July 31, 2011

Richard Thompson in Cincy

Richard Thompson, he of the recently bestowed honorary doctorate from University of Aberdeen, will be playing a show at the 20th Century Theater in Cincy on October 4th.

Tickets went on sale yesterday, and I got my tickets this morning. They're $30 for the balcony, $35 and $40 for the floor.

Anybody wanna join me?

(Oh, and if your answer is Who's Richard Thompson?, go learn something.)

July 30, 2011

Today in history

I don't know what happened, but I'm sure it was something.

July 28, 2011

A little thanksgiving

One image from The Tree of Life that intrigued me was of a spiral of stained glass windows below which the camera twirled. The shot wasn't more than a few seconds, but the gorgeousness of the glass and the oddity of the receding spiral has stuck with me.

So I did a little hunting and found that the windows are actually part of the ceiling at the Chapel of Thanksgiving, the major architectural feature of Thanks-Giving Square in Dallas, Texas. Having been to Dallas, I'm a little disappointed that I didn't find time to see this beautiful building and its apparently pretty bucolic setting, including this Norman Rockwell mosaic which I know I've seen somewhere before...

But it's the chapel's Glory Window that was featured in Tree of Life. Stunning...

July 27, 2011

We're #1...We're #1

That's right, Cincinnati is the #1 city in the nation for bedbug treatment calls according to Orkin's just-released 2011 rankings. Terminix still has us as #2 behind the Big Apple, but we're gaining on them.

But we're not crying into our vermin-infested mattresses. No, we're celebrating by making awesome bedbug costumes like this one from the Northside July 4th parade (#15 here).

Just so you know, I checked my hotel mattress thoroughly before setting anything down in the room this week. Yay, bedbugs!

July 26, 2011

WLHS no more

After a busy spring laying new cable to improve their broadcast quality, the student-run radio station WLHS will be signing off in its current iteration sometime soon, a victim of all-too-common budget cutting. Looks like the broadcasting license will be taken over by WMKV, a self-described nostalgia station - which seems to mean olde timey radio shows, big band music, musical standards, and so much more - for at least the next three years.

I'll miss WLHS's dogged pursuit of playing new, interesting music bookended by apathetic teenagers showing the absolute maximum level of ennui and the absolute minimum level of connection with their audience. Sure, the resolute denial of anything that could date their show got old sometimes as did their gallows humor at playing another exciting PSA, but I'll miss the music.

Give a listen while they're still around - and hopefully when they get their new internet-only station up and running in the fall.

Heaven protect us

And thank you TheDailyWh.at.

July 25, 2011

What sank the Titanic?

No recap wrap-up of the vacation just yet. I'll get it finished soon. In the meantime, enjoy this gorgeous poster from the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.

July 24, 2011

Just fun

Even Jesus (5:47) can't resist the Party Rock Anthem.

July 23, 2011

This week's detritus


    July 22, 2011

    Guess the theme...

    Since it went over so well last time, let's try this again...

    Guess the theme of this week's 8tracks playlist theme.

    July 21, 2011

    Vacation recap: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (part 2)

    So, when last we left our intrepid campers, it was the night of Monday, July 11...What would they do from there?

    Read on, loyal reader, Excelsior!

    Tuesday, July 12

    Toasted bagels again (with peanut butter and jelly [jelly stolen from J&S Hamburg's table] ) before remembering to put on sunscreen and bug spray before we headed hiking (kinda forgot that yesterday morning on the Lasso Loop). And onward to the Pyramid Point trail we went - which did have a gorgeous overlook onto Lake Michigan...

    On the way to the trail, we stopped in Glen Arbor to pick up some fresh goods from a farmers market - local cherries and sugar snap peas. At the edge of the the market, we were asked to sign a petition against PA4. When we told them that we were from out of state but sided with them as we had worked on the SB5 petition. They congratulated us and said that once they saw that we'd gotten 1.3 million signatures, that they knew 'if the Buckeyes could do it, so could we." Good luck, ladies.

