General postsFriday December 31, 2010
The Last Blog Post of 2010
I'm still in the process of seeing some of the big U.S. releases in December (“King's Speech”; “True Grit”), so I'm holding off on my Top 10 list until all that's done. If I can't promise punctuality I can promise thoroughness. Since I can't be the first out with a top 10 list, I hope to be the last.
In the meantime, here are the movies I've reviewed so far this year. “Un Prophete” and “Restrepo” are still tops for me.
What about you? Favorite movies from 2010?
Feel free to include favorite books and songs as well. I really need songs.
(And for anyone who thinks the conceptual video with great dancing is dead, please check out Janelle Monae's “Tightrope,” which I first came across via Time magazine's top 10 list. A sure sign you're old: when Time magazine is hipper than you.)
Good-bye, 2010. Skol, everyone.
Link of the Day
A piece on the joy of walking your dog, called "One Night in Dog Heaven," by my friend Jim Walsh. Not many writers are able to pull the eternal and the mystical from the quotidian as well as Jim. Excerpt:
Master, I know I am low on your priority list but please deliver me from this godforsaken prison of human stasis and let me run wild. You hold the key to me being the best I can be, the unbridled creature I was born to be. Let me hump a few friends and strangers, chase a few leaves I have mistaken for pheasants and overall be so in the moment that I make all the Zen people look like multi-taskers.
Federer, tout simplement magnifique
From Le Monde:
On pensait que l’histoire sportive de l’année serait le retour de l’Américain Lance Armstrong sur le Tour de France. Il n’en est rien. L’histoire sportive de l’année, elle s’est jouée en trois actes, en trois sets (6-1 7-6 6-4), sur le central de Roland-Garros, dimanche. L’histoire sportive de l’année, c’est d’avoir vu Roger Federer soulever pour la première fois la magnifique Coupe des Mousquetaires. De l’avoir vu se laisser emporter par l’émotion et verser de chaudes larmes en écoutant l’hymne national de son pays.
Or in my hastily translated English:
We think the sports story of the year will be the return of the American Lance Armstrong to the Tour de France. That's nothing. The sports story of the year played itself out in three acts, or three sets (6-1 7-6 6-4), at center court, Roland-Garros, Sunday.The sports story of the year was seeing Roger Federer raise for the first time the magnificent Coupe des Mousquetaires. It was seeing emotions get the better of him and the warm tears come, listening to the national anthem of his country.
Corrections are welcome.
Jim Walsh: For the Graduates
Remember Kurt Vonnegut’s commencement address that made the viral rounds in the late ‘90s (“wear sunscreen”), which turned out to be a well-written column by Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune? Her faux commencement address? Her commencement address if asked to give one?
Here’s one by my friend Jim Walsh, which appeared this week in the Southwest Journal in, yes Jim, sexy South Minneapolis. Everyone who knows Jim Walsh will never mistake this for anyone but Jim Walsh.
Read it. Love it. Live it. Pass it on. (You can read more of Jim's stuff in Southwest Journal and MinnPost.)
For The Graduates
By Jim Walsh
May 28, 2009
I was in an ambulance for the first time in my life last week. As the morphine entered my system and the trees billowed past the window (Satan had entered my kidney; he hath since exited and I am yet again feeling lucky to be alive), I remembered a few things I’ve been wanting to tell you before I go:
- Even though the real world can feel overwhelming with all its war, poverty, stupidity, and fallible-to-foolish parents, don’t waste your life in front of a computer screen. Go outside and play.
- Before he died, singer/songwriter Warren Zevon said, “Enjoy every sandwich.” Meaning, of course, that tomorrow isn’t promised and that life is fragile. I would also say you should enjoy every ant, breath, bud, and magic moment, and, as often as possible, put yourself in situations where your and others’ enjoyment is maximized.
- When said enjoyment is happening, various wanton killjoys will try to rain on your parade. Don’t let them. Smile your wry smile and move on.
- The Bible’s most oft-cited mandate is “love the stranger.” Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that you start wrapping your arms around every Sven, Dick, and Lorna you run into, but at least talk to strangers. Here in Minnesota, that will get you plenty of arched whataya-selling? eyebrows, but more often than not it’s worth it.
