Thursday, February 24, 2005

Review - Film - Constantine



Date night went well this week. Cher and I enjoyed a meal at Guadalajara, a local Mexican restaurant. I’m feeling the effects of all that cheese today… Afterwards, we went to the Continental Theater to see the new movie Constantine. I had read some of the comics and, as such, went with cautious optimism. Cher had requested some time ago that we go see it as soon as it came out – and so we did.

The film is dark, very dark. So much so, in fact, that the theater had posted a sign at the ticket window that indicated that they would only admit adults and children under 18 only if they could prove they were there with their parents. I remember thinking wow, that’s unusual. In retrospect, they were absolutely correct. This movie would give kids nightmares for a month.

It basically follows the life of John Constantine an exorcist, demonologist, heavy drinking, chain smoking, self-obsessed man trying desperately to buy his way into heaven – a privilege denied him given his attempted suicide earlier in life. If your interested, Straight To Hell : A Hellblazer Site has some great information on the comic books as well as the movie. The movie’s website also has a lot of interesting info. The plot centers on the discovery of the Spear of Destiny which is purported to be the spear that pierced the side of Jesus Christ as he hung on the cross. In this mythos, the spear was said to have disappeared at the end of WWII. Following the plot, the spear is needed to facilitate the birth of the devil’s son into our plane, something his father knows nothing of until the end. As you can well imagine, John Constantine is playing catch up throughout the film trying to connect a string of events that leads ultimately to this birth.

I really enjoyed this film despite the fact that it is, at times, visually arresting and horrifying. The performances turned in are pretty good in general. Keanu Reeves, who plays John Constantine, is still as wooden as ever – but he’s growing on me. Rachel Weisz plays dual role as a detective who’s twin sister is encouraged to commit suicide. Tilda Swinton plays as the Archangel Gabriel and Peter Stormare turns in the best performance of the film as Satan. Mr. Stormare appears slimy, lascivious, and evil to the core in this film - creepy.

The film left me thinking. It will leave you thinking as well – and maybe a bit shaken. It will not receive critical acclaim, but it’s worth considering if you don ‘t scare too easily and, if you like the comic book genre of film, it’s a must see.


Tuesday, February 22, 2005

02.22.05 - Life Update

Well I’m back in school after a busy weekend. Cher, the kids, and I left for Nebraska Friday night. We didn’t manage to leave Denver until about 6pm as I decided at the last minute to purchase a guitar (see the previous post). We arrived early the next morning to find my Mom and Stepfather sleeping on the couch. We hustled the kids off to bed, chatted for a bit and then went to bed ourselves. As per usual, the kids got up with the sun…

Saturday proved to be a lazy day for the most part. We watched “El Dorado” and went to the children’s museum. The kids had fun. Corwin and Josh built an 8ft+ building that the manager said he’d have to take a picture of before tearing it down. I think their goal was to use as many pieces as possible. They managed to use almost every piece. If I can get Mom to email me the pictures I’ll post them.

We ate at Valentino’s Saturday night and after went to see “The Incredibles” at the local IMAX theater. Cher hadn’t seen it yet and she seemed to enjoy herself. The kids also had a great time. If you’ve never seen a movie at IMAX go out and do it today. It’s an experience and it won’t cost you much. The audio is not generally quite up to today’s standards but the presentation is incredible.

On Sunday, we walked across the street to church where my Stepfather is the Pastor. I attended church for the first time in years. This is not to say that I’ve somehow lost my faith or anything that dramatic, only that going to church is not for me. I used to refuse to go for selfish reasons and I recently decided that it wouldn’t hurt me to be a little more considerate and respectful of my parents especially as they had invited Cher and I to stay at their house together with our kids despite the fact that Cher and I are not married. I respect the potential difficulties this might create. So, if you’re reading, Thank You both.

