Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pyramids


I went to see the pyramids with a young family in the branch. It was great fun. It certainly makes you feel small and inconsequential to be dwarfed by these structures. Despite a recent change in policy, the peddlers were still hard to avoid. The people I did talk to there were generally dishonorable. The peddlers claimed to agree on one price and then they would try to wrestle you out of more money. The security guards are all a joke - each of them conniving at us taking pictures or crossing cordons, while clearly expecting remuneration. It makes me feel very uncomfortable. At the risk of being just another stingy American, I just treat them all very brusquely and brush them off like pesky flies. What they don't realize is if they were more trustworthy they would better merit my patronage and my gratuity.

I've tagged some locations on a Google Map for you all to see. You can get a sense of where things are compared to where I live.

As always, photos of things are posted for your viewing pleasure.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

JAMES TIBERIUS KIRK

This is very exciting for me. Honestly, I was never a fan of the original Star Trek. It wasn't until The Next Generation that Gene Roddenberry's creation became important to me. This trailer has me hooked: (RSS Feed readers will need to see this in their normal browser window.)



The cast is full of interesting choices.

Simon Pegg is Scotty. I wonder if he'll be toning down his comedic characteristics for this role. I really hope not. I don't remember if old Scotty was funny or not, but Simon Pegg seems to me like a step up.

Leonard Nimoy is being replaced by Zack Quinto, from Heroes. It seems nearly impossible to replace Nimoy. He was the shining light from the original series. Luckily, Leonard Nimoy will be making an appearance in this movie as old Spock at some point. I only know that because he is on IMDb's cast list. Hopefully Quinto can avoid acting anything like Sylar in this movie. If I see even a glimmer of Sylar's cipher-like character in Quinto's eyes, I will be upset.

Some of the casting is amusing to me. John Cho as Sulu and Anton Yelchin as Chekov seem to be a result of the casting director picking the top Asian and Russian young talent in Hollywood. (Which is probably what happened for the original casting of the series in the 1960s.) Luckily, Anton Yelchin is a fine young actor. I look forward to him more than the others.

I really don't know anything about Chris Pine (Kirk) or Karl Urban (McCoy) or Zoe Saldana (Uhura). I'm trusting that Abrams chose these people wisely. I'm sure that Kurtzman and Orci know what they are doing. They seem to know a thing or two about character development and story telling... but I wonder what they can do with Kirk's character. Shatner really did a number on James T. Kirk. I don't even know where the character ends and the actor begins anymore. So, can these writers be the defibrillator to this acute myocardial infarction? CLEAR! . . . CLEAR!

Kirk's character aside, I know I'll like this movie. The trailer made me smile widely as I rubbed my hand together in anticipation.

To infinity and beyond! Wait... no. I mean, to boldly go where no man has gone before!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Assing, Denmark


This is one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time. My good friend is living in Denmark right now. While sometimes indelicate, he is one of the funniest people I know.

Also featured in the picture is the European street signage that I grew to love while in Spain. They have signs that indicate the municipal boundaries on the highway (just like we [Americans] do), and when you see a sign with a line through it, this means you are leaving the city limits. It's a very satisfying feeling. It's almost as if you are crossing the city off your list on the road to your destination.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Gay Baptism?

I received a handful of vituperative emails regarding my opposition of Proposition 8. I feel obliged to say something about the matter.

Primarily, I wish the government would stay far away from defining marriage. It seems like such a complicated word these days. Every religion has a new way of defining the word. (I'll use the Mormons as an example because of my familiarity with the religion.) A Mormon marriage is more commonly referred to as a sealing and is far more intricate and complex than a simple civil union. Two temple-worthy individuals are sealed for time and all eternity. It is a beautiful thing. No matter how wonderful it is, I don't want the government to declare LDS marriage as the only definition. That messes with other people. Generally, the government getting involved, and narrowly defining anything puts limits on other people. So if there must be an official definition in the constitution, it should be the broadest possible definition as to include the largest variety of Americans. Alas, limited government finds a fair-weather friend in the right-wing.

Let's just say, for some reason, the government felt that it was important to get involved in how we define baptism. (A notion almost as ridiculous as them defining marriage.) They would probably include all sorts of baptisms: submersion, sprinkling, misting, etc. Would the Mormons be outraged if one of the versions of baptism included in the definition had some cleric using Dr Pepper instead of water? I'm sure nobody would care, because nobody is scared of Dr Pepper affecting their kids. (Scratch that. Few people.) Also because the state's definition wouldn't change a thing about how Catholics, Mormons, and Protestants baptize. It would only let a few more people into the party. And it's always good when people bring Dr Pepper to a party.

