February 27, 2005

NY Times visits Lawrence, KS

A New York Times article on Lawrence. (registration required)

Notable quotes are "the most vital music scene between Chicago and Denver" and "Few American universities have as much basketball in their DNA as Kansas." And at least they didn't reference Dorothy and Toto until almost the end.

The article describes one of our favorite restaurants, Miltons, and the Hereford House which is almost across the street from us. Liberty Hall is discussed where not only did Oscar Wilde give a lecture in 1882, but where democrat wildman Howie Dean spoke Friday. A very nice take on our new home. This is the local paper's take on the NY Times article. (registration not required)

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February 24, 2005



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February 20, 2005

Flowers & Family

Flowers & Family

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February 18, 2005



This could possibly do with an edit -- but the phrasing makes you read it several times, thereby driving home the sentiment.

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February 17, 2005

Blurry Cheesecake

Blurry Cheesecake

I don't know why I like this picture. The image is mostly distortion. Even the waitress is a little fuzzy. The colors in the background are pretty clear. I always liked out-of-focus next to in-focus. It's an interesting contrast. This was taken at the same time as the Grand Marnier photo below, and from the same table.

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February 16, 2005

Z's espresso

Z's espresso

Latte sizes.

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February 15, 2005

Grand Marnier

Grand Marnier

That's in the snifter. My wife's Irish Coffee is in the background. Taken at Milton's in downtown Lawrence.

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February 14, 2005

House of Sand and Fog

Brilliant. Beautiful. Sucked.

This movie is easily my most disappointing viewing experience in a long while. The experience was perhaps made doubly disappointing by the fact that it is brilliantly acted, meticulously directed, and beautifully shot. The story however, really kinda sucked.

Watching House of Sand and Fog reminded me that I am a story guy first. You can have all the excellent production and acting in the world, but if you put that into a sucky story, it's largely wasted. This film is not entirely wasted; some would probably still call it a great film, even though the story had some major problems. I would have no problem giving Ben Kingsley an Oscar for his performance as Col. Bahrani. In fact I think he was far better than Sean Penn in Mystic River who won that year. Jennifer Connelly's performance isn't that good, but she was mainly there for eye appeal I think.

I would like to read the novel this was based on to see just how much the story got hollywoodized. (I see the film was nominated for a number of "indie" awards. I don't care. It was hollywoodized.) Jennifer's visuals show the hollywoodization. How funny that within this very grownup and mature story, we periodically get a nice long look at her legs, or a titillating little interlude of her waking up nude and donning a t-shirt just in the shadow where you can only see her silhouette, or removing her shirt to take a sink-bath in a roadside bathroom.

The story starts off great. We have an excellent premise here. I would expect to find out that it is based on some kind of factual occurrence. Kathy (Connelly) is a screw off homeowner who inherited her house. She doesn't open the mail she gets from the county and one day finds out she is being kicked out because she didn't pay taxes that she was billed. The county sells the house. Col. Bahrani sees the ad and makes out like a bandit, buying the place for a quarter its worth.

Kathy screwed off but the county screwed up. She didn't owe the taxes she was billed. Before the error is caught Bahrani has moved into his new house. And, of course, intense drama ensues. Kathy winds up making out with one of the sheriff's deputies sent to evict her. He is what really messes up the story. I wonder if his character is even in the original novel. He ultimately does some things, several things, that make very little if any sense. Although in fairness, good-lookin' women can make men do non-sensical things.

I wonder if I shouldn't just put a big SPOILER ALERT banner at the top of this blog so I can go ahead and discuss in detail what happens in a movie. I really think most people who find my blog entries have already seen the film they are searching on. In this particular case I could really go off about how things transpire and how borderline stupid the story is in the end, no matter how "dramatic."

Ah well, tis only my opinion. If you haven't seen this, I don't think I would discourage you. I would be interested to hear someone defend the plot of House of Sand and Fog.

Posted by Wayne at 10:59 PM | Comments (1)

February 13, 2005

Fat City

Stacy Keach wakes up in a fleabag motel, in his worn white underwear and the shirt he had on yesterday (we assume), and does the wake-up-reflex reach to the little table beside the bed. (Even the cheapest, sleaziest motels still have a little table beside the bed -- and not just in the movies.) He gets the cigarette and sticks it in his mouth before he rolls out. He digs through the crap on the table. He gets up and goes over to his pants hanging over a chair and digs through the pockets. Then he digs through his jacket by the desk. Finally he has to put on his pants, and his socks and shoes, and head out into the day looking for that ever elusive match.

