this girl..."
I'm falling for someone.  Normally, this would be a good thing, and sometimes it feels like it.  But lately, it's not so great.  Because, as is my tradition, I'm second-guessing my interpretation of "the signs."
If it were anyone else writing this, I'd be snickering at this point.
The signs, he says.  Those "telltale" indicators that incontrovertibly prove that someone may or may not be interested in pursuing a relationship with you.  How you interpret them really depends on how you want to interpret them.  And as has been my fashion, my interpretations carry two hallmarks: I interpret them positively, and I interpret them incorrectly.
Backstory on the Teacher: he's not the heart-throb type.  Definitely not, to use a modern parlance, a "babe-magnet."  Any references to the Hotness of the Teacher (as in the previous post) are most decidedly tongue-in-cheek.
So, as a defense mechanism built up over many years, I would avoid actually expressing my interest to a girl, in the hopes of asking her out, without somehow first coming to the conclusion that she'd be receptive to it.  I have tried to calculate my risks.
Tragically, I was never good at math. 
So, in recent weeks, I have began noticing on my part a particular fondness for someone, and instinctively began looking for signs of any reciprocal feelings.  (In previous posts, these signs of fondness have been referred to as "the vibe."  This had to be changed when a friend confused "the vibe" for the women's magazine of the same name, so my mentioning of "reading the vibe" was misconstrued and took several minutes to straighten out.  To prevent further confusion, the term "the Vibe" has since been retired.)
And (surprise, surprise) I noticed "clues" that she felt the same way, or at least in a similar direction.   Which only encouraged me.  And I made another huge mistake, almost as bad as hunting for signs: I mentioned her to my parents.  The questions began, the prodding, the nitpicking ("you're not going to wear *that* shirt, are you?"), the side comments ("I'd like to hold grandchildren *sometime* before I die").  All the time, raising the stakes, investing monumental, nigh epic importance to really minor things.
And so, and so.  I have spent some time getting to know this person but never really intimating that my feelings for her were growing deeper than good friendship.  Finally, I decided to act.  A fork in the road.  And for once, I took the path less-travelled, at least by me.
At a group outing, I asked this girl if she wanted to go see a movie with me the next evening.  And she said yes.
Minor victory for Dave.
The next day, she called to confirm the outing, and said to me, "We should call the rest of the group and see if anyone else wants to go!"
Victory overturned.
Of the rest of the group, only one person showed up, and he sat between us.  We watched  the movie.  It was good. 
After the movie ended, we walked out, our friend to one side of the parking lot, she and I to the other.  She turned to me and said, "We should do this again next weekend."
I gave her my best "Absolutely."  But I'm not so sure.
If "this" means another almost-date that was turned into a group outing, then no, I'd prefer not to do "this" again, thank you very much, miss.
It doesn't mean anything.  I keep telling myself that.  Just because she wanted to invite other people along doesn't mean anything.  And it's not like I actually said, I want to take you out on a DATE.  I keep telling myself that too.  It's unfair of me to expect her to figure out everything.  But I still wish she would.
It's to the point where I can't shield myself in any way, when it comes to dating.  I've tried to be only partially vulnerable, tried not to stick my neck out too far.  It's not working. 
So here I sit, sleepy and vaguely pissed off.  And I can't stop thinking about her. 
Bless me, readers.  Pray for my absolution.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Brief Diversion: Finding my Circle

Linked this from Kara--a fun little diversion for a Friday morning:
The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to Purgatory!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Extreme
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)Moderate
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Moderate
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Low
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante's" Inferno Hell Test
My question--what's up with the one "high" category being Violence??? I'm not violent--and I'll kick anyone's ass who says otherwise!
I would have to say that my greatest sin is...being unable to contain all the hotness of the Dave.  For that, may I be truly penitent.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Coming Soon

I've been thinking about some things lately, regarding the state of the world and whatnot. I've gotten into discussions with people on other sites about political issues, and yet haven't address any here in a while. Probably part of that deep down is that I try to avoid pissing off my readers. A natural thing for a writer to do. But not a brave thing.

