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What Has It Got In Its Pocketses?

I suppose I’ve not talked about my lasting love for J.R.R. Tolkien’s books before on this blog and that seems terribly neglectful of me.  My first copy of LOTR trilogy is “well loved” in a very Velveteen Rabbit sense, and though I’ve replaced it with a softcover and a beautiful leather version, I still can’t bear to get rid of the originals, even though their covers have fallen off, spines have been taped and the front pages feel almost fabric-y.

I had some complaints about the LOTR trilogy adaptation as the films went on, but I’ve mostly been able to reconcile them as almost different retellings.

Which leads us to FUCK YES, it’s The Hobbit.

I’m not sure how many times I’ve rewatched this trailer; I’m terribly excited and I like that they seem to be doing it as a frame story.

Of course, they’re already making me nervous; why the hell is Galadriel in the trailer?  I’m also not wild about how the makeup on Dori, Nori and Ori look; plus does Thorin look like only half-dwarf to anyone else?  But I choose to be optimistic.

Can you promise that I will come back?

No.  And if you do, you will not be the same.

HOBBITS! HOBBITS! HOBBITS!

How Awesome is Tucker and Dale vs Evil?

So awesome.

Thrack and I used to be able to catch more movies during Sundance in the past, but for the last few years, we’ve mainly seen a couple of the competition winners at the end.  So we weren’t able to see to Tucker and Dale vs. Evil when it was at Sundance and the short art house run didn’t work with our schedule, so we finally watched it over the weekend once it was released on disc.  It did not disappoint.

If you haven’t heard of the movie before and want to know what it’s about, think hilarious inverse Deliverance where everything is basically misunderstanding.  (Side note, I prefer to think of Deliverance as friends once collectively re-imagined it with running commentary: a zombie movie.  Try it, it’s fun!)  If you need more inducement, it stars Wash from Firefly and Sock from Reaper.

He’s heavy for half a guy.

Seriously, watch it.

The Follow-Up Movie to the Coming of Age Movie

I was an unusual child of the ’80s, enough so that Thrack at times insists I didn’t actually grow up with everyone else in my peer group, but rather in some odd time-isolation bubble of my family’s creation.  I confess I have some significant gaps in knowledge and experience that continue to flabbergast or surprise others, but I sometimes feel like not having the same nostalgia for cultural elements allows me to look at them objectively and that can be fun too sometimes.

Over this weekend during my continuing skin disaster and Thrack’s badly timed respiratory infection (which I do. not. want.) we watched a couple of movies.  (Yes, we’re kind of movie people, somewhere between somewhat-artsy-circuit films and people who sneer at Oscar-bait films as snooty intellectual masturbation.)  For the first time in my life, I watched Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

I am aware enough this and other John Hughes films to know of them a definitive slice of film history and culture (and of greater American popular culture as well) but either because my parents weren’t of the right age/temperament to share them with me or because they perhaps knew I’d resent gender themes in say, Sixteen Candles or Pretty in Pink, I simply skated past them in happy ignorance.  The type of coming of age film that arguably defined the generation half a step before mine was lost on me except in very fuzzy theory.  I am now a little less ignorant of that whole element.

I don’t have a lot so say about the actual movie itself; it’s a film that has been parsed, analyzed and generally beloved for being a happy and life-affirming statement.  It was more interesting to me as a starting discussion point about coming of age films and the perennial cultural role they play, rather than as a specific example to be dissected.

Odd as it sounds, I feel like this movie helps me understand a larger arc of film history I’ve seen play out in my lifetime.  I think I’ve figured out a second set of films now, as basically a follow up to the fairly optimistic coming-0f-age lesson film that Hughes did so well.  I call it the Nick-Hornby-Grow-the-Fuck-Up-and-Deal-With-Life film.

Now it doesn’t necessarily have to be based on a Nick Hornby book, but I feel like the timing his books and subsequent film adaptations (and others that have similar themes) suggest that they are in large part a reaction to what we are told by the ultimately optimistic coming of age narrative of the 80’s.  It turns out that despite what you were led to believe, life after high school doesn’t just fall into place the way you think it’s supposed to and you have to come to grips with disappointed hopes, complicated (real) relationships, uniquely personal ideals of achievement, happiness and success.  The Hornby-Grow-the-Fuck-Up movie came from this idea and is highly relateable because it is at its core attempting to address the idea of finding meaning and fulfillment as an adult, and how to deal with the reality shock that sets in when you figure out that daily life can be great, but it’s basically always going to be hard work to get what you really need and want.

