Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Am I a movie masochist?

So I watched the Oscars on Sunday night, and it got me thinking about movies. I’ve seen a couple of high caliber films in the past few months. Two of them, Little Miss Sunshine, and Stranger than Fiction fell into the thoughtful, quirky, intelligent, feel-good category. Two others, Letters from Iwo Jima, and Pan’s Labyrinth fell into the thoughtful, depressing, going-to-go-shoot-yourself-in-the-parking-lot-afterward category. Guess which category I appreciate more?

As much as I enjoyed the former set of movies, the latter set impressed me more, because I think the fact that “entertainment” can be depressing is a fascinating oxymoron. Being able to arouse joy and depression in movies isn’t the hard part. Shoot, just show me video of a monkey on a unicycle and I’ll be grinning from ear to ear. Put a child with Down syndrome on screen, and you’ll likely elicit a tear from me.

What I find interesting is why I “enjoy” depressing subject matter in movies and television. I think it’s similar to the roller coaster effect-we enjoy roller coasters because it gives us the rush of fear, but without the actual danger. I enjoy depressing cinema and TV because it gives me a rush, but without having to deal with the real circumstances surrounding the depression.

Before you start sending me Paxil in the mail, or try to cancel my Blockbuster card, let me just say that the “depressing rush” is only a part of the reason I enjoy these movies. Dealing with dark subject matter, and not trying to tack on a happy twist is something else I admire about these movies. Life’s dark at times and doesn’t always have happy endings. Any movie that attempts to show this earns my respect, because they didn’t go for the easy, less realistic, rosy picture.

Finally, I’ve become convinced that I must see West Bank Story, the winner for Best Live Action Short Film. Any movie that describes itself as “A little singing, a little dancing, a lot of hummus,” has to be freaking awesome.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

This is your history…

I’ve decided to take it upon myself to become the unofficial family historian. I want to find out not only as much as I can about the history of the various sides of my family, but also most importantly, I want to gather as many stories as I can, straight from the horses mouths if possible.

I’m going to start off with my dad’s side of the family, which means a road trip down to North Carolina either this spring or this summer to see my grandmother, who is in her late 80’s. She’s half deaf, her mind is starting to go, and you eat her cooking at your own peril. I’m heading down there with a camera, and most importantly an audio-recording device of some kind.

Why have I decided to take on such a potentially torturous task? A few reasons: A) I have been reminded so much in the past few months of how mortal we all are. B) My dad’s never been the talkative type, my grandmother on the other hand…C) I think I’m well prepared to ask the right questions and do this interview justice. Having a degree and a job in the communication’s field has to be worth something. D) My grandmother’s the only living grandparent I have. She’s been plagued by medical conditions most of her late adult life and may not have all that much longer. I don’t know her as well as I should, and honestly one trip won’t suddenly make us close, but it will allow me to record some of the stories that will be lost when she dies.

If this all sounds a bit morbid, don’t worry, I feel the same. This won’t be my entire vacation though. I plan to take a few days of “real vacation,” and maybe visit a friend in California, or see my sister in New Orleans. However, this is something I feel strangely compelled to do. I want to hear my grandmother’s stories, even the ones that might seem pointless to her, because I expect that they’ll give me some insight into the personalities of my family members. I want my future kids and grandkids to know where they came from. I want to be able to say, “This is a part of the Across The River family history. Listen as your great-grandmother recounts the story of how your grandfather knocked out your great-uncle with a crowbar when he was 8-years-old.”

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Rocks. Pestilence. Snow. Dating.

About an hour into my drive from Richmond to NOVA, a large rock flew up from a Mack Truck and hit the right corner of my windshield, exactly where an earlier rock had hits a few months earlier. Within another hour, an inch wide crack became a foot long crack. I considered my options. If the cracking continued on its present course, it would start to seriously impede my driving ability. I didn’t hesitate though, I had a date.

As some of you may remember, a long time ago, in a blogosphere far, far away, I had signed up for an online charity auction. I’m Not going to expose the identity of the female who bought me. I know how blogger’s value their anonymity.

I had to warn her beforehand that I might not be able to live up to the high expectations that had surely been building in the past three weeks. Three weeks of delays due to flu, school, and inclement weather. Oh it was only a dinner date, but by god, whenever it happened, I was going to give her her five dollars worth.