Just before we were to leave on Sunday, Corwin had an anaphylactic reaction. We think it may have been environmental though it didn’t develop until late in our visit which points to other factors. The only thing we did that was different was to give him Claritin which is supposed to be an allergy blocker. Anyway, we dosed him up on Benadryl and it cleared up fairly rapidly. We have not, however, given him the Claritin again. Hopefully that will ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

I’ve got 3 papers to write before tomorrow morning so I need to wrap this up. One is 800-1000 words for my Literature class, another is also for the Lit class but only 500 words, and the final is for my economics class and yet another 500 words. This blog entry works out to be about 500 words so you have some idea of what I must accomplish...


Monday, February 21, 2005

02.21.05 - New Guitar - Dean Jazz Stylist Deluxe

Here's a few pictures of the new baby. I've made my decision - I'll double major in Biology and Music with an emphasis in guitar. Enjoy the pix!


My Stable





Thursday, February 17, 2005

02.17.05 - Life Update

Late Tuesday night, Caitlin had her 4th occurrence of sudden onset laryngeal stridor - almost a year to the day since her last occurrence. If you’ve ever witnessed this, you already know it’s terrifying. As per usual, she was playing and having a good time all night at family night and showing no signs of illness. She had finished a course of antibiotics for Streptococcus about a week ago. I drove her to the hospital which was about 4-5 minutes from our house knowing as I did it that I would likely get admonished by the ER staff when I got there for not calling an ambulance. My logic was that I could get to the hospital before the ambulance could even get to us.

As expected, we ran through the treatment cycle that I’ve observed on 4 separate occasions. Emergency rooms are the goofiest, most disconnected places I’ve ever witnessed. We answered the same questions for every nurse and doctor that came in to see Caitlin. None of them, apparently, consult each other on anything. Eventually she was transferred to the children’s ward at Littleton Hospital with a very pointed nod from the attending physician that she would be transported by AMBULANCE. At least that was the extent of my beat down on this occasion.

They let her out at noon on Wednesday and she spent the day sleeping. Cher took her in to the Pediatrician’s office this morning and she checked out fine. They, like the hospital crew, seem to think this is something she’ll grow out of soon - not very comforting. So I’m thinking to spend the time and money to take her to a respiratory specialist and maybe an allergist to see if we can discover what’s really going on.

I ended up missing my literature class on both Monday and Wednesday this week so, based on English department policy, I cannot miss another day this semester and still get an A. Monday was due to Mackenzie’s Valentine’s day party and Wednesday I was trying to sleep after Tuesday night’s ordeal. Cher and I’s date night was quiet. We went to Outback and the steak was wonderful although it’s messing with me today. We rented Office Space, which Cher hadn’t yet seen and Sky Captian and the World of Tomorrow. Both were amusing. I might write a review of SCATWOT in the coming days if I have time.

I’ve got two exams today – one in microeconomics and the other in psychology. I have no idea what to expect from the economics exam. It’s in about 40 minutes. The professor said that the tests are written based on the lecture. I attended every lecture and took good notes so hopefully I’ll be fine. The psychology exam is based of a practice test for which I have all the questions so that should work out ok too. I’m not very nervous but I need to do well on these so I’m a bit anxious.


Tuesday, February 15, 2005

02.15.05 - Life Update

Well I sat in Microeconomics trying to take notes, record a lecture, get a hold of Cher online, and write this Blog entry. Hoping the laptop wouldn’t overheat and shutdown - which it’s been doing with annoying frequency of late. Thankfully, it didn’t. I’m really enjoying my new wireless networking card. I can get internet access just about anywhere on campus which means that I can check my email and chat with the outside world just about any time I have my computer on.

