Sunday, November 30, 2008

Let the menstruation begin; My Twilight Blog

Hey Folks-

I consider myself relatively well read, or at least knowledgable regarding current phenomena and popular culture type thingys. That said, I didn't really know anything about the Twilight Saga (books) until earlier this year when the 2 stars made the cover of Entertainment Weekly. I still didn't pay it much mind. It's actually very similar to how I was totally in the dark about Harry Potter. I only vaguely knew it existed until right before the 4th book was released, and then suddenly it seemed to be everywhere.

How I Came to Read the Saga

So I was in the dark regarding Twilight (ba dum bum), and then I went to dinner with my friend Jill and she mentioned that I should check it out as it would make good reading for the long plane rides to Rome and back. So... I bought the first book (Twilight), and started reading it lightly before the trip, finding myself really enjoying it, and also realizing that despite it's girth, it was a quick read. I'd clearly be finished with it way too early into the plane ride. Jill then loaned me the second book (New Moon) right before I left. Surely, I thought, that would be enough to get me through. I packed both giant books and headed to Rome.

Well... about 2 hours into my 6 hour layover in New York (on the way) I was more than halfway done with book 1, and I decided to buy book 3 (Eclipse) at the airport. Now I have 1700 pages worth of Vampire fiction to satiate me on my trip to Italy (featured in book 2, oddly enough). Hard to say that I was wrong, exactly, as I plowed through book 1 on the plane, and most of book 2. I finished book 2 completely during my stay, and I got about halfway through book 3 before even heading for the airport home. because of that, I had to borrow book 4 (Breaking Dawn) from my sister's roommate (Thanks Sarah!). I actually almost made it through that before getting back to Cincinnati as well.

The last portion of the Saga is, of course, Midnight Sun. Stephenie Meyer started re-writing Twilight from Edward's point of view and stopped writing after the first 12 chapters were leaked. It's available on her website, and I killed the remaining couple of days before the movie's release by reading that. I liked it more than I liked any of the others, so of course it stands to reason that she'd just stop writing it.

The Books... a question and answer.

Are they actually GOOD?

I'm gonna go out on a limb and say that they ARE good. Not just addictive in that same way that a showing of Cat People on AMC will suck you in, despite it's general shittiness. That's not to say that I think it's particularly well written, but if you look at the 4 books as a whole, I think the story is strong.

That said, I think Stephenie Meyer is a pretty bad writer. How is this possible? Well... I think the story and the writing are basically two separate things. She's like George Lucas, in a way, in that the story is good and interesting, and the characters are cool, but she really needed someone else to put a stronger voice to the actual writing. There's a lot of repetition. I honestly think that there's a cumulative 100 pages of the series dedicated to how the Cullens look. That'd be one thing if she'd been expansive in a more specific way, but it's usually the same things. There are repeated actions (Every kissing sequence in books 1-3, every time anyone smells anything, the incessant inner monologue regarding Jacob).

Sounds like I don't like them, but basically it amounts to me being more interested in plot and character than I am about the cadence of the prose. In fact, I almost think that too creative a narrative voice would have distracted from the flow. I certainly can't complain about the readability. In that the plot is the driving determiner in whether I think a story is good, Twilight is good.

Oh...and hey... The books are not meant for me. I read a review of the book that called it "Essentially professional fanfic." and that's not far from the truth. She's writing a mash letter to these characters. That's allowed. It's a good read.

What bothers me about the books?
Well... There wasn't a lot that really bothered me, but there are a couple of things...
1) Edward is portrayed as being pretty much perfect. Supermodel looks, a genius (or just someone with a perfectly sharp mind and 90 years to gain knowledge), amazing will-power, extra super-powers, all that. That's not what bothers me... Stephenie Meyer didn't really give him any flaws at all, except that he's possibly why create the conflict within Bella that flows all throughout Book 3? I mean... I get that Jacob was there for her in Book 2 and I get that for some reason she loves him. I also think that the outcome was sort of a foregone conclusion, so why prolong this "triangle" when the time could have been used to flesh out backstory.
2) The love between Edward and Bella is great and all, but jeebus was it fast. It went from confusion to outright "forever yours" in like 16 seconds. I can't recall what chapter it was, but it was after the dinner in Port Angeles...they've been in eachother's company for like.. 2 hours and she's saying she's "completely and irrevocably in love with him." I mean... yikes. So intense it kinda creeps me out. And it never really waivered at all. In the second book, the girl literally puts herself into dangerous situations just to hallucinate his voice. God. On the other hand, I again realize this book was written for people who would find that sort of blind, blazing love to be romantic and they're not wrong.

