Sunday, April 27, 2003

In keeping with the Beat Takeshi theme, I watched A Scene at the Sea last night. It was an interesting film, but I did not care for it as much as his other films, probably because he was not in it. His stone-faced expressions seem to make the slow, languid pace more bearable. Kuroudo Maki, who stars in this film as the deaf garbageman who becomes a surfer, is good, but remains too far removed. Which is intentional, Kitano makes every effort to remind the viewers, by means of distant camera placement and very little dialogue, that they are outsiders looking in on a world which will remain foreign to them. It was a beautiful film at times, and the quietness was refreshing, to a degree. But the ending, which should not be a huge surprise in light of his other films, left an emptiness that works in most Kitano films, but did not seem to suit this story. It's an interesting film, but I don't know that I'd recommend it.

I have to go running after work today. I've really had a tough time finding time and energy to run and exercise. The Dr. Seuss Race for Literacy is next Sunday, and knowing how I did in Carlsbad, I'm not sure if I can really turn in a respectable time at an 8K distance, unless I get back to running, now. I did get in two nice runs last week, but with everything going on, its been too easy to skip a few here and there, and once you start skipping, its hard to stop. But today I feel good, I should get a nice run in, no problem.

Christopher Hitchens Forcibly Removed From Trailer Park After Drunken Confrontation With Common-Law Wife.
Harsh Light of Morning Falls On One-Night-Stand's DVD Collection.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Seeing Beat Takeshi being exploited on TNN the other night made me think about Battle Royale. Columbine made it rather difficult for a film about high school students fighting to the death to find an American distributor. But I did find a DVD which would play in my DVD player (most were region 3 only, or were in the PAL format) at (the link takes you to a different DVD than the one I purchased, but which I just now found, but which is also apparently completely USA-DVD player-compatible). They shipped it to me at lightening speed, and I watched it this evening. I don't know what to say. I understand the controversy, especially since it doesn't have a nice clear message to assure you the film is not mere exploitation (the film's message, according to the film itself? "Run!"). It was entertaining to watch, even as it was unsettling. The film is basically a Lord of the Flies-inspired look at what happens when hormone-ravaged youngsters are given access to weapons of mass destruction and urged to kill each other. My DVD had very sub-standard subtitles (which is why I linked to the "Special Edition," though I do not know if its subtitles are any better), so I imagine I missed some subtle nuances, but I found the film both unsettling and thought-provoking.

Perhaps Battle Royale's theme of the loss of innocence would appeal to the White Stripes, and so I now have a segue into mentioning that apparenlty the White Stripes were on Conan all week. I'm watching it tonight, and saw a rerun on Comedy Central, where they covered "Jolene," but missed most of it. Serves me right for going to bed after the late-night syndicated episode of King of the Hill.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Grandma's funeral went well. There was some concern about how Uncle Bob would behave, especially considering some of his bizarre behavior before-hand. On Wednesday, he called to say that someone had called him, and claimed that he was giving singing lessons to Grandma twice a week, and wanted to conduct the service. Then Bob said he said that was fine. So Mom tells him that she's already planned the service, and that the Reverend from her church will conduct the service, and that Grandma was not taking singing lessons. So Bob volunteers to call the guy back and tell him to go to hell, but Mom says no, she'll call him. Bob warns her to be careful, though, because he wouldn't take no for an answer and he thinks he has a gun and might very well come over and kill us all. Anyway, Mom calls this guy up, its the guy who would come to Monte Vista Lodge once or twice a month for Sunday services, and wanted to say a few words at the service, not conduct the whole thing. He mentioned how much Grandma liked singing at the service, but nothing about singing lessons or anything. And he did not appear to be armed when I saw him. It puts Bob's claims about disgruntled teachers out to kill him in their proper perspective.

So with concerns about Bob's sanity, we were a bit nervous about the funeral. But there were no problems, and the focus was on Grandma, where it belonged. Simple service, but nice, and a few people spoke, and it was a decent enough way to mark the passing. It was a bit tough, I think funerals tend not to get easier, but rather magnify upon themselves. But hopefully this will be the last funeral for awhile. Michelle got butterflies to release after the service, because Grandma always liked butterflies. It was a nice effect. I'll miss her.

