Copyright

All blog posts, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted to the Author (that's me) and may not be used without written permission.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Little Scare

I went to my AIH doctor while M was here and we spoke with him about my illness and my recent issues with being sick. It was nice having my wife along, so she could meet the doctor in whom I have so much built up trust and respect. For his part, he described in 5 minutes everything we've been doing about my AIH for the last 12 years and I think she got a lot of value out of that.

However, I wasn't able to get my blood work done prior to that visit. I got it done the following Friday (two days later) and then had to wait until yesterday to hear the results.

My ALT and AST, both prime liver-function indicators, were astronomically high. ALT has a typical range of 0-45 and AST is 0-40. My results were 182 and 145. I managed to get in contact with my doctor today and he is dumbfounded by these results. Especially since I have been doing so well for so long with my meds and my blood test results... I have occasionally come out high on one or both of my liver-function results, but just small blips (the occasion mid- to high-40s, even an occasional 50). These current numbers are similar to what I had when I was first diagnosed and started treatment (when I was first diagnosed, I was in the high 200s and low 300s, but they dropped quickly with treatment).

Complicating the issue is the fact I'm leaving for SJ on Saturday. We just don't have time to do much between now and then.

He provided three options:

1. Go on my steroids (prednisone) for three weeks until I return and can get another blood test done. This has a few disadvantages; I react well to prednisone, but higher doses can change my personality and has some other side effects. Usually I get happier with steroids, but sometimes I get meaner, morose, or lethargic. Also, if something else were to happen, the prednisone might mask the issue while I'm on it.

2. Up my Imuran take again. We have been slowly lowering my Imuran because it is hurting me to be on two powerful immune suppressants (Enbrel and Imuran) at the same time. However, Imuran takes a while to "kick in" so upping them won't see a change in the results for a few weeks most likely. Secondly, I'm flying shortly and going to a much colder and wetter climate, with viruses and flus to which I am not accustomed. Upping my Imuran means I am lowering my immune system at exactly the wrong time. I may get violently ill on my trip and be laid up far away from my doctors (while I'm sure M's mom can get me great care, they don't know my history like my current doctors do).

3. Do nothing different, continue to take Imuran and present levels, and repeat the blood tests as soon as I get back. Aggressively treat it then if my results come back still out of range while my doctor has complete access to me.

We discussed the options for a bit and then I decided on option 3. Liver disease is, thankfully, a slowly debilitating disease. My numbers are really not so bad as compared with people who are in end-stage liver disease (their ALT and AST numbers are in 1000s typically-- I'm far from that). It took around 5 months for my numbers to go from in-range to where they are now, so there is plenty of time to treat aggressively and get everything back on track. I am flying to SJ shortly. Not knowing how I'm going to react to upping my meds (or anything possibly more aggressive that we might come up with), would possibly cause me to have to miss my trip or be susceptible to everything I come in contact with along the way and while I'm there. Lastly, we are both incredulous that these results are not somehow a fluke. Yes, they might be high and we need to treat it, but going from high 30s/low 40s to 4 times that amount in a few months? Possible, but possibly influenced by other sources. Possibly one of the cold medications I was on trying to beat the cold I had helped lower my liver function. Maybe it is an adverse reaction to one of my other medications, a food, or something else external.

One of the great things about my doctor is that he shows me his concern and he is quick to act... when it is necessary. He doesn't panic over one bad test, even if it is very bad, as this one was. He wants to see trends and consistency before he does anything that is going to affect me unduly. Too often doctors react to one bad test and over medicate or over diagnose without taking the entire history into account-- and the patient winds up worse than before. My doctor knows my history and knows that this is very unusual for me. Better to see if my meds will calm this down and get it back under control and repeat the blood tests in a couple of weeks than to panic now and possibly do something even more destructive in trying to solve the current issue.

I am comfortable and confident in this decision. I'll start panicking in 3 weeks if/when my blood tests don't change or get worse, and will ask my doctor to be aggressive in getting things back under control. This way I can still go on my trip to SJ, I don't have to worry more than usual about the illness and muck that I will be exposed to at the airport and on the airplanes, and I don't have to remember any new treatments. We'll wait and see what happens, and then treat as required.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscars, 2008

My general, quick-hit thoughts:

- Where was Brad Renfro in the In Memoriam list? He died within the Feb 1, 2007 to Jan 31, 2008 time frame (Jan 15, 2008). Did I just not see him on the list?

