Saturday, December 30, 2006


2006 was a solid year for movies. I saw a surprising amount of movies released this year (over 30) considering that I began graduate school. It was tough to find one stand-out among many great films, unlike last year where 2046 was an easy top choice. As it turns out, the last movie I have seen for 2006 is also my number one this year. All of the top five could probably be interchanged "as befits my mood or general countenance." I'll be interested to revisit this list next year and see how I feel about my rankings.

The comic book movies I usually enjoy were all disappointments (V For Vendetta, X-Men: Last Stand, and Superman Returns.) I also thought I saw more documentaries than I did (An Inconvenient Truth and American Hardcore), but that must have been 2005 where I was doc heavy. Time blurs all. And there are many well reviewed movies that I have yet to see (Letters from Iwo Jima, United 93, Little Children among others.)

Below is my Top 10 list followed by five honorable mentions. I've also added what I consider to be, by far, the two worst movies I have seen this year.

2006 TOP 10 (order of preference)

Pan's Labyrinth
A young girl, Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), is brought along to a military outpost in 1944 Spain to be near her pregnant mother's new husband, who is a Captain in Franco's army. With civil war raging around her, Ofelia enters a fantasy world to escape this new reality. A deeply moving film, perfectly paced and layered. It says so much about childhood and adulthood and the coping mechanisms used to safely travel through both. Director Guillermo del Toro expertly and seamlessly mixes the fantasy world with the real world resulting in the best movie of 2006.

The Fountain
As an unabashed fan of Darren Aronofsky I may admire The Fountain more than I should. Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman are two lovers who through the ages – in Year 1500, 2000, and 2500 – search for eternal life. The film easily intertwines all three time periods, each individual story arc concluding and adding to that quest. It will keep you thinking about it long after you see it. I don’t have it completely figured out yet. But that’s why I like it so much.
Colbinski's Review

Children of Men
A dystopian world twenty years in the future is the setting for Alfonso Cuaron's excellent new film Children of Men. Women have become infertile, a police state rules by fear, and the youngest person on Earth, just over eighteen years old was just murdered. A government worker (Clive Owen) is thrown into the middle of an "uprising" against this world. Spectacular camera work, a where-is-this-headed story, and wonderful performances makes this one f the best of the year.
Full Review

Three Times
This film disappointed me directly after viewing. It was the first film I have seen by acclaimed filmmaker Hou Hsiao-hsien. I had heady expectations going in, knowing only the premise of three separate stories told in three different time periods with the main characters of each story played by the same actor and actress (Chang Chen and Shu Qi). Each story deals with love and observes the circumstances and obligations that make love either possible or non-existent. The first story “A Time for Love” set in the 1960’s, is perhaps the most perfect love story I have ever seen put on film. Everything about it is enchanting. Following this opening story, the next two, “A Time for Freedom” and “A Time for Youth”, while above average, felt like a letdown. It is only in subsequently dwelling upon the film as whole that I have come to appreciate all the stories. The film looks beautiful and the leads make each of their three characters their own. Even if the other two stories were a mess (which they are not) I would recommend this film on the strength of “A Time for Love” alone.

The Prestige
Two rival magicians face off in a great film filled with wonderful performances. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman excel in the leads. Magic and intrigue drive the film forward. A story of showmanship and human drive that continues to surprise all the way to the final scene.
Colbinski's Review

13 (Tzameti)
A taut thriller about an Eastern European immigrant who, while looking to make some extra (and easy) money, gets in over his head. A gripping well-done film. I was aware of a huge spoiler before seeing this movie and it was no less gripping but it is best to see it knowing as little as possible.
Colbinski's Review

L’Enfant (The Child)
A two-bit crook sells his and his girlfriend’s newborn child to make some extra cash and thus begins a searing drama of bad choices and their consequences. Unlike most Hollywood movies that attempt to manipulate and moralize to the viewer this film from Belgium focuses an objective lens on all its subjects. It is a different sort of experience and at times seemed disconcerting to this American filmgoer. This straightforwardness in storytelling is rewarding in and of itself and not because of the machinations of the filmmakers.

Another tale of intertwining stories and fateful coincidences, Babel has much more to offer than the simple resolutions and treacle platitudes of Crash, last year’s winner of the Best Picture Oscar, to which it has been compared. Babel has a large international scope and the story divides time between the U.S., Mexico, Morocco, and Japan. Babel doesn’t try to hit you over the head with its message, if there is even a larger message than the human one told in each segment. All the stories have their positives and it is telling that the most interesting story, occurring in Japan, is the least related to all the others.
Colbiski's Review

The Illusionist
It’s turn of the century Vienna and an Illusionist (Edward Norton) enters the city to ply his trade entertaining the masses and gaining notice from the Crown Prince (Rufus Sewell), the Prince’s finance (Jessica Biel), and the local Chief Inspector (Paul Giamatti). Filmed is dashing sepia tones, this film overcomes the tired tropes of class war love triangles and provides a satisfying intelligent story.
Full Review

Little Miss Sunshine
The only movie that can be described as a comedy on this list, Little Miss Sunshine, is a delightful, if familiar, story of a dysfunctional family on a road trip. As things usually go in these movies, momentous events occur and the family gets to know each other and themselves a tad bit better. While not as predictable as you may expect from that description it doesn’t hold huge surprises either. It’s a movie that knows what it is and ends up doing that well.

2006 WORTH A MENTION (alphabetical order)

You can be forgiven if you think of Bugsy Malone upon hearing that Brick is a film noir set in high school. But Brick is no farce and takes it’s characters seriously and cleverly twists the conventions of film noir to fit teenagers’ angst. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Lukas Haas stand out in this fine film.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
As in L’Enfant, the camera in The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is almost documentary like in its followings of its subjects’ story. Mr. Lazarescu, an old drunk living by himself in Bucharest grows ill and needs medical attention. Apparently, this movie is a bitter indictment of the Romanian health care system. Be thast as it may, when focused on the smaller issues we are left with a sad story of a life forgotten or ignored by the strangers a man meets in his last few hours and by those who should have been close to him for the rest of it.

The Departed
Adapted from the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, Martin Scorsese places this police thriller in Boston. An undercover agent (Leonardo DiCaprio) infilitrates the mob as a policeman (Matt Damon) loyal to the mob boss (Jack Nicholson) rises through the ranks of law enforcement. Although the movie seems to lose steam around three-quarters in and then ends abruptly just as the steam seemed to be coming back there are fine performances all around.
Colbinski's Review

Night Watch
A densely packed film concerning an age-old battle between the forces of Light and Dark. Light has formed the Night Watch to protect against the Dark. All this takes place in modern day Russia. A hyper frenetic movie highly stylized yet still intelligent.
Colbinski's Review

The Science of Sleep
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, directed by Michel Gondry was my #1 movie for 2004. The Science of Sleep, written and directed by Michel Gondry has the similar themes of a quirky love story where most of the main action occurs inside one the character’s head. It is decidedly offbeat and Gael Garcia Bernal fulfills all the potential he showed in Y Tu Mama Tambien. This film is well above average but lacks the cohesion to be truly great.


The Break-up
A terrible mish-mash of a movie. Too long, too uneven and despite its promotion as a “star vehicle” for Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston, these “stars” are mediocre in their performances. Like any bad relationship, you’ll be glad when this movie ends.

Hard Candy
A young girl turns the tables on a would-be internet child molester and possible murderer. She’s a modern day Little Red Riding Hood (even wearing an oversized red sweatshirt) who doesn’t need the woodsman to come save her. At turns this movie is ugly, clichéd, and utterly ridiculous.

Friday, December 29, 2006

MOVIE REVIEW: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

It is appropriate that the opening scene of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer frames a figure in silhouette and as he leans into the light only his nose is illuminated. Based on a novel by Patrick Suskind, here is a story of olfactory senses leading a man to...well, take a look at the title of this film for a hint.

Directd by Tom Tykwer, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, has some good ideas and execution but the overall story falls flat. Ever since the frenetic Run Lola Run, Tykwer has slowed his movies down while encompassing a longer run time all in an attempt to make "meaningful movies". He succeeded splendidly in The Princess and The Warrior, worked the concept to respectable results in Heaven but now has failed with Perfume. Perhaps Tykwer needs to collabarate again with Franka Potente, the star of Run Lola Run and The Princess and The Warrior. to return him to his old form.

The opening scenes of a baby, with a preternatural sense of smell, born in an 18th century Parisian fish market, with the camera flashing around to everything and anything that may emit an odor shows promise. I enjoyed the leisurely pace showing this child, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (Ben Wishaw) grow to appreciate his ungodly sense of smell through the orphanage and into an apprenticeship at a tannery. It is when Grenouille is taken under the wing of a perfumer, Baldini, played by a wildly out-of-place Dustin Hoffman, does the movie begin to flag. It is also here where we see where this is all going. As Grenouille explains to Baldini after an unfortunate meeting with a girl in an alley, he needs to "capture scent". This quest becomes the essence of the movie and you are either along for the ride or not. I anticipated the ride and eagerly followed along to the perfume capital of France, the city of Grasse, and Grenouille's obsession with Grasse's female's scents. But then the ride ended.

The ending, in its ridiculousness, betrays the seriousness the movie takes pains to otherwise portray. Unless the whole thing is to be taken as farce. But then the "meaning" of the ending is rendered meaningless. So its a no-win situation regardless of what viewpoint one holds. Upon reflection there is also much unfulfilled promise throughout. No explanation for the unfortunate circumstances people find themselves in after Grenouille leaves them. No investigation of what its like to be overwhelmed by all the smells in the world. It's as if Grenouille can control, at will, what odors enters his nostrils.