Who's my favorite character?
That's a tough one, but I think I'll have to go with Jasper Cullen. Personally, I'd prefer to just read about the Cullens anyway, and he seems to be the most damaged. Damage is interesting to read. He's also one of the more fleshed out of the vampires. (No pun intended). His backstory is interesting. And I think Alice is the one I'd most like to hang out with, and they're all soul matey and stuff.

Are the Harry Potter comparisons apt?
While I see what people are saying... I'm gonna say they're not really that comparable. Except that they are both these huge deals with teens, and there is that magical element to both. The main differences are along those same lines.
-- Where Harry Potter has a much more universal appeal.. it's grander in scale, it takes place over a larger number of years and places. The story is more adventure and less romance.. Twilight is very focused in who it was written for and who it most appeals to. I mean... My DAD read and enjoyed Harry Potter, and while he'd probably read Twilight just because he reads constantly, and there are vampires, I'm not quite as sure he'd like it.
-- The writing in Harry Potter is better, generally. Rowling was pretty raw at the beginning, but you sort of get the feeling that she gave herself time to grow. There were 10 years or something between Book 1 and Book 7. On the other hand, Stephenie Meyer wrote all 4 Twilight books in a 3 year period, so she didn't have a lot of time to self improve.
-- The magic in Harry Potter is more... magical. The magic in Twilight is more incidental. In fact, there's rarely even mention of "magic" itself, and it's more of a thing that isn't really understood.

Really I think that Harry Potter has some real cultural staying power. The movies are huge. The books are all enormous best sellers. It seems to have permeated the lexicon a bit more completely.

The Movie... Yay or Nay?
I liked it well enough, but I think they REALLY have to put more money into the next ones. I really liked the casting (Edward and Bella specifically). They did a great job with an average script. The biggest issue was definitely the special effects, and well.. they weren't good. There are basically 3 truly important effects in the whole movie. The car crash where Edward saves Bella, the running through the woods, and the "sparkle Edward".
The car crash was done well enough. In fact, really well.
The running is just weird. I don't know how to make it look better, but it looked blocky. I don't know how else to describe it. Maybe it's just the mechanics of this exact type of effect, because one of the very few effects in Lord of the Rings that I didn't like was when Merry and Pippin were being carried on the backs of the Uruk-Hai. You could tell that it was a combo of dolls and tiny stunt people. I dunno... It's gotta be fixed
The "Sparkle Edward" is such a HUGE deal in the book. I mean... Stephenie Meyer describes the "diamonds" over and over and over and over and over. And poor Robert Pattinson just looked like he'd put on some glitter. It was bad bad bad.
I think the larger budget that's been promised for New Moon will be helpful, but I'm still worried. The effects in New Moon are way more difficult. You have werewolves. You have to do chases through Italy. And the Volturi stuff... it's all just MORE. Harry Potter made huge strides between movie 1 and movie 2 in terms of effects. Hopefully so will Twilight. I don't know if it has the power to hold the audiences otherwise.

Okay... I'm done talking about this. There's a lot more I could say. I tried to keep less spoilery. Let me know what you think.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Some sort of Milestone

Hey Folks!

Happy 2nd Day after Thanksgiving!

Anyway, I wanted to post my football picks for tomorrow's games and touch on some other minor things, but first... A celebration of this blog.

I started this particular blog in June. Sort of as a more publicly available alternative to my MySpace blog that for work reasons has to remain private. Plus, not everyone has MySpace and let's be honest here... My words are meant for a larger audience. Well... I believe that last night I finally achieved some sort of actually cool milestone.

Take a good look at the image above. Notice anything? As of last night my blog has been visited by people on 6 different continents. When that poor sap in Brisbane, Australia went onto Google searching for tattoos and came across this... well... I must admit that I'm thrilled. I feel bad for that guy, because I'm sure that it didn't provide him with the Japanese character for "Whale's Vagina" that he was looking for, but it sure makes me feel special.

In case you're curious, there's been 1 blog entry in particular that has garnered the most random visitors to my page. This one. I'd rather not venture a guess as to what they were looking for. I'd say it's fairly obvious.

So anyway, that made my day today. Also making news is the University of Cincinnati football team, who won the Big East yesterday. It's the Bearcat's first outright conference title of any kind in something like 40 years and they officially will represent the Big East in the BCS game, which is certainly the biggest deal, football-wise, in school history. I love this team. It's fun to watch, they've got a great coach, and for once football is strong in Cincinnati. In fact, Elder High School will be playing for the state title today as well. Go Cincinnati sports!

