Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dark Shadows

I wasn't a fan of the original series, nor did I disdain it; I simply didn't watch it. I am, though, a huge fan of both Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, so I had to check out this movie.

It's decidedly a mixed bag.  The stylized look starts out fun but ends up wearing a bit, like a friend who's told the same joke too many times.  The actors all chewed the scenery, but for the most part they did so while somehow managing to stay low-energy.  As a result, the film at times was sleepwalking when it should have been running.

The one exception was Eva Green, who as bad-gal Angelique always bristled with energy.  I had liked her in Casino Royale, and now I will be on the lookout for more performances from her.

Despite all that, I had a fun enough time simply watching Burton move the actors through the straightforward plot.

In the end, though, I can't recommend it unless you're jonesing for a Depp or Burton fix. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Don't we all want this song to be about us?

Sure we do, so this is for all of us.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My all-time favorite alarm clock

is the Good Morning, Sir alarm clock from Voco. Though you can still find it for sale in multiple sites online, Voco's Web site was unavailable when I checked it just now, so if it interests you, act now, before it's gone.

The clock resembles a part of an old building. Its feature set is minimal: you can set the time, set the alarm, turn it on and off, change the brightness and volume, and press a button to stop the alarm.  No snooze, no fancy controls, no music playing. It runs on batteries, so, yes, it might well fail one day when you need it most.

What makes it my favorite alarm ever is, of course, the way it wakes you. First, birdsong plays gently. Then, a man clears his throat. That man is Stephen Fry, the brilliant British actor and comedian whose work you almost certainly already know.  (If you do not, go straight to any DVD set of Jeeves & Wooster to see his amazing performances as Wodehouse's Jeeves.) Fry then delivers a wonderful line or two.  For example, I've awakened to

The world has been very anxious to hear from you for the last eight hours. Shall I inform the news agencies you're about to rise, Sir?
Oh, dear.  Come, come. Let us not be defeated, Sir. Let us seize the day and take it roughly from behind, as the Colonel used to say in his unfortunate way.
After Fry speaks, a very annoying alarm sound repeats until you get up and push a button on the clock's front.  (I consider this a feature, not a bug, because I do not ever want to use a snooze button.)  Once you do, Fry signs off with a lovely comment, such as
Sir has a firm touch, but very fair.
I cannot help but feel cheered by Fry's greeting.  Yes, I know the whole thing comes dangerously close to being a silly British stereotype, but it's so damn funny and cheerful that I don't care at all.

If indeed Voco is in trouble, get your own Stephen Fry alarm clock while you still can.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Cheering myself up after North Carolina embarrasses me

When I first moved to North Carolina, Jesse Helms was one of our senators.  In every other state to which I traveled, I had to listen to Helms' jokes and insults--jokes and insults we deserved.  Eventually, of course, his reign ended, and those jokes stopped.  Now, with the landslide passage of the "marriage amendment," my state has embarrassed me again--and angered and sickened me.  I hate that we passed that amendment.

So, to cheer myself up, I went tonight to the weekly gathering of Pie Pushers and Parlour, and I ate extremely good pizza and wonderful ice cream in the brisk spring night air.

When I came home, I saw that this trailer was available.  Yeah, this movie looks as dumb as it gets--and as awesome.  I can't wait to see it.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Maurice Sendak, RIP. How he roared, how he didn't--
and why the NC marriage amendment is a sham

I came to Maurice Sendak's work late in life, having never seen it as a child.  (Children's books were never around.  I cut my reading teeth on Sherlock Holmes and Tom Swift, Jr.)  When I did discover it, however, I reacted as most do and instantly fell for his best-known work, Where the Wild Things Are. I did not fall so deeply, though, that I was motivated to seek out his other work.

That all changed a few years ago when I saw in San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum an exhibit of his work. Sure, it contained images from Wild Things, and they were amazing, but what moved me more were the many, many drawings from his other works and the wonder, passion, and, most of all, pain that they conveyed. As much as magic ruled his worlds, so, too, was darkness also always there, if not right in front of us then lurking just out of view.  The world was much with Maurice Sendak, and had been since his childhood.  In a comic in a 1993 issue of The New Yorker, Sendak comments of his youth, "I knew terrible things...but I knew I mustn't let adults know I knew...It would scare them."

How right he was, how perfectly in tune with childhood.

As it turns out, one of the things he knew that would scare at least some adults was that he was gay. He lived for 50 years with his partner, Dr. Eugene Glynn, but never told his parents.  A New York Times piece on him quotes him as saying, "All I wanted was to be straight so my parents could be happy."

How sad that is.  How sad that he could not roar to the heavens his wild love, the love that kept him with the same partner for 50 years, a remarkable achievement for any relationship.

How common that is, that we deny this basic right--and so many others--to so many people.

Which brings me, in roundabout fashion, to today, here in North Carolina, a state with people so afraid that in addition to having a law against gay marriage it is voting on a state constitutional amendment. That amendment would add to Article 14 of the North Carolina Constitution this section:

Sec. 6. Marriage.
Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.
How sad and unnecessary this is.

How fearful so many are.

So on the day a great illustrator passes away, on the death of a man who had to hide his sexuality from his parents for his entire life, my state votes on this amendment.

I am sad for the loss of Sendak, and I am sad for my state.

I'm not going to debate the amendment or even bother going into its many failings; you can find that material easily.

Instead, I want to say simply this to those who would fear homosexuality:

You cannot win.  You cannot.

The reason, at the risk of sounding too much like the aging child of the sixties that I am, is that you are not fighting merely sex, a powerful enough force to defeat you on its own.  No, you are fighting love, the love of the millions of people in our country who are wired to fall in love with people of their own gender.

In the end, that love will triumph.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Avengers

is made of awesome.  It's the most fun big-action movie I've seen in ages.

Of course, I entered the theater predisposed to like it.  I've been a comic-book fan my whole life, and I still own more than a few comics.  In addition, I've always had a soft spot for The Avengers.  In fact, the second back issue I ever ordered through the mail was Avengers #4.

I don't believe, though, that you have to know anything about the comics to enjoy this film.  It's just a romp from start to finish.  Director and co-writer Joss Whedon does a superb job of giving all the key cast members some good screen time, and he particularly excels at the group and action scenes.  He also weaves in a great deal of the humor that was part of both the original comics and the recent films.  For example, as Kyle and I agreed, the Hulk vs. Loki battle was one of the funnier bits in recent films. 

I don't want to spoil the movie for you, so I'll end with two notes:  Do not miss this movie, and definitely stay to the very, very end of the credits, after the last text has rolled.  You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Not a lawn ornament, not a car

Driving back into my neighborhood early this evening, the sky still bright but the light softening, I spotted a deer standing next to a mailbox on the right side of the road.  I was driving slowly, keeping my Prius on electric power, so I rolled quietly by the deer, doing my best not to frighten it.

The deer froze, as deer do, and pretended to be the largest animal lawn ornament in the neighborhood.  It failed, of course, but its posing also froze the moment, so that for a fleeting second the world reduced to the two of us, a scant few yards apart, separated by glass and metal but connected by our actions.

I rolled on, the deer loped easily into the woods, and the moment and the connection vanished like morning mist on a warm day. 


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