Wednesday, December 31, 2008

on white teeth.

Zadie Smith is well-recognized as a pretty amazing author. She's been through the grind of the press, and she's been fawned over by the moony-eyed critics. She also happens to write great product, which is probably why nobody (as far as my limited understanding of her has been) has really had anything terrible to say about the praise and the awards. (Notwithstanding the average review on, of course, but those are usually half and half anyway.) Zadie Smith's first novel, called White Teeth and published in 2000, has to be seen as at least semi-autobiographical, since she was born to a Jamaican mother and an older English father, but that might be about it. The similarities aside, the novel is an incredible experience.

It's a sprawling epic that covers quite a time span (if we're including Samad's great-grandfather, Pande, as one of the central characters, which I think we must) - approximately 100 years? The physical location varies just as much, even though we don't actually see a lot of the action in Bangladesh, we see a side of London, and are (of course) influenced by Jamaica. The characters are well-developed, especially Samad and Archie who are connected by a war they didn't really fight in, as well as their advice to one another, their similar wives (both younger, both fitting into the new model much more easily than either of their husbands) and, most fittingly, by their children, who seem almost doomed to carry on the sins of their fathers. Samad is blessed with twins, Magid and Millat, but sees them only as double the evidence of the damage that the assimilation to England is reaping upon his lineage. Archie, on the other hand, has one daughter, who is much more her mother's daughter than his, even down to her name: Irie Jones. (Fantastic name, by the way, especially with modern connotations. I wonder if that slang had made it over to England by 2000, or if it was around before then, or if the older people who read the book get it.) Magid gets sent away in a ridiculous move by his father, a decision that will ultimately cost him not the ultimate price of death, but perhaps an existence even worse than merely dying. Millat and Irie, on the other hand, continue to thrive in the London scene of the late 80's and early 90's that so many of my contemporaries were equally enamored with.

That scene is replete with the dangers of assimilation, from both ends: the Iqbals have a hard time seeing London affect their children in the way it does, but England, of course, has a hard time accepting the fact that people of other nationalities want to come to their blessed shores and do the work that many of the natives consider themselves too good for. It's a dangerous subject, and it calls to mind the rather-public battles that were fought in the Presidential election of 2004, when it seemed like America (or at least my home state, New Mexico, at the bare minimum) might implode if someone dared to say, "Ummm...Remember the Statue of Liberty?" There's a lot of commentary hidden in the folds within this text, not only about race, and how hard it is for people to fully accept, but also about how truly difficult it is for the people who are going through it. (And by "going through it," make no mistake, I'm talking about the singular experience of being a minority in a country where you are not fully accepted. This would have to be pretty much any country where minorities exist, since I'm unaware of any utopias in our current world, but that doesn't mean that it's not getting better. I'm all about progress, but I also think it's our duty to keep our eyes open and be realistic. And the reality is, it's still an unthinkable hardship [unthinkable only for people who have never experienced it, of course] to be a different shade than those who are in charge.) Despite all this, there's very little head-on discussion of the racism that is frequently alluded to, which makes me wonder if that's a British thing (not bringing up rude subjects) of if it's a Smith thing (not wanting to air her dirty laundry)?

The search for meaning, as always, is one of the central themes (of any good novel) and the place that religion occupies in that search is not neglected here. Archie has a not-complicated relationship with religion, mainly because he seems to ignore it at all times (very much occupying the role of straight man when it comes to he and Samad's discussions) but Samad has a fractured relationship at best. He's a Muslim, so he won't drink or masturbate, but he needs to have a drink with Archie, so he commits himself to not masturbating, but then he meets a woman that drives him insane, so he's given to infidelity and adultery, so he gives up drinking, but then his conscience gets to him and he ends the affair, which requires a stiff (no pun intended) drink, and so on and so forth. Like a real man in the real world, his relationship with his God is a complicated one. The people who are most interested in their faith do not easily down that path. Things are difficult, and they should be, and Samad Miah's relationship with his God, his wife and his sons proves that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

(As an aside here, the fact that neither of these women divorce either of their husbands affirms, to me at least, that both of the women are, in fact, much more serious about their faith than either of the men. The novel is not set in the era when divorce was so frowned upon that they couldn't have survived the semi-scandal. But they stay together for more than just the kids, too. The commitment they both show is rather admirable, but I do have to question people who refuse so mightily to get divorced. The entire novel might be an attempt to prove that, sometimes, divorce is the right answer: these people essentially destroy their children, not just their adolescent lives, but (possibly) the whole enchilada. Zadie's own parents got divorced, and this novel, as I already mentioned, is at least semi-autobiographical. I wonder if it was a conscious decision on her part to prove to her parents that they were right to take the path they did?)

