Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Upon Viewing Nicolas Cage's New Movie

After decrying the paucity of recent quality Nicolas Cage vehicles last month, I ambled somewhat hesitantly into a showing of his new one "Knowing" on Sunday afternoon. My one-and-only said she thought I would like it and I'd pretty much seen everything else I'd been interested in, so decided to take the plunge with a friend. There's a bit of a commotion on the net over Ebert giving it 4 stars while most others have eviscerated it.

I went in hoping to get something out of it though not expecting much. It started out very interestingly with the burial of a time capsule in 1959. 50 years later, it is opened and Nic Cage's son is given a piece of paper that only has numbers on it. He shows it to his father who, as a scientist, sees a pattern, a pattern which strongly suggests precognition (in the movie, Cage is an atheist).

The movie did quite well in generating tension over the first 75 minutes. After that, there is a great deal of overacting (most notably by a female companion of Cage's). After a solid beginning, the film was starting to fall apart. Then it did something that I wasn't even remotely expecting (especially not from a mainstream film).

SPOILER ALERT: Severe Tire Damage

Are you sure you want to KNOW? In the latter half of the movie, it toyed a bit with the idea of the world ending, but since the film starred Cage, there was no way that was gonna happen, right? He would end up saving the day. That turned out not to be the case. As the poster somewhat alludes to, the Earth does, indeed, meet its demise.

Cage and everyone else on the planet perishes. Now that is ballsy and for that (and a couple other things that I don't want to reveal), I recommend the film. Though I wouldn't give it 4 stars (as Ebert did), it left quite an impression on me.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hey, Sexy

A couple years ago, I began referring to one of my friends as "SexyBoy". I first became familiar with the term in the late 90's when I was working with the developmentally disabled. One of the guys (who had Down's Syndrome) would sometimes say to me, "How ya doin', SexyBoy?" I don't know if he thought I was good looking or not; probably.

He wasn't gay, though; when he saw an attractive woman, he would frequently look my way and say, "Sex her?" I all but forgot about the term during the early '00's. Thankfully, my memory was jogged a few years ago and it led me to list the friend in my mobile phone as "SexyBoy".

One evening, a couple weeks ago, he was calling me and another friend picked up my phone and seeing that the display said "SexyBoy", answered the phone and said, "Hey, Sexy". That really is a great thing to say to someone (even if they are of the same sex).

I think that from here on out, whenever I answer the phone, I'm gonna say, "Hey, Sexy". If it happens to be my mom, I'll be like, "Oh, I thought it was someone else". If it's a telemarketer, so what? If it's my girl, perfect. If it's a guy friend, whatever. Perhaps I'll even use it on the waitresses (and waiters) that I see at Friday's. I'm gonna run this joke into the fucking ground.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Summer Movies

I received my favorite Entertainment Weekly issue of the year yesterday afternoon: the Summer Movie Preview. Going to "Observe & Report" this past Saturday with the temperature hovering around 72, I was reminded of how pleasing it is to go to the movies during the sunniest time of the year.

Some of the big tentpole movies to be released over the next few months include Wolverine, DaVinci Code 2, Terminator 4, Night at the Museum 2, Pixar's Up, Land of the Lost, Transformers 2, Ice Age 3, Harry Potter 6, G.I. Joe, and Halloween 2 (I'm only interested in 4 of those 11).

The 5 films I'm looking forward to seeing the most are (click on the links to view the trailers):

Bruno, the creator of Borat brings another eccentric character to life

Star Trek, going back to where it all began (I don't know who the first guy pictured below is, but the second is Kirk, then Scotty, Bones, Sulu, and Uhura)

Funny People, Adam Sandler has a near-death experience, Seth Rogen also stars

Final Destination Death Trip 3-D, cheating death again, this time in three dimensions (no trailer available at this time)

The Hangover, insanity in Vegas

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Relationship Status

Yesterday afternoon, I went on Facebook to see what the word was.

