Friday, August 31, 2007
What we're watching: Stranger than Fiction. A great movie -- highly recommended. Features Queen Latifa, Emma Thompson as a blocked chain smoking writer, a confluence of events, a tattoed baker who is being audited, and Will Ferrell playing a taxman.
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Today at the monthly checkup, we learned that Mark's blood work shows a slight dip in all the many markers that tell us how his immune system is doing. Neutrofils and White Blood Cell counts were down, but only slightly. Just to be careful though, they decided to give him a 20 percent lower dose of chemo for the coming month.
Mark's decided to start the course on Tuesday so we can have a nice, non-barfy labor day weekend.
Arrived in the mail in the past two days: Screenplays for Chinatown and The Last Detail (Robert Towne); Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink (the amazing Ethan and Joel Coen); Annie Hall, Interiors, Manhattan and Stardust Memories (do I have to say? Woody Allen) and American Beauty (Alan Ball).
And now, Mark's pushing play on The Exorsist.
"This movie really freaked me out when I was 17," he says. "For some reason, it just really got me."
Once, we were at the movie theater, and the Director's Cut Exorcist was one of the previews, and Mark was looking quite a bit freaked out, so of course, at a particulary intense moment in the preview, I leaned over and yelled "AAAUGH" in his ear. He about jumped out of his seat.
That was fun.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Me personally, I'd really like to do a few things to the house so that it has that cute look it must have had back when it was built in 1918 -- back before someone decided it'd be a good idea to cover it with asbestos siding and install aluminum windows. Here's what our house looks like now (sans snow):
And here's a house of a similar profile, but with all the 1918 stuff still intact. Over the next few years, I'd like to slowly fix up our house to look more like this ...
Posted by Michelle at 9:42 PM
... in my dream when I woke up this morning. Michelle, genius that she is, astutely noted that I'm coming up on another round of chemotherapy, and that that stresses me out. The stupid cancer's after me!
I have an appointment with the oncologist -- actually his nurse practitioner -- tomorrow afternoon, which means I'll be starting the chemo drugs again within a week or so.
I take the drugs on a cycle of five days on, 23 days off, and I can always tell when it's almost time to start again because I'll notice that I'm feeling pretty strong and energetic and, if I haven't been taking too many bad beats at the poker table, even happy. That can only mean one thing: Get ready to take a bunch of pills that'll make me feel like throwing up and sleeping all day, keep me from thinking straight and totally bum me out.
So, sorry for the bleak post. I'm getting into a bad mood on the come.
Monday, August 27, 2007
Michelle and I saw the most incredible movie last night -- “The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters,” an amazing and funny documentary about, of all things, a couple of guys vying to post the highest score ever on the video game Donkey Kong.
Now, I wasted my own share of quarters on Donkey Kong in college, when Gohman and I would spend hours at a little off-campus tavern drinking beers and, as onscreen Mario, jumping barrels and avoiding fireballs. So I get the attraction on a basic geek/loser level. But the movie goes far beyond this particular video game to explore a fascinating subculture of gamers and, really, the weird thrill of any obsession. The characters in this movie, all real people, are extremely compelling and the competition, ludicrous as it is, is unavoidably exciting.
I heard a fascinating interview of the director, Seth Gordon, by Elvis Mitchell on “The Treatment,” and Gordon said a studio exec had described the documentary as the ultimate high-stakes/low-stakes movie. I totally get that. At last night's screening, the audience, us included, cheered the outcome of some the games -- and again, these are video games, and filmed video games at that. You get caught up in it.
Gordon attended last night's screening, at the Varsity Theater in Seattle's U District, and he was smart and engaging. I wish him great success with the movie. If you get a chance to see it, I can't recommend it highly enough. Four gliomas!
If you want to listen to Gordon's interview with Elvis, here's a link to the podcast.
My friend Fink, from work, likes to send me dumb jokes sometimes -- I guess to keep my spirits up, although the truth is that my spirits are generally pretty up.
Here's today's entry:
Ed was in trouble. He forgot his wedding anniversary. His wife was really angry. She told him, "Tomorrow morning I expect to find a gift in the driveway that goes from 0 to 200 in less then 6 seconds AND IT BETTER BE THERE!!"