Today, we had a rousing conversation about taxes and subsidies and their effects on buyers and sellers. WOO! Chuckle… It’s really not all that bad. The professor makes it fun to listen to by virtue of his humor and charisma. The long and the short of what I learned today is that subsidies reallocate funds from one group to another – which I understood at a basic level before class and after I now know way too much. ;-)

My theatre class was canceled this morning because the Professor has flown out of state to help his more advanced students put on a production of Sophocles’ Antigone. I did, however, meet with my production group to discuss what we were going to work on for our final project. We picked two plays. Our first choice was Boston Marriage written by David Mamet. The second choice was Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo. Our group is primarily made up of women so we’ll probably end up doing Boston Marriage. Not, of course, that we’ll be doing the whole play, just 8-10 minutes of it. We also agreed on a name for our little company, “Upstage Right?” I’ll be meeting with my dialog partner on Thursday to go over a little bit that we have to perform next week. I’m really enjoying the class but, I’m increasingly glad I decided not to double major in Theatre. It would have involved much more time than I could readily commit.

Family night is at Cher and I’s house this evening. I got distracted by homework and video games last night so I’m afraid that Cher has probably been cleaning house all day in preparation. I shall have to make amends. I did get up early and managed to straighten things up a bit but, there was still a lot to do. I feel just rotten about leaving it for her. I’ll do better next time.

Laura was supposed to cook tonight but her daughter has some testing to do so she will be unable to make it. Paul suggested that we have Ramen Noodles. I told him that I would only do that if there were no other choice. As it turns out, Jen and Cher got together and decided that was a bad idea too. So it sounds like we’ll be having something else though I have no idea what.

Valentine’s Day went well. Cher worked all night the night before so she slept all day but not before finding the note and present I left for her on my way to take the kids to school. It wasn’t much. In fact it was considerably less than what I would have done if I could have but, judging from the big warm hug and smile I got, it was pretty good. I find that I really want to do what ever I can to bring a smile to her face - the little things matter. That’s something I used to believe in theory but life has taught me that it’s something that I have to practice daily.


Thursday, February 10, 2005

Review - Film - The Aviator


The Aviator

Wednesday night is date night at our house and last night we enjoyed a wonderful Chinese meal consisting of curry shrimp, mongolian beef, crab/cheese wontons, and fried dumplings served up at our new favorite Chinese restaurant, the Golden Shanghai in Aurora, Colorado. If you are in the area and would like to have a dining experience that’s a cut above the rest, check them out.

After dinner, as is our custom, we went out for a movie. We were both somewhat reluctant to see a movie, let alone a 3hr movie, in which we would be forced to endure Leonardo DiCaprio playing the lead role. However, having had such a nifty experience the week before with the critically acclaimed film, Million Dollar Baby, we decided to give it a shot.

The film opens with a scene from Hughes’s childhood which, judging from the reactions of those around us, made the audience uncomfortable. For me, I was annoyed that Mr. Scorsese would begin with such a provocative scene. This served to lead the audience down a path that detracted from the next scene. Better that this scene had occurred as a memory on the part of Hughes during the next scene. I was further put off by the fact that I couldn’t buy the characters in the next scene with their pencil line mustaches and glad handing as authentic. It felt like they were playing at a period rather than existing in a period.

In that scene, and in many of the others, Mr. Scorsese makes use of a technique involving the partial desaturation of colors in which greens are resolved to blues. I assume the effect was to infer a period, or perhaps patriotism(the colors were often red, white and blue) but it really only served to distract and annoy me.

The performance I enjoyed the most was that of Cate Blanchett in the role of Catherine Hepburn. She clearly did her homework on Ms. Hepburn. Her accent, elocution, and diction were spot on in almost every case. My only complaint, and it is a small one, is that there is a smoothness about Cate Blanchett that Katherine Hepburn never had that comes through occasionally. In fairness, I must confess that I don’t think anyone other than Ms Blanchett could have done better.

Other noteworthy performances were turned in by Alan Alda as Senator Owen Brewster, Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardener, Jude Law as Erol Flynn, Alec Baldwin as Juan Trippe the President of PAA, and John C. Reilly as Hughes’s business manager Noah Dietrich. They provided some of the most entertaining and moving moments of the film.

