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Friday, October 30, 2009

On the Plains of Marathon

Week Eight
Goal: 24 miles with a 9 mile jog.

Actual Miles Run: 20

Endnotes: I was on such a roll this week--I was at 15 miles by Monday--but then everything unraveled and I ended up only able to go on one more 5-mile run for the rest of the week. Oh well. The good news is I was able to complete a 9.5-mile run, which shows tremendous progress.

Despite my protestations just a few weeks ago about not running in an organized marathon, I'm starting to lean toward joining my sister in the Music City Marathon in Nashville in April. Not sure yet, but I think it might be fun to do, and I assume that by April I should be in marathon shape.

To finish this week I guess I will fill y'all in on where the term marathon comes from. According to legend a Greek messenger named Pheidippides was sent from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated in the Battle of Marathon. Apparently he ran the whole way and when he arrived he burst into the assembly, announced that the Greeks had won, and then collapsed dead.

The distance from Marathon to Athens is approximately the same length of a marathon today.

For more information on everything marathons click here.

Week Nine
Goal: 25 miles, with a 10 mile run

Weekly Top Five

Scary Movie Edition!

1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Directed by Tobe Hooper
Starring: Gunnar Hansen

Beyond a doubt nothing has ever scared the living crap out of me quite like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I watched this film for the first time on Halloween when I was 13 years old* and from the opening shot of a dead armadillo on the side of the road I knew that there was something different, something terrible about this movie. Supposedly based on a true story** director Tobe Hooper enhances the realism by filming the whole thing in a documentary style, which for a 13-year-old boy only made the experience that much more terrifying.

While the film met mixed critical reception upon release it has since gained a reputation as one of the most influential horror films of all time, primarily because it both invented and eschewed simultaneously several of horror’s greatest clichés. Much of the film centers on chainsaw-wielding maniac, Leatherface, chasing various horny teenagers around the torched Texas countryside, which would seem clichéd if it weren’t for the fact that Hooper practically invented this scenario. On top of that, by having so much of the action take place in broad daylight, the sense of realistic dread is only reinforced. I mean, who can say that they didn’t jump out of their pants when Kirk walks into the abandoned house and Leatherface jumps out of nowhere and hacks him to pieces? There weren’t even any soundtrack cues for the impending doom. It just happened. And never mind Sally’s cringe-worthy torture scenes.

All in all, even after several additional viewings, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is the most terrifying movie I have ever seen. Hands down.

5. Pumpkinhead
4. Aliens
3. The Ring
2. The Orphanage
1. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

*As you can see 12-13 was a big year for watching horror movies for me.
**No doubt this was about 98% of what drew me to the movie in the first place, the sense that I was watching something actually happen.

Word of the Day!

arcanum [ar-kay-nuhm]
1. A secret; a mystery.
2. Specialized or mysterious knowledge, language, or information that is not accessible to the average person (generally used in the plural).

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Picks of the Week

Week Nine

I’m not sure whether I am choosing obvious games, getting beter at predicting the winners, or if predicting just gets easier as one learns more about the teams, but regardless I did darn good this past weekend, going 7 for 9 and lifting my totals to 34 for 57, or 60%. My only stumbles were a biased pick of Michigan over Penn St* and an apparently misguided South Florida over Pitt.

Now for this week, what it’s lacking in quantity it more than makes up with quality; this week is really only about three games: Georgia/Florida, Texas/Ok St., and USC/Oregon. Essentially all or half of three major conference championships are being decided in these games. In Jacksonville, UGA has the chance to confuse things in the SEC East with a win over archrivals Florida. In the Big 12 Texas will all but shore up their spot in the conference championship with a victory over Ok St. And in the PAC 10 USC and the Ducks are playing for a de facto conference championship. This is a very big weekend.