Here we go with my NFL Picks...

Last week I went 8-8 bringing my overall record to 104-72-1 (fucking tie)

I'm 2-1 on Thanksgiving.

San Francisco @ Buffalo

Baltimore @ Cincinnati

Indianapolis @ Clevland

Carolina @ Green Bay

Miami @ St. Louis

New Orleans @ Tampa Bay

New York Giants @ Washington

Atlanta @ San Diego

Pittsburgh @ New England

Denver @ New York Jets

Kansas City @ Oakland

Chicago @ Minnesota

Jacksonville @ Houston

I promise to finish my post on Twilight this weekend some time. Then I'll be out of town for most of next week, so the posting will be "as available".

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Day Football


Tennessee @ Detroit

Seattle @ Dallas

Arizona @ Philadelphia

Also... what the eff are the Eagles/Cardinals doing on Thanksgiving?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Week 12 Football Picks

Hey Folks-

So, here we are. Another Sunday. Seems like these picks are never ending. I know. Yesterday was a good day though. The UC Bearcats won in both basketball (not really a big deal, importance-wise) and football (possibly the biggest win in Bearcats football history). Also, I hung out with some good peoples and met my friend Angie's awesome new puppy, Hank. He's the coolest.

So, here I am on a Sunday, waiting for the NFL to start, and for once not having a ridiculous Bengals game to possibly fuck up my mood. It's kinda nice. Must be what it's like in heaven.

Last week I went 9-6-1. That's right... a fucking tie. I'm going to make an executive decision and say that any time 2 teams tie, the picker takes the tie as well. You can't account for horrible coaching and execution to that degree. Nobody could predict a tie. My overall record is:

96-64-1. I want to punch the Bengals in the face for that "1".

I'm already 1-0 out of the gate this week by picking the Steelers, not that I went too far out on that limb.

Tampa Bay @ Detroit
PICK: BUCS. Every instinct tells me that I should pick the Lions, but I'm not going to. I can't bring myself to it.

New York Jets @ Tennessee
PICK: TITANS. I'd like to see the Titans keep winning. It's good for the Bengals to see that a team can be rebuilt quickly. This 20 Year Plan thing is killing me.

Buffalo @ Kansas City
PICK: CHIEFS (I know... probably shouldn't, but the Bills have sort of been falling apart for a while.

Chicago @ St. Louis
PICK: BEARS. I honestly am so pissed at both of these teams. Last week I picked them both to win, and both got their asses handed to them. Not cool.

New England @ Miami
PICK: DOLPHINS. I like Dolphins as much as the next guy, but isn't it a little weird to name your football team after them. I mean... they're not exactly fierce. 10 year old girls collect dolphin stickers. Wouldn't the Miami Leatherskins be better? Or the Miami Transvestites? (Never, EVER cross a transvestite)

Minnesota @ Jacksonville
PICK: JAGS. Both of these teams should be better than they are.

Philadelphia @ Baltimore
PICK: RAVENS. I hope you're happy Eagles. I had to hear Cincinnati fans gloating all week. Over a god-damned TIE. Fuckers.

Houston @ Cleveland
PICK: BROWNS. I think Brady Quinn might know how to play a little. Maybe.

San Francisco @ Dallas
PICK: COWBOYS. For the record; I don't believe the "Tony Romo takes a bum to the movies" story. That didn't happen. Stop buying in to the lies.

Oakland @ Denver
PICK: BRONCOS. I can't figure out the Broncos at all.

Washington @ Seattle
PICK: 'SKINS. Or the Redskins for that matter.

New York Giants @ Arizona
PICK: CARDINALS. Is the Rolle kid from Florida State that just got the Rhodes Scholarship a member of the Rolle family? I mean... the NFL Rolle Family? I'm just impressed by that in general. Also, I think the Cardinals have a shot at going to the Super Bowl.

Carolina @ Atlanta
PICK: PANTHERS. I picked the Falcons last week and they fucked me. May as well give them a shot to do it again.

Indianapolis @ San Diego
PICK: COLTS. Anybody else noticing the Colts are close to being back at the top of the AFC again? The Titans are throwing everyone off the scent, but it's happening. It's happening.

Green Bay @ New Orleans
PICK: SAINTS. Aaron Rogers is having a great year as what amounts to being a rookie. He'll be dangerous for a long time, but the Saints are decent at home, and Brees should get MVP consideration. He may be my favorite player right now.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Birthday of Sorts

Hey Folks-

I'm pretty tired, so this one's gonna be short.

