Saturday, June 22, 2013

Zombie rules

I'm a fan of zombie movies.  Long-time readers will know that I've watched a ton of them, and I'm always looking for more.  I've seen good ones, bad ones, many that blur that line, and some that were so awful I was surprised I bothered to finish them.  After viewing all of those films and having quite a few conversations with other zombie fans, I've come to believe that a few basic rules should govern all zombie films.

Those rules all stem from a basic axiom that many zombie filmmakers and writers fail to believe:  Zombies are a metaphor for death.  They are inevitable.  They come for all of us.  They are not quick, but they never stop coming.

Once you accept this axiom, the rules are clear and simple.

Zombies shamble.  Period.  They do not run, fly, leap, or engage in any sort of acrobatics.  They don't need to.  They'll find us inevitably.

Zombies don't organize themselves.  They hear, they may smell, and they make noises that lead other zombies to follow them, but that's as far as zombie communication goes.  They most certainly do not form groups or split up to make escape harder on us.

Beyond seeking out humans to eat, zombies don't think.  They don't fall in love, operate heavy machinery, make a plan, or do anything more complicated than tracking down and eating people.  

If a zombie bites you, you become a zombie.  There's no way around it.  The bite of the zombie is the touch of death's cold hand.  The best you can do is take a bullet to the brain so you die rather than turn into one of death's agents.

Zombies will eat anyone.  They don't care if you're male or female, young or old, healthy or sick, strong or frail--none of that matters.  If a zombie gets its hands on you, you're zombie chow. 

There is no zombie zero.  You don't get to know where zombies started.  Like death, they've simply always been.  

A zombie is a zombie is a zombie.  They're effectively all the same.  There are no super-zombies, no scarier-than-all-the-others zombies.  A zombie is frightening enough all on its own.

There is no cure for being a zombie.  Once you're bitten, you become a zombie until someone destroys you.  

The only way to destroy a zombie is to stop its brain.  You can decapitate a zombie, put a bullet in its head, burn it so the brain is gone, nuke it--anything as long as you stop its brain.  Until you do, though, it will keep on trying to come for you.  Nothing else will stop it.

Simple, right? So simple that you'd think more filmmakers would adhere to them, but in the constant quest to create something new, people invent new rules and new types of zombies. 

I'm fine with people doing that, but the results are never true zombie films; they're hybrids, part zombie flicks and part something else.

None of this, by the way, means that I can't greatly enjoy a semi-zombie film that breaks many of these rules.  Warm Bodies, for example, is a fun, touching movie that breaks almost all of the rules, and I loved it. 

It's just not a pure zombie movie. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

On the road again: Portland, day 5

As if waking up at 5:00 a.m. wasn't bad enough, at 6:30 a.m. TSA took away my jam.

To be fair to them, I was breaking the rules, but, really, jam?  Friends David and Deb had put up some jam they'd made from Mount Hood strawberries, which are supposed to be fantastic.  They gave me a small jar.  I didn't think to pack it with my liquids, so when the very nice TSA guy asked if I by chance had packed a container of jam, I admitted that I had and apologized.  He checked it out, declared it to be too big, and confiscated it.  He was nice throughout the process, but, really, a small bottle of homemade jam?  I offered to taste it as proof it was just jam, but that's not allowed.  I then suggested he take it, so at least someone would get to enjoy it, but that's not allowed, either.

Ah, well. 

Once through security, the rest of the day went well.  The flights were remarkably uneventful and comfortable, thanks to first-class upgrades on both legs.  I worked every second I could, so when I landed at home this evening, I wasn't terribly far behind.  Lunch in DFW was a delicious barbecue brisket sandwich at a relatively new Salt Lick installation; what a treat!

I am now remarkably tired, so to bed I go.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

On the road again: Portland, day 4

Today's culinary highlight was the seven-course tasting menu at one of my all-time favorite restaurants, two-time Beard-winning Chef Gabriel Rucker's Le Pigeon.  Sitting at the bar, getting to watch Gabe and his team work, and then eating the resulting lovely and delicious dishes is one of those treats worth flying to Portland for.  Dishes like "Foie gras ants on a log" may sound strange, but in his hands they become amazingly wonderful creations.  I loved every single course, and I'm already looking forward to my next visit here. 

I'd write more, but I have to get up at five a.m., which is more a bedtime to me than a wake-up time, so I'm calling it an early (for me) night. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

On the road again: Portland, day 3

I've come to understand that these reports give some people the impression that all I do on these trips is eat.  That couldn't be farther from the truth; almost all of what I do on these trips is work.  Given the nature of PT's work, however, I cannot discuss any of that, so I fall back on what I can reasonably talk about, which tends to be the only breaks in my day:  meals.

Today contained two such notable breaks. 