I'm working up the nerve to address some topics seriously here, concerning the issues facing this country. I say "nerve" but a better word would be "stomach." I hate arguing online. It's stupid and pointless. And believe it or not (those of you who've known me for a while), I'm not really one to seek out debates anymore. A lot of this is because American politics is so polarized, that each side is better served screaming at a fire hydrant than trying to persuade the other. And I just don't need the stress.

But I feel like something needs to be said. Not necessarily by me--I'm no fount of wisdom. But I've sniped a while without really joining the discourse. Or I've joined and quickly retreated. And if I believe what I believe, I really need to get into it a little more. At least for a while.

I don't know, I may just chicken out and talk about minor things forevermore. Most of you know me, know where I stand, so what I have to say won't surprise you greatly. I don't know why I feel compelled to address political/social issues, in that case.

I'm babbling. Enough babbling.

Look for some essays in the coming weeks. I need to get this all out, for me, if not for you.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

A Word of Encouragement

For my dear friend, bombarded with troubles, who is just praying for it all to stop for a while. Don't crawl into your hole, darlin.


"Hush" by Waterdeep

When you feel like the days just drone on and on and on
and you feel like the nights are quickly gone

and on the inside your heart is gaping wide
and on the inside you feel like no one's on your side
well, I am

When you thought you could rest, but you found out you were wrong
And there's another need another battle
another one more thing that comes along

and on the inside
you hear the fall but you hate the falling sound
and on the inside
you can't pick another broken piece up off the ground
well I know

Hush little baby don't say a word
Daddy's gonna buy you a great big heaven to rest in
He's bought it with blood and put the seal in your heart
it'll give you the hope you need to get up and start again

when all the things you thought you left behind are still hanging on
and everything you try to do right ends up all wrong

and on the inside everyone else seems basically fine
but on the inside even they won't let go of the dead and cling to what's alive
well I AM

Hush little baby don't say a word
Daddy's gonna buy us a great big heaven to rest in
He's bought it with blood and put the seal in our hearts
it'll give us the hope we need to get up and start again

Monday, July 12, 2004

Another Thing of Beauty

If I were hard-pressed by my readership to create a Top Five Movies of 2004, thusfar it would look a little something like this:

5. Harry Potter 3 OR Shrek 2
4. Spiderman 2
3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
2. Kill Bill Volume 2

So far, not so good. Three sequels? Is this the best Hollywood can do? I mean, don't get me wrong, they're all great films (or at least really good). But so many sequels.

It's true, 2004 is the year of the "hit sequel", more so than the past. The year that a sequel becomes the highest grossing animated movie ever. The year that another sequel has the highest opening weekend ever (or something of that sort).

Movie critics have often lambasted this trend of mining for more monetary success by rehashing a story and slapping a "2" behind the title (hello "Scooby Doo 2"? what idiot begged for THAT to happen?). And normally I would join in the chorus. But as my list thusfar illustrates, there have actually been some really really good sequels released this year.

Which is why I have to admit, with a little trepidation, that my favorite movie so far this year is a sequel as well.

On Friday, I drove to the only theater in town showing it, and watched "Before Sunset."

Holy crap, what a beautiful movie.

Set nine years after the cult-hit "Before Sunrise" (which was made, um, nine years ago), this story picks up, not where the last one left off, but where the characters have ended up. If you don't recall the story from the first movie, go rent it, because it's awesome. If you're lazy, here's a brief wrap-up: American wanderer Jesse (Ethan Hawke) meets French college student Celine (Julie Delpy) on a train headed for Vienna, and talks her into getting off the train in Vienna and spending the evening with him walking around the city. The two fresh-faced youths talk all night long (or almost) and begin to fall in love, until the next train out of Vienna leaves at around (big shock) sunrise. At the end of the film, the two promise to meet again in Vienna in six months, and in true romantic form, refuse to exchange contact information, leaving their combined futures in the hands of Fate.