High FidelityThe first film that popped into my head as the reactionary post-coming of age movie was unsurprisingly High Fidelity.  It’s one of my favorite movies, and I can see where it borrows from some of the same cinematic elements that were characteristic of Hughes’ films.  It casually and routinely breaks the fourth wall, uses a similar narrative tone and cadence, and contains a celebration of the arts (music rather than fine art as in Ferris Bueller) in daily life.  But it differs significantly in the message.  If the 1980’s coming of age film asks the question, “What do you need to learn about self-discovery for becoming an adult?”  then the reactionary Hornby-Grow-the-Fuck-Up film asks “Now that you’ve figured a few things out about what makes you happy, what are you going to do about it?”

I could have probably called this category a “Clerks II-Grow-the-Fuck-Up film” and been just as accurate, as we see in Kevin Smith’s films both the dissatisfaction with allowing daily drudgery to dictate self worth and satisfaction as well as the vague anxiety of expecting that being a grownup means you finally have your shit together. And Smith’s work itself references the nostalgia of Hughes’ films, even to the point of having characters attempting a trip to the mythical Shermer, Illinois.  But the fact is that while I like Kevin Smith’s films, I find Hornby’s style a bit more to my taste in humor and unapologetic openness in the thoughts and feelings of characters.

Clerks IIPut another way, while Dante and Rob are both flawed but basically charming and good people, I find Rob a bit more appealing and applicable.  It may also be that I relate more to High Fidelity because of the way that it deals with relationships.  Clerks and its subsequent sequel are as much about the importance of platonic friendship and self identity as they are about life partnerships, while High Fidelity is often (I believe unjustly) categorized simply with “romantic comedy” because it very directly deals with romantic relationships past and present and how we often fuck up good things because we expect them to fit in socially defined fantasies.

It is one of my favorite lines in High Fidelity when Rob says that there is always some new pretty girl and idealized fantasy that doesn’t play out, and ultimately can never be substantial enough to deliver what most of us really need in companionship: something comfortable.  Someone who we can be at home with.

I’m tired of the fantasy, because it doesn’t really exist. And there are never really any surprises, and it never really…
Delivers?
Delivers. And I’m tired of it. And I’m tired of everything else for that matter. But I don’t ever seem to get tired of you.

I suppose I’ve always liked movies that are romantic and realistic all at once.  So much of romantic comedy trades in new relationships and what’s exciting/unattainable that it is nothing more than fairytale.  I like when films really recognize what intimacy and love actually look like most of the time; High Fidelity circles around this idea as much as it does around Rob figuring out that if he’d get out of his own way, he has a path to being happy and satisfied with life achievement.

I find the follow up to the coming of age movie a more satisfying film.  And I wonder if the way that new coming of age films are made now is changing precisely because so many people found the films of the 80’s a bit to rosy-glassed.  When I think about a couple of newer films that have a coming of age narrative, Life as a House and The Wackness, it seems like they try to merge both these types of film and have a story that deals both with the transition out of adolescence and real world dissatisfaction and realism.

You Don’t Need a Belt Buckle If You Don’t Have a Belt

Last night, Thrack and I watched Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  I haven’t seen it in so long that most of the details had faded into fuzzy notions of plot, so when I watched it again I could help but be struck by a few things.

The first is that the costuming and set design feel much older and jarring than I remember.  The later Star Trek films with the original series cast have costuming that feels very different and that stay fairly consistent over time.  Even though it came out in 1979, it feels like it could have been a few years earlier.  Space heels and wide collar sweater miniskirt are indescribably bad, but what is with all the open uniform shirts that appear and disappear without a lot of consistency?  Did the air conditioning go out and suddenly everyone needed to be in cool short sleeved shirts?

Thrack observed that it was clear that the ideas for the Next Generation series were already sort of tumbling around.  And looking at the way that the ship had been redesigned, I have to agree.  The engineering section has a lot of elements that carry over to the Next Generation ship design, although it didn’t start for almost another decade.

