Monday, July 30, 2007

It's Only a Game, pt. 3

Jake hovered just outside the door, hard resting on the knob. Mark waltzed right into the mess before he could be warned. But where were the explosions, the sounds of rapid-fire weapons with their sights set directly on the first person to walk through the front door? Why no bloodcurdling screams from Mark?

Inhaling deeply once, twice he almost pushed open the door. “C’mon Jake, you can do this,” he muttered. “Your best friend’s in there. With that thing.” He squeezed his eyes tight, one more breath, and pushed into the room.

A thinning fog of plaster, smoke and wood particles floated through the room. Pieces of what had once been his couch and coffee table lay smoldering about the once green carpet. Half the flat screen TV dangled from the left wall over the former entertainment center. CDs and DVDs littered the floor along with broken picture frames, bits of glass and shredded photos. A large hole where the counter used to be framed the destruction in the kitchen: the linoleum bubbling, fragments of the oak table piercing the ceiling, a black crater where the wall phone had once hung. Jake cautiously maneuvered through the room, wary that the thing may attack at any moment.

He entered the hallway and heard a furious tapping. “Mark?”

“In here,” his voice softly crept down the hall. “I think I found your problem.”

Jake dashed into his bedroom, expecting to see his friend staring face to...visor with that metal monster. Instead, Mark sat typing at the keyboard, in front of a dead monitor as if nothing were out of the ordinary. “You see here?” Mark pointed to the hole. “These lines here show that a lot of the computer’s memory is being used. Too much, if you ask me. Probably that game you bought.”

Jake just stared, not understanding what Mark was talking about. “The screen’s blank, Mark. That big hole in the center probably destroyed all the cathodes and wiring.”

“Big hole?” Mark furrowed his eyebrows. “There’s no hole in your computer.”

“Are you blind? It’s almost a big as your head!”

“Um, yeah. I’ll let that one slip. Your monitor’s fine. It’s the game eating too much space on the hard drive. All I need to do is eject the disk and then re-partition the drive. The computer will be good as new.” He grabbed the mouse, clicked and dragged it down the mouse pad.

A red beam locked onto the back of Mark’s head. Jake spun quickly to see the thing filling the close, with its gun raised trained on his friend. He screamed as a burst of light flew from the end of the gun barrel.

a work of ficiton © G.A. Carter, 2007 (word count: 449 words)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

TB and I met with our friends RG and CS Saturday evening to finally see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I enjoyed this film much better than Goblet of Fire. That one was very teen-angsty and angry, and felt as though it were made simply because they needed to. Order of the Phoenix, however, was a marvelous film. Great action and special effects (such as how Sirius Black's family home appears and the wizard battle toward the end of the film); a good, solid storyline that moved the story forward, that blended Harry's outcast feelings with the need to get everyone to work together against a common enemy; wonderful performances from the entire cast, though my personal favorite was Imelda Staunton's Dolores Umbridge - a sickeningly sweet, cat-obsessed, Orwellian woman who refused to believe that Voldemort has returned. In her eyes, Harry Potter and those who believed him were nothing but troublemakers, to be dealt with as if they were heretics during the Spanish Inquisition. Why is it that villains always seem to be the best roles in films? the four of us sat in the theater until well after the credits, gushing about the film, the music, the special effects, and even trying to create a porn version of the film (in name only); we all agreed upon Harry Palmer and the Order of the Penis because, after all, it was the 5th film in the series. (I know someone else came up with that alternate title first, but I can't remember who!!)
Sunday morning, TB and I reluctantly caught a matinée showing of Hairspray. "Reluctant" because we'd both seen the stage musical, listened to and viewed clips from the movie, and were somewhat disappointed by what we heard and saw. We both went to the theater, wanting to dislike the movie, and wound up enjoying ourselves. Great music (even though they cut a few songs from the original show and replaced them with equally good songs), fun performances, and a good story. Y(I know what they cut from the original story which bothered me a bit, but as a whole the movie worked well.) John Travolta surprised me with just how well he portrayed Edna Turnblad -- funny, charming, and great singing and dancing. Nikki Blonsky also wowed me and made Tracy her own. But the funniest performance -- to me, at least -- was by Allison Janney as Prudy Pingleton, Penny's ultra-conservative-religious mom, who ties Penny to her bed after her brush with the troubled Tracy, then sprinkles holy water at her shouting "Devil child! Devil child!" We laughed until we cried at that. so despite our reservations, we enjoyed the film.

