Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Intensely watching movies: the reveal

So my plans came to fruition and we managed to see enough of the major Oscar contenders to feel in the know when the awards were presented. That gave me the opportunity to feel cheated when No Country for Old Men won the Best Picture prize.

I love the Coen brothers, but I will never see how you can vote for a soul-less hit man movie to be Best Picture. The only way that works for me is if people base their judgement on some kind of technical standards, because you can't argue that NCforOM is not very well made. But I guess I am looking for more than technical perfection. I want a great film to teach me something about humanity, reveal some wisdom about life, inspire me - it's got to be something more than a thrill ride. NCforOM is in the same category as Silence of the Lambs - great flick, scary, entertaining, but in the end, empty of meaning.

Even the critics have trouble finding any deeper meaning, for the most part.

"...the movie demonstrates how pitiful ordinary human feelings are in the face of implacable injustice." - Roger Ebert

"...unsettling notions about the bloody, absurd intransigence of fate and the noble futility of human efforts to master it." - A.O Scott

"...a literate meditation...on America's bloodlust for the easy fix....Recent movies about Iraq have pushed hard to show the growing dehumanization infecting our world. No Country doesn't have to preach or wave a flag — it carries in its bones the virus of what we've become." -Peter Travers
Oooh, the virus of what we've become. Strong stuff. I think the most meaningful interpretation of this film is that the persistent evil in the film is Islamic fundamentalism represented by the hit man - relentless, mirthless, vengeful, operating under a set of principles no one else can understand. But that interpretation is too "flag waving" for Rolling Stone, I guess, or any of the other major critics.

Since the Oscars, I've been kind of obsessed with understanding why people thought this movie was this year's best - especially in light of how much more there is to get from There Will Be Blood. There's a film that gives you some insight into the human condition. That's what I'm looking for. That and a good milkshake. For that matter, if you had a milkshake I would take my long straw from across the room and I...drink...your...MILKSHAKE! I DRINK IT UP!

See the Daniel Day Lewis movie and that will all make sense. Sort of.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Consuming mass quantities of film

I don't know why it matters, but I always try to see all the movies nominated for the big Oscars before the awards are handed out. I guess I want some sense of ownership when the prizes are announced, and I want to option to say "Oh, what a farce! Any fool could see that The Long Noisy Exhalation was a far finer film than The Osprey Sings at Lunch! The Academy is all about politics!" or "It's obvious that Garson Canard only got the nod for Mr. Annoying this year because he was passed over last year for his much better portrayal in The Hemlines of Peoria." If I haven't seen any of the movies, all I can do is sit there and say "Oh, she won? What do you know? Must have been good."

And running out to see the winners after the awards is too herd mentality for me. The last thing I want to do is cram into a theater with a bunch of losers who couldn't get off the couch and get out before the Academy Awards - in other words, a bunch of losers just like me. That's bad company.

So although this year I have had a piss poor success level in getting my viewing done in a timely fashion, one should never give up and never give in. Or give way. Or give out. So we are making a last ditch effort to see as many nominees as possible in the waning hours before Sunday's Oscars.

Thursday night it was Eastern Promises on DVD. A little bloody and cruel for Mrs. Blogger, but a super excellent film for me, I give it eleven stars. Last night it was Elizabeth: The Golden Age, again on DVD. Love that Cate Blanchett, and love those old England period pieces. Just watched the other Elizabeth film recently, along with season one of The Tudors, so this one was right in my wheelhouse, and seeing the Spanish Armada go up in CGI flames was sweet. I doubt that Viggo Mortensen or Blanchett will win Oscars, but these are two real good movies.

For today's action packed adventure, I have located a theater (The Rialto in Santa Rosa) where we can see No County for Old Men in the early PM and There Will Be Blood right after. That would be after The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which is playing in my living room in about five minutes. So far, the evening is open. And since the Oscars don't start until 5pm Sunday, we have time for a couple more viewings tomorrow. Wish me luck, and send Visine.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The restaurant as metaphor

About three days ago, a restaurant by the name of Taylor's Automatic Refresher opened in Napa. This is the third Taylor's in the world - the original is about 20 miles north in St. Helena (that's the original in the photo), and the second one is about 45 miles south in San Francisco.

