Thursday, December 24, 2009
Khaled Husseini's uplifting/haunting tale of Afghanistan is not lacking in gloom and doom. Every page is teeming with enough betrayal, depression, guilt, fear, and pain to fill a whole novel. In the midst of so much agony, though, lies a certain inspiring sense of family, commitment, and repentance.
The book begins in pre-soviet Afghanistan where Amir, the son of a well-to-do businessman, and Hassan, a racially persecuted servant boy in the employ of Amir's father, are growing into their teenage years together. Amir, the awkward young boy coming to terms with the world around him, struggles with his relationship of friend/master with Hassan, altogether heightened by the taunts and insults thrown at Hassan his peers and the seemingly un-fair preference of affection by Amir's father.
Hassan is, always, the pinnacle of selfless love. Even as his friend mistreats and misuses him in light of his superior social status turns an understanding cheek and continues to devote his every ability to Amir's happiness.
Ultimately, Amir betrays Hassan and in the ensuing years Amir and his father flee the country ahead of the Soviet invasion only to leave Amir haunted for the rest of his life by his treatment of his boyhood companion and ultimately leading him on a quest of repentance back into his homeland torn asunder by years of war and Taliban control.
Act I of this book, consisting mostly of boys flying kites and playing in the streets of kabul, is effortlessly creates a view of Afghanistan that we are rarely priviliged to see. Instead of the scenes of terrorism and violence that we are accustomed to we are allowed to peer at everyday life of an afrage Afghani family: kites, kabobs, and watching Steve McQueen in perfect dubbed Farsi.
The tone shift quickly to one of sadness and wastes no time shooting the story to the United States where Amir and his father attempt to scratch a living and adjust to a foreign land. This Act II, is the comin-up-for-air as Amir pursues education, love, and a famiy of his own. Althewhile the shadow of his past lurks near as well as new trials to impede in what should be the happiest time of the young man's life.
Entering Act II the elements combine as Amir is called back to Pakistan to atone for his choices and everything comes together in cataclysmic detail. As if not wanting the reader to feel at ease happiness remains just out of reach again, and again, and again, until the final page remains with hopeful yet cloudy skies.
I appreciated that Huseini did not take the easy way out. It would have been simple to change a few things a throw a smiling happily ever after before the final period but that is not the world we live in and certainly not the state of modern Afghanistan. Sometimes in shudder-inducing detail we see the effects that decades of power disputes have done to a once peaceful country as children are purchased for abuse, men sell prosthetic legs to feed their families, men and women are publicly executed and the sacrifices that good people make to keep their hope alive.
Some of the storytelling elements come off heavy-handed. As the foreshadowed elements reach fruition Husseini stops the story to point at the litterary device he has created as though to say "remember how I mentioned this earlier, here it is again. Do you get it? Do ya?"
That said, I loved this book. It was refreshing to see a different side of the country that we have been at war with for the last 9 years. It doesn't quite make you appreciate the culture, which includes a stark double-standard for women and a certain roman taste for violence. Even in its darkest hour you have to appreciate the amount of real emotion that the author conveys.
If you don't have the time to read the book, make sure you see the movie. The two hours does an excellent job of condensing the story and frankly it removes about 7 layers of crippling depression from the character's lives. Book and movie: A-
Every year has the "big movie." The film that a visionary director has spent years of his life and countless millions of dollars to create. James Cameron, director of Avatar, is no stranger to this, having directed some of the biggest movies in American Film (see: Titanic, Aliens, Terminator 2).
In Avatar, an uber-company of Humans have traveled to Pandora, the moon of a distant planet to mine for a lucrative mineral, the not-so-creatively named inobtainatron (get it? in-obtain-atron). There they battle the moon's hostile elements and even more hostile indigenous inhabitants. A large source of the mineral is located underneath the principal habitat of the Na'vi and in an attempt at diplomacy, artificial Na'vi bodies have been grown through which humans can walk talk and mingle via some sort of cerebral link i.e. Avatars.
It hits the fan when Jake Sully (Terminator Salvation's Sam Worthington) one of the Avatar "drivers" becomes too attached the the Na'vi way of life and the company loses patience waiting for a peaceful relocation and decides instead to speak softly and carry a big stick.
The years of time and countless millions referred to above manifests itself in the EXTENSIVE computer generated content and motion capture technology. James Cameron has been oot and aboot in Hollywood touting the breakthrough in CGI technology and the "new way of film." To me frankly, it still looks like a cartoon.
That is not to say that the visuals are not impressive. Pandora's landscape is vibrant and it's creatures are imaginative. The Na'vi are the essence of grace and the war scenes are high octane fun.
It is a shame though that Cameron couldn't have spared a portion of his estimated 300 million dollar budget to write a twisty and engaging storyline. Avatar is a glorified, futuristic Pocahontas story. Every event in the movie follows a logical pace that is both predictable and comfortable. The foreshadowing is blunt, the right people die, the right people live, the right people fall in love, and everything unfolds in the right chronological order that you would expect.
That's not to say that this was a bad movie. I was entertained, and while I have my moral qualms about green-screen heavy films and its bastard child 3-D I was nonetheless impressed with what they were able to do VISUALLY, I just wish that the storytelling aspect could have had a little more depth. A few surprises and a good plot twist and this would have been a movie to withstand the test of time. As it is, it makes for a good friday night over the christmas break. B
Monday, December 21, 2009
Here are the new shows that spring can not bring back quickly enough.
1. Modern Family
This show is absolutely fantastic. I hate to even compare anything to Arrested Development (rest in peace) but this show comes as close as anything ever will to filling the dysfunctional family void left by the departure of my other favorite tv family.
From the bits of patrarchal wisdom from Ed O'Neil to the absurdly naive parenting of Ty Burrell and rounded out by the hysterical banterings of homosexual partners Cam and Mitchell (Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Fergusen, who we also refer to as gay Cody of Paper Badge) this show never misses a beat.
Watch This: "Coal Digger" ep. 5
I've always been a fan of The Soup's Joel McHale. In Community he leaves behind his m.o. of making quick work of reality-tv and instead takes on Spanish 101 at Greendale Community College.