One Down....

The cystoscopy came back negative. Nothing cancerous in my Dad's bladder or ureter, which more than likely means the cancer is relegated to the prostate. He goes in for the colonoscopy next week, but we're keeping our fingers crossed that it will show nothing abnormal, as well.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Bookwhore Chronicles: Gothic Tales

Most of the bookmarks I use tend to be the throw-away, thick-papered advertisements for used bookstores. Something inexpensive to keep the pages neat, marking my place while I sleep or wait for my lunch break. I do, however, have a favorite bookmark, one that was given to me back in the '70s by my Mom's sorority sister. She and her husband returned from a two-week stay in England and gifted each member of my family with a stiff leather bookmark. Green for my Dad, red for Mom, blue for my brother and black for me. Each with golden illustrations of famous British landmarks above the magical word "LONDON".

Dad and my brother somehow lost theirs over the passing years, possibly during moves from one house to another. But my Mom and I managed to keep ours. While hers moved through almost every mystery novel and Harlequin romance in print, mine lasted throughout high school and college, slipping between the pages of Sartre and Hemingway and Marguerite Duras and Stephen King, traveling to Spain, Russia, Boston, Hawaii and Arcata, the leather softening fading as I transferred it from book to book. Today it rests between the crisp pages of Elizabeth Gaskell's Gothic Tales though for a moment, I thought it was lost.

I buy my lunch at the food court across the street, and without fail, I always reach the crosswalk just as the light changes to red, the Hand forbidding me to cross. Today was no exception, and I pressed the button a few times...then a few times more hoping to speed the cycle along. While waiting, I opened Gaskell's book to read a bit more about "Lois the Witch", a young English maid unfortunately entangled in the Salem with trials thanks to her spiteful cousins. The red hand changed to the green walker so I quickly closed the book and crossed. It wasn't until I set the book upon the counter to pay that I noticed the bookmark wasn't where it should have been. I mentally reraced everything, beginning from the crosswalk, but accepted the fact that the black strip of leather may have slipped out anywhere. In fact, a few cars may have ground it to pieces in the crosswalk or the gushes of wind blown it into the gutter. I resigned myself to never seeing it again, grabbed my lunch and trudged back to the crosswalk. My mind glided back to some of the books into which I'd slid the leather: Stephen King's It during a weekend-long read-a-thon in my dorm room; Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse while I waited in the hospital gurney to be wheeled in for my colonoscopy; Orwell's 1984 keeping me Company on the flight back from Boston. Such an insignificant piece of leather that had traveled with me for over 25 years.

While waiting for the light, I thought I saw a small black strip on the concrete, but figured it to be a shadow because it seemed too small. But after the light changed and I stepped closer and closer, I recognized the fading bit of leather and happily picked it up. A bit warm after sitting in the direct sun for a few minutes, but it still slipped between the cool pages of the book.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Finding Submarines

After the incidents of last week, I felt that I needed something to pick me up over the weekend so while TB visited his parents on Saturday, I stopped by Disneyland to check out the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage which opened a few weeks ago. (Plus, I needed my Disney fix.) As some folks know, the original Submarine Voyage, which carried passengers on a deep sea exploration from the Pacific to the frigid waters beneath the North Pole, closed in 1998. For many years, the lagoon remained empty save for the sea gulls, ducks and various bits of trash that guests tossed over the railings. The rumor mill suggested a possible Atlantis-themed attraction, but when the movie flopped, so did any potential for that attraction. However, many of us noticed the tall green barriers that appeared seemingly overnight last year, covered with various characters from Finding Nemo, and we tried peeking through the cracks or riding the Monorail to get a sneak peek at the construction.

