Sunday, February 26, 2006
After having seen it, I do not understand why the film is not up for Best Picture. It is well directed, very well acted, and has an incredible, dense, provocative story. I've seen Good Night And Good Luck and Crash, both nominated for Best Picture, and feel that this movie is a more complete work than either of them (even though I enjoyed both of those films).
The movie has many layers and what you think is going to be one story (a sad, end-of-love story) turns out to be another story all together (a great political thriller and murder-mystery).
Ralph Fiennes does his usual superb job. As one of the best actors currently working, it still surprises me the variation in roles and context in which he dabbles. Is this really the same guy who was so deliciously over the top in Harry Potter (as Valdemort)? Is this the same guy who portraying the murderer with power, ruthlessness, and vulnerability in Red Dragon? I'm not even mentioning the work he did in Schindler's List and others. The guy is so subtle and his talent so broad... I can't wait to see his next role.
The Constant Gardener makes you think. Unlike so many movies today it doesn't lead you to its conclusions. It makes you work for them. It allows you to disagree and to add your own motivations to the characters within the story. The villains aren't all evil. And their very humanity and greed seems to make them that much more villainous. The hero isn't so clear-cut, either. He "doesn't get it" and it takes a lot of suffering before the truth of the world in which his wife lived sinks in and he accepts it. His quest for the truth feels more real to me because of his reluctance to accept it and the way in which he tries to learn it.
My few complaints about this movie are technical. I don't completely understand the director's choice to use the types of fade-cuts, out of focus shots, and over-diffusion of light and color. A few times, the out of focus seemed to coincide with a character's inability to think or his digression into the past, and that made sense. But I found no reason for the types of fade-cuts made or their inexact use nor the over-diffusion of color and light. Sometimes it seemed to represent the characters loss and other times his discovery. Sometimes it coincided with his emotions, good and bad, and other times it seemed to be apropos of nothing. It reminded me of Traffic, where the director used diffusion and color as a character; however, I didn't see the consistency of use here that Traffic benefitted from.
I recommend The Constant Gardener to anyone who liked Traffic, The Player, Memento or other provocative, thoughtful movies. I think you will be pleasantly surprised and thoroughly entertained.
My grade: A-
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Everyone was tired. Jean and Lilia (Tai's GF and substitute bowler) just didn't have the oomph in them tonight, and each game seemed to get a little worse. Arvin started strong, with two decent games, but then had a drop off in the third game.
I plugged along, doing my best to match their best bowler (who actually has a better book average than I do by about 20 pins). I scored 225 (with two opens-- should have been better), 184, and 193. So I kept my personal streak of 200 games going and got another 600 series. But their best bowler had a 620 series and managed to beat me by, go figure, about 20 pins per game. Even though I'm happy I got another 600 series, I'd rather win as a team.
It's been proven a few times now, on each team I've on which I've bowled, that, while I can win or lose an individual game for the team, it is the other bowlers who win the night. Tonight, that was apparent again. I need my team to get marks and hit their averages -- I can't do it alone. And they need me to match the other team's best bowler and nullify that score. When either piece fails, the team fails.
All in all, we are still nicely positioned for a run at the top.
So, next week I'm breaking out the Superman shirt, which has been on hiatus for a while. Arvin says he has a Batman shirt that he will wear. It'll be fun, and maybe we'll start a new streak.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
In High School, a few of the crew got back together and picked it up again, playing at lunch time and sometimes after school. This lasted from 1987-88 until shortly after High School, maybe 1991.
In 1995, my buddy, Chris, and I picked it back up with a new friend we made at a company we both worked for. We have played steadily since then, going from AD&D, to 3.0 to 3.5, with some diversions into EarthDawn and other games along the way.
Over the last 11 years of playing, a lot has changed. The group has grown and shrunk and grown again. Everyone else in the group has gained a girlfriend, and then a wife (well, Chris is working on the wife part). The gfs/wives played for awhile, but then children started to be born, and they put aside their gaming in favor of time spent with children.
Now even I have gained a girlfriend, finally, and see my own time for the game diminishing as other things move higher on the priority list. It is certainly no fault of my girlfriend, as she understands the enjoyment I get out of gaming with my friends. It is true that, with her in my life and with the time and distance issue she and I already face, I need to make more time for her than for my friends or for gaming. And then there is the strong possibility of relocating.
I have been blessed to game longer than most gamers, even excluding the breaks mentioned previously. I have been the Game Master many times, and enjoy that. I have been a player often and enjoyed that (anyone need an elf fighter/mage?). I have had an incredible group of people with whom to game, each of whom brought intelligence, passion, and a devotion to gaming that made nearly every session I played in or GMed fun.