- Katherine Heigl looked awesome in her red dress. Stunning, really. The woman in green from Enchanted was also stunning.

- Why don't they ask the audience to wait to clap until the end of any/all of the presentations? It just sounds bad when the audience claps for some nominees or some of the In Memoriam people and not others. Wait until the end.

- John Stewart did a very nice job. Kept things going, had a few killer jokes, and had one of the better moments giving the woman from Once the chance to give her speech (which was one of the best speeches of the night, by the way).

- Tilda Swinton deserved the win for Supporting Actress. She was incredible. And she had one of the better speeches for the evening, referencing George Clooney's turn in Batman.

- I think that any one movie should be limited to one best song nomination. After hearing it, I'm happy that the song from Once won. I have the movie and look forward even more to watching it now.

- I'm happy No Country did so well.

- No one else stood a chance against Day-Lewis this year. No one.

- I'm happy that Bourne won some awards. One of the best all-time action series.

- I still don't completely get why certain people are chosen to present and why people other than the host presents some awards. It would speed things up to have Stewart just present some of them.

- Cream and very light pink dresses don't generally look good on TV on Caucasian women. Cameron Diaz was a prime example (although she didn't look so great herself, either).

- Tom Hanks looks like Tom Hanks again, yay!

- Overall, I thought this was a good Oscars.

Friday, February 22, 2008

CoH, Not Just for Entertainment!

A father posted the following on one of the boards for my favorite game, City of Heroes.

As I sit here to wait for the servers to come back up, it struck me that I could write a little post about Sister Flame.

Sister Flame is the online handle of my middle daughter, currently six years old. She's been playing City of Heroes since she was 4 and 1/2. It was only over the last year we began to team together with my two accounts and have a lot of fun. I thought I let you know what Sister Flame has learned from CoX.

(1) Flame Learned To Read

At the tender age of five, I let Flame play on my second account on my laptop beside me. For a while, I had to tell her what the train destiantions were, what the NPCs were saying and what the villains name were.

It was only mere months before Flame didn't need my help anymore. We were playing one summer evening and I noticed that she wasn't asking me to read things. I looked over at her screen and watched her for a bit. I was intrigued she knew where to go.

"Need any help reading, honey?" I asked.

"Nope. I can read nope. That says Atlas Park and that says Steel Canyon. Those are Clockworks, but I like calling them Clickey Clacks." she replied quite happilly.

Her teacher was quite surprised at the headstart she had on her reading skills. When I informed the teacher that Flame's headstart was the result of playing a superhero online game, I got the weirdest look. Oh well.

Now, at six, I can hear Flame reading slowly over the mission text and the NPC dialogue. She cannot type yet, but if we get on a team together, I usually do the talking for both of us.

(2) Attitude Matters; Not Age.

From time to time, I get a little impatient with my daughters. I do recall the one evening I was unwell, but Flame wanted to play CoH and wanted to get on a big team.

"I'm too sick to play, so you'll have to do it by yourself." I told her, thinking that she'd never figure it out or get booted quickly if she did get invited to a team.

I laid down on the bed and closed my eyes to rest. Twenty minutes later, I stretched and asked Flame how she was doing.

"Good. I am in a big team." she told me.

"Oh yeah?" I asked.

"Yep. People keep joinging, but I think they're playing soccer." she says.

"Why is that?"

"I keep seeing the word 'kick'."

I rolled off the bed and scrolled back through the chat. Apart from several comments about Flame's excellent control and attack with her Fire Blaster, I see several conversations/arguments with some idiots who joined the team and did something really stupid. Most of them wound up being kicked by the leader. I also notice that every so often, Flame has written 'ty'.

"What's the 'ty' for?" I asked.

"Thank you. You type it sometimes. Everytime I see 'Flame', I type it. They like it."