Millat, on the other hand, has no complicated relationship with God, only with himself. He is constantly in search of who he really is, and this is spelled out explicitly in the text: he is only half of a person, always mirroring his twin, even when they're continents apart. He falls in with the drug-users, whatever music is popular at the time, and the religious crowd that looks at Malcolm X as an idol. However, it's in his own thoughts that we're finally privy to what he most wants to be: As far back as I could remember, I always wanted to be a gangster. This is a great statement, too, especially if you've ever experienced the sway that these modern fables have on such a particular subset of our population now. It's real and it's kind of scary.

Speaking of scary, the last note that I want to include is that this novel makes liberal use of the word terrorist. It's amazing, as a post-9/11 American, to see the ease with which the rest of the world dealt with this label long before most of us had ever even thought about it. Just another reminder that the world is much larger than we ever think, and, as White Teeth seems intent on teaching us, things are much more connected than we'd ever think to realize.

Bottom Line: Four and a Half Stars (out of Five).

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

on seven pounds.

Winter Break has been very kind to me. I've gotten through three books thus far, watched a crapload of movies, and indulged in as much basketball as I could endure. (BTW, if I wasn't so hard on the Lakers train already, I would jump HARD on that Blazers bandwagon before it got all filled up. I'm only writing this now because I'm loving every minute of this Celtics/Blazers game.) But of the things that I've done, only one was a really unusual treat for myself: when I was in high school (and even more recently, to be honest) I used to go to the movie theater pretty often. I love movies, and I like going to see things when they're fresh, so that I'll be able to talk to people about them. However, recently, that's stopped. I don't know if it's my Netflix account, or the rising prices of the cinema, but I just don't go all that often anymore.

So when I got a chance to go see Seven Pounds, I was pretty excited. Let's just say that excitement didn't really get a chance to fully blossom. The movie was fine. Will Smith does a great job, he's really matured as an actor. (I mean, seriously? This is the same guy?! Almost unbelievable.) His role in I Am Legend really said great things to me, and this one continues down the serious path of The Pursuit of Happyness as well.

However, the movie really does give new meaning to the definition of cliche. I'd say that anyone who doesn't really get what's going to happen pretty much within the first ten minutes of the movie is operating at a second-grade level, but it'd be insulting to the second-graders. The movie borders on disgustingly predictable, but manages to entertain at the same time, so I guess I have to give it high marks for that. It'll make girls weep, which, I guess, is a good thing, if that's what you're looking for. Rosario Dawson isn't as godawful as she usually is, and Barry Pepper continues to play his bit parts pretty well, although I'm not sure that I've ever seen him really work hard to stretch himself beyond the friend who's a bit tortured. Woody Harrelson, however, really gets a chance to shine, and that afore-mentioned first scene is a truly powerful one, mainly for the composure that we see emanating from Harrelson's character.

I guess I'd say overall that, while I was appreciative of the secrecy they tried to cloak the movie in, drawing people in with the mystery, "Oh, what's the secret? Who are the names? What is he going to do?" as I've already said, that was fairly obvious within the first ten minutes. So maybe a little more forthrightness would have been appreciated in the advertisement so that we wouldn't have to approach this as a mystery of some kind but rather going to see Will Smith demonstrate a little more of that range that he's done so well with recently.

Bottom Line: Two and a Half Stars (out of Five).

Monday, December 29, 2008

on resolutions.

