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Friday, October 2, 2009

On the Plains of Marathon

Week Four
Goal: To begin the running week with another five mile jog on Sunday, 27 September, 2009 and then run 3 miles per day after that.

Mile Total: 20
Actual Miles Run: 18

End Notes: Well, I just don't have any excuse this week other than I ran out of time a couple days and had to make some of my three mile runs into two milers. But, I guess I only fell short by 2 miles this week, which isn't that bad. So get off my back, people!

I've been on a total Beatles jag lately and put every album of theirs I own on my mp3 player and have been going through them one by one as I run. An interesting thing occurred to me as I was listening though, I realized that a lot of John Lennon's early songs* had strangely misogynistic undertones. Take for instance the Rubber Soul album cut, "Run For Your Life" which includes this doozy of a line:

"I'd rather see you dead little girl/than to be with another man."

There are other examples sprinkled throughout the late early period of John Lennon's music such as: "When I get Home" and "You Can't Do That" from A Hard Day's Night, "You're Going to Lose That Girl" from Help!. It's not particularly noteworthy, Lennon was young and rich and powerful and lived in a time when misogynistic attitudes toward women were more accepted than today, except that much of John's post-Beatles reputation was built on the concept of Love and Peace, and Unity. Obviously everyone grows and changes as they get older and John Lennon wrote these songs when he was 22 and garnered a more open reputation after the age of 30, but still I found these early songs to be interesting.

Week Five
Goal: Run 22 miles total with one 6 mile jog.
Miles Run: 22

*Especially the Beatles for Sale, A Hard Day's Night, Help period.

Weekly Top Five

Fall Movie Preview Edition!

1. Where the Wild Things Are
Directed by: Spike Jonze
Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Max Records, Catherine Keener
Release date: 16 October, 2009

I think I've liked everything I've ever seen Spike Jonze commit to celluloid so I think I'm pretty well guaranteed to like this one. But considering everyone else seems excited about this one too, I don't think I'll be alone. I mean, come on, the guy who made "Being John Malkovich" taking on Maurice Sendak's classic children's tale and rethinking it as a more adult movie. Brilliant. Plus add some controversy with the studio, a screenplay co-written by Dave Eggers and some really good CGI and it looks like you have all the makings for a hit.

5. Sherlock Holmes
4. The Lovely Bones
3. Precious
3. Antichrist
2. The Road
1. Where the Wild Things Are

Word of the Day!

strabismus [struh-biz-muh-s]
-noun Opthalmology.
a disorder of vision due to a deviation from normal orientation of one or both eyes so that both cannot be directed at the same object at the same time; squint; crossed eyes.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Picks of the Week

Week Five

Good God, people, I am getting obliterated in these picks. Where I chose upsets the underdogs fell apart and where I chose the big dogs to win, they choked. Right now my record is at 11 for 22, or 50% exactly. Hopefully, this is the week I bring that up. There aren’t a lot of opportunities for upsets this week, nor a lot of good games for that matter, but there are a few key match-ups that could clarify conference races a little more.

No. 22 Michigan at Michigan State
Michigan desperately needs better line play on both sides of the ball, but considering the Spartans’ penchant for choking in the 4th quarter and Michigan’s knack for leading game winning drives, I give this one to UM in another tight game.
Michigan 35 Michigan State 28

Wisconsin at Minnesota
Wisconsin needs this win to be considered a possible national contender and Minnesota needs it to get some respect in the Big 10. I think the Badgers will leave the new Minnesota stadium with their jocks intact.
Wisconsin 28 Minnesota 21

No. 4 LSU at No. 18 Georgia
I think LSU is overrated, plain and simple. They have needed last minute goal line stands and game winning drives to get passed teams they should have been blowing out. UGA have proven themselves capable of sticking with tough opponents, plus this game is being played in Athens. I give the edge to my wife’s Bulldogs.
Georgia 35 LSU 33

No. 9 Ohio State at Indiana
This game wouldn’t even be on the radar if IU hadn’t acquitted themselves so beautifully last week against Michigan. But the Buckeyes are finally kicking on all cylinders and will probably dispatch the Hoosiers by a few touchdowns.
Ohio State 38 Indiana 21

No. 21 Mississippi at Vanderbilt
Although this one doesn’t count for the SEC West standings, Ole Miss has to win if they want a piece of the SEC championship game. If they can’t get passed the Commodores they have no chance against ‘Bama, Auburn, or LSU. I think they’ll do it.
Mississippi 28 Vanderbilt 21

