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Journal Archives - February, 2004

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           February 5, 2004 ... Kitty! ................................. (Permalink)

Even when it keeps me up until 4:30 AM ... I love my job.

(You may remember Nigel the AIDS Kitty from when he was elected governor of California. Or his Christmas message.)

That's all for now. I still have a Further Confusion wrap-up post to write. Sometime. In the nebulous future. When exactly did weekends get to be my only source of free (personal, non-job-related) creative time? Not particularly happy with this arrangement, especially given how my weekends have been vanishing lately.

           February 7, 2004 ... *sniffle* .............................. (Permalink)

... I've come down with a cold. My nose was a faucet most of Thursday night, along with some sneezing. Friday, I managed to survive a mandatory 3-hour work meeting and then crawled home, whimpering, to spend most of the day and night sleeping. It's currently 8 AM and I'm about to catch one more nap before crawling back to work because small offices with daily deadlines simply do not allow one the luxury of sick days.

The kicker? I'm currently on antibiotics to clear up some aftereffects of Christmas' bout with the flu. I've been on them since Monday night and my system is utterly boiling with them at the moment.

I am well aware that most colds are viral, and antibiotics do absolutely nothing against viruses. So it's not like this is some sort of weird, creepy uber-death-cold ... but it is insult to injury, you know? I'm just not having a very good health week. (sigh)

           February 14, 2004 ... Witnessing history ..................... (Permalink)

Many, many people on the Web are posting about gay marriage in the last day or two, now that San Francisco officials are engaging in an act of civil disobedience and marrying gay couples by the hundreds.

But it was Erin's wish that she could be there passing out heart candy to the newlyweds, and her subsequent link to Authenti-city's very touching photo album, that spurred me into action.

Coworker Kady and I are taking a road trip into the city tomorrow (about a three-hour drive). In hand: Press pass, digital camera, perhaps a sign of support ... and several armloads of heart-shaped candy.

Update to come once I can sit back down at a computer.

(2-18-04 note: Write-up is in progress. Photos are uploaded. I will post a new journal entry with a link to the story once it's done.)

           February 21, 2004 ... Bax-patting ............................ (Permalink)

I'm still trying to assemble the San Francisco write-up -- I've got a weekend free from work starting this evening, so hopefully I'll be able to make some faster progress. In the meantime, Kady beat me to the punch with a trip write-up of her own -- although she doesn't have any of the photos up; that's my job.

Also! I just realized while sifting through some old to-do lists ...

Some of you may remember back in August, when I patted myself on the back for a headline I'd written for work, "A rain of grain falls mainly off the train." Yes, yes, witty, clever. Yay me.

But how clever? Clever enough to win first place in a national contest against a full year of hundreds of other newspapers' best efforts. (Suburban Newspapers of America has a membership of over 2,000, but competitors were separated into circulation categories.) So yay me, for real! *pat* *pat*

While I'm skimming through the old lists, might as well offer a few links I'd been meaning to comment on:

First, a Chinese children's book about ... um ... farts? It's not so much that it's about passing gas as it is that the protagonist apparently passes gas into a balloon, causing it to inflate and then blow up from overpressure. Dang, kid! What's your father feeding you?

And second, two news sources claim Britons are so geographically inept that two-thirds of them can't identify the cities in which the hit musical "Chicago" or the hit TV show "Dallas" are set. (Hint: They really are what you'd expect.) Next to that, it's almost refreshing to hear that just as many didn't know when World War II ended -- I mean, compared to the country in which the French Alps are located (Hint: Also not a trick question), that's Jeopardy-level trivia.

Frankly, reputable news outlets or not, I smell a hoax -- perhaps a reporter duped by a fax from some enterprising Joey Skaggs clone. But if it is true, what a strange commentary on our collective civilization.

           February 28, 2004 ... Darren ................................. (Permalink)

He was standing at the side of the road, outside at 6:30 a.m. in weather so cold frost had formed on the grass at his feet, thumb extended at the end of an arm jutting straight out, unbent and level.