What I was almost shocked by was how simple the movie was.  As a kid it didn’t seem obvious to me that a good portion of the movie involved slow pan shots of what were super cool new visual effects at the time.  Often with people in space suits floating around freely, without any sense what the hell those people are doing or why they would just be chilling out in space.  It’s actually a kind of boring plot, and I believe I have the moral of the story now:

Never, ever build and send out probes, it will never go well.

Or alternatively:

Don’t build Brainaic.  He will come back and cause problems.

When Did I Become Dependent?

Today is day 7 without internet access at home.  We predicted it wouldn’t be that big of deal because we have smartphones with unlimited data plans (actual unlimited, not the fake unlimited the larger carriers tend to offer).  But turns out there were a few flaws in that idea.

The first is that phone internet doesn’t really translate to providing access to Netflix streaming or the Rachel Maddow show we access through “Internet TV” in Media Center.  It also doesn’t provide connectivity for Steam, which has showed great reluctance to launch and work offline.

The second problem is that my house is located in a Sprinthole.  And my office is giant abstract layercake of concrete rectangles that doubles as a cellular bunker.  So basically the idea that having Android phones would cushion the gap between moving DSL lines last Monday to and having awesome fiber from UTOPIA installed this upcoming Thursday was totally wrong.

I found over the weekend that we really have come to rely on being connected electronically with pretty much everything.  It really must be the future when internet connectivity feels like a necessity, rather than a nice thing to have; also, it makes me feel old that this change basically crept up on us.  We don’t watch much TV, and we never watch live TV (hooray for being able to make the home PC/gaming computer/movie and television playback device into also a DVR) so we found ourselves rather lost on what to do with ourselves when waiting for laundry and whatnot.

We tried to keep ourselves occupied with things like the newly released (and beautiful) Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, but we’ve been rationing it a bit, plus the level we’re on turns and twists in a way that has been making me motion sick and giving Thrack headaches.  We played Castle Crashers until it started causing Thrack headaches.

So in madness, we turned to terrible movies from the early 90’s.  Yesterday we watched both Surf Ninjas and the first Ninja Turtles movie.  Now, I know they were never a beloved part of my childhood, so they don’t have the same patina of nostalgia for me that they do for Thrack, but those are some godawful movies.  I was also struck while watching that there was a homophobic joke in Ninja Turtles that I totally missed when I saw it growing up.  Rationally I know there’s no reason for me to have noticed it was there (the movie came out when I was 7) but it still bugged me that I didn’t notice it.  As for Surf Ninjas, well, it’s simply consistently terrible.

I can’t wait for the tech to come wire the house for fiber optics on Thursday; service will start sometime after that, not sure of the date.  I’ll probably have a long and excited post about the local fiber we’re getting from UTOPIA once it gets up and running.  I get to ditch Comcast and Qwest-soon-to-be-Century-Link and move to what is actually a newer technology, while encouraging the city to invest in local infrastructure.  I’m very excited.

When Did Movie Theaters Start Playing Douche Commercials?

Thrack and I went to a local theater to see the final Harry Potter movie recently.  They contract with an outside service for content and ads prior to previews.  It’s usually innocuous, although heavily subsidized by Sprint sponsorship, and is more or less consistent with the lowest common denominator crap all theaters play before movies.  But then they played this ad.

Within 10 seconds I knew it was a commercial referring to vaginas.  I wasn’t 100% sure what sort of vagina-related product they were selling me, but I knew it had something to do with my reproductive system.  But when it turned out to be a “hygiene” wipe from a company that makes its money selling women the idea that there’s something inherently wrong with their bodies (which necessitates using a douche to minimize the icky nature of our shame caves), I was even more irritated and upset.  I don’t want to see douche ads at the movies any more than I want to see erectile dysfunction medication, tampons or pads, urinary or vaginal infection medication or condoms up on the movie screen.

To be clear, I was not upset because women’s bodies or sexuality or sex itself is shameful and we should protect <hysteria>the children</hysteria> from it.  I have a woman’s body and sexual drive and that’s wonderful.  But we’re already so surrounded by advertisements bombarding us from every angle that I really don’t want to see much of anything but promotion of entertainment media, popcorn, sodas or snacks when I’m in a movie theater.  It basically comes down to making sure your marketing is appropriate for the audience at hand.