Did I mention that this film was 3hrs long? Yawn… Most of the rest of the film is carried by Mr. DiCaprio who delivers some of the best performances of his career along with some of the worst. This proved to be confusing for me as, often times, just as I was starting to buy Mr. DiCaprio as Howard Hughes, there would be a scene or a line that would jolt me out of my state of suspended disbelief and leave me scrambling to get back into the film. This leaves the overall impact of Mr. DiCaprio’s performance far below were it would have been if the offending scenes/lines been cut.

This film was easily an hour too long. It is as if Mr. Scorsese were sucked into the mindset of Howard Hughes – that of a rambling genius who had no regard for what others thought of what he was trying to achieve. There are parts of this film that are brilliant. They are interspersed between long periods of boring development and drawn out catharsis the sentiments of which, could have been communicated much more efficiently. These long dull periods give the film as a whole an uncomfortable feeling - Just when it was getting good…


Review - Film - Million Dollar Baby


Million Dollar Baby

Cher and I went to see Clint Eastwood’s, “Million Dollar Baby” last Wednesday. We went knowing nothing about the film except that it was an Eastwood film and that it had done fairly well at the Golden Globes. Typically speaking, critically acclaimed, award winning films end up end in disappointment. We were pleasantly surprised.

Mr. Eastwood has produced what, in my opinion, is his finest work to date both as a director and as an actor. It ranges from wryly humorous to deeply moving. And, if you’ll excuse the pun, doesn’t pull any punches. It’s about a boxing trainer who begrudgingly agrees to train a young woman played by, Hillary Swank. It follows her training through a rich assortment of subplots all of which endear you to the characters. It is emotionally diverse and moves flawlessly from scene to scene.

Morgan Freeman should also be mentioned her as he turns in another moving performance as the narrator of this film. His smooth, wizened tones serve as the voice of reason and the grounding force of the movie. Mr. Eastwood uses Mr. Freeman’s character to frame he story for the audience in a way that keeps it accessible, warm, and interesting.

*** SPOILER ALERT(don’t read past here if you don’t want to know)

Mr. Eastwood has been exploring dark and socially challenging themes in his recent movies. Much like Mystic River, this movie has a dark twist which will leave you thinking long after you leave the theater. It tackles one of the more challenging issues facing American society today, the right to die.

Whether you see it in the theaters or rent it, this is not a movie to miss – unless, of course, you’re one of those people who likes to go to movies and leave happy and unchallenged…


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

02.08.05 - Life Update

I’m in a bit of pain today. I have a couple of teeth that got root canals a couple of years ago for crowns that never happened. Anyway, one of them has been acting up for a while now. I’m sitting here trying to chew my breakfast and am, at this point, only meeting with moderate success. I looked online for a 40-60second monologue for Theatre this morning. I found 4 possibilities, none of which thrill me.

I have been unable to reach Paul for a day or so now. He normally gives me a ride to family night after school on Tuesdays but, as I was unable to confirm before leaving for school this morning, Cher will pick me up instead.

It’s cold today! It’s just snow flurries at the moment. Ah, February… We filed our taxes. Cher did pretty well but I owe. Sally and I worked out a deal where one of us can claim the children per year and this is her year. We also managed to finish the budget yesterday. Assuming we can follow it, we should be free of debt, excepting school loans, by March of 2006, which is pretty cool. Of course, we’re going to try to buy a car and a house before then which could push the debt a bit higher but hey, whatcha gonna do?

I’m sitting in the café on campus freezing my tail off. It’s inside, but the room is glass block on one side, double pane windows on 2 more, and open on the last. It also has 20ft ceilings that suck up all the heat. I’d sit where I normally do but Bonfils is doing blood drive today and all the chairs are taken.

