Wednesday, December 30, 2009


If you look hard enough you can find negative reviews of James Cameron's Avatar, and I suppose some of the notes about cliches and obtrusiveness of theme are not inaccurate. For me, the sheer joy of Avatar as a moviegoing experience outweighs any of that, however.

It wasn't a scene of flying creatures that wowed me most. It's a long movie, and 3D had already become part of the landscape by the point the first mountain banshee appeared.

The subtle 3D use in a scene in which a crippled Marine is extricated from a cryogenic chamber piqued my imagination first and foremost. With floating orderlies and depth of field, it made the world on the big screen a little different than anything I'd seen before. That's really what's needed in our universe if the movie going experience is to be more than a marketing campaign for Blu-Ray sales.

It really felt like I'd been sucked into the universe of science fiction novels where zero G was a norm.

Flying creatures, jungle landscapes, spiritual indigenous humanoids and rampaging monster dogs only supplemented the experience.

They are really cool, though. It was like being in a fully imagined Edgar Rice Burroughs universe. It's clear James Cameron really did draw on all of the books and movies he experienced as a kid in crafting Avatar as he said in his Studio 360 interview.

It's a wonderous amalgamation, and as Roger Ebert states it's worth seeing if you can get to a theater to be part of the conversation.

I think it's good when we have an occasion for shared dreams, and if something gets us off the sofa, well that's staving off the couch potato universe of WALL-E a little longer isn't it?

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Christmas Meme

Got this on Facebook from a buddy of mine from way back. OK, way, way back, but I thought I'd bring it over here since these things are essentially blog posts and the blog allows for a little enhancement.

The original argument:
Here's what you're supposed to do, and try not to be a SCROOGE!!! Just copy this entire note and paste as a new note on your Facebook page blog. Change all the answers so that they apply to you. Then tag this note to a bunch of people you know, INCLUDING the person that sent it to you...'Tis the Season to be NICE! OK, if you're reading this, feel free to cut and paste for your own blog.

My answers:

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?

Gift bags when I can make them work, wrapping paper as a last resort.

2. Real tree or Artificial?

It’s been artificial for a few years, but we have opened negotiations on a real tree for next year.

3. When do you put up the tree?

Somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. This year we were a little early.

4. When do you take the tree down?

Pretty quickly after the New Year, coinciding with the post-Christmas letdown they always discussed in "Peanuts."

5. Do you like eggnogg?

Yeah, but I may pass this year. We always wind up with a little left over in the carton.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?

Bonanza action figures – Ben, Hoss and Little Joe

7. Hardest person to buy for?

I do all right with everyone. The key is just not to put too much thought into the items you pick up from those novelty racks in big department stores. Unless someone I buy for is reading this. In which case, I put thought into your gift, just not the other gifts.

8. Easiest person to buy for?

My wife gives me a list, calculated to stay within budget, shipping excluded, though.

9. Do you have a nativity scene?

One that’s been in my family for ages. The paint’s worn off the figures, but I like it. OK, truth to tell it's put up so that it won't have cats rampaging through it like Godzilla through Tokyo.

10. Mail or email Christmas cards?

I’m going to go with e-mail this year, though a Christmas letter was planned.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?

Let’s see which ticked me off more, the McDonald’s ornament I got as a gift at the office once, or the 59 cent compass I got in fifth grade.

12. Favorite Christmas Movies?

It's probably passé now, but it's "A Christmas Story.” I was flipping channels the first year that was on cable, encountered the “triple-dog-dare” scene and have been hooked on Jean Shepherd ever since.

I love "It's A Wonderful Life" too. Come on, what are you heartless? It's great.

13. When do you start shopping for Christmas?

I had better get started, hadn't I?

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?

Not that anyone can prove without investigation and affidavits.

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?

Either the duck or cornbread dressing. Tough to say.

16. Color of Lights on the tree?

Multi-colored enamel-coated C-7s. We’ve learned through experimentation this Christmas that four strands is what a single outlet can support.

17. Favorite Christmas song? This year, “Elf’s Lament” by BNL.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?

We work our way back from relatives’ homes to celebrate at our house.

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeer?

Let’s see there’s Donner, Blitzen, Comet, Cupid, Siegfried? ah, I know how to look it up if I need to.

