Feb 23, 2010

Ultra Running

UltraRunning from Matt Hart on Vimeo.

I think that I portray myself more as an athlete than actually being one. Sure I run consistently - normally every day - but being from BFGA (I won't tell you if you can't figure it out), I have a suspicious view toward runners - and any "nontraditional" athlete (soccer players, bwahahaha) - as athletes. Plus, running isn't so much a spectator sport, so I could completely lie about it and expect people to believe me. Lying about being a runner would be the easiest scam ever, if you were so desperate. So perhaps that's why I don't really consider myself a "runner", per se.

That being said, the people in this video make me soooo envious. Damn them and their ability to prove just how rugged they are (even if they do wear spandex unis). Now I have to go out and buy a camera in order to keep up. I am a hobbyist runner, a hack, the pretender, but I am very competitive, so when I see these Ultra Runners - people who run any distance longer than the traditional regulation marathon of 26.1 miles - it makes me want to don the Asics, powder up, and hit the road.

The Two Gentlemen of Lebowski

'The Two Gentlemen of Lebowski' shows us what it might have looked like had Shakespeare written 'The Big Lebowski'. The Shakespeare Tavern - or The NEW Shakespeare Tavern, as they prefer to call it (I swear, you and 97.1 The River need to cut it out) - are producing an interpretation of the Adam Bertocci-penned mash-up of Shakespearean proportions. The video above is just a snippet, a tidbit, of what might be expected. Looks to be fun. I think the fi-awn-say and I just might have to make a pilgrimage to the big, scary city to see it.

Feb 22, 2010

A Movie About a Racist Dog - Yes, Indeed

This is a trailer Paramount shelved in 1981 for a movie about a racist dog called, yep, 'White Dog'. No subtext here. It seems to be a strange amalgamation of 'Cujo' and 'To Kill a Mockingbird'.

It doesn't look very good (or unintentionally funny), but I posted it because the dog in the movie is a white German Shepherd and I, too, have a white German Shepherd. Luckily, my dog grew up a liberal dog in a liberal town. If she had grown up in the deep South, it might have been a different story.

Here's my Ona:

The Zombie Dream (Killing) Team

This is certainly a post I wish I had written. It's a dead-on list for who would be good to have by your side in lieu of the zombie apocalypse, including Peter from 'Dawn of the Dead' and Rick Grimes from 'The Walking Dead'. I can't help but think of what a joy it would be for me to be playing L4D2 with these men and women scrambling around with me, trying not to die.

Feb 20, 2010

The Making of 'Coraline'

Westboro Baptist Church Out-Protested! Awesome!

It shouldn't take very much support from people in order to "out-protest" the members of the hateful Westboro Baptist Church - whose members show up at soldiers' funerals with signs reading "Thank God for Dead Soldiers" - because the outfit is so small, but is refreshing to see someone finally confronting their appalling speech. In the YouTube clip, an entire high school showed up to counter-protest the Westboro protests.

This represents an interesting situation. 99.999% of people are absolutely mortified by the way that these people choose to exercise free speech, but they often roll their eyes and do nothing else, which has allowed the niche of hatemongers to fester and feed in their own little nook. Those who disagree with the signs and the antics ignore them - because they are mature adults - or decry what they do as illegal hate speech and call for it to be banned.

Personally, I find it difficult to define any speech as illegal. Even as much as I despise what these knuckle-draggers are doing (which I hope would offend them as being conspicuously non-creationist, but I digress), I am convinced that the marketplace of ideas would drown out what they are doing. That's the whole idea behind the marketplace: to let those awful ideas be presented but be discouraged and kept at the fringes of society. Because, really, it being offensive doesn't really matter. As long as it doesn't become the mainstream view, we should not be worried at its presence. In other words, to continue the marketplace analogy, it doesn't matter what they're selling, as long as people aren't buying.

However, what has happened with places like WBC is that their speech is ignored - like I said above - and is allowed to persist unchallenged, which is not ideal, I don't think. Sure, people aren't buying, still, but it's encouraging to see an overwhelming view counter the fringe stuff we see with the WBC. Rock on, Wilson High School kids.

Feb 14, 2010

Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore - Paris, France

I have not spent an absurd amount of time looking into the details of mine and LP's honeymoon's plans, but the bug is starting to hit me. I've already posted one link to a location in Spain that the two of us would like to visit, and here is another place that I plan on hitting up while in Paris. With the quality of the photos on Google Maps, it almost makes it seem like a moot point to visit Europe (JK).

The Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, according to Bill Bryson, is "a wonderfully gloomy English-language bookstore full of cobwebs and musty smells and old forgotten novels by writers like Warwick Deeping" (43). I cannot find a better description of a bookstore than this. I am looking extremely forward to the chance to spend time in a musty old bookstore in Europe.

It does seem odd to be visiting a French bookstore using the name Shakespeare, however, but I'll let that slide, given one word in the description of the place: English. Unlike Mr. Bryson, who seemed to revert to a childlike sense of wonder about the prospect of being incapable of understanding a single word of the natives of whatever country he was visiting, I am absolutely terrified at this idea.

That's why the Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore seems to be right up my alley. I can't wait to visit it. Look for more postings like this one in the future.

Source: Google Maps

'The Office' - 10 Best Pranks on Dwight

The Inception of 'Kingdom of the Crystal Skull'

Here is a short documentary - probably stolen from the DVD - about the inception of 'Indy 4'. Now, this movie receives a lot more ire from the viewing public than it probably deserves...but I still kind of like it. Parts of it - ahem, the vine scene - are ridiculous, but for the most part the movie holds up as an 'Indiana Jones' flick for me.

Sure, if Michael Corleone had hopped into a lead-lined fridge and been catapulted into the desert by an H-Bomb, then yeah perhaps that would have been too much, or if Jake Gittes had discovered it was aliens behind the problems in 'Chinatown', that would have ruined the movie. But I submit to you: this is the franchise that has contained (1) the Ark of the Covenant melting people's faces off; (2) a dark priest ripping the still-beating heart of a grown man out with his bare hands (3) people falling out of an aircraft on an inflatable raft and surviving (4) the actual fountain of youth and an eight hundred year old knight (5) "voodoo" dolls, with which people can be controlled (6) many, many more improbable events.

The fact that there are aliens (or interdimensional beings) shouldn't detract from the movie. Mutt Williams, maybe, but not the aliens. Of all the complaints that I've heard, that's perhaps the most steadfast one. "Aliens! Come on, aliens!" Aliens do not ruin the integrity of the franchise. It was a silly, campy homage to the movies of the 30s, 40s, and 50s in the first place, so using aliens is not that far off the mark. I'm not making the argument that nothing is off the table for the franchise; far from it. I'm just saying that the level of ridiculousness in the fourth movie is relative to the sources of its inception. I will accept the argument against aliens if you say that the movie just wasn't good enough to support that Mcguffin; I can see that, possibly. Personally, though, I think that the vast majority of people don't like their genres to be mixed, so they thought that making 'Indy 4' "sci-fi" (it totally isn't) was a travesty. "How dare they do this to my childhood!" some might say. And they are wrong.

Feb 10, 2010

BioShock 2: First Impressions

Anyone who's spoken to me in the last, say, four months knows how off my rocker I went for BioShock. The newest installment came out yesterday, and I wanted to get my first thoughts down on the mic, so here it is.

If you can't listen, here's the gist: I think it's good. I'm not entirely blown away by it so far, but like my engine in the mornings, I have to warm up to video games before I fall completely in love with them. I'm like a coy mistress in that regard - first time I've ever used the phrase to describe myself - but I'm glad, because I may not date a lot but I'm loyal, so there.

Feb 8, 2010

QT on a Possible Kill Bill, Vol. 3?

Feb 7, 2010

Why The Super Bowl Halftime Show Makes Me Sad

Is there anything safer then the Super Bowl Halftime show now? Thought I thought the Janet Jackson / Justin Timberlake thing was childish and petulant, I am sort of disconcerted at seeing legend after legend take the stage at the Super Bowl each year and produce some toothless version of their live show, proving once again just how irrelevant and sadly ironic they have become. It's like watching an elderly tiger gum on an already-dead piece of store-bought steak.

I'm not saying I want Roger Daltry to get his rocks off on the stage, but it wouldn't hurt to see them do something totally bizarre and off-putting, maybe to cause the organizers of the Super Bowl (and the FCC) to sweat a little bit. Rock and Roll used to entail that some form of rebellion was going to take place. You always had to cheer with one fist and prepare to cover your eyes with the other, in case something totally profane happened. It was just dangerous enough to make people uncomfortable, and I was just elated about that. When Krist Novoselic tossed his bass up in the air during a performance on the MTV Awards and it smashed him right in the face, I lost my mind.