More on Ward Churchill… CU canceled the speech he was to make this afternoon. I think that was wrong. Further, I don’t support his termination based on what he has said or written(though how he managed to earn tenure I cannot guess). I do, however, take issue with his integrity. If he is to be terminated, it should be based on the investigation initiated by the regents into his background and the evidence that produces. I support free speech all the way, even if I don’t agree with what’s said and even if I find it morally reprehensible. To limit Churchill on these grounds limits us all.


Thursday, February 03, 2005

02.03.05 10 years

Today is a special day to me. A day, that had you asked me 10 years ago, I would never have expected to or wanted to reach. In those days I was footloose and fancy-free. I did what I wanted when I wanted and didn’t really give a damn if anyone got hurt in the process. This is not to say that I would regard myself as evil, just apathetic to the world around me – Selfish and Self-Centered.

I was engaged to marry a brilliant, beautiful woman who was later to become my wife and some time later, ex-wife. For much of this period of my life I felt incomplete and searched through alcohol, books, meditation, religion, drugs, and introspection to discover why it was that I felt this way. I didn’t feel worthy of the woman who would be my wife and I couldn’t discover why that might be.

I’ve been blessed many times in my life. It turns out that around that time, I also had a dear friend – the man who introduced me to the woman I was to marry. This friend had the misfortune to, quite literally, break his neck. In short order, he could no longer work due in part to his physical impairment and in part to the medication he was on. He quickly ran through the resources he had and, seeing his plight, my fiancé and I agreed to take him in.

The story of he and I began some two years earlier at an SCA event. We met, and I suppose that this says something of both of us at the time, seducing the same woman. When I say, “met”, I mean we met each other at or about her midsection – I arriving there from her feet while he was on his way down from the top. We were both severely intoxicated. From that point and for several years thereafter, we were friends.

I secretly judged him to have a problem with alcohol and remember thinking that if I ever got that out of control I’d have to stop drinking. What I failed to realize at the time was that the reason I could see his drinking so clearly was that I was often right there with him matching him drink for drink. He continued drinking after the breaking of his neck – mixing painkillers and alcohol. He became less and less coherent as time went by.

During this time, I was drinking as many as nine glasses of wine an evening just to quiet my mind enough to sleep. Add to this the occasional pitcher after work and weekends that, more and more often, stretched from Thursday to Tuesday, and you begin to have a picture of what my life looked like in those days. I chain smoked like a fiend when I was drunk – So much so that my friends took care to hide their cigarettes if I was drunk. I had also begun to dabble in the prescription drugs my friend was taking and marijuana. More and more often, odd things happened to me socially.

I woke up on several occasions and could not remember what I had done, where I had been, or who I was with the night before. I was becoming violent and belligerent with alarming frequency when I drank. I can remember, on more than one occasion, driving home from the bar, arriving home, and having no recollection of the trip. I am exceedingly fortunate that no one was seriously injured or worse, killed. I never had a DUI or DWI. I never contracted any infectious diseases. I only lost one job because I was too tired to stay awake on Monday after the weekend’s festivities. The only thing I can attribute my insane level of luck to is grace – I was certainly in the right place at the right time for trouble on more than one occasion.

So my friend, you remember him right? ;-) He goes to talk to someone about his ever increasing need for pain meds and the person, I have no idea as to the details, suggests that he check himself into a 28 day program. He then asks me if I think it would be helpful for him. Based on my earlier judgment of him, I strongly encourage him to go. In the end, he elects to go voluntarily.

I remember he called me to invite my fiancé and I to come to family night and have some prime rib. It was something I did not want to do but to support him I went. The experience was extremely uncomfortable. I tried to order a glass of wine to calm nerves with dinner. The waiter politely informed me that they didn’t have wine. I thought to myself, “Who in the world serves prime rib without wine?” I asked for beer instead and the answer was a more firmly stated no. I remember thinking that I just wanted to leave immediately. I made excuses to leave soon as I could.