In June of this year, the new Submarine Voyage finally opened, and I would have tried sooner to ride it, but word made its way around that the wait time was anywhere from three to four hours. Did I really need to spend that much time for a 15-minute ride? Apparently, I did as I stood in line for three hours last Saturday, roasting in the sunlight, reading a copy of Pylon by William Faulkner. The queue doubled and trebled back on itself so many times as to disorient everyone standing in line, tricking the young boy behind me to believe that we were almost at the loading zone only to put when the sign stated we still had 60 minutes to wait.

The attraction itself, once I finally squeezed down the spiral steps and into the really-get-to-know-your-neighbor seats, turned out to be enjoyable. The lagoon contained the pre-requisite fish and sealife, but thankfully, no memraids with strings poking from their heads as if they'd been caught by fishermen. At one point the submarine enters a cave with the Captain telling everyone that they have a new device which allows scientists to hear what the fish are saying, and soon, we all laughed and looked on in awe at Nemo, Mr. Ray, Marlin, Squirt, Dory and the gang re-lived scenes from the movie. We shot along the E.A.C., jumped atop the stinging jellyfish, hid from sharks in the bottom of a shipwreck. The kids aboard the submarine giggled screamed pointed and thoroughly enjyed themselves, forgetting about the three hours just spent in line.

Disney did a good job with this one. But I think I'll wait until school starts before attempting to ride it again.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Just a Quick Update

Thank you for all the kind comments about my family's health issues and my car troubles. To keep you updated:

My Dad visited the doctor this morning for a consult before his cystoscopy tomorrow; he will let me know all the details of the procedure tonight. The colonoscopy is scheduled for next week. Once the results of both exams are in, he and the doctor will determine a course of procedure to deal with the prostate cancer. My Dad's not looking forward to either exam, especially the cystoscopy since the camera goes up the front where not probe should ever, ever have to go. My knees lock together just thinking about it. Fortunately, the wonders of anesthesia should help with the process.

For now, I'm driving a Hyundai Elantra. Small car that feels too tall and guzzles gas faster than the dirt in Death Valley does water. But that's what the body shop was able to get at a discount. And it offers a CD player and a sun roof so I can't complain too much. As for my own car -- total loss, according the the body shop. Much of the damage pushed into the firewall surrouding the engine making the cost to repair much more than the value of the car. I won't know the full details until my claim adjuster receives that report along with the police report and the ID of the other driver.

My chest still hurts a bit from where the seatbelt kept me from slamming headfirst into the windshield. I catch myself watching other cars more intently on the road and freeway than I used to; I've been called a cautious driver by family, friends and loved ones, but now, I'm probably more careful than necessary. I can live with that, thankfully.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

It's Only a Game, Pt. 2

Jake squeezed through the front door, stumbling down the two steps onto the walkway, landing on his back. He pushed himself away from the front door using elbows and feet, eyes fixed on the door, waiting for the thing to crash through at any moment. Finally reaching the sidewalk, he stopped pushing and waited.

The door rested slightly open, just as he left it. No sounds of destruction or laser blasts, except those that still echoed in his ears. Where was it? What was it waiting for? Jake breathed deeply, trying to calm the pounding in his chest. He realized that he was still holding the box in his hand and tossed it aside.

“Hey! Watch it!”

Jake jumped. His friend Mark was standing behind him, holding the box. “Shit!”

“Sorry,” Mark laughed.

“What are you doing here?”

“You called. Some problem with your computer so I came over. Like you asked, remember?” He helped Jake to his feet than turned the box over in his hands. “So is this the problem?”

“You might say that.”

“Okay. Let me at that computer, and I should have it back up and running in no time.”

“NO!” Jake grabbed his arm as he headed toward the apartment. “No, um, it looks like Hell in there.”

“Jake, I’ve seen your place before. I know how bad it looks.” He smiled and loosened his arm from Jake’s hand. He turned around after a few steps. “You’re not hiding a one-night stand in there, are you?”