- There is no such thing as “too much information.”
- Love and sex is more intense, interesting, and infinite than they make it look on TV. For the most part.
- When it comes to the future, heed the wise words of the Waterboys’ Mike Scott (“Dream harder”), and Suicide (“Dream, baby, dream”).
- When it comes to suicide, heed the wise words of Neil Young from Sleeps With Angels (“Change your mind”) and Dory from Finding Nemo (“Just keep swimming”).
- I can’t prove this with any scientific certitude, but it says here that every moment spent at the Mall Of America turns your flesh into polycarbonate plastic and your blood into Liquid Plumber.
- Unless, of course, you’re shopping at the LoveSac or Apple store. For me.
- When you’re in a dark place and thinking that you’re all alone, pick up a book. The human experience isn’t all that unique, and chances are better than even that you are not the first one to be going through what you’re going through.
- If you go through life open-hearted, you will at some point fall in love and very likely get your heart broken. This is not always a bad thing. In fact, this is unavoidable and welcome and normal, unless you are a zombie.
- If you are a zombie, find another zombie and go make out like only zombies can — under the Washburn water tower.
- At least once a week go to the Peace Garden and Bird Sanctuary at Lake Harriet and listen to the quiet. Then go to the Rose Gardens and sit on Karl Mueller’s bench and listen to the birds and yourself.
- When it comes to true love, heed the wise words of Neko Case: “I don’t care if forever never comes, ‘cause I’m holding out for that teenage feeling.”
- Don’t just type “LOL.” Do it. Hardily. Often. Until energy drink spouts out of your nose like anti-freeze from a spent hose.
- When people ask you what you want to be when you grow up, tell them to get back to you after they’ve listened to the Ramones’ version of Tom Waits’ “I Don’t Wanna Grow Up.”
- When people try to convert you to their religion, tell them to get back to you after they’ve read Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning,” the collected works of Joseph Campbell, Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha,” the Sufi poets Rumi and Rilke, and the new bumpersticker you just came up with: THANKS BUT THE WHO ALREADY FORGAVE ME.
- Give your mom the occasional unbidden foot massage.
- Give your dad the occasional unbidden neck rub.
- Work hard, but realize that competition will only take you so far. Collaboration and cooperation is more fun, more productive, and more heart- and brain-expanding. Keep in mind the wise words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”
- And President Harry S. Truman: “It’s amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”
- And President Barack Obama: “Never stop adding to your body of work.”
- And [your words here].
My "Star Trek" Novel: Fuck-Ups of the Federation
The small, stoic face of Admiral Brush filled the viewscreen in the Captain's ready room. It was an unremarkable face except for its tendency never to crack a smile (it was once said of him that even Benzites had better senses of humor). Now his face looked more impenetrable than normal. Captain Harrison matched it with a deep frown of his own; the vein in the middle of his forehead began to bulge slightly with the effort.
"Admiral, we both known that Admiral Spock is on Romulus attempting to bridge the diplomatic gap between the Vulcans and Romulans. The message must have come from him."
The Captain leaned back in his chair as if to distance himself from this judgment. "How do you figure?"
"Numbers and letters scattered across a universe," the Admiral replied blandly. "Anything is possible."
"It's too great a coincidence. A Romulan scout ship destroyed. A dying Romulan's last words about the Borg." Captain Harrison ticked his reasons off on his fingertips. "The upheavals we are sensing from Romulan space. Now this. An old-fashioned Earth S.O.S. that contains the Starfleet service number of an Admiral we both know is on Romulus. It's too..."
"Yes! It is too coincidental. That's why it can't be a coincidence!"
"Captain. Calm your famous temper. This isn't Ligon II, after all."
"I know this isn't Ligon II, damnit!" The Captain slammed his fist down on his desk. "We're talking about the destruction of a species! We're talking about the possible destruction of our own species unless we act now!"
"We are acting now," Admiral Brush contended. "We are sending all available starships into that sector to monitor the situation. From there they will make a sound judgment based on the available facts."