When we first started the group in 1995, we gamed often. At one time, we played every Friday night after work, often going well past midnight in our pursuit of an Orcs head or a dragon’s tooth. As life intruded, we shifted to a monthly schedule and set aside the third Saturday of every month to the “gaming gods.” We play all day, having lunch and dinner together and still the games often took us past midnight.
Now, however, with everyone else’s lives filled with wives, mortgages, careers, and children, and my own life filling up quickly, it looks like our gaming group’s steady play may finally be coming to a close. I have been one of the primary standard bearers for the group for awhile, as the only remaining single guy who had the time available for gaming, and I helped to coordinate our sessions and keep things going. With life changes making me pick other priorities ahead of gaming, I’m not sure the rest of the group will have the same passionate desire to game as before.
It feels like the end of an era.
However, and I know it sounds cliché, but once a gamer, always a gamer. I have a feeling that it will only be a few year’s time before I’m dusting off the books again, writing up a simple dungeon crawl, or rolling up a new character with a new group of people. I know that if I move back east, there is a gaming group ready made and enthusiastic about having a potential new person entering their fray. If I stay here, then at some point the old gang, and maybe some new faces, will get together again “for old time’s sake.” Next thing you know, we’ll be playing regularly again and wondering why we every stopped.
Gaming just gets in your blood. It’s fun to pretend to be a big strong warrior with a great axe, cleaving his way through a horde of Orcs. Or to be the wily thief, pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes. It is fun to roll those dice and pray for that miracle 20 that you need to hit the dragon or be toasted by its breath in the next round. Its fun to let loose of your cares from the week of work and deadlines and be someone else with strange magical powers who is beholden to no one. Even if it is just for a few hours on weekend.
Even if that never happens, even if the gang never gets together again and I don’t ever dust off the books with a new crew, I have wonderful memories of the fun times we’ve shared.
“Yes, I’m trespassing!” said by my character to two imposing figures protecting a dragon’s lair. Never say you are trespassing from something powerful enough to protect a dragon’s lair!
“I leap into the bush.”
“Roll your damage using a d4.”
“23! I’m unconscious!”
“From a rose bush!!!??” (this was in EarthDawn, where you rerolled any die you maxed until you didn’t max it—the player maxed it a few times)
“Map is NOT TO SCALE, dammit!”
“George moves forward and touches the light.”
“Where the hell are we?”
“Er, I don’t know. Give me a moment.” Said by the DM after a really funny move that took our level 1 characters MUCH deeper into the dungeon than they should have gone.
Backed up by 50 Trolls, the Troll leader demands, “Lay down your weapons.”
Serious battle ensues. The five of us defeat the entire enclave of Trolls. To the leader, “Now, you were saying?”
“Does it have a bowl?” one of the players, who seemed obsessed with getting a bowl for her character.
The time we set the clock back 3 hours because one of our friends has a well-known penchant for getting tired if he can see the clock. All night long, he didn’t realize.
“I know it’s only 4 o’clock, but I’m really hungry. Can we order dinner soon?”
“Elisa, you’re fully healed, these things can’t hit you, you have a full quiver of arrows, and we’re doing okay, why should we run?”
“Because it looks scary!”
Thursday, February 16, 2006
With nearly quivering hand and tense fingers, I make my selection: E3, Baby Ruth! Chocolate, nougat, peanuts—everything a growing boy needs to make it through those last hours of a long day.
My stomach grumbles.
My mouth quivers.
The familiar, all too comforting sounds of the engine whirring to life elicits a sigh from me. The spiral candy holder begins to turn like a slow, steady screw as it pushes my sweet treat forward to the lip of the shelf. I watch, mesmerized by the spinning mechanism. I wait, leaning forward onto my toes so I can watch the candy’s fall to the floor of the machine and into reach of my grasping fingers.
There, held in a cold, plastic embrace still sits my mouthwatering delectable, leaning forward at a cockeyed angle, unreleased by the stingy machine. I grasp the machine by its corners and give it a shake, only too aware of the potential for death that awaits me should I enrage the machine by exerting too much force. No Darwin Candidate am I! The sweet Baby Ruth slides closer, skewing above the shelf at such a degree that it seems impossible the chocolate can resist the seductive pull of gravity.
Another shake, a little more violent as my agitation with this turn of events gains hold over me. Again the bar sinks, giving me hope. Only to settle once more, even more securely entrenched in the arms of that mocking confectioner’s torture machine. Denied again!
I hear a mocking laugh from behind me. A fellow coworker has spied my distress and, having already procured her own sweet salvation, coldly mocks my misery. She is haughty in her chocolate ownership, and commanding in her place as The One With Candy. She will survive the final push to the finish line while I already am stumbling.
