June 5 – 9, 2015

Friday night we struggled with our Amazon Instant Video watchlist for the standard amount of time, and then wound up watching Kick-Ass, which we had never seen. It was OK. For reasons that I cannot begin to explain, we’d narrowed it down to that or the first Pitch Perfect

Hey, tiny Chloë Grace Moretz cussing like a sailor is a funny joke. As a movie it kind of struggles & ultimately limps across the finish line, but all of Nick Cage’s & CGM’s scenes, together or separate, are golden.

Saturday afternoon we went to the Carolina & saw Love & Mercy, which was utterly brilliant. It’s a somewhat unconventional biography of Brian Wilson – unconventional in that Brian in his 20s is played by Paul Dano, but Brian in his 40s/50s is played by John Cusack. Unconventional in that it essentially unapologetically skips the 70s and most of the 80s, and leaps back & forth in time a lot.

It’s not straight biography by any means – it essentially stops shortly after “Good Vibrations” and doesn’t pick up again until Brian meets Melinda Ledbetter sometime in the late 80s. But it does a remarkable job of capturing the chaos that Brian’s mental state was apparently in during the period of his great musical breakthroughs of the mid-60s, and the utterly oppressive nature of his relationship with Gene Landy in the late 80s.

And the extensive set pieces involving the writing & recording of Pet Sounds are just amazing. They went out of their way to cast the Wrecking Crew at least semi-accurately, and called out many of them by name, although Carol Kaye only gets one line, and Hal Blaine a few more. 

In fact, you’ll want to see the Wrecking Crew documentary, either before or after you see Love & Mercy. 

Having Paul Dano play young Brian, and John Cusack play old Brian, is obviously a huge gimmick – and yet it works, remarkably well. Paul is the spitting image of young Brian, and while it takes a little longer to get used to John Cusack, what you come to realize is that Cusack has completely nailed older Brian’s vocal tics & weird mannerisms. This might only make sense if you’ve seen a reasonable amount of interview & performance footage of Brian from the 90s onward, I guess.

Anyway. Well worth a trip to the theatre, if you care at all about music.

Saturday night we went on a canoeing excursion on Jordan Lake with Frog Hollow Outdoors, one of the Paddle Under the Stars trips they do with the Morehead Planetarium. It was lovely – few clouds, perfect temperature. Not too many speedboats blaring metalcore nearby.

We drove up to the boat ramp & parked & got out & discovered that the Morehead Planetarium education coordinator who was leading the trip was a woman I went to college with, at Rice University in Houston. She & I have actually run into each other off & on around town for years, but I never knew she was an astronomer, or astronomy educator, or whatever her title actually is.

I think she & I are the only members of our college class currently in the Triangle. There are more of my high school friends here – but then I went to high school just ~300 miles away from here, not ~1200.

Monday night we went to a Bulls game. It was nearly perfect – the stands were only maybe 1/3 full, so the murmur of nearby conversations wasn’t insanely distracting. The Bulls had an excellent game – they allowed 4 runs to the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, but wound up stomping them 11-4. The actual game was less lopsided than the score would suggest – most of the damage was done in just a couple of innings.

The only real flaw was that the notorious raspy-voiced peanut vendor, who has become an unlikely celebrity at the ballpark, was there – ON HIS DAY OFF. And between innings he kept getting up & doing stuff to call attention to himself. Leading the YMCA dance but singing “Y M C Peanuts.” It was kind of sad, in a small way.

I mean, it’s great that he’s having his 15 minutes – or two seasons – of fame, but he (along with, to a lesser extent, all of the other roving vendors) drives me up the freaking wall. Walk around & sell peanuts & beer. Sure. Maybe even yell out what you’re selling every so often. But nowadays there are so many vendors, and they’re so aggressive, that it’s actually hard to focus on the game.