I watched Flame play for another twenty minutes. No one in the group had a clue to her age and she played her role as any good team member should: waiting for 'Go' or 'Ready' before attacking, saving her Rain of Fire for large groups and giving inspirations to thoes that needed it.

Finally, I had to type a message for Flame.

"Thank you all for the team. This is Flame's dad. She has to get up for Grade 1 tomorrow and needs to go to bed. She says you were all great."

I still love typing that message and watching the responses. Most are 'lol' or 'what?!'. One time, a player typed 'Wow. I wonder if my poodle could play.'. All in good fun.

(3) Playing Coh Is Just Like Playing House a.k.a Imagination Is Power.

Flame has always had a decent imagination, but it has improved a lot since she has been playing Coh. She likes to spin stories about her toons and give them a backstory. This has translated well to her schoolwork when she has been asked to do creative writing assignments. She has also developed a healthy curiousity into some of the groups in CoH. Some of the things she has asked me are:

"Why do Skulls hang out in Perez Park?"

"How come the Clockworks don't attack cars or make nasty cars to attack people?"

"Why are Trolls green?"

"Where do the Outcasts get their power?"

Now, she makes up toons with funny names (to us anyways), but good backgrounds. Among some of her mains are Takes Care Of Pets (A MM with two mercenaries: Cat, Dog), Takes Care Of Bats (A PB with Bat Wings) and of course, Sister Flame (a Fire Blaster with her partner, Brother Frost [me]).

So, if you ever run across a Fire Blaster named Sister Flame on Freedom, chances are its my daughter havign fun, but learning many things at the same time. Feel free to team with her, but don't be a "poopyhead" (her words, not mind).

Ciao!

P.S. She is working on her typing skills, so if you see her say "Go", "Go", "Go" about twenty times, don't worry. It's only 1 of about 100 words she can spell.

I think it is wonderful that he has found something he can enjoy with his children. It is also great how much his children have grown and changed playing the game; learning the story of the game, becoming more creative, and learning the values of good team work. I have, on some rare occasions, found that I was playing with a very young player. Many of the times I was surprised. Sometimes I could tell the person was young. I usually try to be nice to everyone and helpfully suggest tactics and things to help the team be more effective, so don't really care what age the person playing is. I have had more than one father/mother thank me for my patience with their child.

This is yet more proof that it is the person, not the activity, that makes something a "waste of time" or something worthwhile and possibly educational. One more example I can use in my arguments against those who say that playing video games is bad, evil, or worthless.

Go get 'em, Sister Flame!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Broiler

So, frankly, for the longest time I thought the drawer under the stove was simply for pan storage. That was all my mother ever used it for-- I can't remember her doing anything with that drawer except place pots and pans.

I recently had cause to eat some dishes that were broiled. Each of them were quite tasty and surprisingly moist. So it caused me to wonder about this strange, alien cooking technique called "broiling." I spent some time today, in between doing actual work for my company, looking up broiling, and determining what might be the best course of action. It was during this time that I discovered that broiling, in addition to be something you can do in the main stove region of a conventional oven, can be accomplished in that little "storage drawer" at the bottom of a gas (and some electric) stove. You can imagine my surprise. I further learned that the drawer's front actually can rotate down to ease access for cooking using the broiler. And that funny pan with the slots that is always in that storage drawer? It has a purpose in broiling!! Aha!

Deciding to use it, I thawed some steaks over the day and they were ready when I was done with work. I used Mrs. Dash on both sides of each, seared them on the stove while the broiler warmed up, and then I followed the instructions I read online and put the thick steaks into the broiler for 12 minutes on the first side and 10 on the second side.

While not as good as grilled, I am very pleasantly surprised at how good they turned out. I was afraid that the steaks I was using were freezer-burned a little around the edges, but the broiling seems to have helped ease the damage done by that. The meat is still a little tough, but certainly not as tough as if I had fried them up or grilled them, so bonus. The internal meat is nicely pink and the outside is blackened but not overly burned. I'm sure I'll get better at that as I use this new-found technique.

Color me surprised.

