February 2007

What happens when your parents get email and, finally, learn to use it? You get forwarded animated GIFs of the Lord’s Prayer. As I said to Deadblob, “too chintzy to be camp, too weird to be discussed.”

I am ready for some people to get the hell off the lawn which is my Internet.

OK, so The Host (note: lots of flash and window-resizing, etc.) is frickin’ awesome. It’s a South Korean monster movie crossed with Little Miss Sunshine. So very, very strange. And good.

And strange.

I can’t really describe it beyond that. It’s just… yeah. Watch it if you get the chance.

Also, a funny lobby convo right before the movie:

Me: You should see Beach Party when it comes out on DVD.
Mr. Saturday: Is it good?
Me: It’s this year’s American Astronaut, yeah, it’s good.

Then a woman in front of us in line whips around – whips, like she’s standing on a rotating floor plate – and says, wide-eyed: Did I hear someone mention American Astronaut?

Me: Yeah, you did.
Woman: Oh God, I love that movie. Did you see it?
Me: Totally!
Woman: Do you have the DVD? I have the DVD.
Me: Yeah, I have the DVD, it’s fantastic.
Woman: So you’re saying Beach Party is good?
Me: Yeah, it’s good.
Woman: This year’s American Astronaut?
Me: Yeah, I’d say so.
Woman (pointing at her date, nearby): I make him watch American Astronaut all the time. (Turning to said guy.) This guy says Beach Party is this year’s American Astronaut. You know, Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell, the movie I wanted to see.

This weekend is, if you didn’t know, Nevermore at the Carolina Theatre of Durham. For this year’s weird dichotomy, there’s a children’s chess tournament or conference or thing going on at the Civic Center next door. Walking through the lobby of the Carolina I was surrounded by vintage horror posters and props and TVs playing trailers and such and then I walked through the double doors into the Civic Center to grab a bite to eat and was surrounded by hyper-intelligent children running, screaming, in every available direction. Their parents pile into hallways and fiddle with laptop computers while they, between matches, play handheld game consoles. The bar of the Marriott was unusually – seriously, way unusually – full of parents who looked lost in a kind of fog. I do love Nevermore weekend.

I’ve seen two of the full-length films – Dead Alive and Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell – and the collection of shorts titled Anthology of Errata.

Dead Alive is, of course, a classic. If I remember correctly it’s Peter Jackson’s first film. This is easily the goriest movie ever made but it’s also one of the funniest. Timothy Balme – whom you’ve likely seen nowhere else unless you’re a fan of New Zealand television shows – is simply incredible at physical comedy and his sheer physicality – incredible flexibility and the sort of precision necessary to pull off performed clumsiness – is really what sells the rest of the movie. Dead Alive is a zombie movie, yes, but it’s much more a romantic comedy than anything else. If you watch this movie and don’t laugh then there’s something wrong with you (or you just don’t like it, I guess?).

The collection of shorts has a number of really great films in it. Night of the Hell Hamsters is a fun bit of gore with some genuinely hilarious moments. Facility 4 is deeply creepy and a part of its creep factor is the business-like reaction of the soldiers in it; I think there’s potentially a real discussion to be had there. The Listening Dead is a beautiful few minutes. Zombie Hunter kind of left me rolling my eyes but I liked it. A Nevermore first: I couldn’t sit through all of Oculus. I was watching it by myself, sitting in the balcony, and I just had to get up and walk out. Itsy-Bitsy is probably what ties Facility 4 for being my favorite of the whole collection. The entire collection plays again tomorrow (Sunday) at 2pm in Fletcher Hall.

Finally, I just – like, an hour ago – got out of Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell. This is definitely this year’s American Astronaut: a really fun, funny movie made even better by the fact the cast is so obviously having fun, too, staged and shot in a way that really creates and maintains a sense of the characters’ charisma. Another similarity to American Astronaut is the clever way in which the makers employ the limited resources available to any independent film so that they come away with a really glossy, finished product but have almost nothing in the way of sets and a relatively tiny cast. The story itself is hard to encapsulate, but it’s a post-apocalyptic political campaign with a Kennedy determined to become Vice-King of New America. His girlfriend is named Cannibal Sue. Pants Wilder plucked the thought from my mind when he noted how shocked he was the makers didn’t mention Fallout as an inspiration. Richard III? Really? You could have said Fallout. It would have been OK.