Yesterday was the 80th Anniversary of Steamboat Willie. The first animated film with syncronized sound. Most people don't know that Plane Crazy was the first Mickey cartoon, but many would argue that the medium was truly born with Steamboat Willie. So... here's to you, Walt Disney, for creating something so enduring that it's anniversary is noted 80 years after the fact.

Just to leave you with a quote from the man himself:

"I only hope that we don't lose sight of one thing - that it was all started by a mouse."
-- Walt Disney

Or, you know... for the weirder among us:

"I love Mickey Mouse more than any woman I have ever known. "
-- Walt Disney

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Rome Blog

Hey Folks-

So... one of the reasons it's taken me over a week to discuss my trip to Rome is that the whole thing happened so fast and was over so fast and yet I saw so, so much. It's taken me a bit of time to process it, and to be honest, I'm not entirely sure that I've processed it fully just yet.

Still... I've been slacking on blog entries, and the trip to Rome was a big part of the reason why. Also, it was cool and I have lots of stuff to tell you... In no particular order or coherance:

-- Do everything you can to sleep on the plane. Seriously. The 6 hour time change will fuck you up. My flight departed around 5:30PM on Thursday and I got in around 8 AM on Friday. It's very disconcerting to skip night time altogether. It was light out when the plane took off, they had the shades closed on the plane, and when we got into Italy it was light out. Basically it was like living in Alaska. And I was so, soooo tired by around 5 in the afternoon. I ended up sleeping from 5PM to 7:30AM on Saturday. Just sayin'... be prepared.

-- Traffic is awesome. See, the thing is, in America we're soft. We're cushy. We follow the rules. Not so much in Italy. First off, there are very very few big cars. I drive a 4-door Honda Accord and my car would not fit into most parking spaces. I don't recall seeing a single SUV. Most of the cars around the place are like those little Smart Cars. Tiny. And there are all of these Vespas and Vespa-like scooters. And they're insane. The scooters zip around all willy nilly. The cars park on the curbs and they smack into eachother to make more room places. The buses (of the public transportation variety) are apparently allowed to do whatever they want. There was at least one instance of me being completely ignored by a bus that decided not to stop. Oh... And the best thing about the traffic? There's an unspoken agreement between pedestrians and traffic where the pedestrian will be allowed to cross any street at any time as long as they can get themselves across said street without being plowed down by the totally un-slowed oncoming cars. It's great because nobody waits. Everyone has full accountability.

-- The most amazing single thing I saw? St. Peter's Basilica. It's at The Vatican, which is awesome in itself. St Peter's is the largest church I've ever seen, and not by a little. It's effing HUGE. Like... I've been to some pretty large churches in my time that would literally fit INSIDE St. Peter's. So really, just the scope of the structure itself is incredible. If you add to that the dozens and dozens of priceless statues. The paintings. The mummified remains of popes. (that's right). The place is this crazy combination of pure majesty of faith (even if you're not particularly spiritual) and artistry and kinda creepy pack-rattedness (I mean... dead popes... right there.) I didn't even get to see the museum (Sistine Chapel) because it was closed the Sunday I was there. It's almost worth it to me to go back to Rome just to finish seeing the Vatican.

-- The strangest thing? The ruins near the Pantheon (another totally amazing place) where all of these cats live. Dozens of them. It's adorable and fun and cool and there are tons of cats.

-- I may be the only person who could go to Rome, one of the World's capitals of Cuisine, and LOSE weight. I lost 7 pounds in the 3 days I was there. The main reason is that since my surgery I still have a pretty difficult time eating things like bread and meats and pasta. That makes eating almost anything in Italy pretty difficult. I'm not saying I didn't try. I had some good melon on my first day. The mixed cheese plate included some of the best parmesan cheese I've ever had. I had some pretty rockin' gnocchi. Still... it was rough. And kinda torturous. Fucking pizzas were everywhere. Yes... pizzas were literally having sex with each other. It was crazy.

-- While hostels are cool and very inexpensive... they are not to be entirely trusted. On my first night, someone parted me with about 30 Euros while I slept. On the other hand, I met some really cool folks and I learned the rules of Crickett and taught an Australian girl the rules of Baseball. A true demonstration of diplomacy. (though Crickett is nearly incomprehensible)

-- I think my favorite single thing was this little fountain at the base of the Spanish Steps. I know it's kinda weird, with everything in this amazing city splayed out for all to see, but this little fountain of a boat that has sprung a leak just has so much character and grace and whimsy. It makes me feel like there was a sense of humor, even back when all of these masters were creating these incredible works of art. Occasionally they just wanted to make a boat. I love that fountain.