And that's how it ended, frustrating and enthralling the viewers. The film wasn't a commercial success in the U.S., but gradually found a viewership on home video, and has since been elevated to the upper echelons of 90's indie-film esteem.

So now, almost a decade later, indie-fave director Richard Linklater, Hawke, and Delpy have reunited and written another chapter in the story of these two star-crossed lovers.

To avoid spoilers, I'll limit my description of the story to this: the two are reunited by a little "fate" and a little action on the part of Celine, and spend about an hour together walking around Paris and catching up. But once again, they are under a deadline--Jesse's plane leaves in an hour. So they go through the typical "how have you been, what have you been up to" formalities that two former friends and lovers would, but then their conversation becomes gradually more personal and honest. So much so that at one point of the movie, I felt a little uncomfortable, because I felt that i was eavesdropping on a private conversation that was none of my business.

It's this raw honesty that really makes the film wonderful. That, and its acknowledgement that people change. The two idealistic youths who discussed growing older as an abstract concept in "Sunrise" are starting to accept it as concrete reality in "Sunset." And they also have to face that idea that fairytale love can't take place in a complicated reality. How's it complicated? Just watch for Jesse's left hand.

As the viewer, you know that the film has to end, which translates into the eventuality that Jesse has to leave, if he wants to make his flight. This tension mounts in the film, as the characters realize that time is passing for them too, in the microcosm of that afternoon as well as in the grander scale of their lives.

And the last scene of the film is so good. Because it's simple on the surface, but complicated beneath. There were some gasps in the audience as the credits rolled. So good.

Amazing work from all involved. Julie Delpy contributes three original songs to the soundtrack. There's almost a sense of meta-narrative concerning Hawke's character. The few jabs at America/Americanism are understated or, in some cases, deserved. (She says, "I'm glad you're not one of those 'freedom fries' Americans." But he later calls her a Communist because her cat's named Che and she spent time in pre-Fall Eastern Europe. So the political dialogue is generally light.) I've read some reviews that compare the themes in this film to some of the themes in Lost in Translation. I can see where they're making the connection. Yeah, it's pretty much that good.

Overall, it's an absolute beauty. If you're so inclined and the scandalous dialogue won't offend you, go see it. Drive four hours to see it. It's only 80 minutes long, but not a minute is wasted.

A Thing of Beauty

I think I've found one of the most tragically beautiful songs in the world. Thank you, Radio@Netscape.

"I Hope that I Don't Fall in Love With You"
by Tom Waits

Well I hope that I don't fall in love with you
'Cause falling in love just makes me blue,
Well the music plays and you display your heart for me to see,
I had a beer and now I hear you calling out for me
And I hope that I don't fall in love with you.

Well the room is crowded, there's people everywhere
And I wonder, should I offer you a chair?
Well if you sit down with this old clown, take that frown and break it,
Before the evening's gone away, I think that we could make it,
And I hope that I don't fall in love with you.

I can see that you are lonesome just like me, and it being late,
You'd like some some company,
Well I've had two, I look at you, and you look back at me,
The guy you're with has up and split, the chair next to you's free,
And I hope that you don't fall in love with me.
And I hope that you don't fall in love with me.

Now it's closing time, the music's fading out
Last call for drinks, I'll have another stout.
Turn around to look at you, you're nowhere to be found,
I search the place for your lost face, guess I'll have another round
And I think that I just fell in love with you.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

"You make it easy..."

I'm sitting here, ten minutes past closing time, listening to Radio@Netscape and feeling generally groovy. And I select the radio channel "90's Indie." And it starts playing a song i heard literally years ago. And the memories flood back unabated.

Instead of fighting it, I want to feel it through. So I do.
You smile at my answer,
You've given me the chance,
To be held and understood.

