December 31, 2004

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

I'll shine in the new year with an artsy shot of a christmas tree lightbulb. I like the range of focus and the contrasting colors.

Posted by Wayne at 11:19 PM | Comments (0)

December 30, 2004

River Gulls

River Gulls

Gulls are a form of wildlife that I did not expect to see after we moved to Lawrence, KS. Apparently they follow the Mississippi River north to the Missouri, and then wing it up the Kansas River. You can't call them seagulls; they're not on the sea. But, there is a veritable flock of them that hangs out near the bridge. We've seen them fly over our area of town too. I love it. They remind me of my old friend Seagull. She's not around any more.

Posted by Wayne at 10:41 PM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2004

Arch Art

Arch Art

Notice the rather phallic sculpture in the distance. This is in the same park where I found Buford.

Posted by Wayne at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

December 28, 2004

Buford M. Watson, Jr.

Buford M. Watson, Jr.

According to the plaque he was City Manager from 1970 to 1989. He must've done a helluva job to merit his own statue in a city park. Either that or he had good connections.

Posted by Wayne at 11:38 PM | Comments (1)

Sunflower Mural

Sunflower Mural

Posted by Wayne at 04:52 PM | Comments (0)

December 27, 2004

HERO

Lucy had expressed interest in seeing King Arthur, I think to pacify a small fraction of her deep desire to see another LOTR movie, which ain't forthcoming. Since she was off on Xmas Eve and I wasn't, I suggested that she go find the DVD of the filmic roundtable legend and we would watch it that night. I guess it hasn't been released yet; she didn't find it at Movie Gallery, and instead came home with this.

What an incredible film.

I'm not a movie expert, I just like to watch them. So when she said "Jet Li" in a movie called Hero, I thought she had brought home a pure action Kung Fu hack-em-up flick. How wrong I was. I had no idea that this was a period film set in ancient China.

Oh, there is action, and lots of it. But this action is visual poetry. The sword fights here are like ballet, only better -- more beautiful and expressive than any damn fairies dancing about sugar plums.

If you saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and liked it, you must see Hero. CTHD was excellent, but this blows it away.

In Hero, the action is not there just for action's sake. The swordplay dance gives greater depth to the human stories that are at the fable's center. Yimou Zhang has truly created a mythology here -- a legend from which we all can learn. Like great myth, from this we learn about each other, but more about ourselves and our motivations in life and living.

I would love to be able to tell you the story. It could probably be covered in 500 words. But the utter simplicity of Hero's tale allows for the powerful truth it reveals to be exactly that.

This story is told with swords, but also with colors. Each scene is its own color. Once scene will be green, another yellow, red, or pink. This plays a large part in creating the stunning visual that Hero is. They went to some remote and amazingly beautiful areas of central China to shoot.

I love writing about movies that defy description and challenge our language. This film is truly one the most striking works of art that I have ever experienced. The DVD has a short doc about the film, which says that Yimou and his bunch spent 24 months developing the script. Each detail has been carefully considered in the making of this film. I am reminded of the LOTR movies, but that's comparing pomegranates with kiwi fruit. Hero is in a class by itself, as is Peter Jackson's trilogy. The classes are different however. (I think "class" works well there.)

I think I saw this on the IFC or Sundance schedules. Definitely check it out as soon as you can.

Posted by Wayne at 11:46 AM | Comments (0)

December 26, 2004

The E-Z Rock Cafe

The E-Z Rock Cafe

As opposed to the more famous Hard Rock Cafe. This eatery is in Lyndon, KS. We see it on the drive to my Mother's house, where we went for a Christmas visit this weekend.

Posted by Wayne at 07:45 PM | Comments (0)

December 24, 2004

Detail from our Christmas Tree

Detail from our Christmas Tree

This may be a partridge, but it is definitely not a pear tree.



Merry Christmas y'all.

Posted by Wayne at 09:38 PM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2004

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, Special Extended Edition

Hobbits are short. Wizards are old. Orcs are ugly. Men suffer and don't live very long. Elves are the coolest. And the prettiest by a mile. Especially Liv Tyler. Not to mention my wife's favorite, Legolas.

This situation is just the opposite of this one. There is too much to write about. Where do you start?

Usually you would start at the beginning but this movie is not the beginning; it's the third part. Well, actually it's the end.