The next morning Ed got up early and left for work. When his wife woke up she looked out the window and sure enough there was a box gift-wrapped in the middle of the driveway. Confused, the wife put on her robe and ran out to the driveway and brought the box back in the house. She opened it and found a brand new bathroom scale. Ed has been missing since Friday. Please pray for him.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
I was checking out our traffic stats at sitemeter and I'm noticing all these people from weird places all over the world visiting our site. They're coming from Norrbottens, Sweden, from Puerto Rico, Bolivia and Brazil. I'm all, what's up with that? So I give them a closer look to see how they're finding us. Turns out a bunch of people got to us after searcing on Google the phrase "southpark-ize me." WTH? So of course I cruise on over to Google to see how we come up in that search. Can you believe we're the number one result?? Dang.
So for all you readers who are wondering how to south park yourself, see this post, in which Kaye shares pix of her South Park Ized self.
Posted by Michelle at 11:31 PM
Man, I thought I was going to get beat up by a wacko the other night. And a wacko lady at that.
Earlier I wrote about the sidewalk incident, and how I'm stupidly prone to escalating confrontations over nothing. It might be just wishful thinking, but I like to think the frontal lobotomy has helped smooth out my little self-endangering temper bursts, and that might have helped Friday night at The Muck.
With Gina and Franny both spending the night with friends and Michelle still in North Carolina, I decided to head out to the Muckleshoot Indian Casino for a poker session. I'd been there for hours already when a highly noticeable woman came sashaying into the card room, seemingly on a serious attention-seeking mission. Although it wasn't apparent at first, she was probably close to 60 years old, with a slightly drawn, wrinkly face. You didn't notice that immediately because of her flamboyantly bodacious body, topped by enormous fake breasts in which -- judging by her plunging neckline and, later, her chatter -- she took equally enormous pride.
Picture my mom's head, complete with the flaming red hair of her youth, atop Loni Anderson's 1970s-era figure, wrapped in a clingy, silky thing stolen from Beyonce's closet. You had to look at her ... just to make sense of it all. She was like some Dow Corning/Clairol experiment gone horribly wrong.
Seated one table over, she kept bumping into and flirting with one of the three aging frat-boy buddies in our game, and I thought she was working it way too hard. It's a type I hate, and I already disliked her even before she was transferred to our table, two seats to my left. When she arrived she kept up the look-at-me banter, including feigning confusion when a dealer asked her, per house rules, to remove her poker chips from their plastic tray and stack them on the table like everyone else.
“What,” she said, “is somebody complaining about my rack? I don't think that's ever happened before.” Ho ho ho. No, the dealer said before rephrasing the request, I'm sure everyone here appreciates your rack. The frat boys loved it.
Anyway, half an hour later or so came the hand that brought our weird confrontation. On a flop of ace-queen-four she bet out from early position. There were six players in the hand, including me on the button (the nominal dealer, last to act), and a very experienced player sitting between us, who was first to act but checked the action to Maude Lollobrigida.
I had entered the pot with the 8 and 10 of hearts, and with two hearts on the flop giving me a flush draw I decided to call her bet, along with everyone else. The turn was a blank. Lollobrigida bet again, several of us called. There was no heart on the river, the final card, either, and when Miss Boobalicious fired yet another bet, representing an ace at worst, everyone folded around to me. At that point I had nothing -- no flush, no pair, only 10 high -- so there was no way I could call.
As I pitched my cards into the muck I breezily announced that it would be up to someone else to take one for the table and call her down. There was only one other player left in the hand, the experienced guy to my left, and sure enough he placed eight chips out there to see her hand. As he did so he turned over his fairly weak holding of queen-nine -- giving him only the second best pair on the board, with a middling kicker. Surprisingly, Rack Lady showed an even weaker hand, queen-three, and the good player sitting between us took down a nice pot.
That's when the flirtatious chatter ended and Boobalicious Lollobrigida turned into Bea Arthur on a menopausal rant. She stared at me for the longest time and then snarled, “That was really chickenshit.” And she repeated it. “That was unbelievably chickenshit.”
She didn't elaborate, but her complaint was that I had encouraged and influenced another player's decision, a breach of poker etiquette. She blamed me for costing her the pot.