    July 20, 2011

    Vacation recap: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (part 1)

    The Girl and I just got back from eight days of camping in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (and one of hotelling at Park Place in Traverse City, MI).

    The short version of the recap is that we dug the camping and loved the park. Our last two nights on the island were nice, too, but we wouldn't want to be out there any longer.

    For more details, I'm thankful that The Girl wrote a daily recap of each day's events. I warn you that this'll be a photo-heavy post, so I'm going to put it after the jump. Read on if you want to...

    July 19, 2011

    The final image

    Here's a challenge for the rest of the day: identify the movies whose last moments are shown here.

    I'll put my guesses after the jump.

    Back and better than ever

    I'll be back to posting pretty soon as I'm back from camping for nine days.

    But first, there's a movie to watch this morning.

    July 15, 2011

    I pledge allegiance to Texas and the lesser forty-nine states

    I originally started out wanting to do Texas music including non-country, but Texas blues will have to wait a while.

    For now, it's Texas country.

    July 14, 2011

    I didn't get to see much of Houston while I was down there. Saturday's transportation was awful; I've covered that. Sunday was unpacking at the camp site and dinner of good Mexican food.

    From there, the days went pretty much like this: breakfast at the hotel, to camp by 7:20am, away from camp at 7 or 8pm, quick dinner near the hotel (all chain restaurants, meh), sleep, repeat.

    On Friday evening, after the camp was wrapped up and packed away, however, we at least go dinner at someplace interesting, the Houston Aquarium (quick review: kid friendly, decent if overpriced food, neat fish tank surroundings).

    On the way back from the aquarium, however, there was a bit of getting lost. At the end, however, I was happy we got lost because we passed one of the neatest things I saw in all of Houston: A Tribute to American Statesmanship.

    The series of four busts - George Washington, Abe Lincoln, Sam Houston, and Stephen F Austin - is located just next to I-10 and has apparently been nicknamed Mount Rush Hour (I chuckle, seriously).

    In searching for a bit of information about this wacked out set of statues - and especially about their location in a bit of a weird neighborhood - I found the following bits of info...
    • The statues are really big - 22ft high and a combined 60ft wide. (Source)
    • The statues are lit up at night. (Source w/ photo)
    • They're in a rough neighborhood. (Source w/ photo)
    • David Adickes, the sculptor,works in really big concrete statuary. (Source w/ photos)
    • These are only a few of the presidential busts that Adickes has made. Check the two Presidents Parks where his work can be seen.
    • Apparently there was supposed to be a third Presidential Park in Pearland, TX (a Houston suburb), but financing fell through.
    • Kids can get right up and touch the presidents. (Source w/ photo)
    • Google's StreetView blurred the presidents' faces. (Source w/ photo)
    • They're technically at the corner of Bingham & Elder in Houston, TX. (Google Maps link)
    • The statues weren't there when Bing took some of its aerial view photos. Rotate 'em around to see them from two of the four directions. (Bing maps link)
    • People have done some weird photo paintings of the statues. (Source w/ aforementioned photo paintings)
    • It's at the intersection of I-10 and I-45. (Source)
    Wacky stuff...

    Photo credits...up top...with the yellow truck...down low...