The additional footage, which totals 50 minutes, is integrated seamlessly. The scenes that were not in the theatrical release are obvious, but still, you don't notice until you're in the middle of them. The editing here is brilliant.

Bill Maher may have had a point when he said in reference to the version that won the 13 Oscars, that "no movie that lasts three and half hours should win the Oscar for best editing." However, there is just too much story here to tell. Experts on the books know that much is left out as it is. Jackson earned all his statues, not the least of which the one for editing.

The additional footage not only fleshes out the story more, but also the individual characters. You get to know Aragorn and Frodo and Sam and even Gollum a lot better for viewing this enhanced edition.

We've barely sampled the extras from the two additional disks. They may merit an entry all their own.

Posted by Wayne at 09:31 PM | Comments (0)

Nutracker Ale

Nutracker Ale

A nice winter brew from Kansas City

Posted by Wayne at 09:18 PM | Comments (1)

December 21, 2004

Christmas Cow

Christmas Cow

From my sister in Wisconson.

Posted by Wayne at 11:46 PM | Comments (0)

December 20, 2004

Nativity Scene

Nativity Scene

Posted by Wayne at 11:50 PM | Comments (0)

Soap Momma Soft Wear

Soap Momma Soft Wear

Posted by Wayne at 12:17 AM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2004

Z's Tree

Z's Tree

This isn't actually a Christmas Tree. This conical sculpture with mini-people is a permanent installation at Z's Espresso on 9th St. near Mass in Lawrence.

Posted by Wayne at 12:18 AM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2004

Windshield

Windshield

Looking through water at the rest of the world. There's nothing else to do in the carwash.

Posted by Wayne at 04:00 PM | Comments (1)

December 17, 2004

The Other Wall

The Other Wall

If you look toward the wall in the previous picture, turn roughly 60 degrees to your left, and zoom the lens a bit, this is what you see.

Posted by Wayne at 11:34 PM | Comments (0)

December 16, 2004

Wall at Teller's

Wall at Teller's

The afternoon sunlight played an interesting tune on the wall at Teller's Bar & Grill on Mass St. in downtown Lawrence. The angles gave the wall a Picasso-esque appearance for me. Not the silhouette of the gentleman in front.

Posted by Wayne at 09:29 PM | Comments (0)

December 15, 2004

Sax Man

Sax Man

We saw this man in downtown Lawrence last weekend. I haven't experimented much with converting to black and white, but it seems to add presence to this one.

Posted by Wayne at 11:43 PM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2004

Christmas Tree and Us

Christmas Tree and Us

Posted by Wayne at 11:35 PM | Comments (0)

Our Christmas Tree

Our Christmas Tree

Our apartment this year demands a smaller tree. But we still like it.

Posted by Wayne at 11:18 PM | Comments (0)

Sideways

Preternaturally positive reviews always makes me leary. Each and every one of the critiques I saw of this film said it was great. I did not see a single negative word or phrase. For me this creates just too much expectation. Of course, it also makes me want to see it, but I've learned to view such films guardedly.

Sideways however, did not disappoint. This really is a very good film.

Paul Giamatti is currently my favorite actor. I totally dug him in American Splendor, and his performance in Alexander Payne's new film solidifies him as the real deal. He plays a perfectly pathetic recent divorcé, who is obsessed with wine. Nobody should know as much about wine as Miles does. (Wouldn't you expect a pathetic wine-obsessed divorcé to be named Miles?)

The gist of the story is illustrated brilliantly in Miles' fixation with the Pinot grape. He says it's a very thin-skinned, frail and temperamental grape that requires a great deal of care. The Pinot is like the most dysfunctional and codependent of grapes. And this is Miles. He's a perpetual wreck. So of course he's also a writer; and of course he's a novelist. But you have to love him.

Now we get to Jack.

Jack and Miles are a perfect pair, character-wise -- an excellent contrast.

Jack is a shitheel. Unlike Miles, he is tall, good-looking, and a rogue. So of course he's an actor; and of course he's a former soap opera actor. He is dysfunctional, but in the opposite way from Miles. He's getting married on Saturday, so he and Miles take off on a wine-tasting tour up the California coast from San Diego. However, wine is not what Jack wants to taste. He's out to get laid, baby. He wants to get Miles laid too, to help him get over his ex, but that's not his top priority.