This show is far from perfect. The jokes do, on occasion, fall short but even in its off beats Community has a comfortable hilarity. It's strength comes from it's array of main characters. McHales study group, pictures above, is a hodge-podge of junior college stereotypes over-caricatured to perfection: the innocent super-nerd who flared out her potential for a real university by popping pills, the letterman-wearing jock, the creepy old guy, the soul mother going back to school for a late education, the synical bra-burning feminist, the foreignor, and of course the better-than-this smoothtalker, in this case a lawyer disbarred for a phony degree and forced to attend school. "I used to say things like objection, and sidebar."
Community will have to find its footing if it's going to last, although it is reported to have been picked up for a second season. I'll be watching.
Watch This: "Social Psychology" ep 4. Sidenote, all episodes are currently availabe on hulu.
It took me way too long to find Glee. I had heard plenty about it, from Entertainment Weekly's incessant raves to word of mouth, but until christmas break I didn't have time for any more shows. As a result I'm still scrambling to find the first episodes online, only the last 5 are available through "conventional" means.
Taste it. Love it. Crave it.
In case there is any doubt I want to make it abundantly clear: Glee is NOT High School Musical. Maybe if HSM had been produced by someone other than the touchy-feely misfits at Disney and had actually had some sort of depth in the story line it could have maybe been COMPARED to Glee, as it its: it can't.
Rolling Stone called the story lines Depressing, Entertainment Weekly preferred the term realistic. There is much more at stake here than the big man on campus getting his head in the game. We have teen pregnancy, broken marriages, paternal uncertainty, and homophobia. In one episode former cheer captain Quinn is thrown out of her house by her parents for being pregnant only to be forced to reveal in the next episode that the baby is not her boyfriend's, the good-natured Finn, but instead his mohawk wearing, sexually promiscuous best friend Puck all the while backdropped by some killer vocal arrangemtns...and that's just one character.
Adding flavor to the soup we have the ever-delicious Jane Lynch as the diabolically evil antagonist cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester. I love this show, biting sarcasm, great humor, and music that gives you goosebumps.
Watch This: "Ballad" ep. 10. Especially for the "Endless Love" duet.
4. Better off Ted
Technically speaking, BOT is not a NEW show. I even gave a shout out to it month's ago on this blog. That said, the sophomore show has been batted around like a rag doll and is just now starting its mid-season second year.
Better off Ted just keeps getting better. Unlike Scrubs where the crazy takes place in cerebral hallucinations, BOT's madness is front row center in the wide-awake world of corporate science.
"The company need's you to weaponize a pumpkin." "We can do that."
Title character Ted addresses these otherwise inane happenings with a candid dryness. In a recent episode an employee is suspected of leaking information and is chased down the hall's by security personel, ultimately being tazed off screen while Ted and two executives look on.
"I love it when they run." says one.
"Tazed flesh smells bacon-y." Ted obseverd.
Watch This: "Love Blurts," ep. 1. Bonus points for all the Utah shout-outs.
V, and Flash Forward
The jury is still out on both of these shows. ABC is desperately trying to finds it's replacement for Lost in the "blow-your-mind" TV genre. Oddly enough, both shows have Lost alumni: Elizbeth Mitchel "Juliett" for V, and both Sonia Walger "Penny Widmore" and Dominic Monaghan "R.I.P. Charlie" for Flash Forward.
Frankly, V is more likely to succeed. While Flash Forward does seem to get better with every episode the pace remains quite melodramatic and the overarching "see the future" storyline leaves for a number of "wait, what?" moments. If you find a piece of evidence because you already had it in the future, then you never actually found it. The more you think about it your head will hurt. P.s. I don't know why but Joseph Fiennes bugs me.
V on the other hand is a simpler story. Aliens are here, they play nice but secretly want to kill us. After 5 years of smoke monsters and polar bears, that's about all the mystery I can handle right now.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Here is a prime example of a creative work that has shot itself in the foot by its own success. Every facet, every detail, and every syllable of this book has already been cinematized and recreated in any of a dozen varied incarnations. There is no peril in Mr. Bingley's return to the city, there is no sting in Elizabeth Bennett's refusal of the cad Mr. Darcy, there is no gravity in Lydia's illicit elopement and no surprise when everything is wrapped up ever so nicely with a pretty bow at the end.
Knowing every unfolding event before it occurs leaves the reader to rely solely on the quality of writing which, while witty and descriptive, is not enough to make up for the sheer boredom of knowing a books end before you begin. On the other hand, the book's chief character Elizabeth is a pretentious, know-it-all giving the book, told mostly through her perspective, an air of pretension.
The few moments of fresh thinking, provided mostly by Charlotte Lucus (the ugly friend who's "sad" situation is thrust down our throats like a bad meal) and Jane (the gorgeous older sister whose unconditional generosity makes her views "naive" in the eyes of the flawless wisdom of Austen/Elizabeth) only provide a temporary relieve before the writer through the mouthpiece of her character continues on her rampage.
Ultimately, this a flimsy love story. When you peel away the layers of "witty dialogue" and "crisp writing" you find a drawn out story of boy meets girl where by some miraculous set of circumstances an otherwise daft and obstinate female finally allows herself to fall in love.
Pride and Prejudice:
Boy meets girl. Girl hates Boy. Boy hates everything. Girl hates boy. Boy loves girl. Girl hates boy. Boy tries to woo girl. Girl hates boy. Boy goes to ridiculous lengths to prove his love for girl. Girl hates boy. Boy gets fed up with girl and marries someone else. Girl dies poor and is buried in a paupers grave.
That's how I would end it anyway.
Sidenote: I hate Twilight. In my opinion Stephanie Meyers' vampire love story (vampires my eye) is the ugly illegitimate child of Jane Austen. It panders to the female masses in the same spoon-fed way, only today's generation is too diluted by American Idol to read post-colonial vernacular. Ergo, sparkling skin, six-packs and teen angst so thick you could cut it with a knife.
Seriously, what the heck is that? ----------------------->
Monday, December 14, 2009
On a recent episode of HIMYM, Barney displays "the playbook," a collection of schemes and shenanigans used to seduce women.
One such ploy was "The Ted Mosby," named after Barney's "Best" friend. It unfolds like this
1) Walk up to a woman in a bar holding a ring and looking forlorn
2) Explain that you were left at the alter and wait for the outpouring of sympathy
3) It...is...on! (wink*)
And in case you're keeping score, the Ted Mosby works.
