Sunday, May 25, 2008, posted by Q6 at 1:37 PM
I went to see the new Indiana Jones movie yesterday, and I loved it. I know that the majority of Internet reviews have ranged between "mixed" and "bad," but I think the expectations and hype set the bar WAY too high. If people are going to compare "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" to the other summer blockbusters like "Iron Man" or "The Dark Knight," they're going about it the wrong way. If anything, the new Indy movie should only be compared to the other Indy movies. Spielberg has had control of the franchise since he and George Lucas developed it, and if it's got their seal of approval, I'm fine with it.

Steven Spielberg and the World, both actual size.

Indy IV was bound to be different, anyway. Everyone is older, for one; and while some might claim this takes away from the action, I respectfully disagree--I think that seeing these actors do a lot of this at their ages only adds to the excitement and confirms the claims that Indy's still got it. I'm glad there were nods to Sean Connery and Denholm Elliott, and I'm similarly glad that Jon Rhys-Davies wasn't included (in "Raiders" Sala was a serious part of the team; in "Last Crusade," however, he was a corny buffoon, and if you add that to his sellout performance at the Indy ride at Disneyland, so much the better that he's out).

"No, Steven, I won't come back--just use a photo of me in this stupid hat."

Yes, I thought the pace of the film was great. I think the action sequences were true to the entire franchise (the atomic blast sequence was exactly that-- a blast). Yes, I had a small problem with the "X-Files" nature of the storyline, but I got over it pretty quickly. I wasn't a big fan of Ray Winstone's character, but that's more because I thought we were pretty character-rich as it was . . . bringing in half a bad guy just took time away from the exposition, which I thought the film could have used a bit more of to bring us along on the journey (rather than bring us up to speed as we went along). I was VERY excited to see the return of Karen Allen, as she brought so much to the first film (although she wasn't as full of piss-and-vinegar as she was in "Raiders," but again, age wasn't a masked factor here). Marion Ravenwood's the best of the Indy women, in my opinion. There's no need to bring other characters back if you've got her.

"One movie, Steven? I only get to be in one movie?"

Since we associate Indiana Jones, his wardrobe, his antics, and his approach to life with the late 1930s (in accordance with the serial cliffhangers out of which his character was born), it does take a few minutes to move into the 1950s--the late 1950s, at that. To see Indy run around in a circa-1957 household is a little weird. After his radiation wash-down, however, he seems a little bit more of a later-model Indy, speaking to army officials and being referred to as a colonel (which gives us yet another glimpse of what's been going on since "Last Crusade").

For the record: Shia LeBoeuf did an outstanding job, right up to the end of the film. I know that early reports were panning him up, down, and sideways, but the conversations Mutt Williams had with Indy over the course of the film (pre-"He's your son") really helped to explain the character better. Here's where I'm torn: if there had been more to the Mutt-learned-under-Professor-Ox-just-like-Indy-learned-under-Abner-Ravenwood backstory, it would have helped--but this couldn't be a three-hour movie, and what we got did the job of explaining things just fine.

"I don't know, George . . . thirty years from now, you think anyone will care?"

Did it set things up for another movie, or a spinoff with Mutt in the lead? I don't know . . . and I don't care. I'm not looking for a future, necessarily. I think that it wouldn't be the worst idea to end the whole Indy thing here and move on to other things. Sucking a franchise dry never ends well. It was, however, very nice to see Indy in action one more time.

I'm still not crazy about the title, though.

Monday, May 19, 2008, posted by Q6 at 6:07 PM
Last weekend, while my bride-to-be attended the first stop on her bridal shower tour, I got to go on a little excursion: I had lunch at the Redondo Beach Pier. Years ago, I used to ride my bike from my home in Gardena to the pier--round trip, about 20 miles; but we used to ride up and down the strand as well--and this was back before a good chunk of the Pier burned down. Going back (with my son, my brother, and his two sons) brought back a lot of memories. The good kind. The kind that make you stand and smile, even if the air around you smells like fish and seawater.

