sarchasmic: (little people)
We got a few hours free from the baby for the first time in three weeks, so we took advantage of that to see "Public Enemies" today. It's not a great movie, but considering the dreck that's been released this summer, it was the only thing that looked unlikely to have us leaving the theater feeling dumbfounded (and dumber), used, and/or in a bile-filled rage.

So instead we left the theater feeling depressed and dissatisfied, like diners leaving a restaurant that had been hyped out of proportion to the prowess of its cooks. And we agreed that there's something inadequate about Michael Mann. Sabrina says that where a chisel would do, he uses a mallet, whereas I said that he has a tin ear. The comparison to Heat came up more than once: Mann's reliance on the visceral noise of gunfire during action scenes (good) and the anti-climactic encounters between two formidable leads (less than good). He makes movies which attempt to feel grander than they are. The end of Public Enemies features a dramatic musical score that tells us This Is An Important Moment and tears in the female lead's eyes (Marion Cotillard, the latest female prop in a Mann movie) and a door closing with finality before the typed text starts to appear on the screen. The movie demanded that we feel some form of emotional response at this moment.

And we didn't. There just wasn't enough there for us to munch on. We're not particularly demanding moviegoers, in that sense anyway, either. The Secret Life of Bees had both of us reaching for non-popcorn-stained napkins multiple times; Charlotte's Web is a surefire tearjerker; heck, even the opening 5 minute scene from the latest Star Trek had us feeling a bit verklempft.

Mann had 140 minutes to get us invested into the characters, and he didn't get that far.

Sure, you might say, but he's Michael Mann. What do you expect?

I've put some thought into that too. I ran these by Sabrina:

The thinking man's Michael Bay. She shook her head.

The poor man's John Woo. She objected, on the basis of the complete lack of style and flair on Mann's part. Which is true; he's pretty workmanlike. So I adjusted the standards:

Michael Mann: he tries hard.

Michael Mann: he'd go to your movies if you made them.

Michael Mann manages to get some excellent cast members. After all, he got dibs on DeNiro and Pacino for Heat. He gets Depp and Bale here. The former, by the way, is the reason to go see this movie. Depp, as always, manages to bring a charismatic intensity to the role. Total movie star. Bale, on the other hand, has a more thankless role, playing an unlikeable federal agent. But Sabrina points out that he's really really good at being unlikeable. She names him as one of the most unlikeable movie stars of our age. And there's some truth to that. There's a shot of him late in Public Enemies, where his character waits for Dillinger to exit the movie theater, and the camera catches Bale's elongated face and that pointed jaw and the skin stretched over it, while his eyes barely emerge from underneath his hat's brim, and I couldn't help but think of Bryan Hitch's Herr Kleiser from Millar's Ultimates run, slightly oily with a malleable skin that could only belong to a race of alien shapeshifters.

Mick LaSalle's take on Public Enemies mentioned something about how Mann had a golden opportunity here to tie the movie's Depression setting to the zeitgeist of today, but that he failed to do so. And that's true, too. There's little about this movie that makes it feel absolutely tied to the desperation of that time. The cars have running boards on which to pose while one's making a dramatic getaway, and the lack of radios and cell phones makes it more difficult for groups to coordinate. Oh, and J. Edgar Hoover gets portrayed (by an effectively loathsome Billy Crudup) while FDR's name gets tossed around on the radio in the background once in a while. But Mann isn't particularly interested in exploring the setting or man's relationship to society except insofar that there are cops and there are robbers, and the good guy isn't always the one with a badge.

So I guess all this is to say that it's not a very good movie, but it's probably a lot better than what's out right now.

In baby progress news, Holden is getting scary fast at walking in his walker, getting very adept at navigating around corners and changing direction and just flat-out baby sprinting when he sees a grandparent (his face lights up; it's adorable) or reaching for his jingling set of baby keys. He's developing a mixed relationship with Kingsford, their dog. He likes the dog, with his eyes more often than not tracking the dog than one of his human companions, and trying to follow Kingsford around as the dog trots away from him. Then Kingsford will abruptly double back, going for an extended and enthusiastic licking of Holden's face, usually when the baby's mouth is open in mid "Thhhpppbbfffttt," causing Holden to recoil as best as his little legs will allow him to. And as soon as we manage to pry the dog out of tongue's reach, Holden will resume that big winning smile and start rolling after the dog again.