If dreams came true and Barney Stinson was both real AND my best friend. I wonder what "The Ben Wood" would consist of. The best I could come up with would somehow involve my being a member of the press. For example:
1) Approach a woman at a bar and explain that you're writing an article about some activity in a metropolitan area.
2) Ask about her demographics, i.e. name, age, neighborhood etc. This will allow you to have an idea of her interests to exploit and you can ascertain her legal adult status.
3) Follow with a series of basic questions regarding the phony activity on which you are "reporting."
4) Tell her that you will need her phone number in case there are any "follow-up questions" that will need to be answered (common practice among journalists)
5) Thank her for her time and begin to leave, but hesitate and explain that although completely "unprofessional" you would like to buy her a drink/dinner/whatever and
6) It...is...on! (wink*)
*Bonus Points) Tell her your name is Lorenzo Von Matterhorn and create a number of web pages to be found on a simple google search detailing your winning of the Pulitzer price, receiving the key to the city, and your book that is being published next summer
And in case your keeping score, The Ben Wood, a.k.a The Journalist, doesn't work...at least not yet.
Monday, December 7, 2009
The Boulevard Bench, overlooking The Island, Cliffside and Logan Canyon after the first snow.
The Boulevard trail dropping into The Island.
The new Nibley strip mall lies vacant in the cold temperatures of today's economy.
Spring Creek Townhomes with the Blacksmith Fork Canyon in the background.
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
About a week ago I went to the library to get The Kite runner. Checked out.
I looked for The Lovely Bones. Checked out.
Needing a book and finding myself with a blank mind I finally caved in and got Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.
I have been putting this off for years - partly due to my possession of a Y Chromosome and increased recently due to the parting of a rabid Austenite from my life - but in the face of dwindling alternatives I attempt now to get it over and done with.
It doesn't help that I already know, to excruciating detail, the progress and ending of this book. Thanks to the 700 film versions out there in the market (that means you too Carmen Rasmussen) I already know full well that Mr. Whickam is a dirt-bag, Mr. Bingely will return and marry Jane and Mr. and Mrs. indifference themselves (not what they posses, what I have for them) will get over their uppity self-assuredness and fall into a stupor of incandescently joyous love.
The one interesting thing that I've read so far has come from Charlotte Lucas (she's the "ugly" one) where she says:
"In nine cases out of ten, a woman had better show more affection than she feels."
You hear that boys and girls! Jane Austen, the author of the century in the book of the century just gave a shout-out to PONGING!
Now if only the nation of weeping girls who watch the barrage of cinematic P&P interpretations -- spooning mouthfuls of mouse tracks and woefully dreaming of the day their Mr. Darcy will appear -- would actually learn something from their muse.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Last night I was with a female associate when the topic of politics came up. At some point or another my friend mentioned that she didn't know what party she was. I suggested that she take the test.
There are a number of more professional forms out there, like this one at politicalcompass.org, but not having the time, nor the means I proceeded to ask my friend a few questions.
"How do you feel about our current involvement in Iraq," I asked.
"Okay," I said, "let's start with easier ones."
For this I needed clarification. "Do you mean 'No' to universal health care, or to eliminate all forms of health care in general?"
Seeing the emerging pattern my friend voiced some concerns.
"I think we're a little lax on gun control," she said.
"No way," I replied, "If I had it my way every man, woman, and child in America would be packing heat."
It was at this time that her roommates, eavesdropping in the other room, began laughing at my wingnut psychosis. I proceeded to explain further, in more realistic terms, why I felt that way and the unseen roommates withdrew from our conversation and began to converse amongst themselves.
"I am definitely not a republican," one said.
"Oh yeah, definitely not," said the other about herself.
"I wouldn't really consider myself a democrat either," one said.
"Oh yeah, definitely not," said the other about herself.
"But I'm definitely not a republican," one said.
"Oh yeah, definitely not," said the other about herself.
In my comings and goings I have encountered this phenomenon frequently. People, especially high-school to college age individuals (and frankly women more frequently than men) love to proclaim themselves above the labels of a particular party. They claim their "independence" with a triumphant air similar to Tom Cruise on Tropic Thunder stating "we do not negotiate with terrorists" to thundering applause. The movie is a comedy, you're supposed to laugh at that scene and I did.
It's a cop-out.
To say that you don't belong to a particular party is synonymous with saying that you are an uninformed, non-contributing zero.
Regardless of whether you are a registered donkey/elephant or whether you participated in the last general election, you--as a human being--exist on one side or another of the political spectrum. The beauty of the U.S. electoral college is that in only allows for two parties to dominantly exist. Over time these two parties have grown to be "catch-alls" where instead of a clear set of ideological values, we have two giant umbrellas that face left and right along the imaginary scale.
Republican=conservative. Democrat=liberal. You ARE one of those things. There are other parties that frankly do a better job of establishing a coherent platform--i.e. libertarian, reform, constitution, green--but in the grand scheme they are lumped into one of the two larger categories...along with you and everyone you know.
You party does not define your beliefs, your beliefs define your party.
In all actuality, my friend's roommates who are "definitely" not Republicans are most CERTAINLY conservatives--two LDS Utahns looking for a husband at USU.
My political preferences are known. That said, I have a respect and admiration for Democrats who are truly democrats, who ideologically believe in what they purport. My beef comes from the mindless masses of my peers that are merely liberal by association. They grew up in the anti-bush decade of Green Day, The Dixie Chicks and Russel Brand and being liberal is "the cool thing to do." I urge them to take the test, if anything it will end their Swiss "armed neutrality" and they might be surprised with what they find.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
On July 19, 2009 Dave and I created a blog. The idea was to document the politically incorrect, partisan, and ofttimes outlandish arguments that are common among us for the enjoyment and reading pleasure of others.
We spoke of celebrity, poverty, homosexuality, Alexis Bledel, reproduction, nuptials, underwear, Damien Rice, freshman, economics, chemistry, and many others timely issues.
We laughed, we cried, and more than once we hit below the belt all in the name of the free exchange of ideas: for great minds often disagree.
It has now been one month since the last post on WVW. It sits there, solitary and alone like the last child picked at recess. Questions unanswered, points uncontested, purpose...unknown. It droops its head in sadness, rubbing its hands behind its back and digging its toes into the ground.