On Mondays, though, fewer fans mean fewer vendors. One step closer to my dream of a “throwback Mondays” thing, where they turn all the LED displays & whatnot off, and the only music they play is live organ. Some parks do this already, but just once a season. The Bulls don’t even do that, but I can dream.

June 5 – 9, 2015

May 14 – 18, 2015

Thursday we went to a Bulls game, something (going to a Bulls game on a Thursday) we’re actually about to start actively trying not to do. A couple of weeks ago we made an impromptu trip to the ballpark on a Tuesday, and realized that part of what we find wearying at Bulls games nowadays is the volume of the audience chitchat all around us. 

So our new goal is to go to the home games with the lowest attendance possible. Go team!

Hung out for an hour at the game with a guy from NYC who works for Moog. He wouldn’t even say much off the record, let alone officially, but the fact that he’s spending time in Durham on a regular basis is an indicator that they may yet still be serious about bringing Moogfest 2016 to the Triangle. Should be an interesting year, these next 12 months. The pace of change seems still to be increasing.

Friday night was just the standard trip to Toast, and then a mysteriously nearly line-free Parlour. It was Third Friday so we stuck our heads into one gallery on the way home but didn’t see much to like. We often talk about doing the full tour on Third Fridays, but we’ve lived here for long enough to know that the hit:miss ratio is usually pretty low for our tastes, so it’s hard to summon up the energy. I always feel guilty about skipping out, though.

I talk about (and retweet) a LOT of stuff on Twitter, and honestly, as long as I’m stuck in this rut of only writing here once every four or five days, I’m unlikely to have the stamina to go back and recap all of it here. Which is kind of too bad, because that’s where all the current events happen. 

But then maybe Twitter is for Internet Events and this tumblr is for My Physical Existence, or something. I guess I can be OK with that.

Saturday we saw Mad Max: Fury Road. As you are probably aware by now, it’s mindboggling. Much like Snowpiercer, it captures the sensation of comic book action 1000x better than anything that has resulted from the glut of Marvel & DC comic book movies over the past 4-5 years.

And yes, it achieves it largely via actual physical bodies & vehicles moving through space, rather than computer graphics. Though I’m sure there was CGI deployed judiciously throughout – but to clean up, augment & color enhance, not to transfer virtual masses around the screen.

It’s also just sublimely fucked up, in a million different ways. Every frame features something that was clearly labored over lovingly by some production designer on a mission, and that mission was to saturate yr brain with the sensation that everything in this cinematic world is off-kilter. The costumes & makeup on all the War Boys, and all the other denizens of the Citadel. The milking chamber. The cars – all the cars! – and not just their exteriors but the detailing of their interiors. 

Plotwise, yeah, it’s fundamentally a 2-hour car chase, and yet somehow it still also manages to include multiple scenes that pass the Bechdel Test several times over, inasmuch as they feature a dozen women all talking to each other about topics other than men.

It basically makes nearly every other “action” movie made in the past, oh, 25 years, look like the stunted formulaic endlessly repeating mindless garbage that they are. 

And yet, even after all of that, it’s not even perfect. Some of the dialogue is just goofy. And although it’s uniformly exciting, it’s still literally just a 2-hour car chase. It may well be the best movie of 2015, and its biggest lesson is just how much higher our expectations could legitimately be.

Sunday night we tried to watch The Drowning Pool via Amazon Instant Video, but somehow their transfer of the original had been de-anamorphized excessively, so that rather than its 2.35:1 ratio, it was at something closer to 3:1. Not even sure how that happens – I know that physical DVDs would often ship with an anamorphic image that your DVD player would expand for widescreen, rather than using permanent letterboxes, but this was supposedly an HD transfer. Or at least I paid $1 extra for HD.

Anyway, we couldn’t watch it, and now I have to figure out how to get my $3.99 back from Amazon. And I still want to see the damn movie.

Today I worked from home & was reminded, yet again, that Parker & Otis makes a fabulous BLT.

May 14 – 18, 2015