Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Movie Review: For Your Consideration
The actors and film-makers involved in the production of a small B-movie have their lives turned upside down when their production begins to generate an Oscar buzz.
- Nothing. Just nothing.
- Really, nothing at all.
- The movie has a cast of improvisational actors I've grown to love, but seeing good actors turn out a terrible film is not really a pro, is it? So, really, I got nothing.
- This movie is supposed to be a comedy, but it IS NOT funny.
- No, it's not funny ... but it IS tedious, smug, ugly, slow, uninspired and downright mean.
- I actually think my life is a little worse for having seen this film.
Zero stars. I considered giving it half a star because Ricky Gervais has one line that made me laugh, but that brief chortle just served to magnify how awful the rest of this movie is.
Is there anything worse than hating a movie you hoped to really enjoy?
Last night Wendy and I watched Christopher Guest's most recent film, For Your Consideration. Wendy and I are both big fans of Guest and his movies. We both loved Best In Show and enjoyed Waiting for Guffman very much. Neither of us swooned over A Mighty Wind, but it wasn't a bad movie. So we thought we had every reason to expect For Your Consideration to be fair-to-excellent.
Guest has quite a track-record, and he's done a lot to deserve my admiration. He is one of the writers and actors behind This Is Spinal Tap, which I've called the second funniest movie of all time, right behind Blazing Saddles. And his outings as a director (the films listed above) have been mostly impressive. Guest works with a faithful cabal of improv specialists, and doesn't really script his movies. Instead he comes up with a story outline and allows his actors to improvise their lines and actions. This has resulted in some very funny films ... and, now, it's resulted in one terrible one.
...Consideration is a movie about a group of Hollywood has-beens and also-rans who begin to believe the hype surrounding their latest production. The word among industry insiders is that the movie and several of the actors are being considered for Academy Award nominations. As the hype grows, we see the characters morph into really desperate, superficial, delusional people. I guess Guest and his crew thought this was all good fun, but it was just depressing. As the actors become more and more obsessed with the idea of finally getting that long-denied recognition, they become phonier and harder to like. What's worse, they start out unfunny and become even more so. And that's the kiss of death for a comedy.
The gags are flat, predictable, tired and annoying ... and this movie hammers them into the ground mercilessly. Unfunny joke after unfunny joke reminds us that the characters in this movie are past their prime ... and that they don't understand the internet ... that their dreams have largely been frustrated ... and that they can't even interact in any meaningful way with each other. Then the "Oscar buzz" gets their attention and we see them get Botox injections ... and go on MTV style television programs ... and appear on talk shows wearing dresses cut low enough to make Mariah Carey blush.
Then, of course, their Oscar dreams are dashed. The Oscar nods go to other actors, and we get to see the principle characters cry ... and do local infomercials ... and put on terrible "performance art" in the aftermath of their perceived failure.
Look, dark stuff CAN make for funny films. I've seen and loved a number of really dark comedies (Fight Club, anyone?) But please don't get the wrong idea about ...Consideration. This is not a dark comedy. It's just a bad one.
It's as though Christopher Guest hated the characters in his own movie and wanted to make them suffer.
Which is fine. It's his movie, he can do what he wants. But I wish he'd warned me. See, I thought that we were renting a movie that would make us laugh.
What else? While I'm venting, I might as well get it all out. So here goes:
Why does Christopher Guest give Fred Willard open license to do any damn fool thing he wants to do in his movies? Fred Willard isn't really that funny. He's never been very funny. More often than not he's grating. Tedious. As annoying as a paper cut on a hemorrhoid. For Your Consideration is a little less than an hour and a half long ... but by the time it was over I felt like I'd spent about a week with Fred Willard. And I wanted to PUNCH HIM IN THE FACE.
And Eugene Levy isn't funny, either. In fact, the only actor I'd say is more annoying than Eugene Levy and Fred Willard is that moron David Allen Grier. But you know going into a Chris Guest movie that you're going to have to put up with Willard and Levy, and until now it's always been worth it. Not this time, though. No, no, no, no, boy, no, not at all. Watching this movie was like taking a long car ride sandwiched between Eugene Levy and Fred Willard ... and then an hour and a half into the trip they stop the car and let you out and you don't know where the hell you are or why you ever got in that damn car in the first place. And it's raining.
Even the people I generally enjoy most in Christopher Guest's movies were middlin' to bad in this film. I've been a Parker Posey fan for years now, but she was just blah here. Jane Lynch has been the best thing in a number of comedies, but in this movie all she does is a Mary Hart impression ... and you don't need Jane Lynch for that. You just need a mannequin. John Michael Higgins can usually make me laugh just by moving his eyebrows, but all he did in ...Consideration was wear a red wig and keep talking about his "Choctaw ancestors." And he was never ONCE funny. And Guest himself, the actor behind such memorably hillarious roles as Nigel Tufnel and Corky St. Clair, just phones in a half-ass Mel Brooks impression in this movie. It's just awful. Painful. Really, it's all painful to watch.
Even Jennifer Coolidge, for Pete's sake, never made me laugh in this movie.
Wendy and I had felt bad about putting off a Chris Guest movie for so long. This one had been on the shelves at our local video store for nearly two years before we finally picked it up tonight.
I wish we'd just left it there. We'd have been better off with anything else. A Vin Diesel movie, even. Anything other than this godawful waste of film and time. Chris Guest is officially in the same boat as M. Night Shyamalan, as far as I'm concerned. We trusted him, we sang his praises, we came to love him ... and he hath betrayed us. For Your Consideration is a miserable movie.