The original Taylor's was a classic old roadside drive in burger joint. They probably had car hops back in the day. In 1999, these two brothers, Joel and Duncan Gott, bought the old place and restored it. (The Gott name is big these days. They have Palisades Market in Calistoga, and there's Joel Gott wine, too, which is a great value, and Joel is part of the Three Thieves label as well.)

When they took over Taylor's, the menu was reworked to reflect a contemporary Napa Valley food and beverage perspective. What that means is, you can get a chil cheese dog for $4.99, or you can get the Ahi Burger with ginger wasabi mayo for $13.99. You can get a $3.99 grilled cheese sandwich (American cheese on white bread, just like mom used to make) or a $8.99 Chinese chicken salad that mom would never have thought to make.

Now there are lots of places that have that kind of menu diversity. But the head spinner comes when you check the drink menu and discover you can have a Dr Pepper or a milkshake with your burger, or instead have a glass of 2005 Caymus Cabernet for $20. That's $20 a glass, not $20 a bottle. Or if you're really thirsty, how about a $295 bottle of 2003 Shafer Hillside Cab to wash down your onion rings? Or on the other hand, they have Pabst Blue Ribbon in cans.

For me this paints a vivid picture of Napa in the year 2008. There's the underlying Kaiser Steel-Mare Island Shipyard-Buttercream Bakery worldview and appetite, with several layers of "broader reality" on top - layers of Robert Mondavi and Alice Waters and Julia Child and, lately, a little Gavin Newsom - making a complex brew that makes the new Napa hard to define.

In the end, not everybody can enjoy $295 bottles of wine, but everybody likes a root beer float, right? There's a lesson in there somewhere.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Year of the Beard: The Bandwagon

I just hate it when people copy me, but when you are a fashion trend setter - well, it's a burden that I have to bear, you know? Here's the deal:

Read the story here.

Once all these follow fashion monkeys start aping my cutting edge ways, it just ruins it for me so I guess I will have to go invent the next hot new trend.

Remember that Flock of Seagulls hair...?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fake it 'til you make it

Get ready to fire off your best smears on the public education system - with the awareness that Mrs. Blogger is a teacher and I may get all medieval on you as a result - but go ahead, sure. Here's the trigger:
John Corcoran graduated from college and taught high school for 17 years without being able to read, write or spell. (This from San Diego's Channel 10. Full story here.)
The story is amazing, sad, astonishing, and above all, a tribute to the human capacity to adapt to obstacles. Amazing to think a person could make it all the way through college being totally illiterate, but then to walk back into the fire by choosing to be a teacher - astonishing.

I knew a local guy who was a successful businessman, pillar of his community, even a County Supervisor, who I swear could not read a word. I became suspicious of his literacy at one point and took an opportunity to test him in a way, sliding a note to him during an interview and asking "what do you think of this?" The way he dodged it made me even more sure he could not read it. My neighbor has a 3-legged dog that seems to be just about as happy as your typical 4-legged variety, so I guess all species have some powerful adaptation mechanisms. I am a bit in awe of a person who could survive and thrive in the first world today without being able to read and write. I am taking this story as an inspiration, and I am not going to take even a moment to consider how appalled I am that a person could be illiterate and also get a degree and become a teacher. I will segment off my horror and focus on my amazement.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Hope springs eternal

Like the snail said after he was mugged by the turtle - "It all happened so fast." One minute we're there watching some guy you never heard of catching the most important pass of the Superbowl up against his face, and the next minute it's Fat Superbowl Tuesday (guess it's a four-day weekend now, which is a sweet deal. I'm already planning a little vacation for February 2012. Maybe Carnival in Rio? I've always wanted to prance about in a fish suit.) and we're doing the red state-blue state war games again. Hardly got Christmas kicked to the curb and we're like 1/9th of the way through the year already and here it is almost VD. Boy, that ol' tempus sure does fugit, don't it?