This is how Fat City begins, and it gives you a real good feel for how this film will go. John Huston's 1972 piece is about small-time boxers in Stockton, CA. However, it's done in a non-linear, slice-of-life style that makes it interesting, if not real compelling. I know I've been jaded by American television, and Fat City almost lost me about half-way through. There is some action here -- some ring action -- and that's probably what kept me from falling asleep.

Keach is Billy Tully, a once promising fighter (if you believe him and his former manager) who has fallen on hard times thanks to whiskey and women. He runs into Ernie Munger, an eighteen year old played by Jeff Bridges, at the local Y and Tully thinks Ernie has a lot of promise after sparring with him for a few minutes. Tully tells Ernie to go see his old manager at the Lido Gym: "Tell him Billy Tully sent you."

In many ways the most pivotal character in this film is Ruben, the manager, played by Nicholas Colasanto. He is either the encourager toward greatness, or the enabler of dysfunction, depending on your perspective. Ruben obviously lives for his young fighters, trying desperately to see them to the success that he never realized.

Tully finds a woman in a bar who is a miserable alcoholic. He manages to take up with her while her other old man is in jail. This is a match made in hell if ever there was one, and the one-on-one exchanges between them make up a good portion of the story.

The kid decides to get married when he finds out his girlfriend is pregnant, but mostly this story is about the tragedy of Tully. He can't get off the sauce and he can't resist the messed up broads. Even after he makes a comeback, and returns to the ring. Keach's performance is the best part of Fat City. The movie consists of ring battles, and battles out of the ring; fights between boxers, and fights within all the characters.

Another late-night-weekend glad discovery, this time on Sundance. In reading about Fat City, many claim that it is John Huston's most underrated film, or his best, depending on whose opinion you come across. Anyway, if you like old Nixon-era indies, you should see this.

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February 12, 2005



As seen at Kaspar's Bar & Grill. My favorites are Lighthearted Poetry, Feminist Humor, and Boneless Ribs.

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Bigg's 2

Bigg's 2

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February 11, 2005



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February 10, 2005

Icicles at Night

Icicles at Night

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February 09, 2005

The Business of Fancydancing

I hated her. I realized this today during a training session at work, where we were learning about how to deal with suicide calls. Talking about the motivations for suicide brought up for me the time when my friend Seagull committed suicide three weeks after my wife and I got married. She didnít come to the wedding and we missed her but didnít have time to try and follow up and see how she was doing. She'd been below the radar for several months at that point.

All this time she's been fluttering around my mind, showing up somewhere in my thoughts almost every day. And all this time Iíve been working on forgiving her and getting over the anger I feel toward her for what she did.

When I started to get a little choked up today I did a role play in my mind where I was talking to the instructor of the class about suicide issues, and that statement came out: I hated her. And I realized it was true. All the time I knew her she was Little Miss Love-n-Light, but really she was full of shit. It was all obviously a masterfully painted faÁade, or else she certainly wouldnít have done what she did.

I don't need to forgive her. I need to forgive myself for feeling that way.

Us Spiritual Cool Dudes aren't supposed to hate anything or anybody.

Last night my wife and I watched The Business of Fancydancing. This is a film written and directed by Sherman Alexie.

We saw Sherman in 1998 at the Taos Poetry Circus. That year he defeated Jimmy Santiago Baca in the World Championship Poetry Bout. I don't want to go into a big explanation of that -- the Poetry Circus has apparently gone out of business. There isnít much to find on the net anymore, so to heck with that digression.

Sherman was great though. Some of the poems you hear in this film are poems that we first heard that night in Taos. And I had a strange personal experience with him. I accidentally bumped into him in the aisle, and he looked at me like I was Columbus or Custer or somebody; but not in an angry way. You had to be there.

This entry is supposed to be about a film but it's kind of like the movie. Maybe not as good as the movie but it's non-linear like the movie, and I like it like that. The movie I mean.

I had a cynical attitude going in having read that Alexieís direction wasn't good. But I still wanted to see it because of our experience of seeing him, and seeing another film he wrote a few years back called Smoke Signals. That one was really good. And Fancydancing proved to be much better than expected.

I love how Sherman can make a powerful statement about the condition of the modern Native American, and still keep a good sense of humor about it. This is true of both films and his writings. Fancydancing is more serious than Smoke, but you still have to smile at it sometimes.

The Business of Fancydancing is obviously autobiographical in large part. The central character, Seymour Polatkin, is a gay Indian writer (can we have a little more oppression and angst here please?). Seymour leaves the reservation, becomes a famous poet and travels the world giving lectures and being an object of fascination. Then a childhood friend dies and he goes back to the rez. You can fill in the rest.

From some of his other work, I don't think Sherman is gay but that's none of my business. Not that there's anything wrong with that of course.