(PS - If you're curious, Wendy hated it, too.)
Monday, July 28, 2008
Scott at Good News Film Reviews has been reviewing film trailers, and I've enjoyed that. I've enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I'm just going to shamelessly rip it off and review the trailers for some of the movies that I'm interested in.
Choke is one of my favorite Chuck Palahniuk novels, simply because the book made me laugh out loud, frequently, and so hard that my sides literally hurt. Having said that, Choke isn't for everyone. The novel is extremely obscene, totally profane, blasphemous, and insensitive to the differently abled. I can not believe that someone made a movie out of this novel. But judging by the preview, it looks like they stuck to the book very well. I'll be catching this in the theater this October. If it even provides a glimpse of the warped world that Palahniuk conjured up in his novel, it oughta be a hoot.
For a long time I was totally opposed to the idea of adapting Watchmen for the screen. Watchmen is probably the finest example of everything that's great about the comic-book medium. Besides, Watchmen is ultimately a 12-issue comic book title about comics themselves. You just can't translate that to the screen. Having said all that, the preview looks pretty good. I'm glad that Zack Snyder directed this thing. 300 made Snyder the go-to guy for movies based on "unfilmable" graphic novels. If this movie conveys even a little bit of what's so damn awesome about the source material, Snyder will probably become a demigod to fanboys (like me) everywhere.
OK, here's the thing: I bet you that Man On Wire is a really good movie. I love documentaries, and this looks like one of the most compelling, remarkable, interesting ones of the decade. But while I sat here watching this preview I was HOLDING MY BREATH AND GRIPPING THE ARMS OF MY CHAIR IN ABSOLUTE TERROR. So, yes, I think that Man On Wire will be a good movie. I don't plan to get anywhere near this film. I just couldn't watch it if I had to.
The Rocker is from director Peter Cattaneo, who's 1997 film The Full Monty was funny, warm and totally enjoyable. The Rocker stars Rainn Wilson, and I think he's a total riot as Dwight on The Office. But, judging from the preview, this looks like a huge, pointless turd of a movie and I don't plan to sit through another second of it.
Burn After Reading
(Red Band trailer, language warning)
Last October I posted the trailer for No Country For Old Men and said that I hoped it represented a return to form for the Coens. Well, No Country... was the best movie I saw in 2007, and it might be the best movie that Joel and Ethan have ever done. A year after that masterpiece the Coens have readied Burn After Reading. Judging from the previews, the new film looks to be a farce in the Big Lebowski, Oh Brother... tradition. I enjoyed Oh Brother and Lebowski is my third funniest film of all time*. So my hopes are high for Burn After Reading.
*That "fifteen funniest films of all time" list was put together for film geeks before Borat, a movie that easily goes in my top five somewhere.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
McFat Strikes Back
McFat XIX, MCF's questionnaire for his loyal readers:
1) Should film critics be genre-specific? Why or why not?
Nah, I don't think so. Movie fans aren't genre-specific, so why should critics be? Well, most movie fans aren't genre specific ... but, now that I think about it, one of my best friends steadfastly refuses to watch anything other than comedies and horror movies.
Besides, just being a film critic kinda is genre-specific. It's not like film critics regularly cross over and review CDs, restaurants, etc.
2) What are some of your favorite movies and/or episodes of television shows depicting time travel?
My favorite is The Simpsons' Time And Punishment from Treehouse Of Horror V. Featuring Homer's immortal line: "Oh, I wish, I wish I hadn't killed that fish."
I also really enjoyed the indie sci-fi film Primer.
Back in the early 90's I thought that Quantum Leap was a pretty good show.
Of course the 1968 Planet of the Apes (as opposed to the crap Tim Burton remake) is a classic, and you find out at the end that time travel is a key to the story. (Ooops! Spoiler in the previous sentence!) The novel is better than either movie, though.
My favorite episode of The Twilight Zone, called Spur of the Moment, kinda dances around the concept of time travel.
I saw and enjoyed the first two Terminator movies, by the way. Never saw the third one and I don't care to see it, but the fourth one looks interesting.
Donnie Darko is a decent time travel movie.
Idiocracy is often hilarious. Mike Judge knows funny.
Slaughterhouse Five is an OK movie, but the novel is much better. It's Vonnegut, after all, and Vonnegut could do things with the printed word that transcended the limits of visual mediums.
I love A Christmas Carol, though I'm hard pressed to decide which production I've enjoyed most. Every one I've seen has had it's charms and it's flaws.
I liked the time travel sequence in the fourth Harry Potter movie.
Does Groundhog Day qualify as a time travel movie? I liked Groundhog Day a lot.
Oh, yeah, and I can't forget 12 Monkeys and Jacob's Ladder, I love both of those movies, and both of them have loose time travel themes.
3) At this exact second, how did you get where you are in life?
Well, my health isn't great, and that's my fault since I smoked for twenty-six years. But I stopped once for three years back in the '90's, so I know I can quit smoking. And as of this minute I haven't had a cigarette in nineteen days.
That's kinda the major preoccupation of my life right now, so I'll leave it at that.
4) Will there be sex in heaven?
You want a serious answer? I'd say that my faith teaches me that the question is answered in the last part of the 22nd chapter of the book of Matthew.
My gut-reaction answer, though, would be something like this: Sex is our earthly way of making a connection that we will make in an even more fulfilling way in the world to come. The idea of heaven without sex kinda sorta sucks ... but that's because we're thinking with earthly minds and we only have earthly experiences to form our context. There's not only more to our existence than we imagine ... there's more to our existence than we can imagine.
