Monday, January 28, 2008

Movie Review: Juno

There were two things I knew for certain when I walked out of this movie: first, this was the best movie I have seen in at least a year; and second, Ellen Page is the greatest actress of her generation. The last time I was stunned this way: Natalie Portman in The Professional. But Page is much better, if not quite as cute. Talent trumps all, and Ellen Page is the real deal. Her comic timing is impeccable, and Humphrey Bogart would be proud of this young woman who has his knack for acting without speaking.

What could have been American Pie meets She's Having a Baby quickly establishes itself as an original. Hard to do with all the elements of a typical high school flick: the popular jock, the geeky friend (Michael Cerra) who loves Juno (Ellen Page), her parents she leans on for support, the cheerleader girlfriend(Olivia Therby). But nothing goes quite the way we've been programmed to expect.

Take the scene where Juno tells her parents that she's pregnant. I won't spoil it for you, but how do you expect that scene to play out? Let's just say that in this brilliant screenplay by first-timer Diablo Cody, the parental units are not just mindless automatons. For the first time in history of the genre (if this can be nailed down to a single genre), parents have been allowed to think and to be an important part of their child's life. Stand up and clap for Allison Janney, as Juno's stepmom, and J.K. McGruff, as her father. Funny and simply lovable, they made it real.

You would expect at some point to meet a bad guy, someone whose intentions are bad. You might think we've finally met one or both of them in Jason Bateman (he's been gone way too long!) and Jennifer Garner, a couple that by all appearances has that which any American couple aspires. But not even within their damaged relationship can we really assign blame. They should have just agreed to see other people. Juno is the match that lights that cinder box, but again, not in any way you would expect.

This movie reminds me again that Hollywood has lost its spark. Perhaps it's been too busy telling us how to vote and defending child rapists rather than applying itself to the business we pay it for. Juno hearkens back to the old days when I would quote all the funny lines from a John Hughes movie, and my schoolmates already knew them by heart. I can only hope this is just a small sample of things to come.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

This is so my sense of humor

This reminds of pranks that I've played in the past. Now if I could only remember...

Thursday, January 24, 2008


The game is called MotherLoad. My three-year-old found this when he was supposed to be playing another daddy-sanctioned game, but his little fingers are guided by the spirit of the surfer. I'll have to keep an eye on him!

Anyway, the game is highly addictive once you figure out how to play it. I was supposed to be researching for my WIP last night, but three hours later I decided I should probably get some sleep.

Click on the image to check it out.

Caveat emptor!

Monday, January 21, 2008

Do You Know Who This Is?

This girl needs my help.


Not only is she beautiful, but she's rich. (How rich? More than you can imagine. I can imagine a lot.) Or should that be the other way around?

You see, she has fifteen million dollars in a bank account and needs someone that she can trust, namely me, to invest it for her here in America. Smart too. She wants to diversify across market sectors.

The money was willed to her by a rich uncle (who was recently poisoned--long story). Now she has to move the money out of her account, and soon, before her brothers get their hands on it and leave her penniless.

I have to help, if not for her, then to strike a blow against the injustices of patriarchical society!

Oh, and she can't wait to meet me. She's single too. In life, it's really about timing. What are the chances?

The Boston FBI informs me (with a chuckle) that they already have reams of info on this one. But thanks for calling.

Third Tynes a Charm

The first thing I did this morning was to google the title of this post. The results were exactly what I expected. It was too much to hope for that nobody else thought of that newspaper headline to summarize yesterdays NFC championship game.

(Lawrence Tynes missed two field goals that would have iced the game in the fourth quarter. In overtime, he nailed his third attempt, splitting the uprights.)

My previous post was intended to be an actual post. I've been composing in Word, which has a feature now to auto-publish to a blog. For some reason, before I was finished it simply published it before I was finished. I hadn't had a post in a while so I figured what the heck.

I'm down to three lady bugs, by the way. One more went to the Lady Bug Picnic In the Sky.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Emmett is running up the steps; mommy is gone away for an appointment. Surprise, he didn't come into my office—yet.

Now that the fog of the football season has evaporated into the clouds, I'll take this moment to look around and breathe the air.

How many there were to start with I can't remember, but I'd say I've lost five or so ladybugs from their little bug hut home I have beside me on my desk. It makes me a little sad when I see one on its back, sometimes just a tiny leg swaying ever so slightly.

Jackson just got back from school—early release day, you see. Momma is out for a couple hours, so I'm hanging out here, trying to work and squeeze in a post.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Concession Speech

For the rest of the season, I'm officially a Packers fan.

I don't want to talk about it right now, other than to say that when the ball was intercepted in the endzone to end the game and the season, I had a moment of utter dispair. After I stopped the Tivo from recording, deleted it, and turned the TV off, my wife said quietly, "I'm sorry."