All other discussions that bounce behind this issue, like Dr Pepper cans strung behind a Just Married car, should not really be part of this discussion. Gay adoption, gay civil rights, teaching gay marriage in school, your kids' sexual development... These things may be important to discuss and resolve, but in many ways these are inevitable and unaffected by the definition of marriage.

I'm not trying to convince anybody of anything. I know it is the 11th hour and I don't intend to affect anybody's vote. I'm mainly responding to people who have sent vitriol my way. Some people who support Prop 8 are bigots. Look up the word. Many others are not bigots. I know people who are sympathetic with the gays but support the proposition because of their faith in religious leaders. I know gay people who plan on supporting the measure for this reason. If my faith were stronger, maybe the instruction of religious leaders would have the weight to overpower what I feel is correct. That's a cognitive dissonance that I have to deal with.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Americans shooting Arabs, in Egypt - A Movie Review

Went to the movies last night. The local theater is a few blocks away. Most of the movies that they show are local productions. Despite my love for cinema, I can't bring myself to see these. Maybe at some point I'll buckle just for the experience of it. . . but that will be when I run out of other things to do. I hesitate with reason. If their movies are anything like their television shows, then I know there is nothing to enjoy. I don't think I could handle the poor production values, amateur acting, etc. Luckily, the cinema shows a handful of American productions. Since I've been here, I've seen posters for The Dark Knight, Righteous Kill, High School Musical 3(seriously, what the hell?), Mirrors, and Tropic Thunder. I asked the usher, and he said that Quantum of Solace comes out on the 4th here. Curiously, my information indicates that it will be the 5th. That's still more than a week before you all get to see it.

We had a few hours before the movie started and so we walked around the mall vicinity. We made a few important discoveries.
  1. There is a tolerable pizza place very close to our apartment. Good dough, good mozzarella, decent toppings. I don't need pork products to survive, but I do miss bacon and pepperoni.
  2. There is a table tennis/billiard/bowling alley business in the same area. We spent an invigorating half hour playing ping pong. Four games later, we had each won two games. The proprietors of the business wanted to play us. They were summarily and deftly defeated. I want to go back there frequently.
We saw Body of Lies - the fourth film collaboration of Ridley Scott and Russel Crowe. Between the two of them lies a body of work that makes it onto top 50 listsWhat a fantastic movie! The writing was quick and smart (as expected from William Monahan) and the cinematography was what we have come to expect from modern, fast-paced action movies (thanks to DP Alexander Witt). The cast was perfect. I will now watch anything that Leonardo DiCaprio does. He is immediately believable in his roles. The local talent was also impressive - those with better eyes than my own may recognize actors from Paradise Now, The Syrian Bride, Munich, etc. The story was strong - not too complicated (Syriana), not too preachy(Lions for Lambs), not too vacuous(The Kingdom), but juuuust right. Some have aptly compared this movie to Spy Game. I think that's a fair comparision.

I feel like there is something to say about violence here. Movies represent violence in many ways. Lots of movie makers increase the exposure to bloodshed, dismemberment, etc. Sometimes they put the act of violence off screen and we then see a shadow of the act, or we see a blood splatter, or we just hear it and our mind fills in the rest. All of these techniques have their uses. Over the years, gunshots in film have varied in their decibel levels. I don't know any official data on the subject, but it seems to me that the volume of the gunshots in a movie changes how the movie affects me. The guns from a Woody Allen farce sound like cap-guns, for a less jolted audience experience. Body Of Lies has some intense violence. The depictions would be conisidered violent even if we were watching a Cecil B. DeMille movie, but this violence came with some volume. The increased volume makes the whole experience much more viscerally jarring. I'm a pacifist, and I don't usually like movies that are obsessively violent. This movie is not that. It is tasteful and appropriate for the story that is being told. Watch the movie, tell me what you think.

The overall Egyptian movie experience was pleasant. Except for a slight focus issue, the audio/video was quality. The seats were comfortable and the audience was quiet and respectful. The ushers were cool too... they actually wore tuxedos and they ushered people in and out with dim flashlights. The intermission in the middle of the movie was a shock. It wasn't very gracefully spliced. I suppose it's impossible to expect Egyptians to go a whole two hours without smoking.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

You; your pupils; your friends; God. Not a bad public, that.

Hello, again. A quick update.