I'll throw some song lyrics out there, while I'm at it. I've always thought that the Tool song Parabola is a song about the spiritual elements of monogamous sex. If I'm interpreting the lyrics correctly, then I have to say that I like what the song has to say.
SPECIAL BONUS QUESTION: What is “that” one thing Meat Loaf wouldn't do for love? I'll accept both humorous and serious responses.
That question is answered in the lyrics to the song. The female vocalist sings "Sooner or later you'll be screwing around" and Meat Loaf sings "I won't do that."
By the way, according to IMDB, Meat Loaf's real name is Marvin Lee Aday. But to me, His name is Robert Paulson. His name is Robert Paulson. His name is Robert Paulson. His name is Robert Paulson. His name is Robert Paulson. His name is Robert Paulson. His name is Robert Paulson.
Barack And Sascha
Two disparate items, relevant to nothing:
Some people think that Barack Obama is the next John Kennedy. I personally see him as the next Jimmy Carter. But, then again, this YouTube clip might be evidence that he's really the next George W. Bush:
Total change of topic: I noticed the other day that our cat is pretty well camouflaged when she naps on our desk chair:
Saturday, July 26, 2008
Bring It On, Kids
I'm pleased to learn that, even with my current medical problems, I could kick the butts of at least seventeen five-year-olds in a fair fight.
You know ... like, if a bunch of rabid five-year-olds were to attack me or something. Or, like, if they were zombies. I typically wouldn't go looking for a fight with seventeen five-year-olds, but if I had to, I could open up seventeen little child-size cans of whoop ass.
If you haven't taken the quiz yourself, you can click here and find out how many five-year-olds you could smack down.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Movie Review: The Dark Knight
Batman is caught between the Joker, a villain who wants to bring anarchy to Gotham, and Harvey Dent, an ambitious DA who's sense of justice is matched by his sense of self-worth.
- The story, acting and directing are all first rate.
- Fun, exciting special effects.
- Fans of the comic book (especially when the title is handled by Frank Miller) might see this as the first true Batman movie.
- It's long, nearly two and a half hours.
- The violence and gore are arguably better suited for R-rated material.
- A couple of plot-holes distracted me a bit.
Oh, easily a five on a five scale. It delivers more bang for your buck than any other 2008 summer movie (I'd imagine).
Scott Nehring is one of the few who didn't enjoy The Dark Knight, and his analysis of the film (warning: spoilers) forced me to examine my own reaction to the latest installment of the Batman saga.
So, OK, here's the truth: I'm a fanboy. I'm a Batman nut who went into the theater prepared to have a great time. That much is true. Consider that qualifier before you take anything I have to say about the movie to heart.
In my defense, though, I don't think that the mere presence of the cape-and-cowl is enough to make me enjoy a movie. I despised Joel Schumacher's two campy, day-glo Batman farces from the '90's. They were too much like the kitschy mid '60's TV show. The Batman in the comics I've enjoyed is not a doofus. I like my Batman like I like my coffee: Dark. Bitter. A bit crazy. (It's tricky to brew crazy coffee, by the way.)
The Dark Knight features the kind of Batman I enjoy. Played by Christian Bale, Chris Nolan's version of Batman is the ultimate Republican: By day he's a jet-setting millionaire; a king-maker and power-broker with more money than God and AT&T combined. By night he's a crime fighter who lives by his own strict scruples (no moral relativity here, thank you) and is willing to go to war regardless of the repercussions if he thinks it's the right thing to do. He's even willing to assume the role of the bad guy in the eyes of the public as long as he's convinced that his actions really do promote the common good. Chris Nolan's Batman is basically Dick Cheney, forty years younger, in a black ninja suit. How cool is that?
Nolan's previous Batman film, Batman Begins, was the first Batman movie to really focus on the main character himself instead of the movie's villains. Having given the caped crusader his long-overdue day in the sun, Nolan must have felt comfortable focusing more on Batman's rivals in the new film. And the Joker (Heath Ledger) and Two-Face (Aaron Eckhart) of The Dark Knight are both just what they should be. Both of these villains are compelling and endlessly fascinating because both actors play their roles with totally straight faces. There's no winking at the camera (see Jack Nicholson's Joker from 1987's Batman) and there's no manic scenery-chewing (as in Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face in 1995's Batman Forever).
Bale and Eckhart are both good in their roles, but the late Heath Ledger steals this movie from both of them. His version of the Clown Prince Of Crime puts the emphasis on crime rather than on clown, and the performance is creepy, fun, and totally original. One of my few complaints with the movie is that I'd sit and look forward to the Joker's next scene whenever he wasn't on screen. And to think, I initially opposed the casting of Ledger in the role. Just goes to show you that I don't know nothin'. I enjoyed every element of Ledger's performance ... even his Crispin-Glover-channeling vocal work.
The most surprising thing about The Dark Knight, though, is that it works not only as a comic-book movie but also as a crime drama. The Joker, as portrayed by Ledger, is as enigmatic and as scary as any real-life terrorist I've ever seen portrayed in a film. Harvey "Two-Face" Dent pursues the Joker and the Gotham mafia with an obsessive determination that reminded me of Popeye Doyle and Eliot Ness. And Christian Bale's Batman is as focused and as volatile as Travis Bickle ... though maybe a bit better mannered. So, yes, this is a comic book movie, but on another level it's just a crime drama with a twist: all three of the principle characters happen to be completely insane.