Captain Harrison tugged his tunic down. "Good."
"But we still want you out of there and mapping Halkan space."
"But shouldn't we be here? To inform the others of the situation?"
Admiral Brush nodded calmly. "We have all that information. They have been informed."
Captain Harrison shook his head. "I don't--"
"Get your ship out of that sector, Captain! This is a direct order! It is no place for a bunch of..." His mouth curled in disgust, and with a dismissive wave ended the transmission.
Captain Harrison slumped into his desk chair in deep thought. After Mr. B and Ensign Rodgers entered his ready room, he relayed the conversation to them.
"What do you think it might be?" he asked his Number One in low tones. "Some kind of conspiracy?"
"Like what happened on Stardate 41775.5?" Mr. B wondered aloud. "The quill parasites?"
"An alien takeover of Starfleet? Is it possible? Despite the precautions that have been taken?"
"What about a Borg takeover?" Mr. B suggested. "The Admiral's actions would seem to favor the Borg more than anything."
The Captain nodded his head in thought. "It would explain his stoic demeanor. How he's had it in for me from Day One."
The conversation between the two was interrupted by a Klingon war cry.
"Glaajin heads!" Ensign Rodgers shouted. "Don't you know? Don't you get it? The Admiral doesn't want us investigating because The Brock is the dung-heap of the Federation! It is where they send their least trustworthy..." He shook his head in frustration. "Think about it! Captain, right before this assignment you had that run-in with Admiral Yamamoto. Commander, you've had a long history of...not seizing command. Me and my drunken battle with Commander Riker. Simon Tarses hiding his Romulan history. A Vulcan more interested in cool than logic. That idiotic Ridlian and his insufferable giggle. An aristocratic doctor who can never concentrate on what matters. Our entire crew is made up of the rejects of other crews! That's why we were sent here! That's why we're on the Brock! Because no one wants us. We don't fit in."
"The starship of misfit toys," Mr. B mused.
"The assumption is we'll bungle this. The assumption is we'll add more fuel to the fire. They realize this is such a delicate matter they want seasoned hands in charge."
"Like Captain Picard," Captain Harrison said, his eyes vacant.
"Like Captain Picard. He's had experience. He's been with the Borg before. They don't want us near this place. Because they don't' trust us. To them we're the fuck-ups of the Federation."
Captain Harrison stared off vacantly for several seconds. His insides felt like a star collapsing in on itself. The man who he imagined himself to be was not the man others saw him as; he was used to this, but the disparity between the two visions overwhelmed him now. It all made sense. How come he hadn't realized it before? He was not a rising Starfleet Captain in the mold of a James T. Kirk or Jean-Luc Picard. His position wasn't even as highly-esteemed as that of most Commanders or Lieutenants on other vessels. He had been shunted off. He had been forced onto a dirtier path. He would probably never rise above his current position because those in authority, those who controlled the strings of command, had never liked him, never had faith in him. For one horrific moment he saw himself as they saw him, as a skinny nobody from Nowhere, Arizona, and he shuddered inwardly.
Then with a galactic force of will he threw off these assumptions and reassumed the stance of who he knew himself to be. In the long run, their opinions didn't matter. In the long run all that mattered was what he did. He forced himself to look up at his First Officer.
"Mr. B," he began calmly.
Just then the Brock was rocked by a blast that threw the Captain backwards out of his chair, and tumbled Mr. B and Ensign Rodgers over the desk. The Captain executed a Vulcan barrel-roll and was on his feet and out onto the bridge in a matter of seconds, followed by the cursing Ensign Rodgers and the confused First Officer, holding onto his overly-large head. The whoops of the red-alert siren resounded around the bridge.
"Status!" the Captain shouted as he took the command chair from Lt. Mann.
"Attack from a Borg scout ship," Lt. Mann stated. "It decloaked at forty-five degrees portside and then cloaked again. Shields are up and at 72 percent capacity."
"Tachyon emissions!" the Captain shouted.
"Spraying tachyon emissions," Lt. Mann stated.
