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Monday, December 28, 2009

Beardage, Then and Now.

In order to reaffirm my masculinity, I feel it is important to periodically demonstrate my abilities to grow facial hair. It would seem as though "periodically" happens approximately every three years for me.
The first time I attempted to grow a full beard was immediately following my mission. I was so sick of having to shave every day that I decided to rebel. This first attempt did not go well. I think it only lasted maybe three weeks.
I will spare you any photos of this first attempt, mainly because I'm pretty sure I don't actually have any photos of this first attempt.

The second attempt went much better.


This was three summers ago, and I had the beard for pretty much all of the summer. I spend two months growing it out, then the last month I shaved it off in increments so I could try a few different styles.



I think my most recent attempt at a beard was the best one so far. Each beard seems to come in a little bit thicker than the one before. I was also a bit more meticulous with my trimming this time around.

Despite this beard looking totally rad, I really didn't like it much. Over the years my feelings on shaving have fluctuated quite a lot, but currently I am really excited about the idea. (This is possibly because I've spent a considerable amount of time actually learning how to do it properly, but that is a topic for a future post.) In addition to wanting to shave, I also felt that the beard made me appear older, and slightly more creepy than I would prefer. I figure since I am already freaking out about entering my late twenties, I don't need any help feeling older.

As a present to myself, I decided to shave the beard Christmas morning. Of Course I had to follow my tradition of shaving in increments.
Here is my favorite style:




I know this has a name, but I just like to call it my "Wolverine 'Stache".




Sadly, the beard is no more. I must admit that the last few days I have been suffering from a slight case of beard separation anxiety. It is hard to suddenly destroy something you have worked so hard to build over the course of many weeks. Oh well, I suppose I can always grow another one.

Anyway, to further preserve the memory of this awesome facial stubbery, here is one last picture of me looking slightly weird and angry:



p.s. Bonus points if you can identify the photo behind me. It just happens to be by my favorite photographer of all time.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Geriatrically Awesome!

The other day, my Dad (who is officially a senior citizen) said something I thought was really funny. He was in watching TV with my Mom when I walked into the room. He turned to me and said, "I feel very stylish...I am taking every medication I see advertised on TV!"
Is this what I have to look forward to when I get old? I don't know about you, but this is a style I am not anxious to be current on.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Avatar



I just returned from seeing James Cameron's new film "Avatar". Words cannot adequately describe the experience, but I will try. This was without question the single greatest theater going experience I have ever had! "Incredible" just doesn't do it justice. The movie is breathtakingly beautiful, awe inspiring, reverential at times. I had no idea that such things were possible. I am speechless just thinking about it. It truly is indescribably good!
The world James Cameron creates is so thoroughly immersive, it almost feels as though real life were a dream. I have never had such a physical, emotional, and mental response to a film before. I was completely enwrapped. I physically and verbally cheered in moments of delight and excitement. I cringed and clenched my fists in moments of anger and frustration. My jaw dropped in amazement many times. This movie involved me on every level. It really is a unique experience, and I wish I had had a camera trained on me throughout the film to record my reactions. I would love to be able to go back and witness my own responses to such a wonderfully new experience.
Make no mistake, this isn't just some new special-effects intensive popcorn movie; this is revolutionary. This is industry changing. Everything else pales in comparison.
Is it mostly CGI? Yes. Can you tell that it is CGI? Yes. Is all the CGI distracting or annoying? NO! James Cameron has finally found a way to do it right! This is the best CGI I have ever seen and the effects are seamless and beautiful. The look and style are very conducive to the alien world Cameron creates. After a while you stop thinking about the special effects and just allow yourself to be immersed in the world of Pandora. The 3D of the IMAX format takes some getting used to, but after a few minutes you will feel as though you are right there alongside each and every character. All I can say is, be prepared to be surprised!
In the weeks leading up to Avatar's release, I read everything I could find on it. Nothing I read even came close to doing it justice. One write-up talked about how the technology developed for Avatar would be the biggest thing to hit the film industry since sound! I was pretty sure that hype of this magnitude would be impossible to live up to; I now see that they were absolutely, 100% correct. After you see Avatar you will never look at another movie the same way again. I realize that not every film lends itself to Avatar's method of story telling, and that's okay; but for every imaginative, surreal, epic adventure, the bar has been raised. People will be talking about Avatar for a long, long time.
Coming in at 162 minutes, it is quite long. I absolutely recommend a preemptive stop in the restroom prior to the movie. Trust me, you will not want to miss a single second of this masterpiece. I honestly didn't want it to end. Avatar is so masterfully crafted that there is never a dull moment or a dragging minute. It could have easily been twice as long and I would have been thrilled. As the conflict resolved I felt a sense of apprehension come over me as I knew that the film was drawing to an end. I literally was disappointed when the screen went black because I wanted to remain on Pandora just a little longer. To paraphrase one reviewer, "for the better part of three hours, James Cameron makes you feel like a kid again." I agree with this statement whole-heartedly, and I can tell you that it felt very good. It felt like returning home after a long absence, or like something you have eagerly awaited for so long has finally come. Avatar is the film you have been waiting for, even if you don't know it yet.
The majority of the criticism for Avatar is directed at its story and dialogue. One review called Avatar a mix of Dances with Wolves and Fern Gully. I would say that this is an accurate description...but who cares! The story works! It is emotional, and touching, and thought provoking, and real! It grabs at your inner core and makes you ponder what it means to be both human, and humane.
It has also been criticized for containing environmentalist propaganda. My response to this is: Yes, Avatar has an underlying message(Gasp), but this is not necessarily environmental. Why is it a bad thing for a film to have a message it wants to get across, or a central theme that people can relate to, or a moral of some sort? I say the best films ARE the ones with a message, or that give you something to think about. Avatar is an allegory that can be applied to many situations that we face in the world every day, not just the environment, or our military campaigns. Some of its parallels hit very close to home, and I expect that different people will identify many different morals contained in Avatar. To me this is a sign of a very good film. Personally, I feel as though my appreciation for life has been enhanced by my participation in Avatar.
Definitely go see Avatar! Definitely see it in 3D! Definitely see it in the IMAX, if possible! I would say that if you have an IMAX theater within a two hour drive of your home, it is worth making that drive to see Avatar as it was meant to be seen.
I went in to Avatar with very high expectations. James Cameron is one of my favorite directors and he has produced some truly incredible films in the past. I was very much aware of all of the hype and rumor surrounding this film. I can honestly say that every one of my expectations was not only met, but blasted into outer space! I don't believe I have ever been so delighted by a film in all my life. I can't praise it enough. I will definitely be returning to the IMAX for another viewing.