I nearly cry, then, knowing my own saccharine satisfaction seems so utterly unattainable. With a dejected sigh, I move away from the evil machine, collecting the few coins it does provide me on my way to the Facilities office to recuperate the rest of my lost money.
As I am about to leave the room, with defeat and forty cents in hand, I swear I hear the machine one last time. I swear the whirring sounds strangely like “Next time.”
Now the whirring sounds like laughter.
One last long, loving look at the forlorn Baby Ruth bar still dangling in the grasp of E3, and then I tear myself away and leave the cruel machine.
‘Oh yes, there will be a next time,’ I think.
I chuckle as I head down the steps toward Facilities, thoughts of retribution and destruction my sweet repast now.
'Oh yes, next time.'
The team bowled well again. I can only guess at the overall, since we were bowling a team with a new Substitute bowler who did not have an established average/handicap. However, it appears that we went 3-1. We won the second and third games by around 100 pins, and the new guy was a better bowler than to have a 100 pin handicap. So we should win both of those plus total pins on the night. We won the first game by 11, but his handicap should eclipse that and give them 1 win on the night.
Coming into tonight, our recent successful run moved us all the way up to 4th place in the second half and 4th overall on the season. We were bowling against the 3rd place team (second half). So it was a good time for a 3-1.
Jean had two 150 games. Tai had a 160 in him. Arvin stunned us with two 170s. I managed to maintain my streak by going 169, 188, and 207 (188 average). That makes at least one 200 game in each week since the streak started (this is the 4th week).
There are still 10 weeks to go in the league, so plenty of time for a lot to happen. But I have to say, I'm enjoying the run while it lasts! The team has been bowling together, having fun, and good things have been happening.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