I have expanded my cooking repertoire another notch and look forward to figuring better ways of using this feature of my stove.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Tivo Woes

I don't realize how much I rely on my Tivo until something isn't working correctly. Yesterday I watched a downloaded Amazon Unbox movie and today-- some of my network-related features are not available at all. One of my Unbox items is just gone. Some of my home network features are simply not there.

I did the usual tests, restarted the Tivo, double-checked all the network controls, and then called Tivo Support. Within minutes I was on the phone with Shawna. She pinged my Tivo, did not see anything wrong with my services from her end, and then had to put me on hold while she spoke with her manager. Turns out that they have experienced a server outage with certain servers that only run the network functions, like the Swivel Search, Amazon Unbox, and certain transfer and related services. Their techs are working on it and hope to have those network services up and running in 24 hours. It was great to discover these services are not available on their end and that the fault is not on mine. I was worried that something had gone wrong in the OS or with my network.

M had a similar issue recently; her Tivo, my old single-tuner one, started acting really strangely. It rebooted, lost connections, didn't react to things correctly, and was making a lot of noise. Being a tech person herself, she was able to make some analysis which led her to believe the hard drive was failing. We went through my friends at Weaknees.com and she got a new hard drive and fan for the unit, installed it, and everything was okay. But for those 4-5 days while she performed her analysis and then waited for the parts to arrive, she was a bit lost-- she also hadn't realize how much she had come to rely on the Tivo and all of its wonderful tools and features. She was beside herself until she fixed it and everything turned out okay.

The Tivo makes things so easy. It is far superior to any VHS recorders and most PC DVR functions. Some of the newer DVRs from cable companies and the like have just as good systems, however, most of those are ripping of Tivo's services (and a few lawsuits have been used by Tivo to correct this). When comparing a DVR, the companies always compare theirs to Tivo-- the best general DVR system available. This ease of use and powerful scheduling service is exactly what makes it so hard to do without when/if something goes wrong.

Now I just have to wait until the systems come back online from their end and I should have all my functionality back. Just have to be patient and not get a huge urge to download from Unbox or Swivel Search a favorite actor.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Movie Night Follow Up

The theater is older, with a screen set high up enough that you have tilt your head back and no stadium seating. But for $3.00 total cost to get in and watch Michael Clayton, well worth it. Our theater probably held about 200 people and it was pretty full. All but the first three rows were mostly full.

Michael Clayton was interesting-- I am not sure I think it qualifies as a Best Picture movie, although it is quite well acted, directed, and photographed. No Country for Old Men was far superior in comparison, for example. And Juno was this movie's equal in most aspects. However, I thought Tom Wilkerson and Tilda Swinton were incredible in their roles. I am scratching my head over George Clooney being nominated for an Academy Award. He was good, don't get me wrong, but one of the of the five best of the year? Hmm. I use some possibly faulty reasoning when I am thinking about who should be nominated for a Best Actor award: did the person do a good job in and of itself? Yes. Clooney provided a nuanced and subtle performance. Could anyone else be placed in the role and do as well or better? Yes. I saw nothing special or unique in Clooney's performance that someone else could not equal. Can I imagine anyone else in the role and liking the movie even more? Well, yes. I think someone older, like Clint Eastwood, could have really nailed this role. Does the person make those around him/her better? No. If anything, Wilkenson and Swinton made Clooney's acting better and stronger, not the other way around.

Another problem I had was the fact that it starts by showing you a bit of the future, then goes back four days and you see how those images come about. This is, in my opinion, one of the absolute worst things you can ever do in a movie. It never works, it doesn't work here, and takes a lot of the emotional and physical jeopardy out of the scenes until the movie syncs back up with itself. There are two assassins in the movie, but I never worried for the main star because I knew he survived anything they did until we reached the sync-point. However, if they had just told the story from day one, scene one and gone forward, I would not have been sure of anyone's survival and it would have given even more emotional impact to the scenes of Tilda Swinton crying, shaking, and sweating through her suit that come later (just to name one).

Secondly, while I appreciate them not telling us everything about everyone and letting the audience figure things out, the story itself could have been made slightly more clear. All those rooms full of lawyers tend to blur together and it is easy to lose track of the story and who is on which side (M complained of this; I felt I followed it okay, but think it could have been clearer).