Just a few more ticks of the clock and W will be backing his U Haul up to the door and loading up his malaprops and it will be off to Lazy Brain Ranch in Texas to cut the dickens out of that brush. (Ever notice how only Republican Presidents like to cut brush? Old Reagan would just cut the shit out of the brush every weekend. I think during the week they had to plant more brush so he would have some to cut. Can you picture Bill Clinton out cutting brush? Not likely. Then again, I never pictured Bill becoming an elder statesman and being some kind of BMOC for the Dems, so maybe my picturing mechanism is on the fritz.)

This is all by way of saying that I can see the light at the end of the tunnel on what seemed like the eternal Presidential campaign from hell. It's not the beginning of the end, buy maybe the end of the beginning now. Pretty soon it will be only McCain left standing for the brush cutters, and either Clobama or Obilary and we'll be talking about running mates. That's assuming Huckabilly (thanks to Frank for that tag, I love it) doesn't go third party and secede from the Union.

From my own personal point of view (which if you hadn't noticed is what this blog specializes in) I got what I wanted from Super Fat Tuesday - the two Dems neck and neck, meaning we'll hear a lot more from them about policy before the choice is made, and McCain the presumptive nominee for the 'Publicans. I don't like Hilary much, but at least she knows what she's doing, which is more than we can say for some Presidents who will soon be cutting brush. Obama is untested and underexperienced, but he has the passion and I can believe he wants to do the right things. And McCain - I've always liked him, and even though he's got some policies I don't care for, if Rush Limbaugh is trying to sink him then he can't be all bad. A cynic could even feel optimistic at this moment. In theory.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Year of the Beard: Week 6

This just in - the beard has passed the "scruffy" stage is approaching the "gnarly" point as we end week six. I continue to receive a steady stream of comments. Most people say something like "it looks good" which is questionable. Other are more direct with a comment like "it's really coming in" which tells me we're reaching that gnarly stage. Also interesting that men tend to see it as a challenge of sorts - many will say "I can't grow a beard like that" as if I am performing some kind of trick. There is clearly a manhood issue - guys who have spotty beards feel they have been denied some aspect of maleness, I guess.

While the nasty thing is keeping my face warm on these "cold" winter mornings, I don't know how long I can stand it. Chances are the beard has about 4 weeks to live.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Soylent green IS people after all

To mark this blog's first birthday, I gift to you this real email I received at work this week. I am not making this up.

After studying the anatomy of pigs and humans, I wonder if human is being served as pork. Pork has been called the other white meat. Why is pork so red and bloody now? Humans have a certain number of ribs, and pork has several more than human. I have studied the Niman Ranch web site, and wonder if their meat is really pork. Are the roasts really from the back of a pig? Could the ambulance drivers who do "dementia management" as discribed on the Sacramento First Responder website be actually taking the body to a butcher. Do ambulances have GPS tracking devices on them? Is there a GPS database of where the ambulances have been? The church of euthanasia has a how to butcher a human discription http://www.churchofeuthanasia.org/e-sermons/butcher.html. (Editor's note: this site has a lot of really offensive stuff on it. I wouldn't go there if I were you.) Where are all the Niman Ranch farms? In my town the ambulance company also owns old folks homes, and a medical supply company. Could the bodies of the elderly be taken to these homes for 'resuscitation' instead of the hospital? What is dementia management? Are the drivers being instructed by a "voice to skull" system to not go to the hospital because of some kind of non-existent exotic disease that effects the elderly in the middle of the night? Could it be that these people own their home outright or be almost done paying for it? Could this be a conspiracy to keep people paying for the same house again and again, instead of giving it to their children? Why is the number of missing people difficult to find on the web? Is there a coverup involving missing people? Voice to skull was invented in 1974, patent 6587729 http://www.raven1.net/6587729.htm. Napa piner ambulance http://www.pinersambulance.com/ Why does Niman Ranch have two new Napa pork roasts? Where are the pig farms in Napa?
Yikes. I'm speechless. My best guess is that Napa State Hospital is allowing the patients internet access? I hope this guy is not out walking the streets.