1. What are the colors of our flag?
2. What do the stars on the flag mean?
3. How many stars are there on our flag?
4. What color are the stars on our flag?
5. How many stripes are there on our flag?
6. What do the stripes on the flag represent?
7. What colors are the stripes on the flag?
8. How many states are there in the Union (the United States)?
9. What do we celebrate on the 4th of July?
10. Independence Day celebrates independence from whom?
11. What country did we fight during the Revolutionary War?
12. Who was the first president of the United States?
13. Who is the President of the United States today?
14. Who is the Vice President of the United States today?
15. Who elects the President of the United States?
16. Who becomes President if the President dies?
17. What is the Constitution?
18. What do we call changes to the Constitution?
19. How many changes, or amendments, are there to the Constitution?
20. What are the three branches of our government?
21. What is the legislative branch of our Government?
22. What makes up Congress?
23. Who makes the Federal laws in the United States?
24. Who elects Congress?
25. How many Senators are there in Congress?
26. For how long do we elect each Senator?
27. Name two Senators from your state.
28. How many voting members are in the House of Representatives?
29. For how long do we elect each member of the House of Representatives?
30. Who is the head of the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government?
31. For how long is the President elected?
32. What is the highest part of the Judiciary Branch of our Government?
33. What are the duties of the Supreme Court?
34. What is the supreme law of the United States?
35. What is the Bill of Rights?
36. What is the capital of the state you live in?
37. Who is the current Governor of the state you live in?
38. Who becomes President if both the President and Vice President die?
39. Who is Chief Justice of the Supreme Court?
40. What were the original 13 states?
41. Who said, “Give me liberty or give me death”?
42. Name some countries that were our enemies during World War II.
43. What was the 49th state added to our Union (the United States)?
44. How many full terms can a President serve?
45. Who was Martin Luther King, Jr.?
46. What are some of the requirements to be eligible to become President?
47. Why are there 100 Senators in the United States Senate?
48. Who nominates judges for the Supreme Court?
49. How many Supreme Court Justices are there?
50. Why did the Pilgrims come to America?
51. What is the executive of a state government called?
52. What is the head executive of a city government called?
53. What holiday was celebrated for the first time by American colonists?
54. Who was the main writer of the Declaration of Independence?
55. When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?
56. What are some of the basic beliefs of the Declaration of Independence?
57. What is the national anthem of the United States?
58. Who wrote The Star-Spangled Banner?
59. What is the minimum voting age in the United States?
60. Who signs bills into law?
61. What is the highest court in the United States?
62. Who was President during the Civil War?
63. What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?
64. What special group advises the President?
65. Which President is called the “Father of our Country”?
66. Which President was the first Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Army and Navy?
67. What was the 50th state to be added to our Union (the United States)?
68. Who helped the Pilgrims in America?
69. What is the name of the ship that brought the Pilgrims to America?
70. What were the 13 original states of the United States called before they were states?
71. What group has the power to declare war?
72. Name the amendments that guarantee or address voting rights.
73. In what year was the Constitution written?
74. What are the first 10 amendments to the Constitution called?
75. Whose rights are guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights?
76. What is the introduction to the Constitution called?
77. Who meets in the U.S. Capitol building?
78. What is the name of the President’s official home?
79. Where is the White House located?
80. Name one right or freedom guaranteed by the first amendment.
81. Who is Commander-in-Chief of the United States military?
82. In what month do we vote for the President?
83. In what month is the new President inaugurated?
84. How many times may a Senator or Congressman be re-elected?
85. What are the two major political parties in the United States today?
86. What is the executive branch of our government?
87. Where does freedom of speech come from?
88. What U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services form is used to apply for naturalized citizenship?
89. What kind of government does the United States have?
90. Name one of the purposes of the United Nations.
91. Name one benefit of being a citizen of the United States.
92. Can the Constitution be changed?
93. What is the most important right granted to United States citizens?
94. What is the White House?
95. What is the United States Capitol?
96. How many branches are there in the United States government?
| You scored as Millennium Falcon (Star Wars). The world around you is at war. Fortunately you know how to handle that with the greatest of ease. You are one of the best at what you do and no one needs to tell you that. Now if only the droids could be quiet for five seconds.|
Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with QuizFarm.com
Monday, February 13, 2006
In my historical databanks, I see that John has been attempting to become more overt in his emoting since November 2004. As he has opened those gates, even a little, he has been surprised by the sheer volume of emotions available and willing to accost him at any time. I further note that his girlfriend is on record as saying she likes and prefers the “new” John – matter of fact, he is the only John she has known and this changed allowed him to be open to her in the first place- – and it is this positive reinforcement that allows him to continue his struggles with this aspect of his continued metamorphosis as a human being. However, minor setbacks and plateaus are to be expected, and this appears to be one of those times.
John made a record in my databanks that shows that he feels that these changes will ultimately prove successful and worthwhile. However, he is sometimes overwhelmed to the point where he inserts me into his life until such time as he can continue his evolution. Those times are coming less often, as he is getting comfortable with the new emotions he is allowing himself to feel and the rather steep price the mind and body sometimes pay for feeling them.
Apparently John forgot to upload the needed memory engrams and participatory interactive processes that would allow me to actually perform his job functions. I have been resigned to staring at a computer screen and occasionally opening and closing windows on the desktop for most of the day.
I do note that humor is usually the first emotion that trickles back into his life during one of these upheavals. As I see some (minor) evidence of that returning, hopefully John’s ability to cope is finally kicking in and he will be back shortly.
In reviewing the day’s events, I further note that when people asked John about his girlfriend’s visit, he did show signs of coping; perking up, lively interaction, smiling. A few comments in particular he saved to my RAM—a coworker who was introduced to said girlfriend commented that she was “even lovelier in person” than in her pictures or how he spoke of her. Another said, “I can understand why you are sad; she’s great.”
Time for me to proceed with a few minor icon movements. I may even defragment John’s work hard drive for him, so things are clean and nice when he returns. Hopefully he will back in the offices, ready to work tomorrow, and I can go back to the used computer parts box he stores in the closet. History suggests he will be happier and more alert once he gets to chat with girlfriend tonight. That is often a cure for what ails him.
Simulation John, signing off… for now.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
We're smart people and we knew if this kept going it would get tough. We have hashed it out every which way, we have plans and we have problems, we have solutions and more questions... but that doesn't help to make leaving her at the airport (or her leaving me) any easier.
And, on top of it, M has to arrive home (weather permiting), to a cold, dark, lonely house tonight around midnight. I at least have my cat to hold and cuddle with and talk to. She has Hugs and Choco, but they can only provide so much.
And now it looks like we have to survive another about 2 months until we can see each other again. And then another 2 months between that visit and the next one.
I love this woman and I want to be with her. It is time to actively work toward that goal.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
I think we officially have a streak on our hands!
The team moved itself into 7th place in the second half of the season and held 5th overall for the entire season coming in to Wednesday’s games. Those wins should move us up another place or two both for the second half and overall.
The key, of course, is my team. When Jean, Tai, and Arvin bowl even a little above their average for the week, they make a huge difference to our overall score due to handicap. My handicap is low enough (24) that even bowling significantly above my average doesn’t help the team that much if they aren’t doing well.