    July 13, 2011

    Today's random playlist

    • "Way Downtown" by Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - 3 stars - I remember first hearing Will the Circle Be Unbroken back in college and The Girl buying me the double cd for my 21st birthday. She even had to hide it when we visited a bookstore in Bloomington that weekend because I was planning to buy it for myself. The beautiful simplicity of the old school hootenanny feel of the session is absolutely wonderful throughout. This isn't my favorite song of the sessions, but Doc Watson's voice comes through crystal clear over the Dirt Band's backing.
    • "Souvenirs" by John Prine - 3 stars - This one's from a tribute concert held in honor of Steve Goodman, a songwriter and friend of Prine's. This song is heartwrenching, telling of a man's loss of youth and innocence as he goes back through his 'childhood souvenirs,' some of which have been lost to him. This live performance is a little flat; the studio recording by Prine got four stars from me.
    • "Kill the Lights" by Ryan Adams & the Cardinals - 3 stars - We're looking at almost three years since Ryan Adams's last major release, Cardinology in October 2008. This double disc of outtakes comes from the same sessions that produced Cold Roses, his first album with The Cardinals. I preferred Cold Roses to this collection. This one has a harder, looser feel to it, a band getting to know each other and feeling each other out musically. This track has a nice, yelling chorus, but that's about it for me.
    • "19th Nervous Beakdown" by the Rolling Stones - 4 stars - I think everybody knows this one, eh? It's a classic look at the era and always makes me think of "Mother's Little Helper" as a thematic pairing.
    • "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" by Stevie Wonder - 3 stars - 1970s Stevie Wonder...the man threw off classics like this as though he were just breathing. It'd be tough to find an artist with as strong a prime as Stevie's 1960's-70s output, and this is right in the heart of the run (1970).
    • "The Wicked Messenger" by Tim O'Brien - 4 stars - From O'Brien's Red on Blonde album in which he covers Bob Dylan in his unique bluegrass style. Turns out that these Dylan songs translate pretty well.
    • "Inventory" by Meryn Cadell - 5 stars - I'll admit to having been a little disappointed when, the last time I went with a random ten, I didn't get a single song that I'd rated as five stars on iTunes. Much happiness when this one came up this time.And it was odd that this song would pop up as I had been thinking about writing a blog post based on this song for the past few days, listing things in my house in the order corresponding to this song's lyrics. By the time you get this playlist, however, I might have already written and published that blog post (I'm writing this on July 1 as Nadal plays Andy Murray in the Wimbledon semifinals.) 
    • "Angel from Montgomery" by Bonnie Raitt & John Prine - 5 stars - Possibly Prine's finest song, and this duet is easily the best performance of it I've ever heard. "How can a person/go to work in the morning/come home in the evening/and have nothing to say?" Man, tears come to the eyes at that line every time.
    • "Happy This Way" by Judith Owen - 4 stars - Judith Owen has worked with Richard Thompson for years, and she came with him to St X where I saw them perform their 1000 Years of Popular Music show a few years back and went hunting down Judith's then-new album soon there after. Her voice is beautiful - clear when it needs to be, warbly when it works - and this song showcases it perfectly, building to a creshendo about 4/5 of the way through the track.
    • "Theme from Route 66" by Nelson Riddle & His Orchestra - 3 stars - There was a time when I was gobbling up the Ultra Lounge series of music.It was a quick era, full of zoot suits and shark skin jackets, hep cats and Swingers, Rat Packs and swing dancing (none of it for me, of course). I still enjoy a good Deano or Frank, and this instrumental version of the television show's theme song is still fun, but the era's brief renaissance has passed.

    July 12, 2011

    July 11, 2011

    Five by five: Crazy Heart

    My favorite movies with Jeff Bridges
    1. The Big Lebowski 
    2. Iron Man
    3. True Grit
    4. Crazy Heart
    5. Tron
    My favorite movies with Maggie Gyllenhaal
    1. The Dark Knight
    2. Secretary
    3. Criminal
    4. Stranger Than Fiction
    5. Crazy Heart 
    My favorite movies with Colin Farrell
    1. In Bruges
    2. Minority Report
    3. Intermission
    4. Crazy Heart
    5. The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus 
    My favorite movies with Robert Duvall
    1. The Godfather, Part II
    2. Apocalypse Now
    3. The Godfather
    4. The Natural
    5. Network 
    My favorite movies with Jim Carrey (No, he wasn't in Crazy Heart, but it's not called 'Five by four'.)
    1. The Truman Show
    2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
    3. Bruce Almighty
    4. Man on the Moon
    5. Batman Forever (shut up, Nicole Kidman is really pretty) 

    July 9, 2011

    Posted from the road to Sleeping Bear Dunes

    Seriously, I'll be camping all next week. Even thought I'll be AFK, you'll still get posts.