About a month ago, I was scrambling around Cairo in search of a job. I responded to a variety of solicitations on CraigsList, expatriates, etc. but nothing ever really happened. I was becoming discouraged after a while and thought I might have to cut short my trip.

One day, I was sitting in a little shop by my apartment. The Iraqi owner has befriended me and is always generously inviting us to eat his food, drink his Coca Cola, and use his internet. So we were sitting and talking, when a man named Mohamed from the neighborhood came into the shop to buy some things. He stopped to chat with us, and he asked me about my situation. What are you doing in Egypt? You've been here for one month? What sort of job are you looking for? Anything? Let me make some phone calls . . .

That was Thursday night. By noon, Friday, I had signed a contract to teach at the school where both Mohamed and his wife teach. I'm in the American section of the Egyptian Language School. The idea is that I am supposed to be teaching English reading classes to grades 4 through 10. I will probably be choosing some stories for the younger grades and the older grades will be reading newspaper clipping on current events. The actual teaching part has not really started yet. So far, I've been spending a lot of time in the teacher's lounge, reading through material and preparing the classes. I've also done some substituting for teachers when they are sick.

School starts at 7:30 and ends at 2:30, Sunday through Thursday. Mohamed lives very close to me, and the school is about twenty minutes away, so he generously gives me a ride every day. The school is located in a very posh neighborhood called Katameya Heights. The drive to and from school every day is one of the more entertaining and breathtaking things I've ever done. Mohamed is a very skilled driver, and he weaves in and out of Cairo morning traffic like a hotshot driver that you would only find on the set of The Fast and the Furious.

I've taken a few pictures here and there. Please take a look and see what things are like here.

I know that I should add to the blog more often than I do. I'll try to be better now that I have a regular schedule with daily access to internet. If you have any questions, leave them here or tell me, and I'll try to respond in my next post, or maybe just to you personally.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Life on the Nile


Greetings from the other side of the world to all of you back in the civilized land of Dr Pepper and honey. This is a belated blog post. . . But somehow I think the three of you who read this will have survived the interval.

After two weeks here in Cairo I feel settled in. The original shock of the clashing cultures in my mind has gone away. It certainly was helpful to have Matty B here to walk me through everything. I would have been much more terrified of this trip had he not been on the waiting end of that Delta flight.

I live in a small apartment about two blocks east of the Nile. The building is very conveniently located adjacent to the Metro line. One Egyptian Pound (18 cents) can take me to most of the important places in Cairo. From there, a couple pounds gets you a taxi ride to other locations.

Our neighborhood is called Maadi, and is where you'll find the largest expatriate community and most embassies. Maadi's cooler temperatures and the tree-lined streets make it more pleasant than the intensely hot down-town Cairo.

Partially because of the diurnal heat and the nocturnal schedule imposed by Ramadan, I enjoy going out on the streets during the evening to get food and to interact with the locals. There are a couple of falafel and kushari joints where the workers have become familiar with my regular orders.

When I'm not talking to folks on the street, I pop in one of my earbuds and I listen to my podcasts. I always like listening to podcasts wherever I am, but I get a distinct pleasure out of listening to Adam Carolla (Adam Corolla so T gets it twice), Terry Gross, Bob Boilen, the New Yorker, IFC News, and filmcasts, and thinking that I am probably the only person in Cairo listening to Neil Conan or Garrison Keillor, etc. Somehow, even though they'll never find out about it and/or acknowledge it, I image that they would all be so proud.

One of the major downsides to being in Africa right now, is that I miss a lot of the movies that come out. Hopefully, I'll be back in the states by the time Watchmen comes out. Egyptian cinemas are lacking. I cannot find one showing of Brideshead Revisited anywhere in the city. This means that I'll have to use Bittorrent. But the internet in our apartment isn't good enough for that kind of heavy lifting. We'll see.

As a general practice, I plan on posting most of the photos that I take onto my Facebook account. Those of you who eschew the popular social network will have to stomach your distaste for it and click here. You need not have a Facebook account to enjoy these photos. However, I thrive on comments (on the blog and on the photos), so "share up yo' stack," as the Beastie Boys say. Nora Charles. . . I'm talking to you.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Wimbledon Gentleman's Finals

This year is the third year that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have played eachother in the Wimbledon Finals. It's never been easy for Federer to beat Nadal here, but he does beat him, and the matches are some of the best to watch.

Their rivalry has a similar history on the clay courts of Roland Garros. Nadal has won the last four French Open championships, and Federer has been the runner-up for the last three of those.