I'd talk about the job hunt and educational prospects, but I already started the post on a downer note, so I'll leave it at that. Now for a belated dinner.
sarchasmic: (Default)
One more post today, and then I'll see you next year. Probably.

No time for a clever LJ cut title here. )
sarchasmic: (Default)
So things have been kinda crazy. Just returned last week from a business trip into the Chicago suburban area for my annual performance review. Got to visit [ profile] vaudy and [ profile] waveform_delta, and that was definitely the highlight of the trip.

As for the rest of it? )
sarchasmic: (innocence)
Which sets some kind of record for me. This one's Sabrina's fault, as she sent me some application connecting it to Facebook, which is Claudia's fault. Plus, the damn Facebook import forced me to pull in the last 3 stories, so there's the shame of having 2 year old blog entries there that I must extirpate. Sheer amount of linkage in that one sentence there is exhausting.

That, plus the lingering bronchitis, which I picked up last week and then helpfully transmitted to Sabrina, who may never forgive me, as she suffered from it from last November to something like January. So to get it twice in one season is, understandably, frustrating for her, and it is only her love for me that probably keeps her from axing me in my sleep. That or the laws against such things.

Been playing Rock Band at Randy's, and the stupidity of it not coming with two guitars aside, it's an addictive ride. Could definitely use a fourth, musician-wise, once we get that extra guitar, though. In the meantime, I've been trying out the drums, which are a heck of a lot of fun, aside from the amount of strain they place on the pedal leg. Have yet to find a comfortable sitting position from which I can stomp out mad beats repeatedly for hours at a time. Might be asking for too much there.

The place is still coming together, although we've managed to bring all our books--with a few exceptions (looking at you, massage therapy textbooks and gigantic Calvin and Hobbes hardcover collected edition)--into a bookshelf housing situation. Definitely feels good to have those back in the open again. We're hoping to grab a couple tall cd shelves from IKEA this week, which should eliminate the pile of boxes doubling as a footboard by our bed. Footboard is a word, right? I figure if headboard is...

Still getting used to the fantastic weather, which I'm learning to studiously avoid reference to when in conversation with my co-workers back in IL. Gloating not being in good form and all. Although apparently Chicago had a fantastic day, weather-wise, yesterday. The standards for that being temperatures out of the freezing and no snow. The Californian in me is full of pity for those forlorn souls; the Illinoisianese-person side of me reminds me to not take the weather here for granted. Have got to find time to get the tires filled on our bikes, reckless-bike-smashing-cops-in-the-area aside.

Oh, and Rob, Sabrina's going to call you. She's been meaning to, but see above re: bronchitis. So talking to her right now is kind of like listening to those recordings that supposedly feature the dead trying to talk to you: a bunch of static, with tiny little wheezing voices. Only with more coughing in between. Stupid dead people.
sarchasmic: (innocence)
So. We got into our new/old digs back on Wednesday, which would be 6 days ago. Internet was up late Sunday night, although I'm typing this from a laptop on top of a filing cabinet, as our furniture situation is rather...lacking.

Here's the rundown... )
sarchasmic: (innocence)
I'm not big on using this space for links, but then, I'm not big on using this space much at all, lately, so here goes:

I love this line in particular, spoken of the mud smeared on SUV doors.

"We use the mud to say that if the owners will not take the four-wheel-drives to the countryside, we will bring the countryside to the four-wheel-drives."
sarchasmic: (innocence)
I just completed a month's worth of physical therapy for my lower back, thus giving me a shared bond with Larry Bird.

For most of my life I've had this faith in modern medical expertise and technology based on my complete lack of experience with it. Like when I landed on my shoulder while roughhousing with my cousin Rob back when I was 12. Knocked me out of the beginning of Little League season because I couldn't lift my arm up, much less throw a baseball. My parents took me to acupuncture sessions, which didn't hurt as much as I feared, although I still don't look when a needle sidles up to greet my skin. They didn't improve my arm much, either. And for a long time I harbored this grudge that my parents had destroyed my budding baseball career. "A long time" meaning until the next year, when I moved up to Senior League baseball, or whatever it was called, and hit something like .030.

