Friday, February 06, 2004

I've fallen behind in posting to this blog, I'm afraid, so I'll just do a quick catch-up post and then move on. Since I last wrote, I attended two concerts at UCLA, Randy Newman on Friday and Shock and Awe, a loving tribute to Randy Newman, the next night. Randy Newman was in fine form, and for an encore performed "Laugh and Be Happy," which he has never performed in public before. I met him after the show, which is always exciting, but I never have anything to say, so I wonder what the point is sometimes. The next night, Shock and All, was inferior to the real thing, as I knew it would be. But I enjoyed it. Rip Torn was just awful, forgetting the words to "Political Science," and there were quite a few other low moments, but it was a different take on his music. Vic Chesnutt, Jimmy Fallon, Stan Ridgeway, Van Dyke Parks, and Jack Shit had some of the better moments of the night. And it was much more efficient than similar events in the past, such as the Harry Smith Project I saw at the same theater, Royce Hall, a few years back. So I must say I enjoyed my Randy Newman weekend.

I've seen two movies recently, Big Fish and The Fog of War. I enjoyed The Fog of War, though I understand some of the criticism. What surprised me is how much, in a film that consists to a very large degree of nothing but close-ups of McNamara's face, how much the film becomes a documentary detached from his baggage. Occasionally he'll say something, like when he compares himself to a Quaker who immolated himself in front of his office, or when he explains how shocked Kennedy and McNamara were when Diem was assasinated, and like a slap in the face you remember who you're watching. But I thought it made an interesting case, and if McNamara in the end is perhaps more sympathetic than he should be, what does it matter? There are larger issues to fret over than, "Is McNamara a good man or a bad man?"

On the other hand, I did not enjoy Big Fish very much. It was nice to look at from time to time, but felt hollow from the start. I felt my time would have been better served if I watched that Twilight Zone where the town's biggest liar gets abducted by aliens, and no one believes him, but no one cares because true or not, its a great yarn. Big Fish is basically the same thing, but with a manipulative tear-jerker ending.

So I've seen a few things in the last two weeks or whatever its been, but mostly my time has been devoted to school or wasting time. Oh, and playing Final Fantasy X-2 a bit, but I think I've already mentioned that. I'm ditching school next Wednesday, so I can go to Vegas. This quarter is proving to be unremarkable. I was fretting the schedule, which has me stuck on campus with a lot of time between classes. I mentioned that one upside of a five-hour break is, if I need to do something, I can always leave campus and go do it. So that's what I end up doing about every day. I was here Wednesday because I had a mid-term to prepare for, and I'm here today because I'm trying to get in the habit and there's nothing I really need to do, but it seems like I can always find some nitpicky thing I need to do, so I end up doubling the amount of gas I use up, or end up ditching my afternoon class. But so far, the quarter is going well. And two nights in Vegas should help me unwind a bit, I've been a bit nervous and anxious lately, for undefined reasons. Just think I need to get away. Should be fun.

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