Nothing's ever completely as you remember it. The video arcade is gone (aren't they all?), the Fun Factory (a midway of sorts, with rides and games) has become much less vibrant, parts of the beach are no longer accessible, and many of the small businesses have become more . . . commercialized. The street performers aren't there anymore, but most of the fishermen, including the ones who live in the boat slips by the fish markets, are. The markets still have tanks and tanks of crabs and lobsters--all live, all really cool--and a couple of the smaller food places are still there.

When I was in high school, our Humanities class actually did a project right on the beach next to the Pier (we had to create relics for a mock archeological dig, then "bury" them, then dig up another group's project and interpret it--we actually hung ours from the Pier itself). While doing that project, a year before the Pier fire, a couple of joggers went by--one of whom I recognized: Tom Sullivan, the blind entertainer. There's a marathon named for him in that area every year. (I met him several years ago at a book signing event.)

All in all, it was enough to provoke two feelings in me: one, I really enjoyed my teenage years (sure, I had some of the typical teenage angst issues everyone goes through, but I'm pushing forty and I can see past that); two, I could really enjoy living in a beach town (spending a lot of my youth in Redondo, Manhattan, and Hermosa Beaches, I thought it then, too). Even better, I got to show my sixteen year old son around one of my old haunts. I know he'll have his own memories and his own nostalgia--at least, I hope he will--but it was nice to share some of my memories with him.

Really good memories.
Sunday, May 18, 2008, posted by Q6 at 9:08 PM
If anyone is making a list of this planet's dumbest things, I have one to add: earlier this month, the Olympic Torch, on its way to Beijing, went to the top of Mount Everest. If someone wants to explain to me why anyone thought it was a good idea to take fire to a place on Earth with the lowest oxygen supply, I'm all ears. (In fact, if anyone wants to explain why the Chinese Space Agency spent all kinds of money developing the torches and fuel to keep the thing lit up there I'll listen to that, too.)

I turned 39 last week. A cool birthday: lots of good wishes, lots of people guessing my age wrong, and some cool gifts (including the camera I wanted--thank you, wonderful fiancee). And, of course, a quick mental review of the last 39 years. Quite the highlight reel, and one particular memory came to mind because of the Olympic Torch story.

In the summer of 1984 I found out that the Olympic Torch relay would come within three miles of my house on a Saturday. Being the geek that I am, I got up early, got on my bike, and decided to follow it while it went through my neighborhood. Specifically, I was going to catch up with it at Redondo Beach Boulevard and Gramercy and follow it up RBB to Hawthorne Blvd. It would take all of 45 minutes, tops, and I'd be home before my mom even woke up.

Four hours later, my bike and I were in the Rose Garden outside the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.

It was the coolest ride. When I caught up to the torch, the four or five of us on bikes had to ride behind the police escort, but as the miles went on the number of bikers multiplied (as did the crowds along the streets), and as we left the City of Hawthorne we found ourselves behind the torch's support van and in front of the police cars--we were a part of the parade! Once the torch passed, people were still waving . . . at us! The party broke up once the torch-runner entered the Coliseum's tunnel (the opening ceremonies still wouldn't be for a day or two), and I found myself far from home, very late, and without a clear plan for getting home. I knew where the Coliseum was in relation to my house, but an exact route was beyond my ninth grade knowledge of the city. I found a pay phone, called my mom (not the most pleasant conversation, naturally, but I expected worse), and then began my ride home. (Had I paid any attention to the streets we used to get there, I could have simply retraced my steps. Failing that, it was an hour before I could--and I'm not kidding here--use the sun to make sure I was going the right way.) Around 4pm, I got home. Mom came off red alert, and I had a really cool day.*

As if the Universe is trying to tell me something, I got a mailer the other day--my local bike shop is having a sale next week, with bikes up to 50% off. Since my son now uses what was once my bike, I find myself in need of my own. As I've posted before, I have plenty of things to pay for--the kid's driving lessons, a wedding, a plethora of home imporvement projects--but I'm thinking about it now. After all, how often do I get a 50% off opportunity for something that can give you such cool experiences and memories?

