Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dear Charlie:

I'm getting better at writing about a flick right after I've seen it without being overwhelmed by my enjoyment to the point that I can't recognize possible flaws. Oi, that sounded pompous, didn't it?

Lemme put it this way: I just watched both Wanted and Kung Fu Panda, and I can say without hesitation that I highly enjoyed them both, and for vastly different reasons. Were they perfect movies? Heck, no. But where they perfect examples of entertainment?

Oh, yeah.

For once, James Berardinelli and I agree on a movie. Wanted is a totally unrealistic flick that is pure and perfect entertainment. It gives us a completely human character and turns him into more. A guy who has a standing prescription for panic attacks becomes a matchless assassin who can run faster than a speeding train and curve a bullet around a meat shield to reach the target behind it.

What's more fun than that?

There's nothing surprising in this flick. None of the plot twists shocked me. Of course, that doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy watching them unfold, and I really REALLY enjoyed the artistry with which the action scenes were filmed. Every moment lovingly crafted for maximum adrenaline output. Every slow-motion bullet flight touched by the CG gods. The storming of the fort was damn near ballet, people. Beautiful stuff.

And...*gasp* had a plot.

It also made excellent use of one of my favorite Nine Inch Nails songs, "Every Day Is Exactly the Same". Damn if I haven't felt that soul-sucking melancholy when I look at my own life in an office nightmare. It sets the mood instantly. Immediately puts you in touch with the main character. Much like Man on Fire uses NIN's "The Mark Has Been Made" to symbolize Creasy's inner torment, Wanted uses "Every Day" to personify the grinding tedium of every day life for the Everyman. Gave me goosebumps, to be honest.

Even Angelina Jolie couldn't ruin this movie for me. The moment I saw her take the stage, I groaned and facepalmed, but she played her part well. She's eye candy, and she knows it. But she's also athletic as hell in her aerobatics. Gotta give her credit for that.

Great good fun in this flick. You don't even have to check your brain at the door to enjoy it. Just keep an eye out for the popcorn rats, and you'll be fine.

And Kung Fu Panda was fun, too.

Before you get to thinking that's damning the flick with faint praise, please remember that, for me, "fun" is what a movie is supposed to be. A movie is entertainment. If you're not entertained, the movie has failed. This flick doesn't fail.

It knows its roots and uses them lovingly. There are plenty of blossoms floating on the breeze. Scads of steps to climb repeatedly to the training rooms of enlightment above. Trials of training to be suffered. Scorn by the masses. Too-high expectations. James Hung and Jackie Chan.

This is an homage to the legend of Kung Fu. Not Kung Fu the movie, but Kung Fu the spirit. And Po, the lowly noodle-slinging panda, feels that spirit stirring in his very soul. It just...ya know...can't get out from under all that fleshly bulk he's carrying around. And, of course, the self-doubt.

The story is lovely and full of opportunities for martial arts movie mayhem, but the animation itself is...well, art. Like the scene where the sun is shining red-orange through the crooked and barren limbs of the formerly lush peach tree. It's just so evocative of the feeling you get from old kung fu. It's glorious. Some of that scenery just made me feel good.

It wasn't appreciation of how far CGI has come. It was appreciation for how much beauty and color and form they kept from the original medium. Jade palaces. Blossoming trees. Ancient buildings. History.

And I just about hurt myself laughing at the dumpling fight scene. I don't think I stopped my silent cackling until it was over. God, that was priceless.

Excellent villain, too. Deep characterization. Hell, they even gave him a background and...*gasp*...motivations. Fascinating.

So yeah. Two very different flicks. Two very different feels. Two very entertaining ways to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.

And now, back to the grindstone. The Muse, that bastard, has been drill-sergeanting me mercilessly the last two weekends, and he thinks he's been patient long enough.

I can almost hear the whiplashes. Maybe if he dangled a dumpling....

Friday, June 27, 2008

Dear Charlie

My beloved sister, bless her heart, is a coffee snob. She admits it freely. Is proud of it, as well she should be. She would rather die than drink Folger's. She turns up her sophisticated nose at Starbucks. I think she would honestly rather be consumed slowly by fire ants than slog through a cup of gas station sludge.