Where did the time go? How did it come to this?
For those of you that were readers, I apologize for letting you down. We have failed you, just as we have failed ourselves. If you never stumbled upon WVW, do not go down that path, it is a lost, dreary wasteland that will only bring you sadness.
As it is, the final post is my own. Finding myself without my opponent I am forced to claim the ultimate victory. I take my crown with a heavy heart, I did not wish this. I would have fought till the end, but alas the game is forfeit and victory, by default, is mine.
Goodbye WVW, perhaps someday we will see you again. I do not dare to hope, I must be strong now.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
As before, the following is a segment of a larger work. This particular piece is the latter half of what would otherwise be a chapter so if it seems choppy that is why. I would have included the section in its entirety but that would have been both laborious to read and full of material that still requires editing. As always, feedback is appreciated.
I hate pencils; except for the rare cases that I’m taking a multiple choice test I outright refuse to use them. On the other hand I will not pay money for a pen. Pens are miniscule everyday things that come and go without a second thought, like toothpicks. These two facts put together causes me to stop and pick up just about any spare pen that I might come across; as a result, here on my desk next to my laptop is usually an assortment of 4-5 different pens that have nothing to do with each other.
Right now there is the black Papermate missing its cap, the white Alexander’s Print Advantage ball point, the silver nondescript click pen and a black sharpee. My personal favorite however is a white pen whose clip-half twists to protract and extract the writing apparatus. On its side are the words Continental Hotels.
If my life was a movie, and I were to die right now of suspicious circumstances, an astute police officer would notice this pen, wonder at it’s peculiar location in my house, and rush off with a squad of armed officers to the Continentals. They would barge through the door and uncover an array of villains and after a dramatic gun battle the heroes would emerge with my killer in handcuffs walking in slow motion while emotional music plays in the background.
True life, however, is much less exciting. I’ve never been to the Continentals, I don’t even know if they even exist, I have no recollection of where that pen came from or how it ended up on my desk, suffice to say that two hours ago when I wrote yet another rent check to my weasel of a landlord, I did so with my favorite twisty pen.
Life is boring. It is precious, miraculous, and amazing but for the average person altogether uneventful. More than any other people on earth we Americans live in an entertainment world. We escape the mundane by vicariously living the lives of our favorite glamorous stars. Through years of such saturation, certain aspects of life begin to blur the lines of fantasy and reality until we become unsure if certain norms are on TV because they happen in life, or if they happen in life because they are on TV.
Such is the case with relationships. The male asks out the female—dinner and a movie, they walk home in the rain, and he kisses her at the doorstep. You can picture it in your mind, you’ve seen it thousands of times, you can hear the music but you don’t know the words. It’s a magical scene, a blend of coloring, facial expression, atmosphere, location, and cinematic magic create the chemistry that has us screaming at the screen “kiss her you fool.”
In application we have this formula to follow. You merely plug in your own variables and let the scene roll. Dating, like all aspects of life, is much easier in theory than in application. We want, and expect to have, that mystical emotion-filled experience. When disaster strikes we see ourselves standing outside her window holding a boom box above our heads wailing Peter Gabriel, or climbing up the fire-escape and having that passionate apology. We assume under a false sense of security that our fairy tale ending is always just around the corner, and when it never comes we realize all too harshly that life doesn’t always happen like the movies. In that instance we make a choice, to take our own initiative or to fall into a self-pitying state of hopelessness.
People always talk about fate bringing two people together. We’ve all been at that immaculate dinner party where someone asks the prize question, “How did you two meet.”
The woman giggles, atwitter with the excitement that comes before a performance. The man cocks his eyebrow and puffs his chest, uttering a memorized line of dialog; they’ve done this before.
“Well Jim, now there is a story, you see I was drowning…”
“Oh honey stop,” she says, lightly hitting his shoulder, “he’s lying Jim that’s not how it happened.”
The man offers a chortle for effect, shrugs his shoulders, and leans back into his chair with a smile.
“Oh just tell it then,” he says, throwing a cavalier wink at Jim, feigning to feign disinterest.
The woman then launches into a polished monologue of close calls, near misses, and inescapable destiny. She was running for the bus, tripped on a stray dog and landed in his arms. Love at first sight. Sunbeams and dandelions. Violin music from afar. Fate.
“It was meant to be,” she says, and leans in for a kiss to seal the deal. The guests raise their glasses, everybody smiles. Life wins.
It turns out that if she hadn’t tripped over the dog she would have just barely made the bus, and the only available seat would’ve been next to a young chiropractor who was reading the exact same book that she was. Love at first sight. Rainbows and daffodils. Harp music from afar. Destiny.
“It was meant to be,” she says, and leans in for a kiss to seal the deal. The guests hoot and holler, raise their frosted mugs and then go back to watching the Super Bowl. Life wins.
In both cases the couple lives happily ever after; comforted by the memory of their magical encounter propelled by fate itself.
Timing and coincidence. Take two respectable adults with a mutual attraction and put them in a room together. Their success or failure depends little on their individual actions. Ultimately it’s the subtle, uncontrollable quirks of life that determine the outcome. Once they’ve passed the point of awkward introductions and interest has been established it is the fickle foolishness of human beings that ends a good thing; but in those early stages the creature is fragile, balancing on the cliff’s edge. One good push and it’s all over. In all reality it is ever so easy to fail; it is seemingly effortless to bring the whole scene crashing down. Statistically speaking it will fail over and over again, until for no particular reason – it doesn’t.
So here I sit, in my pajamas; solitary. And so I shall, until finally the chips fall right and suddenly what has been so difficult until now becomes charmingly effortless. The trick is getting to that point without becoming pessimistic, because you walk for miles and miles and in the blink of an eye you’re home.
Friday, October 23, 2009
I remember my mother reading "Where the Wild Things Are" to me when I was young. Even today when I visit my parent's house I see figurines of the Wild Things and Max, their king, engaged in a wild rumpus across the kitchen window-sill. The book's entire content amounts to a fair-sized paragraph, but it is not the words that have endeared the story to us but the images.
So too, with the movie.