I'm reaching a point in my life where doing something stupid onstage seems overtly childish and self-involved, but sometimes I yearn for it, especially during an event as corporate as the Super Bowl. I'm not looking for something extreme, just...unexpected. Nothing about The Who or Bruce Springsteen (except for perhaps his nut-slide right into the camera, and I love The Boss) is remotely exciting. It's just basically a petting zoo at the retirement home of Rock and Roll. But hey, at least it's not Aerosmith and Britney Spears.

Self-Publishing Drafts Can Help Editing Process

The editing / revision process is one of the most difficult in the process of writing. Any author who has the willpower to edit as he / she goes is a much stronger beast than I am. I've read somewhere that Lee Child - author of the wonderful Jack Reacher series - will edit what he has written the day before. He has a very distinct vision of where he wants the novel to go, so he's able to make incremental changes in the novel without compromising his vision of the entire book. More power to him.

Personally, I hate editing. I'm so scatter-brained, I like to write. I love getting things down on paper (computer screen), watching them pile up so I can lean back when I'm done and say, "Look at what I accomplished today. When each novel is over, I go through a small depression, because a) I'm no longer in the world I've created and b) I know that the hard part lies ahead of me.

I have tried several methods of editing, and none of them seem to work. I am a tinkerer, never happy with my work, so I'm constantly revising. I'm like George Lucas without the beard. I'm always thinking of ways to "improve" my novels - and hey, I can do that; none of them have been published - but I have trouble getting through a whole book in using that process. I always end up going back to the same parts and re-editing them.

No more. When I finished the first draft of my newest crime novel, Boogie House, I decided to try something different, and it's already paying dividends. I decided to self-publish the first draft and send myself a copy, so that, rather than trying to edit on the computer screen or on a gigantic printout, I can edit on a copy of the book itself. It's actually pretty nifty (and it gives your ego a boost when it arrives in the mail).

At first it feels kind of strange to be writing in a book like that, but you get used to it. Sort of reminds me of college. And another thing: it's a lovely, alien feeling to read your words in a published version and really get into reading it. I think one of the problems I had in the past of revising my novels was that I never got into them. There was always a mental block, because somehow I knew that I was just reading my words on a sheaf of printer.

With the self-published hardcover version - I went all-out - that mental connection has been restored. I actually feel like I'm reading a book when I sit down to edit, and it's a wonderful feeling. So, overall, maybe the idea of self-publishing doesn't make me a better editor, but it gives me the mental boost to actually be able to sit down and do it.

Feb 6, 2010

The Throwback Sweetness of 'Modern Family'

PopMatters has a very charming article about what sets 'Modern Family' apart from most sitcoms. Here is a sample of what PopMatters has to offer on the subject:

What is so refreshing about Modern Family is that it manages to be about a family where the individuals actually care about each other in a believable, non-cloying way. It avoids both the saccharine triteness of yore and the ugly animosity that has marked recent clans.

The article goes through a brief history of how sitcoms became so unnecessarily filled with spite through the 90s and 00s (think of Archie Bunker and Roseanne) and how Modern Family bucks this trend, being filled with heart all while maintaining a somewhat caustic bite. Basically, it asserts that 'Modern Family' is like the throwback Pepsi products we see in stores now, an ironic gesture for thing that's sort of always been an option.

What the article fails to do, however, is point out how truly now the situations and the problems are. Of course there is the issue of portraying an adoptive gay couple and an interracial white-Hispanic couple, but those are mere jumping off points for the show. It has become difficult to tiptoe the sitcom line in a post-ironic, post-postmodern world. How many reinventions of the "unhip dad" can we have? 'Modern Family', for example, seems to have another one, though, in a twist so old that it's new: a genuinely caring father (Ty Burrell), whose mistakes are less related to his need for a selfish kind of approval (common in most sitcoms) than a want to provide a good home for his children.

Mostly, the wonderful thing about the show is the soul of the characters. Every character manages to be old-fashioned and "new" at the same time, without seeming to be trying too hard, which is a problem I see in too many sitcoms. They are not mere archetypes, acting out in accordance with the stereotypes (the insensitive white man, etc.), but more or less flesh-and-blood people, whose dispositions are displayed so the sensitive moments in the show are not mere tacked-on crap (like in most sitcoms). When a character acts boneheaded, it fits. When he/she learns a lesson, that, too, seems genuine. That may have something to do with the confessional, 'Office'-style asides, but not necessarily. It could be the wonderful writing of the show, or else a natural desire for audiences to see families as more than merely horrible institutions where backbiting and bickering are necessary to survive.