Well, I get it. I've been mad before after losing a hand I expected to win. And technically, I suppose, she had a gripe. But the truth was that my little speech had neither the intention nor the effect of changing the other guy's play; I was just jokishly announcing that I was folding, in keeping with the light character of the game. Besides, the guy who won the pot usually plays in a much higher-limit game; he was just at our table while waiting for a seat. I'm sure he could play circles around me, not to mention the crazy chick, without even looking at his cards. Also, I wasn't exactly running over the table. Short of the drunk frat dudes, I was the last guy he needed poker advice from.
But boy was she mad. She kept staring at me and muttering. My instinct was to argue with her, to point out how little I had to do with the outcome of the hand. Maybe even to scoff at her own play: Hey lady, queen-three is bad luck.
Instead I knuckled the table a couple of times -- the universal sign of poker kinship or good luck -- and apologized for saying anything that might be construed as advice to another player. That ought to settle that, I thought. Lobotomy to the rescue!
But Mad Maude wouldn't let it go. I thought she was going to come out of her chair and slap me around or suffocate me or something. After 10 more minutes of glaring she asked for a table change, then came back to whisper something in frat-boy-flirtee's ear. When she left, the kid, Dale or Derek or something, looked at me and said wow, she really doesn't like you.
Whatever she said, her little hex worked. Derek and his buddies snapped me off for several big pots and I lost 160 bucks for the night.
Man, is it nice not to be flying. The trip home took all dong day.
I really enjoyed doing the SND judging. The judges were all cool and smart and we ended up having a lot of good conversations about how we do things differently at each of our sites. I compared notes a bit with guys from USA Today, National Geographic and Boston.com, and Jen from the Fort Worth Star Telegram. I ended up wishing we'd had more time to do that kind of talking about all the similar problems we're all having, and the solutions we've come up with.
We ended up giving three gold SND awards yesterday. Of all the things I've posted here, which one would you give a gold to?
On the way home I read an extremely irritating book, Cult of the Amateur. My short comment/review: Boo dee hoo.
More on that later.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
That was Franny's whispered, mid-movie review of "The Nanny Diaries," which we caught this afternoon at Pacific Place -- all by ourselves since Michelle's in stupid North Carolina and Gina's camping with a friend.
Gina and Franny are obsessed with film scores. They analyze them, collect them and play them on their iPods -- especially those by Danny Elfman -- almost to the exclusion of all other music. And I think that's often their first filter for the films themselves, so when Frank pronounced this one tolerable I figured she'd be able to sit back and enjoy, or not, the rest of the movie.
When it was over we both declared that we liked it quite a bit. It's a nice, light, summer (sorta) romantic (sorta) comedy, not a deep "film." But I appreciated the tight screenplay. Once you start paying attention to screenwriting conventions and "beats," as Michelle has been teaching me to do, it's fun to watch a good one hit all the marks. And with Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti, the acting was predictably excellent.
I didn't read the book so I don't know how it compares, but I give the picture a thumb's up (or, for Michelle's sake, three gliomas).
Here's what a professional critic -- Salon's very good Stephanie Zacharek -- has to say: "'The Nanny Diaries' is an adamantly unterrible picture, a reasonably enjoyable diversion made by filmmakers whose intelligence and judgment are apparent even when they're working from a 'cream puff.'"
Adamantly unterrible, that's what I meant to say.
The coffee has arrived! Hooray!
Faves so far from today: a genius interactive 3-D graphic of new exhibits at the Metropolitan Museum.
These people are wild.
New cool phrase: "Los Trendy Nerds."
Awesome "buy vs rent" interactive from the New York Times.
Check out this slideshow about Monet. Awesome photography.
Beautiful Burtonesque flash illo 'splaining the effects of stress on your body.
Check out this awesome use of photography to create a flipbook-style effect.
Posted by Michelle at 6:18 AM
Friday, August 24, 2007
We're gonna get wasted!
Anyways, Mark, you're missing a great time. Here we all are enjoying an academic garden party. You know you're sorry you didn't come.
Earlier I dined on a local delicacy, pulled pork with some kind of barbeque sauce that's supposed to be really special and famous, but it just tasted like regular old barbeque sauce. Oh well. Here's the judges, pausing for a photo opportunity.