Welcome back! I hope everyone had a great holiday season and I know it's not completely done yet, but I want to get back in the swing of things this week before work starts up again next week so that I won't be trying to breathe when I should just be hitting the ground running. I spent the morning of this day playing some basketball, and I just sat out in the sun with Zod for the last hour or so doing some reading, so now it's time to get back to work. Part of that work is pouring some more of me into this blog.

In general, I don't really do resolutions. I think they're kind of tacky and when I've promised myself in the past that I would do this or not do that, it's tended to happen with a lot of success in the first month, drop off kind of in February, and then be totally gone by March. So this year, I'm aiming for long-term goals and trying to be very specific about not only maintaining them, but measuring them as well, in an attempt to stick with what I want.

2008 was, in general, a really good year for me. IF 2007 was kind of marked by depression (the end of a relationship, some unhappiness at work, etc.) then 2008 was marked by the exact opposite of those circumstances: I felt really healthy this year, ran a whole bunch, maintained my relationships to a fairly successful degree, strengthened me role at work, and embraced my family even more. I want to continue down this path in 2009. With that in mind, here are my resolutions for 2009:

Run 1000 miles. This year I really wanted to run a marathon and I was on a pretty good track until I had some trouble with a night of drinking and tried to kill Brother One. That was good and bad, because it inspired a great period of sobriety, but it also de-railed my training for the marathon. I realized, however, that it wasn't the end of the world if I didn't run it this year, so I was able to breathe a little easier. In 2009, however, I fully expect to run my first marathon. More important to me, though, is the overall goal: running 1000 miles over the course of the year. To some people who are really hardcore runners, that might not sound like a lot, but for me, it's a great goal that makes me run on a regular basis, stay fit in general, and has mini-goals that I can measure each month, as well. These are all very good things for me.

Spend more time on this blog. While I don't really ever think of this as something that I could make a living from, I do think it's a really great tool to get me into the habit of writing something every single day. I enjoy having this place to make the notes that I do, even when they're not terribly significant, and even when/if not many other people are reading those thoughts. I'm of the mind that it's good for me to get these thoughts out, one way or another. So with that in mind, I'm hopeful that I'll be able to maintain a pace of posting something every single week day, even if some days that something is only a link or a picture. I should also be able to use the extra time that I have (whenever I can find it) to build up a surplus of articles that I'll be working on while not actively posting them.

Apply for more jobs. This is a rather big one. I've been happier and happier at my job, and it's not like I'm in a hurry to leave it. But I was taught to always keep my options open and be ready when opportunity comes knocking. With that in mind, I'm going to continue what was a great development for me this summer: I'm going to be sending out frequent applications, even if I might not be perfectly qualified for a job. I think there's nothing wrong with putting your name out there. I'm in a great position with my work where I believe my boss will be perfectly understanding about these sorts of things, and it'd be ridiculously foolish to fail to take advantage of those circumstances.

And last but not least, I'm not going to make it a resolution, so much, but rather, a goal: I'd like to follow through on my plan of living in a different city during the summer. I'm only going to be in these perfect circumstances for so long, so I might as well take advantage of them.

Resolutions: yay or nay?

Monday, December 22, 2008

on the world i envision.

I should have been able to speak out loud to my car's CPU on the way home to calculate the distance between my house and where I should have been for dinner, to decide if I wanted to run there.

Our walls in our homes should all be made of OLEDs and we should be able to change them to whatever we want at any time, either uploading images (personal or famous - pics from vacation or the Starry Night) over the ever-present Wi-Fi, or drawing on them, in whatever pattern we fancy at that time. This might require some sort of special glove, but that'd be OK. And, of course, all of the patterns we drew would be saved in the cloud so that if we ever felt like going back to something, it would be saved. We'd have to have some kind of advanced search algorithm, too, even beyond what Google does now, but a lot along the lines of where they're going - tagging pictures with identifiers, looking at speech inside videos, and recognizing patterns in drawings.

