Wednesday, August 30, 2006

2-Ply Quilted Vengeance

Yet another story from my childhood. Enjoy!

Waaaay back when I was in 7th grade, my best friend lived in a fairly rural part of Riverside County. Unfortunately, so did a bunch of girls from our class. Now, one might think that having cute girls living nearby would be a plus in the eyes of two adolescent boys. One would be wrong, for these girls were of the annoying, pesky variety. And when annoying, pesky girls get together, trouble cannot be far behind. This was proven to be true when my friend came to school one day & told me that his parents had been TP'd by this same group of annoying, pesky girls. And, boy, did they do a number on his house.

The next time I stayed at his house, his parents charged us with the task of reaping vengeance against one of the offenders houses. Yes, we were actually encouraged to vandalize someone's home. A dream come true, yes?

Well, yes & no.

We were given black hooded sweatshirts to blend in with the night & armed with many rolls of quilted comeuppance. Knowing that the honor of the family was on the line, we hopped the back fence with a sense of pride, avenging my friend's father & the humiliation that had been wrought upon his castle &, probably more importantly, his new Mustang.

Our target was about a quarter mile away up one of the many hilly streets in the area. Excitement & adrenaline made our hearts pound with anticipation (or maybe it was just, in my case, my heart ready to explode from having ran up the hill to the girls house). We each pulled out a 2-ply, 400 sheet count grenade & cocked our arms back, ready to rain down angel soft retaliation on the offender's home.

We got exactly one roll tossed halfway into a tree when we noticed headlights making their way up the street. Panicking, we rounded up the toilet paper & hid next to a dividing wall, on the neighbor's side, which was, to our benefit, covered with iceplant.

Then things started turning against us. For you see, the headlights belonged not to the girl's parent's car, nor even to someone further up the street. No, the car that the headlights were eminating from belonged to their neighbor - the one whose iceplant we were cowering in. They pulled in to their driveway & opened the garagedoor, which flooded the previously dark yard in bright light. In addition to lighting up the whole area, the opening of the garage also released their dog.

Their big dog.

My friend & I froze, daring not even to breathe, for fear that the dog would smell the fear on our breath. To make things even worse, the people started to remove groceries from the car - outside the garage instead of pulling in. And they must've not been shopping for months, as it took what seemed like forever for them to unload the car. Many, many times we thougt the dog noticed us & were ready to run as far & as fast as we could before a) our hearts shot out of our chests or b) the dog took us down & ate us.

Just when I was sure the the pounding of my heart was going to alert the dog to our presence, the people pulled the car into to garage, called in Fido & closed the door. We stayed in the iceplant until the outside light went off & we were certain that the dog & the people, probably armed with a 12-guage, weren't coming back out. Finally summoning up the courage, we quietly climbed out back over the wall, readied another volley of flower printed vidictiveness. It was at this time that we heard a door open & someone pop out, calling for their cat.

That was it. The mission was aborted & we ran back to base, tails between our legs, having failed to restore the honor of my friend's family name.

As we were running, another car passed us going the opposite way. We stopped long enough to see the car park in front of the girl's house & her parents get out to inspect the whole one roll of toilet paper strung halfway up the tree.

Yeah. We showed 'em.

Morning Conversation

Her: I had the weirdest dream last night with you in it.

Me: Really? What about? Was I fighting aliens with a big gun?

Her: Um, no. I was being punished.

Me: Uh, OK...great. What were you being punished for?

Her: I'd gotten my third citation for speeding & had to wear some kind of piece of metal in my mouth.

Me: For speeding? It must've been a dream. I mean, I could see you getting a third citation for driving too slow, but...

Me: Rubbing my arm after being slugged three times

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Coolest Kid On The Block

Growing up, I was the oldest kid on the block. And one of the biggest. I was also an incredibly slow runner, which the smaller kids exploited by mouthing off to me while just out of arm's reach. What they never caught on to was that I was also one of the most patient kids with the longest memory for betrayal & would wait until they forgot about their treasonous act of defiance & would then pummel them into submission. It was an effective brand of street justice that worked quite well in my favor.

One thing that was also pretty well known was the fact that I couldn't ride a skateboard if my life depended on it (unfortunately, The Boy seems to have inherited this quality from me). But, as bad & uncoordinated as I was on a board, I was a master of the bike. I'd race anything & anyone. I'd take corners so hard that I'd nearly lay the bike down, just to zip past an opponent. I was the master of two wheels.