While the movie does not go to any lengths to have us empathize with a murderer, empathy does hover around the edges. We know the quest and have witnessed all that has led up to it. I even found myself secretly rooting for a murder that would result in the quest's completion. It is only with seeing what is done with the results that a quest can be considered successful. It's seeing these results on the screen where the disappointment sets in.

MOVIE REVIEW: Children of Men

Set in 2027 Britain, the world of Children of Men is an exaggerated version of the worst of what is witnessed today. A police state governed by fear, a war on illegal aliens, and propaganda disseminated 24 hours a day may seem distant but not at all unlikely. All this is precipitated by the inexplicable infertility of women almost twenty years prior. That we are never told why women stopped having babies or how that resulted in such a dystopia is one of this film's primary strengths. The people inhabiting this future don't understand it either; we are with them in solidarity, viewing their desperation as our own.

We begin watching Theo (Clive Owen) go through the motions of his day. Purchasing coffee, pouring liquor into the cup. Not even the death of the youngest person on Earth, at just over eighteen years old, or the bombing of the cafe he just left seem to touch him. Theo is presented as a disaffected, uncaring man able to see the world around him for what it is but eerily detached from it all the same. Even after we learn about his political activism past, the reasons for his detachment, and he is placed in a position to help usher in a possible new future, Theo still presents a knowing resignation.

Theo is kidnapped by the Fishes, a rebel group readying for an uprising against the government. Theo’s ex-wife (Julianne Moore) is their leader and brings Theo aboard because she “trusts him”. The Fishes have in their ranks Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), the first pregnant women in almost twenty years, and hope Theo can help bring her across borders to the Human Project, supposedly a group of scientists building a better tomorrow. At this point an already interesting premise takes a new life. The film is not predictable but never delivers unbelievable twists. Everything about it seems just so.

All the performances in this film are top notch. Clive Owen, in particular, stands out and solidifies himself as one of the best actors out there today. Alfonso Cuaron does the best directing job of the year. Using tracking shots and a hand-held camera, the viewer is immersed into the story along with the characters. The violence and action is sudden and jarring, the actors on the screen reacting as we do in our seats. The climax is relentless in its focus and the brief intermission of quiet that occurs is made that much more potent due to the subsequent explosions of fury.

Yet I would not describe it as an action movie. Nor would I pigeonhole it as a science fiction movie. Plain and simply, it is an intelligent movie. It makes you question the world you see around you everyday and forces you to answer uneasily, "Can that really happen?" It is a realistic movie set in the future with easily recognizable characters. There are no simple solutions or cures. Theo is thrust down a road of doubt but keeps moving. Theo never picks up a gun, never decides to fight the "bad guys". Circumstances control him. He is in a situation where the opportunity to do good, to do something right presents itself. And he tries. That's just the type of hero his and our world needs.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


I once knew a girl with whom I often spoke to about stories. We discussed film, books, and short stories mainly but eventually delved into everything. Comic books, television, or plays: nothing was out of reach for conversation and opinion. We shared our likes and dislikes and made recommendations to each other. After recommending a favorite author never read or a film unseen, we both waited anxiously for the other to finish reading or viewing so we could talk about it. I’m sure our conversations had the naiveté of an undergrad literature class or, worse, the pretension of an MFA thesis paper. But we didn’t care.

One day, I was in this girl’s apartment looking over her book collection, which was contained within a medium sized bookcase in an otherwise spartan bedroom. I was sitting on the floor with my legs crossed Indian-style poking around the shelves and yelling comments and questions into the other room where she was occupied. Eventually she came in and sat on the floor leaving me between her and the bookcase. While discussing what she enjoyed and asking if I could borrow this or that I began talking about some recent books I had read. I just went through a phase where I was reading classics such as The Count of Monte Cristo and Ivanhoe and I was prone to bore people with how great they are. Sensing I wasn’t going to stop prattling on about the superior storytelling prowess of Dumas and Scott any time soon, she hurriedly pointed out a classic she had on the bottom shelf.

I don’t know how I hadn’t noticed this oversized book. It was an all-together impressive, splendid tome. She explained that it was Don Quixote by Cervantes. It really was a piece of work. For all I knew monks in Spain hand-printed this copy. Not since my days as an altar boy have I held something so ornate.

As I lifted it out of its shelf I sensed from her a reluctant excitement in sharing this book with me. While I was busy admiring the handiwork of the binding and gold edged pages she quietly explained how she had always wanted a book like this and mentioned painted illustrations on the pages. I took some time exploring the outside of the book, turning it over in my hands. I felt the aged brown leather, which covered it in entirety, the exquisitely raised gold bands along the spine and gold old-style lettering indicating title and author on the front. It was compellingly beautiful. I could only wonder what the actual pages and illustrations must look like. Just as I was about to crack it open I looked up at her and caught her eyes.

She had the most expressive chestnut brown eyes. They sparkled like stars, lighting up her surroundings, especially when she smiled. And she often smiled. There was no smile or sparkle then. Her downturned mouth elongated her face disconsolately and her eyes reflected a distant sadness. I paused. She told me not to open the book. I looked back at her puzzled. She provided a defense of her “don’t open the book” policy of which the particulars escape me. I do remember it involved a childhood fondness of a Don Quixote cartoon, some family troubles, receiving this book as a surprise gift from her mother and not having read it yet. By the time she was finished it was no longer an explanation but a plea. I looked again in her eyes and was reminded of a grainy photograph of a seldom-used dirt road after a rainstorm.

I suppressed any further comment on the matter. I thought of asking a question or two about this mandate when I realized I would never understand the meaning of this to her. I let the weight of the book sink into my lap. I wondered how much this book weighed to her. I glided my fingers over the spine readying to fill the empty space it had left behind on the shelf. Even though I was seated closer to the bookshelf, as I lifted the book, I found myself handing it over to her. It was her burden, after all.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Superman: Red Son (DC Comics)

DC Comics’ Elseworlds line is described as thus: “In Elseworlds, heroes are taken from their usual settings and put into strange times and places – some that have existed and others that can’t, couldn’t, or shouldn’t exist. The result is stories that make characters who are as familiar as yesterday seem as fresh as tomorrow.” Just as in Marvel Comics’ What If…? series, this premise allows writers to weave stories that may not fit the hero as we know them and not to worry about the regular continuity of the respective comics universes. This premise can provide hits or misses. Superman: Red Son is most definitely a hit.

Originally published as a three issue mini-series in 2003, and now available as a trade paperback, writer Mark Millar, pencillers Dave Johnson and Killian Plunkett, and inkers Andrew Robinson and Walden Wong do a more than admirable job of re-imagining the Superman myth. Superman, that iconic symbol of truth, justice, and the American way is now a Communist. In the mid-twentieth century, a rocket ship from an alien planet crashes onto a collective farm in the Ukraine rather than the Kent’s farm in Kansas. Interestingly enough, the values he learned on that collective farm do not seem that far removed from the values he learned from Ma and Pa Kent.

The story begins with Superman making his presence known in Moscow as an adult. Stalin sends a communiqué to the rest of the world: “Let Our Enemies Beware: There Is Only One Superpower Now.” As true as this appears readers familiar with the Superman saga know that Lex Luthor is still an American. Nonetheless, President Eisenhower still laments about how if that rocket only crashed into Earth twelve hours earlier Superman might be an American.

Along with Lex Luthor the rest of Superman’s friends, enemies, and fellow heroes make appearances. There’s Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White. Superman’s rogues’ gallery is still Lex, Braniac and Bizarro. Working from the concept that Superman was the lynchpin for all other DC Superheroes, the story introduces us to other well-known faces in unexpected ways. Batman is around, in a post-Dark Knight Returns incarnation, that plays foil to Superman’s new socialist values, and we learn what kind of heroes Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, The Flash, and Green Lantern have become now that Superman is a Soviet hero.

An insider’s knowledge of the DC Universe can add to the overall cleverness of this set-up but even knowing the Superman myth in only broad strokes will not endanger enjoyment of the story. From the hammer and sickle replacing the S on Superman’s chest to President Kennedy, now married to Norma Jean, and dealing with civil strife and a triumphant USSR, to a play on Superman’s disguise of wearing glasses, there is much to be found different yet familiar. There’s even a reference concerning exactly these types of re-imagined stories. The greatest strengths of Superman: Red Son is that it changes the Superman myth without changing Superman himself and it has an ending that sheds new light on that myth.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

MOVIE REVIEW: The Fountain

Late in Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain the entire scope of the film accomplishes some amazing things: it successfully maps together the 3 overlaying stories of the film – a conquistador’s quest for the Tree of Life at the request of Queen Isabel; a doctor’s quest to save his wife from brain cancer in the contemporary United States; and a lone space traveler’s quest to reach a faraway star – while at the same time transcending – and confusing - any concept of a linear connection between those three arcs. (I would go into more depth about my theories of the linear connection, but that would betray Colbinski Chronicles’ unwritten “no spoiler” policy that all reviews strictly adhere to.)

This scene, and the subsequent scenes intermixing back and forth from the past and modern day and futuristic stories, introduces many more questions than it answers, but at the same time brings coherence to all the storylines. It is precisely because of this coherence that the underlying mystery – that of love and death and hope and loss- resonates so acutely. In the end, there’s clarity in what hasn’t been told. There’s no moment that safely packs all the themes into a neat box, but if there had been, I’m sure I would have felt slighted. I’m glad to leave the theater with head-scratching questions about what it all means than to be treated to treacle full of hoary clichés.