Thirdly, throughout the movie we are told about how great Clooney's character is at "fixing" for this law firm. However, in both his personal life and in the law firm, he absolutely sucks at it for most of the film. I found that incongruity a bit unsettling and it didn't make a lot of sense to me.

Lastly, the payoff at the end is well worth it. Swinton and Clooney play off each other and bring a quality and satisfying end to what could have been a movie without much point. However, I'm not certain all audiences will want to climb the proverbial mountain to get to that payoff.

I would rate the movie a solid B+ or maybe an A- on my scale. A very good movie, but with some flaws. I would rate the theater a solid C-- flawed theater and one that I wouldn't want to go to often, but with great prices and good enough sound and picture to make me go back.

Movie Night

It has been a long time since I have had to wait in any sort of significant line at a movie theater. We have so many theaters around, and so many of them have multiple screens (I have two with over 20 screens within 7 miles of here, and two more with 10 or more within 5), that it usually isn't necessary to wait in a line. You want to see the latest blockbuster? Go anywhere and you can find it playing without a line. Simple.

Tonight M and I were planning an impromptu date night. After church we were going to head over to the nearby, recently discovered dollar movie theater and watch Michael Clayton. The theater is in an older section of Irvine, behind a car wash, and is an older theater that was fairly recently repurposed as a dollar movie theater. Well, to be honest, a "dollar fifty" movie theater (nearly all shows are $1.50).

She joked that it might just be the thing to do in Irvine on a Saturday night. We laughed... and then found out she was right. As we drove into the parking lot I commented that I was shocked at the number of cars in the lot. I hadn't ever seen the parking lot so filled. As we turned down an aisle and started heading toward the theater, we both commented on the number of people. As we got closer, we saw that there were two lines stretching along the sidewalk in front of the theater just for tickets! Since the movie we wanted to see started in less than 15 minutes, and there was no parking in sight, and there were two lines that long, we decided to put our plans on hold. But we drove right by the ticket booth and the lines were long and getting longer by the moment. It really is the thing to do in Irvine on a Saturday! Good call, honey!

So, we headed home, watched episodes of How I Met Your Mother, ate some popcorn, and had a quiet night at home. We are planning to try to go see Michael Clayton at the noon showing on Sunday instead.

I think that other theaters could really learn something. This theater is likely turning people away from shows due to the price and the size of the theaters; while you can go see the latest blockbusters it is rare that the shows are sold out. This theater is making up for the price in the volume of customers, while the deluxe, super-modern, multiplexes are having to raise prices continually to make up for the falling attendance. You wonder how much better the stadium 10 across the street from me would do if they would just lower the tickets by $2 per show; I would bet that they would make up in attendance volume the money they would lose on the initial ticket price. If you have a 100 seat theater and can only half-fill it at $10 a ticket, by lowering the price to $8 you only have to have 12 additional people show up per show to make up the price difference-- I would hazard that is fair bet to make. And when word gets around that your theater is $2 cheaper than the others around for first-run movies-- you'll have more than 12 people per show showing up!


Thursday, February 07, 2008

Heath Ledger

While I am still sad that Heath Ledger is dead, I am happy that it has been ruled an accidental overdose by the coroner. I hated the thought that another bright young star may have killed himself for reasons unknown. It also points out the ease with which a person can get and use prescribed drugs exactly as ordered but with unexpected and deadly consequences.

By all accounts, Ledger was suffering from insomnia and anxiety or depression. Some of it brought on by the roles he took, some by his personality, and some by the life he was leading at the time. His breakup from Michelle Williams, I'm sure, played some role. You can't have a long-term relationship and a child and break up without some effect on your life. Published reports said that he was having a hard time "letting go" of the Joker persona, who is, in this version, much darker, scarier, and amoral than in other portrayals on film and TV. And, frankly, a certain type of personality tends toward acting and those personality types also tend toward instability and somewhat reckless or egotistical behavior. I do not know if Ledger was one of these, but if he was, this could have played a part as well. I have read some reports that Ledger may have suffered migraines or nagging headaches as well, although I'm having trouble finding any supporting information for this.

