Wednesday, December 02, 2009

So that's what you're telling me, eh?

Someone named Taylor Lautner is on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine and it ticks me off. On one hand, he’s not even a musician, which, in a perfect world, would tend to disqualify him from being on the cover of one of the most influential music magazines on the planet. On the other hand, it ticks me off because men are more like women than I would care to admit.

The fact that women can become insanely jealous of each other’s looks, possessions, and social status is as much of a secret as a pair of slacks in a 99 cent store. The thing that is much more surprising is that men aren’t immune to this kind of thing, no matter how much we may deny it. Now, we may not eye each other like women do, but we certainly notice things about other human beings dependent on testosterone. Chicks have it better anyway in their examinatory comings and goings. We're not so much to look at. We would definitely eye a woman up and down if we were you, but we’re probably not be going over the same kind of checklist that you lovely creatures from the other side of the aisle are.

A big area where I think we genders differ is in the way we relate to the person we’re checking out. Women tend to look at the other woman’s clothes and sense of style, combine it with a quick judgment of her character, and then ascertain whether or not she looks good or not. It might be more accurate to say that it’s not just how she looks or what she’s wearing, but how she’s wearing it and if she seems to be showing sufficient humility for what she's been given. Guys look at other guys and use a different set of criteria. We look at another guy and wonder why in the world the beautiful woman on his arm would want to be with him. Then, many times, we get jealous.

I’m not suggesting that I don’t look also look at the (often inane) fashion choices made by other dudes. I do, and believe you me, most guys are clueless and would probably do better if their moms dressed them. Here’s what I am driving at. I am not as jealous of certain guys if I feel that they deserve what they have. Tom Hanks? He’s just so down-to-earth and up front with who he is that he probably deserves more credit than he gets. Bono? He may be a little annoying sometimes, but he’s got the major charisma factor thing going. Plus, he’s a fantastic writer. Both of those guys are married to beautiful women and seem like they're really happy, so for these and the above reasons, they get a pass.

But Taylor Lautner? Who the heck is he? What has he done to deserve all these thousands of people (especially women) drooling over him? What has he done to deserve the level of fame he’s going to have for, potentially, the rest of his life? He pretended to be a werewolf in a movie? He pretended to be a werewolf in a movie.

This is where I suppose I take a page from the manual of the sisterhood. I look at that picture and just don’t get why he should have all that stuff and I don’t.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


What Saint Stephen Saw

I know what Saint Stephen saw on the day he died
Late afternoon, middle of June
Shadows creeping through the dune
And all around him an angry mass
Each throwing bigger stone
Than ones before.

His mind wandered
As came the sandstone rain
To shower him with loving touch
And caress him quiet through thoughts of much
Happiness and notions of coming joy
to follow breaking of the body, divine toy.

“Why is it that we’ve come this way?”
said Stephen quietly, day running away
Rock claiming left eye, jolt of pain shaking
From bare bloody foot to sandaled twisted toes
“Solitary death was mine, not this display through which to die.”
And a young man standing off at side.

He knew the time was nigh
Unhindered eye searching the sky for sign of life
Then the final blow
Looking up, seeing nothing
A brokenhearted man turned
And told a lie about the light.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

It may be long, but it's the truth

My relationship with U2 began when I was in high school, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and the world was new. I used a gift certificate to buy a copy of The Joshua Tree, because I’d heard that that was supposedly their landmark achievement. I wasn’t completely enamored with it at first, because the music that I grew up on was usually of a quieter variety and almost always featured a vocalist with a silky smooth touch. As you might imagine, these factors weren’t exactly conducive to my appreciation of a band like U2. Times have changed, and for the better.

In time, U2 became my favorite band, and, currently, occupy a space in my version of the musical trinity with Bob Dylan and Radiohead. I first saw them live in 2005 with my best pal and my younger brother at Staples Center in Los Angeles on their Vertigo tour in support of How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. That show remains one of the finest shows I’ve ever seen. We may have been in the final row of the last section with our backs to the wall and our seats behind the stage at a diagonal, but it was an incredible night. We hardly used our seats all night. Before that night, I’d told my pal that U2 was the best live band in the world, to which he replied with a certain degree of skepticism, “I’m not sure about that.” After the show was over and we were driving back home, I asked him if he’d changed his mind. The answer was, not surprisingly, “yes.” As the years passed and we’ve both seen more shows, I’m not sure if we’d answer that question exactly the same way, but I think neither of us would (or could) deny that U2 is in the top tier of live acts currently performing today.