But anyway, I had this suspicion that had I seen a regular doctor, and not some pin-wielding quack at an office that smelled grandma's-house-funny, my shoulder would have been better, and I would have smacked opposing pitchers around like FEMA's reputation. Had the same suspicion when I pulled the other shoulder out of joint trying to tackle somebody 3 years later in a JV football game. Let it heal on its own for a few weeks before returning to the game, and it's never been the same since. My wife, who's training to be a massage therapist, tried doing this shoulder joint rotation exercise on me a month or two ago, and my bones sounded like a pencil in a sharpener.

Back to my back. It had been aching for a while now before I went to see a doctor, who, after sending me to an x-ray to make sure I wasn't suffering from nanobyte gremlins eating my spinal cord, prescribed some physical therapy for me. "At last!" I thought, "Finally I will see somebody who will nurture my overtaxed muscles, and heal them back to a renewed state of vigor!"

So my expectations were pretty high when I first visited the local physical therapy office. They started to sink when I met my physical therapist. I had anticipated someone lean, muscular (but not overly so), with the perky energy of someone whose metabolism will always be six times as efficient as yours. Not the case.

My therapist looked more like a linebacker, with just enough bulk to suggest a healthy Wisconsinite, fed on naught but eggs and sausage and corn since the age of two. He wasn't fat, by any means, but his build, on top of his way of speaking in a deep bark that made me want to do a high-stepping tire drill, "Now, drop and give me twenty!" kind of sort of didn't jibe with my expectations.

Nor did his diagnosis: "Your hip isn't properly aligned."

Beg pardon?

"You see, the right half of your hip is turned downward, making the length of the leg appear to be different from the other."

Ouch. Sounds serious. What's the solution? I'm picturing something like having the thigh popped back into joint, a la Mel Gibson's shoulder in Lethal Weapon.

"Give me some lumbar rotations and some hamstring stretches." That, on top of a few other stretches, nothing really crazy or unusual (think lying on your back, knees bent and stretching to the side, or to the chest), led to my being ready for an "adjustment."

Okay, the real deal. This is going to be hardcore, I'm thinking.

"Lie on your back, knees bent." Check.

He lifts my right foot, pushes the knee up slightly toward my chest. "Now push back." Okay. I do that for two, maybe three seconds. It's unusual, in that I didn't expect a guy who reminded me of my high school football coach to be holding my leg during my therapy, but it doesn't hurt.

He pushes the knee up closer to my chest. "Push back." I do so.

One last time, and he pushes it up closer to my chest. Nothing painful, no distinct clicking into place of the joint, or screams of protest from my nerves.

"That's it?" I ask.

"That's it."

He sends me home, tells me to do the stretches he showed me three times a day, and to take frequent breaks at work to stand up and walk around. When I tell Sabrina about it, she frowns, and says, "Your hip's not aligned? That sounds weird."

I agree, and then she starts talking to me about homeopathic versus allopathic medicine and, not knowing anything about the subject, I agree to that, too. "The real problem," she tells me, "is your posture. Don't slouch like that!"

I try not to, but I was too good a student of it in high school, and having hit the wrong side of 30, I'm feeling far too much like an old dog to learn this trick properly. Oh, and I do the stretches. They don't feel too dramatic, although my wife tells me they're teaching me to stretch wrong. "You have to hold for at least 20 to 30 seconds; otherwise, you're just going to shorten the muscle."

"So I don't do 30 reps of this?"

She sighs. "Don't do them fast."

"I'm not!"

"You call that slow?"

I go back to physical therapy several more times. Each time, my therapist tells me the same thing: don't sit at my desk for more than an hour at a time without walking, and make sure to do my stretches 3 times a day. He introduces me to a few more stretches which I should be doing, one being a wall squat that I can't replicate at home, as it would entail splinters in my back, and this weird belt-looped behind my thigh thing which requires that I lift up my leg while having the other resting against my knee; it's very contortionist, and ends up taxing my arms a hell of a lot more than it stretches my leg, which is the original intent.