Spike Jonze's understated film is essentially 90 minutes of nostalgia. The familiar children's story of a few pages is not so much added to as it is spread across a mosaic of ethereal scenes. There are names, actions and dialogue created solely for the sake of the live-action film, but they don't seem to matter in that the intent is not its plot. Wild Things is a tangible representation of a child's mind. All of the creativity, energy, recklessness, excitement and fear of youth are placed before us in the form of fairytale creatures simultaneously strange and familiar.
In the wake of recent film adaptations of children books (e.g. the abysmal "Polar Express"), Jonze's work is a breath of fresh air. Even compared to the productions of all that is Hollywood, the film is daringly unique. The Wild Things are no product of computer generated wizardry, and the film revels in its own simplicity. Each creature is given a distinct set of personality traits to collectively mirror the pensive and rambunctious Max (effortlessly portrayed by newcomer Max Records) and during every scene a precarious danger lurks beneath the carefree frivolity. In an instant, Max's de facto confidante Carol (voiced by James Gandolfini) shifts from gentle giant to ominous beast. On first meeting the Wild Things, the mood veers from dark danger to flighty glee and immediately back, and the creatures encircle Max to eat him, decide instead in favor of coronation and then draw his scepter and crown from the charred remains of prior kings. This is no warm-fuzzy children's movie. Although there is nothing in the content to warrant more than a PG rating the tone is often and abruptly very dark and the threat of the Wild Things is present in the occasional violence, anger and even dismemberment.
Unfortunately, cinematic poetry and dazzling shots can only carry a film so far. Every scene is bursting with emotion – especially impressive considering that the bulk of the movie has one human character played by a child surrounded by oversized puppets – but it is all to easy for one's attention to slip through the story's cracks and wander.
Even so, this is a beautiful film that calls forth the child inside all of us. Credit is given and due for a film that shatters the mold and creates a world of its own. Jonze excels even more by creating his world of hard, tangible life in lieu of green-screens and million-dollar FX shots. Watching Wild Things you'll find yourself smiling and not knowing why, laughing when no joke is told and engaged when no sense of plotline demands it. Jonze reminds us of what it is to be young, when the world is simple, exciting and scary: run around, yell, build a fort, throw a snowball, make a dog-pile.
Let the wild rumpus start. A-
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
In no particular order I:
- am a jealous man.
- am quick to judge people.
- see the world in black and white.
- am quickly and easily romantically smitten.
- am stingy.
- think that every male that I am not already acquainted with is a Tool.
- think that every female that I am not already acquainted with is an enemy.
- am overly competitive.
- am quick to anger.
- am generally not content.
- am self-depreciating.
- complain too much about my love life (submitted by Dave)
- do not tan, only freckle.
- am unlucky at love.
- am unskilled at loneliness.
- don't take good care of my shoes.
- am bad with children.
- am cripplingly introverted.
- over-compensate for my introversion by being excessively loud.
- am obsessive.
- am compulsive.
- burn bridges.
- am spiritually dead inside.
- am a cynic.
- am snide.
- am homophobic.
- don't get enough sleep.
- am cluttered.
- am a shell of a man.
- don't recycle.
- don't floss.
- am a cuddle slut.
- make too many innuendos.
- am all talk.
- can't whistle.
- have allergies.
- am technologically illiterate.
- am a movie snob.
- am a glutton for punishment.
- am a glutton for pie.
- sing in the shower.
- sing at the bakery.
- am a realist.
- am a total nerd
- have love-handles.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Now if only they could bring back the secret lounge.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
All I can say then, is that Ted Leo rocks my world and thanks to my brother Jake I have now increased my Pharmacists musical library. I just spent the entire drive from Ogden to Logan blasting my ears off in Leo-tastic ecstasy. Enjoy!
Friday, October 2, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
I realized recently that I am socially retarded. My crippling introversion makes me incapable of communicating with people that I am not already familiar with. When forcefully placed into a social situation (class for example) I will not say one word to anyone present unless a third party thrusts me into a conversation (i.e. introductions)
As such, I made a goal last week to say hello to the people I pass throughout my day. The first day was good. I had a wing-man; Dave and I made some 30 salutations to the nice freshman girls around the frisbee golf course (not ain't nothin' wrong with that...actually, there is something wrong with that), then I promptly forgot about the goal--until today.
It's amazing how much it catches people off guard when you throw them a casual "How ya' doin?" Four out of five times there is a visual startle as they reply "good." They think in their heads "who is this creeper?" and then slowly the barricades crumble down and there is a quaint smile that says, "you know what? I AM doin' good!"
I love America, but we as a people can be really messed up sometimes. We literally run every where we go, and the slightest unplanned distraction is met with disgust and contempt. Recently I sat in at a small town meeting where it was debated to remove a planned road in order to conserve the open space on a farmer's property. While the road was eventually removed, there were some present who voiced their concern on the extra sunday traffic they would experience as a result of one less route of exit.
Serious? Is it really worth dissecting gorgeous century-old farmland for the sole reason of getting home from church a minute faster?
But I digress. Americans are cold. In Brazil it was not uncommon for me to be greeted by a complete stranger with a hug or a kiss on the cheek (both innocent and not-so-innocent). We are over-focused, over-rushed, egotistical slobs, and no one more so than me. I have gone 5 weeks without saying so much as two words to the person who sits next to me every other day. That's why I'm trying to be better.
How are YOU doing today?
Monday, September 28, 2009
Everything is about love: movies, television shows, music, books. Even Jack Bauer on 24 has had his share of romantic interests. It is the proverbial driving force in the earth’s rotation. Excluding heavy metal you would be hard pressed to find a song that doesn’t speak of love in some way, shape, or form—that is, of course, including all the Rap artists and their army of Bootylicious Ho’s.
In my eyes this causes a problem. When men watch a movie, or listen to a song, we manage to look past the kissing and see the building blowing up in the background; past the angst and emotion to the kick-a## drum solo. Women, however, don’t. Frequently their chief reason to watch a certain cinematic production is for its love story. You’ve seen it a million times; the socially awkward yet beautiful girl/woman longs from afar for the affection of the muscular football player/co-worker, gets her chance but in a display of typical male stupidity is heartbroken, only to have said muscle realize the err of his ways and show up on her doorstep with flowers, OR her slightly awkward yet charming plutonic male friend confessing his undying love, punches muscle and they live happily ever after.