So, when U2 announced the dates for their 360 Tour, I eagerly began planning exactly how we were going to land tickets. Sure enough, in April when the tickets went on sale for the Rose Bowl show last Sunday, there were 3 people in my house on 3 different computers trying to score tickets. We landed 6 tickets: 2 seats up high for my pal, 2 more of the same for my brother’s friend, and 2 on the field for me and my brother. We were stoked.

So, finally, after months of waiting, October 25 rolled around and it was time to go. We got to the Rose Bowl at about noon, and got in the GA line, where we stayed for several hours. The waiting actually wasn’t too bad. We were right behind a couple of very cool people who we befriended and were able to pass the time with. After a while, the concert people (or whatever their official title is) came through the line writing numbers on our hands. Mine was 1866. I asked the guy what it meant, but he told me he was tired and that I should ask another guy behind him. No joke. And this was after the lady writing on my hand rudely told me to make a fist so it’d be easier to write. Look, I was grateful to have a number on my hand and all, but what happened to good manners and good service? More on that later . . . Anyway, I found out that the number meant that we had a good chance getting inside the inner circle and be closest to the stage. (all U2 tours since 2000 have featured an inner circle created by a ramp in the shape of a heart, ellipse, or circle. That way, the band can “go out into the crowd” and get closer to the fans.) Apparently, the circle holds about 2500 fans, although the guy thought it was between 1500-2000. We were really excited at the thought of getting inside that area. Traditionally, the inner circle is pretty tough to get inside and is reserved either for fan club members or for those whose tickets were winners of a lottery. When we left the house that morning, we’d had no idea that we’d even have a chance at getting in there. Then we had to get wristbands and have a hole punched in our tickets, which we thought only increased our odds.

The above is all the calm before the storm . . .

The doors were supposed to open at 5 PM. Given that info, we (and those around us) planned to be ready to go at that time. We figured we’d have the time to use the bathroom and take stuff back to the car if we did it around 4 or so. Right?

Wrong. At 4:24 PM, I was in line for the bathroom, and my brother was in line for merchandise on the other side of the stadium. Our place in line was secure with our new friends. I’m about 50-60 people back (there were FOUR portable toilets at that location. FOUR!) and the GA line starts moving forward. I take off to get back to the line and call my brother. I thought he told me that he was back in line. When I get there, he’s not there. I call him again and find out that he’s still in the incredibly long line for merchandise about halfway to the booth. I try to tell him what’s going on. He doesn’t get it and thinks the line is only moving forward a couple of feet. I finally tell him that I need him to come back right away. Everyone is cutting sideways to get to the main column instead of following the line forward in an orderly fashion. It became apparent that, even though it wasn’t the proper way to do it, cutting forward was the only way to keep up with everyone. I’m still waiting for my brother. Our new friends, after promising to save space for us in the circle (if we all ended up in there) take off to keep up with the crowd and leave me a phone number to get ahold of them. Finally, I move forward with the line and arrange to meet my brother at a point on my route. We meet up and end up in a throng of people at the gate of the Rose Bowl. Suddenly, everyone's all mixed up together, numbered, non-numbered, you name it. People are starting to get angry. I was next to one woman who had number 700-something who was now stuck in the back of the line because she was in line for the bathroom when the line started moving. Finally, we decide to try and move sideways through the line in order to try and move around to meet up with our friends, who were close to the front of the crowd. Well, we got to the other side of the crowd, but moving forward proved impossible. Now, even though many of us had been in line for hours and followed the rules, none of our numbered hands meant squat.

Finally, they started letting us in about 100-200 people at a time, in order to keep a stampede from happening. After getting in, we went down the tunnel to the field, granted easy access because of those wonderful wristbands. When we arrived on the field, we were pretty excited because the area by the stage wasn’t even close to being full. That’s when it happened.
We got up by the stage and saw IT. The entrance to the inner circle. We decided to give it a try and see if we could get in. We made it in without a problem in the world. We wound our way around and found ourselves about 20 feet away from the stage at a diagonal. We were thrilled. We’d planned to try and get as close as we could, but this was RIDICULOUS.