She knows what she likes. More power to her.

I, on the other hand, have recently come to the conclusion that I'm a smoothie snob. Yes, I can just make up classifications.

See, just last year, I got suckered into a mall. My reward was whatever I wanted from the food court. To be honest, I wanted nothing more than a giant Coke, so I was more interested in the drink menu than anything else. However, it was a hot day outside, so I eventually decided on a smoothie.

Can't honestly say I'd ever had a smoothie before that. Seriously.

So, figuring I'd get little better than a fruit-flavored slush with a little milk in it, I watched in pleased surprise as the teenager behind the counter pulled out a couple of actual bananas, real strawberries, canned pineapple chunks, and canned coconut milk, a boatload of sugar, and whole milk, tossed them into a blender with some ice, and hit puree.

Best. Damn. Beverage. EVER.

Seriously. I drank on that thing all day. Fruity, a little bumpy with seeds and such, sweet, and just damn good. I was instantly addicted.

Imagine my dismay when every smoothie I've tried since -- not that I've just been beating down doors to find them -- haven't come close to measuring up.

See, I think I must have the definition of "smoothie" wrong. Either that, or I have it mixed up with the definition of "slushie". Seems that most people think they can just dump some fruit-flavored mix into some ice and milk and call it a smoothie. To me, that's a slushie. No real fruit, see.

But hey. I can totally admit I'm wrong. *shrug* No big.

Ironically enough, I broke down and tried Sonic's lemon berry cream slush just this morning. And whaddya had real fruit blended up in it. And cream. And ice. Slush? Or smoothie?

Who the hell knows?

And it was so good that who the hell cares? Ha! Long live smoothie snobs.

*tips glass*

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Dear Charlie:

Whew. Sometimes, it's all I can do to post once a week. Sometimes, I can't stop myself from posting once a day. Talk about feast or famine!

I don't really know why that's so. Some months, it seems I post more when I'm writing. Like the creativity can't be contained in a single medium, and I have to yak here to polish up some of the overspill. Some months, I post less when I'm writing. Like I only have enough time and creativity for one thing and all my focus must go into that story and forcing myself to work so I can pay the bills. That's all I got.

Yeah, I'm writing at the moment, but...something's missing. Dunno what it is, but when I figure it out, I'll be the last to know.


Anyway, I came to the mortifying conclusion the other day that out of probably 130+ mantises on our office walls, I've done...God, I hate to admit I won't...I've done PLENTY. Not even gonna admit a number.

But far more than anyone else. Why, you ask? Why take time out of my precious writing time to doodle and color bugs that serve no earthly purpose beyond oddly-shaped and colorful wallpaper?

Because I started doodling DragonBall Z bugs. Yes, you read right. I finally broke down to the pleas and doodled a Goku. And another, because he looks so different at Super Saiyan. And another, because Super Saiyan Three is my favorite. And another, because, while I don't watch GT, Super Saiyan Four grows on me. And I couldn't doodle a Goku without a Vegeta, now could I?

It went on from there. There are currently 15 DBZ bugs, and to my relief, only 14 are mine. Yes, I'm not the only DBZ geek at work. Thank you, Richard, for Super Saiyan Trunks.

Anyway, that's obviously not what's missing. Heheh.

Oh! And the coolest thing ever, one of our kids brought in 4 bugs, all by himself. Who were they, you ask? KISS! Yes, a preteen in this country still knows the rocking awesomeness of KISS, and doodled them in full stage make-up. Woo-hoo!

Those babies got pride of place, I tell you. Awesome.

Well, I'm off to get some caffeine. Yes, I ran out of Coke. Yes, this constitutes a crisis equivalent to a rift in the space-time continuum. And yes, I wrote this post completely unaided by my favorite mood-altering substance, which probably explains its rambling and directionless nature.

Must. Have. Coke.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dear Charlie:

Just got home from my beloved sister's house. Yes, it's well after midnight. We got to talking. What can I say?


