what lies beneath

pothole
We have a pothole the size of Manhattan in the road directly in front of our house.

As a writer, I reserve the right to a certain amount of hyperbole…but truly, I’m not invoking it overly much in this case.

Our one-way street was bricked in a former life, so the thin crust of pavement lies uncomfortably over the top. After a winter of ice and snow plows, followed by torrential rain, it succumbs to cracks and buckles with little more than a whimper. What started as a fist-size fissure days ago is now a full-blown archaeological dig.

Since our yard is only, well, about two yards long, placing us too near traffic for comfort, we can lie in bed and listen to the unfortunate vehicles who neglect to swerve.

ka-chunk.

Ten points.

ka-CHUNK!

The bus. A good twenty points. And another shovelful of asphalt spewed across the road, too.

David just came up to inform me that he actually saw a few cars slow down to avoid the crater. As our street is notorious in the neighborhood for flying vehicles — due to no stop signs or speed bumps — this is a positive development. Maybe we won’t report our fault line to the city just yet.

At any rate, wherever we move next–we shan’t miss Ohio roads.

The Church of Oprah

the big give
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4)

snowy satisfaction

backyard shot
Liz and I will admit to being a tad stranger than most folks in our communal love of winter. We love the cold, the snow, cozying up under blankets as heaters crank away. They way I see it, I enjoy staying warm in cold weather far more than I enjoy trying to cool off in the heat. But I secretly think this is much more cosmically sound, as cold is not a naturally positive state—it’s merely the absence of heat. Therefore, manufactured cold, while in some sense necessary and welcomed in our creature-comforted Western world, still seems… unnatural. And it pales to creating the natural state of warmth out of the cold. But I digress.

Why I’m mindful of this is we just received the last gasping pang of winter, perhaps not only for Ohio, but for us two in particular (er… more on that later). Over a foot of snow fell over the past two days, covering our little world in a frosty wrapping, halting many of the normal maddening activities while giving rise to more enjoyable ones, like sledding and yes, shoveling. Sure, gripe all you want, I enjoyed heaving snow yesterday, despite the sprained abdomen muscle I got from a crack-up on a sled run the night before. It’s all been fun. Even walking a mile to the video store has been a treat, snow blowing about us, faces tingling with chill. Whatever snowy deficit we had through the Christmas season has been more than made up for.

And you can’t help but love the way a huge serving of snow just stops things. Life still churns away, sure, but all the activity we seem to think is so vital to our day to day existence, suddenly becomes: “oh, well maybe not so critical after all.” I guess that even includes school, for a day anyway. And given the universal lot we and our neighbors find ourselves in, people seem generally more friendly. We dig each other out, help push stuck cars, shovel walks and commiserate our dilemmas. It doesn’t describe everyone, but it feels like a lot more genuine help and friendliness comes out when we all realize we’re hampered in the same way. Too bad it takes a blizzard to show us a tiny shadow of our true state.

I’ve always hated the bias the weather people around here have toward winter (“unfortunately, looks like we’re going to see some more white stuff today…”), as if we all share some universal hatred of what I think is as beautiful as any other account of nature. Hey, I love spring as much as the next guy, but until that equinox, I say bring on the snow.

A Mile “Stone”?


Liz and I watched Eli Stone last night, mostly for being too lazy to get up and do something else after Lost (which on most nights means slinking back to our computers). But there has been some good buzz about the show’s ability to integrate faith in God (shudder to think) with the show’s narrative. The main character (a trial lawyer) gets visions from God via a handy little brain aneurysm, but through them he’s attempting to migrate toward a more virtuous life. Given he’s a trial lawyer, this has built in conflict for years to come. But last night’s B plot narrative ended up being the more compelling twist in the episode. It concerned a custody fallout between two former lesbian lovers, one of whom was carrying the other’s child (the male donor was conveniently never mentioned). Problem was, the pregnant woman had become a Christian (or had renewed her faith) and no longer saw gay life as appropriate for her child, or something “she wanted.” Naturally, I was groaning in the first scene, because we generally know where this goes: crazy Christian has irrational judgmental delusions based on some confused dogma and ends up doing much harm (or murder, if you’re on CSI or Law and Order). Or: crazy Christian is really just putting on an act to get what he wants, but by episode’s end will see the “light” and revert to his previous lifestyle. Almost true to form, the turn that forces the pregnant woman to eventually lose the custody battle did feel like it was signaling the latter premise. But strangely, the show never landed there. In fact, the Christian woman tearfully decides in her closing scene to give up full custody to her former lover, thinking it best to simply leave her past behind her. Whoa.