“What?! No, I -- No.”

“Uh-huh.” Mark smirked. “I’ll make this quick so you can get back to business.”

“Mark --”

“No, no. You can thank me later.” He nudged the door and disappeared inside.

a work of fiction © G.A. Carter, 2007 (284 words)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Ouch: The Post with All the Bad News

  • I won't go into details, but I was involved in a car accident yesterday. I'm fine, just a little chest pain from the seat belt, but my car is undrivable. Once everything is settled (insurance, police, etc.), I'll talk more about it.
  • My Dad told me the day after returning from Boston that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. His PSA levels increased by one point which normally wouldn't concern the doctor, but he recently switched insurance carriers. The new doctor requested a biopsy just to be careful, and two of the twelve samples came back positive. Within the next few weeks, he must undergo a colonoscopy and a cystoscopy to check if the cancer has spread. My Dad's in surprisingly good spirits considering.
  • My brother's finacée's Father underwent the removal of his entire colon a few days ago. Seventeen polyps had previously been removed, with twelve of them harboring cancer cells. He returned home form the hospital and is doing well.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog reading....

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Horror of It All

I love reading ghost stories or anything having to do with zombies, creepy places, and things that go bump in the night. That adrenaline rush of fear that makes me keep turning the pages even though I know I need to go to bed -- what a feeling! Unfortunately, that doesn't translate too well with horror films. I do love a good scary movie, almost as much as a horror novel, but I think I prefer imagining for myself what the characters or the spooky old house or the creature lurking beneath that last step at the bottom of the basement look like. Also, I tend to hide behind my fingers when I feel the tension mounting on screen because I know that the monster is waiting just around the corner for the co-ed with the perky assets to turn that way so it can rip her to shreds.

That being said, I was the one who really wanted to see 1408. The previews looked creepy, and the fact that it was based upon a Stephen King short helped boost my interest. So Thursday night, after a bad day at the office, TB treated me to dinner and a movie.
In 1408, horror writer Mike Enslin spends his nights in supposedly haunted hotel rooms, jotting his experiences down in books such as 10 Haunted Lighthouses, and not really believing in the ghosts because he's never experienced one. One day he receives an anonymous postcard from the Dolphin Hotel in New York with the cryptic message "Don't enter Room 1408" inscribed on the back. Seeing this as a marketing ploy for the hotel drum up some business, he decides to book the room for a night. However, the hotel's manager, Mr. Olin, refuses point blank over the phone to let the room to him. Enslin shows up anyway and is reluctantly given the key to the room. Before getting into the elevator, Mr. Olin tells Enslin that no one has lasted more than one hour in the room. To make matters even more interesting, Mr. Olin won't exit the elevator once they reach the 14th floor, leaving Enslin to find his own way. Once in the room, nothing happens at first, but subtly, the atmosphere changes, a picture tilts on its own, the thermostat won't operate properly, the alarm clock blasts The Carpenters' We've Only Just Begun for no reason. Then things get weird, leaving Enslin to fight for his own sanity.

A good adaptation of the short story. John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson gave fine performances in their respective roles as Enslin and Mr. Olin. While the film does have its share of surprise scares, the horror leaned more toward the psychological as the room seemed to be toying with Enslin, hoping to drive him to despair and thoughts of suicide like many other of the room's guests. I liked the special effects -- when I wasn't peering through my fingers at the screen. (Yes, I'm a big chicken when it comes to these films.) Very effective film. And if I learned anything from it, it's that if Samuel L. Jackson tells you not to go into a room, don't go into that room.
TB and I also saw another kind of horror film yesterday: Shrek the Third. What sounded like a promising story -- Shrek is to become King but doesn't want to so he sets off to find the next in-line, while a pregnant Fiona must fend off Prince Charming who wants to usurp the kingdom of Far Far Away -- wait, that doesn't sound all that promising, does it? The movie felt more like an afterthought, as if the studio decided to jump on the Shrek bandwagon after the first two successful films just because they could not because they should. The story was flimsy. The voice work so-so. The humor fell flat in most places (though some scenes earned real laughter, like the Gingerbread Man's life passing before his eyes). Very rushed and non-cohesive the entire time. I think we both sighed with relief that we waited until it was at a discount movie theater.