You leave me laughing without crying,
There's no use denying,
For many times I've tried,
Love has never felt as good.

Be it downtown or way up in the air,
When your heart's pounding,
You know that I'm aware.

You make it easy to watch the world with love,
You make it easy to let the past be done,
You make it easy.

How'd you do it ? How'd you find me ?
How did I find you ?
How can this be true ?
To be held and understood.

Keep it coming - no one's running
The lesson I'm learning
'Cause blessings are deserved
By the trust that always could

Be it downtown or way up in the air,
When your heart's pounding,
You know that I'm aware.

You make it easy to watch the world with love,
You make it easy to let the past be done,
You make it easy.

You make it easy to watch the world with love,
You make it easy to let the past be done,
You make it easy.

("You Make it Easy" by Air.)

"Housekeeping--would you like me to fluff your pillow?"

Brief update: Fixed a few links, added a few links. For some reason, had Lucas but not Sarah. Apologies, m'am. That's fixed now. Also, I think I fixed Clack's link too.

Added junkmail for blankets. Good stuff, as stated earlier.

And from the "How do you people find me???" file, greetings to new readers, including Mrs. EbonyBlue. Welcome, friend.

If you have been "lurking" for some time (like matt) or just recently started stopping by every once in a while, please sign in below, just to say hi. And if you can remember, or care to recall, add how you ended up at my digital door. I'm just curious.


This post has been brought to you by self-involvement and curiosity.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Starting Over

I'm very agitated right now. Restless. Easily provoked. A combination of boredom and frustration and, well frankly, friskyness. Like "T-N-T", as my earlier AC/DC reference stated.

So I shall avoid all incendiary subjects like war or politics or best CDs of the 90's (see Michele for that), by looking at something that both soothes (in general) and frustrates me (in specific)--revisions.

I read a really simple but dead-on accurate quote yesterday, from the great King himself: "Only God gets it right the first time."

Writerly types like to crank out a poem or story or epic novel, and then think it's done. It's perfect as it is. No need to change more than a comma or two. We often don't like editing. We think every scene is important, every description is rife with symbolism, every dialogue is brimming with import and drama. I'm this way. But most of the time, every first draft needs a good butchering. Cut away the fat, get to the unmarbled red of it all.

When I finish any creative work (which is becoming alarmingly rare these days), I have a hard time placing it on the cutting board, pulling out my teacher's pen, and making my darling bleed with every stroke.

But sometimes we must do that. We have to cut the cord, so the child can be born, wash away all the unnecessary elements that helped it gestate, and clean it up so it can grow.

And sometimes, we have to kill our darling little stories and poems. And it hurts us as much as it hurts them.

I began writing a novel when i was in school. A little quest epic, a medieval fantasy, equal parts Narnia and "The Eyes of the Dragon." Heavy religious undertones. Predictable but entertaining (in my opinion, anyway). I got nine chapters in, and then stopped. I don't know why. School, theatre, girls--any number of reasons, I suppose. But I never got back to it. It's still in my desk drawer. Thirty pages of narrative, an unfinished quest, an untested hero, and an undefeated villain.

I don't remember the quote, but I'm fairly sure that it was Annie Dillard who talked about writers being made up of their experiences. That a story you begin writing today will be finished by a different person tomorrow. And it's absolutely true. Which is why I can't finish my book, such as it is. Because I am a stranger to the idealistic young man who began it, a boy so full of dogma and ideology, so militaristic in his religious zeal. I'm no less fervent, but my righteous indignation, such as it is, is more evenly spread around the table, at both the "just" and "unjust."

I've looked at the story since, and blushed from shame. So many errors, "hundreds, almost thousands, of adverbs" (as King would gasp), and a cliche-riddled quasi-hero, buckling under his own rhetoric. But beneath the dust and love, beneath the mistakes of a student striving for "literature", is the skeleton of a story I still believe in, a story I still feel called to write.