    ...because otherwise you'll die...

    July 7, 2011

    Would this be mean?

    I'm thinking about buying one of these and putting it in my drawer at school for students to borrow for tests.
    Have you heard about the Crazy Calculator, the calculator that hates math? It’s both a prank calculator and a real calculator! When your friends are around, use it in prank mode. Whatever equation you enter, the answer will come up crazy: I H8 MATH, ASK NICELY, TRY LATER, WHO CARES, GO AWAY, and more! But when you really need an answer, switch it to normal mode and get the correct answer. Sweet! It’s solar powered with battery backup and has an automatic shut off timer
    Would that be bad?

    July 4, 2011

    Happy July 4th, everybody


    Goll Dangit!

    Looks like Wimbledon coverage is about to be leaving NBC for ESPN.

    At some point, I'm going to have to make the jump to real cable to keep watching sports. As the brief article points out, the College Bowl Series is on ESPN. The Final Four is going to be on TBS in a couple of years.

    And I don't really give a crap about the Olympics.

    My Movical Radar

    So much stuff...Guess that's what comes with the summer...

    Marwencol - The mere idea of Marwencol is fascinating: a man in upstate New York is beaten into a coma. When he wakes up, he has brain damage and almost no recognition of who he was before the beating. As therapy, he creates a village out of 1/6-scale WWII-era dolls. He and all of the people in his world become parts of the village through which he works out physical and emotional therapy.

    Mark Hogancamp's story is moving and touching but never saccharine. The film doesn't present Mark as a tragic figure but rather just as a man trying to deal with his world, trying to figure out where the new version of himself fits in this world. Mark doesn't create Marwencol (the village) with any hopes of showing it to the world but rather as simple therapy, something to occupy his unsteady hands. He doesn't seem to explore any of his motivations, but those motivations are laid bare by the filmmakers as they let Mark and his friends tell his story - from the time of his beating through to his first art exhibit in a SoHo gallery.

    There is a massive depth of honesty and heart in the story of Marwencol - and a couple of unexpected twists.

    An outstanding documentary...

    The Player - This one's a rewatch for me. I first saw this my freshman year at Wabash, late 1992 or early 1993. It was my first foray into the Robert Altman oeuvre, and I've come to be a big fan every since.

    The Player sees Tim Robbins play a high-rolling, powerful studio executive who is stalked by a writer with a grudge and menaced by studio politics as the new, hot, up and coming executive is threatening to take his job. Robbins digs himself deeper and deeper - in his social circles, in legal trouble, in romantic difficulties - and seems to be cracking in every possible way.

    In the end, however, he is the titular player. He comes out on top.

    The film is a reverential satire of the Hollywood scene with dozens and dozens of cameos - many of which ended up on the cutting room floor. Altman never treats his guests poorly but does handle the Hollywood habit of pitching movies in 25 words or less with heavier weight gloves. Throughout the film, the practice of giving elevator pitches is mocked with great glee.

    The film is a dark look at a man on the edge, however, alone spot of darkness in an otherwise outwardly sunny land. It's perfect LA and vintage Altman.

    Rising Tide: The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 and How It Changed America by John Barry - Barry's tale is a political and sociological look at the America from after the Civil War through the early 1930's, at the societal an meteorological forces that combined to produce one of the worst every floods on the lower Mississippi, a flood that devastated dozens of states, shaped political careers all the way to the White House, and left us with a dramatically different Mississippi River than we'd ever had before.

