Oscar Meh II

I guess I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t stoked for this year’s event, since I read that it was the lowest rated Academy Awards show ever. I’m thinking it’s because the writer’s strike caused us collectively to seek something new, real and important to pay attention to: the presidential election. And we haven’t been able to collectively get back into worrying about banal things on TV again yet. And this is a good thing.

That said, I was pleased to see Marion Cotillard win the Best Actress nod, since I thought she was unbelievable in La Vie En Rose (as noted in my last post), and also pleased to see Tilda Swinton take the stage with a win; I haven’t seen Michael Clayton yet, but I generally think she’s grand in everything she does, and if I’d had my way, I’d have given her an Oscar for her role as the Queen in the first Narnia movie. How many little kiddies did she give nightmares to in that role, I wonder?

I’ll reserve judgment on the other flicks.  Except to note that the stupid and pointless and just plain bad Ratatouille won the expected Best Animated Feature award, which is a travesty. No matter how cute and inspirational you tell me it’s supposed to be, I’ll never give a rat’s heinie about a rat who wants to be a cook. No amount of “suspend disbelief” makes me root for the rat, or for the badly-drawn and voice humans who assist him. Normally, I’d pull for the bad guy, but the little dwarf chef whose name I can’t remember and don’t want to know was the most poorly, horribly realized character in any major animated film that I can recall having ever seen.

If you want to watch a good recent rodent movie, catch Ardman’s Flushed Away instead. Orders of magnitude better, on every plane.

Oscar Meh

I’m usually all abuzz and atitter come Oscar Day, but for some reason this year, I’m just not feeling it. Despite watching more movies in 2007 than I generally have historically (thank you Netflix), I’ve only seen one of the “Best Picture” and “Best Director” nominated movies thus far: Juno, which was sweet and charming, but feels like this year’s version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding or Babe as far as its prospects for a serious nod go. (Diablo Cody will take the “Best Original Screenplay” nod, and that will be that). The whole “stack it up at the end of the year in a few festivals” approach just leaves me cold as a viewer, since I’ve got no connection with or passion for things unseen.

The rest of the leading flicks, while I’m sure are well made and deserving their accolades, really just don’t interest me. I’ll probably see most of them out of some weird sense of obligation, but I don’t expect to enjoy the experience, since I don’t like musicals, and I don’t much like scenery-chewing acting, and I don’t really care for carnage for carnage’s sake. When you’ve experienced real carnage in your life, you don’t want to watch it as entertainment as much.

Other stray thoughts . . .

I adore Johnny Depp, but I don’t want to hear him sing or see rivers of blood flowing from his razor. I mean, I really don’t want any part of that.

I adore Julie Christie, but I don’t want to see her suffering from Alzheimer’s, even when she’s acting, and I have a hard time imagining any nominated performance this year could be better than Marion Cotillard’s in La Vie En Rose anyway.

I thought Ratatouille was utterly, painfully bad, unwatchable and irritating, even though I love animation dearly, so I don’t much care to see it win the “Best Animated Film” award, which it seems pre-ordained to do. Go Persepolis!

I will be absolutely appalled if Cate Blanchett gets a statue for the Dylan role in I’m Not There. Such pretentious arthouse twaddle and fanboy posturing, even though I actually like Todd Haynes, generally. Please do not encourage him further in this endeavor.

I guess I’ll be pulling for Viggo Mortensen among the best actors, since he carried an otherwise flawed movie.

Finally, I feel like I’m cheating on my Jon Stewart-Stephen Colbert boycott by watching Stewart host the big gig today. (Though he’s better than Ellen DeGeneres, who made my flesh crawl for three hours during her last stint as host).(I’d be a-okay if they made Steve Martin the perma-host, like Bob Hope used to be). Fortunately, Marcia is flying back from San Diego tonight, so I’ll leave for an hour in the middle of the show to pick her up. Hopefully that will be when all the songs from Enchanted are being performed. Yechh.