The first was a brief late-afternoon excursion to Salt & Straw to enjoy some of the very finest ice cream I've tasted anywhere.  Check out its Web site for descriptions and details, but take it from me:  If you live near Portland, you owe it to yourself to visit this shop, and if you don't, consider ordering some ice cream via their site.

Dinner was a lovely Italian meal at Nostrana, where Chef Cathy Whims, a five-time Beard nominee, and her team produce delicious, simple fare.  I tried a salad and some ravioli, and both were excellent.  I've never been there before, but if I get in the mood for Italian while out this way, I'll definitely go back to Nostrana. 

The rest of the very long day was work, lots and lots of work.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

On the road again: Portland, day 2

The non-work highlight of today, which is also the only part of the day I can discuss, was a drive with a friend and colleague to his home in Astoria and a visit to that lovely coastal village.  Astoria is a funky little place with a strong personality, exactly what I want from a beach town.  Unlike where I grew up or where I now vacation, though, Astoria is relentlessly cool, thanks to the breezes off the river and the ocean.  I certainly see why my friend settled there. 

I don't want to encourage folks to buy all the property there and over-populate the place, so let me instead suggest that you'd enjoy visiting it, spending money with the local merchants (our dinner at the Voodoo Lounge was a lot of fun), and then moving on. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

On the road again: Portland, day 1

After only three hours of fitful sleep, a travel day like today passes largely in work and discomfort. 

Up at 6:30, to the airport by 7:05, and on the plane in time to learn that flying time has grown from a bit over two and a half hours to a bit over three and a half hours.  Plus a long stretch on the tarmac.  No upgrades, no exit row.  The tall guy in the seat in front of me leans all the way back, so I work--because work I must if I am to sleep later--typing down into the V-shaped maw of the laptop. 

Grab a sandwich in DFW, eat it standing up, board again, wait an hour, then fly even longer.  Exit row this time, which is good, so I work until the battery nearly dies.  Seatmates are cranky at my refusal to nap and at the sound of my fingers hitting the keys, but eventually we agree without speaking to ignore one another.

I land at PDF twelve and a half hours after waking up. 

More work after checking in, fueled by a rich, pulse-quickening cup of sipping hot chocolate from Cacao

Dinner with friends is a refreshing break, omakase from Hokusei Sushi.  Each of the five courses is tasty and, as you'd expect, lovely on the plate (or in the bowl). 

Back at the hotel for more work and finally, finally, sleep.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Man of Steel

I have such strongly mixed feelings about this movie that I cannot come down firmly pro or con on it.  Let me explain why. 

I'm a sucker for the story.  I grew up reading comic books.  I was more of a Marvel follower than a DC fan, but I loved both, and I read Superman faithfully in every comic that featured him.  I've seen all the past movies, and I loved the George Reeves black-and-white Adventures of Superman series, which I caught in reruns as a kid.  Jon Moore, the protagonist of my novel series, is intentionally a bit of a Superman character, a man with superpowers who is never able to put down roots lest those around him discover the truth about him.  (His childhood is rather different from Clark Kent's, of course, but in those novels I'm not in any way trying to retell the Supes story; it's just an influence.)

So, I walked into the theater prepared--no, let's be honest, wanting--to love Man of Steel

I did love parts of it, but not all of it. 

The opening bits on Krypton mirrored the strengths and weaknesses of what was to come:  visually interesting, emotionally overwrought, and full of action scenes that always went on too long, they intrigued and entertained me but also occasionally bored me and made me say, "Really?" 

The parts featuring the brooding, hiding Clark, the twenty-something young man roaming the world and wondering what to do with himself, bothered a lot of critics, but not me.  I enjoyed them well enough, and they did a reasonable job of setting up his internal conflict. 

The cast turned in reasonable performances.  Crucially, Henry Cavill filled the title role more than well enough for my taste.

Amy Adams was a completely adequate Lois Lane, but no more.  I didn't hate her performance, but if someone else signed on to play the role in the sequel, I also wouldn't miss her at all.  She played the entire film as if wondering when the scene would end and how she could get to her next engagement on time. 

Michael Shannon proved once again that when you want a creepy religious fanatic, you need to book him. 

The action scenes, as you no doubt have already read, were visually intriguing and frequently fun, but each one went on entirely too long.  I certainly understand the temptation to fill the screen with action, and you need to do a lot to hurt a superpowered alien, but in almost every action scene I found myself wondering, "Are we going to finish soon?"

I could go on and on with particulars, but instead let me jump to the bottom line:  This movie couldn't decide what it wanted to be.  Maybe that's the fault of director Zack Snyder, or producer and co-story-author Christopher Nolan, but the film lacked cohesiveness.  Sometimes a character story, sometimes an overblown action piece, sometimes the outsider, almost-Christ tale that is undoubtedly part of the Superman mythos, the movie tried to have it all--and couldn't quite manage it. 

On balance, I'm glad I went, and I'll go to the sequel, but I have to recommend it with strong reservations.


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