Friday, February 29, 2008

Travelogue, day 6

COMING SOON

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Travelogue: Day 5

COMING SOON

Friday, November 30, 2007

Travelogue: Day Four

Coming soon

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Travelogue: Day 3

coming soon

Friday, August 31, 2007

Travelogue — day two: From Mercer to Grove

All right, I got sidetracked for several reasons, not the least of which is that my router back home decided unexpectedly to explode, so I found myself locked out of the internet as soon as I got back home. But never fear, I have at last returned to continue the Travelogue, and here it is!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Travelogue, part one

All right, my annual trip out west to Tacoma has begun, and I'll be chronicling the adventures we have on the journey.


Day One: "Sleep? What's that? Never heard of it!"

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 (yes, I know I'm 2 days behind, but I'll catch up soon)

At 5:00 AM, Dad and I were up and at 'em, and at 5:35, Laura came by to drive us to the airport. We talked on the way about early rising, and Lara said she was so excited by getting up early, how the day was rife with possibilities. I wondered about that.

The flights themselves were uneventful, the layover in Minneapolis disappointingly so. We found out that the Cinnabon branch at the Minneapolis airport had closed down or moved out, and that made us unhappy, so we just sat around, I had a couple of cookies and read. Dad got me this great book "Rebels on the Backlot" about several movie directors (Tarantino, David O. Russell, PT Anderson, Soderbergh, Fincher and Jonze) and how they beat the corrupt Hollywood system and got their visionary movies made during a time when the major studios were starting their decline into sequel factories. I adore stories about independent filmmaking. I was engrossed in the book all the way through both flights.

On the second flight, I took my meds with some soda from the in-flight cart. After that it was just reading, till we finally arrived at the Seattle airport (just after one PM their time). Mom was waiting for us there, and Bob was waiting to drive us all back to their place in Fircrest (my great-aunt Beverly and her husband Bob have this beautiful house in Fircrest, a great neighborhood of Tacoma, which has become our "home base" on these annual trips out west).

I had gotten about 5 hours of sleep the previous night and my sustenance of the day had been a couple of cookies and a can of soda, so I got a bowl of Orzo and some cherries as soon as we got there. It helped that we had been sitting down in the airplane all day, so I wasn't exactly worn out by this time.

It was about that time that I learned there had been a reply to my inquiry. You see, a few days earlier, I had escorted my neighbor to Ratatouille, the new Pixar movie, and been so enthralled by it that I had called ahead and asked if Austin and Marina (my cousins, aged 12 and 9) had seen it yet, and if not, if I might be able to escort them (and Mom) to the movie while I was here. I was pleasantly surprised that they had not seen it yet, and pleased that I was going to be able to show it to them. What really floored me was the news that the event was planned for that very evening at 6:20. I hadn't expected to get it done the day we arrived out here.

Well, they arrived around 4, so we had a couple hours to party. While auntie Bev led Austin and Marina into the dining room for a game of Monopoly, aunt Missy (Austin and Marina's mom) sat me down and talked about her new passion, Second Life. I'd heard of Second Life but never really shown much interest, but some of the elements she talked about sparked some resolve, and I made a note to poke around on the site when I got a chance.

Marina got bored with the Monopoly game (I don't blame her, I lost my love for that game a while back) and she came back into the living room and started pestering me to play Twister with her. Against my better judgement, I acquiesed, and Mom started spinning the old cardboard spinner to tell us where to go.

Let me rattle off a laundry list of the problems: Marina was a shameless cheater, the spinner was old and warped so it kept on landing on the same few spaces over and over again, Marina was cheating, the mat should have been fastened down and Marina cheated. Oh, and did I mention Marina's a cheater? But, in spite of all that, it was fun. I certainly worked off that energy (although my thigh muscles won't forgive me in a hurry).

After that, I showed them some videos I got off ebaumsworld, amongst them was that Roy Raphaeli card trick, that got them talking about magic tricks and wanted me to show a couple of the ones I can do. I did the king-switches-places-with-the-queen-then-they-both-turn-into-jacks trick, then, thankfully, it was movie time.

The previews that preceded the movie were not bad. They were well beyond bad. They were excruciating. As if the thought of a sequel to Daddy Day Care wasn't horrific enough, then they rolled out a preview for a Bratz movie, and a Dreamworks CGI cartoon about talking bees. I was covering my eyes and ears before the end.

Then, finally, we got to the movie itself. The print the theatre was using was in horrible shape, but that made no difference, the movie itself was fantastic. Everything Pixar does is fantastic.

A little side note here: The first time I'd seen Ratatouille, I'd recognized that Anton Ego was a not-so-subtle jab at the film critics reviewing the film ("Go ahead, review this movie negatively and be just like the villain!"), but what I didn't really realize the first time that I saw the second time is that the entire story is a metaphor for the movie industry. At least the animation industry. The food represents animation, and Gusteau's restaurant is Disney. In the movie, Gusteau's restaurant, once a pinnacle of high art and quality product (The Walt Disney Company once made great movies), has sold out after the death of its leader, and is now attaching its leader's face to a line of prepackaged frozen food products (the canned formulaic dreck and sequels that Disney is making now). John Lasseter and his crew see themselves as Remy and Linguini, breathing new life into the bastardized name and reviving its creators ideals to make good art, not canned lowest-common-denominator schlock.