And it is in this that the beauty of The Fountain is found. (Well, that’s not true, the real beauty is found in the palette of Aronofsky’s direction and film photography. The Fountain is visually stunning – from Rachel Weisz’s illuminating Queen Isabel shrouded in white by candles to Hugh Jackman’s bald and Zen-like spaceman floating through a kaleidoscope of vibrant oranges and yellows traveling in a bubble accompanied by a tree lush with green life. Not to mention the hauntingly exquisite score by Clint Mansell and Mogwai. But I digress.)

The way The Fountain eschews many norms of storytelling is telling. Essentially, the movie is about a man who will do anything to save his wife from dying. Add to it a pseudo time-travel angle, and a Conquistador in Central America plot, and one may get the idea that the film is either science fiction claptrap or inane action flick or indulgent melodrama. The Fountain avoids the trappings of all those limitations by not involving them in the framework. That is, the possible time-travel, if that’s really what’s going on, is never explained (I have a theory on this too - but that brings us back to the “no spoiler” policy) and this in-effect cancels out any melodrama. By not knowing the linear connection from the past to the present to the future, but by giving such full attention and detail to the specific capsule of time we spend with the Conquistador, the doctor and his wife, and the man in the bubble, Aronofsky delivers a thought provoking and triumphant film that tells its story in a real and true way that is only aided by a quest for the Tree of Life or space travel.

Something I noticed about Aronofsky’s films – this includes Pi and Requiem for a Dream, as well as for The Fountain – is the absence of humor. That’s not to say that his movies are humorless because they are not. Instead, he doesn’t use laugh lines as a crutch. His characters are real – they cope, they smile, they anguish, they love, they live, they die. There’s a truth to The Fountain that overrides the snobbish dismissals I’ve read. Sure I haven’t wrapped my head around all that transpires in the movie, but I know damn well that what is up on the screen is true.

Monday, December 11, 2006

MUSIC REVIEW: Cobra Noir “Barricades” & Pulling Teeth “Vicious Skin”

There are times while listening to various modern metal and hardcore bands that one can tell right from the opening notes where the band’s history of music begins. In the first seconds of the opening songs on Chainsaw Safety Records’s latest releases, Cobra Noir’s “Barricades” and Pulling Teeth’s “Vicious Skin,” one gets the feeling that these bands spent their teen years dulling their record player needle listening to the likes of Celtic Frost and Slayer and Motorhead. That is not to say that either of these bands sounds likes the aforementioned bands. They don’t. Simply put, Cobra Noir and Pulling Teeth are informed by these (and many other) bands. They know what they are doing in the heavy genre. And they do it well.

Montreal’s Cobra Noir play a more 80’s metal sound – a mid-paced metal. The songs possess dazzling tempo changes and not a few classic slow downs. The gruff vocals consist of the right mix of anger and urgency. The songs are complex without sounding too showy or, worse yet, like they have too many ideas poorly executed. These tracks are executed with precision and power.

Baltimore’s Pulling Teeth rely on a more modern influence for their heaviness. The sonic power and the morass of guitar sounds has some paternity to “Humanity is the Devil” era Integrity. The songs are also shorter than is usually found in the crowded field of current metal-core, and so never get boring or run out of steam. They charge forward like warriors on a battlefield, sweating and bleeding, assured of victory in some ancient rite.

All of the of bands that Chainsaw Safety has been releasing recently also fall into the category of being informed by music that isn’t necessarily reflected in the band’s sound. I also know that the proprietor of Chainsaw Safety Records is one of those people whose early musical experience was influenced by the same list above. Also, for full disclosure, I used to be the co-owner of Chainsaw Safety. My final involvement with the label was The Horror 10”. Scanning the impressive assortment of bands he’s put out since – Celebrity Murders, End of the Universe, Deathcycle, Sick of Talk, and now Cobra Noir and Pulling Teeth, well, it makes me feel like I was holding good old Will Tarrant back.

But I’m still waiting for him to release a Baby Harp Seal discography.

Monday, November 20, 2006

BOOK REVIEW: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A father and his son travel south in a post- apocalyptic future seeking safer and warmer climes in Cormac McCarthy’s remarkable new novel The Road. They travel by roads, guided by an old, weathered map, avoiding wandering clans of cannibalistic “bad guys” in the words of the child. They’re armed with a pistol with two shots left and meager provisions stuffed into two knapsacks and a shopping cart.

The journey story is not new territory for McCarthy. From the Kid in Blood Meridian to John Grady Cole and Lacey Rawlins in All The Pretty Horses to Billy Parnham in The Crossing, it’s been the journey that has defined much of his best work. The father in The Road shares the same sense of duty and responsibility as these others. Though the hardships of each are singular and unique.

Many scenes of The Road contain abject terror as when the pair encounter these “bad guys.” The ruthlessness of the actions is coiled within compact paragraphs of stunning depth and matter-of-factness. The absence of psychological insight into why some choose to embrace evil while others choose not to only adds to the fear and dread. This same refusal to look inside a man’s capacity for evil is what makes the Judge in Blood Meridian so terrifying a presence.

Other passages serve as a placid travelogue of how they spent their days. The description of their provisions or of the fixing the wagon or of cleaning the clothes are so mundane that they are rendered beautiful because of the gray canvas of the world in which they inhabit. The story is episodic and straightforward. Days turn to night. Miles disappear behind them. They hunger. They find ways to cope with the cold.

The gentleness and the patience of the father in the face of such hardship is a test of endurance. The father and son share a can of coke rescued from an upturned soda machine. They ride the wagon down a slope into the wind. The father marvels at the child’s turn of a phrase. Where’d you learn that, he asks.

There is heft to the words here - this is Cormac McCarthy after all – but it doesn’t plum the depths that his previous work does. Whereas in Blood Meridian or the Border Trilogy, the world was in a transformative state, wilderness was tamed, and the industrial age was in ascension, the world of The Road has been transformed in finality. The reason for what happened to the world remains unsaid. The relics of the old world remain to be burned or pillaged. But no new system is ready to replace it. The battleship gray sky that blots out the sun, the gray ash that whirls in the winds: these are the new known world. The child was born after the transformation. This is the only world the child knows. And it is, perhaps, in that knowing where the hope of the novel lies.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Prestige

Christopher Nolan, the director of the impressive The Prestige, is no stranger to obsession. In Memento a man with short-tern memory loss is obsessed with finding his wife’s killer. In Batman Returns he visits the obsessions of comic book’s most narcissistic obsessive. In The Prestige Nolan documents the dueling obsessions of two rival magicians. The obsessions differ in reason and magnitude, but at its heart, each is equally destructive for both men.

Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) begin their careers together as magician assistants in late 19th century England. Angier is more the showman; Borden is more the daredevil risk-taker. Their professional rivalry turns personal after a tragic mishap on stage happens to Angier’s wife. The two men begin their own careers: Angier performing as “The Great Danton” and Borden taking the moniker, “The Professor.” A new trick introduced by Borden, “The Transported Man” is the skeleton that the meat of the rivalry grows on. Angier’s sabotage is revenge for the earlier transgression. Borden’s is done for professional gain.

The story unfolds with past events mixing with the present. It is deftly balanced and orchestrated not unlike a great magic trick. The story contains The Pledge – a trick’s set-up; The Turn – a trick’s climax; and The Prestige – a trick’s finale and surprise. The audience is treated to the full knowledge (I think) of the story’s Prestige. The sharpest turn of the movie is that the rivalry ends without a clear resolution as to which magician defeats the other. I would write "which magician wins” but after a while it’s clear that winning and losing are not factors in this rivalry.

The plot is serpentine and deep. I wouldn’t characterize it as full of “twists” though there are plenty of twists to be had. It avoids the gimmicks that are involved in modern “twist” movies. The new discoveries are fully cemented to the story. The movie asks us to pay attention from the first scene to the last and to soak up the details and work out the resolution for ourselves. In many ways I was able to foresee where it was going. But ultimately, I was simply set-up for the next Turn, for the next level of obsession that haunted each performer. Like every good magic trick, every time I thought I had it down, The Prestige delivers another “aha” moment.

Saturday, November 04, 2006


There are moments of poetic beauty in Babel: two Moroccan boys standing on a rocky hillside fighting the wind; a deaf Japanese teenager navigating a rave; the dialogue between an American husband and the Moroccan tour guide talking about their families. Moments like these – and many more throughout the film – render these ordinary occurrences without the metaphorical weight that would drag down lesser works. The span of the film is maybe 4 or 5 days linking three stories connected by varying degrees of threadbareness and all involving some form of miscommunication or, perhaps, better viewed as incommunication.

I can understand that some viewers may find the trappings of the film’s conceit to be heavy-handed. I can also see how some may dismiss it all with a shrug. I fall somewhere in between. That these stories exist side by side and do not necessarily overlap is a strength. They all find their momentum without being informed by the other: two boys playing with a new rifle while they should be herding their goats shoot an American women traveling on a tour bus in Morocco; the Mexican caretaker in San Diego needs to travel to Mexico for her son’s wedding; a deaf teenager in Japan deals with her flowering sexuality and the recent death of her mother. The true magic in these stories is that we pick up their lives at the moments we are introduced to them and leave their lives the moment the arc ends. Previous events are hinted at. Fates after the fact are ambiguous. In between the camera of director Alejandro González Iñárritu treats each unfolding tale with such natural evocation of the essence of life, which enchants us with the minutia of a Mexican wedding celebration or the workings in a small Moroccan village.