At any rate, I had a great visit. Great food, great coffee (and I don't usually drink the stuff), great conversation (some of it so painfully truthful that I could only do it with said beloved sister), and great times. The monsters were appropriately monstrous. Found out that Littlest Monster had taken Sis's AlphaSmart outside a couple of days ago and left it out there. In the rain. In the FLOODING we've been dealing with in this area.

Needless to say, no more AlphaSmart. I am NEVER. HAVING. KIDS.

But I love 'em, and they're adorable even when they're evil. So they all got hugs and kisses from The Heartless Wonder, here.

And Dad got his present -- a big ol' box of fresh-made cookies. Peanut butter cookies, which I know are his favorite, and chocolate chip, which I know he'll eat until he's sick. Heh. But it's not like he gets 'em every day, so I don't feel bad giving him a treat I know he'll like for Father's Day. Besides, what else could I get him? A tie? He never dresses up. A new hat? I have no idea what size his head is. A shirt? I have no taste!

So, something I know I'm good at and that I know he'll enjoy. A boatload of cookies. Heheh.

Anyway, as I'm obviously whonky enough to be rambling at this point, I'mma head for bed. G'night all, and stop by Drollerie Press soon for my beloved sister's next book out, Beautiful Death. It contains my favorite of her characters besides Gregar -- the beautiful and studly-deadly Charon. God, I love him.


Saturday, June 07, 2008

Dear Charlie:

I've had...quite the weekend. It all started Thursday afternoon while I was at work. Unbeknownst to me, the severe winds we've been having around here lately knocked a limb off a big ol' tree in my sideyard. It's already dropped two in the last year, so I probably shouldn't be surprised. But three is the last straw.

At any rate, the limb was a good 15 or 20 feet long, so it of course fell across the lines coming into my house -- power, phone, and cable. It tugged them down, but didn't actually break them. So, when I got home and saw the damage, I ran inside to see if I still had power. I did. In fact, I still had my cable internet. No phone, but I wasn't so terribly worried about that.

Unfortunately, that meant I couldn't call the electric company to tell them about the limb. I do have a cell phone, but I don't get reception in my area. At least, not reliable reception. I've never finished a cell phone call in my house, heh.

So, Friday morning, I headed to work. On the way in, I called the phone company to tell them about the situation, and they said they'd send someone out to fix their line that morning. I didn't have time to call the electric company because I was on hold so long with the phone company, and then I was busy all morning until early afternoon.

However, as soon as I had a chance, I called home to see if my answering machine would pick up, signifying that my phone service was back on. Sure enough, it did. So, I called the power company and informed them that a limb had fallen on my line and I was pretty sure I wasn't supposed to cut that off myself, since the power was still on. She agreed with a laugh and said a serviceman had already seen the damage and put in a work order, and that it was probably already taken care of.

No worries, right?

So, I go out to eat with a friend after work and don't get home until probably 7:30 or 8:00. I go inside, power. I just kinda stood there with my head cocked to one side for a long moment. Power when I left. No power now. Huh.

Frowning, I go outside and look to see what's going on, and not only is the limb still there, but it's fallen further to the ground, jerking out the whole meter and it's pipe and everything out from the side of the house. Nice. It's worse than before, and DEFINITELY not fixed.

So, trusting to my imperfect cell signal, I call the power company and ask what gives. She says the prior order was marked completed. I laughed and told her that, if anything, the problem was worse. There's no WAY this counted as "fixed". She offered to send another service truck out, and I said sure. Not like I had any pressing place to go.

Nine o'clock comes and goes, and no service man. I can't get any signal at all by this time, so I figure I'll run to Wal-Mart for a few things, get a little air conditioning (the house was already stiflingly humid-hot by this time), and call the power company again to see what's going on.

Another lady says that both orders were marked completed. I told her the second guy hadn't even shown up yet, so how could that be? I explained the whole thing, and she comes back with, "Oh, well, because the meter's been pulled out from the wall, the service guy can't do anything. He marked it completed because the power was off so they went ahead and temporarily disconnected your service until it's fixed."

I goggle. "Are you kidding me? Because the first time they went out, I still had power, which means the meter thing was still attached to the wall. Why did that guy call it good?"