It’s still too early to decide where this is all heading (with the show’s continuing narrative, the neo-Christian still has time to return later in the season to denounce her faith), but it feels like there might be some really smart work underway on this show. Think about it. How clever would it be to introduce a wildly popular “buzz” topic like lesbianism (to wit: one of the show’s characters even says “isn’t everyone a lesbian these days?”) but then drop a bomb at the end of the episode by having the Christian character do something so out of character with the world, but so in character with God; totally self-denying, totally self-humiliating. I can only picture the thousands of annoyed viewers who watched that scene with their mouths hanging open. Really, why on earth would anyone in their right mind do that?

Could it be that living for God as if He matters above all things might just trump any personal sense of entitlement, rights or wounded justice? Go figure… In the meantime, we’re keeping a curious eye on Eli Stone. (full episodes can be seen online at abc.com)

The Lair

Arclight Studios
As of this week, I have officially moved my chimera of computer/audio/video stuff to the home office (spare bedroom) after having carted it every six months (over the past two years) to some new “permanent” location. No small affair that. But, it feels good here, crammed into this tiny space, hard drives and fans whirring and thinking, compensating for the generally moderate temps in the rest of the house (heh heh). We’ve unofficially titled the place “The Lair”.

The move also re-christens all this video and graphic enterprise otherwise known as Arclight Studios (nasty old site to be redone soon!). Technically I guess it’s more of an Arclight *studio*, unless we count Liz’s big comfy chair 9 feet away, where 98% of her time is spent on the laptop.

But yes, we endeavor to move ahead with all things indie film, with some freelance graphic whatnot thrown in here and there. Of course, we both still have multiple big script projects on the front burners, so we toil away at the page, hoping and dreaming our efforts will pay off sooner or later. And did I mention we’re actually working on a feature script together? Too bad we need still to work regular jobs!

This should give you a better appreciation for the belly of the beast.

No Country for Old Men: Bleak is the new black

Nihilism is apparently way hipper than I gave it credit for. Scores of filmgoers have vaulted the new Coen brothers film to the place of a 5 star classic without being able to justify why beyond a kind of bulwark like: “if you don’t get it, then you just don’t get it.” Certainly there’s room for non-traditional storytelling in Hollywood, but the shell game of faux-meaning this film plays is not simply post-modern, it’s sub-post-modern. I haven’t had the pleasure of making my way through Cormac McCarthy’s novel, which apparently exudes a similar bleak and sparse story landscape, but for the film (which needs to stand on its own anyway) the execution just doesn’t play. No Country For Old Men (at least in this reviewer’s estimation) is not the ark to save the cinema that many want us to place our faith, hope and love in. Actually, it’s more like an over-burdened paper boat, all but barely sinking.

Simply eschewing an accessible three act structure or leaving out major dramatic beats does not a masterpiece make. Even baiting and switching expectations could be a worthwhile technique if we receive something thoughtful in return, but the Coens are intent to give us a large spoonful of destruction and then turn out the lights. Were it not for the themes bumping around in this mess of dark humanity, or the deftness and strength of the acting, the whole thing would fall apart as a collection of ideas, with some exciting action sequences thrown in. True, the filmmakers plunge deep into the violent American psychosis which spills into every sub-culture it touches, but in their effort to shatter cliche they merely avoid giving the audience something to identify with. They’ve instead made a paean to modern alienation: “don’t identify, just celebrate the despair.”