Utilizing the aforementioned Wi-Fi, pretty much everyone would podcast at all times from their cars. We'd broadcast the music we listened to, but we could tag things as more important; i.e. if I went through a traffic jam, I'd note it in my podcast, but not just in sequential order, I'd prioritize it. That way, everyone's GPS-aware iPods would be scanning the area ahead (where we're going) to look for any important notes from podcasters that I'd tagged in the past as worth listening to. This would, essentially, be crowdsourcing jobs that we rely on one (flawed) person (or, at a max rate, a few individuals) to do for us at this time. Of course, if companies want an in here to shove their shit in our faces, this would be a great place for them to listen in and see that we're repping certain record companies (or, even more likely, since they'll eventually [and not even that far away from now] disappear and be replaced by more focused groups, certain bands) and start mini-sponsorships. They could poke in and say (using Pandora as a base), "If you like this podcaster, you might like this other guy too." There's plenty of room for revenue-sharing in a scheme like that.

Going back to the OLEDs making up our construction materials, one of my frequent complaints about life today is that everything doesn't talk to everything. I write one of my friend's birthday's on my calendar, it should wirelessly sync with my phone, my car, my personal laptop, my work computer, etc. This only makes sense, but it's much harder to actually do, as opposed to talk about.

Of course, everything should be make out of OLEDs, thus bringing the digital world to our physical one. It literally pisses me off when I'm reading something in a magazine and I can't click the word to get the definition. I know this can be solved by reading the same story online, or buying a Kindle, but it should be that way automatically (by default?) in the 'real world' as well. The real issue here, obviously, is money: it would cost billions of dollars to do everything this way - companies figure why bother? My thinking is the exact opposite: it's going to be that way eventually, so wouldn't you want to be the first company spending all this money to be the first out the gate and satisfying the masses while the other guys play catch up?

I mentioned the cloud before and this is not something that's unique to me or my brain (I'm honestly not even sure any of those other things are, either, they're just things that I think about all the time) but it's obviously going to be huge. I mean, the cloud is the future. I kind of feel like I don't need to say as much about it since so many people are already up on it. But it requires so much more work in order to actually work, and in order to be useful in all the ways that people envision that it makes me wonder if it'll ever actually happen. Remember all the municipal Wi-Fi projects that haven't worked? Yeah, that'd be all of them. So how (and when) are we going to make this transition? A handful of technology-types putting their stuff up in the cloud doesn't mean that the majority of techno-illiterates are going to follow suit or think that it's a good idea.

Of course, all of this brings up my very real concern: Skynet takes control. I know that I bring this up often enough in real life that my friends know I'm serious about it, but I don't know if there's a way to convey how serious I am about these sorts of wild, outlandish theories over the Internet. I'm dead convinced that the machines actually will take over, largely as a result of all the things that I talk about above. So, my yearning for the future brings about the future I dread. How's that for a self-fulfilling prophecy? Jesus, someone page Dr. Freud.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

link of the day.

Brando just bookmarked this site for me that details where pickup games are happening in your local area, and I was all excited, especially when I got to the default home screen where there were thousands of little basketball hoop icons in a small area. Then I tried to search my hometown (which required registering, which is a drag, but no biggie) and found that there were none. Zero. Not a single hoop even registered. So I've put up three of the places I like to play and that I'm at the most often (in the summer, when it's not mind-numbingly cold) and I'd love if this became something that more people in the 505 used. It's convenient and seems to be a step in the right direction...right? Check out No Fouls to find out where and when people will be balling.

Friday, December 19, 2008

on it being "ruff" in jail.

OK. Well, at least this one's funny. But here's the thing that I just realized: I've been missing a HUGE opportunity here! The phone book is full of this insanity!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

on charlie bartlett.

Having had a chance to watch this movie (which Rocafella, perhaps incorrectly, dismissed, I think a bit quickly), I have to say that it really should be required watching for most teachers. Not because it's an amazing movie, not because it features great dialogue, and not because it's breaking down any kind of stereotypes; in fact, it indulges in all of the bad aspects of each of those three cardinal sins. It's not very great in any unique way, it really truly does feature some atrocious dialogue, and it's stereotypical in some of the most insulting ways. So why do I say that it should be required watching, and why am I sitting here talking about it?

