Monthly Archives: July 2008

The Dark Knight, 5/5


Rated PG-13. Click here to view the trailer.

Holy crap. The Dark Knight, my friends, is one heckuva movie and although it’s not quite perfect (it’s a fuzz too long), it’s pretty freakin’ close. It’s not just a great comic book adaptation, this is a truly excellent movie.

The story is very complex and tight and from the opening bank robbery scene to the very last shot, director Christopher Nolan dares you to look away. A new super-villain has appeared in Gotham, and everyone including the cops and the mob, is running scared. Everyone except Bruce Wayne/Batman, which the Joker uses to his advantage. He continues his sadistic terror campaign throughout the city and pins most if not all the blame on “The Batman.” Harvey Dent, the new district attorney believes in Batman, and Bruce Wayne believes in Harvey, but they may or may not be able to pay the price that justice demands. Make no mistake, people are going to die in this movie, and no, the Joker isn’t one of them.

Nolan knows how to direct a movie and it feels very real. Everything, from the casting, to the music, to the special effects, to the script, to the title, to the theme of anarchy and self doubt, everything is spot on. Aaron Eckhart, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and Morgan Freeman hit the exact perfect notes with their roles, especially Eckhart as “Gotham’s White Knight,” District Attorney Harvey Dent. Gyllenhaal is adorable and feisty as his girlfriend while Caine makes me want to take out a loan and hire an English butler oh so much. Freeman’s Lucius Fox and especially Oldman’s Lt. Gordon and are simply joys to behold.

Of course, I’ve left out the two main stars: Christian Bale and the late Heath Ledger. I went into The Dark Knight knowing I’d enjoy the movie, but I was ready to point out its flaws and eagerly downplay the Heath Ledger hype as I once again preached the Gospel that is Tim Burton’s 1989 vastly underrated “original” movie. What can I say? I was wrong. Not only is The Dark Knight a (way) better movie than Batman, but Bale’s Caped Crusader could literally rip Michael Keaton’s version (also vastly underrated) limb from limb simply by glaring at him (I’d LOVE to see Adam West’s reaction) and Ledger’s Joker would make Jack Nicolson’s wet his pants. Bale is absolutely perfect (there’s that word again) as the darker, more philosophical Batman. Can he continue to cash the checks of justice, even if the people of Gotham must pay with their lives? At the very least, his determination is beginning to crack. As for Ledger’s Joker, well, I sincerely hope there is no one on this planet half as sadistic and hell-bent on anarchy as he. Every detail about him – his hair, his makeup, his scars, his voice, his mannerisms, his stride – screams criminally insane. He’s in charge of the movie and the movie’s plot from the word Go. As Caine’s Alfred tells Bruce Wayne, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

Subconsciously, we’re drawn to the Joker because of Ledger’s death a few months ago, but to lay the character’s appeal on that alone is to deride Ledger’s genius portrayal. Truly, this is a new criminal for the ages. There really isn’t anything more that can be said about it.

The Dark Knight is very, well, dark. And intense. This not a PG-13 movie your 8-year-old should be seeing, unless he (or she) particularly enjoys sociopaths shoving pencils through mobsters skulls. There are some very adult (not bow-chicka-bow-wow adult, just, “grown up adult”) themes as we watch Batman transform into a dark knight, not to mention some very graphic and painful-looking injuries.

In my review of Iron Man I mentioned that I’d love to see Favreau and Downey take on every super-hero franchise. While that high praise was and is certainly true, the same could be said for Nolan and whoever wrote The Dark Knight (I’m too lazy to look it up). They are two sides of the comic book coin: one smart alek, fun and clever, the other dark, scary and philosophical. I hesitate to say which I prefer, because they are so obviously the yin and yang of modern action/comic book movies. But, like a flip of Harvey Dent’s two-headed coin, you really can’t lose with either.

Pardon my French

Yeah, it’s in poor taste, but at least it’s not as cliched as “Arm, Leg, Firstborn.”

Pardon my French, but WHAT THE #$^%?????

Even as gas prices tick north of $4 a gallon, what do the geniuses in Washington do? They propose raising the federal gas tax from 18.4 cents a gallon to 24.3. That’s right. I’m having to budget four months ahead so I know I have the $$ to drive back home after Thanksgiving, and those brain-dead morons think the “solution” is to have me pay another dime per gallon straight into the federal coffers. It’s little wonder their approval rating is only 14 percent (President Bush’s approval rating, interestingly, is 29 percent.) This just proves that neither party has a monopoly on stupid.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the Interstate Highway System and I thoroughly enjoy safe airports and flashing lights and barriers at rail road crossings. But, they were doing fine with that 18.4… what makes them think that now is the right time to increase their allowance? Considering that American’s will most likely drive less as taxes and the price per gallon rises (I know I’ve cut back and changed my driving habits), it’s conceivable that upkeep won’t even be necessary!

I don’t know how much more the American People will take, but I do know this: We got so pissed off at taxes on our tea we started a freakin’ war and became a super power. I don’t want to see what we’d do over gasoline., but if anyone wants to start throwing OPEC execs overboard, send me a memo.