The Dark Knight delivers everything a fan of Batman Begins could have hoped for. There's lots of great action and plenty of intensity, there's a story that never (in my opinion) became predictable or directionless, and there's some great acting in fascinating roles. If Nolan and company turn out a third Batman movie this good, it'll be a first in the history of trilogies.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Keep It On The Download
How much cooler and funnier than Lars Ulrich is Kid Rock? A whole bunch much cooler and funnier:
Language Warning: Kid Rock uses the Eff Word.
Back And Feeling A Bit Better
My visit to the UVA Medical Center was somewhat eventful today. For the first time since I was diagnosed I was able to go to a hospital for treatment without ending up admitted for the night. So that much is good, anyway.
I'm trying to decide how much of the most recent events I want to blog about. Some of it is wince-inducing ... and other elements are sensitive for other reasons. But, anyway, I'm back home with a new catheter that I'll have to have for two weeks. Hopefully, my bladder will actually do some healing during that time.
OK, here's a compromise: I'll write the wince-inducing details here in a white font, which you'll have to highlight with your curser to read. So if you want to know gory details, start highlighting here: I mentioned in my post on Sunday the 13th that having my catheter changed was extremely painful. Well, today I found out why. The very end of my urethra was abnormally narrow. It had a stricture due to the trauma of my recent surgeries. It wasn't that my entire urethra was too narrow, just the very end of it. The resident who put the catheter in during my last hospital stay was either too stupid or too indifferent to do anything about it, so he just shoved the catheter in and it hurt like hell. Today my urologist decided that the narrow opening of my urethra had to be corrected, so she corrected it. With a pair of medical scissors. That's right, one quick snip and I no longer had a stricture that caused an abnormal narrowing at the end of my urethra. They didn't tell me what they were going to do before they did it ... probably because they realized that if I'd known what they were planning to do I'd have jumped up and started throwing punches at everyone present. But the procedure was done, the catheter was inserted, and I'm alive and at home. Whew.
So, yeah, I survived that ... although thinking about it makes me sweat, tremble and cry. And hopefully it'll never have to be done again.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Back To The Drawing Board
Well, it's back to UVA tomorrow. My bladder isn't healing anywhere NEAR as quickly as it should, so I'm going back to the urology department to try to find out why. Hopefully, this visit is going to result in something that'll give me some relief from the spasms, pain, and frequent trips to the bathroom.
I also found out something jaw-dropping about my cancer. It turns out that I've had cancer for a great deal longer than I realized. I don't want to say much more about it yet, because I think I'm going to pursue litigation ... but I'll have more details at some point.
Talk to you later.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Be Back Soon ... I Hope
The catheter came out Thursday about 11:00 AM and I've been having a terrible time ever since. Pain, spasms, trips to the bathroom every four or five minutes, lots of lost sleep, etc.
I just haven't felt much like blogging.
I'll be back to the blogosphere as soon as this most recent bad spell passes.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
My hopes are high for the new Metallica ... and part of me thinks that I'm setting myself up for a major let-down.
Then I see stuff like this clip of the band working on one of the songs and I just get flat-out giddy:
Oh, please, oh, please, oh, please ... let them have just one more good album in them.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Speaking Of The Devil
There's an interesting article in USA Today about the importance of the vocal performance of an actor playing a villain:
Three weeks before shooting began on The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger called director Christopher Nolan to discuss an epiphany he had about his character, The Joker.
The key to the demented killer, Ledger said, was his voice. Without a menacing hiss, it would be a retread of Jack Nicholson's satirical turn when he played the character in 1989...
"He wouldn't even really rehearse with the voice," says Christian Bale, who plays Batman. "He held it back a little, waiting for the cameras to roll. But when they did, we knew he was on to something special."
The article goes on to include interview snippets with Sam Raimi about his favorite villainous voices ... and with Javier Bardem about the strange cadence of his hitman in No Country For Old Men ... and with James Earl Jones about Darth Vader's iconic snarl.
The whole article is interesting and worth reading.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Tentative Good News
I just heard from the urologist at UVA who performed my surgery. The biopsy of my bladder wall came back clean. No cancer in the wall of the bladder.
That means that the cancer that had formed on the internal lining of my bladder was probably the only cancer in my bladder. And that means that, since they believe that they got all of that cancer in my two recent surgeries, the worst is probably over.
There is still some concern about all the bleeding and bladder spasms I'm having, though. Apparently, these symptoms are a bit more than I should be experiencing right now. According to the urologist, right now this is the question: Did my bladder cancer cause all of my problems, or is there something else wrong with my bladder ... something that's causing the pain and the bleeding and that also allowed the bladder cancer to form in the first place?
Beyond that, the urologist told me that there were things about the cancer cells that were unusual. She didn't elaborate, and I'm sure it would have gone over my head anyway ... but she said that she's submitted my case to the oncology board at UVA for review and she'll have more information for me next Wednesday.
In the meantime there is another milestone coming that I'm really looking forward to: I get this godawful catheter out this Thursday.
So there are still some issues to resolve, but in the meantime, my biggest concern has been put to rest. The two operations were successful, and as of this minute I'm cancer-free.
There will be lots of tests, exams, etc, in my future in order to make sure the cancer doesn't come back. But right now things are, for the most part, looking up.
I don't feel that I've sufficiently expressed my appreciation to my fellow bloggers who've been so supportive and kind during this painful period. You guys have really played a big role in keeping me positive. Your comments, both here and at your own blogs, mean a lot to me. I just hope you guys know how much I appreciate it.