With nothing of note happening on the home page, I clicked on the All Friends link which brought up my three dozen "friends". I had intended to go to Tim Smith's page to see what's been up with him lately, but stopped in my tracks when I saw that the man who my younger sister has been dating for the past 3+ years had changed his relationship status the day before. I clicked on his page to see what was going on. His relationship status had previously said "In a relationship with (her name)". Now it simply said "Single".

I'd visited my mother the night before and she hadn't mentioned anything of the like occurring. These two planned to be married one day. What was going on (and how is it that this is the second consecutive day that I'm posting about the demise of an LTR)? I went to my sister's site and instead of saying what her relationship status was, that info had been completely removed.

I quickly headed to the phone and told this info to my mother. She said she'd call my sister's sister (they're twins) and see if anything was up. Turns out there is and I'm impressed how without Facebook, this might not have come to light for weeks, probably months. My sister's former beau should've just removed the relationship status box; instead, he changed it, which sent an alert for all to see (he's since removed the box).

Monday, April 20, 2009

What The Heart Wants

A close friend of mine dissolved a relationship he'd had with a woman for the past five years this past week. For years, he complained that she didn't give him enough freedom, that she would all but cry (and sometimes even do that) if he said he wanted to get together with his male friends.

About a month ago, I was able to convince him to accompany me to Friday's (knowing what her reaction would be, he didn't say a peep about it to her). It was partially his fault. I told him countless times that he needed to put his foot down, that it needn't be this way. Despite these issues, it was still fun going out to eat with the both of them. I was certainly thrown for a loop when I received a phone call on Friday that the couple were breaking up; the first thing I said was, "Yeah, right".

The thing that finally pushed him over the edge was when a woman he's known for more than a decade said she was available. This is a girl he's always wanted to be with, but never thought would be interested. He asked what I thought of his plans. I quoted Anakin Skywalker's mother in Episode I when she said to her son: "What does your heart tell you?". He replied, "That I want to be with her". And it really is that simple.

We walked around the lake on Saturday

and he talked of how good it felt to have this freedom, to not have to hide things anymore, that he can be totally honest with this new woman (they're taking it very slow as he completes the separation process from his previous love).

After a bit of pondering, I realized why he is so happy now; it's because he can truly be himself. When he was with the other woman, he couldn't be authentic. He had to talk, act a certain way with her. The soul longs for the freedom to be what it is, which is freedom, joy, and love. And his soul is singing very joyfully at the moment. Of course, I feel bad for the woman left behind and this new relationship may not even work out, but it is great to see a loved one happy, blissful, and waking up every day with a spring in their step.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Having Fun on All Fools Day

I love how April Fools allows us to say things to loved ones that wouldn't be prudent on any other day. Case in point: on the 1st of this month, I sent a text to my best friends' fiancee' that said the following: "A** cheated on you a couple years ago". She didn't respond because she knew it was an April Fools, but the event actually happened. I was speaking the truth, but because of when the message was sent, it was disregarded.

I also sent texts to two of my wife's friends (from her phone) stating that she was pregnant. One friend said, "Congrads" while the other told my wife's sister about it. The sister called my girl back saying, "Why didn't you tell me?" My love chided me a bit, but hey, April Fools' comes but once a year.

I pulled an awesome one on my mother last year, but it blew up in my face. For background, my entire family was in the Jehovah's Witnesses faith from 1975-1984. My mom left it in '84 as she no longer believed. I followed in '85. The rest of my siblings and fathers are still in the faith. Here's the email I sent to her on April 1, 2008:

"Hi Mom. I kinda wanted to get your opinion on something. Over the last few months, I've been going to a website called the Jehovah's Witness Discussion Forum. They've posted many interesting articles that have quite frankly fascinated me. People's experiences, the rewards of going out in service, the Biblical justification for no blood, you name it. I left the Witnesses in the summer of '85 when I moved from living with Dad and the kids to living with you in that apartment on Lafayette. I was 14 at the time. I guess what I'm saying is that I've never really given the Witnesses a chance as an adult.