The crowds who came to see Harry Potter probably aren’t going to be super impressed by the new Summer’s Eve brand wipes commercial, and people like me who find their products and marketing strategies damaging are going to be more than a little offended.

Douching is bad for your body.  Advertising for douches that purports to be liberating of women (for example the incredibly condescending “how to get a promotion ad“) still trade on the idea that women’s bodies under natural circumstances are smelly, dirty, and generally icky.  Any company that makes profits on making women uncomfortable and unhappy with their healthy genitals is not a company that truly cares about the advancement and equality of women.  Studies have found that women who are unhappy with the appearance of or smell of their crotches tend to be significantly less sexually fulfilled, open and happy than women who are content with their bodies.

Get this crap out of my moviegoing experience.

There and Back Again: Our Roadtrip to SoCal

This is very, very late and I’m sorry.  But I can only say this: it’s over five thousand words.  It includes pictures and cute videos of dogs at the beach.  Feel free to skim as necessary.  I’m putting it up anyway, because I don’t want to have the specter of this monster hanging over future postings.

My Parent's Birds, Mango and Bobber

My cousin got married during the first Weekend in May. And while we were trying to decide on plans to get down and back, we realized that while we had people lined up to watch our pets, my mom had no one to watch her dog. So after checking with my aunt & Grams, we decided to drive down to California with our Midna and my mom’s Bonnie Lass, while an aunt and uncle here in Salt Lake looked after our three collective conures.

Since Salt Lake to Yorba Linda is a long damned drive in one stretch, we opted for a stopover at a really reasonably priced casino in Mequite, NV, that not only accepted pets, but didn’t charge a big fee to have them stay in the room. Two 5 hour (ish) drives is much better than trying to drive straight through, especially when you consider having to pack up, feed/water, potty-break two dogs.

Midna and Bonnie on the Drive

I don’t think either dog had ever been on a long drive before, but my mom’s dog is a much more confident traveler.  Midna it turns out is okay with maybe one long drive between houses she’s staying at, but refuses to eat or poop if you stop over through hotels and the like. She gets quite stressed, and is even pretty hesitant to drink water in the car. We’ve also discovered a whole new set of weird neuroses involving grass. Or rather the need for grass before a she can actually relieve herself. We tried and failed during potty breaks in the desert area behind the hotel room to get Midna to even pee, no matter how long we let her wander or sniff. We even went further away from the area immediately next to the hotel and let her off leash in case that was the problem. It wasn’t. Our solution was to make sure we stopped by a little park maybe half a mile away so she could do her business, but we now know our dog is crazy. Well, crazy in a whole new and exciting way, I guess.

The beginning of May seems to be a nice time to travel through the desert.  With all the rain, we saw blossoms all over, including this very pretty white flower that is much bigger than most the small scrubbish stuff that blooms in the spring.  I have no idea what it is, but they were everywhere on the trip down to California.

Mystery White Flower

We also learned a lesson about this particular hotel and the way that noise and footsteps are magnified through the ceiling above. While I’d definitely stay here as stopover again, I will definitely ask for an upper level room (Midna’s stair anxiety notwithstanding). We didn’t sleep especially well the first night we stayed at the hotel (on the SLC-SoCal leg of the trip) because the dogs took a long time getting used to unexpected noises above them. Lots and lots of growling and barking, mainly on the part of my mom’s beagle. It was a little frustrating and I was a bit irritable the next day.

Bonnie in the Park in Mesquite

May I just take a moment to complain about California drivers? Now people tend to rag on the drivers wherever they live (while assuming they are one of the few good ones) and that’s more or less just human nature.  But I swear, driving in California makes me 10,000 times as anxious and uncomfortable as driving anywhere else I have because they don’t actually behave predictably.  After years of spending childhood summers there, and now having driven there as an adult, I have come to one unifying idea about drivers in California: they do what seems most expedient for them personally without taking anyone else around them into considerations.  It makes for some stress-inducing driving.  It comes into play pretty soon after crossing the border, from what I’ve seen, so I believe there is some sort of bizarre social dynamic at work in training drivers within the state of California that produces scary fucking car operators.

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