The ship was attacked again.
"Fire phasers at the origin of those blasts!" the Captain shouted.
The phasers fired harmlessly into space.
"Captain," Lt. Mann warned. "Those shots came from the middle of a heavy concentration of tachyon emissions."
"The emissions seem to be doing...nothing. They are not...indicating where the cloaked vessel might be."
"The Borg have adapted," Mr. B suggested as the Brock was rocked again. "They have figured out a way to hide themselves even from tachyon emissions."
"Photon torpedoes at point of origin," Captain Harrison shouted. "Now!"
"Firing," Lt. Mann stated.
"Nothing," Ensign Ciam said as he stared into the main viewscreen. A small giggle escaped his throat.
"Shields at fifty-one percent capacity," Lt. Mann warned.
Another blast; the crewmembers rocked in their seats.
"Forty-two percent," Lt. Mann stated.
"We can't just sit here," Ensign Ciam said.
"Ensign," the Captain commanded. "On my mark, spin the Brock around in a course similar to a gyroscope or a wobbling top. Lieutenant," the Captain leaned back towards Lt. Mann. "On the same mark shoot all phasers in a spray array. Let's see if we can't nick something."
"A desperate maneuver, Captain," Ensign Siler mentioned.
"Desperation is sometimes the mother of invention," the Captain replied.
The ship was rocked again. "Thirty-eight percent," Lt. Mann stated.
"The motherfucker of invention," Ensign Rodgers concurred.
"Ready?" the Captain asked. He brought his arm down. "Engage!"
Ten seconds into the plan a small explosion in space occurred to the aft side of the Brock.
"Focus all photon torpedoes onto those coordinates, Lieutenant!" the Captain shouted. "Fire! Now!"
A large explosion lit up the viewscreen and a cheer was beginning to erupt from the relieved crewmembers of the Brock when three Borg, impassively fierce and heavily armed, materialized at strategic points around the bridge. Lt. Mann kicked the legs out from one and punched it square in the face as it was falling forward. Ensign Rodgers jumped on the back of another and tore out its eyepiece and disconnected its wiring, shouting all the while. The third Borg fired at the Captain; Harrison leapt from his chair just as it was incinerated, seemed to cover the distance to the Borg in nanoseconds, and his punch was so quick and stealthy that it was only observable after the fact: the Captain in a Zaldan qir-lan stance and the Borg's head rolling around on the floor near the turbo-lift. Blood was splattered against the far wall. Seconds later the Borg's headless body collapsed to the ground, leaking.
"Jesus," Mr. B stated. "Remind me not to be around you when you're mad."
"Is everyone all right?" the Captain asked.
Lt. Mann shook his hand; his knuckles were scuffed and bleeding. "Never better.”
Rodgers kicked at the disconnected Borg at his feet. "Baktag!"
The Captain himself kicked at the remains of his incinerated chair and sat in the one reserved for the Betazoid. "Status?"
"Shields at thirty-four percent," Lt. Mann said.
"Minor damage to the forward hulls and Deck 12," Will Abelsaan said.
"And," Ensign Siler mentioned, "during the course of the battle we seem to have drifted into the Neutral Zone."
"Really?" the Captain said, unconcerned.
"A clear violation of the Treaty of Algeron," Mr. B mentioned.
"Just what you'd expect from a bunch of screw-ups like us," the Captain said, and glanced over at Ensign Rodgers, who smiled and shook his head. The Captain looked at his communications officer. "Lieutenant. Any word from any other federation starship?"
"Nothing, sir. The Enterprise is still a day away."
The Captain scratched the slight scruff on his pointy chin.
"What do you recommend, Captain?" Ensign Siler asked. "Returning to Federation space?"
The Captain stood up and sighed. "I'd like to. But unfortunately we can't. Our navigation system has been knocked out. We've lost impulse power. We're just drifting. So much space junk."
"That's not--" Ensign Siler began.
"Radio that message to Starfleet," Captain Harrison told Lt. Langley. "In the meantime," he said, staring at the viewscreen, "let's see what's going on out here."