I've been wondering what it'd be like to go to one of their meetings (probably a Thursday night one since I hate getting up early on Sunday morning). I haven't talked to (my wife) about it, but doubt she'll be interested in giving them a try. If I go ahead with this, it's possible that my siblings might make more of an effort to see me and that would be a good thing. I know there's no way that you're gonna go back, but what do you think about me looking into this? By the way, if you talk to (my wife) this week, don't tell her about this quite yet."

This was her surprising reply:

"You know that's kind of a coincidence. I've seen a couple of publications lately at the laundromat and at a client's house and I've been kind of interested too. Some of the things they say really make good Biblical sense. I think it would be a good idea to check it out. I have been considering attending a meeting sometime. Let me know what you think and direct me to any websites that you think might be beneficial. I won't mention it to (your wife) and I'm not ready to mention it to (my guy) yet either."

Damn, I thought she'd be dead-set against me going back, but was actually interested in pursuing it herself. Oh what a tangled web we weave. Here is a friend of mine's response when I told him about it:

"Your mom took that joke hook, line, and sinker. Oh boy. What can u do? Tell her it was a joke. Will she be disappointed?"

I did give my mom a link to the Witnesses website. She sent this to me a couple days later:

"Good morning, Tom. I haven't had a chance to look at that web site yet, but I do have a publication that I picked up some time ago that I have been reading. I can't help but agree with a lot of it. I'll keep reading it until I'm finished and then I'll look at the web site. Have a great day!"

Finally, a few days later, we got together at the Olive Garden where I confessed all. I said there was no way I'd go back to the faith for numerous reasons: women are not allowed to give sermons to the congregation, you can't question the faith once you've joined, if you're kicked out of it, members can no longer speak with you (even if it involves family members), getting a blood transfusion is forbidden, holidays and birthdays cannot be celebrated, and they believe that a creature named Satan exists. After sharing this with her, my mother came around and decided she'd stay where she was at spiritually. My joke opened up a can of worms, but it was nice to have a convo with her about the faith that was once such a notable part of our lives.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Billfold Theft

One morning, two weeks ago, I set my wallet and Friday's card on the kitchen counter (I usually do this when I know I'm going somewhere later in the day). After spending some time on the computer, I went into the kitchen and saw my Friday's card on the floor; the cat must've accidentally pushed it off the counter when she jumped up. I didn't think much of it.

A half hour later, I went into the kitchen to get my wallet. It wasn't on the counter nor was it in the drawer I always keep it in. I did some more checking until a thought crossed my mind; I had left the door to the backyard ajar so that the dog could come and go as she pleased. Perhaps the wallet had also fallen and Zoe had taken it outside (I remember once finding one of my vintage Star Wars action figures back there). I hastily got dressed. I had about 24 bucks in the wallet along with my drivers license and a few business cards.

As I headed out back, Zoe accompanied me and ran about 30 feet to where my billfold was located. She put it in her mouth and wanted me to chase her. I did and noticed that there were no green bills inside. Sheeeet. In the corner of the yard blowing against the fence, I noticed a few of them; it was a very windy day, a few more minutes and they probably would've been on another property. I gathered $23 as well as a couple of the business cards. I then grabbed the wallet from Zoe and looked to see if my Drivers license was still in it. It was, though, it had moved a tad. I went off-property and found a dollar bill that had made it through the fence.

I consider myself lucky that I figured things out when I did. The drivers license would've been a real pain to replace. I wish I coulda been out there 10, 15 minutes before. When she gets something she likes, she shakes the shit out of it. Can you imagine? Her doing that and all the money coming out? She had no idea that the wallet's contents were of value. To her, they're just playthings.

Here's a pic I took of her (and the billfold) a half hour later:

Thursday, April 16, 2009

An Evening With James Van Praagh

Last summer, I had the opportunity to hear psychic medium James Van Praagh speak before a thousand people in Chicago. Before I describe the evening, let me tell you how it was that I first became familiar with James.