Charlie Bartlett has a couple of great things going for it: First and foremost is Robert Downey Jr. who has always been one of my favorite actors, mainly because my mother loves him so much and convinced me to always give him another look when he ran into another one of his many problems that used to plague him so badly. But Downey really inhabits this role in a lot of ways. Let's get the obvious out of the way right away: yes, the character has problems with alcohol, and yes, we are reminded of Downey a lot in those scenes. However, it goes a lot deeper than that. Charlie Bartlett himself is constantly supposed to be seen as the smartest character in the movie, but there are a lot of times when Downey's character, as flawed as he truly is, can clearly be seen to be superior in a lot of ways.

This might only be my work-self speaking, but Downey's character is an ex-history teacher who's become a principal to his (and his daughter's) chagrin and he clearly struggles with the boundaries between his daughter at home and his daughter at work. The thing is...his character is basically what every good teacher should be (is?) and yet he's been put into the position (by the system, it's implied, but never shown) of having to toe the line. I'd kill to have students intelligently protest the presence of cameras in our schools but when it happens to him with his students at his school...he looks uncomfortable, to say the least. That's because the superintendent is seemingly always at his school, constantly holding the threat of firing him over his head. Downey's character ranges from the aforementioned clearly uncomfortable to the mentioned-but-not-seen suicidal. This is for a variety of reasons, but the worker in me can't help but see it as a reflection of one of the more subtler themes of the movie: we're turning our schools into prisons. And while it's not a great experience to be a prisoner, it's certainly not an amazing one to be a warden, either.

The other great thing about this movie is how Charlie Bartlett (the character) so clearly displays his malaise at almost all times. He's so so so uncomfortable with almost every circumstance that he finds himself in that he has to immediately change as many things about it so that the focus can be on him, where he thrives. The dreams that he has, the constant need to fix everyone else, the chameleon-like nature of fitting in everywhere and with everyone, these qualities all serve to vividly (if a bit obviously) illustrate the question that his girlfriend asks him, that serves as a refrain to so many teenage kids: who fixes you? When someone fits in everywhere, do they truly fit in anywhere?

While it stereotypes the suicidal kid, the drama department, the bully, the jock, and so so so many other timeless high school ideas (that have never actually been as true as they're portrayed here, except in the minds of people who have long-since graduated), there's a lot to appreciate in Charlie Bartlett.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

on snow days.

In celebration of my work taking the day off today, for fear of people committing mass homicide on the icy, icy roads [/sarcasm], I took this picture of one of the many mini-snowmen that (presumably) many people built. That will be the entirety of this blog entry. I hope y'all enjoyed your day at work as much as I enjoyed sitting around with friends, coffee and snow.

Monday, December 15, 2008

on the best of 2008.

No introduction necessary. This is it.

Music Released

Black Kids - Partie Traumatic
Beck - Modern Guilt
The Streets - Everything is Borrowed
Conor Oberst - Conor Oberst
Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs
4. Nas - The N*gger Mixtape
3. Q-Tip - The Renaissance
2. Ryan Adams - Cardinology
1. Kings of Leon - Only By The Night

Albums that didn't quite make the cut, but I still enjoyed included, but are not limited to: the new Nine Inch Nails, Kanye's 808's, Girl Talk's Feed the Animals, TV on the Radio's Dear Science, Cold War Kids' Loyalty to Loyalty (it wasn't nearly as good as Robbers & Cowards), Bloc Party's Intimacy, Cut Copy's In Ghost Colours, and the new Guns 'N Roses.

Overall, I feel better about music this year, as compared to how I did last year. First of all, I feel like I listened to more music in general, better music in particular, and was exposed the way I wanted to be. I also feel like there was more better music released this year than there was last year (and maybe the last two combined?).

Films Seen

On the other hand, this list continues to suffer. While I feel like there are still, really, a ton of movies coming out that are of superior quality, I just honestly don't get to the cinema as often as I used to. And I really don't mind that. My Netflix queue benefits as a result, and I save some money because of the ridiculous prices at the theater. However, I do feel like my list kind of reads as a duh list. But that being said, here it is:

A History of Violence
Iron Man
The Dark Knight
There Will Be Blood

Probably in that order. Those were some seriously great films (with the exception of Iron Man, which was, in no way a film, but might have been the best comic book movie ever - it felt like a comic book put up on the screen). I'm looking forward to Watchmen to such a high degree that it scares me.