Indiana at No. 4 Iowa
I’m only including this game because I need to have more than 3 or 4 games for my Picks of the Week. Also, since Iowa seems content to play up or down to whatever level their competition is, Indiana could end up being a much tougher opponent than people are giving them credit for. If Iowa continues to let every game come down to last second drives and field goals they won’t stay undefeated for much longer. Still, I think the Hawkeyes make a statement at home.
Iowa 28 Indiana 10

No. 25 Mississippi at Auburn
Why Ole Miss is ranked at all is beyond me, but since they are its all the better for Auburn to knock ‘em down a peg. There’s nothing teams in the SEC on a downward slide like to do more than drag other teams down with them. I think the War Eagle will be flying on Saturday.
Auburn 17 Mississippi 14

Georgia vs. No. 1 Florida
This is a tough one for me because I really think UGA has the goods to beat this Florida team, but it all depends on which team shows up. If it’s the porous defense and can’t-score offense, the Gators will run away with it, but if perchance the team that fought South Carolina and Arkansas so hard in past weeks shows up, then I think Florida will fall. This is a rivalry game, and anything can happen. I’ll err on the side of emotion.
Georgia 28 Florida 24

No. 24 California at Arizona State
Even though the conference championship is more or less out of the question for both of these teams, Cal and AZ St. still have a lot to play for, most notably pride. Cal wants to prove they are a top tier team and the Sundevils want to join their in-state rivals, Arizona, in the Top 25. I don’t think it will happen though. With Cal passed all the really hard guys, they will come out strong.
California 35 Arizona State 21

Michigan at Illinois
This should be the Wolverines mystical sixth win, the win that sends them to a bowl game, and the win that justifies that they are making progress despite an abysmal start to the Rodriguez era last year. In theory Michigan should have no problem with the Illini who are simply trying to win a game in the Big 10, but if the Wolverines continue to commit 4 turnovers a game, this one won’t be easy.
Michigan 35 Illinois 14

No. 22 South Carolina at Tennessee
Tennessee has been through too much this season, and showed too much heart to finish less than #2 in the SEC East. I don’t think they will let a better-than-average Gamecocks team come into Neyland Stadium and pull off a W. Look for Crompton to try to avenge his robbery from last week with a big passing game.
Tennessee 28 South Carolina 17

No. 3 Texas at No. 14 Oklahoma State
This game could more or less decide who is going to the Big 12 Championship game…assuming Texas wins. If Ok St. pulls off the upset they still have to get passed Oklahoma, which is by no means certain. But, judging from the Longhorns’ easy dispatching of Mizzou on the road I think Texas will keep the win streak alive.
Texas 17 Oklahoma State 10

No. 5 USC at No. 10 Oregon

As far as I’m concerned this is the PAC 10 championship. Both teams could leapfrog into the Top 5 with a win here and a significant loss to one of the top teams, so with a conference championship and possible BCS implications look for this to be a tough game. I think USC’s defense will be the key and if they hold up Barkley will score enough points for them. But I think the Ducks are on a roll and will use the home field advantage to…well, their advantage.
Oregon 42 USC 35

*And we would have won too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids. **grumble grumble grumble**

Weekly Top Five

Scary Movie Edition!

2. The Orphanage
Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona
Starring Belen Rueda

The Orphanage is Spanish-language horror film by first time director Juan Antonio Bayona, which was produced by the now-ubiquitous Guillermo del Toro, is one of the tensest and saddest movies I’ve seen in a long time. Centering on a woman, Laura, who moves her husband and young son to the orphanage where she grew up in order to open a home for handicapped children. But as the movie progresses, Laura’s son begins to have conversations with a new “friend” culminating in a game of hide and seek which leads to her son’s disappearance.

The remainder of the movie is one part supernatural thriller, and two parts meditation on faith and love, in which Laura, convinced her son is still alive tries desperately to find any clue as to his whereabouts, even if her quest leads her into the realm of the dead.

Based loosely on Peter Pan, this film doesn’t “scare” in the traditional sense*, but creates a pervasive sense of mounting dread as each of Laura’s theories are systematically debunked, leading her with no other option but to believe that the spirits in the house have kidnapped her son. The lengths this mother will go to save her son, and the unflappable belief in her son’s survival, give the tension a level of realistic horror that sets this movie way apart from it’s peers.

And above all the ending is simply devastating.

5. Pumpkinhead
4. Aliens
3. The Ring
2. The Orphanage

*For those of you who don’t make a regular habit of watching horror movies in a language that is not native to you, I would suggest trying it occasionally. While the experience of watching a horror movie is generally a visceral experience, reading subtitles has the effect of forcing you to use your mind instead of your body for absorbing the images. It makes the experience less physically stimulating but over-all can make for a much more overwhelming experience, because you have had to use your mind and body.

Little Crow's Links

For those of you who are either interested in photography, history, or truth, this seven part essay in the New York Times should be as fascinating for you as it was for me. Who knew taking pictures was so darn complicated?