After 5 weeks of it, he tells me that I'm looking good, range of motion and mobility are all good, and to keep up the exercises. The pain hasn't quite gone away, but I'm more limber than I was when I first started, so I guess I can't fully complain. "Oh," and he tells me, as he's about to discharge me from his care, "Watch your posture. It's stressing your back."
sarchasmic: (innocence)
One of the things I tried to describe to my wife a year ago, shortly after we had moved to Illinois, was this cunningly annoying vowel thing that the locals do when they speak, especially with the letter "A".

She listened to me try to describe it, then nodded and said, "You're talking about the flat vowels that Midwesterners have. My voice teacher spent a LOT of time working so that I didn't have it."

And I can understand why. I spent an unhealthy amount of time trying to imagine how I might write it so one could actually *hear* it upon reading it. But I never got it.

Fast forward 9 months later. Yesterday to be precise. My wife's describing something from her job, when she starts to transition using the word "and." And there it was. And. Rand. Dan. Anything with that specific vowel sound, and it gets perverted, defiled, even, by that flattening.

I think I've figured out how to describe it for those of you who have yet to...lay ear? upon it. It's tricky, but here's what I've come up with:

1) Take any "a" sound from the above list (and, Rand, Dan).

2) Add an "eh" as if you were to say "The letter N" with the "N" in mind. Eh--got it?

3) Now place that "eh" in front of your "a" vowel. "Eh-and we were going to see Deh-an lambast the Reh-and Corporation."

4) Speed it up so it's now one vowel. You may need to transition a "Y" sound between the "eh" and the "a". "Eh-yand that meh-yan tried to pleh-yan a new pronunciation guide for the masses."

It's very nasal, and if you can picture a middle-aged white woman with overly done up hair staring disapprovingly at you as you do this, it may help.

Then again, it may not.
sarchasmic: (Default)
Past two days have been hectic, especially for the wife, who's been juggling school, mandatory clinic (work experience related to school), and a new job, to boot. The job seems cool and very low-maintenance, aside from their asking her to come in on the 4th to work. Commies.

The upcoming vacation’s coming close enough that I’m starting to get excited about it. Our social calendar is unusually packed for the upcoming weeks, considering how homebody I am. Taste of Chicago this weekend, mother-in-law’s wedding next weekend, vacation starting the very next day. Ben olds/Rufus Wainwright concert a couple weeks after we get back, Chicago Comic Con early August. Compare this to my excursions on a typical week: buy groceries.

All this fun makes Dan a tired boy. And sometime in the midst of this, we’d like to visit a Cubs game, as well as the ambiance of the minor leagues at a Kane County Cougars game (though prices for the former are hideously expensive…another reason to miss the Bay Area, craigslist shows great A’s seats available for $25/each. That would probably cover transportation to Wrigley. Maybe.)

Speaking of the wife, she just called to ask if she should pick up the latest of OMAC Project and Runaways from Chicago Comix. I should go all hyperlink on that sentence, but I won’t. Although Runaways has featured some nice, sharp writing so far. We have gone most unapologetically nerd since marriage. Which makes me the object of envy from male nerds from time to time, if nerd-prestige is your cup of tea.
sarchasmic: (Default)
Yes, the delays seem endless on this end, too.

Today, I sent an e-mail to an old college acquaintance which began like this:

I just turned 31 and I still haven’t mastered the art of small talk. So I’ll just get to the point.

Been shrugging off the writing urge lately, burying myself in videogames. Although, it’s an enticing burial; can’t seem to get enough of that City of Heroes goodness. And with my birthday, I just received two more video games.

Heaven help me.

Work is pleasantly non-engaging. Not the hair-pulling boredom from my temp assignments, and the most humane, decent bosses and corporate policies this side of the Atlantic. Not counting Google, anyway.

Even the galling pain of this country’s macho politics and arrogance seem muted lately. Of course, it could be because of exchanges like this:

Me: Honey, check out this New Yorker article on a Christian college which serves as a finishing school for future GOP staffers and politicians. Two-thirds of its students come from homeschooled, evangelical households that have spared them the sinful environment of our public schools…

The Protective Wife: (with outstretched hand) Hand it over.