Yes, called. There have been countless discussions of the "will of God" and to what degree of specificity it's applied to each human life. Well, I know (for my belief is full) that I'm supposed to be a writer, and I just as fully know that, if nothing else, I'm supposed to at least finish one story in my lifetime. The story of Warren, who is called Ezeki, who makes his stand against a world aligned to destroy him.

And the critical voices that have told me in the past that I can put off writing until later, that I should just take it easy--these voices tell me that the story is a waste of time. Even now, as I type, they snicker at the last paragraph, they call it cheesy and cliched and foolish. Why should you waste your time writing the predictable religious fiction you have railed against for so long? Why should you give up pursuing a possibly successful mainstream career to run after so ridiculous a goal?

Because I must. Because this is what I was made to do.

I will put the nine chapters away. I will collect my notes, my torn half-sheets, my lines scribbled on paper napkins and church handouts, in a bundle. I will hit "New" on the Microsoft Word screen. And I will begin again.

And when it's all done, I'll revise. I'll refine. I'll pound out the pure bleeding red of the story I was born to tell, cutting away the white that doesn't fit.

I'm determined to finish my own quest. And I will strive to do so.

Very soon.

Monday, July 05, 2004

"Lemme explain--no, there is too much, lemme sum up..."


Okay, I had a really clever and link-filled list (a la Manders) of interesting news items. But Blogger is having some hardcore issues (item six, I think) so I lost the entire post.

So, a substitute list, without as many links. Look them up yourself. It builds character.

--Cubs swept the Sox. Rock on.
--Read Junkmail for Blankets. Really good stuff.
--Greetings to Esther and any other Canadian readers.
--Marlon Brando died. He was an American film icon. And a great Sky Masterson.
--Coach K is staying at Duke. Whoopity doo. Let's get on with our lives now.
--If I owe you an email, chill a little while longer, and you'll get one.
--This is really funny. (Props to Michele)
--Something else.

That's it. Paz.

"Cuz I'm T-N-T, I'm dyn-o-mite..."

Last night was a singular experience, as well as a thoroughly atypical Independence Day holiday.

I put my hands on several hundred dollars' worth of fireworks and didn't get to light a one.

My friend Mike works at a fireworks warehouse during his holidays from school. He said they were understaffed for the holiday rush, and wanted to know if I would come in to help out.

And, like Holly Golightly, I agreed, for the sheer fact that I'd never done that before.

So for five hours, I hawked fireworks in a warehouse.

(Actually, I did have an ulterior motive. Mike is a buddy from high school that I usually hang out with every summer and winter, when he's home from school. However, lately, I haven't been able to hang out with him, with so much activity going on in my life. I realized the other day that if I was going to ask him to help me move at the end of the month, I'd need to make time to hang out with him a bit first. As such, this opportunity provided not only time to say hi, but also a nice quid-pro-quo set-up to cinch his cooperation in OPERATION MOVE-DAVE on the 30th.)

It was actually pretty entertaining. You can spot right off which kids will use these explosive gifts for evil instead of good. The ones who won't look you right in the eye, and won't smile at all. The ones scared of getting questioned, getting caught. Ah, youth!

Then there are the guys in their thirties who are pooling their money to buy the PRO 4 artillery shell set with 48 rounds of single, double, and triple explosions (sale-priced at around $140). All in all, they dropped close to $300 for fireworks. And not a single one had a kid with them.

I was lucky to get a string of Black-Cats and a couple bundles of bottle-rockets.

I will admit, the excitement of so many kids was infectious, and by the end of the evening, I nearly asked to be paid in merchandise.

So all told, an unusual holiday, but well worth the six bucks an hour I got for it.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

"Is he strong? Listen, bud..."

I've given you a day and a half. That should be more than enough.

Here's the promised post/discussion/review of Spiderman 2:

Author's Note: The following will contain rampant plot spoilers of the new "Spiderman" film. If you haven't seen the film yet--what the heck is wrong with you? It's been out for almost two freakin days already!!! Geez! What are you, some kind of Commie? Anyway, be advised. I'm gonna ruin the surprises for you. So don't read this until you go see the movie TONIGHT. Seriously. Go.