Anyway, they do find a couple of babes, Stephanie and Maya. Miles has no idea what to do with his and bumbles through the evening even though she likes him. Jack does exactly what you would expect of a rogue.

Sideways is hilarious. And it is sad. And it is beautifully poetic in how it relates wine to life.

Wayne says, definitely, check it out.

We saw this movie in the "little theater" at Liberty Hall in Lawrence. My wife says there are 150 seats in it, but I'm skeptical that there are that many. A perfect venue for this film. I saw today that Sideways has been nominated for six Golden Globe awards. I hope it gets similar Oscar consideration.

Posted by Wayne at 12:12 AM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2004

976-EVIL

$2,995,917. This, according to IMBD, is what this movie has grossed to date. And it was released in 1989. If I understand it right that includes box office, DVD and VHS sales and rentals. Worldwide.

Visually this film is interesting -- downright stimulating. The story is, uh...well...hard to put your finger on. It has something to do with people being somehow induced to call the number that is the title to this film, to get their horoscope. There is not one of there characters who you would believe would be the slightest bit interested in their star chart reading. But, this is the movies.

As you might surmise, Satan is on the other end of the line when these unfortunate dialers connect. And their lives basically go to hell. Especially "Hoax." This is a very interesting name for a character. Who would name their child Hoax? This is obviously some kind of joke perpetrated by the writers. Maybe it's an industry inside joke of some kind. I could be convinced that this whole movie is an industry inside joke.

Hoax is the twerpy little cousin of cool tough leather-wearing motorcycle-riding Spike, who among our main characters, is the first to discover the fated phone number. Hoax finds the number later, and for some cinematic reason, experiences MUCH more in the way of effects. Hoax lives with his psychotically Christian mother.

Like I said, this film is visually stimulating. 976-EVIL is shot very well for horror purposes. And the special effects are pretty darned good. Hell actually freezes over in this film. Those who like a campy slasher movie could do a helluvalot worse than this.

One aspect of semi-old B horror movies, that I find interesting, is the credit listing. This movie has Darren Burrows playing one of the bullies who torment Hoax (Darren is the guy with the slashed face, pictured on your right with Hoax). Darren, very soon after this film, took on the role of Ed Chigliak on TV's Northern Exposure. For some reason, though he only has a bit part, Robert Picardo is the top billed actor in this flick. Picardo played the holographic ship's surgeon on Star Trek: Voyager. The most interesting actor though is Sandy Dennis. She plays Hoax's freak-Mom, and she won an Oscar for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf back '67.

Yep, these films get 'em on the way up, and on the way down. Kind of like bands and dive rock-n-roll bars.

Stephen Geoffreys, the kid who plays Hoax, from what I can see from his IMBD listing, went from this film straight into a career of gay porn movies. He went on to star in such films as Latin Crotch Rockets, Transexual Prostitutes (1 and 2), and Butt Blazer.

I will tepidly suggest to check out 976-EVIL. Only if you really like to laugh at, or study, this kind of movie.

I found this DVD for cheap and was disappointed because I was expecting a different film. Back in the early 90's somewhere, when I didn't even own a TV, I was housesitting for a friend who had HBO. In the middle of the night a film came on that I was sure was called 976-EVIL. I remember this flick for two scenes. In one, a guy dies on the beach and is depicted as ascending (I was into new age shit then). The other was at the end when the producers did a brilliant (I thought) job of melding the story with footage from the end of It's a Beautiful Life starring Jimmy Stewart. I see there's a 976-EVIL 2. Maybe that's the one I saw. If anybody recognizes those scenes could you please let me know the film.

Posted by Wayne at 12:36 PM | Comments (0)

Lawrence Arts Center

Lawrence Arts Center

Taken from above.

Posted by Wayne at 01:51 AM | Comments (0)

December 11, 2004

Christmas Choir

Christmas Choir

Tis the season in downtown Lawrence. These kind folks were singing for donations to Habitat for Humanity. I noticed they kept to secular song selections.

Posted by Wayne at 06:54 PM | Comments (0)

Terminator 3

There really isn't much to write about this one. Terminator 3 is basically a one hundred and nine minute chase scene. At least T2 has some character interplay between Arnold and the kid. T1 I barely remember. I think T2 might be the best of the three. T3 seems to just be a bridge to the story of the resistance led by John Connor as they take on the machines.