"I can't believe we lost to the GIANTS..."

Then, without saying another word, I walked up stairs, flossed and brushed my teeth, took a deep breath, went downstairs again and joined my wife and kids at the table.

I said, "Ok, I'm over it now."

Thanks for one hell of a season, Cowboys. Thirteen and three, first round bye in the playoffs, and a young, talented roster to take us into the future.

Not too shabby.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Leave Tony Romo Alone!

This won't make much sense if you haven't been following Jessicagate, the Cowboys or football in general, but you have to check out this parody of the infamous Chris Crocker YouTube video. I have no idea who Chris Crocker is, but he certainly seems to have affection for Britney Spears.

Turn down the volume knob, ok?

Getcha Popcorn Ready

My manager is a Packers fan, as is my wife. I just found out that one of my coworkers is a life-long Giants fan. At least nobody with any direct influence over my well being has a Jones for the Seahawks.

So, this weekend is shaping up to be an unstable stick of dynamite.

Everyone knows I'm a huge Cowboys fan, and I have not been encouraged by the way my team played down the stretch, but it seems that everyone in the media has completely written them off. I've sort of come to expect it, but it still kind of stings to be reminded.

Eli Manning, the younger brother of Peyton Manning, played two good games back to back. The first, against the Patriots, was a valiant effort for three quarters. The loss though was perceived as a win. The following week, the Giants beat the Buccaneers in a wild-card matchup. Now, according to the mediots, the Giants are resurging; Eli is playing "within himself", and will be too much for the struggling Cowboys to handle.

The Giants pass rush will be too much to handle too. But what these people seem to be forgetting, or at least attaching no significance to, is that the Cowboys line has held that monster pass rush in check for two games this season, games that the Cowboys won, and kept Tony Romo upright but for two sacks. In two meetings, our defense was missing one of its two starters. The first time it was our star corner Terrence Newman; the second time it was Anthony Henry. And both times, Eli Manning torched the backup Jacques Reeves, who has shown some spark, but would not normally crack the starting lineup on any NFL team.

But nobody pays this fact any attention. They will however be quick to tell you that in that second meeting, Giants receiver Plaxico Burress was hobbled by an ankle injury.

Well let me set the record straight about what's going to happen on Sunday. The Cowboys, contrary to reports coming from the coaches, will have TO back in the lineup. The Giants will be facing a couple firsts in this meeting. For the first time, their receivers will be facing Terrence Newman and Anthony Henry. And also for the first time, they will be facing Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn, both receivers on a normal day would be drawing double coverage. Terry Glenn has been hurt all year, getting a few snaps in the season ender with Washington to knock the dew off his lilly. Reports from practice say that Glenn is looking like his old self. If that's true, then I give the Giants no chance in this game whatsoever. Because the recipe for beating the Cowboys involves single coverage on wide receivers and crowding the line of scrimmage. If everyone is healthy, then that just isn't possible. Look for big days from TO, Glenn, Witten and Marion the Barbarian.

Like TO says, "Getcha popcorn ready."

Prediction, Cowboys 35, Giants 17.

Another prediction: The media will still find a way to attribute the Cowboys win to luck and poor focus on the Giants part. But the reality will be, that after this game, the Cowboys will have their swagger back and kick buttocks in the NFC championship.

The Super Bowl I don't even want to think about. For all my bold predictions, I'm nervous as hell. The one thing I hate more than losing is to lose when everyone is predicting it like a foregone conclusion.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The Andy Rooney Internet Hoax

Thanks to the one and only MagnetBabe for pointing out that the email making the rounds purporting to quote Andy Rooney was a hoax. I should have known. Every time I get an email from my cousin I normally double-check it for accuracy. This time I just assumed it was true.


I remember watching Dennis Miller on his HBO series having an entire episode to rebelling against racial sensitivity, but it wasn't totally revolutionary because it is the kind of thing you would expect from a comedian whose job it is to pick at the scabs of status quo. Someone like Andy Rooney -- well, it was too far from the norm to have accepted it at face value.

I promised a reply to MagnetBabe's comment, which as I've come to expect from her, is intelligent and passionate. Here it is:

Opinions that are not grounded in reason and are instead the influence of ignorance should be stamped out rather than given a forum. One could say that in the first comment here Alan stamped out "Rooney's" opinion that the United Negro College Fund and Miss Black America represent reverse racism, as he very should have. That was an ignorant opinion that "Rooney" was either too lazy to look up the history of or too racist himself to care. Or just trying to cause a stir, in which case it worked.