Bob was well-behaved, as I mentioned. The family was all there, except Trent couldn't make it. But Morgan did, which is nice. I like the cousins, though I rarely see them. We exchanged e-mail addresses, but I doubt we'll keep in touch, aside from a card around the holidays maybe. I know Mom would be perfectly happy never to see Bob again. Once the estate is settled up, there's no reason why we should, really; if he couldn't keep in touch with his own mother, why us? The cousins might keep in touch a bit better, though; Trent especially was good about visiting Grandma if he was in the area, at least.

Monday, April 21, 2003

I saw A Mighty Wind this evening, and enjoyed it very much. I don't think I enjoyed it as much as Guffman, Spinal Tap, and Best in Show, but I still highly recommend it. It is different from the other films in that, while I think there is some degree of sympathy in all of those films, A Mighty Wind really seems to not only have sympathy for its subjects, but respect. The songs are carefully crafted, and are more pastiche than parody. Unfortunately, since the songs don't carry the humor of the film, I think they were neglected a bit. The film could have had more music; it should have been longer and shown much more of the final climactic concert. But its still a great film, with lots of little touches and little moments. I think they are really catering more to their fans, with little things you might miss the first time through (I'm going again), and foregoing some of the bigger laughs. Eugene Levy shines as always, in a role very different from anything I've ever seen him do. Catherine O'Hara is a great singer, it turns out. Fred Willard's broad comedy helps give the film some belly-laughs. Jennifer Coolidge, in a very small role, has some of the most memorable moments; for the benefit of those who have not yet seen it, I'll just say, when she says, "Thank God for model trains," brace yourself for what follows. When I saw the Folksmen in Los Angeles, at the Harry Smith Project, I remember being upset that Elvis Costello chose to perform the same song as Van Dyke Parks (a man with much greater folk credentials); I like to think they agreed with me, and incorporated that into the film. I would have liked to see more of the Folksmen, incidentally; the film is weighed heavily to the story of Mitch and Mickey. Which is fine, but not when it means that the Folksmen don't even get to perform "Blood on the Coal" (thank God it's on the soundtrack album, which I will be ordering on-line tonight). Great film.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

I am watching Takeshi's Castle, a Japanese game show hosted by Beat Takeshi. Except in America, it is called Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, Takeshi is adressed as Vic, and a completely fictitious and offensive translation of the dialogue is offered under the guise of wit. It would really depress me, to watch this, but then this woman fell and slammed her face against a log, and I had to smile. I wish it was being broadcast in a more responsible manner, so I could get Takeshi's take on reality television. But its on the National Network, what do you want? I don't recommend it, but I imagine you Kitano fans would like to know it exists. And keep hoping for an American distribution of Dolls.
It doesn't look like its been updated since Febuary, but maybe you'll find weekly poker updates here.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

"If we can hit that bulls-eye, the rest of the dominoes will fall like a house of cards. Checkmate." --Zap Brannigan, Futurama
Another idiot left a dog in their car on a hot day while going into the aquarium. At least this time the dog lived. Grrr...

Anyway, enjoy this open letter to the people of Iceland.

Friday, April 18, 2003

Went to Viejas with Mom today. Won $200 playing Omaha. First time I'd won at poker for awhile. I think the poker room is going downhill there. They haven't had a 3-6 Stud/8 game (my favorite) going in all the times I've gone recently, and on most weekdays they've had very few games of any kind going. I got a letter in the mail, because I hadn't been to Viejas in almost a year, offering me 5000 points in their player's club (worth $50 in food) for playing in the poker room ten hours this month. I finally logged the tenth hour today, but forgot the coupon, so I'll have to claim it next time.