    The book flows through various stories that lead to 1927 and open from the flood. He opens with the battle of the great engineers whose battles formed America's first policies toward the Lower Mississippi River (from Cairo, IL on down), how they studied and attempted to master the river, bridging it at St Louis and steering it through jetties into to open passage to the Gulf of Mexico. This first section was the most scientific and hence the most fascinating to me. The struggles of Eads, Ellet, and Humphreys harkened back to an era when the builders, the designers, the Engineers were held up as examples toward which we should strive, and the outcome of their fights lead directly to the levies-only policy that lead to the 1927 flood's great level of destruction.

    The book turns then toward the political forces that created Greenville, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana, both of whom would turn out to be hugely important in the struggles against the Mississippi River in 1927. Greenville was as enlightened a Southern city as there was at the time, largely through the efforts of one political family, the Percys. The backdrop of Greenville shows the struggles of the South at the time - the Ku Klux Klan, the efforts to free and restrain black, sharecroppers, carpetbaggers, wealth, prohibition, gambling, drinking, whoring - and that backdrop is pushed to its limit when the levies at Greenville collapse in a mighty cavitation, washing away the glory of the city without necessarily destroying the buildings. New Orleans, then, is left to fight for its survival, to destroy the levies of its neighbors in order to save itself, an action that would be echoed in the fight against Hurrican Katrina nearly a century later. New Orleans is presented as a city in which the politicians held very little power but in which the banks and bankers held nearly total sway of the social and political future of the town, a power that was largely broken by the corruption washed ashore in the Flood.

    This book is a marvel, on that was named by GQ magazine "one of “nine pieces of writing essential to understanding America” (along with Lincoln’s second inaugural address and King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”)"  Anyone who wants to know how we got to where we are today should be reading this book. It's outstanding.

    It didn't, however, sate my curiosity about the policies that are now being enacted on the lower Mississippi.I want to know how we chose to build Old River Control and the Morganza & Bonnet Carre Spillways, how we chose to hold back the Atchafalaya. This book told me how we got to the 1927 flood and how those forces shaped policy going forward, but I want to know how the final decisions were made.

    For that information, I'm still searching and have a few more leads.

    Spider-Man: New York Stories - Fun stories here, mostly focusing on Spidey's supporting cast or his interactions with those folks.

    The stories are taken from various eras - some from the Gauntlet-era, some from well before that, some flashbacks (including a nice one with Cap'n America). Interesting to see so many different artists' takes on the Spidey world, too, something that's working well in the Gauntlet story arc that I'm currently reading, too.

    Worth a read...not series redefining by any means but fun...

    Spider-Man: The Gauntlet (all 5 parts) - I'm so thrilled that PLCH does a good job of completing most series. I'm trying to get them to continue on with the Invincible ultimate editions, but that's another story.

    I grabbed all of Spidey's The Gauntlet story arc and probably should have done so before I read Grim Hunt as one lead into the other, but such is the way of the wait-for-trader world.

    The Gauntlet puts Spidey through a constant run of some of his most classic villains, nearly all of whom have been expertly reimagined in a series of escalating, great tales. As we go along, Spidey/Peter becomes more and more despondent and exhausted, readying him for the Grim Hunt that is to come.