Junk Dump No. 10
Just another set of images from anywhere and everywhere on the net ... things that caught my attention, made me laugh, whatever. However, I'll begin not with a picture from the far reaches of the net, but from my own kitchen. This is just a quick picture to document one aspect of the whole bladder cancer thing:
Along with taking pain pills throughout the day, I have to take two big doses of various kinds of medicine each day. I got the pills ready for my evening dose the other night and I just couldn't believe the number of pills I had to take at once. As Jeff Foxworthy would say, that looks like a handful of Skittles, doesn't it?
Those are lighthouses. LIGHTHOUSES! What in the world did you THINK they were? Oh, yeah? Me, too.
Wonder what his name is. Bitey, maybe?
I hadn't noticed how much Obama looks like Alfred E. Newman until I saw this.
This graphic made me laugh so hard. Those big-head Burger King commercials are horrifying.
Did this make you laugh? Then you're as big a nerd as I am.
On the other hand, if it weren't for the occasional meeting, I'd have to do all my sleeping at home.
This is the only warning you'll receive.
I have no doubt that this odd, half-ass Christmas display was put together by someone with the best of intentions. Nonetheless, I'll never be able to look at Santa again without thinking "I've been good, please stop!"
Labels: Junk Dump
Monday, July 14, 2008
Via MCF: Proust's Questionaire
I feel like blogging, but I don't feel like writing anything about bladder cancer. I'm friggin' SICK of writing about bladder cancer. So I'm going to borrow a page from MCF and answer the questions from the famous Proust Questionnaire:
- 1) What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
If I were to answer this question seriously, I'd say the most miserable thing in the world is the loss of a child. But if I were to answer the question sarcastically, I'd say ... oh, screw it. After bringing up the loss of a child, who can be sarcastic?
- 2) Where would you like to live?
Where I live now. Well, in this state and in this county ... but maybe somewhere more rural.
- 3) What is your idea of earthly happiness?
Spending the day at Busch Gardens Williamsburg with my family.
- 4) To which faults do you feel most indulgent?
Ah, damn. I indulge in a LOT of faults. I'll say I'm most guilty of indulging in compulsive behavior. Anything that can be done compulsively ... smoking, eating, drinking ... I've either done it in the past or still do it today.
- 5) Who is/are your favorite hero/heroes of fiction?
OK, let's see, there's Sam Fisher, Spider-Man, Batman, etc, etc, etc.
- 6) Who are your favorite characters in history?
You know, that really is an odd way to phrase it: "Characters in history." Nonetheless, my list of mortal heroes from real life would have to include St. Peter, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Sowell, Johnny Cash and Ray Charles.
- 7) Who are your favorite heroines in real life?
OK, uh ... My mom, St. Dymphna, Loretta Lynn, and of course Mary, Mother of God.
- 8) Who is/are your favorite heroines of fiction?
Holy crap! I never think about some of these things. If I gotta come up with something, I'm saying Flo from the Progressive Insurance commercials. "Surprise! Let's bag these up."
- 9) Your favorite painters?
Damn. I don't have any favorite painters. I'll say The Red House Painters are my favorite painters.
- 10) Your favorite composers or musicians?
Well, Gov't Mule, Pink Floyd, Tool, Tony Rice, Marvin Gaye, Metallica, Frank Zappa, Merle Haggard, Phish, and the artists I listed above.
- 11) What qualities do you most value in a man?
Holy crap, I never even THOUGHT about this. I'll say that what I want in a man is someone who's tall, dark and handsome who'll hold me when I cry.
- 12) What qualities do you most value in a woman?
Honesty, accountability, reliability, virtue, reason, reverence, and big, big boobies.
- 13) Your favorite virtue?
- 14) Your favorite occupation?
I worked in radio for eight years and had a great time. I didn't make any money, but I had a lot of fun.
- 15) Who would you like to be?
Me, but cancer-free. DOH! I was gonna go without mentioning cancer in this post.
- 16) Your most marked characteristic?
I'm inclined to say sarcasm.
- 17) What do you most value in your friends?
Like MCF, I'd say that I value friends who have shared interests and a similar sense of humor. And who're capable of having actual conversations. And who have big, big boobies.
- 18) What is your principle defect?
Selfishness. It's at the root of everything I do wrong.
- 19) What is your favorite color?
Black. I guess. I never think about it.
- 20) What is your favorite flower?
For real? Geez. Uh ... the ones I don't have to mow around.
- 21) What is your favorite bird?
My favorite bird would be the one Johnny Cash flipped in that famous picture taken during his concert at San Quentin.
- 22) Who are your favorite prose writers?
C.S. Lewis. Thomas Sowell. Elmore Leonard. Chuck Palahniuk. And a number of other writers, all of whom I'm too lazy to code links for.
- 23) Who are your favorite poets?
Dammit, maybe I shouldn't have done this questionnaire. I don't have any favorite poets. I do have favorite lyricists, though ... so I'll say Bono, Merle Haggard, Frank Zappa, John Mellencamp, and Glen Phillips.
- 24) What are your favorite names?
Does this mean names of mine? I have two informal nicknames, Flounder and Derail. I'll answer to either of them as readily as to the name my mother gave me.
- 25) What is it you most dislike?
People who don't take the time to learn about the issues but still voice their opinion loudly. Childishness. People who won't act their age.
- 26) What historical figures do you most despise?
Well, the obvious ones; Osama bin Ladin, Hitler, etc. But also the Clintons, Margaret Sanger, Richard Dawkins.
- 27) What event in military history do you most admire?
- 28) What reform do you most admire?
Well, I was glad when Vernon Reed reformed Living Colour.
- 29) What natural gift would you most like to possess?
- 30) How would you like to die?