My Top Ten...

To coincide with my bottom ten film list, I thought I would also present to you my current standing Top 10 Movie List:

1. It's a Wonderful Life


This has been my #1 favorite for a long, long time. I suppose at various times in our lives we all feel a bit like George Bailey. The lessons he learns, with the help of an angel named Clarence, I believe to be essential life lessons that we all must learn. This has become a Christmas classic, which is nice, but I don't actually think this is a Christmas movie. The conclusion of the film happens to take place at Christmas time, but the film largely is set during other times of the year. I'm glad that most people watch this movie at least once a year, but I think it is an excellent film for any time or season.

Here is a good quote by Karolyn Grimes (who played Zuzu) on what makes the film so important: "The film is timeless -- it applies to yesterday, today and tomorrow. We can all identify with the fellow whose dreams never quite work out the way he envisioned for himself. But in the end, we reflect on our own lives and realize that we have touched others and truly made a difference. We also are reminded, once again, what really are the most important things in our lives: faith, family and friends."


2. Life Is Beautiful


This is a hard movie to watch, but I love it. The first half of the film has some of the most genuine romance I have ever seen, and the last half is powerful, tragic, and life altering. To me, Life is Beautiful is the best hollocaust film ever made. I found it to be far more moving than Schindler's List without showing anything graphic. This movie will change your life!







3. Big Fish


There is just something about this movie that is hard to describe, but it gets me every time. This often absurd story covers a lot of ground, all of which is profound. I love this movie! If you haven't seen it, you need to, immediately!








4. Forrest Gump


I know a lot of people who don't like this movie very much, and I can't understand why. To me, Forrest Gump is about seeing the best in all people. Here is a man who is so simple minded that he doesn't really see the differences in people that sometimes lead to prejudices. He is genuine and caring, and unquestionably loyal. I think if we all learned to look at the world through the eyes of Forrest Gump, the world would be a better place.





5. Gattaca

Gattaca is science fiction at its best. It masterfully portrays the triumph of the human spirit over seemingly insurmountable obstacles. I think that as our society progresses, this film will become even more relevant than the time at which is was originally made. That alone is an indication of how good this movie really is.








6. The Shawshank Redemption

If ever there was a film that exemplified making the best of a bad situation, this would be it.  Inspirational is an understatement.