The show started at about 7:15 PM with the Black Eyed Peas, who surprised my brother and I by actually being pretty good. I don’t normally like live hip hop/rap, but they had a lot of energy and really made their set work a lot better than I’d originally thought. We were particularly astounded by Fergie. Now, mind you, I’ve seen her picture a ton of times, but I had no idea of how FINE she is. Seriously, wow. They also had us do a “light wave” with our cell phones, which was a particularly inspired idea. I’ve been to shows where everyone takes out their phone and waves it around, but never one where the guy on stage cued us when to put the lights on and turn them off. Honestly, when you see tens of thousands of lights coming on all around you . . . it’s awesome. It felt like being in the stars or something. Late in their set, said they had a special guest who he wasn't even going to introduce at first. He relented, but all he said was that the guy was "Slash's competition." It was Slash! Who knew? He proceeded to lead the band through a pretty sweet cover of "Sweet Child 'O Mine." It wasn't the last song they did, but it made an already strong set even stronger.

U2 came on at about 9 PM or so. They played about 25 songs, with a nice mix of older and newer songs. (I’ll include the setlist below) Right before they came on stage, David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” played over the sound system, which was pretty awesome. From the get go, they were going for it as far as energy and excitement went. I was particularly moved to hear “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” live. Bono actually stopped singing a few words into the first verse. 96,000 people sang the rest, and, my friend, let me tell you, we sang it very well. After that song finished, Bono and Edge immediately went into a little bit of “Stand By Me,” which seemed to fit for some reason. All in all, there weren’t a ton of surprises as far as the setlist went, although I wasn’t expecting to hear “In a Little While” or the acoustic version of “Stuck In A Moment That You Can’t Get Out Of.” Additionally, the remixed version of “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” was SWEET. All 4 guys were out running around. Bono and Larry ended up back to back over by us at one point, and it was really cool when the Edge started pogoing up and down right behind us. It really ratcheted up the party vibe, which isn’t typical for a U2 show. Another inspired moment came when Bono started singing “Amazing Grace” to segue from “One” to “Where the Streets Have No Name,” which is arguably the greatest song that U2’s got, as far as their live performances go. I’ve often said that, if the world was ending and I could only sing one song, it’d be “Amazing Grace.” Hearing it in that setting was great.

I’d had some doubts about how well the 360 setup was going to work. I’d seen another concert performed in the round, and it hadn’t worked as well as it could have. Fortunately, U2’s stage worked really well. The obligatory walkway really works when the band starts moving around, particularly when one of the guys is right by you. The video screen came down in a really cool way during some songs. It almost created a kind of vortex of light and color. That was pretty awesome, if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, while Bono’s laser jacket that he wore during the second encore worked to a T, the “steering wheel microphone” that he used was one of the lamest stage props I’ve ever seen. Oh well.

The single greatest thing about the evening was how CLOSE we were. It’s almost unbelievable that we were so close to the stage. I’m telling you, I could see the sweat on the back of Bono’s head. That’s how close we were at times. However, the proximity also created its own problems. Sitting down was next to impossible, as was changing positions in such a way as to take the strain off of my back. I was still stiff the next day, to tell you the truth. Would I do the whole GA thing again? I’m still up in the air. U2’s coming to Angel Stadium next June and, while I know I’ll be there, I can’t say that I’m really on board to do that again yet. Part of me would like to be further back so I can take in the show from a wider angle. That said, who knows? I might just change my mind.

All in all, it was a really good night. I would have to give the edge to the Vertigo tour show if I had to pick my favorite of the two U2 shows I’ve seen. That said, the scale of this show was much, much bigger. In addition to the 96,000 people at the Rose Bowl (a record for the venue), approximately 6 million people from all over the world watched the live stream on YouTube, and the show was filmed for a future DVD release. Who knows? Maybe, when I sit my kids down to watch the show one day, I’ll be able to say, “Look, there’s your dad!”

I know this was a bit long, but, all in all, if you have any chance to go see U2, you owe it to yourself to take that chance and go. Trust me.