M: But you read worse articles all the time! What about that one where Karl Rove was signing over Yellowstone to the Fourth Circle of Hell?

TPW: But I’m used to it. I’ve built up my resistance to reading this shit. You’ll just get depressed and angry and then the whole afternoon will be ruined.

M: Don’t tell me it doesn’t bug you, because I’ve seen what it does to you.

TPW: Give it.

M: (gives it).

TPW: (starts reading aforementioned article about God’s School for Young Republicans)

M: Hey! You’re not allowed to read that either.

TPW: (sticks her tongue out at me).

Remember, denial is not just a river in Egypt.
sarchasmic: (Default)
Carefully carrying eight days' worth (four cats, two days)

of kitty litter, I step into tree-blackened yard.

Cobwebs clinging, mosquitos feasting voraciously for the

forty seconds I need to scurry to the garbage cans.

(Korean flesh, my wife jokes, is a delicacy round here.)

My too-loose shorts flap a heavy denim rhythm

with every step; the overturned Rubbermaid left as calling card

by the possum known as, for reasons unknown to me,

Chester. The only light around strains weakly from the

backyard door; the cricketsong streams steadily around,

across, and through my ears--everywhere and nowhere.

Wild, childhood fantasies and campfire tales that whisper fervidly

of ragged moaning, breaking sounds and spike-hooked horrors...

but Chester--fearsome and possessive garbage-troller

of McHenry County's darkest nights--is nowhere to be found,

and I (with discarded litter in hand) am, it seems, the only

intruder amongst the tweedling crickets, the suckling mosquitos.
sarchasmic: (Default)
"Next Thursday night there is a television program that many of you will want to see (there may even be more than one). On April 29
"Primetime Thursday" (ABC, 10-11 p.m) will broadcast a piece on Plagiarism, Cheating, and Turnitin. Charles Gibson explores a
troubling trend that some believe could pose a serious threat to America'seducational system--the growing level of cheating by students.
Myself, I think that such wholesale cheating is preparing our students to work in The Real World, where cosmic, wholesale dishonesty--especially at the corporate level--seems to be the norm."


Apr. 19th, 2004 12:14 am
sarchasmic: (thrillhouse)
...with the fucker that is my comp exam.

I'd like to say I'll celebrate with a fortnight's worth of debauchery, but I'm picking up 40 in-class essays to grade from my students tomorrow, and I have a presentation and a one-week late midterm to prepare for Tuesday.

But if I can live past that, Sabrina and maybe Randy and I are gonna check out Kill Bill the second Tuesday night. Whee. Bacchus would be jealous.
sarchasmic: (Default)
Sabrina and I just came back from watching Henry Rollins perform on the weekend I'm supposed to be working on my MFA comps. (I bought the tickets before they moved the exam to this weekend to avoid Easter. Bah.) Great show, and his recounting of the studio session he had recording with William Shatner, Adrian Balou, and a drummer guy on for an album Ben Folds is working on had me thinking, "I must...OWN this..album," replete with Shatnerian pauses.

Ok. I only have 13-19 pages to go.
sarchasmic: (Default)
Just had the opportunity to chat with an online friend for the first time in, oh, say, a year or so. And when I apologize for not having been online at all, she replied, "But that's a good thing." Which I suppose is a backhanded way of saying I was kind of a pain in the ass on Instant Messenger way back when, and that I'm much healthier now for being consumed by affairs in the non-pixelated world. I agreed then, taking it for granted that there was wisdom here.

But I don't, now. Mind you, I'm mildly biased from having come off a really bad day yesterday and chatting about its aftermath today with another longtime online friend today. But I feel a renewed sense of self after that, just this sense of reacquaintanceship that's at least as internal as it is external, because I can remember the enforced pauses of 'net chatting, and the opportunity to think just before typing that one doesn't get when one speaks. It was like meeting myself from two years ago and realizing that I liked a lot of myself from back then (which is quite a change from when I envisioned meeting myself from the ages of say, 12-22). That callow punk. And at least in moderation then, this notion of sharing a bit of oneself online seems quite healthy.

But of course, my online friends from yore are free to disagree.
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