7. Return To Me


This has been one of my favorite movies for a really long time. I know it's sort of cheesy, and a bit predictable, but I love it! Roger Ebert called it a PG rated adult romance. "Here's an old-fashioned love story so innocent, so naive, so sweet and sincere, that you must leave your cynicism at the door or choose another movie. Bonnie Hunt's "Return to Me" could have been made in 1955, starring Doris Day and James Stewart. " -Roger Ebert
I don't remember the circumstances now, but this movie came to me at a time when I needed a pick-me-up, and it has helped me in this respect many times over the years.




8. (500) Days of Summer

Often when I am going through a difficult time, I somehow seem to find the perfect movie to make me feel better. This is exactly what (500) Days of Summer did for me. It came to me literally the very day I was upset after having my hopes for another relationship shattered. It helped me to have a positive outlook again.
A comparison with Annie Hall is unavoidable, but I never really found common ground with Annie Hall like I did with (500) Days of Summer. If any woman is wondering how it feels to be a guy after being rejected, especially those prone to pining and infatuation, they need to see this film. I've dealt with a lot of rejection, and this movie perfectly illustrates the mental, and emotional process I always seem to go through.

9. Love Actually


Yet another film that came to me at a time when I was despairing over some failed attempt at a relationship. Many of the films on my top ten list earned their place by associating themselves with periods of my life filled with great emotion. Love Actually is quite simply the ultimate romantic comedy. It tells eight stories simultaneously, and chances are you will identify with at least one of them. It is absolutely delightful, and whenever I am feeling down, it is guaranteed to put a smile on my face. I like to think of Love Actually as a cure for the holiday blues.





10. Dan in Real Life


I have no idea if or when this movie was in theaters. I never heard anything about it. I first saw it based solely on my parents recommendation; I fell instantly in love with it. The titular character demonstrates my personality almost perfectly. His reactions to less than ideal circumstances really hit home to me. I identify with this movie in a very personal way, and it has become very special to me.






There you have my top ten list of movies. Once again, these are only my opinions and don't really have any value whatsoever, so don't get upset if you disagree. I welcome any comments, especially lists of some of your favorite movies.

My Bottom Ten...

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love movies. There is almost nothing that I enjoy more than discussing my favorite films. Unfortunately, over the years, there have been a handful of truly awful films which produce in me a reaction I can only describe as a mental dry heave. Keep in mind, these films are not necessarily poor quality films, nor are they "bad" movies. They are films which either insulted my intelligence, or left me feeling disappointed in every way imaginable. These are the films which robbed me of a portion of my life that I will never get back. With that, I present to you my bottom ten:

1. Elf

Seriously, how did this movie even manage to get made? Did somebody actually sit down and write that crap? I wish I could have been in the meeting when this film got the go-ahead, just so I could find out how a bunch of Hollywood big-wigs could have possibly convinced someone that this movie was a good idea. I consider it an atrocity to mankind that this has come to be considered as a "holiday classic". I know most people disagree with me, but this is a truly awful movie.







2. The Graduate

#9 on AFI's list of the funniest movies of the century...I must have missed something because there was not a single funny thing about this movie. It was just despicable, depressing, and pointless. I will never feel the same way about Simon and Garfunkel again, and that is a shame.








3. Phantom of the Opera

Excellent Broadway musical, amazing music...awful movie. Everyone I know who has actually seen the live musical, hates the movie; and everyone I know who loves the movie, has not seen the musical. They slightly changed the story, changed some of the songs, added a few laughable scenes, hired the worst possible actor to play the Phantom, and assembled a cast that did not have the vocal talent to do justice to the music. That being said, I don't think there was any way possible for them to match Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford. This movie should not have been made.




4. Labyrinth

Do people seriously like this movie? I dare someone to name one thing about this film that was actually good...and you'd better not say David Bowie's sweet contact juggling skills!









5. The Day After Tomorrow

They got chased by ice!........I am seriously speechless. You really just need to see the look on my face right now.











6. The Cider House Rules

This was supposed to be a touching story of a young, naive boy, who with the help of his caring mentor, discovers life and comes of age. Instead it came across as a sleazy, immoral, abomination of a film. Apparently coming of age happens when you start drinking, get a girl pregnant, and engaging in all sorts of other unseemly behavior. This film is a blemish in the otherwise excellent career of Michael Caine. This is also the film which made me hate Charlize Theron, and dislike Toby Maguire. Thank goodness he was redeemed with Spiderman and Spiderman 2. Let's just forget about Spiderman 3 though.



7. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Similar to The Cider House Rules, what should have been a touching story about life, just turned trashy and disappointing. Benjamin Button is an extraordinary individual who lives an ordinary life. The real hiccough of the story is that whenever Benjamin Button has a major decision to make, he always seems to make the wrong one. These bad decisions include: having affairs, getting a woman pregnant, not marrying the woman, abandoning the woman and his child, having even more affairs, drinking, and general irresponsibility, just to name a few.
For anyone who saw the movie and hated it, and felt that there was potential that was seemingly untapped; I would recommend reading the original F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story that this movie is supposedly based on. Everything I wrong with the movie was right with the short story. After reading the original story, I can tell you that the filmmakers truly butchered a very moving tale.

8. You Don't Mess With the Zohan

I was pretty excited about this movie; I thought it had a lot of potential to be funny. An expert Israeli special forces soldier who moves to America to fulfill his life long dream of being a hair dresser? How could that not be funny? Unfortunately the story is bloated with the crudest sex situations you could imagine, extremely unfunny racial jokes, and displays the extreme poor taste which is so pervasive in modern comedies. I felt extremely deceived and violated by this movie. It should have been rated R. I'm no Adam Sandler fan, but this is definitely the least of his films.




9. The Saint

Awful! Awful, awful awful, from start to finish it is awful. This movie made me hate Val Kilmer and Elizabeth Shue. I wasn't much of a fan of either of them prior to this movie, but it really made me hate them. Shue is far too ditsy and downright idiotic to be convincing as a nuclear physicist who has unlocked the secret of cold fusion. Kilmer...well, actually I don't even know what he was supposed to be doing. I guess he was some sort of super thief who used James Bond and Mission Impossible style gadgets to steal things. It sounds cool, but it just isn't. I don't know how long this movie is, but I want back whatever space of time it stole from my life!



10. Amadeus

I am aware that this film won best picture, however, that does not make it good in my eyes. Every time Mozart in on screen or utters that henous laugh of his, I just want to punch him in the face; punch the director in the face, punch every person who had a hand in making this movie in the face! I'm not a violent person, but this movie makes me have all sorts of violent cinematic fantasies. It is no bueno.






I know many of you probably disagree with some, or all, of the films on my list. Please don't hate me for my taste in movies. This is nothing more than my own opinion and really isn't worth anything in the grand scheme of things. I like talking about movies I hate almost as much as I like talking about movies I love. I would like very much to hear about some of the films(so called) that you would put on your own bottom ten lists...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Disturbing Dream


Last night I had a dream which disturbed me greatly. I woke up in a state of panic, and was so unnerved that I had trouble getting back to sleep.

I was at a beach, which was strangely vacant. The only other people present were total strangers...and one friend. My friend was pretty far away and seemed uninterested in spending time with me. I felt as though I didn't belong, so I left.
I climbed the steps up the rock wall leading to the parking lot. I had no transportation, so I just wandered around the parking lot for a while.
After some time, I was joined in the parking lot by my friend. Usually I really enjoy talking to this person; this time however, the conversation was one that I have been dreading might happen for real at some point.
I asked a question, which my friend thought about for a moment before answering. The answer was exactly the one I didn't want. I was crushed and humiliated, saddened and panic stricken. I tried to persuade this person otherwise, but it was no use.
I looked to the nearby road, and in a moment of desperation I ran into the middle of it. The moment the truck hit, my dream changed from first person to third person and I saw my body thrown aside.
This was the point at which I woke up. I think this was my first ever "death" dream. I'm slightly concerned about this. Those actions in no way reflect any of my waking thoughts.
Yesterday I did watch a TV show where a guy steps in front of a truck, but in his case the truck stopped. I hope this dream isn't a warning sign of more serious issues.
More than the thought of my demise, the thing which caused me the most distress was the conversation I had with my friend. The results of that discussion are what really terrified me and kept me awake last night.
I can only hope that when this conversation happens for real, the results will be far more satisfactory.
Anyone out there adept at interpreting dreams?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Reputation

This morning I was reminded of a humorous encounter I had a few years ago. I'm not sure what reminded me of it, but here it is none the less:

I was meeting a friend and one of his coworker(someone I had never met) for lunch one day at LBS in Logan. (LBS has the best burgers and sandwiches on the planet by the way. Try the Logan Club, it's my favorite.)

Anyway, when I was introduced to the coworker, he said to me, "you look familiar, didn't we meet in prison a while back?"

In response to that question my friend started laughing hysterically. He turned to his coworker and said, "No! Definitely not! This guy signals before turning into a parking stall!"

We all had a good laugh about that one, and it still puts a smile on my face.

While I appreciate having a good reputation, I'm not so sure I want signalling into parking stalls to be my defining characteristic. What do you all think?