On the positive side, the film is at points wholly chilling and nerve-wracking. Javier Bardem plays about as creepy and villainous a character ever to grace the silver screen. He stalks every scene with a Terminator-like terror that gives the film its true fuel. In fact, I think much of the misplaced worship of this film will come from the sheer mastery of Bardem’s performance.

And the Coens should also be given credit for a shocking assessment that the evil men do is ever present, ever real and ever-progressing to its own imminent demise, likely to take all of us with it. Tommy Lee Jones’ sheriff may not serve the film’s dramatic action much (in fact, his presence is somewhat of a red herring), but his cool observations and luckless clue prowling work as a kind of dark Greek-chorus. He stands atop everything, noting with weary measurement just how unholy and bankrupt the whole show is. It’s a bold film that can come away with such a strong hand, shoving away politics and popular psychologies to simply suggest Man, as a creature of this world, will always tend to go bad, and worse.

But the film never rises to its own occasion and ultimately becomes too smart for its own good. It wants to borrow the yellow-brick road of action-movies to usher us into the story, but then it can’t sustain any promise once there. Instead of either rewarding our subconscious pleas for justice, or hooking us on a spike of our own blood-lust, the film delights in confusing us and ripping away any sense of satisfaction, even an ironic one. The characters simply choose to stop being relevant to us or themselves; the directors simply choose to stop thinking about the story. It’s a cheat, but a faux-brainy one, trumpeted by smug reviewers who think veering the film in this direction says more than it actually does. You can almost picture the raging coffee house debates taking place over the utter brilliance of the film to remain uninvolved in its own point.

But ultimately there is no hope, no dread, no unclouded reflection of our dire state, just a cynical wham-bang arthouse smack to the face. I liken it to a film that knows the price of everything but the value of nothing. Coming from a cynic like me, that’s saying a lot.

Photos

Okay, being the utter perfectionist, part of me cringes at letting this go “officially”, but there is a small photo gallery of some wedding shots. Bear in mind this is in no way complete in terms of images, or presentation. I’m just trying to satisfy certain parties involved before we head out of town for the holidays (wink). So for what it’s worth, look over at the column for the page marked “photo galleries” to see a sample of what’s to come, quality and presentation style notwithstanding..

Rewinding Forward

Mills Lake As chronicles of daily life (observations, reflections, what have you) blog posts, like news, kind of have a forward-looking, “freshness factor” to them. Which is why it’s been troubling to have set up this whole deal with the intention of giving great voice to the events of the past month. The other side of me keeps muttering “old news, move along, move along.” But how can we not respond? I will of course give my wife the chance to offer her insights into the crazy wonder that was our wedding and first month of marriage, but permit me to take a few moments to at least reflect on the honeymoon…

Colorado was—what’s that word? Oh yeah, perfect. I suppose it had as much to do with our amenities as it did our environment, but if you could crystalize that sublime description of “romantic cabin in the mountains”, I’d dare say it would look particularly like the experience Liz and I had in Estes Park. True, being the off-season, we missed out on some breathtaking foliage and large groups of awe-inspiring wildlife, but the week and all it held in store was still more than enough to balance out any lack thereof.

The area, and particularly the cabin itself, played surprisingly into this romantic vision I have of the Western states—kind of a 1940s-1950s, rugged old meat-and-potatoes ambience, made up of the style and texture of an old boyscout handbook from that era; a lost horizon you’d see in an old LIFE magazine article or travel brochure. Eisenhower Americana, if you will. And it’s still spackled onto a lot of things around there. Several little cabins and inns have that feel, as if they sprung up when the newly opened highways first dumped tourists onto their doorsteps, and then never changed. Even our little cabin, originally built in the 40s gave off a warm nostalgic aura.  Sure, it had a hot tub and a modern kitchen, but it also had the old-world touches – like a cache of boardgames from the 40s and 50s.  Vintage tiddly winks anyone?

We’ll try to have a gallery of images from this trip posted – with a few from our post-honeymoon two-week trip to Florida. Yeah, life can be rough….