The writer/director/star, producer/star and a lot of the technical crew were in attendance and did a fun little Q&A after the movie. It won’t be playing again this weekend but they’re trying to hammer out a distribution deal for 20 cities this summer and a DVD this autumn and have plans for two more films about the characters in the film. Also there’s a comic about the robots Yul and Quincy at their website.

This showed up in moderation as a comment on this post:

Bush goes ballistic about other countries being evil and dangerous, because they have weapons of mass destruction. But, he insists on building up even a more deadly supply of nuclear arms right here in the US. What do you think? How does that work in a democracy again? How does being more threatening make us more likeable?Isn’t the country with
the most weapons the biggest threat to the rest of the world? When one country is the biggest threat to the rest of the world, isn’t that likely to be the most hated country?
What happened to us, people? When did we become such lemmings?
We have lost friends and influenced no one. No wonder most of the world thinks we suck. Thanks to what george bush has done to our country during the past three years, we do!

Now, normally I’d completely buy that’s a real comment. Not here, necessarily, as time has revealed the “politics” category to get smaller and smaller as an overall percentage of what I post about. This is a blog that can get political not a political blog. Still, I’ve seen worse. The URL field for the comment gave it away as a spam comment, but this is what fascinates me: that spam would be so adaptive.

I know, I know, realizing them spammers are some clever chaps is so 1999. Still, I’m intrigued. Was there some enterprising spammer out there who wrote a commentbot and had it hit anything that turned up in, say, a Google search for “liberal blog?” Or – and this is what interests me more, though I’m not sure why – have the winds changed such that a spammer somewhere just wrote up a generic Bush-bashing comment and shotgun-blasted it in hopes it would be more successful than the usual “Nice post… !” spam commentary?

In other words, is it just clever targeting or a sign of the times?

Unrelated: Is it just me or have the Bush years just flown by compared to the Reagan era? It just seems like Reagan spent a lot more time bumbling around the Oval Office trying to find the corners so he could cut them, too. Bush seems so… fast. Of course, it could just be that I was in, um, elementary and middle schools for the Reagan administration whereas I’ve been a late-20’s/early-30’s person for the entirety of Bush.

I was standing in line today at lunch and overheard the following conversation between two women behind me:

W1: Wow, your hair looks great, I love the color.

W2: Yeah, I was really nervous because I’d never done it myself and then when I got out of the shower after I was afraid it was too dark and I’d messed up.  I mean, I looked, like… foreign!

On reflection, maybe she meant, you know, different?  From her image of herself, maybe?  Not actually “from a different country” or “of a different nationality,” right?  Maybe?  Can I avoid hating her by choosing that interpretation?  Please?  Because otherwise I just totally hate her.

Casino Royale – the book, that is – is just plain fabulous.  Fleming’s writing is so sparse and functional.  It’s not that he doesn’t describe things, really, it’s that when he does you get the sense of a rather dry voice reveling in a chance to wax briefly poetic.  There’s a bit of intro at the beginning that notes Raymond Chandler was a fan of Fleming.  I could totally see that.  Also, the plot differences between the novel and the recent movie are interesting.  They do nothing to lower my opinion of the movie which I think might well be the best Bond flick.  I still prefer Live and Let Die for the simple fact of the jazz funeral scenes but Casino Royale was damned good.

As you may or may not know, a couple of months ago I changed jobs.  This morning I got a call from the exchange used by my old employers and I answered it thinking my old work buddy was calling me – odd, given she doesn’t work on Fridays.  Instead it was a different ex-colleague.

“Dan?” he asked.  I said no, then recognized his voice.

“This is Michael,” I said, laughing.

“Oh, man, [my old boss] just IMed me this number and all he said was ‘Call him and ask if he knows.’  I’m sorry to bother you.”