Pork and barbeque is really big around here. Here's the logo of the catering company that catered the dean's garden party.
And here's the rockin blue grass band that was playing.
Party on, Garth.
Posted by Michelle at 6:11 PM
What a long day of judging others! It was actually kind of fun and cool to talk to a bunch of people as obsessed with this geeky stuff as I am. The famous Joe Weiss, inventor of the incredible Soundslides program is here. There's a guy who knows some stuff.
Of course, I already mentioned Nora, who led the charge to raid a vintage clothing shop today and purchased an excellent deerskin jacket.
I liked the selections we came up with today, but dang, we're only half way through. I have to review a bunch more tonite since we're a little behind and I have to leave a little early tomorrow. Sigh. Me so sleepy.
Another shot of Judges Judging. Fascinating, huh?
Here's Laura. She runs the show. Top secret awards have been obscured for your protection. If I told ya, I'd hafta kill ya.
Posted by Michelle at 5:47 PM
... the rest of you guys, I'm not too sure about.
For as long as I can remember my sister Mich and I have shared a little expression. Whenever we get bugged by somebody's annoying [fill-in-the-blank] -- dumb decision at work, dinnertime sales call, whatever -- we utter the same shorthand dis: I hate people. Maybe it's just self-pity but I've noticed in my dealings with the health care industry that I find myself muttering I hate people more than I used to.
Misanthropy is a nice five-dollar word for hating people as a philosophy or full-time gig, and something about it appeals to me. I've even contemplated a blog tracking all my petty gripes: The Misanthrope, I'd call it.
That's probably too self-poisoning to maintain as a stand-alone journal. But writing my earlier post about cement dude I decided to create a separate "misanthrope" category here for our little rants.
Watch out, annoying people.
That's what the guy yelled at my back toward the end of my pathetic little run today. Seems I had jogged across 10 or 15 feet of new sidewalk he'd just finished laying in front of one of the jillion or so new condos along Fauntleroy Way.
So I stopped, took out my earbuds -- interrupting a perfectly good jam by War -- and replied, in my best you-talkin-to-me DeNiro:
"Me? Am I stupid?"
This is exactly the kind of potential confrontation that can get me into trouble. I'm too prickly and smart-assy to let it go, yet too wimpy to live through it if we actually throw down. I've been nearly shot in a couple of casinos for standing up to mouthy but badass mofos who were likely gangbangers, probably strapping and surely not joking. So maybe I am stupid.
In this case, though, hey, sidewalk dude was the idiot who didn't bother to rope off or even put up a cone to mark his fresh concrete. Unlike the other guy with a fresh patch up the street. His new sidewalk I'd dutifully and happily run around. But this dumbass was putting his misfortune on me, like I wanted to run through his stupid cement. That bugged me.
Besides, it didn't look wet to me; no, I didn't think I was stupid for traipsing across it.
In fact, if anyone should be mad ...
Thankfully, the frontal lobotomy kicked in before the full shot of testosterone and I decided life's too short. I could save my powder for another gunfight.
Rope it off next time, I told him, and I turned around and ran the rest of the way home.
And then locked the door.
Here's a link to the SND website, where the students are blogging our progress...
Here's a great piece I just reviewed. Check out the cool feature that lets you see a 360 degree view, with a corresponding map showing you which direction you're looking.
Here's an excellent Flash graphic explaining how a plane crash happened.
More great stuff: I LOVE this awesome MSNBC collection of Superbowl ads. It puts the ads in brackets and lets you vote for the winner of ad showdowns.
Why are they fighting in Iraq? Here's a guy who actually answers the question in a way that you can understand.
Cool campaign finance interactive from the NYTimes.
Cool Philly murders interactive database.
The Times Picayune's excellent Flash graphic explaining the disappearing wetlands.
Posted by Michelle at 8:28 AM
Thursday, August 23, 2007
I can't help myself. I like to take a million pictures of them.
Anyways, I'm in Chapel Hill, N.C. judging the SNDies contest, otherwise known as the Society for News Design online design awards. I've been judging entries all year and now this is the annual get together to decide who the big winners for the year are.