Before going to Viejas, I went to the Boardwalk Arcade, played the new Simpsons Pinball Party game. I give it an unqualified thumbs up. Stern does good work, for the most part (even the Rollercoaster Tycoon pinball game is growing on me), and this is at least on par with Monopoly, and may even surpass it (I'll need to log some more playing time before deciding). I wish Aquarius Roll-A-Rena was still around, and they still had the old Simpsons pinball game, so I could compare the two. I remember enjoying it as a youngster. Rather Bart-centered, I think. The new one is more Homer-centered, as is to be expected. All the voices are there; my favorite is when you make the Kwik-E-Mart skill shot, Apu sometimes is heard to remark, "You must be a yogi of some kind," or "must you always be so good," the words I've always longed to hear Apu say of me. I realize pinball is waning in popularity these days, but I would think this game would get wide distribution due to its theme; I highly recommend you seek it out.

Been listening to the new White Stripes album. It's about as excellent as the reviews all suggest. I got Blender magazine in the mail (I somehow get Blender, Stuff, and Maxim--I swear I did not subscribe and have never paid for any of them, they just keep coming for some reason...padding subscription numbers for advertizers?) the other day, they were on the cover. I haven't read the article, I imagine it will disturb me, but it does make me feel at least slightly in tune with my generation. I always feel a little special glee in liking something hip for a change. I couldn't help but notice no one my age was waiting in line for Lyle Lovett tickets the other day. But I digress. It's a great album. I especially enjoyed the songs with Meg singing, "In the Cold, Cold Night" and "It's True That We Love One Another." And "Seven Nation Army," with its deep bass line, is great for driving home after a long day.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

I went to the cemetary with my mom today, to make arrangements for Grandma's service. We didn't get the guy who did Dad's, and they in fact claim he no longer works there. So that was good. It actually went very smoothly. She had a pre-paid plan, and it covered all the expenses, so we had no out-of-pocket expenses. We're going to have a graveside service next Thursday. We aren't having a church service, since just about all of Grandma's friends are already dead.

In other was crazy today. Between the normal crowds that the rain brings in, and the spring break crowd, the place was absolutely packed. It went fairly smooth, I thought, but we were a bit short-staffed. I had to leave at 2:00 to have a quick lunch and get to the cemetary, but I ended up not getting out of work until 2:45. I was able to make it to the cemetary right about on time, but had to skip lunch, so by dinner I was pretty starving. The day does go quickly when its busy, though, and except for parking, the constant thorn in our side, things went smoothly.

I got Final Fantasy: Origins for the Playstation today. Its a remastered edition of the original NES version of Final Fantasy, and Final Fantasy II, which had not been released in North America before. I just got it, and just played the first game for about an hour. It really takes me back, especially the music. It's great to get a nice nostalgia trip, and a full, involving game at the same time. I've been contemplating buying Activision Anthology, but past experience suggests the fun of revisiting Pitfall and Barnstorming won't be long-lasting. Final Fantasy, on the other hand, offers more than just nostalgia. I remember playing it for months before I finally beat it, back in my NES days (and I think that was with a strategy guide); I'm hoping it will last me as long this time around (schoolwork be damned).

Monday, April 14, 2003

My grandmother Gladys Mae Howell passed away today at the age of 82. Her blood pressure had been dropping over the past several days, and her heart gave out today. The surgery was just too intense for someone of her age and health. It's a sad occasion, but I really couldn't imagine a better outcome; it was obvious she would not recover enough to go home, she would have to go to a nursing home or hospice instead, and if her cancer was indeed terminal, than a fast resolution to her suffering is probably a blessing.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

So my official time is now on-line, my gun time is 22:40, my chip time is 22:47. I don't understand how that works. Apparently instead of being near the back of the pack, I actually started the race seven seconds before the rest. Oh, well. I'll consider my official time 22:40. As I said below, not disgraceful, but still disappointing.
The Carlsbad 5000 was a disappointment, though I did not crash and burn as I was afraid I would. In fact, I ran the first mile in under 6 minutes, and at the two mile mark, was on track not only to break 20 minutes, my goal, but to break 19 minutes. But I could tell I was running out of steam, and ended up walking for about a quarter-mile (probably less, but it felt like a lot more). I ran the very end, and came in around 22:15 (chip time--I'll know the exact time as soon as its posted), which was good enough for a "Top 250" medal. At first I was kicking myself for starting off too fast; then I was kicking myself for stopping and walking, rather than running through it. But what it really comes down to is, I didn't train enough. So while I'm still disappointed with my performance, this was an exciting race, as well, as I believe that, had I had the training base behind me, I could have held the pace I ran for the first 2/3 of the race. So with a little more discipline behind my training, I could break 19:00 in my next 5K.
Have you seen the newest commercial for the Olive Garden? Now our favorite Italian grandfather is referred to as an Italian-American, out at the Olive Garden to celebrate his new American citizenship. Apparently they thought a commerical that simply observed that Italian food is good (and that Olive Garden food looks kinda like Italian food) might be offensive to patriotic Americans. The last thing they need is patriots renaming spaghetti "freedom noodles" or Olive Garden food "freedom crap."