Certainly a message that I can appreciate. John Lasseter and his team, I truly believe, are the best thing to happen to family entertainment in this country in well over a decade. Their dedication to quality over marketability has given Pixar its spotless track record, and now they're reviving Disney just like Remy revives Gusteau's (the Gusteau/Disney metaphor is marred a little by the fact that they felt obliged to portray Gusteau as a friendly, cheerful, warm-hearted character, whereas Walt Disney himself was a complete scumbag, but the movie doesn't really suffer for it).

Anyway, after the movie, we headed back to the house in Fircrest, where I showed Austin and Marina a couple more magic tricks. After I made the mistake of aquiesing to their demands to repeat a trick (professional magicians NEVER repeat a trick more than once per show), naturally on the third try they started to see it. Remember, all aspiring magicians out there: NEVER let your guard down around children. Children are far more observant and imaginative than adults, yes it's counterintuitive but in truth children are much harder to flimflam with sleight-of-hand than grown-ups. Still, even after they guessed the "Invisible Cards" trick, I still beat them eight straight times at the obligatory rigged game of Three Card Monte.

After eight straight games of being unable to find the Queen, Marina became frustrated, and so she decided to headbutt me in the stomach, stomp on me, and hit me repeatedly with sofa cushions.

What else is new?

After a few minutes of hurling soft objects at one another, we headed out to the table on the back patio, where the folks had been barbequeing, and ate steak. I had some corn on the cob and green beans. It was that time of twilight when it's physically impossible to see anything, so I went back in in a hurry. Austin and Marina followed me back in, and of course they started trying to maul me again. I had to pick Marina up and carry her around the house, laughing (she tried to gouge my eyes out and nearly succeeded).

After a while it was time for them to head home (Mom wanted them to clean up the pillows but Marina kept trying to attack me and I kept obliging), and the house was quiet again.

After that, I headed back into the living room with Bev to write, and we stayed up till about 1 AM watching Law & Order. After that I took my Remeron and slid into the hot tub out back for a while before finally going upstairs and getting to bed at 1:30 AM. It was about 3:30 AM CST, so I'd been up for nearly 23 hours, and I felt great.

Friday, July 20, 2007

An open letter to J. K. Rowling

NOTE TO ALL: I wrote this a while ago, and it contains my predictions for the ending of the final Harry Potter book. I probably should have posted this sooner, since now that the pirated copies of the book are allegedly floating around, anyone who reads this will accuse me of having read one if I turn out to be right.
But the half-dozen people who actually read my blog can rest assured that I have not read any pirated copy, nor have I paid any attention to the "spoilers" leaked by one Mr. Gabriel (who seems to have the keyboard skills of a five-year-old yet claims to be a L33T Haxx0r who hacked into the computer base of a prominent British publishing firm), this is all my own conjecture.

Now then, shall we get on with it?

My predictions as to what happens at the end of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows:"

My predictions are based on the Celtic mythology that Rowling based her storyline on, the same myths that J. R. R. Tolkein and Lloyd Alexander drew from. Compare Albus Dumbledore to Dallben, the benevolent old man who was the only one capable of defying the death lord Arawn in Lloyd Alexander's "The Prydain Chronicles." Admittedly, Rowling draws from other material as well (for instance, the fifth book is an excellent retelling of the lead-up to America's involvement in World War II, with Voldemort representing Hitler, Dumbledore representing Winston Churchill, and Cornelius Fudge representing the American interests who turned a blind eye to the Holocaust until Pearl Harbor), but much of the mythology is based on that.

And one thing that "The Prydain Chronicles" has in common with the myths that they draw on is that at the end of the story, when the war is one and the villain is defeated, then something happens to cause all magic, all spells and enchantments, to vanish from the land. Wizards lose their powers, magical creatures retreat to lands unknown, etc., and the world enters the mechanical ages. Apparently when those myths were written, the authors wanted to make an explanation as to why there aren't still any wizards around or something.

My prediction, therefore, is that this is exactly what will happen at the end of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." Don't ask me how it will happen, or who live and who dies on the way to get there, because I don't know, but I think that's what Rowling has had in mind since day one. And given that it's pretty much the only theory that HASN'T been spouted out on the fansites and message boards, in fact I have yet to find a single HP fan who sees it coming, which is odd given that every other wackazoid theory has been given ink, I think that makes it more likely.

It's especially likely given that while nearly every other wackazoid theory and bizarre analogy that can be drawn from the Celtic mythos can be found in the endless parade of books devoted to theorizing what happens at the end of the series, I have yet to find any author anywhere garnering this theory. Some part of me suspects that Rowling might be laughing at us even now, as she watches us rant on the message boards, at how none of us are suspecting it.

Let me start out by saying that I HATE the cliché in question. I loathe it, I hated the end of the Prydain Chronicles, and many elements of the end of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I especially detested the ending to Final Fantasy VI, since it had no connection to the mythos at all. But I saw it coming several books back, and I will not get my hopes up that she'll pull anything less on us. For that matter, she could be just deciding to use it just to get a reaction out of us, certainly it will stick in the public memory for a long time.

Long ago, I considered writing a letter to her begging her not to pull that trick, but given that she says the final chapter was written way back in 1999, I thought it futile to attempt to persuade her to change it now.

The only glimmer of hope I can find is that, after re-reading the books, I can find no hints or clues as to this possible outcome in the text of the first six books. And given that Rowling has been dropping oodles of hints to every other plot development so far since book one (an amazingly put-together story, for which I commend her), I take some hope in that.

So know this, Joanne Rowling. If you pull the end-of-magic plot twist, your status as one of the greatest writers of the past 20 years is, IMNSHO, forfeit. If not, you're fantastic, and I will thank you from the bottom of my heart for not falling into that pitfall.

Have a nice day.