I have for years kept a list of my favorite online work at www.onlinestorytelling.htm One of my favorite pieces of multimedia I've seen this year as an SND judge is this piece from el pais on global warming.
I had dinner with all the judges and a bunch of students tonite. Tomorrow we get up at 8 a.m. and start judging ...
And now, more sky photos...
When I was five years old, flying on my first trip to Italy, I thought clouds were cotton candy.
Posted by Michelle at 8:54 PM
I'm not gone to Carolina, even in my mind.
Michelle's off to Charlotte, N.C., for some work thing -- judging a national journalism contest, I think -- and although I've had a great summer as her work-trip tag-a-long to New York and San Francisco, I decided I could live without four days in the South in mid-August. And that was before I knew I'd have to roll out of bed at 3:30 in the morning to catch a 6 a.m. flight for the privilege. No thanks.
So I'll miss her and everything, but I think I'll go play some cards this afternoon instead.
She has to go to L.A. in October for a seminar at USC. Deal me in for that one.
Posted by Mark at 10:44 AM
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
We saw Superbad tonite, and I thought it was awesome. Made by the guy who made 40 Year Old Virgin, it's got the same touch with hilarious comic storytelling around a simple story line. Come to think of it, both of them are about the simple idea that the lede characters need to get laid. Anyways, I thought it was hilarious.
This Google search brought a guy (or woman) in Washington D.C. to M&M's Incremental Updates today.
Good question, D.C. guy. I know Mark will appreciate that there's another cornelius bros. & sister rose fan out there. Here's your answer. Long story short: "The group broke up in 1976 when Carter (Cornelius) joined a black Hebrew sect in Miami and adopted the name Prince Gideon Israel."
Posted by Michelle at 3:55 PM
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
On our trip to Eugene to visit Grandma Rita, we talked a bit about the poker road trip book idea, and as Michelle mentioned I'm reading and learning a lot from the book proposal guide that Kay sent me. When we stopped by Borders one afternoon I picked up a couple more travel narratives to put me in the mood -- Bill Bryson's “The Lost Continent” and Elizabeth Gilbert's bestseller “Eat Pray Love.”
And when we got home tonight there was a box from Amazon with “Blue Highways.” Looks like I've got a lot of good reading ahead, and I can finally give up on “Cross Country,” by Robert Sullivan, which I've tried to slog through but can't stand.
Posted by Mark at 9:03 PM
Someone I know this weekend said he's amazed how clear the photos I post are. I agree -- my camera rocks. In case you're wondering, and want a camera that will do all the work for you OR will let you drive -- it's a Canon 20D This is a two generations ago camera -- Canon came out last year with the 30D and is about to release the 40D, which was just announced on Amazon the other day.
I've held the 30D and will admit I salivate over the bigger viewing screen. I hear the 40D shoots action shots a bit faster and has the ability to wirelessly transmit photos. Each subsequent release is a bit more expensive and a bit heavier than mine. Check them all out -- but I'm happy with what I've got. If I was buying again right now I'd buy the 20D at a deep discount -- $869 on Amazon -- just $100 more than the much lower grade Canon Rebel. I would NOT buy it with the kit lens. Instead, buy it body only and get the f1.4 50 mm. This prime lens is incredibly sharp and cool. It gives you limited range but it also gives you the ability to shoot sharp photos while you decide whether to drop a load on a high quality L lens zoom (like I did, no the 24-70 mm) or just go with a lower grade consumer lens.
Thems my two cents, anyways.
Posted by Michelle at 7:52 PM
We've been on the road a few days visiting Grandma Matassa in Eugene, Oregon. Rita approves heartily of the top secret screenplay idea, and has started reading a screenwriting book to show her support.
Yesterday someone sent me the beginning of his screenplay, and I went to Borders yesterday and bought him a copy of Syd Field's "Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting," but then I started reading it again and decided to keep it, so I had to get him another copy on Amazon.
Syd's books are pretty good. I took his class a couple of times at USC. I always thought it was kind of funny he's never sold a screenplay himself -- but he seems to know how to tell other people how to do it.
Anyways, we've finished our three graf summary of the movie, now we're writing backstory and ideas. We're a few weeks away from taking out Final Draft -- the screenwriting program Syd helped develop. It's been fun working on it and thinking about it.