Now, how many times have you fantasized about ditching a job and then getting a call later asking for help and telling them where to shove it?  Or perhaps introducing them to your shiny new consulting rate, top dollar per hour or any part thereof?  Fair enough, I’ve done it, too.  To be honest, though, I really liked my old boss and I really liked most of my old co-workers.  It was the company I hated.  Anyone further up the chain than my boss was a shark who smelled blood in the water.  Anyone whose face I’d see any given day was generally very decent.  I don’t mean “decent” in the sense of being merely acceptable, I mean it in the sense of being trustworthy and good.

I paused for a moment and then said to my old co-worker, who was the troubleshooting team lead when I left the position of change control team lead, “Listen, don’t worry about it.  What’s the question?”

He asked me The Question, which had to do with the obscure inner workings of an arcane process I used to manage and I answered it with a caveat that the answer was now two months out of date.

He was kind of surprised I’d helped, I think, because we’ve all had that same fantasy.  Truth told, I’m happy where I am.  I have no hard feelings against my old boss or most of my old co-workers.  I run into them at lunch, sometimes, and when they ask how I like the new gig I tell them I’m quite happy and they express jealousy and, well, that kind of gives me a bit of dark warmth on the inside.  At the same time, I am happy with the change.  I am enjoying my new job.  I don’t need to be a dick to a manager or a former co-worker I genuinely respected just to get my jollies.  So, I helped them.  It just took a second.  The answer was easy for me, but I’m not sure anyone else there could have come up with it.

In the middle of all that ‘look at me, I’m an adult’ self-congratulation, however, I had to recognize and acknowledge that knowing they did, in fact, really need me gave me one of those dark glows.

I had a fantastic rest of the day at my new gig.

I had a minor – incredibly so – fender-bender this afternoon smack in the middle of Franklin St. It was entirely my fault, though, and we pulled off behind the Carolina Coffeeshop and called the cops and had them document it so my insurance could cover the repair to the other now slightly scraped car. She – the incredibly nice woman driving the other car – had called her mother because technically it was her car and I was talking to the mom as we were trying to decide whether to call the cops or just exchange information and have me pay for it when the mother asked what I would rather do. “I am happy either way,” I said, and I really was. We were happy to be unhurt, happy it wasn’t worse than it was, happy about the fact that a moment’s examination made it plain that it looked much worse than it really had been, just generally having about the best time one can possibly have and still engage one’s insurer.

“Well, it would be a big act of trust for me to take you at your word on paying for it,” she said to me.

“Yes, and you don’t know me from Adam. So I’m not going to try to influence you one way or the other.”

This is Chapel Hill: we have to talk about our feelings before we can take care of our little fender-benders. A part of me rolls its eyes and a part of me loves that.

“It says a lot that you would be that way,” the woman’s mother told me.

“Thank you,” I said, “But if we’re all happy either way then I’d rather call the police and have it documented just to make sure everything is taken care of.”

This is Durham: that happy hippie shit is nice but damned if I am getting suckered into paying for every ding she’s ever put on that car. A part of me rolls its eyes at that, too; and a part of me really likes it.

In other news, last Saturday The Boyf and I went to see Children of Men with Katastrophes, Mr. Pink Eyes, Pants Wilder, A-Diggity and a woman whose name I’ve forgotten because I am terrible with names but who is in turn a friend of A-Diggity’s ladyfriend.


If you don’t cry, or at least tear up or get a lump in your throat or something indicating that you have been moved by the end of that movie, I’m not sure you’re really alive.

Here’s the thing, though:  we went to see it at The Lumina, which is in Southern Village, which on its very best day is somewhat bothersomely… planned.  It is not at all organic.  It is as inorganic as a collection of ceramic pigs.  It can be annoyingly fake and yet hating it for its preplanned falsehoods is itself an action born of annoyingly fake street cred of the local variety.  Suffice to say, my feelings about it are both complex and inane.

After seeing Children of Men, however, it wasn’t just annoyingly fake.

It was startling.

It was like walking onto the set of a television show.

For forty-five minutes after the movie let out I felt like I was going to burst into tears, not the silent cheek-washers of the quiet cinema but full-on sobs, a real face-squeezer, and then I’d plain snap and put a garbage can through a window of one of those delicate brick storefronts and then it would be on.