Anyways, the date with said anonymous blogger took place last night at Sweetwater Tavern. It was a nice evening. We had a few drinks with dinner and talked about music, family, jobs and cupcakes.

Thanks to the No Sex and the City girls for doing the auction. Not only did they put my ass on the auction block and get me a date, they also rose close to $1000 for charity, an impressive feat.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Singles Awareness Day!

I’m not bitter. Really. I’m happy. Companionship? Fancy dinner? Sex? Bah, who needs it? I’ve thought of a number of fun things I can do today and tonight. If you’re single like me, may I suggest that you:

Show up at the restaurants where you know your “couple friends” are going to be. When they ask you why you are there, throw the question back at them and ask them why they’re out tonight. Act shocked when they tell you it’s Valentine's Day, and then mutter, “Now things are starting to make more sense.”

Watch the perfect Valentine's Day movie, and by perfect Valentine's Day movie, I of course mean the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. Bonus points if you turn it into a drinking game where you take a shot every time Frodo says “Oh Sam!”

Enjoy a romantic evening alone with just you and Papa John’s Valentine's Day Special: Buy one pizza, get a free pie.

Spend the entire day at work singing along to the cheesiest, sappiest music you can find, preferably from your “Greatest Hits of the 80’s: Power Ballads” CD. Bonus points if you can somehow work the lyric “Every rose has its thorn” into a normal conversation with your coworkers.

Go to the store, pick up one item like lotion or gel, and then get in the longest line possible. While in line, keep repeating, “Party for one tonight, yeahhh baby,” interspersed with porn music sounds like “bow-chicka-bow-wow.”

Thursday, February 8, 2007

English, do you speak it?

“Do you speak English?” I asked.


It was at this moment that I pushed the speakerphone toward View from Dupont, flashed my biggest, toothy grin, and reclined back in my chair. I hadn’t planned on being on a long distance phone call with an Italian receptionist at 10 in the morning, but sometimes work has a way of surprising me.

My task for Wednesday morning: Track down an important researcher at all cost. Important Researcher was supposed to be in California, but wasn’t answering his phone or responding to his email. Oh yeah, and he’s Italian.

After failing at the normal ways of contacting Important Researcher, like calling the hotel he was supposed to be staying at, I realized I was going to have to try to call the university that he teaches at in Italy. Except my Italian consists of about three words: sí, pizza, and sopranos.

Luckily, View from Dupont had spent some time in Italy. I explained my situation to her and asked if I could commandeer her for this important task. View from Dupont explained to me that she remembered many important Italian phrases such as “Can I bum a cigarette?” I didn’t hesitate for a moment, “Come with me to my office,” I said. I figured at the very least we’d be able to get some cigarettes out of the phone call.

Armed with View from Dupont’s strong grasp of the Italian language, and supplemented with the infallible Babel Fish, we proceeded to call Italy. After determining that the receptionist did not in fact speak English, I sat back and let View from Dupont work her magic. She proceeded to launch into long strings of Italian phrases that I can only assume translated into “The dog is over there. The shirt is red. The car is old. Nice to meet you.”

View from Dupont’s impeccable Italian must have worked, as the receptionist proceeded to ask something in Italian to the effect of “A professor?” I instantly perked up. Ha ha! – an opportunity to contribute, and use my Italian. “Sí!” I exclaimed.

We were able to get a phone number from the receptionist and then ended our call. View from Dupont and I proceeded to celebrate. We then looked closer at the number. It was the exact same phone number we had before, the phone number that the researcher had not been answering. Damn, all that work for nothing, not even a free cigarette.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Super Bowl

It's a fairly busy day, so not much time, but a few quick thoughts.

I'm an unabashed fan of Super Bowl Sunday's. Yeah, it's probably stereotypical, but if done right, the Super Bowl is like a holiday to me.

Yesterday was just about perfect. I sat around with a group of my closest friends in comfortable lazyboy's and couches. We drank a number of good microbrews and consumed way too much pizza and chips & salsa. I talked a lot of smack about da Bears before and during the game. The commercials were pretty good, and Prince was decent.

Most importantly, the Colts won and in the non-trash talking spirit of Tony Dungy, I will not go on a rant about how the Bears were 2006's most overrated team, and how Rex Grossman single handedly won the game... for the Colts. No I will not, I will leave that to other more insensitive souls.