Yeah, I think they just wanted to put Arnold's machine to bed so he could run for governor and start a new career.

I did like how they followed the trend toward female action stars, making the newest terminator a hot chick ("the terminatrix" -- that cracked me up) in a tight leather outfit that never gets dirty. I'll always remember the scene early on where the cop pulls her over, and she looks at his crotch and says, "I like your gun."

I had wondered where they found the kid who is at the center of Carnivale on HBO. He is, frankly, great. His acting is the best part of T3 I think.

Even though Terminator 3 is a little dry of content, I do look forward to the fourth chapter, if it is in fact forthcoming. That could be good.

Posted by Wayne at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2004

We Kick Glass

We Kick Glass

Seen on a side street in Lawrence.

Posted by Wayne at 09:36 PM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2004

Downtown Mural

Downtown Mural

Notice the little drama taking place in the foreground. This mural is along a pedestrian passageway in downtown Lawrence, Kansas.

Posted by Wayne at 11:58 PM | Comments (0)

Garage Mural

Garage Mural

Posted by Wayne at 10:14 PM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2004

New York Elementary

New York Elementary

This elementary school is not located in New York. It is located on New York. New York Street in Lawrence, Kansas to be exact.

Posted by Wayne at 11:13 PM | Comments (0)

The Bourgeois Pig

The Bourgeois Pig

A Lawrence coffeehouse and full service bar. Around that corner, on the alley side of the building is stencilled a hammer & sickle. Godless communists. It's a good thing they can do a good soy latte.

Posted by Wayne at 12:30 AM | Comments (0)

December 07, 2004

RED

RED

All the red state blue state nonsense really helped me notice this office in the Kansas City Country Club plaza last Saturday night. This business looks to have been established sometime prior to Nov. 2 so I don't the backers named it in response to the events of that day. However, Kansas is really Red and Missouri is pretty Red too, so I guess they chose a good location.

Posted by Wayne at 11:28 PM | Comments (0)

December 06, 2004

1 Giant Leap

Dazzling footage of third world dancers and artists are what make this documentary memorable. Visually it is truly stunning in places. Some of the interviews I didn't need. So Tom Robbins says that what makes art great is the fact that it's not useful for anything. And Gabrielle Roth says that Jesus would barf if he saw how his teachings were being conveyed today. There are other moments of socialist propaganda where commerce is dissed as bad for young people. But, overall the message here is pretty well-received by this capitalist conservative. The message is ultimately spiritual, going well beyond the political.

I did like the interviews with Dennis Hopper. (Did you know he voted for George?) He seems a little out of place here but his words fit well. There is one hell of an array of celebrities in this film. Besides the aforementioned, there are Brian Eno, Kurt Vonnegut, Michael Stipe, Ram Dass, Neneh Cherry, plus many other names that I don't recognize. They all have their relevant opinions.

But again, what really makes this film worth the viewing are the visuals of the non-famous people from all over the globe: Senegal, Ghana, South Africa, Uganda, India, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, America and Europe. You see people dancing and singing so freely that you envy their obvious non-attachement to things. The energy conveyed by this film is exhilerating.

I watched 1 Giant Leap on Sundance (other site), but from the IMBD listing I see that the DVD version runs for 155 minutes. The TV version went for about half of that. I may have to seek out that disk.

Posted by Wayne at 11:53 PM | Comments (2)

December 05, 2004

KC Country Club Plaza

KC Country Club Plaza

The view down 47th from Jefferson St. on Saturday night at Kansas City's Country Club Plaza. And man there were a lot of people down there.

Posted by Wayne at 08:25 PM | Comments (0)

Brick from Pittsburg, KS

Brick from Pittsburg, KS

There are cobblestone sidewalks on some Lawrence's east side streets. The old bricks look cool.

Posted by Wayne at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

Lawrence Christmas Parade

Lawrence Christmas Parade

Lawrence had a Christmas parade yesterday morning that featured 280 horses -- some ridden, some drawing carriages. I'm just really glad that the street cleaner was right behind the end of the parade.