Meanwhile, Mark's reading that excellent book Kaye sent him on how to write a book proposal. He's about half way done, and says it's really giving him a great sense of what he needs to do to pitch his book. We decided on a title we both like quite a bit: Travels with Old Navy and the Cat Psychologist.
More road trip pix:
Skytram in Portland
Portland from the Freeway
Posted by Michelle at 7:38 PM
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Friday, August 17, 2007
I don't want to name names (average white band), but a certain elderly reader of this blog had trouble posting comments. Technology. So I've changed the settings, allowing anyone to comment even without a Google account.
Knock yourselves out, and don't miss Michelle's poll at the bottom of the left-hand column.
Posted by Mark at 1:39 PM
True, we haven't even written the book proposal yet for Blue Highways, Big Deal, our next big thing, but we've already come up with another next big thing: a movie idea so good that all you'd need to hear is the title to know it's a hit and maybe even to write it yourself.
And so I can't tell you the title or what it's about. But trust me.
Michelle and I already have had a couple of creative differences on the direction of the story, but we're working those out. For now, just know that we agree on the casting, which when you hear the title you'll recognize as inspired: Lindsay Lohan, Ryan O'Neal and Farah Fawcett.
Posted by Mark at 12:27 PM
Like Michelle, my mom never had much luck back in the day with name this artist, which we made her play all the time in the car while we listened to the radio station that we made her keep tuned in. (How did we get away with being so bossy?!)
Anyway, after several years of guessing wrong, Mom came up with a strategy that very, very occasionally worked and that turned into a classic family joke.
To this day, if you ask her who's singing, she'll say the same thing no matter who the artist is:
Posted by Mark at 11:51 AM
As Greg Hernandez might say, Oh. Mah. Gawd! When I was feeding the ravenous fishies this morning, I spotted a little teeny baby guppy hiding in one of the plants. Further investigation turned up a second little baby. They're cute! Sorry I didn't have time to take pix before work. Will try to post one later...
Posted by Michelle at 10:47 AM
BTW -- where were you when Elvis died? Thirty years ago today. I was only a few days away from my 17th birthday. I was with Laurie (who I was at my house just today, life, huh?) -- at the Concert Company in New Orleans. I think we had been running around in "Veemer," the no-AC-hand-me-down-Toyota, putting up posters for Laurie's super-cool concert-promoter sister Cyndi. The announcemnet came on the radio (WRNO? WTIX?) and the DJ said, "you'll always remember where you were when you heard that Elivs died."Somehow it escaped me that yesterday was the 30th anniversary of Elvis' passing. I never cared much for his music -- by the time I was paying attention he already was bloated, druggy, Vegas Elvis; he seemed like a parody. Yet I too remember where I was when I heard he'd died.
Somehow I have.
Mid-August in Roseburg, Ore., is hotter than hell, and we were getting ready to do our standard hot-summer-day thing: float down the North Umpqua River. Like everyone at our high school, my friends and I and sometimes my little sisters floated the river. You sat in big, overinflated truck inner tubes, starting from Hestnes Landing by our house, navigating the rapids and avoiding the rocks and getting totally sunburned and tube-rashed until you reached Twin Rivers Park, about three or four miles and several hours downstream.
It was Mom's job to haul us and our tubes down to the landing and then later to pick us up at the park. On this particular day I think one of our tubes had gone missing or damaged, and so we were driving around to tire places looking for a replacement. (Mom was much more patient with this kind of thing than I think I'd be now with my own kids.) It was just as we were pulling into the Montgomery Ward parking lot, listening to KRSB in the old Ford station wagon, that they announced the Elvis news. I remember thinking, who cares, and also being annoyed in advance that they'd play nonstop Elvis songs for at least a week, which they did. But the moment did stick with me.
I can't remember what was playing on the radio when they broke in with the news. I'd like to think it was something as cool as Frampton, or "Love and Happiness," or "I'll Take You There." But the No. 1 song on the Billboard chart that week was not quite so soulful: Andy Gibb's "I Just Want to Be Your Everything."
Where were you?
Posted by Mark at 10:11 AM