When the first Spiderman film came out in 2002, I was excited. This was in the naive days pre-Daredevil, and I didn't have a healthy cynicism about modern comic-book movies. I allowed myself to get psyched about it, and it was great. I loved it.

Upon further review (i.e. home video), I realized that, for all its goodness, it was also quite a cheesefest. The Green Goblin reminded me too much of a Power Rangers villain. Uncle Ben's famous line kept repeating over and over again. But despite this, I still liked the film. Sam Raimi had a really good vision of the story. Any movie with a Bruce Campbell cameo is good. And it had Willem Dafoe, who just rocks.

Fast-forward to 2004. As movie-goers, we've suffered through Daredevil, The Hulk, and The Punisher. We don't trust comic-book movies like we used to. Even X-Men 2, a righteous film, can't fully restore our faith in comic adaptations. And along comes the Spiderman sequel, and we squirm, because it is a sequel after all, and almost all sequels are rotten re-hashes.

It's amazing to note that this movie has received a love-fest of critical praise. At my new favorite movie site, it shows that the film has gotten 132 positive reviews and only 7 negative ones. That's a phenomenal percentage. A cynic would wonder if it's just because comic book adaptations as of late have been mostly crap, that this movie looks stellar by comparison.

Is this overwhelming critical worship undeserved? In a word, no. The movie earns it. Maybe not all of it. But most.

Spiderman 2 is simply a great film. Great film. I really enjoyed it.

That is not to say that the film had its flaws. But overall, I was completely satisfied with it.

The Story (for those of you who have forgotten or are reading this before seeing it): Two years after the events of the first movie, Peter Parker is a college student, trying to make ends meet with two jobs, get all his homework done, and oh yeah, there's the whole super hero thing. But the problem is, he can't do it all. As his commitment to being the Webslinger grows, he starts to lose ground in the other areas of his life, and everyone lets him hear about it. Mary Jane isn't waiting around for him, but instead takes up with Peter's newspaper editor's son, a famous astronaut. She's also the hot new thing on Broadway in a revival of "The Importance of Being Earnest" (a play about juggling two identities; coincidence? of course not). Finally, after even his powers start to fade, Peter decides to give up being the hero, and get a life. And everything starts to turn around for him, except... The city needs its hero. Peter's scientific idol, Dr. Otto Octavius, turned himself into a monster, accidentally killing his wife in the process, and now wants to finish his experiment, no matter what the cost. Ultimately, the movie is about making the tough choices for the good of others, even if it means sacrificing your own desires to do so. Peter reclaims his destiny, defeats the bad guy, wins back the girl, and saves the day--for now...

Important themes: The theme of choice is the "through-line" of the movie. Each character has to make a major choice in this one: Peter chooses between being normal and being super; MJ has to pick between the love she can't count on, and the fiance she can't love. Harry has to choose whether or not pursuing vengeance is a good idea, especially when he finds out that his prey is also his best friend. Doc Ock (a lame name, btw) has to decide whether to risk the lives of New Yorkers, just to pursue his experiment. Even Aunt May has a choice to make: whether or not to forgive Peter after she learns the truth about Ben's death. Every character has to make a difficult choice; sometimes the right choice means sacrificing what you want for what others need, and sometimes it means doing what your heart knows is right, rather than what is sensible.

Another interesting theme is balance. This isn't as explicitly explained but it is present. Peter's main struggle is his attempt to find balance between his real identity or his super-alter-ego. He thinks that he can really only be one or the other. And it's interesting to see that when his personal life is struggling the most, it affects his 'professional' life. He loses the ability to sling webs and climb walls when he's at his most depressed about the MJ situation. In the end, he has to realize that the only way he can be either is to be both. Each part of his life must have an equal weight. Another balance theme was the fact that the micro-chip connected to the robotic tentacles on the Doc's back helped him to control them. But once the chip was destroyed, the balance was, as well, and they controlled him. I don't know. Food for thought.