My friends, however, were all skaters. I don't know if it was economics or that they just preferred four wheels to two, but few of my friends rode (or even owned) bikes. This worked to their benefit, though, as they always had me around to give them a boost when jumping a ramp.

One day, my friends had constructed a crude launch ramp made of a cinderblock, a very thin piece of plywood & the curb. Having had their fill of being towed & sent flying off the ramp, they challenged me to try jumping on my bike. I was only too happy to oblige.

I was a very stupid child.

The street we were on sloped downward just enough to add some speed to my approach. I took aim & hit the ramp, probably doing a good 20+ miles an hour when I made contact. To my surprise, the ramp did not snap in two, as I had feared. In fact, the whole set-up held together beautifully. There was a slight flaw in the planning of the jump, though. You see, my friends on their boards hit the ramp at about two to five MPH, went about three feet in the air & landed about five feet from the base of the ramp. I, on the other hand, hit the ramp at the aforementioned 20+ MPH & launched about five feet in the air - right into the branches of a mulberry tree. This, unfortunately, was not the worst part of my jump. No, that would be when, as everything moved in slow motion, I heard one of my friends say "Heee's gonna hiiiit the waaaaall!!!"

Yes, just past the tree was a block wall.

As I made my way, waist-deep, through the branches, I spent what seemed like an eternity trying to figure out what to do when I hit the ground. Do I try to bail? Do I try to turn as soon as I make contact with the earth? No. What I opted to do was to hang on for dear life.

My tires hit the ground, leaving 1 1/2 inch deep impressions in the dirt. I somehow managed to land with both tires hitting around the same time & squeezed my brakes for all they were worth (I had a free-wheel dirtbike). When I did that, the front wheel caught somehow & twisted, catching my shirt with the handlebars. This caused me to endo toward the wall. I closed my eyes, waiting for the excruciating combining of the molecules of my face to become one with the wall.

When I opened my eyes, the tip of my nose was about a quarter inch from the wall.

That jump was spoken of in reverent tones for years to come, thus cementing my status as the Coolest Kid on the Block.

The Secret's Out...

A week or so ago, one T's friends called to ask a question. Specifically, a Star Wars question. Which, of course, I was able to answer without even consciously thinking about it.

If you're a geek & you know it, clap your hands!


Monday, August 21, 2006

Pimp My Bedding

Friday night, T & I were out shopping & stopped at the local Ross to see what was there. For those of you who don't know, Ross is one of those stores that sells things that other stores won't sell, like shirts with irregular sizing or poor quality stitching or shoes that are megahideous looking or CD's full of 80's dance hits sung by "The Stars of Studio 99" (I'm not kidding; the things are so cheap that they can't even acquire the rights to the original B-side singles from such illustrous stars of the 80's as Men Without Hats or Sigue Sigue Sputnik). They also carry a plethora of hot sauces of suspicious origin (yes, I did buy some). Basically, it's the clothing & crap store equivalent of the Island of Misfit Toys from the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas show (poor Charlie-in-the-Box). I'm not saying that you can't find a few treasures there, but it's very much a 'buyer beware' kinda place.

We wandered around, as we are wont to do there, & ended up in the bed & bath section. T has for some time now wanted to get a new bedding set for our room & had found a few contenders amongst the various bright pink & leopard print sets there. She found one that was sort of a goldish-greenish looking color along with some new curtains & some accent pillows (which she decided she didn't want). I pointed out a lighter colored one & even one that was more of a quilt than a comforter. Being a good husband, though (& having absolutely no style sense whatsoever), I was ready to relent & let her get the one she liked. Her, being a good wife (& despite knowing that I have absolutely no style sense whatsoever), picked out the lighter colored one that I liked.

The next day, we put the comforter on the bed & found out why we found this at Ross: while the packaging said that it was a queen-sized comforter, the actual product was made more for a full-sized bed. So, we stuffed it back into its packaging, with the intention of taking it back the following day & getting T's choice.

Sunday came & we took the ill-fitting comforter back. T found the one that she wanted & also decided to get the accent pillows that she didn't want to get on Friday night. I dropped her off at home & went off to run a couple errands.

About an hour later, I came home. I expected to either find T in the room, arranging the new curtains & deciding way the pillows looked best on the bed, or to find the whole deal sitting by the door, ready to be returned to the store.