Saw the Folksmen on Mad TV tonight. They performed "Blood on the Coal." I saw them a few years ago in LA, when they performed for the Harry Smith Project. I loved it, even though I didn't really know who or what they were. Once I found out the Folksmen were the brainchild of Christopher Guest and company, I tried to find more about them, but all I could find was that they were on Saturday Night Live once, and I was unable to find a tape of that (hopefully that will be included in the A Mighty Wind DVD). So I am so excited to see the movie (opens Wednesday), and the thought of the soundtrack album and future DVD makes me giddy.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Whenever Dad was in the hospital, there was always some old person who wouldn't shut up, screaming and moaning all night. Now apparently Grandma is that woman. All she does is just cry out, "Help me," over and over. I guess she's improving, today it was more of a whimper than a moan, but seeing as the doctors have told us that the cancer is terminal, one has to wonder if its worth putting her through this. The doctors say she's confused due to the intensity of the surgery, and that she should be improved mentally by the end of the week. But I'm especially worried about the toll this is taking on my mother. She really didn't need this.

I watched Bottle Rocket tonight. I'd never seen it before, which is disgraceful, I know. I didn't like it as much as their other movies, but it was entertaining. Interesting to see the roots of some of the techniques from Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. I thought Bottle Rocket might be more frenetic and experimental than the later films, but it seems like its success actually enabled them to be more assured in their unique techniques. I'm glad I finally got around to watching it.

I have had very little energy lately. I've only ran once this week, and of all my little projects, I've barely got anything done. Yet somehow I've managed to keep up with school, at least. I'm running in the Carlsbad 5000 tomorrow, so that should offer some objective guidance as to where I am now versus where I've been; if I'm just in a little funk or if I've fallen back in my fitness goals. I once hoped to break 20:00 at the race, but now I'm just hoping I can just hold my pace from my last race. I'll call Monday a rest day, and then I'll see about getting back on track. Maybe go to bed earlier? But who wants to do that?

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Men love booze. Men love monkeys. So check out Gobler Toys, and tell them Senor Sandwich sent you.
Archie McPhee has some interesting things for sale. I rather enjoyed "Dead Duck", but on a cursury examination they seem to have a wide array of random stuff, espeically if your in to kitsch.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Grandma's doing good. The doctors say she's a tough old broad. She made them bring a TV into the ICU so she could watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy.

I went to a sneak preview of The Good Thief tonight. I enjoy the later work of Nick Nolte, for the most part. The first half was a bit slow, but overall I enjoyed it. A great finale in Monte Carlo. I would love to play for high stakes in Monte Carlo some day. A classier type of joint, though the same greed greases the roulette wheels. For all the film's build-up to the dual heists, the real tension was in Nolte at the tables, and the film catured it admirably, right down to the pit's flop sweat. I enjoyed the movie, overall, but still would have a hard time recommending it. Too slow, didn't add anything to the genre, and the girl was a bit annoying.

I made it home just in time to catch the premiere of Lucky of FX, to continue the gambling theme. Not bad, the side of gambling I'm more familiar with, though rather cartoonish. But I'll tune in next week.

Skipped my run today. Haven't run since Thursday. The Carlsbad 5000 this weekend should be humbling. I had hoped to break 20:00, now I just hope I don't make an ass of myself. I'll run down to the gym tomorrow. And eat better, too (leftover pizza for lunch and dinner today).