That these ordinary events are made beautiful is no major feat. Artists of all stripes have acheived this throughout the ages. But to render these ordinary moments with such deftness, respect, clarity and realism is, well, extraordinary.

Friday, October 20, 2006

BASEBALL: I Blame the Towels

Watching Game 5 of the National League Championship Series between the Mets and the Cardinals, I noted, while observing the towel-waving fans of the Cardinals, that real baseball fans don’t wave towels. They yell. They clap. They make noise. They live and die with every pitch in the playoffs. They do not participate in gimmicky promotions. So what happens when I arrive at Shea Stadium for Game 7 of the NLCS? They’re handing out towels. Diamond Vision even urges everyone to “wave your towels.” They didn’t hand out towels for Game 6. Why now? Why would they do that? The Mets go on to lose a heartbreaker in Game 7.

The Mets had no hits between the second and eighth innings. No hits. Jose Valentin struck out with the bases-loaded and one out. Cliff Floyd struck out with two men on and no outs in the ninth. Carlos Beltran struck out – looking – to the end the game with the bases-loaded. The Mets’ offense humbled – twice in this series – by Jeff Suppan. That’s one I won’t live done anytime soon.

Endy Chavez’s amazing catch, robbing Scott Rolen of a homerun, is just a footnote now.

Of all the questions that will haunt me in the off-season the one that will give me nightmares isn’t Should the Mets have bunted instead of using Floyd as apinch-hitter but Why would the fans at Shea wave those towels? Why?

Monday, October 09, 2006

MOVIE REVIEW: The Departed

Here’s the nuts and bolts of Martin Scorsese’s new film, The Departed: Bill Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is selected by the Massachusetts State Troopers to go undercover in Frank Costello’s (Jack Nicholson) Irish mob. At the same time, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) moves his way up the ranks of the State police to Staff Sergeant in a special investigations unit. Sullivan’s de facto father figure is Costello. So the police have a man in Costello’s ranks and Costello has a man in the police ranks.

The opening sequence sets up the contrasting paths of Costigan and Sullivan in excellent fashion. We see Costigan living a dank and violent life trying to insinuate himself into Costello’s crew and Sullivan’s quick rise to a position where he can exert some manner of control over how much information about Costello is known. Soon enough Costigan and Sullivan both earn the confidence of their respective organizations. And thus does the cat-n-mouse game of dual informants begin as both Costello and the police realize that there’s somebody on the inside.

The set-up is amazingly well done. The story, based on the Hong Kong movie, Infernal affairs (which I haven’t seen), is transplanted to modern day Boston. DiCaprio is excellent as the almost unhinged undercover man. Damon is strong as the all-business, ready to move up the ladder, eager beaver policeman with the hidden agenda. Nicholson’s performance is good too. He wasn’t as distracting as I’ve come to expect from him in recent years. I was half-expecting a hammy Joker redo, but that wasn’t the case. The supporting cast of Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Vera Farmiga, Mark Wahlberg, Ray Winstone and, heck, even Anthony Anderson all do great jobs.

Scorsese’s directing lacks the stylistic signatures he exhibits in other movies. But he still wields a mean camera and even with the close-ups and still-standing camera, he soaks in every detail through the lens better than most in the business.

What The Departed lacks is pacing. While it never lags and keeps moving forward at a nice clip, the tension as Costigan and Sullivan close in on finding each other is almost nonexistent, outside of the final 20 minutes or so and a few scenes patched in the middle. Those final 20 odd minutes save the movie from being just another average cops and robbers movie. As new motives are discovered and concealed identities upturned, the whole thing climaxes with a frantic bloodletting that, in pure Scorsese fashion, is done with nonchalance and urgency. As the identities of Sullivan and Costigan become jeopardized, we see the real identity behind each character, which leads to more surprises and a nice twist concerning loyalty versus self-preservation.

Overall, I quite enjoyed The Departed. Tight story, some nice surprises to keep the audience guessing, and solid performances. I kept hoping for more white-knuckle intensity, which wasn’t sustained. Ultimately, it’s a few jabs short of setting up a knockout punch, but intriguing and clever nonetheless.

Friday, October 06, 2006

BASEBALL: Mets 4 - Dodgers 1

I attended Game 2 of the National league Division Series last night. A friend picked up some last minute tickets in the picnic area. All my years of going to Shea and I’ve never watched a game from our there before. We could only score single seating, which meant our seats weren’t located anywhere near each other. The security in the picnic area was out of control. Tickets are checked at every step of the way from section to section; from returning from the bathroom. We had e-mail printable tickets, which printed without the section number, which set some of the staff into a tizzy. We had called to verify the section and was told that it wouldn’t be a problem. But this one guy had to call in a “supervisor” even though I had an e-mail with the section number on it in addition to the printed out ticket. I understand it’s the playoff, the ushers and security have a lot going on but, Shea’s security is notoriously boneheaded. The picnic area situation just added to the general perception.

Barring that, the picnic area is a pretty neat place to watch a game from. It’s loud and raucous in its own way and the way the crowd noise from the stands echoes out, it feels eerily removed from the action. Eric and I started the game in our own seats. I was in the last seat in the top row closest to center field. It was a chilly night and the wind was whipping around centerfield, but I had my playoff orange and blue ski cap with me, so I was prepared.

And what a game! Glavine pitched masterfully for six innings. Another friend, Frank, in attendance somewhere in the mezzanine, texted me that “tonight's the night,” which is Frank-speak for a Mets no-hitter. Of course, just a few batters later, the Dodgers secured their first hit.

Endy Chavez was a great catalyst for the offense. He bunted his way on and scored. He singled. He later squandered a bases-loaded opportunity, hitting into a fielder’s choice, but Julio Franco legged out a potential double-play grounder to allow another Mets run. Small ball was the order of the day. Once again Willie’s handling of the bullpen and bench was superb.

Eric made quick friends with other fans in his section and they made room for me on their bleacher so I joined him after a few innings (the requirements I had to meet to secure a spot on the bleacher were 1. I was a Mets fan and 2. I wasn't fat. Two for two). There were some characters out for the game. We had Kowalski, a young man wearing camouflage thermals under his Mets jersey. The back was emblazoned with the name “Kowalski” and sported the number “69.” I couldn’t believe it. But, later, we saw an old guy wearing a “69” jersey. This must be in homage to 1969, right, and not something else (nudge, nudge, wink, wink)? I hope so. But back to Kowalski: he paraded up and down the bleachers waving a towel with a scowl on his face. If the crowd wasn’t standing, he implored us to stand. If we were standing, he was imploring us to do something more. I’m not sure what he expected. He also danced to anything that played. But he saved that special something for when Wagner came out. The scowl went perfectly with “Enter Sandman.”

There was also “Peanuts.” This very gregarious – and drunk – fan was the de facto mayor of our section. He clutched a bag of peanuts in one hand and a beer in the other. He also had a peanut skin on his tooth for the entire game. By the 8th inning a loving chant of “peanuts, peanuts” went out in his honor.

Fun fact of the day (from

Glavine, who has 290 regular-season wins, defeated Hong-Chih Kuo, who has one victory. Here's a surprise: Not only was that not the largest differential in postseason history, but it wasn't even close. The "record" was set during the 1925 World Series, when Walter Johnson of the Senators (397-257 at that time) defeated Emil Yde of the Pirates (33-12).

Great time, great win, great seats for $30 at the last minute.

Only one more win until the LCS. Let's go Mets!


Sunday, October 01, 2006

MOVIE REVIEW: American Hardcore

Arriving at the theater to see American Hardcore about 10 minutes before show time, I found myself at the end of a long ticket line. The line was full of old people, so I knew that they were probably waiting for tickets to The Queen rather than American Hardcore. I went inside and found the automatic ticket machine. I punched in the movie title and show time. Due to some glitch in the machine, it spit out senior citizen priced tickets rather than the regular adult priced tickets. Fortunately, the ticket-taker didn’t notice the error, but if he had, I would have argued that by hardcore standards I was a senior citizen.

And it’s the youth and vitality that began the American hardcore punk scene that’s on display in American Hardcore, a documentary directed by Paul Rachman that chronicles the messy and chaotic beginnings of that scene, covering the years 1980-1986. Through interviews with key players and some very good live footage of such luminaries like Bad Brains, Black Flag, Void, SSD, among others, it does yeoman’s job of portraying this vibrant and underground scene.

American Hardcore’s narrative, if there is one, bookends the music from the beginning of Reagan’s first term to Reagan’s subsequent re-election in 1984 and, related to the actual scene, Black Flag’s break-up in 1986. The film is pushed along by live footage and interviews. There is no voice-over narrator illuminating any of the anecdotes told. For example, the straight edge movement is mentioned, it’s importance ascertained, but the why and where, for instance, that straight edge became so important is never expounded. There’s something laudable about the “either you get it or don’t” attitude, and I don’t mean that in any elitist way. The people who were there speak about what it was like. Their comments are buffered by the live performances. And that’s it. Just as the DIY hardcore scene today remains an “either you get it or you don’t” community of people who get it.

And I wish to emphasize that last part: there is still a solid and ever evolving DIY hardcore scene in America today. The movie ends with many of the people involved in the years of 1980-1986 as declaring that hardcore punk died. (The book, American Hardcore: A Tribal History by Steven Blush, a major source for this documentary, annoyingly declared the same thing.) I understand that, for many of the participants of those early, seminal bands, the scene lost it’s momentum after 1986, but for the film makers of a documentary that purports to chronicle this time to ignore the fact that hardcore continued and thrived after 1986 is, well, quite odd.