While Federer is the reigning champion, Bjorn Borg is the record holder whose presence is noted at each match. If Federer wins this year's Wimbledon he will break Bjorn Borg's record of 5 Wimbledon championships in a row. And if Nadal wins (which I think he will) he will be on his way to reproducing Bjorn Borg's record of winning the French Open and Wimbledon for five consecutive years. Nobody since Borg has won the French Open and Wimbledon in the same year.

So far in this tournament, Federer hasn't lost ONE set. Nadal has lost one.

This morning is starting out to be quite an amazing match. They have been playing for 2 hours now. Nadal won the first game and the first two sets. I see these little wins as harbingers of a greater win at the end of the match. We'll just have to wait and see what happens, but as I predicted with Cousin James yesterday, I think that Nadal will win.

Blinded by the light.... Gesundheit!

After years upon years (25) of considering myself to be just like everybody else... I have learned that I have a genetic autosomal dominant trait that puts me into the 17 - 35% subset of humanity. This malfunction of mine is called photic sneeze reflex.

This reflex presents itself in several ways:
  • If I leave a movie theatre during a day where the sun is shining, I will most likely sneeze a handful of times. I remember a slew of sneezes coming out as I left the Chief Cinema after watching Sabrina. (Ford, not Bogart... goof.)
  • If I'm on the verge of sneezing... you know, when your brain and your body poise for a sneeze, but it can be a false alarm... well, this response I have to light helps me get that final push over the sneeze hill. When it happens, I just glance up at the sun, or a bright light. The worst is when there are no bright lights around. I can sometimes nudge out a sneeze with my cellphone or a computer screen.

I've tried to explain this to my friends. Some of them are bewildered. Most of all, my best friend, Nora Charles. She refuses to believe that this phenomenon exists. I've tried to demonstrate it, but she just laughs. So now that I've produced a Wikipedia as proof, maybe she won't be so incredulous.

For those of you within this percentile of humanity that share this reflex with me, let's celebrate our diversity by unifying. I want to hear about it. You can respond here in this blog... or just speak up in real life. If you want to start a Facebook group, I won't stop you.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I sent this in email form to some of my friends... and they probably make up most of my blog readership, but for those of you who were not in that email list...

I was suffering from what looked like a zit right on my lower lip for the last few days. Since I recently shaved my beard, and hair has been funny, I've just thought of it as an ingrown hair. I was going to get to it with some tweezers at some point. When [my painter-boss] JB asked me about it, I shrugged it off as an ingrown hair. John told me it was probably something called "Morgellon's Disease" and that it probably came from fibers that the government distributes throughout the atmosphere. I assured him that it was an ingrown hair and as soon as I opened it, I would find a little hair.

Much in the way you see a small child go for and open a present on Christmas, John lunged at my lower lip, and he proceeded to pry open my sore. His eager face was mere inches away. It was very painful and bloody... and his hands are anything but clean. When it comes to his hands, they LOOK dirty... and they smelled like a mixture of caulk, paint, thinner, gingersnaps, and WD-40.

As I stood facing the mirror in the bathroom flushing my new wound with hot soapy water, I laughed when I realized nobody would ever completely understand the bizarre nature of the events that just took place.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Summer Movies: 2008


MAY:
Iron Man - Enough said. Right? Robert Downey Jr. is almost too perfect for this role. The physical resemblance would be enough already. The more interesting physical resemblance is the one between RDJ and the Howard Hughes(The original inspiration for the Tony Stark character). Oddly, I remember thinking that RDJ should've been in The Aviator instead of Leonardo Dicaprio. Nothing that a little direction from Scorsese can't fix. I know there have been many of these comicbook adaptations, but I've got a hunch about this one. I just hope Favreau hasn't messed with it too much.

Son of Rambow - This story looks adorable. I want to see this movie because of how jealous I am of the childhood that these kids have. I should've started making movies a long time ago.

Speed Racer - The Wachowski Bros. are back! This will certainly have outstanding visuals. These strange men have a knack for making excellent movies (I'm thinking of The Matrix and V for Vendetta.) Plus, I challenge you to name one person who doesn't like Emile Hirsch. Pretty tough, right?
Redbelt - Like any true fan of film, I love me some David Mamet. I love his strong flavor of dialogue. His characters speak acerbic words in an abrasively repetitive way. He has a unique way of including comedian-types in some of his serious roles. Steve Martin was in The Spanish Prisoner and now Tim Allen is in this.