Monday, April 07, 2003

They took out Grandma's lung. Apparently they decided to move her surgery up from four to before noon without telling anyone, so by the time I thought Grandma was going in, the surgery was about over. Took over twice as long as they thought, and there was a lot of blood, she needed a transfusion. They said they couldn't really check because of the blood, but they're pretty sure there's more cancer in there. But with the lung out, the doctors say she should be more comfortable. So from a quality of life standpoint, it sounds like the surgery should be successful. But again, time will tell.
Grandma is going in and having her left lung removed today. She seems in good enough shape going in, I think she'll pull through the initial surgery, at least. She's scared, of course; last I saw her, she was just muttering to herself about having to get through it, get back to assisted living, back to bingo. It's interesting how unpleasant it was getting her to go into assisted living, now she can't wait to return. I think the worst thing that could happen is she not recover enough to return to where she was, and have to go into a rest home. For her age, I think it would be better she just succumb peacefully in surgury than that. Of course, a full recovery would be the best of all, but only time will tell, I suppose.

I haven't been running or done any real amount of exercise since last Thursday. I was going to run down to the gym today after school, but I just couldn't get myself to go. My diet has been abysmal, as well. I just ordered a pizza for dinner tonight, Saturday I had an Ultimate Cheeseburger from Jack in the Box for lunch and a Steerburger from Boll Weevil for dinner. Last Friday, in fact, I had originally planned to stop by the farmer's market in La Mesa and get some fruit; I ended up skipping dinner and eating a Big Buford from Rally's around midnight. Tomorrow I'll get a run in, and I'll plan my food choices for tomorrow tonight, so it'll be easier to make the right decisions. These organic pasta and rice bowls are on sale at the store, the teriaki tofu one is really good; I'll probably have that tomorrow. Tonight, though, its two large pizzas from Papa John's. It was cheaper to get two large one-toppings than one large two-topping, so I had to split up my traditional mushroom and olive pizza, got one all mushrooms, one half-olives and half-anchovies, because I've never had anchovies on a pizza, I watched a Futurama episode involving anchovies last night, and I enjoy sardines, so I figured it was a good time to try them.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

The Quotable Bazooka Joe.
Can you spot the double-taxation?
From The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas by Gertrude Stein:

"Bruce, Patrick Henry Bruce, was one of the early and most ardent Matisse pupils and soon he made little Matisses, but he was not happy. In explaining his unhappiness he told Gertrude Stein, they talk about the sorrows of great artists, the tragic unhappiness of great artists but after all they are great artists. A little artist has all the tragic unhappiness and the sorrows of a great artist and he is not a great artist."

Saturday, April 05, 2003

I bought Lyle Lovett tickets today. Waited in line over four hours. It was not fun, but at least I kept a few dollars out of the greasy paws of Ticketmaster. Good seats, but a ways back. I also got myself a ticket to see Paula Poundstone; since I only got one ticket, I was able to get an eighth-row center seat (the best seat available without buying a dinner show ticket). Standing for four hours really takes it out of you, though; I'm rather sore and tired today. Hopefully it will help me get to sleep tonight, lessen the impact of daylight savings.
Grandma has lung cancer. Apparently you can't smoke a pack a day for many decades without some ramifications. So she is having her left lung removed on Monday. According to the doctors, if the cancer is in fact localized to the left lung, her prognosis is pretty good, but my mom isn't optimistic, nor am I. They say she has about a 3-5% chance of dying during the surgery, but it seems to me that any 84-year-old undergoing any surgery has worse odds than that. In any event, I hope for the best, or baring that a quiet ending. My mom's side of the family has a history of lingering on for much longer than they should, so hopefully Grandma will buck that trend. I should be somewhat more positive, and wish that she is able to quickly return home to assisted living, mystery rides and bingo, but optimism and cancer are not complementary concepts in my mind these days.