Of course, I know that hardcore continued after 1986. I went to my first hardcore show in 1986 - Corrosion of Conformity at the CBGB’s Sunday matinee. Later, in the early 90’s I would be in a hardcore band and also co-found a hardcore record label. (Disclosure: I am longer involved with the label, but it is still kicking and better than ever.) I don’t state this resume as a knee-jerk defense to declare, “Hey, hardcore was around for me too,” but to ask: why document the early era yet discount its impact? The reason why the Bad Brains, Minor Threat, Black Flag, etc. are as influential as they are is precisely because hardcore remained a vital instrument for so many after 1986. I’m not sure what sort of post-script there should have been, but it seems not only dismissive to American hardcore/punk community that rode the crest of that first wave as it is to those original bands to imply that what was accomplished dried up when they left the scene.

Just as the hardcore scene began as a response to the Reagan era and to the lame music landscape of the late 1970’s, the era that followed the years American Hardcore documents, began a as response to the violence and chaos of those early years. There was the Revolution Summer in D.C. and the Youth Crew scene in New York that, arguably, had an impact, for better or for worse, just as great as that first scene.

Ultimately, the flaws I find with American Hardcore, another viewer may see as virtues and vice versa. This fact is a strength of the film and of hardcore. I thought, for example, that at times that it got bogged down in cataloguing the scenes sprouting in different cities. There would be a city name and then quick clips of 4 or 5 bands playing. Another viewer may revel in the fact all these bands get face time, no matter how quick.

The focus lay mostly in L.A. and D.C., rightly so, with a healthy side of Boston. It also maps out the flag-bearers of New York, Texas, and the mid-west states. But there’s a strange disconnect of all this. After the third person or so comments about what was happening in Portland with Poison Idea, all we get, almost out of nowhere, is an amazing, albeit, too short clip of Poison Idea playing. There’s no further discussion as to why this band from Portland became the band that everyone else cites. Just that all too quick clip featuring Poison Idea bursting into song – with an almost svelte Jerry A and Pig Champion to boot. Some more insight into the actual personalities that made these years so amazing may have worked better. And I’m not talking about the Ken Burns treatment – though I would have like to have seen some more still photography featured – but to simply get into a few of the band’s heads a bit more. Obviously, I understand the idea to give as many bands their due and not all can be given justice but here’s an omission: no Dead Kenndys mention whatsoever.

Essentially, there’s too much fertile ground in those six years to include everything. In fact, Black Flag and Bad Brains could probably use their own documentaries. But some of the stuff seemed to come out of left field. For example, we see a member of Flipper saying, incredulously, about how some guy Moby once said in an interview that he sang for Flipper. Cut to Moby, who explains that the singer of Flipper was in jail and he filled in for two shows because he knew the words. There’s no framing for that anecdote, and no further discussion about it. Why is it there? Is it accusing Moby of lying? If it was there to explain about the happenstance and chaotic nature of the scene and how others pitched in to help bands work it failed miserably. It didn’t even work as comic relief: “Moby sang in my band? I don’t remember that.”

But these quarrels with the movie are my own. Anyone remotely knowledgeable with the hardcore scene will have his or her own catalog of flaws. And, while I may be critical of these flaws, it doesn’t mean I thought the film wasn’t well done. I was entertained throughout and happily soaked in all the music and images. I suppose, due to my somewhat anal-retentive personality, that I fully support making order out of chaos of the birth of hardcore. I understand the importance of archiving and documenting the years that preceded my own involvement in the scene.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bagels, Skulls, and a Motorcycle

I’m waiting in line at my local bagel shop to pick up breakfast. I’m slightly aggravated due to the three people in front of me who have difficulty ordering bagels and then walking over to the counter to pay. It’s simple, really, but I guess certain people like complexity in their lives. To top it off they are now paying with a credit card. The ordering line is now intermixing with the waiting to pay line and these three in front of me are oblivious to the chaos they created. I wait patiently even though I can see my bagel neatly wrapped behind the counter, just waiting to be placed in a brown bag and then into my hands. I even have exact change. The credit card receipt is being spit out of the register.

While all this is transpiring, an old man walks through the jumbled lines. He has a scraggly white beard and is wearing a black and white striped blazer that while not unfashionable, hangs off his bony shoulders indiscriminately. He has a genial nature and a friendly voice. Somehow, he does not look nearly as disheveled as he should. He’s trying to give the cashier some money but the cashier is busy working the credit card machine. He looks at me and immediately reaches into the canvas bag draped over his shoulder. Out of the bag he produces a photocopy of a newspaper or magazine article containing a large picture of a human skull. I assume the picture is from Darfur or some war zone somewhere. He shows me the picture.

“You like skulls?” he asks looking down at my t-shirt. I am wearing a black tee with a skull on it. “That looks drawn on. Not a real skull.”

I am about to explain to him that the shirt represents a gang from the film The Warriors but he continues. “What’s that say? 'Rogues'? And there is a skull in 'Rogues'. You have two skulls drawn in.”

“Yeah,” I respond noting that the O in 'Rogues' is indeed a skull.

“My next painting is going to have skulls. Bush with skulls at his feet.”

I nod my head approvingly, indicating interest in the project.

“Bush and Cheney on a motorcycle in the desert with skulls on the ground and the Iranian oil fields burning behind them. What do you think of that?”

Finally, the credit card is signed and the three people leave. The old man pays for his breakfast. This gives me a moment to reflect on his next painting. I wonder if Bush and Cheney will be on the same motorcycle or each straddling their own hog. The old man turns back to me.

“I like it” I say. “But why the motorcycle?”

He laughs good-naturedly. A glint forms in his eyes, a glimmer of a past memory. “During Vietnam I drew a protest poster of Lyndon Johnson on a motorcycle. Sold for a dollar each, they did. They were big prints. 45 inches. Sold all of them quickly. Wish I still had one.”

He sips his coffee, bids me good day, and exits the bagel shop.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Woman of Color

A new Vice President has recently been hired in my workplace. This muckety-muck now oversees my department. Looking at the organizational chart, one might be under the impression that I would have some major interaction with this new honcho as I report directly to the person who reports directly to him. But the actual Byzantine bureaucratic hierarchy faced daily belies that belief. Other than greeting him with a friendly (read: ass-kissing) “Good Morning” in the corridor I have hardly met him. When the head of HR first introduced me to him, he was told which department I was in. His immediate response was “So you work for me.” My thought upon hearing this was “What an odd thing to say.” But I soon found out that he has much odder things to say.

Let me preface by saying rest of what I am writing is hearsay, coming to me second or third hand. This doesn’t make it any less true, reliable, or interesting. It just makes it gossip. If gossip was a commodity to be produced, sold or traded, then my company would be a world leader in it. The gossip mill is outstanding in its efficiency and egalitarianism based upon the alacrity in which it moves and with whom it moves through. Union workers gossip with upper management who gossip with middle managers who gossip with support staff. And everyone gossips with vendors and contractors. The gossip occurs by whispers or blurted out in a meeting, in corridors or on the subway. And everyone has his or her own personal gossip hub, who with an almost imperceptible expression verifies or debunks what you have been hearing.

This piece of gossip began innocently enough. A co-worker has a cubicle in a location where people tend to congregate. During these congregations, people seem to forget that a cubicle wall is not only 6 feet high but made out of cheap fabric. I imagine that there is a location like this in every office. Here is a place where talk becomes free and morphs into gossip. Think about that. A cubicle, which normally sucks the life out of an employee, is now a cocoon, allowing an errant sentence to be nurtured and then make its way in the world as a gossip butterfly for evermore. Ah, the wonders of nature.

This particular overheard conversation was between the new VP and another member of upper management. The VP was asked how he found New York City as he had moved here from the South and had grown up in the Midwest. The VP responded that he, as a Midwest bred white boy, found it all easy to take because he was married to a “woman of color”. This first allusion to a “woman of color” went by uncommented upon. But the new VP kept at it, talking about how different cultures don’t bother him and how color blind he really is because he is married to a “woman of color”. Finally, the question of what he means by “woman of color” was nervously broached.

By the way, his wife is Filipino.

At this point my biggest gripe is why continue to use “woman of color” to describe your wife? If you must describe your wife in such terms, just say she is Filipino. Everyone knows what a Filipino is. It’s not like he will have to explain, “The Philippine islands, named after St. Phillip during Spanish colonization, are an archipelago located in the South China Sea that through years of coexistence between indigenous peoples and French and Spanish colonists has produced an attractive caramel-skinned populace, to which I am married to one.” Just say she’s Filipino for fuck’s sake! You end up saying it eventually when everyone looks at you quizzically and attempts to politely decipher what on earth you mean when you say you are married to a “woman of color”.

Now using this term isn’t a one-time deal either. No, no no. This “woman of color” shtick has been getting plenty of play by him. Another overheard conversation has him telling someone how “he doesn’t see color in people because he wakes up every morning to a ‘woman of color’.” He also took out a family photo and showed it to his assistant and announced, in a giddy, look-at-this sort of way, that he was married to a “woman of color”. The assistant is black (colored woman vs. “woman of color”?) so my first impression was that this was a I’m-down-with-the-peeps gambit. That he was just trying to gain some street cred. But apparently he really likes talking about this “woman of color” he is married to. This all makes me wonder how he describes his kids. The assistant should have shown him her family photo with her black husband and black kids and trumped him on the color card.

