Thursday, March 25, 2010

Limping towards Blogoversary:
T-minus 7 days and counting

I'm used to being busy. I am often extremely busy - as in, busier than most people (i.e. anyone else I can think of at the moment) care for. That doesn't normally affect my ability to focus myself; in fact, oftentimes having too much to do focuses me into a living laser. But I've been rather scattered lately.

My Dad's cancer diagnosis and surgery moved things into a different realm since the last weekend of February. Not because there was so much more to do - the change was due more to that fact that I ended up spending a good deal of time away from home (which meant less time to deal with all my normal commitments) coupled with a new set of issues which occupied my mind but concerning which there was little that I could actually do (other than prayer and remaining calm).

This probably makes it sound as though I was more worried about the whole situation than I felt (on the whole). Although I had a few dark moments, I felt that things would turn out OK - and knew that maintaining my composure was the right thing to do, even if the worst should happen. I had long ago steeled myself to the fact that my father (an overweight smoker with high blood pressure) could take his leave of this mortal coil with little or no warning - so facing that real possibility wasn't something I had never considered. Still, I like the world a lot better with my Dad still in it - so I'm quite gratified that his surgery was (seemingly) so successful.

He still has chemotherapy in his near future. In the weird logic of modern medicine, once he is healed up from this major surgery, his oncologist will begin to introduce toxic chemicals into his system to attack any cancer-like cells. Let's hope that the chemicals attack the "bad cells" and leave the "good ones" relatively undisturbed.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to getting my groove back. I need some exercise. I need some sleep. I need to get prepared for Easter. I need to prepare the basement for our new TV.

And I need to write a few more decent posts before my Blogoversary.
T-minus 7 days and counting.

Take care.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

RTT: Limping towards Blogoversary

  • As of next week, I will have been doing this for a year. And when I say "doing this", I mean "having a blog" rather than "writing a blog"- cause my track record on the latter has been pretty weak since October*.

  • My dad has lung cancer. (If you read the Middle-Aged Woman, you probably know that already.) To be more precise (or maybe the word is "optimistic"), my dad HAD lung cancer - but the surgeons removed it - along with half of his left lung and some lymph nodes. (Hopefully Dad will cut me some slack on this egregious HIPAA violation...) He was released from the hospital yesterday - the fifth day following surgery! That was good news - but rather a surprise, since he thought he would be in the hospital for a week to ten days. I am expecting to visit him in Dayton again this coming weekend - if the Lord's willing and the creek don't rise.

  • I had every intention of completing my mini-reviews of the last three films viewed as part of The Plan (The Blind Side, Avatar, and The Last Station - which were all good, by the way) but as more time has passed since the Oscar telecast, I wonder if anyone is still interested. I may do it for my own strange reasons, of course - but my motivation has not been good lately.

  • I bought a large TV last week. (If you read the MAW, you know that already too.) I really do owe debt of gratitude to Larry at OneCall for his consideration regarding the purchase. Amazon advertised an incorrect price for the TV - and I was the only person on the planet to place an order for that item during the few minutes that the erroneous pricing was in place. Larry and OneCall could have decided to nix the sale - but they decided to honor the advertised price despite the error. Once I take delivery on the set, I plan to do a more lengthy writeup on both the TV and OneCall to point out the excellent service they provided me - despite selling the TV at a loss.

  • As a result of buying the new TV and a Blu-Ray player to go with it, I'm planning to give my Roku player to my dad so he can stream Netflix movies and my Major League Baseball subscription to his TV. My Blu-Ray is able to stream Netflix, so I shouldn't need the Roku anymore.

  • I was the master of ceremonies at a fund-raiser on Sunday for the Joy-Southfield Community Development Corporation, an organization spearheaded by my church (Second Grace United Methodist) not quite 10 years ago. One of the major initiatives of the JSCDC was establishment of a free health clinic that was originally housed in our church and later moved to a new building constructed across the street. It was a wonderful occasion - and appropriate that our event should take place that Congress finally enacted comprehensive health care legislation. Plus I bought a nice bracelet for my wife at the silent auction.

  • Did I mention that my TV is currently in Fridley, Minnesota?

Take care.

PS: Go visit Keely at the Un-Mom willya?!