    In order then...
    • Vol 1 - Electro/Sandman - The Sandman issues are surprisingly touching, lending Marko a nicely emotional tone as he just tries to protect and raise the young girl that he sees as his own. The Electro mini-arc touches an interestingly contemporary tone as Electro taps into the anger of common people who see corporations getting bailouts while they struggle to make ends meet. It's a nice touch for the authors to connect to current reality. Electro as a villain is interesting, but his story isn't as interesting as Marko's.
    • Vol 2 - Rhino/Mysterio - Phenomenal cover...seeing Spidey surrounded by the blood that he has shed from his foes is achingly effective. This was the best of the volumes.The story of the Rhino is spaced out nicely as the former Rhino is doing everything he can to live a normal, non-criminal life because he has fallen in love and wants to do right by his woman. The tale is tragic, of course, as a new Rhino comes to challenge him, forcing him back into the criminal world. It's a great showing of emotion from Spidey as he can't save one of his former foes who has tried to take the high road. Tough emotional blow for PP. The Mysterio arc is a bit sketchier as it includes lots of feints and fakes of the typical Mysterio style: undead gangsters, false deaths, faked poison gas. Nice to see the Black Cat continuing to be around, however. The new 'relationship' between Cat and Spider is intriguing and shows a side of PP that we rarely get to see: the carnal one.
    • Vol 3 - Vulture/Morbius - Morbius isn't a villain here and is a weak spot in the Gauntlet other than giving Black Cat another chance to visit Spidey. The new Vulture character is flat out disgusting. Weakest run of the bunch.
    • Vol 4 - Juggernaut - A titular sequel to "Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut" but far weaker. Something about the Juggernaut having broken the tectonic plates under NYC in that tale and needing to fix them, so a new Captain Universe drops down to smack the Juggernaut around. Spidey gets in the way. Meh
    • Vol 5 - Lizard - Outstanding conclusion to the Gauntlet as the Lizard sheds any human pretension and finds a way to command the reptile brain parts of the human brains around him, sending NYC into an instinctual frenzy of fighting, fleeing, dominance, and reproduction in the streets. Great, kinetic artwork helps this one along, and it ends appropriately: with Spidey exhausted and barely victorious, ready for the Grim Hunt.
    All in all, The Gauntlet was an excellent if sometimes fractured (various artists taking turns sometimes works and sometimes doesn't) storyline.

    Keys to Good Cooking: A Guide to Making the Best of Foods and Recipes by Harold McGee - I found this text by McGee both incredibly useful and boring.

    The book is organized into thematic chapters - breads, eggs, meat, etc - each of which presents a series of tips and explanations about important bits of knowledge about the foodstuffs of the chapter. McGee's knowledge about food is encyclopedic, and his advice incredibly useful and science-based. He offers tips on how to best use the ingredients of the chapter and only the briefest explanations as to why those tips work.

    I was looking for more of the science as I had checked this out to review for possible inclusion into a science reading project that I have coming up for honors chem this year, and it's not fit for that. There's simply not enough science overtly presented for this to work for the project.

    This book would be incredibly useful, and I'm sure I would be a better cook if I could train myself to skim through each chapter before diving into using the appropriate foodstuffs, but I can't imagine trying to read much of it in one sitting. Like a poorly stored loaf of bread - which McGee can help you cure, by the way, wet the crust and bake for 15 minutes - the book is dry.

    I Love You Phillip Morris - sorry, I just like that poster way better than the American version.

    I like the Rotten Tomatoes summary of the film "This fact-based romantic comedy has its flaws, but they're mostly overcome by its consistently sweet, funny tone and one of the best performances of Jim Carrey's career."

    That's about right. It's far from a perfect film - the pacing particularly in the third act is rough - but it's enjoyable and helmed by two strong performances by Carrey and Ewan McGregor. McGregor's titular Phillip Morris is a simpleton who is taken advantage of at every turn until Carrey's personable, gay protagonist comes into his life. From there forward, Carrey does everything he can to shelter Morris from the harsh world - even if everything means defrauding a huge corporation and faking his own death.

    The film is a chance for Carrey to show both sides of his acting character: dramatic and over-the-top kinetic, and he does a great job here. The film is loosely based on a real pair of people, one of whom is still locked up drum tight with only an hour a day out of solitary confinement, and it's a fun little romp.

    Hulk Broken Worlds - This one's a jumble but one worth flipping through. The Hulk has been Marvel's unstoppable force, supposedly the strongest, the hardest to kill, the one who will outlast all the other superheroes or villains. Because of this reputation, The Hulk's ultimate future has been explored in dozens of possible futures. In the first two issues of this tpb, each of those futures is revisited to see how things are going since we last saw them. The most interesting to me were the revisit to House of M and Future Imperfect, both of which see the Hulk's rule starting to show a few cracks.