Much to my surprise, there it was, sitting by the door.

When I asked T what was wrong with it, she told me that when she put it on the bed, the first thing that ran through her head was wakka-chika, wakka-chika, as the material, in huge quantities, had a very shimmery, shiny, 70's vintage p0rn quality to it. She said she even tried walking out of the room & coming back in, but again, all she heard was wakka-chika, wakka-chika. I dubbed it the 'pimp comforter'. The curtains had the same shiny look to them, as well. Apparently, we'd bought the Hugh Hefner Collection bedroom set (velvet smoking jacket sold separately).

So, for the second time in about five hours, we trapsed back up to Ross to return the pimp comforter & its pimpin' accessories. T made took one last fruitless look at the bed & bath section, hoping that the right set would appear.

Alas, we left Ross emptyhanded.

wakka-chika, wakka-chika

MiniReview: Snakes On A Plane

Snakes on a Plane is quite possibly the best movie ever to tackle the subject of snakes on a plane.

Without giving too much away, the movie is basically about snakes. On a plane. Really!

OK, OK...seriously, the movie delivered. Even with all of the internet hype surrounding the movie, I wasn't disappointed in the least. I went in expecting not some deep, thought provoking essay on the struggle between man, serpent & the mastery of the skies, but instead, an entertaining, cheesy movie. And really, isn't that all we really want from a movie? If I want to relive the horror of 9/11, all I have to do is close my eyes & remember. I don't need Nicholas Cage there to tell me the story. If I want to watch an old TV show, I'll catch it on TV Land or Nick At Night. I don't need someones 'reimagining' of what was, in the case of most shows, a silly or threadbare premise to begin with. All I wanted was to see Samuel L. Jackson be his own bad self & shoot some snakes. Oh, yeah, & to hear him utter the line.

Mission accomplished!

Now, mind you, this probably won't be making its way into my DVD collection. While it was a fun movie, it's not (for me at least) something that I'd watch over & over again. It was one of the 'event' movies of the summer, nothing more. I'd go see it again in the theatre maybe once, but then that'd be it. While I expected profanity (it's Samuel L. Jackson, c'mon), the carpet F-bombing in the movie gets a little old after awhile (hey, Hollywood - is there a chance we could retire that word for awhile? It's kind of lost its sting). The violence was pretty gruesome (although I suspect not nearly as bad as, say, Saw or Hostel or others of their ilk) & if you have a phobia about snakes, well, why on earth would you want to see this in the first place? If you didn't have one before seeing the movie, though, you might afterward.

The premise of the story is OK. The whole snake element requires not just a suspension of disbelief, but a complete expulsion of it, as the actions of the titular reptiles are so completely over the top. Sometimes that was a bit of a distraction. More than a few times, I found myself thinking "That's not right" or "That wouldn't work that way," only to end up reminding myself that, oh yeah, this was a movie about snakes on a plane, & promptly shutting off the logic center of my brain. The movie never treated the audience like they were idiots, though. Even with the most unbelievable situation happening on the screen before me, I never felt like the makers of the movie were saying "The audience is too stupid to know that this or that isn't possible." It felt more like they wanted us in on the whole absurdity of it all. Like they were telling us an incredibly ridiculous story & then saying "Wasn't that so cool?!".

So, for all of the critics out there complaining about the movie being overhyped & disappointing, all I can say is quit taking things so seriously. For once, a movie comes out that is totally without pomposity. It doesn't take itself seriously. It doesn't insult your intelligence by attempting to be something that it's not.

My advice, for those of you planning on seeing it, is to let the goofiness of the movie simply wash over you. Don't try to overthink it. Don't think much about it at all.

And you'll probably want to keep your feet off the floor, too.

3.5 Flicking Forked Tongues out of 5

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The One Where He Reviews Movies That Everyone's Already Seen

So far this summer, I've caught four movies, which is actually quite the feat for me. Usually, I'm content with just waiting for the movie to come out on DVD. This year, though, there were a few that I really wanted to see on the big screen.

First up, X3. Now, due to my purist leanings, I wasn't a big fan of the first X-Men movie. It wasn't a bad movie, per se, but, why go & mess with an already established franchise? Why change everything around? There's more than enough material to make movies for the next several hundred years. When X2 came around, I tried to watch it without my purist bent &, much to my surprise, it was a pretty good movie (my favorite of the series thus far). So, I walked into X3 with the same attitude that I had for the previous movie, which served me well yet again.