20. Angel on the tree top or a star?

It’s an angel, kind of stylized glass with wings.

21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?

Well, some things have to be charged up or assembled on Christmas Eve so they’re ready for Christmas Day but generally it’s Christmas morning, a deviation from my childhood tradition. We opened family gifts on Christmas Eve. Santa's gifts were available upon waking Christmas Day unless they required assembly by my cousin who arrived around 11.

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?

I'm sure there's something about traffic and crowded stores, but I'm OK at the moment.

23. Favorite ornament, theme, or color?

My parachuting teddy bear ornament. It’s a parachuting teddy bear, need I say more?

24. Favorite for Christmas Eve Dinner?

I don't have an official position on this.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?

An iPhone 3Gs

26. What is your wish for Christmas?

I’ll defer to the Goo Goo Dolls: “Better Days.”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Upsy Daisy

We're well over a year past the chronic renal failure diagnosis for my cat Daisy. The initial news was devastating, as you know if you drop by here often.

Daisy's been our pet since she was only weeks old.

Weeks following the diagnosis were trying as we struggled with our vet's help to stabelize her condition. Subcutaneous fluid treatments and appetite stimulants helped restore her to a better state.

I wrote a year ago about her first post-diagnosis holiday season. This season's beginngs brought a reminder of her condition. She threw up last Saturday. Apparently renal failure produces stomach chemicals that lead to nausea and vomiting.

She'd been doing so well that I'd become complacent, the knowledge of her condition pushed to a back room in my mind. Then, a while after dinner, she sat up on my lap with an odd look in her eyes. Never let it be said cats don't have expressions.

A few minutes after the odd look, she hopped to the floor and tossed up her dinner. She kept throwing up through the night, turning to dry heaves and continuing on Sunday, making me fear she'd begun some kind of drastic decline.

We pulled out some anti-nausea medication she hadn't needed in a while and began to give her doses. On Monday morning she began to eat again, and was perky when I checked on her on a break from work. The vet suggested keeping up the nausea medication a while before deciding if we needed to bring her in.

By evening she had resumed her usual behavior. She curled onto my legs when I went to bed, then after a while she began to trot out all of the acts in her repertoire.

Around 11, she got in a fight with our oldest tom, Monty.

Around 11:30 there was the cold nose on the face. It's her way of asking for fresh food.

A couple hours later she was crying out in a shrill voice. I thought it was the prelude to getting sick again and jumped up to discover her walking around with her favorite toy in her mouth. It's a Beanie Baby knockoff of a mouse, and she's known to walk up the hall with it, whining softly.

Now she'd chosen to do it at 3 a.m. or so.

If she could play a musical instrument, that would probably have been her next feat, but she let things i.e. me rest after that.

She's on Christine's lap now, a week later, dozing as I peck keys, though moments ago she was pacing back and forth across my keyboard.

That's another act of hers. I'm happy to have her for each show.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Ding Dong Merrily

I usually wait until after Thanksgiving to kick off my personal holiday traditions, but I began a little early this year. Thanksgiving was a little late after all.

I started playing my iPod holiday playlist in my office late last week, and for my morning cup of tea I've turned to my seasonal tea of choice, Red Zinger.

I suppose it's because I've been ready for a break for a while. I've had time for nothing but required reading since August. I've had great books to read, but there's something to be said for reading what you want.

There's something to be said as well for things like going to the movies. Christine and I went to see A Christmas Carol, not a bad flick for a holiday mood.

I also picked up Garrison Keillor's A Christmas Blizzard at the library as well. It's a slightly zany account of a Chicago millionare who finds himself by going back to his snowbound home in Looseleaf, North Dakota.

Sometime in the '90s, I guess, I realized the old Emerson, Lake and Palmer lyrics from "I Believe in Father Christmas" are true: "...the Christmas you get you deserve."

So as December creeps on, I always endeavor to make it feel like the holidays.

We started assembling our tree over the weekend, though a decision for more lights delayed the completion. Soon we'll have it in the window, and snow men and Santas are already dappling mantles and bookshelves.

It's my own personal celebration, but it works. Here's hoping it's a great season for everyone.
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