Posted by Wayne at 12:50 AM | Comments (0)

December 04, 2004

Daltrey Sings Townshend

Roger Daltrey's scream on Won't Get Fooled Again is a major transitional moment in Rock-n-Roll history. That scream contains, and puts closure to, everything that came before it; and contains, then paves the way for, everything that came after it. All of Rock-n-Roll as we know it is concentrated in that scream. In that moment, The Who and Daltrey put to bed Elvis, Buddy Holley, the early Beatles; and then gave rise to the Sex Pistols, Guns-n-Roses, and Nirvana.

Last night we watched a most amazing concert on TRIO. Roger Daltrey in Carnegie Hall with the Julliard Orchestra behind him. John Entwhistle showed up to play some bass and keyboards. Pete Townshend was on stage for a few minutes too. Since he wrote all the songs I suppose that was appropriate.

There are several guest artists who appear in this show. The Chieftans and Sinead O'Connor help with a couple of Who songs. David Sanborn plays some hot saxophone, along with an unidentified trumpet player who keeps up with him admirably.

The show's great, and hearing the orchestra playing all those Who classics is amazing. But Daltrey is the real story. He can belt out a song like no other vocalist.

The best live concert that my wife and I have seen together was The Who at the (then named) Mesa del Sol ampitheater in Albuquerque during the summer of 2000. I bought the tickets just so I could hear him do that scream once live. The rest of the show was nice too.

Another Who moment for us came on June 27, 2002. We were in Las Vegas on the way back to Albuquerque from San Francisco. This was the morning when John Entwhistle died there.

TRIO is an interesting cable network. Usually it's not a really good network, just interesting. TRIO is kind of like a poor relative to A&E. I don't think they've got a lot of financing. However, even the light hitting shortstop gets a homerun once in a while. According to their schedule this concert will show again on Jan 28. It's also available on DVD but gets lousy reviews.

Posted by Wayne at 05:36 PM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2004

Home

Home

This is the house where I spent my childhood -- and Thanksgiving day last week. My sister and her husband live there now, and there they raised three excellent kids, who are now adults and either have kids of their own or have them on the way. They have run a successful business there for quite a while now. This was the first Thanksgiving that I've spent with family in many years. It's so good to be back home.


The opposite of this view (nearly). This shot was taken when the sun was higher.

Posted by Wayne at 08:40 PM | Comments (0)

December 01, 2004

Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns)

When writing about a documentary, do you write about the subject matter, or do you write about the film? In this case, I had heard of They Might Be Giants for years, yet I knew very little about the band, and had heard none of their music. This actually inspired me to watch this doc, because I wanted to see how I would react to a video biography of a band that I was completely unfamiliar with.

The film is fascinating. The band is pretty cool too.

For the uninitiated, They Might Be Giants was started by two guys named John in Lincoln, Massachussetts (if I understood correctly) and they moved to New York as the punk thing was starting to fade. They seemed to have been inspired by punk, but their music is not punk. I can't really say what it is, beyond that it is unique.

Since my only exposure to the music of They Might be Giants is through this film, I don't feel comfortable trying to describe it too much. I feel that should be left to their fans. Their approach is certainly different. I can't claim to have a real keen desire to soak up all their albums, nor do I lust for a ticket to a They Might be Giants show. Now, if they were to show up here in Lawrence, I would probably go, for reasons similar to those that inspired us to see The Cowboy Junkies earlier this year. Curiosity. And I desire for a unique and memorable experience. (Not because I loved the band.)

For the first part of their career, the band (I think I've stated the band name enough for search engine placement) consisted of the two Johns and their backup tape machine. They didn't hire a group of musicians to accompany them until several years after their genesis.

A really memorable part of the film for me was the part about the "dial a song" phone line they had in New York. They would advertise the phone number on the back page of The Village Voice, and every day they would record a different song on the line's answering machine. So those who wanted to could call in every day and hear a new and different TMBG song.

Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns) is mostly about the two personalities that came together in this band. At one point they are compared to Lennon and McCartney. They're definitely not on that level, but they're definitely interesting. When the two are interviewed together during the film, they are outside in cushioned living room chairs with the NYC skyline in the background. Cool.

The film is quirky like TMBG's music seems to be. The intro features former Illinois Senator Paul Simon. He uses the context of Abe Lincoln's fourth debate with Stephen Douglas to describe the origins of TMBG.

Yeah, if you're up for a weird but fun experience, see this film, or see a TMBG show.

Posted by Wayne at 10:02 PM | Comments (0)