Why can’t we all shut up and agree to drill here, drill now (and pay less)?

In the words of The Great Philosopher, AAUGH!

Aren’t sports great?

Winner of the 2008 Espy for Best Moment in Sports 2008. They might as well call it the Best Tear Jerker of the Year.
Some other winners:
Best Male Athlete: Tiger Woods
Best Female Athlete: Candace Parker (Tennessee Basketball)
Best Team: Boston Celtics
Best Coach-Manager: Pat Summitt (Tennessee Women’s Basketball)
Best Game: Giants win over Pats in Super Bowl (Amen!)
Best Championship Performance: Tiger Woods
Best Play: Eli Manning to David Tyree (See Best Game)
Best Finish: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers defeat Drake, NCAA 1st Round.
Best Upset:L Giants defeat Pats
Best Breakthrough Athlete: Adrian Peterson (Boomer Sooner!)
Best Record Breaking Performance: Bret Favre
Best Sports Movie: Semi-Pro (Bleh)

Oh, really?

The “scientific” consesus that man is causing the world’s temperature to rise (which would cause the polar ice caps to melt which would cause the oceans to rise which would drown the poor polar bears) is becoming less and less of a consensus…

Suck on it, Al Gore. Suck.On.It.

If I were an Anthropologist

I found another one of my “speculatory” essays from back in the day. There’s no need to thank me.

If I Were an Anthropologist
A Speculatory* Essay

If I were an anthropologist, I’d be a great anthropologist; a generalist to a T. I’d probably be colorblind. But this would not be a handicap, no no. It would be an aid. Because of that, I would not see the color of a different peoples’ skin. No, I would see them for the great and independent culture and society they truly are. Isn’t that beautiful? Of course, I wouldn’t be able to tell a green light from a red light. That would suck. Because of that, I would have a lackluster driving record. I’d be a little sensitive about that so I’d appreciate if you didn’t bring that up again, thank you very much.

I would be a cultural anthropologist, which means that I would look at and study peoples’ different ways of life, cultures, systems of meaning, blah blah blah. It’d be boring to a lot of people (including me) but there it is.

I would lead a failed coup within the Society for Visual Anthropology (which it’s self is a subset of AAA (American Anthropological Association, not the American Automobile Association)). My one-eyed co-rebel Mustafa. I would suggest changing the society’s bylaws to include only black-and-white images, and only those that do not require depth perception. Because he can’t judge distances very well, Mustafa also has a spotty driving record. We would both be kicked out the SVA and would have to live out the remainder of our lives as members of the AAA only. Mustafa would die two days later in a tragic auto accident. He was trying to change a tire on the side of the road when a drunk driver ran over him. It’s too bad he didn’t call AAA (this time the car club people).

This tragic yet amusingly ironic event would cause me to found my own subset of the AAA (the anthropology one again), the “Society for the Study of Intra-Cultural Irony” or SftSoI-CI for short. Among my anthropological findings would be that the Dwaangaawaataas of southern Sri Lanka have the most advanced and complex understanding of irony of any culture in the world. The British come in a close second. The dirty French come in dead last but, true to my anthropological nature, I’m not judging them. Just reporting the facts.

I would secretly have a anthropological crush on a fellow anthropologist. (and here I mean fellow as in “comrade or associate,” not “man”). I would ask to proofread her thesis before she presented it in the hopes that I could spend a little more time with her. She would say yes. She would be very pretty. Her name would be Jo, just like that chick who cut her hair in Alcot’s Little Women. I’m not sure what color her hair is but it would be quite shiny and would smell like roasted almonds (shout out to Judy Blume!). Before letting me start proofreading her thesis she would invite me over for Thai food. I really dislike Thai food (it makes me gassy) but we anthropologists are supposed to embrace all cultures so I would grin and bear it. I would hate for her to think my tastebuds were ethnocentric.

Her thesis would be flawless (except for a split infinitive on page 121), but it would also destroy any hopes I had about a co-anthropological relationship. Here is a brief excerpt:
Although phonetic naming of colors is random and the number of categories varies from culture to culture and even among members of the same culture (I may use one word, red, where my neighbor the painter recognizes crimson, vermilion, garnet and others), there is remarkable universal agreement about the best examples of colors. As it happens, we have one of the clearest culture-neutral systems to describe color: the objective physical measure of wavelength. There is a strong cross-cultural agreement regarding which color samples are the “best” blue, the “most” red, etc.

[Sigh.] I don’t really blame her. How could she know? I would leave her apartment crying. Crying my gray tears, smearing my view of the gray sky, the gray clouds, the gray trees, the gray grass and the gray stoplight. I would begin to cross the gray street, not noticing the red (gray) light. The last thing I remember hearing would the gray screech of brakes and the gray honk of horns.

As I would float gently up to Anthropology Heaven, I would relish the irony as I remembered the word emblazoned on the bus’ grill before I was run over: “Greyhound.” As I pass through the pearly gates, St. Peter, smirking, would inform me that the bus driver’s name was Sri-Lankan immigre named Grayson. If only the SftSoI-CI could see me now.

* Like before, I’m very much aware that “speculatory” isn’t a word.