Long pause. "Well, I'm sure I don't know, ma'am. Do you want me to send a service man out now?"

"Guh. NO. The meter's still off the wall. What can he do now? What I need you to do is tell me what I need to do."

"Well, you'll have to get an electrician out to fix the meter. Then he'll call us and we'll turn on the power."

"Are you kidding me? It's 9:00 on a Friday night. Where am I supposed to get an electrician to come out before Monday?"

"Oh, there are some."

"Do you know any? Can you give me a number?"

"...No. Not offhand."

"Great. So I have to find an electrician. That's out of my pocket, right?"

"Oh, yes."

At this point, I started facepalming. Saturday electric work. Might as well quadruple the fee. I thanked the power lady and hung up, pretty much disgusted with the whole thing. And if nothing else, that frickin' tree has to go. Stupid thing.

So, I go back home, take a cold bath -- the water heater is electric -- and sweat through the night without sleeping much, and there's Dad at the door in the morning. Amazingly enough, I was already up and dressed, which shocked him because I'm usually a sleep-'til-noon-if-I-can kind of person. He asks what's going on (I'd left him a frustrated and disgusted message the night before, mostly just to vent), and I show him the mess, and we sit down with the phone book to find an electrician.

Twelve phone numbers later, and not a single one has answered. Frustrated further, Dad calls an old carpenter buddy of his to see if Bubba -- no, I'm not kidding -- knows an electrician who'll come out on a Saturday without raping us over the price. He does, we make the call, and then it's time to take care of that wretched tree.

Probably three feet in diameter, this long-timer has stood longer than I've been alive. However, it's been shedding monster branches lately, so it's gotta go. Dad goes to work, and like twenty minutes later, down goes the tree. Amazing. Then he hacks it to pieces, and I start stacking them. I'm telling you, I always work really, really hard when Dad comes up.

A brush pile and several cords of wood later, the electrician shows up, takes a look, and whistles long and low. Never a good sign. Actually, he did pretty good by us, but still. There's only so good it can be.

He replaces the meter and all the wiring inside, etc., then tells us we have to call the city inspector before the electric company will turn the power back on. Just. Great. None of the city employees work on weekends. We ended up having to call 911 to get any kind of city employee on the phone, and it still took half an hour to get one to call us back.

And then it took another hour for him to show up, though he was very nice about having to work on a day off. I gotta give him that.

He slaps on an inspection sticker, calls a supervisor at the electric company, and we're supposed to be in business. By this point, both Dad and I are starving because it's like 2:00 in the afternoon and Dad hadn't eaten since he left his house at like 6:00. And I hadn't eaten at all.

So, while we wait for the power company, we decide to go grab some lunch. Chinese buffet. Hit the spot. Dad bought, bless his heart.

When we get back, the power company guys are just finishing up, and they cheerfully tell us that the power's back on for now, but they'll have to turn it off again soon. At this point, I just want to sit down and cry. Instead, I sigh heavily and ask why.

"Well, this here line isn't supposed to touch your house before it hooks in to your meter. The way this pole is situated, we don't have a straight shot to your meter, so someone along the way added that eyelet up there to hold it away from the wood. Problem is, that's not to code anymore."


"I called my supervisor, and he said it was okay to go ahead and get your power back on for now, but they'll be calling you soon to get this up to specs. I dunno what exactly they'll do. Probably want to put in a new pole for a straight shot."

In my head, I can almost hear the old-timey cash register sound. And the flushing sound of money going down the drain.

Wincing, I ask, "But it's on for now, right? My food's not gonna spoil any worse than it already has, right?"

"Oh, no, ma'am. The power's on for now. No problem there. Just...they'll probably be in touch soon to get that fixed."

I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to it. Joy.

Until then, I just enjoyed a lukewarm bath -- I'd sweat myself filthy between the dirt and sawdust (oh, and I mowed part of the yard, too, so there were lots of grass pieces in my hair, too) -- and am sitting on the floor where the air conditioning can actually cool me off more quickly. I'm watching a movie and have internet access.

In other words? For now, I am satisfied.

Hope everyone else's weekend is going swimmingly. Oi.