Well, I came into this world naked, bloody and screaming ... and as long as I don't go out that way, I'll be happy.
- 31) What is your present state of mind?
Distracted and kinda bored
- 32) What is your motto?
"Death to Smoochie."
I'd like to have the strength of a thousand men. And be able to fly. And shoot lasers out of my butt. Do those qualify as natural gifts?
Sunday, July 13, 2008
A Buttload Of Opium
My second surgery for bladder cancer was done on Thursday and I got to come home from the hospital Friday evening. I'm currently taking some truly heavy-duty narcotics for pain and to control spasms, so I'm sure I'll remember this particular period as kind of a daze.
Rather than try to write a coherent and detailed account of my visit to the UVA Medical Center, I'll just throw out a few random observations and memories, kinda stream-of-consciousness style. That's partly to keep this post from running on for twenty thousand words ... and partly because right now I think in random observations and memories, kinda stream-of-consciousness style.
- Man, I really don't like general anaesthesia. I don't like being totally knocked out for surgery, I'd rather get local or regional anaesthesia so that I don't have those bizarre, jagged, surreal bits of memory after it's all done. I had to have general anaesthesia this time. My hazy memories of everything pre-surgery and everything for the first few hours after surgery have a really bizarre quality to them. Not to get dramatic, but have you ever seen the last few minutes of Fire in the Sky? I'm not saying that it was that bad, but it does make me think of that movie sequence.
- The difference between a good hospital stay and a bad one all comes down to the RNs. I was blessed to be attended by several wonderful nurses who made me as comfortable and happy as possible, and I'll feel indebted to them and remember them for the rest of my life.
- The wonderful nurses who attended to me made me think about my mother and my sister, both RNs. I've been told by a number of people that they're both damn good nurses, too, and my stay at UVA makes me admire and appreciate my mom and my sis all that much more.
- To help control bladder spasms post-surgery I was given Opium And Belladonna suppositories. So I can now say that I've experienced opium. And I've experienced having a suppository implanted by committee. I think everyone from the hospital CEO to the night janitor was in my room during that process. (I haven't checked YouTube for cellphone videos; I really just don't want to know.) Anyway, the suppositories gave me so much relief that it almost worth it.
- My surgery was rough. The surgeon had a difficult time getting to the rest of the tumor and ended up causing some trauma to my prostate, which bled profusely. Apparently, the prostate is very sensitive and will bleed profusely if you give it a harsh look. So don't mess with your prostate.
- In hell, everyone has a Foley Catheter and everyone has to have their Foley Catheter changed once a day. So say your prayers and go to church because you do NOT want to have to go through that.
- Having my catheter changed on the second day was the most painful experience of my life. The physical pain was beyond words. I was reduced to a quivering, bawling mess. Thank GOD this was done early and my wife and son hadn't gotten to the hospital yet. It took the attention of an amazingly patient and kind nurse and innumerable shots of morphine and codeine to get me through it. I think I'd rather be hit by a truck than go through that again. As of now I'd call that half-hour (or so) the absolute low-point of my life.
- One of the people attending to me was a "Patient Care Technician" named Ninfa. Ninfa was an older lady from Brazil with a thick accent, and I found her manner of speech to be somewhat musical and kinda soothing. She spent some time talking to me and she and I got to know each other a little bit. At one point she said "I tell my priest about you." It was one of the most genuinely heart-warming moments I've had in a very long time. God bless you, Ninfa.
- All you people who oppose immigration on any grounds: If you had your way, I'd have been denied the chance to meet Ninfa. I'd be a poorer man for it, too.
- Some doctors know how to treat patients and some don't. If you, by some slim chance, are a hospital doctor, please consider the following: Your patients are HUMAN BEINGS and they deserve to be treated like human beings, not science projects. Don't walk into a patient's room and throw off his or her sheets, exposing him or her to the world, without shutting the door. And take the time to introduce yourself and exchange just a few seconds of banter before you start such an examination. Surgery is difficult enough without you making the patient feel like roadkill.
- One way to make a hospital stay more tolerable is to remember to bring a personal CD player or MP3 player. I've learned over the past couple of months that a dark room and Dark Side Of The Moon will allow me to temporarily escape any amount of misery.
- Having said all of that, I also have to say that I am grateful to the folks at UVA (well, I'm grateful to most of 'em, as for the others, they know exactly what I thought of their behavior) and I feel very fortunate. I won't know until Tuesday after the final lab work and biopsy if I'm cancer free yet, but in the meantime I still consider myself one of the lucky ones. I received just about the best medical care available. My suffering has been minimized to the highest degree allowed by pharmacology and human compassion. And, I have a wonderful family and amazing friends who've made me feel supported and loved. I certainly wouldn't call myself lucky to have cancer, but I'd call myself extremely lucky in every other element of my life, and this experience with cancer has made me realize just how blessed I am.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
I'm alive, I'm out of the hospital, I'm home, I'm feeling relatively good. I'll write a blog post tomorrow, thanks to those of you who had me in mind during my surgery.
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Well, I'm going to the the Urology Clinic at UVA tomorrow for more surgery. The plan tomorrow is simply to get the rest of the tumor. What will happen next depends on how well things go tomorrow.
I consider myself fortunate to be getting this done at UVA. It's probably the best option available to me. I looked up UVA's rank among medical centers with department heads specializing in urological oncology, and I found out that UVA does have a rank. And US News And World Report ranks UVA in a bunch of categories with different numbers and such, all of which probably mean something to somebody. So that's good. Right?