You’ll be glad you did.

The setlist:
Get on Your Boots
Mysterious Ways
Beautiful Day
I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For
Stuck In A Moment
No Line on the Horizon
In A Little While
Unknown Caller
Until The End of the World
Unforgettable Fire
City of Blinding Lights
I'll Go Crazy - Remix
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Walk On
Where The Streets Have No Name

With or Without You
Moment of Surrender

Monday, August 31, 2009

The dream is over

I learned on Saturday that Oasis, one of my favorite bands, had broken up. More properly, Noel Gallagher, guitarist, occasional vocalist, and principal songwriter, left the band on Friday. Apparently, he found himself at a point where he was no longer willing to deal with his brother, Liam, the band's lead singer. Being somewhat familiar with Liam's past and present antics, I can sympathize, but that doesn't diminish the sadness that I felt when I heard the news.

There have been times when either Noel or Liam wouldn't show up for a gig or left the band temporarily, but this really seems final. I'm very glad that I was able to see them live last year before all this happened. Now, I guess, Noel's finally going to put out that solo album, and Liam's probably going to try keep Oasis going without him. For me though, it's over, and that's a terribly tragic thing.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

An Inside Smile

At Starbucks, there were two men sitting next to each other in the comfortable chairs, enjoying a drink. They didn’t know each other. After a while, one of them got up to leave and stood in line to get another drink or some food or something. Out of the blue, the other guy goes up to him and hands him the cell phone that the he'd accidentally left on his seat. The first guy was, understandably, very grateful and thanked him. Then, right before he walked out the door, he walked back over to the other guy and handed him a Starbucks giftcard in appreciation for his help. I guess chivalry and doing the right thing aren’t dead after all. Yesterday, I felt a small measure of grace.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

riverrun . . .

I sort of have a bit of a dilemma. I enjoy modernist literature . . . well, make that, "I enjoy Virginia Woolf, who's a modernist writer, and I wonder if maybe I might be able to consider myself someone who enjoys modernist literature as a whole." Now, I am interested in approaching the Mount Sinai of modernism, James Joyce. Thing is, I'm concerned that he'd be too hard to read, considering the idiosyncratic style he used in his two most famous works, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. If you're not familiar with what I mean, go do some reading at Amazon here. I think you'll quickly understand what I mean.

So, here's the question. Should I go for it or not? I've gone through this with Joyce before. He's widely considered to be one of the greatest masters of the English language and the pinnacle of modernist literature. Furthermore, his work inevitably shows up (and places very high) on the lists of the greatest novels of the 20th century. For a serious aficionado of literature, Joyce is obviously someone that has to be dealt with. I really don't want to miss out on something great, and I do want to be as well-read as possible. That said, is it possible for something to just be too hard to read? I know of someone who read War and Peace for the express reason that it was considered an impossible book to get through, and I believe that she liked it. I've encountered difficult writing before. Anyone who's read Woolf knows that she's not exactly John Grisham. (although that's a good thing) Reading her work takes commitment and determination, but that perseverance has yielded some wonderful results. There are passages and sentences in her work that are among the finest I've ever read. Perhaps the same approach would work with Joyce.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson (1958-2009)

My heart is heavy tonight. This afternoon, Michael Jackson suddenly had a heart attack and died at the age of 50. This is one of those things that doesn’t seem possible.

In some weird way, I guess a part of me always thought that he would live forever, and his passing has affected me more than I would have guessed it would. I completely recognize that celebrities, despite their elevated social status, are just people and put their pants on in the morning just like everyone else. That said, Michael Jackson was something else entirely. He was a true icon, a remnant of a bygone day when an album could sell 65 million copies and MTV could make someone a star. He was the ultimate performer. He could write. He could sing. He could dance. Oh dear me, could that man dance. . .

I was just a kid back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, but I could clearly see the influence of Michael Jackson. Songs like “Billie Jean,” “Man in the Mirror,” and “Heal the World” were played on the radio all the time. The man was HUGE. These popular entertainers nowadays who think they’re “famous” have no idea. Michael was the closest thing to the Beatles that I will probably ever see.