It seems that Ledger managed to get a lethal cocktail of drugs from reputable doctors and pharmacies. He likely assumed, as many people do, that the doctors would know of any drug interactions between the medications and thought they were safe. Or, maybe, like many people, Ledger didn't think about drug interactions and failed to tell doctor X that he was on medication Y for problem Z. That sort of knowledge may have changed the drug of choice for the new doctor. He may also have assumed that the pharmacy information or talking to a pharmacist would be enough; pharmacists do their best to ensure the safety and health of the medications they prescribe, but there is only so much they can do. It also appears from reports that at least a couple of the medications were prescribed in England during his stay there filming The Dark Knight or his newest film with Terry Gilliam. This might mean Ledger didn't even think to mention the other medications he had to this new doctor-- he had a problem and this doctor tried to solve it.

Yes, I realize I am leaving out the fact that he may have purposely tried to get these medications for the sole purpose of getting high. From what I'm reading, this was not Heath Ledger's intent. By all accounts, he was past that phase of his life, was trying to be a good dad, and had a lot to live for and many plans for the future.

Reports indicate that the amounts of each medication were within the prescribed limits for each. However, the combination of the drugs caused an unsafe reaction in Ledger's body which ultimately caused him to pass out (rather than just sleep), his breathing slowly became more depressed until he ceased breathing, and his heart stopped. I see a scenario where Ledger may have had a headache, or some other pain, and he takes an Oxycontin for the pain. He then tries to go to bed and can't sleep, so takes a couple of his sleep medications. He still can't sleep and realizes he is having undue anxiety, so pops a couple of those pills to allay that problem. All perfectly reasonable and justifiable, but deadly nonetheless. Or some similar combination of very reasonable events causes an unsafe mixture of these medications to be taken.

While I mourn the loss of a talented actor, I hope his death will serve to show people that prescription drugs are not to be taken lightly and that full disclosure is needed when obtaining a new prescription. Taking too many medications, or taking an unsafe combination, can result in a trip to the emergency room or worse. This is especially true for children who get into mom and dad's medicine cabinet and "sample" a little of everything.

Be safe and be smart about prescription drugs.

Paper or Plastic?

Many stores are moving toward asking you to purchase your own cloth bags and use them whenever you go to the store for groceries (or, frankly, other stores). While doing this, over the last few years, many stores have been producing smaller, thinner, lighter plastic bags.

The main reasons that I have gleaned for this change is that the plastic bags are environmentally unfriendly. They don't biodegrade  worth a damn and are filling up our trash and landfills with needless plastic. In addition, all plastics are made from petroleum, so the costs of producing the bags has increased since the oil barrel costs have skyrocketed.

For many years the only choice a person had when going to the grocery store was to get paper bags. Paper bags are tough, hold more than the new sizes of the plastic, and are generally easier to place in your car due to the regular rectangle shaped bottom. In addition to all of these advantages, paper biodegrades fairly easily in landfills, as many insects and some plants like to "feast" on paper and, specifically, the cellulose that makes up a major component of paper. Now, granted, most paper sacks do not have handles, so are a little more awkward to carry. Lastly, while originally paper manufacturers used clear-cutting methods to make their products, that has pretty much gone away. Nearly all paper manufacturers now replant, manage their tree lots in environmental safe ways, and use a ton of recycled material in all their products.

In addition to its use as a grocery carrier, a paper sack can also be used as impromptu drawing paper for children, package wrapping, and cooling trays for cookies. I'm sure many other uses are out there, too, but those are some of what I have used them for.

At my local Albertsons, it turns out, they have the paper bags in a small cupboard in the bagging area of the checkout stand and you just have to ask for them.

Sometimes the old ways are as good, or even better than, the new ones. If you are concerned about the environment and don't want to buy your own bags, try asking for paper at our local grocery store. They may just have the bags handy and you may find them useful to keep after they have served their original purpose.


Wednesday, February 06, 2008

No Country

This contains spoilers. Matter of fact, I ONLY discuss the very end of the movie No Country for Old Men, so if you haven't seen it, stop reading now.

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I didn't like the very end of No Country and have said so. Specifically, I didn't understand the writer/director choice of having the villain get hit by a car and the subsequent interaction with the two boys.