Please? Come on - do it for me. Do it for Keely!

* I should probably go all the way back to August. But I did hit (low) double-digits for my posts in October.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Plan: Four down...three more to go

The Plan: I have decided to see these seven films before the Academy Awards broadcast on Sunday night, March 7 -

An Education [I saw this one on 2/21- click the link for my review]

☐ Avatar

☐ The Blind Side

Crazy Heart [I saw this one on 2/20- click the link for my review]

☐ District 9

The Hurt Locker [I saw this one on 2/26- click the link for my review]

☐ The Last Station

Last night, I saw...

District 9 - (Jim Styro's mini-review)

Whoa Nellie!

Director Neill Blomkamp's first feature film is a concoction that is part "prison break", part "man-on-the-run", part "bank heist", part "concentration camp" and part "documentary" sprinkled liberally over a bed of sci-fi (including homages from everything to David Cronenberg's The Fly to The Phantom Menace to Close Encounters of the Third Kind). It's got everything - plus the kitchen sink! All this with an underlying rumination on apartheid - to be more accurate, the question: If the creature is different enough from you, is it OK to treat him (her, it) like crap?

There's a lot going on in District 9, which is both a blessing and a curse. The film hurtles you directly into a world where mankind's first encounter with an alien race occurs in Johannesburg, South Africa - which gives a whole new meaning to the term "third world". The hectic nature of the movie's opening will be hard for some viewers to take in (I kept reminding myself that I was watching a film nominated for Best Picture) - but if you like a flick that is crammed full of ideas, you won't be disappointed. The "little green men" here (OK, they're really big ugly-looking bug-things) haven't come to be take over our planet - or be our friends - they just ran out of gas on their way home. And by the time we humans get around to cutting them out of their mothership, most of them are dead or dying. As a result, Soweto gets a new ghetto, this one filled with aliens, called "District 9".

I won't even attempt to outline the plot (beyond my helpful hints in the opening paragraph). This is a messy film - in every sense of the word. But once we get inside District 9, the action does begin to draw you in for a bumpy ride. The movie does have a number of gross-out moments - but the overall effect of District 9 is so unreal that, at times, it's like watching someone else playing Halo (or some other first-person shooter video game). And the movie features a good performance by Sharlto Copley as Wikus, who goes from being the bumbling husband of the boss' daughter put in charge of an operation beyond his abilities to a man desperately trying to retain/reclaim his humanity. He also gets style points for trying to imbue the word "f*ck" with the most dramatic impact since The Big Lebowski.

If you're a sci-fi fan, you're probably gratified that the Academy has recognized District 9 with a Best Picture nomination. I don't put it in the same level with the other nominees I have seen so far - but some of that is just a matter of taste, after all.

Take care.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Plan: Three down...four more to go

"Previously on Speaking In CAPS..."

I have decided to see these seven films before the Academy Awards broadcast on Sunday night, March 7 -

An Education [I saw this one on 2/21- click the link for my review]

☐ Avatar

☐ The Blind Side

Crazy Heart [I saw this one on 2/20- click the link for my review]

☐ District 9

☐ The Hurt Locker

☐ The Last Station

Last Friday night, I saw...

The Hurt Locker - (Jim Styro's mini-review)

There are certain types of movies that I don't necessarily look forward to seeing: anything with scenes of extreme violence or gore, horror films, and (most) modern gangster or war films. I admit it - I'm squeamish. And I shy away from films where you can tell something bad is going to happen sooner or later (oftentimes the badness arrives early and often) and the only remaining questions are: when will it occur and how bad will it be?

But a Best Picture nomination still carries some weight with me (although not as much weight now that there are ten films nominated rather than five*), so I steeled myself in preparation for viewing The Hurt Locker, knowing that there would moments in the film that would be difficult for me to watch - but hoping that the film would be worth the trouble. As Don Henley once asked, "Are you with me so far?"

The Hurt Locker follows a three-man bomb disposal squad through the last month and a half of a year-long tour-of-duty in Iraq. Staff Sgt. James, the team leader, is a man who seems to know no fear. He works instinctively, with little regard for protocol - and loves his work in a way that even he does not understand. Sgt. Sanborn is a soldier of nearly equal experience - but he rankles at the unnecessary risks which his team leader seems to thrive upon. Specialist Eldridge is the youngest and most impressionable of the trio. Although he has known and worked with Sanborn longer, he is drawn to James' bravado and seeming invincibility. As their remaining days in Iraq dwindle down, the sense of tension mounts. How long will their luck hold out in the face of such carnage?

