Saturday, May 1, 2010

Dead Snow

I'd heard a lot of great things about this movie, so when a group of us gathered to watch it last night, my hopes were high.

Alas, the film did not live up to them.

The box certainly made it look promising: A Norwegian Nazi zombie movie with plenty of action and gore. The movie began in classic fashion: lone woman in the woods being chased and losing to the shadows we assumed would later prove to be zombies. One problem surfaced right away, however: the shadows were fast, wicked fast.

I have to pause now to confess what some would call a bias but what I believe is simply a truth: zombies should not be fast. They should shamble. Period. They shouldn't organize, use tools, run, fly helicopters, plan, or exhibit anything other than a relentless, never-ending urge to kill and eat the living. What makes zombies so fascinating to so many of us is that they personify the death that is always shambling straight ahead, that you can put off for a while but never fully stop.

So, you can imagine my concern at the speedy shadows.

Then, though, Dead Snow switched back to a classic zombie opening: a group of young men and women heading off into the wilderness--in this case a cabin on a Norwegian mountain north of the Arctic circle--with nary a clue as to the fate that awaits them. The casting was classic, too: the nerdy guy, the fat guy, the jerk, the pretty blond, etc.

As the movie wore on, however, it could never come to peace with itself. One minute serious, the next archly comical; sticking with zombie traditions, then violating them violently--Dead Snow wandered all over the place.

To be fair, some of the wanderings were amusing--who knew intestines were strong enough to support two men hanging from them?--and others were gross in new ways (sex while in the middle of number two? really?), so it kept us interested.

Maybe the filmmakers were out to create their own new sort of zombie flick, but when the movie was over I wished they had never even called it a zombie film. Call it a dead Nazi movie, and let it roll.

Overall, I enjoyed it, and if you're a zombie fan, you must watch it, but I had hoped for more.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The final cover for Jump Gate Twist

Publisher Toni kindly gave me permission to show its image here. I think it looks awesome. See for yourself. Click on it for a bigger view.

Nifty, eh?

This sucker is going to be one big omnitrade paperback: almost two inches thick with 723 pages. I'm looking forward to holding one.

Naturally, I hope lots of readers are, too.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Another concert

Tonight was the last concert of the year for Scott's orchestra, so of course I was there. He was sufficiently tired of all the songs that he wasn't excited by the show. I, on the other hand, know almost nothing about classical music and so was looking forward to it. Plus, the last song was one I do know, a non-classical piece: "I've Got Rhythm." It was as fun as I'd expected it to be.

What struck me most, however, was Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings. I wouldn't recognize it if it were playing now, because my memory for music without words is lousy, but at the time it quite moved me. I know from comments of the conductor and others that many people play this song on serious occasions, that it was a 9/11 memorial song, and so on. Some folks implied it was over-played and/or almost cliched.

I don't care. If I love a song, I can listen to it again and again regardless of whether others overuse it or have never heard of it.

In case you haven't heard it, here's Leonard Slatkin conducting the BBC Orchestra in a 9/11 memorial piece.

Don't watch this if you don't want those memories to come back. Really.

I feel I need to do something to help you recover your mood. Try this TED video of Gustavo Dudamel leading the Teresa Carreño Youth Orchestra. I saw this performance via live simulcast at TED and still think about it. WARNING: It'll take 18 minutes to hear it all, and you don't want to miss the second piece.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Losers

This past Friday night, we kicked off the summer of violent-team movies by checking out The Losers. Of the quartet of such films on offer this year (The Expendables, The A Team, and Takers being the others), this one appeared from the trailers to be the weakest, but ever since the first time I saw The Dirty Dozen as a kid, I've been a sucker for such movies.

Overall, I enjoyed it enough that its obvious stupidities didn't bother me most of the time. (Did they have to make the bad guy wear one glove, though? I mean, sure, they showed his messed-up hand once, but, really.) A lot of stuff blew up, the fight choreographer had clearly been busy, Zoe Saldana looked hot at least some of the time (the rest of the film, she appeared to be in desperate need of a sandwich), and Chris Evans was showing the muscles he'd put on so he could play Captain America. All in all, it was a pleasant couple of hours if you're into that sort of movie--which I obviously am.

If you don't love this particular sub-genre, though, you'll want to skip this one or at least save it for the small screen.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Frightened Rabbit

Sunday night, I went with Sarah and a friend of hers to see Frightened Rabbit play at a local club. I didn't know a lot about their music, but the songs I'd heard were all good, and Sarah recommended the group. I now recommend them, too. The show was very good, with great energy and the band being amazingly nice to those drunken members of the audience who felt they had to contribute to the entertainment.