Men are pigs. From the time females hit puberty—which is cruelly before males giving us no chance to defend ourselves—they are taught that men at every corner are just waiting to seduce them and break their hearts. We serve no other purpose than this, so get as much free lobster as you can and get out before you let yourself get hurt.
And that’s the rub. The guy wasn’t a jerk—at least not any more so than any other guy—the girl was, in her own mind, foolish enough to let herself get hurt.
It’s true, some guys are swine. Some men are horrible, disgusting, loathsome creatures; but then again, not every girl is a Disney princess. Sometimes when prince charming shows up to break the spell, sleeping beauty pretends to still be sleeping so that she won’t get hurt again.
I always tell my male friends “no matter what you do, it’s wrong.” If you call, you’re coming on to strong; if you don’t call, she’ll go out with the guy that does. If you never ask her out then you’re not interested; the minute you ask her out, you cease to be interesting.
I don’t consider myself an exceptionally ugly person. I have no glaring facial disfigurations, I bathe daily, brush my teeth in regularity, I even work out; yet tonight I couldn’t get a date to save my life. It’s a Tuesday, on Thursday I have two free tickets to a jazz night with music and dancing, the kind of stuff that girls eat up. The first girl has “a dinner” that night— tough luck—the second has plans with her roommates— no dice—the third has a big test the next day and has to meet with a study group—we’re in college, and apparently some of us are responsible.
Three girls, three soft rejections; granted Thursday night isn’t the optimal night, but I can personally guarantee that tomorrow all three of these women will be complaining to their girlfriends about how they never get asked out. They’ll badmouth all the “pretty girls” that have guys crawling all over them and watch reruns of Grey’s Anatomy and McDream of Patrick Dempsey.
I’ve always felt that in the majority of dating endeavors the female holds all the power. Guy asks out girl. By that simple gesture the girl already knows that guy is interested. Now the fun part. After guy and girl go out it’s still the guy’s job to call the girl. Guy has no way, other than a basic evaluation of the date’s success/failure, to know if girl is even remotely intrigued. If guy decides the date wasn’t so good, he closes the door, problem solved. If guy is still interested, he’s now up inside his head, going over and over in his mind the conversation, body language, subtle gestures and circumstances of the first attempt. He’s racking his brain, doubting himself, on whether or not he should call again. It is truly a horrible experience.
What does the girl do? She waits.
I have been known to become somewhat irritated with my female friends when they get all bent out of shape waiting for a guy to call. Did you give him a reason to call? Did you make it clear to him that a second attempt would most likely be a success? Simply saying “call me” before shutting the door is not clear evidence, its common courtesy.
It relates beautifully to the employment field. We men try to sprinkle up our resumes in order to stand out amongst the other applicants. We put on our best suit and try to look nice during our interview. The woman throws us into a giant manila folder and if we’re lucky enough we get a callback interview only to be told that, while extremely qualified, we’re just not the best fit for the company.
The girl has the power. If it were poker she would have a clear view of the guy’s hand. It is the societal norm for the man to do everything. All the woman has to do is wear a nice dress, eat free food, and decide if the poor sap is, as Elaine Bennes would say, sponge-worthy.
It’s all about choice. Many women keep every man that enters their life at arms length, relying on the built-in instinct that the creature means her harm. Until they choose to “let themselves get hurt again” all we men can do is throw mud on the wall and hope some of it will stick.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
I'm a little late on blogging about this but last weekend we all went spelunking.
MY. FACE. WAS. MELTED.
Me and Trevor were joking mid-cave that we could die happy but honestly, going through that cave was one of the coolest things I've ever done. In my head I thought it was just gonna be some nice little cave in the side of the mountain to look around in, instead it was 150 yards straight down through cracks and crags.
It wasn't so hardcore as to require ropes and rockclimbing gear, but that sucker was narrow. Probably half of the trip was spent crawling in a horizontal position, and often your stomach and back would be scraping along the muddy rock sides.
My feet dangled in this position for a few minutes until I could finally wiggle my torso enough for gravity to take effect.
I'm cave hungry now. Sadly the Logan winter is rapidly upon us but when I can that cave is gonna get another piece of the Ben Wood pie.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
If anything, this person is OVER-qualified, were it not for the fact that HE is MALE, it would be a shoe-in.
Go and do likewise young McTasties.
Benjamin's Love Inc.
Position Applying For:
Friend with massive amounts of sexual tension
Currently in first year of Graduate School working on a Masters in
Electrical Engineering. I also have minors in Math and Physics.
I've worked at a tutor for music and math. I spent the past two
summers doing research in the areas of communications and signal
processing. I am currently working on implementing a fast algorithm
for synthetic aperture radar on a GPU using CUDA.
I was born in Colorado, but I've lived in Utah for the past 12 years
or so. My hobbies include skiing, racquetball, squash, the occasional
game of tennis, disc golf, and playing guitar. I also enjoy mountain
biking, running, sitting in a hammock and reading, listening to piano
music, studying the rules of ping-pong, attending republican
conventions, and a well written newspaper article. I do not currently
play the cello, but I believe my guitar playing background may give me
a head start in that area.
I'm not one to regularly wear any scented product besides old spice
antiperspirant, but on special occasions I will wear some dollar store
versions of acqua di gio or paris hilton and if I'm really trying to
make an impression I'll put on some Sex Stallion.
I have one sister who is two or three years older than me. My father
was in the National Guard in college, but he is not a military father.
My entire family graduated from USU, and includes no BYU fans. I enjoy Carbon Leaf, Fun., Jack’s Mannequin, Collective Soul, Dispatch,
Guster, The Kooks, Iron and Wine, and many other bands. My movie
interests include Memento, Batman, The Prestige, About a Boy, Hellboy I and II, Fired Up, and 500 Days of Summer.
There are many reasons that you should place me above the other
qualified applicants, but I’ll just list two. The first reason being
that I’m the only qualified applicants. The second, I could do things
to you that would blow your mind...
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Someday, when I'm financially stable (read: good luck stupid journalist) I would like to get into photography. I know absolutely nothing about the art but you stick a camera in my hands and I get giddy like a school boy.
Why did I take a picture of that fire hydrant? Well...it's red?
I would love to be one of those free-thinking crazies that run around getting close-ups of sunlit concrete and glass, looking at the world through odd angles and lines and capturing the subtle nuances of life.
There's two little kids in there, ain't that cute?