The statement about homosexuality didn't directly imply that the writer thought homosexuality was wrong. But in a similarly dangerous manner, it displays tolerance of people who think homosexuality is wrong. To me, shrugging your shoulders at someone attempting to exert moral authority over a population of people is not acceptable and rather than simply taking it at face value as opinion I would argue that this thinking ought to be stamped out rather than perpetuated throughout society. To me, "homosexuality is wrong" accepted simply as opinion bears an unsettling resemblance to the "opinion" that "evolution is just a theory", another opinion that should be stamped out rather than tolerated a minute longer.

I would counter by saying that while the above is well-stated, it is some pretty fancy stamping. And before anyone thinks I'm opposed in any way to homosexuality, or that I am applauding the opinion that homosexuality is wrong, please reconsider. I tolerate different opinions, not just the opinions that I feel are worthy of consideration. I know plenty of people that think homosexuality is wrong, as well as people who are prejudiced. They are most certainly ignorant, and easy marks in conversation. The only way to get through to people like this is through discourse, not by treating them like lepers and banishing them to a white supremicist commune. You are an idealist, Nat, and I really admire that about you. Your parents raised you to see the world as it should be, and have backed that rhetoric with action. But you can't bully people into your way of thinking. It's not realistic. In fact, it's a perfect recipe for lifelong frustration and bitterness.

On the opposite end of the family spectrum is my grandmother. She hates everyone who is not white, and I'm assuming homosexuals as well. She used to use the n-word with regularity until I brought my kids around. We were watching an Eddie Murphy movie Daddy Day Care when my grandma, right in front of the kids, said "That n--- sure is funny." The kids didn't hear because they were too focused on the movie.
Grandma, don't use that word in front of my kids.

Why not?

Because it's disrespectful, and they're my kids and I'll raise them as I see fit.

Well what do you call them?

I just say 'that man' or 'that woman' and point. I don't refer to anyone as a white man or woman and they seem to understand who I mean. Names help too. Like, 'Eddie Murphy sure is funny.'

She looked at me with a gleam in her eyes. I'm not sure if she was proud or just thought I didn't get it, but I think it was the former. I have to admit that if she would have persisted I would have threatened to leave, but my point is that I talked to her about it, and hopefully made her understand just a little.

And as for exerting moral authority over a population of people, that's some pretty strong stuff. If I am not allowed to do this, then I must accept polygamy, or men who treat their women as chattel, and a host of others that I can't think of, simply because they are a population of people, and that I object on moral grounds. I don't think so. And I hardly see the correlation between the denial of evolution and moral objection. One is felt in the heart while the other is denying an entire body of science.

And don't start thinking I'm a creationist (not that you would!). The whole thing is absurd. That's not an opinion. It's a close cousin of conspiracy theory. Religion has no place in schools, just as it has no place in government.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Kansas, We Have a Winner

The state of Kansas has become the focus of research for my expansion of my flash piece for Bernita's contest. It will probably amount to one sentence out of hundreds, but I want to be as authentic as I can when portraying the life of a boy growing up in the lawless old west. I've always liked historical fiction. Kansas turns out to be the perfect setting. In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska act opened up the two territories for homesteaders, and some ninety thousand people started their journey into the west from the mouth of the Kansas River, which is commonly referred to as the Kaw. Beyond that begins the Great Plains, which for some unknown reason, already had trails leading across them. The speculation was that perhaps it was the Buffalo or the Indians that had blazed them, but they already existed.

I found two books from my local library. The first is The Kaw: The Heart of a Nation. I've only just started it, but this is definitely the focus of my research. Not only do I get exact descriptions of the landscape throughout the state, but of the pioneers that came from all parts of the world to settle there. There are descriptions of the initial settlements, wages paid, famous outlaws, the division of the prairies by barbed wire. This is going to be a cover-to-cover read for me. I'm tentatively setting this story in 1865, just after the Civil War. Kansas was an anti-slave state, but neighboring Missouri was pro. In fact, Kansas was the staging ground for the Civil War. My two characters were initially white, but now I'm thinking that my boy character is white, and that the other is an ex-slave that escaped from Missouri into Kansas and was taken in by the boy's father. This man and the boy's father both join the Union forces, leaving the boy and his mother to survive alone for the entire four years of the war. That's the start of it.

The other book I have is Pioneer Women: Voices from the Kansas Frontier. This is a collection of first-hand accounts from – you guessed it – women of the Kansas frontier. I'm looking forward to this too, because this should give me everything I need to convey the life of a family on its own without a man to help. Life back then was terribly brutal, and I want to capture that.

Lastly, I found a link to nineteenth century slang. And Wikipedia is just amazing. I've been reading about hoop skirts and bustles to start with, but the links take me sometimes seven degrees of separation from my original subject. For instance, I was reading about the hoop skirt and somehow ended up on escarpment.

If only we had these tools in high school.