No. 25 Georgia Tech at Mississippi State
Georgia Tech is on official upset alert. Miss St. has played every opponent close and nearly bit LSU last week. I think the Yellow Jackets stumble and the Bulldogs come away with a huge non-conference upset.
Mississippi State 21 Georgia Tech 14

No. 7 USC at No. 24 California
With Cal’s loss to Oregon last week October 31st is now circled as the de facto Pac 10 Conference championship game, when the Ducks host USC. But in order to get to that game USC has to get passed Cal, who will be smarting something fierce after their trouncing last week. Even though this looks like it should be a good game, I don’t think it will be. Trojans, you have a duck hunting date at the end of the month.
USC 42 California 17

No. 8 Oklahoma at No. 17 Miami (FL)
This is the marquee game of the weekend with multiple storylines going into the game. Miami is at home and has fared well at home so far, but after their difficult loss last week to Virginia Tech they looked a much weaker team than they had previously. If Oklahoma has Bradford back look for the Sooners to do a number on Miami. If Bradford isn’t back, things might get a little dicier.
Oklahoma 38 Miami 33

Weekly Top Five

Fall Movie Preview Edition!

2. The Road
Directed by: John Hillcoat
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce
Release date: 25 November, 2009

Since torching the screen with his brilliant and intense performance as Aragorn in the LOTR series it has seemed like an increasing travesty that Viggo Mortensen doesn't have an Oscar yet, but from what I hear building around this movie this just might be the one that does the trick. Based on Cormac McCarthy's* Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same title the movie is essentially about a man and his son trying to survive after an unspecified apocalypse long enough to reach the coast, and what they hope will be safety. The book is bleak and difficult, an unflinching rumination on death, destruction, survival, and to what ends one will go to ensure the survival of one's children, and to that end it seems that it may be a difficult sell at the box office in the middle of a recession, but since when has the box office had anything to do with winning an acting Oscar? Considering how brilliant the last movie based on a McCarthy novel was, I'm thinking that this is pretty much a sure winner.

*The Pulitzer Prize winning novelist who also wrote "No Country For Old Men".

5. Sherlock Holmes
4. The Lovely Bones
3. Precious
3. Antichrist
2. The Road

Word of the Day!

equivocate [i-kwiv-uh-keyt]
-verb (used without object), -cated, -cating
to use ambiguous or unclear expressions, usually to avoid commitment or in order to mislead; prevaricate or hedge: When asked directly for his position on disarmament, the candidate only equivocated.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Little Crow's Links

Well, it's good to know that the high unemployment rate has been good for something.
"Noting half of ozone emissions in the region come from tailpipes, Green believes higher unemployment was another factor. Fewer commuters equals less congestion and less pollution."
So, as long as everyone just stays unemployed we may just be able to kick this oil-dependency thing. Well I, for one, am doing my part by generating enough kicky-poo energy during bath times to warm up the water, thus eliminating the need for a hot water least when I'm taking a bath. I can't say the same for M and the bearded wonder.

Anyway, that's the word for today, my friends.

Weekly Top Five

Fall Movie Preview Edition!

3. Tie between Precious and Antichrist
Directed by: Lee Daniels
Starring: Gabourey 'Gabby' Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey
Release date: 6 November, 2009

This movie has enjoyed a tremendous promotional push by Oprah in the recent month, but despite Oprah’s endorsement I still want to see this movie. I’ve been a fan of Mo’nique’s since her even-handed “headmistress” days on the original “Charm School” and from everything I’m hearing she very well might be up for her first Oscar for this performance. Based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire “Precious” centers around an overweight, illiterate girl named Precious who finds out she’s pregnant and the various difficulties surrounding her decision to keep the child, not least of all is her abusive mother, Mary (Mo’nique). This movie has been fire storming the festival circuit building buzz everywhere it’s shown and with Oprah’s endorsement should find its way into mainstream theaters just in time for awards season.