Maybe I should have watched it through my fingers....

I'm Published!

Check out the July Issue of Clockwise Cat. I'll wait for you to check it out.... Second listing under Fiction.... (whistling, rocking back and forth on feet).... Yep, that's me!! Next month, they'll be publishing another one of my sudden fiction pieces. No, I won't be bringing in the big checks anytime soon for my writing. I wonder if Stephen King started this way....

Friday, July 13, 2007

It's Only a Game, pt. 1

Jake dropped his sandwich on the counter and rushed back to his bedroom, hoping the sound of breaking glass didn’t mean anything too terrible. He stopped in the doorway, peeking in to check the damage and was surprised to see the lone window above his desk still intact. He cautiously stepped inside, weaving a slow path toward the window to double check.

He pressed his hand against the window, tapped his finger at the center of one pane to make sure his eyes weren’t playing any tricks. He heard the glass break. He was certain of it, but the window told another story. No cracks or chips. No bricks or rocks on the floor from one of the idiot kids in the complex.

He stepped back, his foot crunching a few pieces of glass into the carpet. He turned, bumping into his desk and that’s when he noticed the gaping hole in his monitor. A few wisps of grayish blue smoke drifted from the hole as Jake hesitantly rubbed his fingers along the bumpy, melted edges. He poked a finger inside the tangle of burnt wires, trying to find whatever may have punctured the monitor, but couldn’t find a thing – not even pieces of glass.

Something dragged along the carpet in the hallway. Jake unplugged his keyboard and hefted it like a baseball bat over his right shoulder as he tiptoed to the door. He tilted his head around the corner and thought he saw a dark shape disappear into the bathroom. Listening to the better judgment of his inner voice, he snuck across the hall into the kitchen and grabbed the phone.

“Hey, Mark,” he whispered. “Can you get over his asap?….I’m not sure, but something’s wrong with my computer, and I….my throat hurts, that’s why. Listen, just get over here, okay?….No, this can’t wait until tomorrow…..Mar—“

The kitchen door slammed open. The phone slipped from Jake’s hand as he stared at the gigantic thing in the doorway. Probably eight feet tall, covered in rusty metal armor that looked damaged from too many battles. A battered helmet that hid the eyes behind dark black glass. A large gun held in the right hand with the red site beam aiming directly between Jake’s eyes.

Jake barely ducked in time as the laser blast tore a hole in the wall where the phone used to be. He scrambled under the table and out the other side just as another blast splintered the far end, sending bits of particleboard around the room like snowflakes. Jake hurtled himself over the counter, onto the old sofa in the living room. He rolled off, slamming into the coffee table. The box he’d opened hours before tumbled onto his head, and he grabbed it to toss aside when he noticed the cover. The same thing that was blasting his kitchen to pieces stared at him from the game box cover, comic book lasers firing at something unseen in the distance.

The wall behind him exploded, sending him through the air a few feet. His back slammed into the front door, and he barely registered the thing pushing its way through the mess toward him before he scrambled to his feet and squeezed through the door.

a work of fiction © G.A. Carter, 2007 (540 words)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

We broke down Sunday and against our better judgement, caught a matinee screening of Transformers. But as it turned out, the 11:30am screening was the best idea moviewise. $5 per person -- that's cheaper than using a coupon from the Entertainment® book. I haven't paid so little for a movie since the free showing of Jackass: Number Two last year. The theater was probably three-fourths full, and surprisingly, no one -- not even the many kids in the audience -- spoke or disrupted the film. I even enjoyed the previews, especially the one for J.J. Abrams' Cloverfield. The other trailers were fairly forgettable, as usual, though we did play our little guessing game as to how many would be shown. TB said five, and what do you know, he was right!!