In early 1998, I was working at Barnes & Noble and so was frequently up on what the best selling books of the day were. Several people came up to me over a period of a week or two asking about a book called "Talking to Heaven". They must've seen him on Larry King or something. The book wound up being a huge best-seller and was turned into a TV-movie starring Ted Danson which premiered to huge ratings.

I didn't buy "Talking to Heaven" when it was initially released. I finally got around to it when B&N had it for sale on the clearance shelfs a few years later (I bought his second book "Reaching to Heaven" the same way). Over the years, I've seen him numerous times on "Larry King" and have to admit that I am a great believer in what he does. He was apparently going to be doing some "I see dead people" readings during his workshop that evening. Should be a good time, I thought.

Shortly after 8, one of the ladies putting on the conference introduced James and out he came. He was very funny, making light of being vertically challenged ("I'll sit down now...or did you think I was already sitting down?"). He first talked about how as a young child, he became aware of his abilities, but then squelched them feeling they were more trouble than they were worth. On one fateful night, however, he was dragged to a psychic medium who told him that one day he would be a medium as well. He didn't believe it at the time, but look at him now. He goes much more extensively into this in his books.

He talked about how he came up with the idea for the TV show Ghost Whisperer or as he sometimes calls it Boob Whisperer (a reference to Jennifer Love's ample cleavage).

He said she doesn't mind when he refers to the show in this way.

Shortly after 9, James said it was now time to do readings. He had everyone close their eyes and then told the women to open their purses. He was going to do a magic trick involving money. No, some music was played and we all became very relaxed. Upon opening our eyes, James had grown 5 inches! The women swooned. The readings were everything I had hoped for. I'd never been to an actual one before. He really was on fire, getting a ridiculously high percentage of hits. It really was something to behold. The lecture was scheduled to end at 10, but James was allowed to continue for another half hour.

There was this one tough dude that came through for someone and James didn't want to say two words that were being expressed to him in regards to the dead man's family. The audience said they wouldn't mind if he said them and with that, he said sheepishly, "He's telling me, 'Fuck 'em'" There were audible gasps as many in the crowd did not expect to hear such vulgarity coming from a keynote speaker. No, they ate it up.

A lady that lives near Ground Zero said that she constantly sees spirits in the evening when she's trying to sleep. A man that had passed on expressed to his wife that he sits in their old recliner from time to time and helps her solve the crossword puzzles she works on each day. She said she was wondering how she had gotten so much better at them in the last couple years.

Around 10:30, James closed and an announcement was made that he would be signing books immediately after. Just as I did with Deepak the night before, I took the liberty of taking his pic while he was signing, but it didn't quite go as planned. I took a pic of him, looked at it, saw it was distorted, deleted it, and then took another. Same thing happened. I did this again and again and again. I took 5 pics of him and every one was distorted! I decided to take a pic of my wife to ensure there wasn't anything going on with the camera. Nope, the pic of her was crystal clear. I was going, "WTF", but then realized that if what he says is true, there must be spirits all around him. I had no such problem with any of the other authors that weekend. Course, none of the other authors were psychic. Submitted below are two of the pics:

My wife and I discussed the distorted pics with a couple female attendees nearby before heading back to our room.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Late Bloomer

When I turned 15, my mother asked if I'd be interested in taking drivers training (classes weren't offered at my school). I said I could wait, that I was in no real rush to learn. I liked to look at my uncle John's example; he didn't get a license until he was in his mid-20's. Course, he was in the seminary where there wasn't really a need for a car, but still.

Once I hit 16, I still wasn't up for learning. I remember one afternoon walking and seeing three of my classmates in a drivers ed car. They all appeared happy, one step closer to fulfilling their dream.

More time passed and I had yet to change my tune. I recall one day being driven home by one of my friends' mothers and knowing I was of age, she asked if I had my license yet. I said I didn't and had no plans of doing so. She seemed quite surprised to hear this. Yep, I was a real nerd. It actually became a point of pride for me. I got around by walking and biking. I wasn't unnecessarily polluting the environment or putting another car on the road that didn't need to be.