I remember January 31, 1993. My mother and father sat my older sister and I down in front of the television to watch Michael Jackson perform the halftime show at the Super Bowl. Understand this: my family is not a sports family. Nowadays, I watch basketball and baseball and we now go to a yearly Super Bowl party, but my family is not one that has ever based anything around watching a football game. But for some reason, my parents must have had some inkling that, on this particular overcast Sunday afternoon, something special was going to happen at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. I can still remember snippets of the show. Michael began on one part of the stage, and then, POOF! He vanished in a gust of smoke and reappeared somewhere else accompanied by more smoke. I also remember him (finishing?) the show singing “Heal the World,” accompanied by a children’s choir. The kids were dressed in costumes reflecting clothes worn all over the world. To this day, I have a soft spot in my heart for that song.

What makes me sadder still are the heartless comments that I’ve already seen thrown around by people I know. It’s completely true that Michael’s life was marred by controversy, and terrible accusations were made. A member of my family survived a heart attack several months ago. It was one of the worst days of my life. I don’t think that that kind of thing should be joked about. Regardless of an individual’s opinion of him, Michael was still someone’s son, someone’s brother, and someone’s father. He deserves the same common courtesy that anyone else deserves. As for the callous, insensitive comments made by people I know, I am ashamed. I don’t know if the accusations leveled at him have any truth to them or not. The world may never know for sure. After reading a fairly recent interview with him in Ebony magazine, I was left to think that he was either guilty or he was completely misunderstood.

A phrase that is tossed around a lot is that Michael Jackson was the “King of Pop.” It’s a title that, back in the day, was sort of seen as arrogant and high-minded of him to use. The thing is though, it’s absolutely, unequivocally true. There was no one like him and there may never be anyone quite like him ever again.

The King is dead. Long live the King.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Monet Refuses The Operation

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don't see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolves
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don't know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent. The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases. Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

-Lisel Mueller

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

I dunno

A few days ago, I heard April Fool's Day described as "an atheist holiday." Who says things like that?

Thursday, March 26, 2009


You know what the best thing is that you can say about organized religion?

"Well, it's organized."

Friday, February 20, 2009

One out of 365 . . .

Oscar night. The mere mention of those two words conjurs in my mind a feeling of excitement unlike just about any other that I experience for the rest of the year. Yes, it's true. The Academy Awards are my Superbowl. Months before the ceremony, I'm actively trying to guess what the nominees will be, keeping a keen eye on the Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and the Guild Awards for any sign that might illuminate what might transpire within the minds of the members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. I have watched the telecast since I was a kid. I remember my mother turning it on and seeing the stars arrive on the red carpet. I never used to get to watch the whole telecast, since it invariably went on too long and meant that I had to go to bed. I still love Steve Martin's priceless line from the close of an Oscar telecast, "Well, we've reached the halfway point." So very true.

It's with great sadness that I report that I'll be missing the telecast this year. I am currently in London at the close of a whirlwind tour of Europe and, for the first time in what seems like forever, will not be able to watch the Academy Awards live. Instead, because of the generosity of a friend, I will be able to watch them after I get back. Before I left, I was willing to try to watch them here, whatever the cost. Now, after experiencing the rigors of non-stop travel and how hard it is to keep up with a 9 hour time difference, I feel differently.

However, there's no way in this world or the next that I would leave you without my Oscar picks. I've been trying to pick the winners for years now, with varying degrees of success. This year, I'll just say it. Some of the winners look like sure things, but as I always take care to remind you, this is the Academy we're talking about. They LOVE to make the "screw-you" pick that no one expects. So, while some seem like sure things, you never know.

Best Picture

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Frost/Nixon
  • Milk
  • The Reader
  • Slumdog Millionaire

Predicted winner: Slumdog Millionaire
If I was voting: The Reader
Possible upsets: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Reader

Analysis: Slumdog Millionaire is the obvious favorite. It's won nearly every single major award leading up to Oscar night and received overwhelming critical acclaim. That said, I can't help but feel that it's not entirely deserving of the Academy Award. Don't get me wrong, I liked it a lot and think that it's clearly one of 2008's best films, but I don't think it's got the "pop" that a Best Picture winner should have. Some of this stems from the fact that I think the film has third act problems and is just basically a really well-done feel-good movie. Now, once again, while a win in this category looks like a sure thing, you never know. A few years ago, Brokeback Mountain was in an almost identical position and lost to Crash, much like Saving Private Ryan's loss to Shakespeare In Love. If anything can beat it, I'd have to give the dark horse status to The Reader (never count Harvey Weinstein out of anything. ANYTHING.) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (for some reason, this scenario has a dim glimmer of possibility).