*I've heard my brother tell this story three times, and each time he's had it wrong. If you've ever heard him tell it, let me clear up a few things: I did not get a ride home from my mother (she was WAY too pissed), she DID know where I was going that morning, and I did NOT get home at 11pm.
Monday, May 05, 2008, posted by Q6 at 10:24 PM
Fixing a flat bicycle tire is easy. I did it last night, and it took me longer to find a gas station with a working air pump than it did to actually change the inner tube. Picking up the new inner tube at the bike shop was the tough part.

The REALLY tough part.

My son uses what we call "my" bike to go to school each day. One day, his was broken, and in a pinch I let him use mine--and he's used it ever since. I don't really get to ride it much anymore; not because he's used it, but my schedule doesn't allow for it. I've wanted to let him have this bike and get a new one, but I haven't really done any looking around, shopping research, or anything like that. While I was at the bike shop getting the inner tube, I had a quick look around. There were some nice bikes--and decently priced, as bikes go, but still on the expensive side for me. (I did make the mistake of quickly testing the repaired tire out in the street, and it made me want a new one even more. In my youth, I rode my bike a lot. It did wonders for my health and leg muscles, but it also did a lot for my peace of mind. Sixty to one hundred miles a week can do that.)

But I've got a house to fix up, a wedding coming up, a kid who's about to start driving soon, and a car that's beginning to show signs of serious wear.

A new bike can wait.
Friday, May 02, 2008, posted by Q6 at 8:36 PM
This week I was reminded that I am a parent. I did not receive this message in a heart-to-heart with my son, or from a bad report card grade, or from the boy's mother. This was not a reminder that came upon me gently--this one hit me like a brick to the side of the head.

My son, not even a month into his sixteenth year, experienced a medical problem while at school on Wednesday. Being an administrator at a high school, I know how such matters are supposed to be handled (which is probably why it wasn't handled that way). Although I am the primary contact for my son, the school chose instead to call his mother . . . who lives over 500 miles away. She called me, I called the school, and got into the car. My son was experiencing severe abdominal pain. As I broke only the speed laws I was aware of, then walked (briskly, and faster than the nurse, whom I left in the dust) to his classroom, I thought of two possibilities: appendicitis, or hernia (he has a tendency to overdo it in weight training). I got to the classroom as he was being loaded into the ambulance, and had enough time for only two things--to ask where the pain was (the left side, so the appendix was fine), and to hear him plead through tear streaked eyes, "Help me." The brick hit its mark, and I began to truly feel like a parent . . . utterly and completely helpless.

I beat the ambulance to the emergency room, and once he arrived he did something that hasn't happened in a long time: he reached out for my hand. Again, the brick reminded me that although in my professional life I control quite a bit, and in my personal life I control quite a bit, at this moment I controlled nothing. All I could do was hold his hand.

Many people asked about the pain, and his answers were pretty curt and unrevealing (when in severe pain, he's something of a dick--but he did apologize to the doctor later without my prompting . . . take that, brick). I learned enough from this exchange to know that the pain was too severe for hernia; and although I can't tell anything from looking at a blood sample, his urine looked a little dark for me.

Yep. A kidney stone.

Four Advil, three Tylenol with Codeine, and 36 hours later he peed out one tenth of a grain of sand, which tells me that the thing dissolved while he was managing the pain. Several people--including the ER doctor--tell me that the pain of kidney stones is worse than childbirth, so I don't fault him for his demeanor. I'm just glad he's okay.

He has this theory about his visits to the emergency room. They've occurred at the following ages: 2, 4, 8, and 16. Each visit occurs when his age equals his age at his last visit multiplied by two. If he's right, he won't be back until he's 32.

And if he's wrong, I will be there to hold his hand.