A big complaint that I read about in the reviews for the movie was that it was heavy on the action & light on the story. Well, duh! It's a movie about friggin' super-powered humans! If I want plot & substance, I'll go watch PBS. The movie delivers on the action & fighting, perfect for killing a couple hours in the Palm Springs heat.

If you haven't seen it yet & get the chance to (it still might be playing in a few theatres), be sure to stay after the credits.

Next up, Superman Returns. Oh. My. Word. An awesome, awesome, awesome movie! I don't know why all of the entertainment rags are saying it was a disappointment. So it didn't rack up stellar numbers at the box office. Big deal! It was a perfect return to the silver screen for the Man of Steel. This was what Superman III should've been.

The characters were spot on, not really trying to mimic the original cast, but rather continuing one where Reeve & Co. left off in Superman II. Brandon Routh looked & sounded very eerily like Christoper Reeve, but I don't think it was intentional. I think both actors played Clark Kent/Superman the way he was supposed to be played: mild mannered; humble; an all-around good guy. The fact that they look & sound a lot like each other is just a bonus (& let me tell you, I'm so glad Nicholas Cage didn't get the part). Kevin Spacey played Lex Luthor with just enough of the humor from Gene Hackman's portrayal without a) copying Hackman & b) making Luthor a complete buffoon. Plus, he made him scary evil. Not 'scary evil' in a Freddie/Jason way. 'Scary evil' in almost a Hannibal Lechter way (without the liver & fava beans tilt): calm (mostly), calculating & willing to drown most of the planet for a little prime real estate.

The story was excellent. I found myself really feeling bad for Supes, coming back to a planet (& one person in particular) that had largely moved on without him. I was never a big fan of Superman in my comic collecting days, but this flick had me gobbling up all things Superman for a few days after. The special effects (with one exception - watch the boats on the river near the end of the movie) were great, with my favorite being the detail of the physics of trying to stop a plane from crashing.

I'm pretty sure that there will be a sequel. I hope that it's every bit as fun (if not moreso) as this one was.

A couple of weeks after Superman, we saw Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Yet another one where I don't understand why there's been so many disparaging reviews of the movie (Entertainment Weekly blasted it with a D+ - in the same issue that prominently displayed the cast & featured a story about the movie inside). I'd heard people gripe that the movie was just a set-up for the final movie.

Well, duh! I've got four words for you, Scooter - The Empire Strikes Back. I mean, the first movie (much like Star Wars, I believe) was meant to be a stand alone movie. Disney didn't know if it'd be any good (after the fiascos that were Country Bears & Haunted Mansion, I could understand their apprehension). Then, it took off & the sequels were given the greenlight & then written. So, of course the second movie's going to be a build-up to the third.

Another complaint (& a valid one) is that this installment was much darker. Again, I point to Empire. That's the way a story arcing over three movies is supposed to work. When the trilogy, or series period, is just a series of stories (like the Raiders trilogy or, more recently, the Spider-Man & X-Men movies), they're all separate, individual entries in the canon, connected by history, references to the previous flick & returning characters. Sometimes, like in the Raiders series, they don't even go in sequential order (Temple of Doom, the second in the series, is actually a prequel to the first movie & Last Crusade is the actual sequel, chronologically - kind of a more condensed Star Wars history).

Anyway, back to the movie at hand. Yes, Pirates was darker & yes, it builds up to the third movie. It still was very entertaining. Johnny Depp continues to impress me with the range of the characters he plays. From the wide-eyed innocence of Edward Scissorhands to the legend-in-his-own-mind cocky swagger of Captain Jack Sparrow, it's never felt like I'm watching 'Johnny Depp' playing a person; it's always felt like every person is different, unlike watching Tom Cruise or Jack Nicholson. Orlando Bloom, on the other hand, while not bad, just kind of seems to play the same note as in other films I've seen him in. Perhaps it's because most of the things I've seen him in involve swords & action scenes. I dunno. T liked him though, so, mission accomplished, I guess. Then there's Kiera Knightly - *sigh*.

Uh, sorry. I was daydreaming a bit there. Where was I? Um, yes, well, my only complaint was that the sound was kind of muddy (which may be due to the sound system in the theatre) & I kept finding myself reaching for the remote to turn on the subtitles. All in all, though, the movie was great & I'm looking forward to the next movie.

So take that, naysayers.