These guys are Scottish, however, so even though the mix was pretty good for a club, I had a lot of trouble making out the lyrics to many of the songs. I don't know why I find it hard to understand Scottish accents, but I frequently do. I clearly need to travel there!

During the show, I stood back in a corner, alone and acutely aware that I was the oldest person by far anywhere in sight. That statement may make it sound like I didn't have a good time, but I really did; being in that situation is fine with me. In my head, I'm still sixteen, so I fit in fine.

The band closed with this song, which I quite like. WARNING: EXPLICIT LYRICS.


Monday, April 26, 2010


A very long time ago, I knew a young woman--younger than I am, but not as much as a decade younger--who was a fireball of emotion and action. Never stopping, always full of energy and huge plans, ready to break down or laugh wildly at a moment's notice, she was smart and strange in good ways. She set out to travel the world, and she did. She could never quite find happiness for long, though, and over the years she became more troubled than I knew. She dropped by and visited with some of us a few times over the last two decades or so, but basically we stopped having contact over twenty years ago.

I didn't get to my personal email today until very late tonight; it was a crazily busy day. When I did, I found a note from a mutual friend that this woman had killed herself a week ago in the country where she had been living.

I'm very sad. I remember the starry-eyed young woman. I remember her determination and her energy. I don't know much of anything about what happened in her life over those many intervening years, but whatever led her to that desperate point, I wish she'd made a different choice. More importantly, I wish she could have constructed a life that didn't lead her to want to die.


Classical music and kid concerts

I have no musical training. I can't read music. I didn't grow up playing an instrument, and though I own a guitar and tried for a brief time to learn to play it, I never really could. I know next to nothing about classical music; I've always listened to and deeply loved rock. I don't have any vocabulary or training that lets me know the meaning of the instruments coming into a piece at certain points, how to tell when the orchestra is doing particularly well, and so on. I am ignorant of classical music.

Scott and Sarah, on the other hand, are excellent musicians who have grown up playing that music. Both play both violin and piano. Because of them, I've been to many concerts, most of which have featured classical music. This past Wednesday night, for example, I went to see the final concert of the year for the Duke Symphony Orchestra, in which Sarah plays.

The theme of the show was "Happy (200th) Birthday, Robert Schumann!" As you could guess, I'm not familiar with Schumann's music. In fact, I didn't know any of the three pieces on the program:

BRAHMS Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80
HERBERT Cello Concerto No. 2 in E minor, Op. 30
SCHUMANN Symphony No. 1 in B-flat Major ("Spring"), Op. 38
I went expecting to have my usual pleasant time.

What happened instead, though, was that I found myself genuinely happy to hear the orchestra. I realized I've come to love the soaring moments when an orchestra is playing as one, the air swelling with the sound, the music building and dipping and building again. I close my eyes, typically rock my head slightly to what I perceive to be the beat of the moment or sometimes just the way it feels, and I ride the music like a surfer on a wave.

I don't plan to buy a lot of classical albums or start studying that music, but for the first time in my life I'm wondering if it might not be worth catching the occasional symphony. (Wondering, mind you, not acting; the show I'll be seeing Sunday night will be Frightened Rabbit's concert. Sarah introduced me to their music, and she and I are going to see them live.)

Add that growing appreciation to the long list of things I owe my kids.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What would you think?

Ticia sent me the URL to this great article about dogs parachuting into Afghanistan. When I responded with the first thing that came to my mind, she said only I would think of it. I don't agree. I figure everyone would think the way I did, but perhaps not. Let's put her theory to the test.

What I wondered was whether you could feed the dogs a lot of food, give them tons of water to drink, and then train them to poop and pee on the enemy as they glided to earth.

The idea is an obvious one. My dog wants to leave a marker every ten yards on a walk; how could he resist spraying an entire country?

Plus, let's face it: Afghanistan is a tough place to wage war. Those folks beat the Russians when the Russians were tough. No one wins there. They've faced almost everything--but no one has ever had to deal with dogs defecating on them from thousands of feet overhead. That spectacle would have to shake your faith. If God is willing to raise dogs to the heavens so they can cover you in poop and pee, then you must have seriously pissed Him off.

Isn't that the first thing you thought after reading the story?

Sure it is.


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