Been a someone eventful week, I should have been more vigilant in writing here, but I will try to touch on the most memorable moments. I saw Chubby Checker in concert yesterday. Chad had free tickets. His voice sounded very much like his recordings, and he looked pretty good for his age. Overall, it was a fun show. There was a very odd, very sad moment, however. During one particularly rousing number (I forget the song), a roadie ran up and began setting up what looked like two microphone stands. But as it took form, it actually looked like a nordic track, or some such piece of exercise equipment. Then Mr. Checker stepped up on it, grasped onto the twin poles, and begin to slide his feet around on the platform of the device, leading his hips to sweave in a twisting manner. The crowd seemed to enjoy the display, but I was just confused. It sure looked like Chubby was unable to dance without the aid of a mechanical device, which is not exactly an occasion to cheer. He'd been dancing before the contraption was brought out; if certain moves were beyond his ability to dance unassisted, he should rotate them out of his routine. But the crowd didn't seem to mind, so why should I? I was confused, but overall it just made me feel sad. I felt like the innocent child beholding the emperor in his new clothes; perhaps I had to be the one to stand up and shout: "He's using a contraption! Can't you see he's not dancing on his own, he's using a contraption!" And then they would all see the contraption. The whole thing put a dark cloud over an otherwise delightful evening.

I went to Viejas Thursday, to play poker. I got a letter from them because I hadn't been in a long time, encouraging me to return by offering me $50 in food credits (in addition to the normal comps earned for my play) if I played ten hours in their poker room this month. I hadn't been in almost a year, and the poker room has gone downhill. 7 card stud/8 or better is my preferred game, but they only had one game going, at 1-3 limits (I play 3-6). They had very few games going (though I know they always have had slow nights and busy nights, so maybe I just chose an off day to return). So I played 3-6 Omaha/8. The automatic shufflers were not there the last time I played, but I thought they were a nice addition. I was up almost $100 after just ten mintues or so, but slowly gave almost all of it back, when I had a very upsetting experience. It was a kill pot, and there was a fair amount of betting, so it was a substantial pot. I had the second-best low, and was pretty certain the main bettor had the nut low. I was hoping for a deuce to come, giving me the best low, but it never came. Instead, a three on the river paired the board. I called, since it was a big pot, and saw that the bettor did indeed have the nut low. I show my pocket queens, figuring it wasn't good enough. A player shows that he has sevens and fours, so I dismiss my hand with a wave of the hand, and the dealer promptly mucks it. Not for a minute or so later, as the dealer is still divying up the substantial pot ($150, I'd guess), do I remember the river card paired the board. I had queens and threes, the best hand. And I killed my hand. So I flushed $75 down the toilet. I was somewhat pissed off at the dealer, but it was actually a floorman pitching in because of a shortage of dealers due to a tournament going long, and is not in the habit of dealing, no doubt. If I show my cards, he's supposed to verify that I did in fact lose before mucking the hand, but ultimately the player is responsible for protecting his or her hand. So I didn't say anything; maybe the guy who got the high half of the pot realized he hadn't in fact won, maybe not, and I don't care; I've been on the other side, getting a pot I didn't deserve due to dealer error, and I don't feel the need to point it out. But it soured me a bit on live poker in a casino; playing on-line, that situation could not occur. Anyway, I knew I should leave immediately, since that was going to rattle me, but I didn't, and sure enough, lost all the money I brought with me. I won half of it back the next night, after the Chubby Checker concert. But it did teach me to be much more vigilant about protecting and reading my hand in a showdown, especially at Omaha, where it can be genuinely confusing, and it is easy for even an experienced dealer to make a mistake now and then.

School so far has been okay. Judging from the first week, it won't be a memorable quarter, but it should be an opportunity to actually be academically sucessful for once. I don't anticipate my classes being a huge challenge this time around. But only time will tell. One consequence of my academic career that will impact this site is that I now own Adobe Photoshop Elements. Got it for $49.99, with a student licence. Retails for a hundred, not a bad deal at all. Also, I figured it out the other day, and I own something like .000000008% of Adobe, Inc., so its like I actually got an additional fraction of a fraction of a cent back as well. So hopefully I'll get around to installing that and learning to use it, and uploading some photographs here soon. But first I'll just work on actually writing in the blog on a regular basis.