And finally, there's Monster House. (Hey, when you have a kid, you make these kind of sacrifices for them) When I first saw the previews for this, I wasn't really too impressed. Visually, it was quite appealing, but, then, so was Robots. And we all know what I thought about that one. (What? You don't know what I thought of it? Click here then.) The trailers showed a few amusing bits, but I didn't think it'd do much beyond that.

Boy, was I wrong!

Not only are the visuals stunning, the story (for those of you living under a rock, it's basically about a people-eating house) was very engaging (even though I did figure out part of the story early on) & it's just plain fun. There were a few parts that didn't make sense, but I won't go into those for fear of spoiling the movie. The kids sound like kids, in their speech & cadence, not like adults trying to sound like kids.

In some ways, the movie reminded me of The Nightmare Before Christmas, & I really think that it could've benefited from a pre-Halloween release, personally. I think, much like Nightmare, it could become a great addition to the movies that I love to watch around that time of year. I eagerly await its release on DVD.

So, there you have it. My two cents about a few of the flicks to grace the silver screen this past long, hot summer.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Were Went The Weekend?

Wow, for a weekend as packed as this past one was, it sure went by quick.

It was kicked off on Friday with a rousing game of bunko with a few other couples from church. While we did have a lot of fun, I had to wonder who it was who sat & thought up all of the intricate rules &, especially, thought up the name. Bunko? For a game played with dice? Um, OK...

Anyway, we met a few more people from church & a good time was had by all, particularly the sitter for the kids. Being the first time that we'd ever employed a sitter, we overpaid her by quite a bit. I don't think we'll have any trouble recruiting her for her services again.

Saturday was started off (by T, at least) with a trip to a local second hand store where she came back with not only a gob of nice clothes, but also found what turned out to be a fairly valuable dish from around 1911. Score!

Later, we met up with my mom & headed to a (somewhat) new resturant down in SB called BJ's Brewhouse. Maybe it was due to the fact that since we've started this, 'lifestyle change' my cheeseburger intake has dropped dramatically, but I had one of the best sourdough cheeseburgers that I've had in a loooong time: cheddar cheese, smoked bacon, cooked (or, as some would say, undercooked) to my specifications - mmm-mmmm! The prices were comparable to Apple Bee's. The noise was a little much at first & then toned down as the crowd thinned out. Monitors are mounted all over the place with different sports channels playing. And, for those who inbibe, they have a long list of different house brews. We will definitely be hitting BJ's again.

Sunday rolled around (again, much faster than I had hoped/wanted), starting off with church & then off to Anaheim later to go to the Harvest Crusade 2006. This year's acts (for Sunday, at least) were MercyMe & Newsboys. Both seriously rocked! While I really like MercyMe, I didn't realize just how many of their songs I'd heard on the radio. I'll most certainly be hunting their discs down. The Newsboys have been around forever. When I first started listening to Christian rock, I wasn't too big of a fan of theirs. Too (to paraphrase T) Euro-poppy for my taste. Over the past few years, though, they've grown on me. They put on a great show. A lot of energy & audience participation. The lead singer, Peter Furler, looks a bit scary at times. He's quite intense, with his bald head, black lined eyes & strained looking singing style, so much so that I thought a few times that his carotid was going to burst from his neck.

Exploding arteries aside, it was a great show, followed by a good sermon from Pastor Greg Laurie (I've heard other messages from him & he tends to focus a bit on the End Times. While it's a good thing to teach about from time to time, to get people to think, I don't think scaring people into a relationship with Christ is always the best approach. Then again, neither is burying one's head in the sand when the subject is broached, so...) &, as is done every year, an altar call for people to accept Christ. It's an awesome sight to see three or four thousand people gather in the outfield of Angel's Stadium to make that commitment. If you ever have the chance to go I highly recommend attending. (In addition to the one in Anaheim, they conduct several others in across the States & in other countries.) A great time is to be had!

And now it's back to the grind. *sigh*

Monday, August 07, 2006

Happy B-Day, Beautiful!

Since it's been awhile since I've written anything (no, really?), I figured what better way to end the drought than by wishing my beautiful, beloved wife a happy birthday? So, here it is.

Happy birthday, Beautiful!

One more year along on our journey to growing old together...

I love you with all of my heart.


No, not me finally posting. Instead it looks like one of my wildest dreams has finally come true: German scientist testing an "anti-stupidity" pill.