Books Read

Important note: Because of my lackadaisical reading, I don't put together lists of the 'Best of 2008' - instead, I put together lists of the best things I read this year. I very rarely read the great books that all the magazines, etc. talk about as being the best of the year, so this won't look like that. In years past, comic books, graphic novels, and young adult fiction have been in my list. This year, I really wasn't feeling any comic books in particular. But there's still a LOT of YA Fiction. In this order:

The Looking Glass Wars
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
Little Brother
Looking for Alaska

I've written a lot about all of these books and I know it makes me look like a little kid in some respects, but I'm telling you right now that these books are for real. Every single one of them would make a great gift for anyone from age 13 to 50. They delve into great subjects and (for the most part) do so in a crazy responsible way, in a thought-provoking way, and give the individuals who choose to read them a lot to work with in the future.

That's the best of how I spent 2008. There was a LOT more, especially with books this year, which makes me happy, but that was the cream of the crop. Hope it'll give you some food for thought.

Friday, December 12, 2008

on "encouragement."

Ah yes. Nothing will stop me in my pursuing of the inappropriate use of quotation marks. Not even using them from a potentially hazardous source!

(Although, seriously, I do have doubts about using this. I hope it doesn't get me into trouble. But really, what is this person trying to say? That they'll do something...illicit? Awkward.)

Also, um... I think you mean i.e. not "re." Just, ya know...for what it's worth.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

link of the day.

Click through or watch the movie here, but ch-ch-ch-check it out!

This is a movie made by one of my great friends Mindy C as an assignment for one of her classes this semester. It's got a rockin' soundtrack, and has some great ideas. (Do I agree with everything in here? Nope! But that's part of what makes the Internet so much fun.) Also, it'll be great for me to have this here so that it'll serve as a constant reminder that when someone asks for my help, I shouldn't procrastinate.

Way to make such an awesome video despite your slacker friends, Mindy!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

on building a new franchise in the nba.

Never before in my (admittedly young) life have I felt like there's been a wealth of beauty and awe (the antithesis of shock and awe?) in the sport that I love like there is now. If you were the GM of a new expansion team, and you were granted carte blanche by the Commissioner of the league, you could practically do no wrong. Granted, LeBron James seems to be the most right choice, but really, I'd have a hard time arguing against any of the following players:

Chris Paul.
Dwight Howard.
Deron Williams.
LeBron James.

I grew up worshiping at the table of the Forum Blue and Gold guys, and I'd always heard about the glories of some other guy in green, too, but I have to be honest and say that my early basketball life was dominated by 90's Jordan and the ensuing depression his departure caused. (See: all the players dubbed "the next Jordan.") Then I got spoiled with the threepeat earlier this decade and then it was famine years. Root for the Spurs and their boring-ass style? Never! No one out of the East seemed worth my while, much less the appalling Pistons, who dared defeat my oft-referenced Beatles team. Nasty Nash came along and saved Busket in general with his run and fun Suns, and then the Warriors shocked the world so that was fun, but I never had this mythical rivalry that I'd heard about - I never had the embarrassment of riches that I'd heard of from generations before.

Now I feel like I might be living through a new golden age.

Witness Chris Paul's statistical wizardry.

Witness Dwight Howard absolutely abusing all in his path.

Witness Deron Williams running through those who forget to mention his name.

And, perhaps most intimidatingly, witness the one whose marketing campaign coined the phrase - witness the man who might actually do the unthinkable: witness the man who not only might rival Jordan but craves the comparisons!

This is an insane time to be living through. And the thing is...we said this last year. When the West Playoff race was so close I know a lot of basketball heads who said this might be the best it's been in a long minute. And might be even better! Welcome to the season.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

on john green.