As for the movie, I admit to being a bit hesitant at first. I never watched the cartoon as a kid though I remember playing with the toys/gadgets/dolls whenever I went to a friend's house. I feared also that the special effects would be less than stellar, especially after seeing Spiderman 3 and noting how fake it all seemed. But once the opening titles roled by and Bumblebee transformed from the Camaro into the autobot -- and it looked incredible to boot! -- I was hooked. I hunkered down in my seat and enjoyed the 2-1/2 hours of robots, mass destruction of Los Angeles, and the humorous bits, too. Shia LaBeouf did a fine job as Sam Witwicky whose great-grandfather inadvertently stumbled across the Decepticons in the Antarctic way back in the early 1900s. Some good supporting performance from Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson, and Jon Voigt, and the unusually eccentric and over-the-top John Turturro. I felt a few scenes were unnecessary, such as the "slow motion somersault over the big-breasted and tan damsel in distress" during the destruction of Los Angeles, and a few characters could have been left on the cutting room floor because they served no purpose. But the ILM's incredibly realistic special effects blew us away. Well worth the $5 each.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Moments of Pleasure

Pleasure is anything that you enjoy doing, anything that makes you feel good or happy. Sitting in a darkened room watching Forbidden Planet. Biting into a milk caramel cube as the sugary sweetness drips down your throat. Fantasizing about some hot porn star giving you a full-body rub down.

Even spending time with friends after work for dinner, such as TB and I did Friday evening. We met CS and RG at the California Pizza Kitchen and spent the next hour catching up, laughing, scarfing down some good pizza and drinks, and just enjoying our Boys Night Out. We were having such a good time, in fact, that we carried it over to the Silver Fox for the next few hours. We watched some odd attempts at remixed music videos interspersed with skits from Saturday Night Live and MadTV. The loud conversations combined with the music finally drove us to the empty outdoor smoking patio where we exhausted ourselves with more talking.

Sometimes pleasure is experienced in more unique ways, through touch and taste. Such as the Passion Party we attended Saturday night for a co-worker's 30th birthday. Neither of us knew what to expect, or if we would be the only men present. Thankfully, we weren't, but I think we were the only gay men and the only couple. But that added to the fun as we tested the cherry Creamsicle massage cream, TB rubbing it onto his forearm as I leaned over to lick it. Or with the white chocolate body powder that Juicy Jackie, our hostess, gently feathered onto our hands. We smelled the brown sugar body rub, marveled at the sudden warming of the cherry-flavored nipple balm. The two of us sat back and passed around the myriad pleasure toys during the second half, including the intriguing Jelly Osaki with a vibrating rotating shaft and tongue, and the cringe-worthy Pleasure Pearls.

Going to the movies, reading a book, taking a short drive away from the city. so many things that bring pleasure. What are some of yours?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

I Think, Therefore I Blog

I'm honored that Christopher over at ::Clever Fool:: nominated me for a Thinking Blogger award. Whether my blog actually lives up to that...well, that still remains to be seen, even after 3-1/2 years.

Per the rules, I must post the following:

  1. Write a post with links to five other "Thinking" blogs.
  2. Link to this post so people can find the exact origin of the meme.
  3. Optional: Display the above picture

So without further ado, I present to you five Thinking Blogger nominees:

Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering? Christian's an incredible writer, and I've enjoyed reading his bits of fiction, family life and his pups

Tuna Girl Karen unabashedly talks about sex, life as a military wife, raising kids. And did I mention sex?

A Guy's Moleskine Notebook Matt brings the worlds of literature, university life and his Chinese heritage to life

Spo-Reflections A mixture of psychology and his personal life

joeydestino Thought-provoking musings on life and love

If you haven't done so already, give them a read.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Last First Line

The answer to the First Line from a few weeks ago, if you haven't figured it out with all the pictures from my trip to Cambridge and Boston:

Boston by Augustana; music/lyrics by Augustana

This song from the California-based group peaked at #34 on the Billboard charts but has been used in many TV shows and for promos of new TV shows.