Best Director

  • David Fincher - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Ron Howard - Frost/Nixon
  • Gus Van Sant - Milk
  • Stephen Daldry - The Reader
  • Danny Boyle - Slumdog Millionaire

Predicted winner: Danny Boyle
If I was voting: David Fincher
Possible upsets: David Fincher

Analysis: Danny Boyle has all the momentum, and, perhaps most importantly, the Director's Guild Award. That said, I think the Academy might split the Best Picture/Director awards and reward David Fincher's virtuosic work. While the film itself could have been stronger, the fact that Fincher managed to keep all of the balls in the air and somehow emege with a coherent film is a feat that deserves much more recognition than it's gotten up to this point. So, I'd be somewhat foolish not to pick Boyle, but I'm holding out hope for Fincher.

Best Actor

  • Richard Jenkins - The Visitor
  • Frank Langella - Frost/Nixon
  • Sean Penn - Milk
  • Brad Pitt - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler

Predicted winner: Mickey Rourke
If I was voting: Mickey Rourke
Possible upsets: Sean Penn

Analysis: Basically, Penn and Rourke are the only serious contenders in this category. Penn has a bit more momentum than Rourke at this point, but I think that the Academy might not be able to resist rewarding Rourke's comeback. So, I'm picking Mickey Rourke with the knowledge that it could very easily be Sean Penn's night.

Best Actress

  • Anne Hathaway - Rachel Getting Married
  • Angelina Jolie - Changeling
  • Melissa Leo - Frozen River
  • Meryl Streep - Doubt
  • Kate Winslet - The Reader

Predicted winner: Kate Winslet
If I was voting: Meryl Streep
Possible upsets: Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway

Analyis: I think this award will probably go to Kate Winslet as a kind of consolation prize because she's been regarded as one of the best in the biz for so long without having won. That said, while I'm glad the Academy put her in the right category for this film (finally!), I think that Meryl Streep's performance was much better in the under-appreciated Doubt. There was a moment in that film when Streep gave me goosebumps. You don't fake that. I loved The Reader, but Winslet never got to me on that level. I don't care if Streep's won twice already. I don't care that she always gets nominated and never wins nowadays. This time, I think she's earned it. That said, I still think it's Winslet's night.

Best Supporting Actor:

  • Josh Brolin - Milk
  • Robert Downey, Jr. - Tropic Thunder
  • Phillip Seymour Hoffman - Doubt
  • Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight
  • Michael Shannon - Revolutionary Road

Predicted winner: Heath Ledger
If I was voting: Heath Ledger
Possible upsets: None.

Analysis: This category is closed. No one else stands a chance. Was the buzz around Ledger's turn as the Joker heightened by his untimely death? Absolutely. Was that buzz underserved? Absolutely not. Ledger is that good. I remember when I first heard that he'd gotten the part. I didn't understand why he, of all people had been chosen. Now, I can't imagine anyone else in the part. No one else stands a chance on Sunday night.

Best Supporting Actress

  • Amy Adams - Doubt
  • Penelope Cruz - Vicky Cristina Barcelona
  • Viola Davis - Doubt
  • Taraji P. Henson - The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Marisa Tomei - The Wrestler

Predicted winner: Viola Davis
If I was voting: Marisa Tomei
Possible upsets: Penelope Cruz

Analysis: In the early going, Penelope Cruz had a lot of momentum, until Kate Winslet started getting acclaim for her performance in The Reader. However, after the Academy finally did the right thing and nominated her in the Leading category for that performance, this category has been thrown wide open. I think that Davis has the momentum right now, but Cruz could certainly swoop in for the win. That said, I have to be honest when I say that Marisa Tomei's character in The Wrestler was one of my favorite characters in any film last year. I don't think she'll win, but I loved her all the same. Hold on to your hats and glasses. This is the most open of all the major categories.