I've written here about John Green before - his novel Looking for Alaska just might be at the top of my Best Things I've Read in 2008 when I inevitably start compiling that list very soon. However, he's written books since then and, although I've checked An Abundance of Katherines out from my school library, I have to confess that I haven't gotten around to reading it. (Still being consumed in my contest [which I'm pretty sure I'm the only one still competing in] to read The Three Musketeers, intermittently giving up on that and perusing Zaide Smith's debut novel White Teeth and, of course, taking a break in there for the teen-girl-love of Twilight probably wasn't the best idea if I really wanted to actually get some consistent reading done. But I digress.) However, since reading that book, I've made it a habit to read John's blog and watch his awesome videos and so I knew this video was coming up and I have to say that it was everything I ever hoped for. Here's to John and his braveness, all in the name of charity.

Monday, December 8, 2008

on tin man.

Re-workings have always been one of my favorite ideas, whether it's re-imagining the whole of the X-Men Universe in a giant What If or as simple as an alternate history. So when I see ads for things like Tin Man I usually get excited, even if that excitement wears off almost immediately and I end up not watching the damn thing, because the only thing I watch on TV is sports. (And Lost. God I love Lost.) Thankfully, that's at least half of the reason I maintain a Netflix subscription.

So the other day, I had the pleasure of watching the Tin Man mini-series that Sci-Fi put on. The first thing that should be noted is that it was a mini-series put on by a cable company and that cable company was not HBO. So the graphics were, admittedly, pretty crappy. The flying monkeys were literally remarked upon to look like bats, at best, and there were several times (most of the time?) where the use of a green screen was painfully obvious.

Tin Man re-tells the story of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and one of the best things about it is that it (perhaps subconsciously, perhaps not) incorporates some elements from some of the other versions that we've already gotten. (Another wise decision is that it leaves yet other versions well enough alone.) There's lots of interesting re-interpretations, especially with the advances in technology between the original publication date and this thing's arrival, most notably in regards to the Scarecrow and the role he plays overall. However, that being said, I wasn't really sure why they chose to alter some of the more significant things...most notably:

The wizard! What the hell is the deal with this guy? I mean, I know it's a re-visioning, but this is going a bit far, eh? The wizard almost certainly has to be a central character in the story, but in this version they've elected to relegate him to sideshow status. Which wouldn't be so bad, if it wasn't for...

The father! Are you kidding me? First of all, this actor just did a terrible job. Straight up, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. But I don't fault him entirely. It's not like he had a pot of gold to work with. The addition of this unnecessary character may stand as the single-worst decision in a movie full of them.

So, to start: the movie starts with several clever homages to the classic, but quickly descends into rather familiar territory; and I don't mean the Wizard of Oz territory, I mean generic fairy tale territory. What's the point in using a central text if you're going to throw away some of its most basic tenets? The introduction of DG into the O.Z. was an interesting change with the Munchkins, but after that, aside from the basic appearance of the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the aforementioned Scarecrow, the similarities reach the untimely demise.

I like changing things. That's not what this is about. I just think this was a poor change overall. The basic storyline suffered from trying to do too much; instead of three episodes of an hour and a half each, why not just shoot for a 2-episode (three hour total) story? Surely there were things they could have cut.

Amongst my suggestions for those things: the weird sub-plot with her parents and the town. I get the point of it, and, actually, I liked that part of the series, but it could have been edited. The insistence on showing every single little detail of Azkadelia's transformation. Leave some parts to watcher imagination. It presumes that you think poorly of your audience if you don't trust them with some basic things. The unimaginative twist on the Seeker and the revelation about who he was. In fact, the whole Realm of the Unwanted sequence was uninspired in general.

Those would be a few great places to start.

Overall, it was a good idea. But like most good ideas, it needs some revision, some work, and, ironically, some re-thinking itself before it was released to the public.

Friday, December 5, 2008

on "happy" in galoshes.

Ah, thank you Scott Weiland, for making my job this week easy. You released an album called "Happy" in Galoshes. At least it makes sense in the stupid, ironic way that most people misuse quotations nowadays.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

link of the day.

Absolutely sick video from Jones on the NBA, entitled The Assassination of Michael Jordan by the Coward Kobe Bryant. It was perfect that I'd just seen the movie for the first time only a little while ago, because, man, watching that made me appreciate the film even more. Good stuff over there. Every time I see this site, it makes me wonder why I'm not reading it on a regular basis. So now I'm gonna have to. (Hat tip, of course, to True Hoop.)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

on the albuquerque thunderbirds.