Indiana Jones - Everyone will be seeing this movie... all sorts of generations of people. The trio of Lucas, Spielberg, and Ford will be earning plenty. I'm being careful not to get my hopes up. The thing about these Indiana Jones movies... they are kind of in a Star Wars situation. Remember how everyone got all uppity about the quality of the second half of that franchise? I have a remote fear that this will happen to Indy. Luckily, where Lucas goes awry, Spielberg maintains. He'll be the anchor of quality.

The other problem with the new Star Wars trilogy was that it was drenched in CGI. I read somewhere that this movie is going to be much less saturated with green screen scenes.

The cast is promising too: Cate Blanchett, Ray Winstone, Shia Labeouf, and the graceful return of Karen Allen. All good things.

JUNE:
The Incredible Hulk - See earlier post. But this is a really cool poster for the movie. Just released, for your pleasure.



















The Happening - Shyamalan's success rate is 5 for 6. I know some of you are wondering, "Wait, where'd that sixth movie come from?" Yes, well I'm counting the short film that he made for AmEx. Lady in the Water failed me, and now I'm ready to get back on the Night train.

I'm also thinking that this will be another great Mark Wahlberg vehicle. He can be superb, but Shooter was nonsense.





Get Smart - I've never seen the tv show, but I know my parents and that generation are big into this silly little show. I don't know what to say about it... I like Alan Arkin, so it should be fine. The thing is... Steve Carell looks like the same person in all of his movies. My impression is that if Carell didn't adapt his acting to be Maxwell Smart, the writers must've adapted Maxwell Smart to be more like Carell. Maybe he's not a very complex character. Maybe I should just calm down.

Has anyone my age actually seen this television program? I felt the very same way about the Nancy Drew movie that they made. I read those books, and let me tell you, Emma Roberts is no Nancy Drew.


Wall-E - This looks like another great movie in the Pixar collection. I'm sure it'll make all sorts of crazy money and break all sorts of crazy records. Remember all those people who watched Ratatouille? I'll tell you all now, this movie will be far better than that rat movie.









Wanted - Will I see a movie just because of Morgan Freeman? Yeah. Will I watch a movie because of Angelina Jolie? Hell to the yes. But still, I'm not expecting many surprises from these two. I'm most excited for James McAvoy. I've seen most of his stuff... Band of Brothers, Foyle's War, Rory O'Shea Was Here, State of Play, The Chronic (what?) les of Narnia, Last King of Scotland, Starter for 10, Atonement... and he's always been very watchable, and very British. See, now he's going to be giving us his American accent. Cross your fingers. Oh! In addition to the actors... there is going to be a lot of action that breaks a variety of laws of physics. I don't know the Wanted comics at all, but I'm confident that this Russian director (from Night/Day Watch fame) will give us all a thrilling ride.

JULY:
Hellboy II: The Golden Army - Guillermo Del Toro is one of the most imaginative directors of all time. His creativity blows me away. I recommend his whole filmography to you readers. He puts his heart into these things. This sequel appears to be his most recent passion project. Please watch this, and remember that he turned down Harry Potter for this. That's a real shame. I was prepared for someone like him to take the HP franchise to the next level.
The Dark Knight - This is a big one. Most people mention this as their big summer movie. The first one was good enough to promise an audience for the sequel. And now, on top of the fanatic fervor, Heath Ledger has died. I'm thinking this will become even bigger than The Crow, Queen of the Damned, and Brainstorm. (Not that those were ever very big.) I've been enjoying the viral campaigning that's been trickling through the internet. Even beyond the internet, I've been getting phone calls from the Harvey Dent campaign office. They're really getting people involved... Do you believe in Harvey Dent?



AUGUST:
Pineapple Express - August will be the summer of comedies. This is the next Judd Apatow project. This will just be pure funny. Just looking at Seth Rogen and James Franco makes me smile and laugh.
Tropic Thunder - Ok, I'm getting sleepy. I'm just going to say that Ben Stiller's first movie since Zoolander will have a black Robert Downey Jr. That's him in between Ben Stiller and Jack Black. Pure excellence. Bed time.













Note: I wrote most of this while I watched a few episodes of Lost late in the evening (Billy Dee Williams? WTF?) There are errors, but I don't care enough to re-read it right now. So if you found them, you get 2 points per typo. Night.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What the Hulk?



A friend asked me: Why is edward norton playing the hulk? isn't this weird? they already did the movie just 3 years ago and its not really a role I think he would jump at the chance to play.