Arvin’s got it down and Tai’s coming around—all they need to do to score well is make their spares. That’s it. You make your spares, and you are going to be hovering in the high 100s (170-190s) at the least. Scatter a few strikes in there and you are in the 200s. I don’t expect a ton of strikes from either of them, but it is nice when that happens (Tai had a couple of strikes in a row in a couple of the games—was a nice bonus). Right now they need to just focus on minimizing mistakes, being consistent, and picking up spares. The first two allow them to leave easy spares and the last involves concentrating on those easy spares so they don’t miss it.
Only 10 weeks plus sweeps to go.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
- It is remarkable just how much I enjoy spending time with M. We do not even need to be doing anything—just hanging out while I watch TV and she reads a book (or whatever).
- My buddy Marcus and his wife are very much on my mind. If you need anything Marcus, let me know.
- M is really, really good at laundry. Even with my screwy setup. First time in awhile that everything I own is clean all at the same time!
- M seems to put up with me even when my best laid plans go a little awry. The Chuck Jones Gallery to which I attempted to take her said on their answering machine that they were open Tuesday through Saturday. When we arrived, the sign on the door said Open Wednesday through Sunday. *sigh
- TMJ sucks. It is like spraining your ankle, only it is in your jaw. Ow! Soft foods, Ibuprofen, and some simple stretching exercises for the next week should, hopefully, take care of it. *fingers crossed
- Our time together is half over already. It is always way too little time.
- While M loves, absolutely loves, the weather here, I don’t think that will be a big enough draw to get her to come here. Which I’m ok with, but I will be a little sad to leave So Cal. I’ve lived here all my life.
- I get more exercise at M’s home than I do at my apartment. At her home, I have to constantly go up and down the stairs, there are activities like mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, and chopping wood to do, and it is more than 11 steps from end to end. The sheer size of her place, compared to mine, keeps me more active. I like that.
- M has strengths in all the areas I have weakness.
- I wonder, after having met and petted Calypso, if M would let Caly move with me. She’s right; I would probably miss the cat if I moved without her. At the same time, I’m a bit tired of being a pet owner—I’ve had pets for most of my life and the constant maintenance and care they require can be trying. Especially when you need someone to look after a pet when you go to Canada.
- I did a crappy job of shaving my head this morning. Mind wasn’t on task.
- Hope I bowl well tonight.
- I think that M has revised her opinion of See's Candy. ;-)
Saturday, February 04, 2006
The day didn't start so well; M had a hard time sleeping her first night here. Lots of new noises and things to get used to, plus the time difference was skewing her internal clock. She hardly slept at all. Also, after phlegmy guy and whatnot, she woke up not feeling completely well.
However, she persevered. I think the Krispy Kreme helped a bit, and then finally making it to the desert and the heat, being able to walk around, and getting a good sandwich at Ruby's all perked her up and she was running smoothly.
Meanwhile, mom navigated us all around Palm Springs and nearby cities. We saw many star's homes, a lot of swanky places, and some neat shops.
One bad note-- after we left Ruby's M realized that she had left her camera at the table. We happened to be driving by the restaurant on our way to other destinations, so I pulled over the vehicle, mom jumped out and hustled inside, while we circled the block (no parking along that road). As we came back around, there was mom with the camera. Tragedy averted! Mom's a hero! M is relieved.
Dad remained mostly quiet, just enjoying the drive, the stops, and learning about M.
Anyway, we saw the desert, we saw the houses of the rich and famous, we saw the River (an outside mall), and we saw mom's school.
Everything went as well or better than I could have expected.
*big sigh of relief
The little adventure on the way back to the apartment occurred when the Gas Warning Light came on in my truck and I decided to push it the last 35 miles to see if we would make it. M was a bit worried, as I learned that was something about which she always worried as a child, but she trusted my confidence. Sure enough, we were on fumes as we pulled into the gas station a mile from the apartment, but we made it.
I'll let M fill you in on the woman in Albertson's with the bread.
Friday, February 03, 2006
Thursday, February 02, 2006
Well, last week I wore The Shirt and our team broke our funk and went 3-1. Both Tai and Arvin bowled well and I had a nice night. Tonight, we went 4-0. Arvin bowled well in two games, and on average in the other; Jean had a very nice night, above average in two games with one nearly 150; and Lilia, Tai's girlfriend who was filling in for him, bowled her two highest games ever (113 and 107).
Your humble narrator (a-hem! It's my story, and I say I'm humble, dammit) bowled a very nice 179, 225, 225 for a 629 series and a 209 average.
So, obviously, I have to wear The Shirt next week to see if it becomes a streak.
Of course, next week has a secondary challenge, as the person who got me The Shirt will actually be there to meet the bowling team and watch me bowl. No pressure, eh?