This film isn't so much a story but a body of excellent character studies. Seymour isnít the only one. You also get a load of Aristotle, one of his friends; Mouse, the fiddling Indian who dies; and some of Agnes Roth, a half Indian half Jewish teacher on the rez. The story is actually told with Shermanís poetry.

The only white guy in the film gets beat up by Aristotle and Mouse. There is a strange appearance by Cynthia Geary. If you were a Northern Exposure fan youíve seen her.

The budget was obviously low, but as is often the case, this lends an earthy charm to the flick. Sherman Alexie's direction is actually pretty good for a first timer.

Seeing The Business of Fancydancing I was reminded of the poet within me. I havenít written poetry for some time. I decided that I didnít like poets very much, but thatís a lame reason to leave the artform. Donít hold your breath.

One day Seagull will rest in my mind. I hope that day is soon.

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Colorful Cups

Colorful Cups

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February 08, 2005

Massachusetts St.

Massachusetts St.

I took this pic downtown last weekend. Snow has been falling here since about noon so I will have more winter scenes upcoming. But I liked this shot.

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February 07, 2005

The Limey

Terence Stamp was in a movie that we watched recently -- and that one had him playing an, uh, unusual part. I was glad to find this film on IFC and see Terence in a more serious role. He played this one very well (as he did the other one).

In fact this film plays very well. It's a nice, if not too terribly remarkable premise. Stamp plays Wilson, a British ex-con who comes to L.A. looking for whoever killed Jenny, his daughter. She supposedly died in a car accident, but Wilson ain't buyin' it.

Luis Guzman (he was in HBO's Oz, until he got whacked) has an interesting role as Ed, a guy who knew Jenny and lets Wilson know a little bit about what went on in her life. And of course we cannot omit due mention of Mr. Peter Fonda. He plays the sort of bad guy who was Jenny's filthy rich and much older boyfriend. The former Capt. America plays a really charming shithead. Have you ever noticed the forehead on that boy?

The Limey has a very novel aspect. Back in 1967, Terence Stamp starred in a British film called Poor Cow. Steven Soderbergh, the director of Limey, uses footage from Poor Cow as flashbacks to a time when Wilson was young and when Jenny was a little girl. This ultimately is used well to enhance the plot.

The Limey is memorable because of Stamp's performance and the flashbacks to the 60's film. And Soderbergh's subtle directorial skill make the film quite compelling. This story could have easily become a fourth-rate Pulp Fiction knockoff.

Check the IFC schedule and if The Limey comes up you might want to check it out.

Posted by Wayne at 09:22 PM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2005

Henry's Film Corner

Some distance more than eight years ago, a friend and I had the occasion to see Henry Rollins at the SUB Ballroom on the campus of The University of New Mexico.

He spoke for four solid hours.

And I never got bored or distracted or restless. The freak held my attention like a vice for four hours. And all he did was tell road stories and bag on U2. And he started exactly on time. The show was great.

When we bought tickets we did not know what we were in for. For all we knew we were going to see the Henry Rollins Band, but it turned out to be spoken.

Even so I've never bought any of his spoken word CD's. I did read a book: Black Coffee Blues. Easily the worst reading experience of my life. That's the first time I ever wanted to burn a book right after I got done reading it, just to protect any other unsuspecting and innocent individual from being bombarded with his aggressive fantasies and horrible dreams.

I once saw an article he wrote with this very memorable quote:

"I read Henry Miller and I never wanted to sleep again."

At work I met a woman whose last name is Rollins. I heard someone else giving her a hard time about Henry and it turns out she is a huge fan and lusts for him hugely. I think it's possible that he's been laid less than 50 times in his life. The kind of base anger he works with smacks of sexual frustration.

Well, Henry Rollins has a show on IFC. I just watched the third episode. I feel a faint kinship with him now because his show is similar to this blog. As he proclaims, he doesn't know anything about film, he just likes a good movie. (Although I must document here that Henry has actually been in movies, so his perspective is a little different.)

True to form, the former Black Flagger spends at least as much time dissing movies he hates as he does contra-dissing movies he likes. It is a fun watch, because Rollins is actually at his most passionate, if not his best, when he is going off about something he hates. Tonight he railed on Cellular. That's so funny because I had heard that it was good. I wonder what he thinks of Phone Booth.

Henry Rollins is more anomally than enigma. Though for such a dark cat he is strangely a lot of fun. Some people, you love 'em or you hate 'em. With Henry, you love 'im and you hate 'im.

Henry's Film Corner? What kind of hoaky name is that?

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February 05, 2005

Super Bowl Sunday

Super Bowl Sunday

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February 03, 2005

Sugar Frosted

Sugar Frosted

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February 01, 2005

Snow Scene

Snow Scene

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