Directed by: Lars von Trier
Starring: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Willem Dafoe
Release date: 23 October, 2009

No movie this year has fascinated me more, or terrified me more, than the latest release from supposed enfant terrible, Lars von Trier. Since it’s release at Cannes in April this movie has generated the sort of buzz that makes a movie a practical classic even before its wide release. Being hailed as both a disgusting example of vanity and shock for shock’s sake, as well as one of the most brilliant films of all time, the only thing everyone can seem to agree on is “Antichrist” is an extraordinarily difficult film, both to watch and digest. For the director’s part, he claims he made this film to pull himself out of a deep depression that he’d been suffering for the last few years and so he poured every horrible thing that had happened to him or which he’d ever thought into the film. The film itself centers around a couple (given only the monikers ‘Man’ and ‘Woman’, played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg respectively) who decide to retreat to a secluded cabin in the woods called ‘Eden’ after the death of their infant son (a death which apparently is shown in excruciating detail in the first five minutes of the movie*). Man, who is a psychiatrist by trade, seeks to both reclaim his despondent wife, as well as psychologically control her but as the seclusion and darkness and grief begins to overwhelm them both he finds his psychology is simply no match for the unspeakable horrors unleashed by a Woman scorned. Accused of being misogynistic long before this film came out, von Trier has done little to dispel those critiques since the only female character in this movie is apparently irrational, violent, ruled by her body, and just plain psycho at times, but as an allegory for the Fall of Man it seems “Antichrist” hits the mark, even if that mark is slathered in blood at times.

*A scene which, even though I haven't even seen it yet, has haunted my nightmares. This supposed opening sequence, in which Man and Woman make graphic love and ignore their 2-yr-old son as he walks and then tumbles out a third storey window, smashing in horrible slow-motion on the cobblestone below, has taken on a terrifying quality for me sicne the birth of my own son. For those of you with kids you probably know what I'm talking about, but for those who don't let me tell you that once you have kids of your own, you suddenly become horribly, inexorbaly aware of all the terrible ways which your children can die. Not that I'm sitting around wringing my hands and brooding on Schmoo's death, it's just that sometimes, late at night, when I'm most susceptible to horrifying ideas anyway, I will wake up with a silent scream and the image of my son tumbling out of my grasping arms and falling and falling and I'm helpless to stop it. I'm not sure whether hearing about this scene came first or the nightmare, but either way the two of them have sort combined to create a recursive brain-loop which is unpleasant to say the least and has sort of contributed to my fearful fascination with this movie.

5. Sherlock Holmes
4. The Lovely Bones
3. Precious
3. Antichrist

Word of the Day!

eldritch [el-drich]
eerie; weird; spooky
Also, eldrich, elritch

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Weekly Top Five

Fall Movie Preview Edition!

4. The Lovely Bones
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Saoirse Ronan
Release date: 11 December, 2009

While this movie has had its fair share of backstage drama, e.g. Ryan Gosling walking out/getting fired right before filming was set to start, Peter Jackson supposedly fighting with his creative department over the look of Heaven, etc., now that the first trailers have been released and it’s clear the movie is actually going to come out the flames of excitement among LOTR and literature enthusiasts alike have been stoked to near-rabidity levels. The main buzz about this film* is that it has a kick butt cast, incredible effects (provided by Weta, PJ’s usual partners in crime), and that the novel that it’s adapted from is so heartbreaking that it practically oozes Oscar bait. Based on the haunting novel by Alice Sebold, “The Lovely Bones” centers on 15-yr-old Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan) who watches through the years from her own personal Heaven as her family deals with the fallout from her rape and murder. Any story that starts with such a horrid premise is pushing the envelope but Sebold handles the subject matter with tact and sincerity and by the end, when the line from which the title was derived arrives, the audience is fully, hopelessly in love with Suzie and her whole family. After his masterful direction of LOTR and “King Kong” I am absolutely certain that at worst this will be a really good, beautiful movie, and at best it could be a Best Picture Nominee.

*Other than the fact that it is the first film Peter Jackson has made since "King Kong".

5. Sherlock Holmes
4. The Lovely Bones

Word of the Day!

assiduous [uh-sij-oo-uhs]
1. constant; unremitting: assiduous reading.
2. constant in application or effort; working diligently at a task; persevering; industrious; attentive: an assiduous student.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Key West: Trinkets in the Sun

Part One

The Missing Luggage

I stuffed the last of our two carry-on bags into the overhead compartment, feeling strangely empty as I looked at our relative dearth of baggage (the last plane ride, only three weeks before, having been a “family” trip, which meant we had to bring an extra bag for the baby, as well as a diaper bag and all of his requisite goodies; i.e. stroller, sling, car seat, numerous bottles, little 4 oz. individually wrapped packages of powdered formula, et al). This was our first time out of the city without Collins and somehow looking at the two skimpy bags Olivia and I had packed brought the reality of that home to me far more than the kiss and hug three hours before. Looking at Olivia only made it worse. She looked like someone had stolen her proverbial lunch money and then didn’t even use it, just burnt it up in front of her and laughed with one of those really evil cartoon super villains’ laughs.