So, the next time that I have a couple hundred dollars lyin' around (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, whoo) I'm buying a camera and a big 'ole lens, hiking the windcaves before dawn on a bitterly cold morning to snap one shot of the sunrise.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Honestly, I'm sick of the stereotype that guys are "the heartbreakers." Grab your remote and flip the channels and I guarantee that you see something portraying men as the using, manipulatvie gender. I guess that's partly because women actually buy that crap, whereas we men spend our money on Megan Fox and fighting robots (saw it for the second time, nowhere near as good).
You'd think the world would've had enough of this silly generalization, but I look around me and I see it isn't so. Maybe there's just something about Mormon men that makes us dupes, or Mormon women that makes them cruel, but either way the above picture is false.
Also, the title of this blog IS a reference to Rob Thomas, but I am in no way endorsing that song, or it's accompanying video. Three and a half minutes of Robby boy drooping his head in mock melancholia is not what I consider entertainment.
So, back to business. I got my heart broken this week, bringing my life-total to a staggering 2 (oh Jency, you sure did a number on my 15-year-old soul). I would go into details but it is:
a) too soon, and
b) all too probable that the person involved could read this blog.
Needless to say, I was an absolute mess for a couple of days but I'm feeling a lot better now. I was at work this morning, moping and scowling at the world around me, when all of a sudden I started singing along to Guster while making sandwitches for an influx of geriatrics (grrrrrrrr) and I felt like my old self again.
Now here I am at life's precipice with absolutely no bridges to cross and frankly, I am romantically exhausted. I don't have the energy that I once did to approach a complete stranger, make useless awkward small-talk and nervously segway the conversation into a post-dated encounter or exchange of numerals. Just last night I was at a gathering of sorts and while my peers hurried to and fro in their mating rituals I sat on the grass enjoying my hashbrown wedge in tranquility. A young man (rather magoo truth be told) approached an acquaintence sitting next to me and made a casual entrance into a conversation.
"NICE CAMERA!" not so much shouted as the capitals would infer, but forcefully thrown like a regurgitation.
"Um...thank you." she replied, not in a nice way but in that way that girls will make a simple expression sound soooooo demeaning.
".........(too much silence) I BET YOU TAKE GOOD PICTURES WITH THAT" regurgitated, but with admirable poise.
"Um...yeah," in a crushing blow that only a mormon girl can extract from two syllabils.
By this point there were about 6 of us watching this poor soul. I actually felt sympthay pains for this young man and wanted to hide my own head in the dirt. After an excrutiatingly silent pause he turned and scuttled off to try his luck somewhere else.
"Good for him," I said. The group thought I was kidding, I wasn't. It probably took him 10 minutes to work up the stones to crash that hard, but at least he crashed. All I had to show for the same 10 minutes was an empty plate.
In the words of Murtauch, I'm getting to old for this stuff. As such I have decided to start taking applications for my future romantic pursuit. Anyone interested can fill out the attached form and return it to me via email or in person (preferred, to eliminate some of the guess work).
Benjamin's Love Inc.
Position Applying For_________________(i.e. friend with massive amounts of sexual tension, booty call, potential paramoure, or spouse--fortune favors the bold--)
Education_________________(we have to make sure they've made it to upper-classmen status, with the exception of those applying for the position of eye candy)
Work Experience________________(no innuendo on this one, it's important to have someone with a strong ethic)
Character References______________(other female friends are probably better than ex-boyfriends, plus I might get more applicants that way)
Essay Portion_________In a paragraph of at least 250 but not exceeding 750 words, tell me a little about: yourself, your hobbies; interests; preferred activities; brand of perfume or other scented product; family (no military fathers thank you); music and film tastes; cello-playing ability; religious affiliation (I don't discriminate...promise), any linguistic accents; and explain why I should place you above the other qualified applicants (Zwa!). A photo should be for archival purposes.
After turning in your application you will be contacted to set up an interview appointment. Anyone applying should be a legal resident of the United States, in good mental and physical health, and able to be supported by a small canoe without capsizing.
There is no deadline for aplications, but positions are filling fast (Zwa!).
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Former Format singer Nate Reuss's new project "fun." is officially in full swing with the release of their first studio album Aim and Ignite on tuesday.
Sorry, just audio for now, official video's haven't been released so there's nothing but amateur crowd-cam garbage.
I'm not a prophet but I'm here to profit, and frankly I am absolutely jazzed about this band. Check out the new cd streaming for free on myspace/fun and head over to my brother's blog Woody Style in the next couple days for an album review.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Looking back over the summer there have been some really good times. I made some new friends, played a lot, laughed, lived, and loved. Here's a sampling of the highlights.
Honorable mention: girl problems. I won't go into detail, but this summer was interesting.
5. Notch Lake Back-Packing Trip
We took a two-mile trip into the Unitas in July and relaxed our faces off. I took my hammock, read East of Eden, floated on a raft for a couple of hours, did some cliff jumping, and sat around a campfire for three days.
I love camping. I love waking up in a tent with the sun in my face and that cold chill in the air. Alpine meadows, endless horizons, and good company; taste it. love it. crave it.
4. Ultimate Frisbee
It took Trevor and I about a month to get a solid frisbee game going, once it came together we had ourselves a weekly dose of frustration-venting ambrosia. We had some epic games, some sloppy garbage, and even a few glow-in-the-dark bonanzas, and like all good recreational activities we almost killed Dave.
Frisbee was probably the most memorable event of the summer, it completely changed my social scene and even now I find myself explaining to people "oh, we met through frisbee." Hopefully, this weekly tradition won't be destroyed by school.
3. Jardine Juniper/Tony Grove
I had heard about this trail for years. Any search for the "must-ride" bike trails of utah will include this little Cache Valley gem. I hit this bad-boy twice and even with Dave slowing me down it melted my face. Straight up one way; straight FREAKING down the other and one heckuva mangled tree at the top.
After that me and a group of mostly beginner bikers got our butts kicked by the bunchgrass trail at Tony Grove. You know you're not having fun until you draw blood from the torso; check.
2. Logan Arts Activities
Me and Dave drank Italian Sodas and danced in the street with hippies. I heard a bell choir, a glee club, and sand in the Tabernacle. I wandered around looking at arts and crafts at the fair, I bought a muffin and drank mushroom tea while Dave got a henna tattoo at the farmers market. We even made 15 bucks playing music on Main Street, and had some epic jam sessions in the USU amphitheatre with Akshay the Indian drummer.