In closing, here's hoping that Hugh Jackman knocks it out of the park as the host, David Fincher gets his due, and and Slumdog Millionaire gets brought back down to earth. That balloon needs popping. Good film, but 10 nominations? Get real.

Enjoy the show.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I feel like quoting John Denver

I am going to Europe in 2 days. The family and I are going on one of those tours that you always feel like you'll never do when you go to Europe because you're so much cooler and more culturally aware than those "tourists." Despite that, I am taking a tour. We start in Rome, go to Venice and the Italian lake district, go to Lucerne, travel to Paris, and finish in London. I think it has the potential to be a really great experience, but I'm a little apprehensive. I've never been on a trip of this magnitude before. The biggest one I've been on was when we worked the area from D.C. to New York over the course of about a week. In addition, I hope that the language barrier doesn't become a problem. While we'll be with the group for a lot of the time under the charge of the tour director, there's going to definitely be some time where we'll be able to roam free. I tried to get some students to give me a little French, but I can't remember what I learned. Of course, it probably didn't help that I asked them to teach me how to say, "Your face looks like a cow." I already know it in Japanese, so I was looking to add one more to the repertoire. No matter.

That said, I'll be gone until right after the Oscars. I am incredibly disappointed that I'll be missing the broadcast this year. I would watch them from London, but they'll be on at something like 4 in the morning there. While I would go for it if it was up to me, I'm with 4 other people in close quarters, and they probably wouldn't appreciate me huddled in front of the television keeping them awake. I'm not sure how much internet access I'll have, but I will do my best to get my official predictions done before the broadcast. It's looking kind of anticlimactic this year though, to be honest.

Peace, Love, and Understanding,

Monday, February 09, 2009

On Human Behavior: Part I - The Lament

(When I told a friend of mine that I was going to begin this series, she suggested that it be called “Why People Suck.” While I do agree with the sentiment, I decided to use a different title in the hopes of actually being taken seriously. I have a few things to get off my chest, so we’ll see how long this series lasts.)

I remember hearing many years ago about the potential danger of society’s increased reliance on technology. The reasoning was that an improved ability to communicate for people who are separated by distance could lead to a deterioration in their ability to keep in contact with people close to them. Unfortunately, it seems that this has become the case. I can get my friend from Rochester, NY on the phone whenever I want, but, for the life of me, can’t get in touch with my friend who lives 5 miles away.

And what, I ask, can the excuse be? Is it that tired cliché, “oh, I’ve just been so busy lately”? For the record, that’s terrible reasoning. I’d wager that just about anyone who lives in a metropolitan area can make the same claim. In other words, get over it. Everyone’s busy.
It seems to me too that the increased number of ways that we have to communicate tends to make us more responsible for keeping up with our friends, instead of less responsible. For example, if I want to talk to a friend of mine, I can call her on the telephone, call her on her cell phone, send her a text message, write a letter, email her, send a message/comment through MySpace, chat/message/comment on Facebook, leave a comment on her blog, or drive to her house and say hello. With all of these methods of communication, it strikes me that people are fresh out of excuses to not keep in contact. Even if it’s not feasible for someone to talk for a long period of time, it is not difficult for someone to use one of the multitudes of communication at their disposal to be polite and let someone know that they're valued and have not been forgotten.

For example, I have a friend who called me and left a message about a year ago. I couldn’t take the call, as I was on a date, but I called back and left a message within 2 hours. I’ve never gotten a return call, and that was a year ago. Subsequent attempts to call my friend have proved useless.

I don’t get it. Why has it become socially acceptable to ignore people with the excuse that we’re “busy?” There's an even bigger can of worms when you realize that certain people are getting called back, and you're not. In the day and age we live in, we have so many different ways to express ourselves and keep in contact with friends and family. I think it’s high time we used them.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Things I learned in 2008