Plus, if you go to the UVA Department of Urology website, you're greeted by a picture of a doctor smiling in a way that isn't really that creepy, all things considered. So I've got that going for me, too, which is nice.
Here's an interesting fact about my surgeon: She was part of a committee that authored a study called Complementary and Alternative Medicine Modality Use and Beliefs Among African American Prostate Cancer Survivors. So if nothing else, she can probably talk my tumor into submission.
Seriously, though, I do have the utmost confidence in the good people at UVA. But I don't know how long I'll be away from home. If all goes as well as possible, I could be home tomorrow night. But, if all goes as well as possible, it'll be the first time things have gone as well as possible since this whole bladder cancer thing started! So I'm not holding my breath, but I still remain confident that things are going to turn out OK.
So I'll be blogging again when I get home after this next surgical procedure, and hopefully I'll have stuff to talk about besides bladder cancer. Be good, I'll talk to you then.
Oh, yeah, by the way, the Xbox is working fine, just like B13 said it would. I'll take that as a good omen. And one day I'll invest in the Xbox Live package that let's me game online!
Monday, July 07, 2008
Getting Fit, You Are, Young Skywalker
How Cool Is This?
OK, first a qualifier, I'm not Andy Stitzer, I'm not one of those grown men who amasses action figures and has a huge collection of them setting around the house. I'm a nerd, I admit that freely, but I do draw the line somewhere.
Having said that, I just found out about a line of action figures that I would actually buy (if I had the expendable income) and proudly display in my living room for all to see.
I mentioned the other day that I'd been enjoying a Twilight Zone marathon on the Sci-Fi Channel. I tivo'd some of my favorite episodes and burned them down to DVD and a little while ago I got curious about who wrote some of those episodes. (The best ones are usually credited to Serling himself, but the legendary Richard Matheson penned most of my favorites.)
Anyway, I was reading some stuff on the net about various episodes (this website is outstanding) and Googling more info, and I came across these guys:
That's right, a collection of action figures based on characters from the original Twilight Zone series. As you can see above, the set includes the gremlin from Nightmare At 20,000 Feet, one of the astronauts from The Invaders, the medical team from Eye of the Beholder, and Kanamit from To Serve Man.
Gnarly! As much as I like 'em, though, I don't think I should try to buy 'em. Most of the sites that sell them have very expensive prices ... and I don't think I could handle the embarrassment when someone finally busted me playing with them.
I'd write more, but I'm gonna go hide and play with my imaginary toy doctor and nurse. ("Conform! Comform! Ugliness is treason!")
Sunday, July 06, 2008
So we're sitting back, just chillin', I'm playing some Splinter Cell, and all of a sudden there's a clap of thunder and the power blinks out.
And then the 360 does this:
I can't tell, because of the massive amount of conflicting info on the net, if this is the dreaded Red Ring Of Death or not.
I turned it off and back on, and it seemed to come back to life properly. But I have no idea if it's going to flake out on us in the next day or two or what.
By The Company He Keeps
Good stuff I found at Granddaddy Long Legs:
I love the way BHO has been spinning like a top lately:
Barack Obama called "active faith" an obligation of religious Americans and a chief agent of societal change in a speech yesterday at the national meeting of a black church group.
Uh ... wouldn't active faith involve "clinging to religion," though?
Then there's this tidbit:
He preached individual responsibility, saying he knew he risked criticism for "blaming the victim" by talking about the need for parents to help children with homework and turn off the television to pass on a healthy self-image to daughters, and teach boys both to respect women and "realize that responsibility does not end at conception."
But, of course, those boys shouldn't be too worried about their responsibilities, since Obama also supports abortion on demand, right? So there's always that option. And keep in mind that Obama also believes (and has voted three times to mandate) that doctors should kill babies who survive abortion. So don't worry too much about your responsibilities, boys. Barack is doing all he can to make sure that you won't really get stuck attending to a baby you've conceived.
Oh, and hope, too. And change. Hope, hope, hopity hope, changie changie change.
A leftist as extreme as Barack Obama shouldn't bother with these missives to the right. Conservatives see right through this kind of BS and the ultra-liberals who make up Obama's base are just turned off by it.
Well, OK, I really shouldn't say that. Ultra-liberals really do support Obama, but they aren't his base. I have too much respect for ultra-liberals to lump them in with Obama's idiot base. I mean, I disagree with ultra-lefties, but they do at least try to keep up with the news. No, Obama's base ... his real core of support ... is made up of people who don't really want to be bothered with learning about the issues. Obama's real base is the slack-jawed, glass-eyed mass of people who trumpet catch-phrases like "Bush lied" and "it's time for a change" without any friggin' idea what they're talking about.
Those are the idiots who'll decide the next election. Wheeeeeeeeee!!
Friday, July 04, 2008
Movie Review: Half Nelson
This is the story of the relationship between a drug addicted inner-city teacher and one of his students. Ryan Gosling plays Dan Dunne, a history teacher and cocaine addict who's downward spiral is rapidly reaching bottom. Shareeka Epps is Drey, his exceptional but troubled thirteen year old student.
- Shareeka Epps gives the best debut performance I've seen in twelve or fifteen years.
- Ryan Gosling and Anthony Mackie (as a drug dealer) turn in equally remarkable performances.
- One of the most honest, unflinching scripts about drug abuse and loneliness that I've ever seen filmed.
- A jerky, hand-held camera style that got on my nerves throughout.
- The movie's intensity might be too much for many viewers. This movie will haunt you.
Four on a five scale. Only the haphazard cinematography kept me from being totally absorbed by this movie.