Road Warrior

I took my Suzuki SX4 into the shop today for its 15,000 mile service. I’ve been driving the car for three days short of six months. That’s 177 days. Or an average of 84 miles per day. Every day. If I was a law-abiding, speed limit-driving citizen and did 55 mph diligently, that would be 1 hour and 32 minutes in the car. Every day. Over 177 days, that’s a total of about 11 days and six hours spent behind the wheel. It all adds up when your home and your office are 58 miles apart. Fortunately, I generally don’t mind driving, since I get to listen to music and chat with the co-pilot, who commutes about 40 of the 58 miles with me every day. Marcia and I have been sort of casually starting to look for property in Columbia County, to cut my commute down while not making Marcia’s much longer, but I have a hard time finding the commute itself to be sufficient incentive to move. More pressing are factors like the fact that we have so much equity in our current home that we will be penalized in the financial aid sweepstakes when Katelin heads off to college in 2009. How perverse is that to think that we would be better off financially to sell this house and take out a big mortgage in order to make ourselves look less well-off so we don’t have to pay full college tuition? I don’t like to ponder such policy matters, even though I’m getting my degree in that field. And I also don’t like to ponder weather like we’re getting tomorrow, since that does create the one situation where the long drive is a good deal less than pleasant, what with all the ice, snow and generally yuckiness falling out of the sky. Do I ramble? Was that too many thoughts compressed into one paragraph? If so, that’s what writing papers for school does to me. Sorry.

This That

Sports: I’m a serious, serious, SERIOUS college basketball junkie. You want some perspective on what’s going down in the West Division of the Southland Conference? I’m your man, homes. I’m your man. (Early March Madness tip: If Stephen F. Austin or Sam Houston State get into the Big Dance as #14 or #15 seeds, they have the skills to knock off a #2 or a #3. Just saying). And this week has been a monumental week in college basketball to me, as the odious Bob Knight has finally left the stage for the last time. His apologists have been crowing about his victories (more than any other college coach ever) and his refusal to cheat (questionable), but I flat out don’t care about either of those things: no adult in a position of power should ever, ever, EVER treat a blooming adolescent or young adult the way that Coach Knight did. It’s just wrong. Period. While I don’t pull for Duke as a general rule (I’m an N.C. State fan, since that was my dad’s alma mater, making Duke the #2 seed in the Anathema Schools List, after UNC), I still can’t wait for Coach Mike Krzyzewski to knock Bob Knight off the top of the career wins list. Three or four years, if Duke has good seasons. Which odds are they will, since Coach K won’t be kicking his players when they don’t perform to his satisfaction. Good riddance, Coach Knight. No surprise that you bailed mid-season, two games after you won your 900th, since your students clearly weren’t important enough to merit your attention once you’d reached that plateau and realized there wasn’t likely to be a 1,000th win.

Politics: Regardless of how I feel about his administration, I never say “Bush” to refer to our Commander in Chief. He is “President Bush,” always. Manners matter, even in politics, and addressing people by their proper titles with respect is just good manners. Because I feel this way, it absolutely drives me crazy when TV announcers or observers refer to the Presidential candidates as Obama . . . Romney . . . McCain . . . and Hillary. That’s Senarot Obama, Governor Romney, Senator McCain and Senator Clinton, people. And the offense on the last one is particularly noteworthy . . . I mean, doesn’t Senator Clinton deserve a last name? I know her campaign has turned her name into a brand, so it’s not so much “Hillary” as it is “HILLARY!!”, but doesn’t it bug anybody other than me that the one female candidate is always referred to by her first name, while the men get last name and/or title recognition? This seems very backwards and offensive to me. On Super Tuesday, Cokie Roberts actually referred to New York’s junior senator as “Mrs. Clinton” multiple times. Why? Do we refer to Mr. Romney or Mr. McCain or Mr. Obama? No. Why is this? Why doesn’t anyone else complain?

Space: The commander of Space Shuttle Atlantis, which launched yesterday after a two month delay, is a Naval Academy classmate of mine, which makes me one proud alumnus. My era at Annapolis is very well represented among the current astronaut corps, and as a space junkie, it does me good to see them doing so well in this most fascinating of professional endeavors. The European Space Agency’s science module Columbus is aboard for installation at the International Space Station (ISS), some 15 years after it was originally supposed to go aloft. Hooray! I would also point you over to the Cassini-Huygens link to the right: there’s some amazing visual reportage coming back from Saturn this month, while the Mars Rovers cool their heels hoping to survive another Martian winter. Did you know that after Magellan’s crew circumnavigated the Earth for the first time that it was nearly 80 years before anyone else did it again? Space is the same way as a field of exploration: it’s been 35 years since we last went to the moon, but I believe we will return sooner than it took an intrepid crew to follow Magellan’s path. The ISS is a stepping stone. I hope I live long enough to see where we jump from it.

Citizen

Back in August, I blogged here about why I thought this electoral cycle was so important that I didn’t want to cloud my thought processes with “fake news” of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report variety. Yes, I’m not stupid, and yes, I recognize(d) that those are fictitious, humorous comedy shows, and not “real news” (whatever that means). So don’t e-mail me to explain the obvious, alright? I get the obvious.