At least now I know what to do when I have my first conversation with him and he mentions he’s married to a “woman of color”. I’ll respond, “Oh, she must be Filipino.”

Sunday, August 27, 2006

MOVIE REVIEW: The Illusionist

As pretty as an illustrated Victorian storybook, The Illusionist takes an oft-told tale of love and twists it into an enjoyable and entertaining parlor trick. An eccentric, young peasant boy, who seems to have quite a bit of idle time on his hands to practice coin and card tricks, befriends an aristocratic, young girl, who when not riding gallantly on top of her fine horse, does not heed her parents opposition to mingling with peasants. Of course, at the behest of the girl’s parents, they are forcefully separated. The boy leaves town, off to wander places unknown and master the art of illusion.

This brings us 15 years later to turn-of-the-century Vienna, where the eponymous Eisenheim (Edward Norton) returns to his childhood haunt to excite the populace with his magic shows. At one of these shows Eisenheim finds Sophie (Jessica Biel), the girl he left behind. Now a Duchess, Sophie, may or may not be betrothed to Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell). This triangle is watched with increasing interest by the Chief Inspector (Paul Giamatti).

The story is also watched intensely by the viewer and this smart film makes it worth the effort. This typical love story - the assigned social order keeps two true lovers apart -could have easily overtaken and disrupted the film. It is a credit to director Neil Burger, who also adapted the screenplay from a Steven Millhauser short story, that how illusions, created by society or a magician, can be used to achieve love is more important than the minor distractions that being of a different class may present.

Like any good illusion, the impressive cast makes this appear easier than it is. All the leads bring nuances to their characters without letting those characters upstage the story. Giamatti’s Chief Inspector Uhl has muted strength, physically and mentally, and his own thoughts about societal labels. Giamatti does not look as dumpy in his period outfit and waxed Van Dyck, as he has in American Splendor and Sideways. He should be on the lookout for more pre-20th century roles. Norton, one of the most consistent actors working today, gives Eisenheim his usual intensity but offsets it with a knowing aloofness. This serves to make the viewer believe that, like any good illusionist, he has something up his sleeve. Biel provides an understated performance where she sometimes gets lost in her costume. This is unfortunate as she surprisingly did not seem out of place with the others but her character is not given more to do. Sewell is fine in portraying royal entitlement but his emotions and actions are dictated by others. One of the only minuses in the film is how Sewell’s Leopold is defined by the other three characters.

There are times, while watching this film, that one may wonder if this is all going to be just a familiar, good-looking, well-made waste of time. Or worse, will it succumb to its own cleverness and leave either too many questions unanswered or a supernatural mumbo-jumbo mess behind? It is with great delight to observe an intelligent film that aspires to challenge viewers and reward them with a satisfactory ending that is just as it should be.

Room for Rent

It was winter 1998. I was living in the Denver, CO area. While living in Colorado, I had been snowboarding during the winter and working seasonal jobs all other times. For this reason I never liked to sign a lease. I was a man on the go. I never knew where I would end up tomorrow. Also, I was broke. That’s why I was in Denver working odd jobs rather than snowboarding in the mountains. These reasons, mainly the moneyless part, led me to the “Roommates Wanted” ads.

I found a room being rented in a small house in a nice location. A 40-something divorced man was renting the house and there was a room he was not using. The price was right and I wasn’t having any luck finding two 25-year old girls that needed a roommate so I was in. No lease and a verbal agreement that I would give a month’s notice upon moving out.

It didn’t start out very well. He was a used-car salesman and looked the part. He must have had all his slimy charm on display when he sold me on the room. He was tall and wiry and had facial features - a skinny head, greased hair, and suspicious mustache -reminiscent of Bruce Dern. After a few conversations, I realized I had nothing to say to him. Nothing. I tried to avoid talking with him as much as possible. My room was big enough to contain my bed, an easy chair, and a nightstand that had a small TV perched on top. When home, I spent a lot of time in the room avoiding him.

As it turned out, avoidance wasn’t the real problem. He was out on the jalopy lot selling his clunky wares until close to midnight. Slothfulness and overnight delivery don’t mix so I was out of the house very early. He also worked weekends. This meant our paths didn’t cross very much other than the two weekdays that he was off. Except on those two days off he had custody of his kid.

This kid was the biggest crybaby ever. You hear stories from new parents how the baby was “up all night.” I always took those tales with a grain of salt. But this brat, who was two-years old, WAS UP ALL NIGHT! Just constant bawling. He was worse than the colicky baby in the “Andromeda Strain” that stymied scientists looking for a cure to the space bacteria that wiped out a small town. I’m surprised he didn’t die of dehydration based on the amount of tears flowing. Don’t they stop crying eventually? So two nights out of the week I got no sleep.

This guy also had a terrible relationship with his ex-wife, the mother of the spectacularly whiney and never-ending crying two-year old. As this was pre-cell phone days, I shared the house phone. Every day there were multiple messages of at least 10 minutes each with the wife just berating this guy. Really haranguing him like nothing else I have heard before or since. No wonder the kid cried all the time. I wasn’t familiar with the answering machine so I didn’t know how to fast forward through the messages without erasing them. I was embarrassed just listening to it. Worse yet was when she would call late night and he was not at home but I would already be in bed. I would be woken up by the ringing and then not able to get back to sleep while she loudly prattled on into the machine. Then he would come home and play the message. If the brat happened to be staying the night I would have the triple whammy. The harridan of an ex-wife on the machine, the guy cursing aloud at all her accusations, and the kid crying up a storm.

One day I get back from work and necessity navigated me to the bathroom. It was a mess. The toilet was overflowed and shit water was all over the carpet. (As an aside, let me strongly state my opposition to carpeting a bathroom.) The bathroom wasn’t like this when I left in the morning. It was a disgusting sight and smell. It was how I imagine it smelled when Chief Brody and Hooper cut open the tiger shark in “Jaws”. Unfortunately, I really had to go. I scanned the revolting scene for a plunger. No luck. I found a toilet scrubber and I worked the business end of it into the brown abyss. Because I had to go, I felt optimistic about clearing the clog. Optimism was never a very reliable gauge for future rational actions and it once again failed me. I flushed, and I watched in horror as the murky water rose above the rim and onto the carpet. All I could think was “Do toilets always flush for this long? When is this going to stop?” It was unbelievable. Was Godzilla in my bathroom that morning taking a shit?

I stepped out before I vomited. I was smart enough to place wads of newspaper down before stepping into that hellhole, so my shoes weren’t covered with defecation. I ran out to the local hardware store to get a plunger, and stopped at a gas station on the way. The gas station bathroom was paradise compared what I had just left. Plunger in hand I returned and successfully unclogged. The bathroom did not have an exhaust fan so there was still the wet carpet and smell to contend with. I opened the window and closed the door. Let him deal with it. I was in bed when he returned. I awoke to loud cursing. I knew what this was about. I got out of bed to get this bathroom confrontation over with. In a very terse conversation, I told him that I came home from work, saw this mess he left, purchased a plunger, unclogged the toilet, and the rest is up to him to clean up. (Astute readers will note that I failed to mention that I also flushed the toilet and caused an overflow. He didn’t need to know about that.) I went back to bed. The next morning the bathroom was still foul smelling and the carpet was still soaked around the toilet. I found a scrap of dry carpet and used that to stand on as I pissed in the bathtub. I didn’t want anything more to do with that bathroom. I skipped the shower and washed up in the kitchen sink and off to work I went. We didn’t talk to each other, not even a “Hi, how’re you doing?” for a week.

The coup de grace came after about four months living there. I returned from work one day and there was an eviction notice on the door. I read it several times. It didn’t seem to be a mistake. We were getting evicted. This pissed me off. Even though I hated living there and I had already given my month’s notice to move out, I became indignant at the thought of being evicted. Also, I paid rent for my room directly to this weasel. He was supposed to be paying the rent for the house to the landlord. I left the eviction notice up on the door so he would see it when he got home. I stayed up until he arrived back from selling his lemons. He walked in looking forlorn, holding the eviction notice in his hand. I immediately pounced on him. If I waited a second longer, I might have felt sorry for him as he looked like such the sad sack walking through the front door. “Where the fuck is my fuckin’ money!” I yelled. “I’ve been paying you and you can’t pay the fuckin’ rent and you’re getting me evicted?” This went on for some time. Me swearing a lot about him screwing me, and him yelling at me about his ex-wife screwing him. Although it felt good to yell and curse at him, eventually it was a dead-end.

As stated, I was already moving. I had accepted a job offer in Arizona. I sold my bed to a friend and told the guy that he could have anything I was leaving behind, which was a sofa and easy chair. I was going back to owning only what I could fit into my Chevy Blazer. I had a friend helping me pack my truck. As we were finishing up we sat on the sofa, which was on the front porch, and popped open some beers. The guy came to move his stuff out. He was alone except for the brat who would be offering no help. While the brat sobbed and cried in a playpen the guy hauled all his belongings into a moving van he had rented. I sat on the couch with my friend and didn’t offer a hand or a beer. Take that, you bastard.

So I moved to Arizona and stayed in the spare bedroom in my friend and his wife’s house for about 8 months. I’ll let them tell that story…

Friday, August 25, 2006


I’m still not entirely sure what to make of The Descent. The plot is great material for a thriller-horror movie: six women go caving in some Appalachian caverns. There they meet some albino humanoids who are looking for their next meal. On board for the trip is Sarah, who is recovering from an accident involving her husband and child; Juno, a resourceful and egotistical adventurer; Beth, the caring best friend of Sarah’s; Rebecca, the sensible, by the book, and motherly outdoor type; Sam, Rebecca’s younger sister and medical school student; and Holly, Juno’s protégé with a wild side. Yes, they are all “types” for this sort of story, but, as writer/director Neil Marshall establishes their strengths and weaknesses, to better help us understand their son-to-be fate, he doesn’t use a sledgehammer to do it.