And with that, the First Line Fridays come to an end. I'm making a few other changes, such as the fiction writing from Thursdays. One of my cohorts with the short pieces just received a fantastic writing opportunity which will take away his blogging time; the other -- also a professional blogger for -- is swamped with deadlines so it will be just me writing. I'm switching the days and calling it Fiction Friday. Ingenious, isn't it? So later today, I will post my short fiction for this week.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Evan's Little Children

I hope everyone had an enjoyable 4th of July. I drove to my folks' in Laguna Niguel, ate hamburgers, too many chocolate-covered raisins and a large slice of delicious raspberry-rhubarb pie, and watched the fireworks launched from the lake behind their house. By 10pm, I felt ready to collapse but made it all the way to Long Beach by 11 pm.
On Sunday, trying to recuperate from the long flight back from Boston and the 10 hours of sleep that followed, we caught a screening of Evan Almighty, even though we heard nothing but bad reviews from the critics. The movie follows Evan Baxter, the self-absorbed anchorman from Bruce Almighty as he begins his new career as a Senator. His campaign promised to "change the world", and not really knowing how, he takes his wife's advice and sends a little prayer to God. To his surprise, God answers by asking him to build an ark. Evan thinks it's all a joke until the numbers "6:14" appear on his alarm clock and new license plates, pairs of animals begin following him, lumber and old tools appear on his doorstep, and he grows a beard overnight that won't disappear after shaving. He resignedly agrees to follow what God asks of him, even though it may jeopardize his standing with his family and as the "new guy" in the Senate where Congressman Long is trying to get him to co-sponsor a bill that would open up National Park lands for development.

Despite what the critics said, we both enjoyed this movie. Very lightheated, but with a good message about being able to change the world with small acts of random kindness (ark - get it?). Good acting by Steve Carell (funny as always), Morgan Freeman, John Goodman, John Michael Higgins, Jonah Hill and Lauren Graham. Wanda Sykes was okay, but it seems as though she plays the same wise-cracking character in every movie. Industrial Light and Magic did a nice job with the special effects, and all the animal work really lent itself to the humor of the film. One thing I will say about the story, I found it interesting that the one person who really didn't have a strong belief in God actually winds up making contact with him, and that all those who pray day after day, affirming their belief, automatically disbelieve Evan when he said that he spoke with God. They actually ridiculed him toward the end with how "his God" lied to him, was making him look like a fool. It made me question if those who pray really do believe because when confronted with the (movie) reallity, they were the first ones to discount or try to discredit, and my mind drifted to Joan of Arc. (A stretch, I know, but didn't she go through the same thing, but was burned for it, called a heretic?)

No, the film's not going to knock your socks of or leave you going "Oh my God, what a fantastic film!" It's pleasant, something the entire family can see together and discuss.

Tuesday night, the two of us gorged on barbecue ribs from Chris & Pitts before turning off the lights to watch a DVD. This one had been sitting on our table for ove a month since it first arrived from Blockbuster. I was feeling guilty for keeping it for such a long time, and finally managed to set aside time to watch Little Children.
Sara is a stay-at-home Mom, finding it difficult to connect with her daughter and with the other mothers who meet every day at the park. One afternoon, a man named by the group of women as "The Prom King" brings his son to the park, sparking infatuation among the women. Sara is dared by the group to say hell to him, maybe even get his phone number, and from this simple act begins an affair between her and Brad, "The Prom King", a law student trying not to take the bar exam for the third time. Hanging in the background, sometimes popping up its head in unexpected places, is the fact that a known child sex offender is living in the same neighborhood with his elderly mother.