Things I didn't like: well, the only part of the movie I had a problem with was the script. Now, a bad script can make or break a movie. The script for Spiderman 2 wasn't "bad", but I noticed that it was performing the same balancing act as Peter--there were awesome parts, and there were hopelessly cheesy parts. In the end, it found its balance, too. But still, some of the lines were kinda lame. And the rehash of Otto's words at the end of the movie was kinda cliched. Note to future screenwriters: when your formerly-good character goes awry, never EVER allow another character to quote their words back to them, via "But I remember when you told me once that [INSERT REHASHED MESSAGE HERE]. That good person is still inside you." Etc. etc. This "good person inside you" technique was first employed by George Lucas in Return of the Jedi, which seems to indicate the beginnings of his slide into screenwriting dementia. Also, there were too many zoom-in shots of people screaming. I was thinking, "okay, they're scared, I've got it!"

Things I liked quite a bit: The action scenes were fantastic. There were some really great script moments. Bruce Campbell as "Snooty Usher" was fantastic. Alfred Molina was a great villain--and well done him, for a being a less-than-buff man going shirtless through half the movie. And overall, I really really liked the fact that this movie examined the psychological motivations of its characters, especially Peter. That's what makes great comic books great. It isn't about the violence or the gadgetry or the costumes (that's part of it, though). The crux of it is the sub-text, the symbolism, the exploration of basic human struggles and emotions. That's why stories like X-Men still resonate. Because everyone feels like an outsider once in a while. And like Peter Parker, everyone has to balance the different areas in their lives, even if it means giving up some things (or people) for the good of others.

Favorite Sequence: The train sequence (an obvious choice). When they carried his unconscious body over their heads (superhero crowdsurfing!). And yes, I know, it was kinda cheesy too. And there were some stupid kids in the theatre who snickered at everything remotely melodramatic. So that took away from it some. But when they put him down and one of the passengers said, "look, he's just a kid", I felt myself well up a bit. Stop laughing. It's a good moment. The people realize that he's not a monster, just a guy trying to help out.

Setting up the Next Chapter: And I'm really glad that Raimi set up the third chapter with the last scene in the movie. I'm not going to describe it, because I pity you silly folks who are still reading and haven't seen it. I'm not going to take *that* away from you. But I'm glad that they're following the logical progression of events, in true "comic-book" style. Woot for the Norman Osbourne cameo. Yeah, he's still creepy. Also interesting to note, that two more future villains were introduced in this movie. These villains started out as good/neutral characters but become evil due to unforeseen circumstances. I'm not going to mention that either, but if you really want to know, read the IMDB discussion board for the movie. It was quite an education for me. And now I have to read up on the comics, because I'm interested.

Hooray for Happy Endings: And yes, I'm being a girl, but yay for getting them together. Holy crap, it's about freakin time. And how about when Peter has to leave at the end, and MJ says, "Go get 'em, tiger." Yowsa. What guy wouldn't want to hear that? Yeah, i'd be screaming "yahoo!" too, pal.

Or Was It?: The last shot of Mary Jane is her looking out the window at her new love with a rather worried expression, as the police sirens wail in the background. Raimi is clearly foreshadowing the emotional conflict of the next film: dealing with the constant worry that your super-hero boyfriend won't make it back from his exploits.

Final Analysis: This was simply a great film, as I said. It deserves just about all the praise it's gotten. The melodrama and the slightly cheesy dialogue are present, yes, but that's the nature of the beast. (What do you want, "My Dinner with Andre"? Okay, maybe if you have the action figures to go with it, but still...) It's a comic book movie--everything's heightened. All in all, a great story. Darker and moodier than the first one, this film plays like "Empire" to the first one's "New Hope." And everyone knows Empire was better.