I sat down next to her and patted her thigh, trying to reconfigure my face so that it looked reassuring. It was our one-year anniversary, dammit, and we were going to Key West, and we couldn’t let something so schmaltzy as leaving our 3-month-old baby with his grandparents for the first time get in the way of the totally crazy time we were gonna have. We were going to Key West! The land of endless sunshine and Hemingway and Tennessee Williams and chickens!

My shoulders slumped.

“We shouldn’t have left him,” said Olivia, mimicking my own thoughts in that bizarre way I’d come to sort of expect after three years together. Whether we liked it or not we were starting to think like one person, and having a baby together had only widened the telepathic highway from two lanes to four.

But we were already on the plane, we’d already bought our tickets and reserved the VRBO and car rental, and our bags were already sitting in the overhead compartment and our butts were already in our seats; it was too late now to turn back. I had a brief image of us suddenly standing up and rushing off the plane, fellow passengers looking up from their Michael Connelly and Dean Koontz novels and Newsweeks and Rolling Stones with shocked, I-can’t-believe-the-verve-of-these-people looks, and we get in our car and speed back to Columbus and for some reason in this vision Olivia’s parents and Collins are in a church like in The Graduate and Olivia and I are pounding soundlessly on the window: “Collins! Coooooolllinsss!!!”

That sort of did the trick for me, and I grinned in spite of myself and leaned over, whispered in Olivia’s ear: “C’mon, babe. We’re going to Key West!”

The Land of Hemingway

We’d planned this trip over two months ago (what with it being our paper anniversary and all and Olivia having raved about the relative merits of Key West for two years and wanting to totally pop my Key West cherry, so to speak) because after weeks of hemming and hawing we’d finally decided that it would be best to just go somewhere tropical and fun and relaxing, hurricane season de damned, and so when cheap tickets to Ft. Lauderdale popped up with Spirit we were like practically forced to jump.

Key West had always held this kind of museum-like interest for me, you know like look-but-don’t-touch. It seemed like this really fun place that everyone else went to but not me. I’d heard about it from my parents and Olivia and her parents and everyone simply raved about the place. They described it as like this brilliant combination of New Orleans’ French Quarter and St. Augustine, but with pirate crap everywhere and really good Key Lime pie. Every time Olivia would talk about the girls’ trip she’d taken there two years before she’d get kind of misty-eyed like she was remembering an old boyfriend or something and mumble something about “I only wish I’d gotten to see the Sunset Celebration”.

So, when we decided finally that Key West was it, I was totally jacked up. I mean, this was the place where Hemingway wrote parts of For Whom the Bell Tolls, Snows of Kilimanjaro, Death in the Afternoon, where Tennessee Williams wrote A Streetcar Named Desire, the place that practically made Jimmy Buffet. This was the place that invented laid-back cool and “it’s five-o-clock somewhere” and Latitude Attitude. This was the place where anyone could come and just like totally chill out.

This was going to really fun, I just knew it.

The Birth of an Island Paradise

In 1521 Juan Ponce de Leon planted the Spanish flag in Key West’s soil, naming the island Cayo Hueso (Bone Key*), and establishing the first European settlement. For the next 300 years the island changed hands several times**, desirable in theory for its strategic location and view of the Florida Straits. Since first settlement there’s always been some sort of naval garrison on the island but in reality Cayo Hueso was mostly home to a motley assortment of Bahamian, Cuban, Spanish, and British fishermen who used the island’s proximity to Cuba to troll back and forth in search of large game fish. And for hundreds of years Cayo Hueso remained like that, sparsely populated and unused for any sort of overt commercial purpose.

That all changed when US businessman John W. Simonton, acting on the suggestion of his friend John Whitehead who understood implicitly what a gold mine the island could be, bought the rights to Cayo Hueso (rechristened Thompson’s Island then Port Rodgers and finally Key West***) for the price of a $575 sloop. Often misunderstood as simply a strategic naval location, Simonton was the first to realize its vast commercial possibilities (what with its deep harbor right at the mouth of the massive Gulf of Mexico shipping lanes) and his first act as de facto Lord of Key West was to divvy up the island into three parts and sell them to his friends. Simonton remained influential on the island until his death in 1838, spending much of his time lobbying Congress for the establishment of a naval base as well as setting the lasting precedent of Key-West-as-tropical-playground.

While for much of the rest of the 19th century Key West remained a sleepy naval-base-cum-fishing-village more and more people steadily began to recognize the island, with its semi-tropical climate and relative seclusion, as a wonderful place to escape the ravages of winter.