Still, even getting that, I felt that seeing clips of candidates selected for their humor potential every night couldn’t help but permeate my consciousness and settle into the hidden parts of my mind where I make intuitive decisions that I may or may not even actively, logically understand I am making. I didn’t want this to happen, after yukking along every night during the 2004 elections. Look how well that turned out. I didn’t and don’t want to laugh for, with, or at anyone running for President this year. I want to know how they are going to lead us, at home and in the world at large. Seriously.

Six months have now passed with me having had nary a single spotting of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert or any other night-time or morning entertainment talk show hosts interacting with or riffing on this year’s Presidential candidates. I avoided those types of shows like the plague as well, as I also didn’t and don’t want to be entertained by a Presidential candidate this year. I want them to appeal to me in intellectual terms on the basis of their plans, expectations and qualifications for the Chief Executive and Commander and Chief of our nation. I didn’t and don’t want glib sound bites. I want substance. You don’t get that on talk shows.

So I voted in the New York Primary today, and as I was pondering my options and making my choice (no, I’m not telling you who it was), I felt clear-minded and responsible, making my decision for reasons that had nothing to do with whether my candidate was able to swap yucks or play a musical instrument on a television show that ultimately profits no one but its corporate parents’ stockholders and advertisers. I voted on issues and competence in things that matter. Being a good talking head isn’t one of those things.

I felt so good after voting, in fact, that I won’t be watching any of those shows until the General Election in November either. The issues are still too important to laugh about or be entertained by. This isn’t a sitcom, a talk show, a sporting event or a hospital drama. It’s a precious process to select a person who is going to influence the shape of the world for a generation or longer. It deserves our attention. Our serious attention.

Most Played Songs of 2007

If you haven’t figured it out yet from reading this thing, I’m something of a music junkie: I’m pretty much listening to, talking about, making or thinking about music during the vast majority of my waking hours, and sometimes when I sleep. (I often wake up with fragments of songs running through my head, sometimes real things I’ve heard or know, sometimes things my subconscious comes up with, which I then often attempt to preserve for waking states).

That said, and despite my long-standing and warm embrace of communications and internet technology, I’m something of a Luddite when it comes to the ways in which we make or listen to music. My knowledge of performing and recording technology ends at the point where things stopped being about plugging quarter inch cables into amps. Midi and computer-based technologies, for instance, completely escape and elude me when it comes to recording or creating music.

Likewise playing music. I clung to my vinyl albums and cassette tapes (so many mix tapes!) well into the CD era, until Marcia finally got me a CD player, at which point my Bang and Olufson turntable and 1,000+ records became useless. I never got into the online downloading/theft thing in the Napster and Oink era, since I never really felt like I owned a song unless I had a plastic or cardboard box that held the disc that held the music.

A year or so ago, though, Marcia asked for an iPod, and since I have all the CDs, it fell to me to load iTunes and copy songs and get things in order so that she could listen to the music she liked. Then we bought a living room stereo that doesn’t take CD’s or tapes: it only takes iPods. This meant that I had to load stuff that I liked into iTunes as well. At which point, chump that I am, I was hooked.

The most fascinating part of the iPod experience for me, list-maker that I am, is the feature that tracks the 25 most commonly played songs. Because this iPod and stereo are used by all three members of the household, the list ends up being this weirdo blend of the spaces where our tastes overlap. I never in a millions years would have created the mix that is included in the Top 25 Most Played Songs on our iPod, but I like it, as does Marcia, as does Katelin. It’s either the lowest common denominator of our musical tastes, or some sublime merger of our tastes, greater than the sum of our parts.

As of today, the list looks like this:

1. “Help Me Mary,” by Liz Phair

2. “Family Romance,” by Department of Eagles

3. “Crazy,” by Gnarls Barkley

4. “The Johnny Podell Song,” by Francis Dunnery

5. “Sexy Back,” by Justin Timberlake

6. “Hotel Figueroa,” by Max Eider

7. “My Little Brother,” by Art Brut

8. “Song 2,” by Blur

9. “The Cutter,” by Echo and the Bunnymen

10. “Not Enough Time,” by INXS

11. “Transdermal Celebration,” by Ween

12. “A Horse With No Name,” by America

13. “Emily Kane,” by Art Brut

14. “Indian Killer,” by Beef

15. “Third Eye,” by Black Eyed Peas

16. “Romo-Goth,” by Department of Eagles

17. “Sunflowers,” by Francis Dunnery

18. “We Are the Weeds of the World,” by Gay Tastee

19. “Harpsicode,” by The Mathematicians

20. “No One Else,” by Montag

21. “Scarred for Life,” by Slapp Happy

22. “Developing Active People” by Via Audio

23. “I Was In the House When the House Burned Down,” by Warren Zevon

24. “Apple Tree,” by Wolfmother

25. “Presents,” by Via Audio