I graduated high school and decided to attend college in my hometown. Most love leaving the city they grew up in behind. Not me. The years went by and I got by just fine without a car. No car or insurance payments, no money to piss away on gas. Course, I never had a girlfriend during this time, either, but that was due more to my social inadequacy than not having a "ride".

Finally, sensing that I was fast turning into a loser, my mom said she'd teach me how to drive. At this point, I was 23. I can still remember the afternoon in which she taught me the basics. As my mom showed me how to push the gas and apply the brakes, I was struck by how small her feet were. She said that she was taught by my old man when she was a teen. We'd chosen a back road to practice on for obvious reasons. As I drove, one of my favorite songs of the time played: Wynonna Judd's "Girls With Guitars".

One thing that was hard for me to wrap my head around was why feet had to be used to drive a car. The only thing I did with my feet was walk. You'd think by the '90s, they'd have invented a car in which you pressed a button on the dashboard to get the car going; same thing for brakes. I felt like Fred Flintstone, to tell you the truth.

A week or two later, I went to the license center and took a multimedia test for my permit. I passed relatively easily. I was halfway to being a full-fledged driver. Not too long after, I finally obtained a girlfriend. Months passed and I lost interest in getting a license. I only wound up getting it (at the age of 24) because I had to in order to work as a companion with an elderly man. I was close to broke and he offered me free room and board along with $100 a week.

I set up an appointment for the test. In a great display of generosity, the older man paid for a 2-hour drivers training session for me. The instructor gave me a nice overview of all I needed to know before taking the test. I couldn't seem to get parallel parking down, but knew that even if I failed, I would be long as I did perfectly on the rest.

I was certainly nervous on the morning I took the test, but followed the tips my instructor had given and was doing good until it was time to PP. I fucked that up, but what are you gonna do? I would up with a 78, I believe (passing was a 75). I was extremely relieved that I wouldn't have to take it again and for the next couple months, I worked closely with the elderly man stocking money up for the school year.

Though now licensed, I had no desire to piss my money away on a vehicle, not while I was still attending college. My mother did let me borrow her car from time to time, however. I recall one late summer early evening hearing David Ball's "Thinkin' Problem" on the radio. I quickly turned the volume up and began singing along. Life was good.

Shortly after I graduated college, my dad said he'd like to help me purchase my first car. He knew of an auction in which dealers would sell cars to each other and since he ran his own RV business, was eligible to participate. I had just met my wife-to-be a couple months before and was more than happy to bring her along. I got a bit PO'd at her as she was late in meeting us at her place; her chiro appt had gone over. I said she should've just left at 6:15 since she had agreed to meet us at 6:30.

We headed out into the fall evening. This was my dad's first chance to meet my new girlfriend. I explicitly remember hearing Lone Star's "When Cowboys Didn't Dance" on the radio as my dad conversated with my beloved.

We arrived at the auction and had a bit of time to look over the cars before the show started. My dad asked what kind of vehicle I was interested. I said a 4-door sedan would be fine. I watched with interest as dealers raised their hand to bid on the cars. It was a very congenial atmosphere with a number of children present and lemonade being served. One of the cars I liked, an 89 Mercury Topaz, came up for bid.

My dad raised his hand and the fun began. There was one other person who was also bidding, but he gave up fairly easily. The car went for around a thousand or so which was within my price range. My wife was very excited, almost as if it was gonna be her car. My dad had his mechanic do a few repairs on the car to get it into ship-shape condition (alignment, etc.) before handing it over to me. He said it would be a good in-town vehicle. Two months later, I moved to a city an hour away and for the next year would make frequent trips back and forth between the two towns. Oh well.