After my friend completed the program, he seemed different. For one, he didn’t seem to want to drink despite my best efforts to encourage him to do so. For another, he seemed aware, present, and generally happy. Shrugging this off as brainwashing, I continued in my affairs until he one day asked me to talk about my drinking. I talked about, “soothing the beast” within me. He suggested that it was possible that people who drink normally don’t think of drinking in those terms. He used his experience, and his shared experience with me to show me the depths to which my own insanity around drinking had gone. For example, who in their right mind orders “A” beer and, then having done so, fails to drink the whole thing, puts it back on the table and goes home – certainly not me.

Confronted with this realization in such a way, I resigned myself to attending my first AA meeting. I did so within about a week. I remember thinking as I listened to the stories that I could identify with these people. They talked about their lives and their drinking in a way that suggested that they had been where I was. By grace, I was handed a solution and by grace, I took it and ran with it.

That was 10 years ago today. If you’d like to hear more about those years let me know and I’ll try to get some of that up here. Today I have a life that looks nothing like the life I had or the life I wanted in those days. Today, I actively try to develop and listen to my intuition. This is not to say that I get it right every time - My friends and family will attest to that! More that I get right a heck of a lot more often than I once did. I look for ways to be helpful to those around me and I have and value my integrity. I am grateful for so much today. I cannot, save for my plans, tell you what tomorrow, let alone next year, will look like. I can tell you that I’m up for the adventure and look forward to seeing and learning new things.


Tuesday, February 01, 2005

02.01.05 - Life Update

It seems to me that I should start writing these earlier in the day and that if I were to do so, I might actually have something more cogent, if not concise to say. Today is one of my long days at school. I got up early this morning to take the kids to school so that they could have breakfast at school. Normally I’d feed them at home but this morning Cher has an interview at 10am after working all night. So, we sent Jade and Mackenzie to Paul and Jen’s house last night. Hopefully Cher will be able to get at least a little sleep today.

We’re working on Oedipus Rex in my theatre class this week. You know, it’s that ancient tragedy by Sophocles about man who kills his father and then marries his mother and fathers several children by her despite being told by an oracle, and despite his conscious effort not to, that he will kill his father and marry his mother. Not light stuff, but good none the less. We’ll also probably spend some time working on our group productions. I was amused to observe during the picking of the groups for this project that little has changed since high school – I was still the last one picked(though it used to be for sports;-)).

The amusing thing about it was that, in this case, I think I got picked last because I’m older than everyone else in the class which, from my perspective is hilarious. Of course they couldn’t possibly know that I can do everything required to produce a 10 minute play. Chuckle, kids… Oh well, the group that was “forced” to pick me will benefit from my experience. I had forgotten about the egos inherent in any group effort. I think the productions will be fun.

Microeconomics and Psychology II fill up the rest of my day. The instructor for micro is hilarious and very easy to understand. The psych guy is very nice but frequently seems way “out there”. People keep telling me that psychologists are all that way, I suppose they could be right. I prefer to think that, much like the rest of us, they are just people trying like hell to relate to the world around them. Although, I would postulate that psychologists maybe work a little harder at it than the rest of us.

Does anyone else out there HATE laptop keyboards? My thumb keeps tapping the mouse pad and when I finally look back down at my screen, I see that I’ve been typing merrily in a paragraph several lines above where I intended to. Cut-and-paste! I suppose they make those roll up laptop keyboards, perhaps I’ll try one.

My butt and right leg have gone numb from sitting here Indian-style typing this post. It’s getting to be about time to go to class. I’m listening to the musical Chess of which I am very fond. Musicals marry two things which I adore, music and theatre.

I’m still trying to decided what to double major in – Theatre or Music(Guitar). Theatre is demanding in the extreme with regards to time and I’m not certain I’m willing to commit that much time to school and divert it from my kids. Music, on the other hand, is significantly more demanding technically but I could practice at home. To be honest, as technically intimidating as it is, I’m leaning towards guitar.

LMAO, this is a freaking novella! Oh well, enjoy!