-- There's something really cool about being in a place that has seen so much. If you're in America and something is "old" it's like... 150 years old. In Rome it's like... 2500 years old. That thing has this huge historical footprint. And everything there is like that. I love that you can walk down the street and end up passing some little fresco on the wall of some building that's 500 years old. I love that these little churches or buildings have been standing for longer than the world even knew America (AS A LAND MASS) existed.

-- Lastly for this blog, I think it's really pretty amazing to see the power of the Catholic Church demonstrated for you in such definitive ways. I mean the organization, not the religion. The best example I can give is the Pantheon and the aforementioned ruins with the cats. The original structures were built around the same time. Within a hundred years or so...and one of the structures was sort of commandeered by the Catholic church and one wasn't. Can you guess which building is still standing and in perfect, pristine condition and which one is...well... a ruins? You see that kind of thing EVERYWHERE. Secular structures are falling down. Churches from the same time period are perfect. It's very interesting.

(In case you wondered... that's a Pope.... from the 1600s.)

-- Oh... for real the last thing... Flying Business Class is pretty effing awesome.

In any case, I had an awesome time. It was so cool to see my sister having such an amazing experience and really taking the reins in a pretty material way. She was the one leading, and that's for sure. She had that shit on lock. And I only embarassed us once or twice with me sad attempts at even the most basic Italian.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Week 11 Football Pickzzzzzzzzzzzz

Hey Folks-

I know... I know... I've gotten boring. That's okay though... I promise to make up for it soon with a big post about Rome and probably a Disney post or two. Actually.... I hate to admit this here, but I'll probably write something about Twilight. You know... the book series aimed at tween girls who fantasize grossly about being bitten by a vampire. Well... I like it so shut the fuck up.

In any case, those are all in the works, but work has gotten busier and perhaps will continue to do so, though I can say that I was cast as Charlie Brown in "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown" and that is awesome.

Anyway, here are the football picks, since they're required. I seem to get this way around this time every season where I kinda don't care anymore, but it would be too weird to have done it so religiously up until now and then just stop. So...onward.

2 weeks ago (November 2) I went 8 and 6
Last week, with my sister's help, I went 12 and 2 (hilarious)
That puts my overall record at 87-58

Here we go
Denver @ Atlanta

Philadelphia @ Cincinnati

Chicago @ Green Bay

Houston @ Indianapolis

New Orleans @ Kansas City

Oakland @ Miami

Baltimore @ New York Giants

Minnesota @ Tampa Bay

Detroit @ Carolina

St Louis @ San Francisco

Arizona @ Seattle

San Diego @ Pittsburgh

Tennessee @ Jacksonville

Dallas @ Washington

Cleveland @ Buffalo

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Pick 1 for Week whatever

Hey Folks-

Things have been totally insane lately, which explains the lack of posts. I will be writing later on tonight about my trip and some other stuff, but I've gotta get my Thursday night NFL pick:

New York Jets @ New England

More later.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Week 10 Football Picks (Rome Edition)

Hey Folks-

So here's the quickest football picks you'll ever see. I'm writing this from Briana's apartment in Rome, and I don't want to monopolize her computer. In any case, here we go...

Denver @ Cleveland
PICK: BRONCOS (I have to forfeit this one though, since the game already happened)

New Orleans @ Atlanta

Tennesee @ Chicago

Jacksonville @ Detroit

Seattle @ Miami

Green Bay @ Minnesota

Buffalo @ New England

St Louis @ New York Jets

Baltimore @ Houston

Carolina @ Oakland

Indianapolis @ Pittsburgh

Kansas City @ San Diego

New York Giants @ Philadelphia

San Francisco @ Arizona

Note.. any pick with a "**" next to it was selected by my sister, Briana. Let's see how she does.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Week 9 Football Picks

Hey Folks-

Life continues to be hectic, so here are the football picks as quickly as I can put them up. Sad how Things are getting looser and looser up in this bitch... That's what she... nevermind.

New York Jets @ Buffalo

Detroit @ Chicago

Jacksonville @ Cincinnati

Baltimore @ Cleveland

Green Bay @ Tennessee

Tampa Bay @ Kansas City

Arizona @ St. Louis

Houston @ Minnesota

Miami @ Denver

Atlanta @ Oakland

Dallas @ New York Giants

Philadephia @ Seattle

New England @ Indianapolis

Pittsburgh @ Washington

Last week...didn't go well for me. I was 8-6 which brings my season record to 67-50. Pretty mediocre this far in.