Word of the Day!

dulcet [duhl-sit]
1. Pleasing to the ear; melodious; harmonious.
2. Generally pleasing, soothing, or agreeable.
3. (Archaic) Sweet to the taste.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Weekly Top Five

Scary Movie Edition!

3. The Ring
Directed by Gore Verbinski
Starring: Naomi Watts

I know, I know, the original Japanese version is better, but I saw this one, the American version of The Ring, first and I think it was the first time I can say as an adult I was legitimately creeped out by a movie. The way it builds the tension for nearly a third of the movie before showing you the short film at the heart of the murders* is just brilliant. And the ending…whoo! Who knew it was a morality tale the whole time? Not only is this a good horror film but it’s just a good film in general.

5. Pumpkinhead
4. Aliens
3. The Ring

*and then the short film totally delivers on first class creepiness.

Key West: Trinkets in the Sun

Part Five
Click here for Part One
Click here for Part Two
Click here for Part Three
Click here for Part Four

“I just want one of those drinks that like come in a pineapple and have a little umbrella in it”: Part 2

My head was swimming from drink and over-exertion and copious amounts of sweating as we sped off down the profane glitter of Duval St. I kept imagining that if only I could take like this big arm and wipe away the lights and bars and drunken frat boys I might be able to see what was underneath, feel what had drawn all these pirates and profiteers and drug runners to the island in the first place. I was scanning the sidewalks, imagining all the people wiped away like dust on the surface of dining room table.

Then I saw it. There, written in almost indecipherable script on a chalkboard out front of some tiny, alleyway bar: Fresh Pineapple Drinks.

Word of the Day!

panjandrum [pan-jan-druhm]
An important personage or pretentious official.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Weekly Top Five

Scary Movie Edition!

4. Aliens
Directed by James Cameron
Starring Sigourney Weaver

When I was about eight years old I stayed up without my parents realizing it and watched Aliens on VHS. Without a doubt this movie scared the crap out of me. From the harrowing claustrophobia of the sets to the drab cinematography the whole thing just got under my skin in a way I never would have been able to articulate at that age. And by the end when that robot guy gets spliced in half by the mother alien and acid spews out of his chest like blood, I was too terrified to turn the TV off and go to sleep. I stayed up half the night with horrible nightmares of aliens chasing me through mechanical tunnels and stinging me with their tails.

I’ve seen the movie since then and while it still is a cinematic masterpiece, nothing can quite match that first time when childish misunderstanding and scary movies meet to create a boogeyman so vivid that one can almost reach out and touch it. Brilliant. Just brilliant. Thank you James Cameron, I mean it.

5. Pumpkinhead
4. Aliens

Universal Authorship

Apparently in the future everyone will be an author. I wonder what that means for me?

Word of the Day!

ken [ken]
1. Perception; understanding; knowledge.
2. The range of vision.
3. View; sight.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Weekly Top Five

Scary Movie Edition!

First, I would like to thank Vince Neilstein again for the site-swap last week. I think it was a great success, and a lot of fun.

Now for this week: staying in the vein of Halloween this week is dedicated to the five movies that have most scared the living bejeesus out of me. They may not be scary to you, but something about them sure got to me.

5. Pumpkinhead
Directed by: Stan Winston
Starring: Lance Henricksen

Pumpkinhead has been horribly overlooked through the years primarily because it had a spotty theatrical release when the company that produced it went belly up right before its release. However, I came across this gem when I was the ripe age of 12 and everything from the dark color palette to the pathos of a father driven to desperate lengths to seek revenge for the death of his son affected me tremendously. I have seen the movie multiple times since that first time and every time the movie holds up. It’s one of those rare slasher flicks that strive to be something more than a vehicle for gory deaths. It is a morality tale about the cost of revenge with an ending that leaves the viewer stunned. This is a must see for anyone who enjoys not only horror films, but films in general.

Word of the Day!

chimera [ky-mir-uh]
1. (Capitalized) A fire-breathing she-monster represented as having a lion's head, a goat's body, and a serpent's tail.
2. Any imaginary monster made up of grotesquely incongruous parts.
3. An illusion or mental fabrication; a grotesque product of the imagination.
4. An individual, organ, or part consisting of tissues of diverse genetic constitution, produced as a result of organ transplant, grafting, or genetic engineering.