When's the last time you saw a movie that made you want to run out into the street, grab people passing by, and tell them "Come with me, you've GOT to see this movie"? I've just finished watching such a movie, Half Nelson, a film that boasts some of the most enthralling acting I think I've ever seen. And if superb acting weren't enough, this movie's story never makes one false move. It's believable and absorbing all the way through, with an honest and powerful ending that makes no compromises.
This is the kind of movie that I hope to see every time I watch a drama.
The subject-matter in Half-Nelson is, I admit, a bit off-putting. Wendy had to beg, borrow and threaten to get me to sit down and watch a movie about a crack-addicted teacher and a troubled student. It sounded like a total downer of a movie. And in some ways, it is. This isn't a "feel-good" film by any stretch. It's demanding, but rewarding. It's often unpleasant, but it's thoroughly genuine. And the characters, far from cliches, are richly embodied. I found myself feeling involved with the lives of these characters, caring about their decisions and their futures, and emotionally invested in the story.
As Drey, the thirteen year old girl, Shareeka Epps absolutely steals this movie. Her performance crackles with pent-up energy and desperation. With a brother in jail, an absentee father who simply doesn't care about his kids, and a mother who has to work double shifts to support her family, Drey is in dire need of a role model, a father figure. There are two men in her life who are the likely candidates for that role.
One is her history teacher, Mr. Dunne. During the course of the movie, there is evidence to indicate that at one point, Mr. Dunne was an inspiring and important teacher for a number of students. But when the story begins, Dan Dunne is at the end of his rope. A long-time addiction to cocaine has given way to a burgeoning new crack habit, and Dunne can barely keep it together. His dedication to his students, especially those (like Drey) who he coaches in basketball, is apparent. But Dunne has lost the ability to steer his life. As the teacher, Ryan Gosling is really outstanding. This is one of those performances wherein the character's behavior just gets worse and worse. Nonetheless, the acting is such that, as a viewer, I remained concerned and captivated.
Drey's other potential father figure is Frank, a shady guy who has apparently played a role in the arrest and incarceration of Drey's brother. Frank shows an interest in Drey and her family early in the film, but it's obvious that he's not the guardian angel that he'd have the girl believe he is. Frank is a drug dealer, and he's always on the look-out for new blood to keep his product on the street. Drey's brother Mike was loyal and effective for Frank. Maybe Drey will be, too. Anthony Mackie plays Frank with such conviction and complexity that he manages to make the character human, even somewhat likable. His performance, like those by Gosling and Epps, is something to behold.
Still, this movie belongs to Shareeka Epps. Every little nuance she brings to her performance is powerful and very, very real. It's in the way she speaks volumes with her eyes and her posture. The way she hold back smiles, as though she's learned to mistrust happiness. The way she packs two or three word lines with intensity and emotion. Her work in this movie is flat-out astounding.
Half Nelson hinges on these three strong performances, but the story itself is top-notch, too. The movie never ceased to surprise me with it's honesty. In one scene we meet Dan Dunne's family, people who appear to be model versions of upper-middle-class white liberals. They wear their politics on their sleeves, but like Dan himself, they're both more and less than they seem. There are a number of ugly flaws beneath their glossy progressive interior, including emotional disconnection, alcoholism ... even racism. When the family characters were first introduced, I became uneasy. I thought the movie was going to become preachy, showing us examples of the successful, informed liberals that Dan might have been, were it not for drugs. Not so. Dan's family, for all their pontifications and pronouncements, are clearly the same damaged stock that turned out this damaged history teacher.
I don't want to say too much about the story, the plot progressions, and the powerful ending. I will say, though, that the movie ends with small signs of hope. But it's an honest hope, not a miracle 180 degree turn-around. That's important in terms of the movie's truth and realism. This movie is too candid for a sugar-coated conclusion. And I'm glad for that. A character like Drey, as portrayed by the remarkable Shareeka Epps, deserves both hope and honesty. Half-Nelson delivers both ... for Drey and for the audience alike.
The trailer for Half Nelson:
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Just a quick note; I'm still alive, still waiting for my bladder to heal post-surgery, still dashing to the bathroom every seven seconds (or so it seems).
Here's a quick list of the distractions that have been preoccupying me for the last few days. Consider these the reasons I haven't been blogging much.
- My doctor changed my medication with the hope that stronger stuff would help me sleep and have less pain. Success! My sleep is still sporadic, but I'm glad to be getting any sleep at all, so I'll take it when I can get it.
- I rented Call Of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and it might be the greatest first-person-shooter of all time. It's just about the best I've ever played, at least. A few minutes ago I shot down a helicopter with a sidewinder missle! Take that, terrorist scum! Booo-yah!
- Into The Wild, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and Unleashed: Danny The Dog are all OK-to-good movies and all worth reviewing. And In Bruges is an outstanding movie. All of them are worth reviewing and I ought to write reviews of all of 'em.
- Deep Banana Blackout and Umphrey's McGee are both awesome jam bands that I've just discovered. If you're into Phish, Gov't Mule, etc, you should check these bands out, too.
- The kids are all with their other parents this week, so Wendy and I have had a lot of time to catch up on movies that aren't rated G or PG (see list of movies above) and TV shows we wouldn't watch with the kids around. And speaking of TV...
- The Sci-Fi Channel is running an all-day Twilight Zone marathon today and tomorrow. This is the original 1959-1964 series, which I used to watch in reruns growing up, and I just can't get enough of this stuff. I don't think my all-time favorite episode, titled Spur Of The Moment, is scheduled to run, though.
Hope everybody has a good 4th! I'll blog more when I have fewer distractions.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
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