TB and I heard from others that this was a heavy drama, tackling such weighty subjects as adultery and child sexual abuse. While yes, it does deal with those subjects, we actually found ourselves laughing quite a bit at the acting, the writing and dialogue, and especially at the narration, provided by an omniscient voice instead of one of the characters. The book upon which the movie was based is considered a satire, and the film's creators managed to get that across whether it's in what the characters say or merely via facial expressions (such as, when Brad decides to play touch football with a group of police officers, the camera pans from face to face, showing the determined, angry, menacing look of the team, until the camera reaches Brad who looks like a deer in headlights). A great script, complimented by fine direction form Todd Field and wonderful acting by Kate Winslet as Sara, Patrick Wilson as Brad, Jennifer Connelly as Brad's wife, and Jackie Earle Haley as Ronnie (the sex offender), and I could understand all the award hype from last year. The many gratuitous scenes of Patrick Wilson either in his swim trunks or bare butt didn't hurt, either.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Snippets from the East Coast

  1. I will fly JetBlue the next time I have a meeting in Boston. A direct flight from Long Beach, complete with DirecTV and XM Radio. I managed to finish two novels during the flights there and back, and started a third. If only they had served a meal because by the time we reached Boston and the hotel in Cambridge, we were starved and hurried across the street to the mall for a quick bite to eat before dinner.

  2. The weather over there can be very deceiving. On Wednesday, we literally melted after stepping into the airport: 97˚F with an unbelievable amount of humidity. The thunderstorms never showed though it sprinkled for about 10 minutes Thursday evening. But Friday -- oh, what a beautiful day: cool breeze, sunny but not overpowering, a few puffs of clouds. Unfortunately, we had to stay inside the hotel for training most of the day.

  3. One thing I love about these big, company-wide meetings is reconnecting with people from HQ and other offices. My friend Triple Deck-her, whom I'd met during my first trip to Boston way back in 1999, greeted me with a big hug. We ate lunch, talked about how the company's changed, and enjoyed catching up with each other. And I learned that she also rolls with the Boston Derby Dames!!! You don't believe I know her? Check out my photos from the trip, second row, third picture from the left.

  4. The company treated us Thursday night to a special reception and dinner at the New England Aquarium. Though we all felt odd eating sushi and lobster while we were there, no one complained about having the run of the aquarium. I spent much of the reception walking around the gigantic cylindrical tank at the center of the building, representing the Bahamas, filled with sharks, sea turtles, eels, balloon fish, rays, and all sorts of wonderful creatures. Each level of the winding walkway filtered onto a plateau with more amazing creatures, with my favorites being the sea dragons and the Paku. At the very top, another walkway rounded the top of the tank, allowing us to look down at the many layers of fish and other sea life while bumping heads against the ceiling of the building. Surrounding the bottom of the cylinder, a large pool stretched the entire length of the floor with rocky outcroppings and islands providing shelter for the many penguins. We ate literally 30 feet from them!

  5. During one of the meeting breaks, I took a few minutes to explore the hotel's impressive modern and contemporary art collection. Paintings, scupltures, photographs, works in tile, hanging on the walls, hanging from the ceilings -- it was incredible. I asked the conceirge beforehand if I could take a few pictures, such as the one here of a painting by Natalie Alper. One favorite discovery was an entire wall of photographs and accompanying blueprints signed by Buckminster Fuller. I think I bored everyone with my incessant chatter about the artwork.

  6. After the dinner on Thursday, I visited one of the local gay cafés with a few co-workers, enjoying the rich chocolatey chocolate mousse cake from 647 Tremont. A little slow with the service -- we had to remind our waiter after 45 minutes that I still hadn't received my dessert -- but a nice atmosphere. From there, we met a few people at Club Café for a bit of dancing. Actually, since it seemed to be more of an S&M club (stand and model), we just listened to the music and watched videos. We did, however, meet a very nice gay couple from Pasadena, CA, of all places. Or rather, a woman from an East Coast office introduced herself to them and in turn tried to hook up the single members from our group. Fun to watch, I must say.

Unfortunately, our flight Saturday morning left Boston Logan at 7:10 am so I went to bed early Friday night. And barring a few strange, drunken women breaking into the room looking for cigarettes at 12:30 am, the night was fairly uneventful. But it is nice to be home with my sweetie, to sleep in my regular bed with the cat perched atop my chest.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Back from Beantown
My JetBlue flight arrived back in Long Beach, CA, on Saturday morning. I'm still recuperating so here's a little pic from my trip to Boston (which is also the answer to the last First Line Friday). More pics and a longer post to come!!