It’s a sure-handed straight-forward horror movie that takes it time in unfolding (at times too long in unfolding). There are a few good jolts (even if some of the better ones are of the manufactured scares from a dream or another character sneaking up from behind). The first act follows the women’s, ahem, descent into the cavern. This in itself would make for a good thriller. The scene in which Sarah gets stuck in a small tunnel set off a small claustrophobic panic in me. But then the sequence drags. We get it, they’re in an unexplored cavern and don’t know the way out. Soon the cave-dwelling creatures are introduced. The first 10 minutes of this are pretty good, especially the first meeting. This too soon loses momentum. Then there are the questions: How strong are these creatures? At first they seem impervious to harm. Later, though, the resourceful women start picking them off pretty quickly. How did they survive this long in the caves? Despite the rooms of bones, they are terrible hunters. The raptors in Jurassic Park had better organization skills than these people. They’re more dumb than anything else.

So, it’s a nice idea that is tightly wound, but, it contains a few lulls, and, most damning, some questionable behavior by one of the group. Questionable in the sense that she’s seemingly making rational decisions and filling in puzzle pieces about past events while being chased at the same time. It tarnishes the direction I thought the finale was going.

In summary: strong beginning, so-so middle, below average ending. I suppose this is what I make of it: a movie that I wanted to like, that wanted me to like it, but just couldn’t pull it off. I’m not sure if it was too by the numbers or too aloof. The intensity of the women’s plight wasn’t sustained – in fact, it was more intense before the creatures attacked! Now, what do you make of that?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

MOVIE REVIEW: 13 (Tzameti)

One of the best kind of thriller is when the Everyman, through folly or a hidden motive, embarks into a world he scarce knew existed. These thrillers, when done right, create a palpable tension, as the viewer is also pulled into the circumstances, only finding out what is in store at the same time as the Everyman.

13 (Tzameti) is such a film. It is remarkably taut. The tension is drum tight. Our Everyman propels himself into a situation with utter ignorance of what it entails. He knows there may be a payoff involved. While working as a roofer at a house, he overhears part of a conversation involving a train ticket and a hotel reservation. The letter containing the ticket and information falls into his hands. He seems relaxed on the first leg of the trip; then a bit nervous as he ventures deeper into it; then he tries to look relaxed as he becomes more nervous. Then he becomes afraid.

The emotion registered on the face of Sebastian (George Babluani), from fear to helplessness, is translated in near silence by the impersonal intruding camera of director Géla Babluani. 13 (Tzameti) is filmed in black and white. The starkness makes the mood. The minimal use of music sustains the mood. As Sebastian delves further and further into the maze, my heart was in my throat. I was stiff with anticipation of the outcome. My fists were clenched. By following the less is more school of storytelling, Babluiani creates an intense and absorbing thriller.

13 (Tzameti) is the best film I’ve seen this year.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"A Shave and a Stalk?"

On an early summer evening I was strolling up 6th Avenue when my neighborhood barber accosted me. O.K., accosted isn’t entirely accurate but he did surprise me in the hurried panic in which he approached. He quickly explained that he was trying out employment at a new barbershop, which he indicated was behind him with a head nod over the shoulder or a jerk of the thumb in its direction. How he indicated where he was working isn’t really important but I was so surprised that he was talking to me without scissors in his hand that I was hardly paying attention to where the new barbershop was located. I just know that he did, in fact, clearly indicate where the shop was. He could have turned and pointed and told me the name of the new shop. I don’t know. I was weeks away from my next haircut and for some reason I was not entirely comfortable with this new out-of the-barber chair facet of our haircutting relationship.

From what I could make from his story, he was unsure how the new shop would work out and he may return to his previous (and my regular) barbershop. So in order to keep me apprised of the situation he requested my phone number. Wait, what? Now I started paying attention. “Can I please have your phone number and in a couple of weeks I will call and let you know where I am for your next haircut?” What was I supposed to do? I gave him my phone number.

Now, let me explain something about my hair. I keep it short. I cut it simple. I ask for a # 3 all around and sit back and let the barber do his work. Then I am gone 10 minutes later. I go back for my next cut ~ 4-6 weeks later which is about the time that I just can’t walk out of the shower, dry my head, and be off. I know I need a haircut if a brush or comb is needed. (Female readers, please take note that I am low maintenance.) If I was smart and not financially careless I would have invested in a razor years ago and just cut my own hair. (Female readers, please ignore references to my lack of intelligence and fiscal irresponsibility.)

A few weeks pass and I find I have terrible bed-head after a night’s respite and a wedding to attend in my near future. I need a haircut but my barber hasn’t called. I don’t know where he is plying his trade. I walk past my barbershop and casually peer into the window and not only do I not see him but another barber is at his chair wildly cutting away. I figure that as he went to the trouble of flagging me down on the street and I gave him my phone number, I should at least make some effort to track him down. I now wish I was paying better attention when he was pointing to his new barbershop. I go back to where he first stopped me on the street, only a couple blocks from my barbershop, and through shrewd triangulation methods I find the barbershop I think he was indicating. I walk past and he’s not there either. I give up on getting a haircut that day. I need a day to think this over. I tell my brother about my dilemma and he, in no uncertain terms, informs me that there is no dilemma.

This response elicited an interesting question in me. Why do I feel so loyal to this barber? Any trained barber could cut my hair. He’s not even the first barber I had at this barbershop. My first barber disappeared and I ended up in this one’s chair one day. I’ve only been going to him around a year. The next day I decide to go to my barbershop and just get a haircut, damn my sense of loyalty. I enter; my barber is not there. I ask after him. “He’s on vacation. Don’t worry, we take very good care of you.” I get into the next available chair and afterward, notice no discernable difference in the quality of cut. As loyalty to my former barber leaves me, so I leave the barbershop.

Then I get a phone message a few days later. “This is _________, your barber, who cuts your hair. Call me back.” Oh, boy. I just had my hair cut. Again, what to do? I promptly ignore the message. Weeks later, another message arrives. Shortly thereafter, in a third message he lets me know the new barbershop he’s working at. While not far, it’s in a different neighborhood. How can I be expected to walk ten blocks out of my way when I have a perfectly good barbershop nearby? If I had moved 10 blocks I wouldn’t continue with him as my barber, I’d find a new one. The proximity of his new locale solves any remaining loyalty issues I might have had. I can now continue at my regular barbershop with no guilt. Just in time, as I am getting a little shaggy on top. I just hope he deletes my phone number.

COMIC BOOK REVIEW: Checkmate #4 (DC Comics)

In my review of Checkmate #1-3, I covered my initial and, somewhat underwhelmed, impression with the caveat that I should wait until the story arc was completed before making a summary judgment on the merits of the series. After reading Checkmate #4, I was correct to include that out for myself and wrong to be so cynical of the first three parts.

Checkmate #4 is fast and furious fun. It balances the geo-political reality that Checkmate navigates and pure superhero fun quite masterfully. Checkmate’s excursion into China and the match-up with the Chinese meta-humans works so well if only because of the forceful personalities of these newly introduced super-powered bunch. Greg Rucka handles the interaction between Checkmate’s expressed (and covert) duties and the Chinese’s responsibilities to country with superb fluency. This could have quickly played like a hackneyed cold-war era confrontation. Instead, with a few detours, we see shared respect and mutual admiration between the factions. The Chinese heroes also have fun names like Physician, a stately and sage looking man, and The August General in Iron, an imposing, hulking figure donned in an iron shell. The artwork of Jesus Saiz creates a beautiful tableau for all these characters to act on. And the devil is in the details: the Physician’s hands nobly behind his back during his confrontation with the dubious Count Vertigo; a glean in the eye of Black Queen Sasha Bordeaux during her conversation with the Celestial Archer. We see and hear the fullness of these persons through the words and art.

Perhaps, the only slight level of disappointment that remains is Green Lantern’s naivety. Is he this noble? And if he is, why can’t he work some political finesse into it? He overplayed his hand it seemed when he didn’t need to. Couldn’t he bring about the same resolution to the problem without letting White Queens Amanda Waller in on what he wished to achieve? But one bright spot is the newfound comradely respect between Alan and Sasha. That’s an important collusion for the health of Checkmate.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

SOCCER: FC Barcelona 4 - NY Red Bulls 1

FC Barcelona vs. NY Red Bulls, Giants Stadium, NJ August 12, 2006

So I went to a soccer match last night. A friend was still suffering from World Cup fever (Viva! Italia!) and bought some tickets. So off to Giants Stadium in the swamplands of NJ to watch two of the biggest soccer stars in the world, Ronaldinho and Messi dismantle an outclassed NY Red Bulls team. After loads of traffic and paying $15 to park we made it into the sold out venue.

Now, I'm no soccer fan. I watched some of the World Cup but never an entire match. This was the second live soccer match I have seen since I went to a NY/NJ Cosmos game, also at Giants Stadium, in the late seventies. This was a fun night. The crowd would go crazy every time Ronaldinho touched the ball and then in the second half chants of "Messi! Messi!" rang throughout the stadium. Giants Stadium was sold out and I imagine that this was the largest crowd the Red Bulls ever played in front of. There was a very animated Hispanic guy next to me who was fun as he was jumping up and down and hooting and hollering in Spanish the entire time. The wave was in full force throughout the night and, of course, chants of “Olay, Olay, Olay” could be heard all match long.