Director Kathryn Bigelow has crafted a film was doesn't seem crafted at all. Rather, it makes the viewer a participant and creates the sense of being present in the action, with the sense of danger and foreboding that are an everyday part of the team's work. While the movie certainly has a point of view, it does not have an overt agenda. It does not seem to judge the soldiers, the Iraqis, or even the conflict itself. The only objective is survival - in an environment that seems to make that objective an impossibility.

Although the performances in The Hurt Locker are uniformly excellent, the three leads (Jeremy Renner, Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty) must carry the picture - and their work together makes us believe that these very different young men comprise a team so tight-knit that we civilians can scarcely comprehend the nature of their brotherhood. The film portrays a type of warfare unique to our present day, with three men going into battle seemingly (and, in some cases, quite literally) alone. The isolation of The Hurt Locker's action stands in stark contrast to what we would expect in a World War 2 or Vietnam era film, where these exploits would feature groups of 6, 10 or a dozen men. Here, the indelible image is of one soldier walking into certain danger with only a couple of other men to watch his back.

Although it seems ludicrous to me to call The Hurt Locker an "enjoyable" film - it is a memorable movie and one well worth seeing. I won't be surprised to look back and see that this film is viewed as the iconic portrayal of the Iraq war(s) [as some might say of Apocalypse Now and Vietnam, or Saving Private Ryan and World War 2]. It's strong stuff - so be prepared.

Take care.

* It just seems like a blatant move to get more people into the theaters. I mean, were there really twice as many amazingly excellent movies made this year than last year?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

RTT: Lies, all lies...

  • Yesterday, I claimed that I would be posting a review of The Hurt Locker today. But that was clearly b*llsh*t - 'cause you can look as hard as you want and you won't find any review of that film here today.

  • I'm beginning to realize that, whenever I think that I'm getting caught up with all the things I need to do, it's just because I've conveniently forgotten a bunch of stuff.

  • I really did intend to write a review of The Hurt Locker for today. I don't want you to think that I planned all along to disappoint you. I had good intentions.

  • I gave blood this morning. I have O Negative blood (anyone can use it) so I'm very popular with the Red Cross (and bleeding people everywhere). I was once told that my blood is so "clean" (free from contaminants / antibodies that wouldn't be harmful to adults - but would cause problems for children) it can be given to infants.

  • I promise that I'm going to write a review of The Hurt Locker very soon - maybe even tonight.

  • I had planned to write a blog post last night - but I'm on-call this week. So I spent nearly two hours on the phone trying to help someone with remote access to our company network after they went out and purchased a new laptop with Windows 7 that wasn't being cooperative.

  • Did I mention that I have really good veins? For giving blood, I mean. All the Red Cross workers compliment me on my veins.

  • Look - I'm sorry about The Hurt Locker review thing, alright?! Give me a break!

  • The MAW told me last night she has a job interview of Friday (this was quite unexpected). I'm probably not supposed to mention anything about it here - because she may be writing about all that on her blog soon. But I guess it's too late 'cause I already mentioned it.

  • I don't have a job interview this week.

  • But I am planning to write a review of The Hurt Locker. In case that is of interest to you.

Take care.

PS: Go visit Keely at the Un-Mom willya?!

Please? Come on - do it for me. Do it for Keely!

Monday, March 1, 2010

In like a lamb...

Well, winter is about half over where I live. Oh sure - we're having a unexpectedly nice day today.

[Please note the high temp in the 5-day forecast (in the upper right corner) vs. the current actual temperature.]

I'm going to enjoy the day - but I'm not getting my hopes up. March 31st is very likely to feature our biggest snowstorm of the year.

But MORE IMPORTANTLY: Today is my Grandmother's 99th Birthday!

I would say more - but I need to call her now and wish her a Happy Birthday.

Tomorrow: We return to "The Plan" and Jim Styro's mini-review of The Hurt Locker...and much, much more.

Take care.