  • A lot can happen in one year.
  • If you’re tired and it’s the night before you graduate from college, don’t try to watch Finding Nemo with friends who flew across the country the day before. No one will stay awake.
  • Graduation day is a blast.
  • The government ought to consider May graduates in black robes as an alternative energy source. They generate a LOT of heat.
  • It’s important to graduate with the people who matter to you, even if you have to quickly pull them into line with you as you’re walking forward to “Pomp and Circumstance.”
  • People from high school that you never talked to are actually pretty cool to hang out with. 20-somethings seem to have a lot more in common than teenagers do.
  • Few things scream "trying too hard" more than a male wearing a scarf as a fashion accessory. If you're in extreme weather and in danger of your neck freezing, go for it. If you're in Newport Beach, give it up.
  • It’s impossible for me to watch a Woody Allen movie without stuttering and talking in quips for an hour after it’s done.
  • Apparently, as a teacher, I am the “nicest sadist ever.” It was one of the nicest things a student has ever said to me.
  • People are often absolutely and unequivocally stupid.
  • Chris Tomlin needs to stop. NOW.
  • Politics stinketh.
  • First dates can be terrifying, but, man, are they worth it.
  • I can go a whole week without eating chocolate if I really want to. I didn’t say it was a fun week, but it was possible.
  • Bob Dylan throws away songs that are better than the best stuff most people could ever come up with.
  • At the end of the day, knowing what newspapers you read goes a long way.
  • There really is such a thing as a perfect gift.
  • It’s entirely possible to still be talking about a onetime ride in a Porsche Carrera a year later.
  • It's also still possible for me to find a film that's worth seeing more than once. I will never forget watching There Will Be Blood for the second time with a first-timer. Priceless. On the other hand, I'll never forget seeing There Will Be Blood for the first time myself.
  • True friends can be counted on one hand. Sometimes two hands, but usually one.
  • Sometimes, the people who care are the most unlikely candidates.
  • It can be truly remarkable how many people are there for you when you need them.
  • Hospitals are not fun places to have to visit. They should be avoided if possible.
  • Jury duty sucks, particularly when you know you don’t have a valid reason to tell the judge you can’t serve.
  • Pixar isn't infallible. Just look at their last public service announcement . . . er . . . film.
  • Although I'm not a wine aficionado, Radiohead shows are what fine wine must be like. They just get better and better.
  • Being nominated for an award and then losing sucks. Yeah, I may have said that it was an honor just to be nominated . . . but inside, yeah, I really did resent not winning.
  • Some people look at me like I'm weird because I care so much about the movies. If they've never felt so passionately about something themselves, then I pity them.
  • Text messages are the bane of modern man's existence. When did it become appropriate to be rude to the people that you're with just to make sure that you answer someone who's not even there? Can't it wait?
  • Cell phones should be checked at the door of a movie theater.
  • Movie theaters should have bouncers to remove people who talk loudly. I paid $10. Come on, how hard is it to sit down and shut up?
  • Clint Eastwood is the kind of guy that other guys wish they could be.
  • Some people just need to chill out.
  • If I ever become famous, I hope to be as cool as Richard Sherman. That is one classy guy.
  • When you have a reputation for being the "faithful" intern, it doesn't always mean that you get to have fun. Sometimes, you get stuck having to be a doorman on the one night that you set out to enjoy yourself and actually invited guests.
  • Heath Ledger, despite my initial reservations, was the perfect choice to play the Joker.
  • Otis Redding had more soul in his little finger than Beyonce has in her entire body.
  • It is entirely possible to finish a year having accomplished much but still feel like you're at square one.
Here's to 2009. Let's hope it's a good one.

Peace, Love, and Understanding,

Friday, January 09, 2009


The Lock

Stories get bigger in the re-telling
I told myself as I walked down
Boulevard at midnight whistling
In the air humming as it sang
With the sound of a thousand water drops
a-flying through the air, my mind buzzing

People get older
Hearts grow colder
I thought quietly as I stepped into
Main street in quiet night with stars
But no cars
In sight

My thoughts grew louder and
More insistent
And something else came to mind
That interrupted

“There’s a lock on a door
In a house my friend lives in
Sometimes when she’s not
And the lock is upside down
And backwards
Don’t know why
Didn’t ask
Should’ve maybe
But didn’t

The door full of tiny holes
Holes that would
Thrill a child
Who might place picked-up ants
To watch them wander on a door
But never go inside”

And as I walked away
With my quiet words
And my louder thoughts
I turn to talk to you

I cannot tell you how
many times I have felt
like that lock