But the real increase in Key West’s popularity came in the early 20th century when, in 1912, Henry Flagler extended his Florida East Coast railway all the way to the Southernmost Point, finally connecting the island to the mainland. While the railroad was destroyed by The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 the increased popularity of Key West as a tourist destination by that point virtually forced the reconstruction of the rail route, this time as a highway, in 1938. At the same time increased naval presence brought thousands of soldiers to the island and as word of Key West’s climate and atmosphere spread, the way was paved for the real estate and tourism explosions of the 1950s and 2000s.

“I just want one of those drinks that like come in a pineapple and have a little umbrella in it.”

Despite my best attempts at new-parent bravado, it took the rest of the plane ride, the 4+ hour drive from Miami to Key West, showers in the quaint but really nice Hollinsed House, 3 beers, two calls to the grandparents, and an amazing burger at Fogarty’s for Olivia and I to finally accept that we’d actually left our son in Georgia and that we had only three short days to live like we weren’t parents. With acceptance of this fact finally in sight I decided, heck, let’s celebrate our first night in Key Frickin’ West, right!?

Looking out on the buzzing hubbub of Duval St. from Fogarty’s vast patio I suggested, “We should get something tropical.”

Olivia shrugged noncommittally. “Get one if you want.”

And I did; something called a “Flying Monkey”, which came in a nifty but decidedly small plastic souvenir cup and tasted a bit like pink lemonade and coconut rum. It also came with a decidedly large price tag for such a relatively small amount of tropical goodness, a price that was, to Fogarty’s credit, disclosed on the menu but which I had unfortunately chosen not to peruse closely enough****.

Paying the bill, I waggled the empty cup at Olivia and posited, in what I hoped sounded casually humorous, “I guess plastic is really expensive down here.”

I sighed: “I just want one of those drinks that like come in a pineapple and have a little umbrella on it."

*This was in reference to the Native American burial grounds scattered across the island when de Leon landed.

**The British took it from the Spanish then gave it back to them, and then it sort of devolved into a loose association of fishermen until the US took it over for good.

***It is widely believed Key West is really just a bastardized Anglicization of Cayo Hueso.

****Like subtle foreshadowing in a film noir movie, this should have been my first clue as to what Key West has become. There is simply no reason why 12 ounces of pre-made lemonade slushy and a shot of cheap rum should cost $6.50, except that this is Key-Freakin’-West and we’re 120 miles from anything resembling normal pricing for even the most basic of consumer goods.

Weekly Top Five

Fall Movie Preview Edition!

Well, with the coming of October the summer is officially over, which can only mean one thing*…awards season. This is the time of the year when all the major movie studios throw everything they’ve got at the Academy in hopes that something will stick and get the all-important “Academy Award Nomination”.

So in the spirit of the season this week’s Weekly Top Five is dedicated to the top five movies I simply cannot wait to see**.

5. Sherlock Holmes
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams
Release date: 25 December, 2009

While not exactly award season fodder, “Sherlock Holmes” does seem to have all the right stuff on the surface for a truly entertaining movie: a stellar cast (including Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams), director Guy Ritchie coming off the sort-of-successful “Rocknrolla”, and a classic hero practically begging to be turned into a franchise. The curious thing about this movie for me is that about a year ago Seth and I had kicked around the idea of writing the script for an updated, more adult version of Sherlock Holmes and then we found out about this movie, which is essentially doing the exact same thing***. From the trailers this looks to be classic Downey Jr. and Ritchie, which should make for a lot of fun and maybe even give Downey’s other franchise a run for its money.

*Other than college football, of course.
**As in fidget like a four-yr-old everytime I remember that these movies are going to be released in the next few months.
***Further proof that Seth and I need to be Hollywood bigwigs, since this marks literally the second time we have set out to start working on an adaptation project that has already been greenlit as a major Hollywood undertaking. The other time was with Stephen King's "Dark Tower series" and the tale of how we spent two years finishing a screenplay only to find out the very weekend we finished that Stephen King had sold the rights to J.J. Abrams for $.19 is sort of long and tortured and still a little too near for me to not be a little bitter about, but which like I said is long and tortured so I won't bother elucidating here. Just know that it was a little bit disappointing and that no matter what the lawyers at Bad Robot say, "I know where you live, J.J. Abrams" is not a direct threat and the restraining order is honestly a little much, guys.

Word of the Day!

cavort [kuh-vawrt]
-verb (used without object)
1. to prance or caper about.
2. to behave in a high-spirited, festive manner; make merry.