Rollin’ (Rollin’) Rollin’ (Rollin’) Rollin’ on the River

Instead of the normal, mind-numbing, ho-hummery that is the quarterly executive board meeting, my co-workers and I trekked up to Hannibal-LaGrange College for the two-day meeting with our executive board. We capped it off with a dinner cruise on the M-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-crooked letter-crooked letter-I-humpback-humpback-I River.

Sure it was hokey and yes, the dinner buffet was school cafeteria-grade at best, but it still made for a surprisingly fun way to kill three hours.

The boat was, of course, christened the Mark Twain and despite the significant cheese factor, I began to get in the mood and enjoy the spirit of Mr. Twain. (The reader is no doubt aware that “Mark Twain” was merely a pseudonym for Samuel Langhorne Clemens. His nom de plume comes from the river boat practice of marking twain, which is measuring to ensure that the river is at least 12 (twain) feet deep and thus safe for the steam boat to navigate. It sounds like a normal enough name today, but to his contemporaries, I imagine it sounded odd.)

I’ve always liked Marky Mark Twain. I remember reading the dumbed-down Great Illustrated Classics (I owned and LOVED the entire series) versions of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. In high school, I marveled at how some people could possibly be dumb enough to ban Huck Finn from school/public libraries. Twain is the father and patron saint of American humor (which is built on sarcasm, as opposed British humor which is based on puns and cross dressing) and was the inspiration for Foghorn Leghorn. He was a hip guy, and I bet he’d get a kick out of Tina Turner’s version of Proud Mary.

Then there’s the famous quote, “the report of my death was an exaggeration” (more colorful versions of this quote are even greater exaggerations). A few weeks ago, when Hannibal was battling record floods, CNN and other national news outlets erroneously reported that all of Hannibal, Twain’s hometown were under water. The clever editor of the Hannibal Courier-Post came up with this banner headline on the paper’s website: “The reports of our being under water are an exaggeration.”

Our riverboat was moored at a dock within sight of his boyhood home and whitewashed picket fence, the very one that inspired a rascally Tom Sawyer to conscript his friends into service. Less than a mile upstream is a small island that was the setting for several of Tom and Huck’s shenanigans. Outside of town is Injun Joe’s Go-Karts and Mini-Golf, but I’m not sure of their historical authenticity or literary significance.

The day was warm and it was pleasantly quiet on the boat, even with all the people on board. High up on the third deck, sitting just in front of the wheel house, all you could hear was the lapping of the waves, the gentle hum of the motor and the dulcet tones of the harmonica banjo courtesy of the evening’s live entertainer. His set list included such Mississippi River “classics” as Your Cheatin’ Heart, The Theme from The Beverly Hillbillies and various show tunes.Mamma Mia’s Dancing Queen not withstanding, I can see why Huck Finn and Jim answered the call of Old Man River. Although the engine was at full throttle and we were headed down stream, the River seemed slow, lazy and still. For the first time in my life, I wanted nothing more than a fishing line and a corncob pipe. That, or bust out the playing cards and start playing Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster for a million bucks.

It’s been a long time since I read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or The Adventures of Huck Finn, but I know there’s an ever so appropriate Twain quote to describe this transient yet mostly sincere connection to the river. Surely a word smith such as he, a product of the Mississippi and a veteran steamboat pilot could express what I and my mild efforts cannot.

I get back home and Google “Twain quotes” for the perfect summation of the Mighty Mississippi and her vital essece. Here’s the best I could come up with:

It is good for steam boating, and good to drink; but it is worthless for all other purposes, except baptizing.

Leave it to Mark Twain to give a posthumous (probably sarcastic, he despised organized religion) shout out to a boat full of Baptists.

Big wheel, keep on turnin’!

(Note: The photos are in no particular order)

An island in the middle of the river. Or stream.


Mark Twain’s statue, gazing out over the waters.

Looks a wee bit stern.


A fake steam exhaust pipe thing.

I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved those colorful gumballs on power lines.


Again.

River and bluff at sunset.


Apparently the flat “platform” is Lovers’ Leap.

Cool light.

Looking up toward the third deck.


Ding dong.


Flag in sun…


Flag at sunset.


Part of the staff and exec board/bored.


The river is on fire!

Downtown Hannibal.


A barge tug pushing freight down stream.


Just in case.


Neato bridge.


The Mark Twain.

Back on land


That’s a big wheel.


Fake paddle wheel.


I’m mildly concerned that there’s an adolescent girl at the wheel…


I have no idea.

He sure did like his show tunes.

And now some short vids:

Memo to Hardee’s Employee


Date: July 15
To: Hardee’s employee
From: BK
Re: Your “joke” in the drive through

In the interest of safeguarding and preserving American humor, I feel it is my civic duty to respond to your misguided attempt at humor this afternoon. In case you’ve forgotten, I’ve recounted it below:

You: … and here’s your receipt.
Me: May I have some extra packets of ketchup, please?
You: That’ll be $2 extra! Ha! I’m just joking. Here ya go, buddy
Me: …

In case my death stare wasn’t enough, I’ll put it to you a different way: Shut up. Just… shut up. And don’t ever try to be funny again. You might hurt yourself.