Five feet nine -- and by his reckoning 35 pounds over his ideal baseline of 185 -- he wore a stylish black leather jacket, an upbeat expression, and a set of headphones (which stayed in place the entire time we were talking) attached to a CD player. He was freshly shaved and smelled faintly and pleasantly of cologne.

When he opened his mouth to tell me where he was headed, it was as though a dam burst open.

He must have talked more than a mile a minute, because the topic of conversation changed faster than the dawnlit scenery. An apparent mutual acquaintance at the Journal. Sleep apnea. Weight gain. Childhood friends. Gazpacho. All discussed so animatedly and pleasantly that I was content to merely listen to his monologue with a smile and occasional word. It wasn't even until halfway through our trip that I managed to tangent long enough for us to introduce ourselves.

At one point Darren made some comment about being in "the service" the year before I was born; all I could think was to look over at his tanned but crisp face and think, He's sure aged well.

Shortly before I let him off at his destination in Nevada City, he offered me, casually and with gratitude, a toke on some hypothetical joint he presumably had stashed deep in a pocket. I smiled gently back at him and said "Thanks, not while I'm driving." He expressed regret at not having any spare so he could send me home with one.

I pick up hitchhikers because -- as I told him while we were driving through Grass Valley -- "we've all got to do what we can to help our fellow man." That's the basic urge. But, equally, I must admit that I do it because it's so fascinating to catch a glimpse into such dynamic lives.

           February 29, 2004 ... Ninjas GOOD! ........................... (Permalink)

Happy Leap Day, everyone! Enjoy it while you can.

Just finished watching a kung-fu B-movie called "Duel to the death." It was full of much ninja goodness. Ohhhhhh yes, ninja goodness. In fact, the film did ninjas in a way I've never seen any kung-fu movie do ninjas: When they run out of clever tricks, they distract their opponent and flee only to come back with another surprise attack later on. They're ruthlessly organized, they pull surprises out of their sleeves left and right, and in most encounters with the heroes they don't take a single casualty. Imagine that!

Surprisingly deep plot. Heaps of sword-fu with creative surprises throughout, such as when two of the protagonists confront a group of ninjas who pull out firework pistols and fire a barrage at them. Impressive, continual displays of acrobatics. Many memorable and thrilling moments that pass by in a blur of awesome and demand an immediate rewind. Masterfully over-the-top at times (a severed head speaks and then explodes; a cockatiel named Dragon argues with his owner; the hero leaps backward 30 feet and crashes through a wall ass-first in order to join an ongoing fight). And the most competent ninjas I've ever seen -- which by itself singlehandedly redeems any possible faults of this film.

On the other hand, there's an occasional "WTF?" and/or "There's the wire!" feel to the stunts (but what do you expect from a B-movie?) -- and several moments where your ability to follow the action depends directly on your knowledge of cheesy martial arts flick convention. ("Oh, he's throwing his sword onto the water as a stepping stone!") The final scenes are anticlimactic, mostly due to lack of the ninjas that make the film so brilliant. The over-the-top feel doesn't always work: Several shots, while great takes on Filmjutsu and memorable in retrospect, fail the giggle test. (A ninja is cut in half and another ninja springs out from inside him; levitating palanquin-toting ninjas zip through the forest like they're a mag-lev train; and an utterly gratuitous but equally brilliant full-frontal nudity shot.)

The giggle moments notwithstanding, it's obvious that a lot of work and care went into this film. It shines through in the details and the creativity of its design in a way that very few movies manage to do these days. I'm used to martial arts B-movies being fun but forgettable, and this one nailed the first while amazingly dodging the latter.

Overall verdict: Okay, granted, it doesn't have the thematic integrity and quiet beauty of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." But it is a well-paced, continually enjoyable film that largely lives up to its vision and pleasantly surprised me with its polish. I'm a film curmudgeon and I still give it four and a half stars out of five. And only $5.50 at Wal-Mart!

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