    The other issues collect short tales of the Hulk family and a retelling of an early encounter with the X-Men (shown on the cover to the left).

    Treat this tpb as a short story collection and don't go looking for a single story arc. It's a thematic collection, and it's a fun one.

    July 3, 2011

    The new #1!

    There's little doubt right now. Novak Djokovic is the new #1 in the world.

    July 2, 2011

    The Tree of Life - a mess or a masterpiece

    The Tree of Life isn't an easy film.

    It's one that doesn't provide a lot of easy or obvious answers. You need to know that going in. It's also one that provides a linear story but places it within a framework that provides us with almost no storytelling anchors at all.

    The film is either a masterwork by one of our finest living directors or a self important, overly long bit of visual noodling that could have used the heavy hand of a good editor.

    I'll try to keep things fairly spoiler free but do feel the need to discuss some of the more spoilerful things toward the bottom. I'll give you some warning before I make that change.

    The more linear, central part of the film is fairly straight forward, focusing on a year (or so) in the life of Jack, the eldest of three brothers in 1950's Waco, Texas. The three are raised by their mother and father, the two opposing influences in their lives. Their mother is a playful, sweet soul who wished only for her sons to grow up to be good, loving men, enjoying and relishing the beauty of God's world. The father (Brad Pitt) is a much more driven, hard man. He loves his sons but wants them to be tough, to not be taken advantage of the way that he feels he has been, to not make the mistakes that he feels he has made.

    As the seasons pass, particularly the summer, we see Jack fighting with the two aspects of his nature, wanting to be good and kind child but also feeling the need to establish himself as a harder, more world-ready man. We see the struggles within Jack in glimpses, moments where with the smallest of shifts, he could fall either way. The film masterfully places us in a drifting point of view from which we could easily believe either choice from Jack - to hurt those around him or to help them and turn from the darkness.

    This central core of the film is marvelous and emotionally moving, particularly as we see Jack's father open himself up to his eldest son as he begins to see all of his strengths and his faults in the young man. Jack bristles under the rough hand of his father while simultaneously and silently mimicking his motions, his stances, his mannerisms. At the same time, Jack relishes the freedom and joy of his mother's outlook on the world while openly and harshly criticizing her for what his father has taught him is her weak nature, allowing the world - and her husband - to walk all over her.

    This central part of the film culminates with a dramatic moment between Jack and his middle brother where a millimeter, a moment makes all the difference as toward which path Jack will find himself heading. The moment - and the subsequent leaving of their childhood home - is heart breaking and spectacular. There aren't many filmmakers who could provide us with this perfect a glimpse into the mind and heart of a young boy becoming a man.

    This more linear core of the film is probably an hour - maybe an hour and a half - of the film's two hour and fifteen minute running time, however, leaving almost a full hour for Malick's non-linear musings on the meaning of life,the creation of the universe, and our place within it - how small and insignificant we are within it. This portion of the film - split fairly evenly between before and after the linear core of the film - is both the best and worst aspects of art cinema. It provides gorgeous visuals only loosely connected with scant narration and very broad thematic sweeps.

    The early part of the film is frustrating in that it comes after we're introduced to Jack's mother and father in a very emotional, pivotal time of their lives and given no narrative thread to hold to. This is the part of the film  that has found moviegoers leaving the theater in frustration and others likely nodding off.

    The latter part of the film is equally frustrating as it leaves the narrative, linear central portion of the film for wordless, drifting wandering from Sean Penn, a grown up Jack, through his memories - or the afterlife - or...well, we're not really given a whole lot of clues as to where or why he's wandering, whether Penn feels he's within his own mind or simply metaphorically wandering around.