Summer in Logan was awesome. Once the rabble clear out you're left with a chill, down-to-earth artsy intermountain scene.
Free shows in downtown SL,UT. Black Keys rocked, M. Ward melted my face, and Iron & Wine soothed me into a deep submission. I even got a taste for my biweekly dose of second-hand weed buzz. I've always been a sucker for live music, and TwiCon delivered.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Much is speculation but at least this much is fact: last semester Michael Starks died at USU; as part of a Sigma Nu Fraternity initiation he was picked up by members of the Chi Omega Sorority and taken to a location where a sufficient amount of alcohol was presented to and consumed by Starks resulting in his death.
I've been around this story for months now; as a student at Utah State, as a resident of Logan, and as a member of the USU press. Be that as it may I had, until tonight, avoided it to the best of my ability. 12 members of USU's greek row were charged with felony hazing in relation to Starks's death and on August 5 the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the last four remaining hazing charges had been dropped. A few students were sentenced to lesser charger but for all intents and purposes this sad chapter in USU's history appeared to be over.
The Starks family this week entered into a lawsuit against USU itself claiming negligence. It is the opinion of the Starks family that the University turned a blind eye to a history of lewed conduct, reckless behavior, substance abuse, and other offenses.
I'm sorry for your loss, but shame on you.
These are fraternities that we're talking about, and to be fair I doubt that anyone will argue that UTAH-BASED fraternity shenanigans pale in comparison to the national scale. These are groups of college-age young men and women, characteristically known for their partying, drinking, and raucous behavior.
Following the incident, Utah State wasted no time in closing the doors of both Greek chapters and creating a task force to investigate the circumstances of Starks death, and create changes to stop further occerences from happening. It is also interesting to note that even though only 1% of USU students are Greeks (Salt Lake Tribune) the bulk of ASUSU--Utah State's governing student council--hails from greek row.
Now, let's talk about Starks. Since the story broke there has been a two-sided tap dance concerning the young man's character. His family adamantly supports that he was nothing short of a good-natured religious young man with no history of drinking that would never stoop to such juevenile activities like those that took place on the night of his death if her were not forcefully compelled to do so. On the other side, court testimony and witness accounts describe a energetically party-crazed free spirit who needed little more than an open bottle to willfully drink himself to death. Again, much of this is speculation, but it's hard for me to beleive that he was emaculately straight-laced when he was pledging for a frat in the first place.
This is what frat's do. They drink and party; done. If you want to join one, then logic would imply that you also enjoy drinking and partying, and if not, you shouldn't be surprised when you find yourself in a room full of people drinking and partying. To hold the University explicitely responsible for what goes on is as unfair as it is naive. If I'm jogging around campus and I slip and break my arm, I wouldn't expect President Albrecht to foot the bill, or take the blame. Simply, and sadly, adult supervision can not be present 100% of the time, that's just part of college; scratch that, that's just part of life.
The Starks family pointed the finger at 12 USU students and charges were, for the most part, dropped. Now the Starks family is pointing the finger at USU.They are out for blood. I hate to be cold, but there's only one finger to point, and that is at the young man who ran head-first into a bad situation, grabbed hold of a bottle and drank until his heart stopped beating. Call me old fashioned, but when did litigation take the place of heartache. When did mourning move aside for advocacy. Isn't it time that we let this battle go and begin to heal?
My heart goes out to the Starks family. I can not even begin to understand what you're going through right now, but no amount of lawsuits is going to bring back your son.
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
It's one of those minute things in life that you grow to love. Every time I gave and got the bikers wave I felt like I was part of something bigger than myself, some sort of elite club of non-automotive travelers. My dad has even commented that at times he'll get the wave while he's out jogging. Whenever I see a cyclist my hand instinctively drops to my side, like a signal between family.
Somehow, however, Logan Utah has never gotten the memo about the bikers wave. For whatever reason the wave doesn't seem to include cyclists here in Cache Valley; ironic to me, considering that Logan is such a heavily biker-populated community. Every day riding to work I pass dozens of cyclists and my hand merely dangles lifeless at my side in unanswered sadness. If I'm lucky my wave is reciprocated by the Frat Boy Head Nod; which is totally lame, at best.
Wake up Logan. There's a whole world of comradery knocking at your door. We are bikers. We are fit. Share the road. Wave back!
I remember when I first saw the trailer for Fired Up--a couple of laughs, some scantily-clad cheerleaders--it wasn't enough to get me to the theater but I remember putting it on the mind-shelf for a rainy day. Later my brother told me that it was a good time, and since he has decent street-cred in the surprisingly funny movie category, it was only a matter of time.
Well, that day of rain came a couple of weekends ago. Trev, Cody, Spence and I decided to RedBox Fast and Furious to boost our testosterone levels. The box didn't have F&F but as we had searched alphabetically Fired Up was right there, friendly, and inviting. I remembered my brothers advice, recomended it to the boys, typed in a promo code (breakroom) and off we went.
Fired up is a comedy about two over-sexed high school football stars (Heroes's Nicholas D'Agosto, and Dumb and Dumberer's Eric Christian Olsen) who decide to attend chear camp in an attempt to pick up girls.
There's nothing groundbreaking about this movie. Truth be told it is predictable in its pacing, cliched in its storytelling, and shallow in its character developement; but Fired Up revels in these qualities, and we laugh as it laughs at itself. The movie is built on a foundation of crisp one-liners ("That's the way I like 'em, ancient and regretful.") and repeated jokes (Every time the male "villain" Dr. Rick appears he's listening to a one-hit wonder from the mid-90's. "Chumbawumba, soundtrack to my life.")
It's hit and miss; but when it hits, it hits hard. The seemingly improvised banter between D'Agosto and Olsen is fresh and at times brilliant; and the on-screen antics of Christopher Guest Alumnus John Michael Higgins are nothing short of legendary ("you're sloppy like the kiss of a mid-shipman").
So, if you're bored and need a laugh, especially a juevenile male-humor laugh, and aren't above jokes at the expense of female "athletes." Then bust out the "breakroom" and Redbox Fired Up for free. You'll be laughing, you'll, you'll be laughing.