One good thing about learning to drive late is that I'm probably not as car-fatigued as others who started at the age of 15. Others my age have been drivers for well over 20 years while I've only been at it for 13. I can't say I'd really do anything differently if given the chance, well, other than voting for Clinton instead of Bush I in the fall of '92.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

2 Movies & A Dick

The Mrs. and I made it to "Adventureland" on opening day. We were pleasantly surprised to be the only ones in attendance at the afternoon show. It's a great feeling, as if you have your very own screening room in which you need not be concerned about talky patrons or anyone kicking your seat. Like "I Love You, Man", the film wasn't quite as funny as I'd hoped, but more than made up for it with a lot of heart. It had all the period details of the 80's (including the first time I've heard the word "nimrod" used in at least a decade).

This past Saturday, I went with a friend to a midnight showing of "Fast & Furious" (The Fast & The Furious Part 4).

If you liked any of the first three, you're sure to enjoy this one. In 2001, I went with my best bud to the first installment. He said he wanted to sit in the very front row so as to feel that he was part of the action. I wasn't so ambitious, so sat in the very back. As showtime approached, I began to think I might not like the movie; I wasn't a big fan of cars and this looked to be car porn.

I went out into the lobby and saw that Reese Witherspoon's "Legally Blonde" was about to start in the theatre's biggest screening room. Unsurprisingly, the audience was heavily female. Though there were no belly laughs, I chuckled a few times. Once "Blonde" ended, I went back to where "Furious" was playing (I hadn't told my friend that I'd gone to another movie). Two minutes after I sat down, the credits rolled and my friend came up to me, pumped about what he'd just seen. At first, I just agreed that it was a good movie.

Once in the car, I told him what I'd done. He didn't seem to mind much. I did eventually catch the original on video and felt it to be a solid B movie. Vin Diesel was very charismatic (I was first introduced to him in the summer of 1998 when I saw "Saving Private Ryan"). Other than a cameo in Part 3, Diesel hadn't been a regular in the series since Part 1, so it was good to see his return in 4. Try to catch it on the big screen if you can. The action sequences are really good and I love how the ending tied in with the scene that started the film.

This weekend, I plan to see Seth Rogen's "Observe & Report". My wife caught it yesterday with a friend and said I'd like it. A few hours later, she mentioned that the film showed a male penis. Dammit, I said, I'd rather be surprised at such an occurrence rather than knowing such info ahead of time. A minor spoiler, I suppose, unless the guy's really hung. One thing I like to do when seeing cock onscreen is to whistle. Any guy can whistle when they see a woman exposing her goodies at the movie show, but it takes a very secure one to do so at the sight of another man's parts.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Walk Hard

I've not been on the treadmill for several weeks, but have found another way of getting exercise that is relatively painless. I stumbled on it a number of months ago quite by accident; when a friend or family member calls, I get up and start pacing around the house while conversating with them.

My mom called yesterday wanting to discuss some things about her upcoming wedding. As we exchanged our thoughts for about 15 minutes, I strolled around our fenced backyard. The funny thing is she was also walking while on the phone. Though I'm against hunting, this really kills two birds with one stone (I get a quarter-hour of exercise in while at the same time catching up with loved ones).

I brought this strategy up to my significant other some time ago, but she's been able to get out of it since spraining her knee. I'm not sure why I've been less impelled to go on the treadmill. It could be that my body wants to actually walk, to cover ground, not just walk in place (which is what being on the treadmill basically is).

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


I love it when two movies I want to see open on the same weekend. It really makes me count down the days til Friday. Such was the case a couple weeks ago when I went to see "I Love You, Man" on Friday afternoon and "Duplicity" the following day. I actually preferred the twists of "Duplicity" over the fun of "Man". The latter just wasn't as funny as I hoped. Still a good movie, though.

This weekend, the two on my plate are "Adventureland" and "Fast & Furious". I've been looking forward to seeing "Adventureland" ever since I first heard about it a few months ago. The director of it directed my favorite movie of 2007, "Superbad". It also takes place in the 80's (1987, to be exact) and regular readers know what a big fan I am of the decade. Much of the movie takes place at an amusement park, one of my favorite places to be. The Tomato reading right now on "Adventureland" is 92%! I highly doubt I'll be let down by the flick the day after tomorrow.