    My opinions of the film aren't set in stone just yet, and I suspect that I will come back to this film at a later time, trying to see it through slightly more experienced eyes, looking back at the film knowing a bit more about where it's going. The central part of the film is outstanding. Brad Pitt gives a spectacular performance as a man whose hard outer shell belies a seething, God-fearing, artistic heart. He does this with an economy of words and actions that reminds us Pitt truly is a great actor not just the charismatic smoothie of Oceans 11. The child actors - particularly the young man who plays young Jack - also perform marvelously, showing a grace and depth the belie their young ages.

    The non-linear parts of the film need, I feel, more guidance, more connection to the central core. As they stand they seem an entirely different film from the core. There simply isn't enough connection to justify the length of their meanderings. I've read a number of theories on what these wanderings might mean, but there isn't any hope of an answer because Malick doesn't give us much of a glimmer of any hope to find out what it means.

    The Tree of Life is a wonderful and wonderfully flawed film.

    To call it "one of the most important, best films of the past ten years," as a theater manager did on NPR this week as would be calling it "a waste of my time and money" as did a user on metacritic, both overstate the case but both contain a kernel or truth.

    SPOILERS after the jump...

    Back in the swing

    I'm back...back in the saddle again...

    I'm back.

        July 1, 2011

        The new #1?

        After winning today in the Wimbledon semifinal, Novak Djokovic is guaranteed to take over the #1 ranking on Monday.

        Now it's just down to who he gets to meet in the Wimbledon final: Murray or Nadal. Match starting now on NBC.

        PS - Just noticed that this is post #2475. Another nice little milestone (2500) coming up in just less than a month then.

        Today's random ten

        Today's random ten songs from the home iTunes...
        • "Top of the World" by Dixie Chicks - beautiful song, great performance showcasing Natalie Maines's voice...more dramatic music than most of their oeuvre...four stars
        • "Down by the River" by Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds - from their Live at Radio City two-disc set, interesting cover of Neil Young's great song...odd bent notes all over the place making the song far creepier than the original performance...three stars
        • "Feels Good" by Tony! Toni! Tone! - Ah, the very early 90's...working at WNAS and playing this cd single to death...nice bit of just pre-New Jack soul...this club remix isn't as tight as the single version, but it's still not bad...three stars
        • "Scarecrow" by Beck - I remember buying the Guero album in Dallas on a trip for the NSTA conference...good times...great album...good song...four stars
        • "One True Vine" by Wilco - This is off of the Sky Blue Sky bonus disc, but I have absolutely no idea why they left it off the original album. It fits beautifully and would have been a spectacular closer - slow, aching, heartbroken. Sky Blue Sky is one of my favorite albums by my favorite band, one of their most cohesive and singularly voiced. Four stars
        • "Cry Freedom" by Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds - After the Crash album, I pretty much gave up on the DMB.I've nothing wrong with the direction they took; I just didn't want to go with them. This cover of a song from Crash is still pretty, though. Three stars
        • "Milkcow Blue Boogie" by Elvis Presley - He's the king of rock and roll, the biggest thing in American popular music between Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson, and I have two cds worth of his music. This comes from The Sun Sessions which collects many of his original recordings at the earliest, most playful part of his career. It's easily my favorite of his periods. This particular track opens with "this don't move me. Let's get real, real gone" - one of my favorite phrases to open a song ever. Three stars
        • "Angry World" by Neil Young - This is newish Neil from his Le Noise album. The feedback has finally been tamed and turned into music for the old man without Crazy Horse, the first time I can remember him doing that solo. Three stars
        • "I Don't Want to Let You Go" by Weezer - from the Raditude album. I'm not a big Weezer fan, but I always like whatever I find. I should probably hunt down Pinkerton at some point. Four stars
        • "Ocean Crossing" by Arlo Guthrie & Pete Seeger - I grew up on Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie; Peter, Paul, and Mary and Bob Dylan. Mom's a folkie from back in the day, and this music just feels comforting to me. Yeah, Arlo can be goofy and silly and sappy sometimes - as he is here - but it feels like home. Three stars