My response: It seems like the last couple of years have shown us several examples of how to make comic book adaptations really good. General collective thought seems to suggest that the The Hulk (2003) was not good. (It certainly doesn't have any of those "gritty" qualities that movies like Batman Begins, Superman Returns, V for Vendetta, and Sin City possess. But then, you wouldn't expect grit from the man who directed Brokeback Mountain, Lust, Caution, and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.)

Still, the big question is: Why would Edward Norton stoop to this kind of a low? My sense is that he must be a fan of the comics. Also, given the appropriate depth and talent of the filmmakers, they can make these kinds of characters transcend the world of comics. I'm not really trying to get in to the deep side of things, but I know Superman, for example, is an adaption of sorts of the studies of Nietzsche and the √úbermensch. It remains to be seen what there is to be examined in the upcoming Hulk movie... I'm guessing there are themes of rage, self-inflicted fate, fear, etc. The good news is that Edward Norton wrote the screenplay. That's almost all I need to know to expect quality. He's not stooping to any lower level, he's bringing the story back and lifting it to his level. This is a snippet I found where Norton responds to your question...
[Norton] was initially skeptical about taking the role, telling Total Film: "When the phone rings and someone says, 'Hey, would you be interested in the big green guy?' There's that part of all of us that doesn't want to look like an idiot. There's the wince factor or the defensive part of you that recoils at what the bad version of what that would be. And I did that, basically. I said 'no' to it a couple of times."
He insisted that the new movie will bear no relation to the 2003 version starring Eric Bana, saying: "I think like Chris Nolan and those guys did with Batman, we just said: 'We're going to start completely with our own version of this myth or saga.'"

So, I hope this answers some of your questions. We'll see how the movie turns out. It could end up being complete nonsense. (See The Italian Job) I'm crossing my fingers, though. I tend to be optimistic about Edward Norton jobs, and the trailer looks promising.

Be careful how high of a standard it is to which you hold him. Remember, he's just a man of flesh and blood... He's not John Cusack.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Movie: The Savages


I saw The Savages with good friends. [Directed by Tamara Jenkins. Starring Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Nominated for 2 Oscars: Best Actress - Laura Linney, Original Screenplay - Tamara Jenkins] John and Wendy Savage bring their father to New York to put him in a nursing home. John is a depressed Bertolt Brecht scholar and Wendy is a depressed out-of-work playwright. Like bare scars from their shabby upbringing, they are unable to have healthy relationships. Each is plagued with emotional and physical trauma for which they self-diagnose and self-medicate. The task of caring for their ailing father seems too much for this pair to manage.

The subject matter here seems upsetting and negative. And in the wrong hands, this certainly could be a dismal mess and/or an irreverent treatment of sensitive events. Mrs. Jenkins' and her magnificent actors manage to create charm and humor in moments of discomfort, anxiety, and sadness. PSH plays a softer version of his typical presentation; entertaining as usual. The audience creates a bond with Laura Linney more than anyone. I found myself defending and encouraging her, and then being crushed when she didn't tell the truth, and uneasy whenever she breached propriety. The father character is basically a cypher, and the actor plays his part well.

This is Mrs. Jenkins' second feature length film. I was very impressed by her writing and direction to the point of being surprised. Then I saw that Alexander Payne was one of the executive producers and it all became clear. I've been impressed by everything Mr. Payne has directed over the past ten years.

(The seasoned fans of "The Wire" should also recognize the actor from that show who plays the hit man, Chris Partlow. In this movie he plays a Jamaican-sounding Nigerian nurse. Very nice.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

I've got a headache and I'm already full of these useless stories...

There's so much to talk about, so I'm going to pace myself. Over the next few days I'm going to lay down my thoughts regarding the impressive movies that I have seen in the last few weeks. You can expect to see some sort of Oscar predictions and some sort of top ten list from last year. That's probably the most I'll be doing by way of catch-up. So much happens day to day, that I refuse to do this retroactively. This task seemed daunting enough without trying to summarize my life heretofore.

I am not in school right now. As a student at this fine institution, I have performed so poorly for so long that I have been asked to leave for a year. This is probably the result for which my passive aggression has been fighting all these years: A break from the regularity and the looming pressures. I must finish what I have started here at BYU because it is good for me and I'm so close to the end that I can taste it. The idea is that I will put these twelve months to good use. I want this to be a real journey (literal and spiritual), you know, like Chris McCandless, but with more vital results.

So I shall go to Cairo for a while. That's the big news.