Although a neophyte about soccer, here are my observations about the match. Barcelona seemed to be toying with the Red Bulls during the first half. Lots of fancy footwork eliciting oohs and ahhs from the fans and the players, especially Ronaldinho, seemed to be having fun. The level wasn't like an All-Star game, this was still a competition after all, but the intensity felt like an exhibition. Ronaldinho scored a goal on a penalty kick and at the end of the first half the Red Bulls attacked and tied it up. The second half was a different story as Barcelona attacked relentlessly and the Red Bulls couldn't mount any offense at all. Overall, Barcelona severely outclassed the Red Bulls. Final score 4-1. Ronaldinho had 2 goals, Messi had 1 with 2 assists. So it was a good game to watch as the big names lived up to expectations. Through it all I couldn't tell if the crowd was pro-Red Bulls or pro-Barcelona or just pro-Ronaldinho and pro-Messi. I would estimate that at least a 1/3 of the crowd was wearing Barcelona jerseys.

Another observation is that this game was not nearly as rough and tumble as I saw during the World Cup. Perhaps, it was because it was an exhibition or is European League play just different than World Cup play and MLS play even more different than European League play? I enjoyed it though, which is something I couldn't imagine a few years ago. I'm not about to begin following soccer like I do baseball but I now know that I can enjoy the game.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Warriors Scavenger Hunt

I was 11 or 12 years old when I first saw The Warriors. Released in 1979, it was broadcast on the local New York channel, WPIX 11, I believe. The curse words were crudely dubbed. The fight scenes – especially the park fight with the Baseball Furies and the subway bathroom brawl with The Punks – were clumsily edited. Yet, I was enthralled. The Warriors provided two important things for me at that tender age: 1) it helped establish my love for movies; 2) it deepened the mystery and allure of those other Boros – Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx – that this youngster in the outer reaches of Queens had yet to experience. The Warriors quest to return to their Coney Island home through the rough and tumble – and colorful – late 1970’s New York captured my imagination and strengthened my love of movies and of the city that has been my home all my life (that young Queens kid now residing in a not so rough and tumble Manhattan).

Yesterday, I participated in a Warriors Scavenger Hunt, sponsored by Netflix and Alamo Drafthouse , part of their summer Rolling Roadshow. Each team chose a gang from The Warriors and wore that gang’s colors. We were the Turnbull AC’s, those “lousy skinhead fucks” in Ajax’s memorable and apt description.

The gangs met at Riverside Park, where Cyrus’ conclave was filmed. We were given a CD containing clues, which, when solved, would tell us what to do next. We started out going in the wrong direction looking for the Soldiers monument in the park. Once we got our bearings, we spent some time fiddling with math questions and counting cannonballs and adding regiment numbers carved in stone. Then our one big gaffe happened. The clue spoke of a gang called the Hip Po’s. We needed to find hippo icons and count them. We got ahead of ourselves and ventured down to the American Museum of Natural History, thinking that hippos were part of the stone menagerie out front. We were wrong. No hippos there. We soon found out about a Hippo Park in Riverside Park – just 2 blocks from where we had left. We doubled back quickly. We had lost about 40 minutes on the wild goose chase. But to our surprise, other gangs were still working out the earlier clues. We were still in good shape we thought. We soldiered on with the hunt. We hit our spots. We took the photos for bonus points. We sweated through our vests on the hottest day of the year. We regretted none of it.

Finally, we ended up on a subway to Coney Island. Two other gangs were on the same subway, a few cars ahead of us. Fortunately for us, our gang consisted of Coney Island veterans. They knew a faster way to get to our next checkpoint – the Shoot the Freak boardwalk attraction. We jumped off the subway the stop before Stillwell Avenue, ran across the footbridge on Surf Avenue and down the boardwalk. We beat the Satan’s Mothers, the Jones Street Boys and High Hats. We shot the freak and went to the final checkpoint. We were the sixth team to check-in. We had all of the bonus photos save one. We were told we took the most photos. This gave us hope. We could erase our lost time. We waited for the results.

But first, the screening of The Warriors. Or, rather, first was our rap. Another bonus was for each gang to compose a rap and some dance moves. Calvin and Eric wrote the rhymes, Calvin MCed, and we all made turns during the chorus of “Turn, Turn Turnbulls AC’s”. Then the screening. It was great fun watching this classic movie in the shadow of the Cyclone and the Wonder Wheel. The crowd loved it. Everyone hooted and hollered at every Warriors victory. Lines were said along with the characters. A great summer evening experience.

Oh, yeah, we also finished in Third place. Not bad for a bunch of lousy skinhead fucks.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

MOVIE REVIEW: Superman Returns

Superman returns and he appears to be missing something. The sense of awe and adventure are lacking and are replaced by reverence and spectacle in the latest film about The Man of Steel, “Superman Returns”. The idea of depicting Superman (Brandon Routh) as a savior rather than a hero adds to a sense of lost fun. While a savior he may be, he spends an inordinate amount of time foiling penny ante robberies around the world and his alter ego, Clark Kent, has a day job as a reporter for the Daily Planet. If he is going to save us, wouldn’t mankind be better off if Superman had no Clark Kent and was Superman all the time?

It's five years since Earth has seen Superman (Brandon Routh) and coincidentally Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) has been let out of prison and Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) is in mortal peril. Nobody seems to notice the impeccable timing of Superman’s return to Earth with Clark Kent’s return to journalism. The story involves Lex’s dastardly plan to kill Superman and rule a new continent, Lois dealing with an ex-lover coming back to save her countless more times, and Superman looking for…well, what exactly? Is it love, acceptance, a better world? Only Superman can tell us but he sticks to Boy Scout platitudes or reticence.

Through the years in the comics, Superman has been overhauled numerous times to make him less powerful and more human and in essence a complex character. To the general public though, Superman is just that, a super man. It appears that the filmmaker’s attempt at complexity is to throw Superman into a love triangle and it doesn’t work. “Superman II” took on this issue and fared better by having Superman choose between devotion to Lois and devotion to everyone else. Poor James Mardsen, who as Perry White’s nephew here and as Cyclops in the X-Men movies comes out on the short end of the stick in two superhero love triangles in two separate superhero universes, the X-Men being a Marvel Comics property.

This is not to say it is all bad. The new costume with its deep crimson hues is quite fetching and the flying scenes are a joy to behold. The many nods to the comic books, TV shows, and original films prove the appreciation and respect that went into the film. But the good usually has a downside attached. Brandon Routh is fine in his role, although he is more enjoyable as Clark Kent than Superman. Parker Posey has a nice turn as Lex’s moll but isn’t given enough to do. Kate Bosworth is charming as Lois but not nearly as dogged as you would expect this intrepid reporter to be. Kevin Spacey should have stolen the show but Lex Luthor is written less as a narcissistic madman and more as a simple, vengeful, angry person. The action sequences are pretty but fall prey to the big budget dilemma, where if you have it, spend it, and it shows as the action scenes go on too long, much like the movie as a whole.

The main problem is that in the complete adoration of the title character everything else is left behind. Using similar plot points and the same John William’s score, the filmmakers somehow forgot to add passion. There is no chill down the spine as the music escalates and Superman comes to the rescue as there was in the original films. That’s a shame because the film wants us to believe in Superman so much but never lets us.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

My Dog Wears Diapers

So, our dog, Haley, is now wearing a diaper. And, no, she’s not into infantile fetishes or anything. She’s around 14 years old and has slowly become incontinent, or, less politely, she’s constantly peeing on the couch and bed. It started slowly. At first, we noticed some small wet spots. They began to grow. The blanket on our couch began to stink like the NYC subways. Then her coup de grace was to not pee while out on her walks. I would return from work, find a huge wet spot on the sofa, take her out for her evening walk and she wouldn’t pee. Not a drop. Then, soon after being back home, she would settle on the couch, and out it came. The same happened during her nightly walk. No pee on the walk. Pee in the bed during the night. Enter the diaper solution. And wee wee pads to place on the couch and the bed and other favorite spots for when she’s not wearing the diaper.

We traced her problem back a few summers ago when we went for a weekend in the Fingers Lake region of New York. Haley went swimming in the lake. She also joined us on a canoe ride, which was cut short as the canoe tipped over in about 4 feet of water. Haley loved it. I was trying to bail the boat out and get it back to shore and Haley kept jumping into the canoe. I suppose she enjoyed being tipped into the water. But after that weekend, she lost some of the curl in her tail and her back legs weren’t as strong as they used to be. After a visit to the vet, it was determined that she either had a neurological disorder in her hind area or some sort of spinal problem. This eventually led to her not being able to control when she would go to the bathroom.

My first attempt at putting on the diaper ended like a scene from Mr. Mom. I adjusted the tabs thinking the diaper was affixed and then Haley walked a few steps, the diaper fell down her hind legs and she nimbly stepped out of it. Overall, though, she doesn’t seem to mind wearing them. Better than lying in a puddle of one’s own urine, I suppose.

She just began taking medicine to help curb the urination Hopefully, it’ll help some and she’ll be back to peeing on her regular walk schedule.

UPDATE (7/19/06): The medicine is working. She's now able to hold it in and relieve herself on her walks. She went all day yesterday without the diaper and no mess. We're still cautious, but hopefully she's back to her regular scheduled #1's for good.