The Albuquerque Thunderbirds are my hometown's NBADL team. They're a lot of fun. They had a great first season. But since then...well, they've kind of suffered. (By the by, just as a sidenote, God, that Wiki page is so so so messy. I'm making a pledge to fix it up this weekend, if it's not already taken care of.)

I'd like to see the D-League be a bigger thing here in ABQ, especially given the polarizing nature of basketball in this state. And we keep on talking about building a new stadium either Downtown, or at the Fairgrounds, or somewhere, but all the talk that I see focuses on 12,000 vs. 15,000 seating capacity... The Thunderbirds had their best attendance ever at 4,000-something the other night for this season's opener. That's big time troubling. If we're going to invest so heavily in something like this (and don't get it twisted: I think we should), we've got to be able to sustain it, so that it doesn't...ya know...leave.

The Thunderbirds were helped along in their first season by semi-local star, Michael Cooper. However, since he's left, the team's floundered quite a bit. For various reasons, I think, as the D-League is wont to do. We do now have, though, a former Lobo playing for the team which should, theoretically at least, give the home team some sway in pulling in some more crowds.

I think one of the problems with the D-League, however, is that a lot of people just see it as so vastly inferior to the NBA. (Again, don't get me wrong. The WNBA faces the same stigma, and perhaps even more so, but that's a point for another time.) And, to a large degree, they're right. The NBADL isn't marketed to the extent that it could (or should, maybe, versus the WNBA?) be, and no matter how many press conferences the NBADL has with their top brass talking about how it's still the best way to get into the Association, the big news stories are still focused on the players who spurn the D-League versus the ones who are actually staying and playing in it. (I'm not even going to get into the LeBron 2010 stories that are dominating the League headlines right now.) Maybe David Stern needs to put a bug in some reporters' ears regarding the D-League. Maybe they're not paying attention.

What it all comes down to, though, is that there has to be a pretty fervent fan base. I used to think that Albuquerque was one of those places, but even with discounted tickets, and the season opener, they could only manager 4,000-something? That, to me, is disappointing. If we can't manage to pack that place to the brim, then perhaps we don't deserve a new stadium. I'd rather we focus on in-building or infrastructure or something else. Part of it has to do with talent. I'm ready to acknowledge that. But part of it has got to be there no matter what. I mean, Rocky Long was pretty pissed at our lack of support and just because he said it in a mean way doesn't mean that he's not right.

Monday, December 1, 2008

on black friday.

Black Friday's gotten a lot of press the last few years as the worst shopping day ever...or the best, depending on your point of view. Personally, speaking as someone who worked at the mall for a few years in my teenage life, I never found the day after Thanksgiving to be nearly as bad as the day after Christmas. Regardless, there's definitely room for the day to be talked about, not just as a hellacious shopping day, but also as the traditional start to the season of shopping, the beginning of the end of the year, and the first day (at least to me) where it's appropriate to start marketing Christmas. (Although, to be honest, in an ideal world, wouldn't we really never "market" Christmas? I mean, if you're a Christian, it's about the birth of your savior. How does buying a ton of presents help out with getting into Heaven?

Regardless, there's been some unfortunate news from this Black Friday and it's unquestionably sad, but I'm truly shocked that anyone is shocked. Isn't this kind of...old hat at this point? And I'm not trying to minimalize anyone's death, but... You know what they say.

I guess the real problem is, to me, that this ever happens in the first place. Maybe that's why I seem a little uncomfortable with expressing it as the apex of tragedy now. Because it's happened before, and because I see such strong problems with the whole idea, I'm having trouble seeing the tragedy in this particular example. (Does that even make sense?)

Here's the bottom line, to me: If we didn't have such a spend-spend-spend culture that was fixated on camping out the day of Thanksgiving, when people should be spending time with their family! so that they could get a good deal on something that they may or may not even really need (but they want it soooooo bad!) I think things would unquestionably be better.