Four different people to whom I said "I didn't like the ending. I didn't understand the choice they made ..." have all given me some variation of their explanation for it and why I should like it (luckily, a fifth person who knows I didn't care for the ending, Lisa, did not say this-- I guess she understands that not everyone has the same perception of a movie).

Let me set the record straight (or, at least, straighter).

First, throughout the entire movie we are shown that the villain is "Lawful Evil" -- i.e., while he couldn't give a damn about people in general and has no problem killing rather indiscriminately, he has a code by which he lives and he doesn't sway from it. So, for example, he gives the gas station owner an out and stands by it. He gives the cowboy an option of handing back the money and his wife would live or running and his wife would die. We, the audience, understand that he actually means it. The cowboy, unfortunately, doesn't know this (not that I think it would make a difference to the cowboy). We see him kill his "boss" when the boss appears to betray him.

Secondly, we are also shown repeatedly that the villain is machine-like in that he just keeps going no matter how injured he is. He sutures up his own shot leg. He shoots the new bounty hunter who appears to be horning in on his bounty. Even when he gains a grudging respect for the cowboy, he still will not offer a deal that doesn't involve the cowboy's death. He simply will not be swayed and he will not be stopped.

So, I perfectly understand him going to the wife's house at the end and, presumably, killing her in a fairly nasty manner. What I don't agree with is the villain getting into an accident as he leaves her house. We already know that the guy is unstoppable, so having him so injured and walking away does nothing new or different. We already know that he has honor, so his interaction with the two boys doesn't teach us anything new. The entire movie was founded on the idea of the "real-life" struggle and how dangerous everyday life can be-- so we don't need to see him get in the accident in the first place.

Now, if he had been killed in the accident and that was how he came to "justice," I could get behind it. How many villains in real life have only come to justice by a fluke or odd coincidence? That's just life-- these people tend to be smart and self-sufficient and only get caught by a fluke or when their ego overcomes their common sense.

If we have him leaving the house and driving away (sans accident) and then cut to the disillusioned and having a hard time letting go cop, and then fade to black, I would be in agreement-- the cop is uneasy in his retirement and wondering about the "one(s) that got away" and whether he could still be doing it and making a difference to others. Okay, I'm behind this. I know some current and former cops-- this is real life again and would make for a great ending.

I'm a pretty smart guy and I watch a lot of movies. I understand the choices and nuances that most movie-makers make. I just don't understand the Coen brothers' choice in this particular instance and for this particular two minute (or so) scene. I think the rest of the movie is masterfully done. I simply disagree with this scene. You don't have to explain it to me or act like I'm an idiot for not liking or agreeing with it. Every reason for the scene anyone has explained to me I have provided an equally compelling reason as to why it wasn't needed; as I said up earlier, we know all of the information that is presented in this scene so it doesn't add anything new to the movie and is superfluous (to me).

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Sneaky Little Details

I decided to start my taxes this weekend. I like to get them done early, e-file, and get the money back (if any) deposited directly into my accounts. Fast, easy, efficient.

Ran into a stumbling block this year-- I got married and to someone who isn't American and does not have a Social Security Number (SSN). Turns out that either a) we need to get her one, if possible, or b) we need to get her an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). From the looks of things, the ITIN will be the easier thing to get and I can turn in my taxes with the form that asks the IRS to procure her the number.

Now I require my wife to bend over backward to get me the necessary supporting documentation, get it back to me with the signed form, so I can do my taxes. And, of course, it is not like she's the least bit busy at work and at home these days. *sarcasm

I'm just glad I do my taxes early, otherwise we would be finding this information out at the last minute, I would have to file for an extension, and we would have to jump through even more hoops.

Our marriage and relationship is complicated enough as we struggle to be together and overcome those issues. We don't need other things like this cropping up. At least, from what she's said, her Canadian taxes are much simpler in this regard. For me, though, it is makes a huge monetary difference filing as Married as opposed to Single (and a big difference between Joint and Separate). So it is worth the hassle. Hopefully this time next year I will be in Canada, we will have all of this information, and filing will be simple. We'll see.