Your Face

I was recently reminded of one of my ALL-TIME FAVORITE animated videos:  Bill Plympton’s “Your Face” which was a 1988 Oscar nominee for Animated Short Film.  I finally found a copy of it posted online and want to share it with you.  I really actually like the song, which was performed by Maureen McElheron, whose recorded voice was slowed down by one-third.  Something new about this always amazes me every time I watch it.

Click here to watch!


Wear It On Your Sleeve

This morning, while driving into work, Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees” came on the radio.   Now, I have no emotional connection to this song, although Radiohead is a great band and this is a great song.  Maybe it was something in the plaintive delivery of Thom Yorke, but I found myself starting to cry.  And believe me, there is nothing like a 275 lb, 42-year old man driving to work in the rain and tearing up to make you go… huh?  I imagine it was just the culmination of an emotionally draining week, or just plain old being tired, but something hit me in just the right spot to start the waterworks flowing for a short time.  It was not a sobbing fit, just a gentle eye watering cry.

All my life, I have worn my emotions on my sleeve.  While I may have attempted to construct a placid exterior, my emotion would always end up overrunning any obstacles.  The benefit was that everyone knew how I felt.  The downside was everyone knew how I felt.

As I have aged, I find it more difficult to control when I get emotional.  Maybe it’s because I have fewer reasons to worry about outward appearances, not that I have ever been anything less than shameless.  I don’t experience fits of rage (strings of imaginative curses aimed at other drivers while driving, notwithstanding) or have a wild temper that runs amok.  Usually, the extremes of my emotions manifest themselves in either giddy laughter or crying.  I’ll find myself doubled over laughing over something generally less than hilarious just because I need the laugh.

And I think that’s where the crying comes from as well.  I cannot control myself when faced with a manipulative, sappy, sentimental sad movie. It never fails that I have to somehow hide my face and the lurching shoulder spasms.  For example, both Titanic and Schindler’s List left me a blubbering mess, for different reasons. (The little girl in the red coat… manipulative, but incredibly effective!)

So, do not run screaming into the night should you hear me gently sobbing during a screening of The Lovely Bones, or listening to almost anything by Sarah McLachlan.

Does Everyone Stare?


I change my clothes ten times before I take you on a date.
I’m in a cold sweat, panic makes me late.
I know you never asked for this, I know
My shots will always miss
My shots will always miss
Does everyone stare this way at you?
I only look this way at you.
I change my clothes ten times before I take you on a date.
I get the heebie-jeebies and my panic makes me late.
I break into a cold sweat reaching for the phone.
I let it ring twice before I chicken out and decide you’re not at home.
Does everyone stare the way I do?
I only stare this way at you.
I never noticed the size of my feet
‘Til I kicked you in the shins.
Will you ever forgive me
For the shape I’m in?
For the shape I’m in?
Does everyone stare the way I do?
I only stare this way at you.
I want to write you a sonnet but I don’t know where to start.
I’m so used to laughing at the things in my heart.
Last of all I’m sorry ’cause you never asked for this
I can see I’m not your type and my shots will always miss, always miss!
Does everyone stare the way I do?
I only stare this way at you.

End of July

It has been a long interesting week.  I have spent part of it tending to the removal of weeds from a rock wall.  It felt good to touch the dirt, to feel it cake my arms.  The smells of grass and clover and weeds all mingle to create a purely summer smell.  And, for one so hesitant to bask in the heat of summer, I poured sweat more this week than in a long time.  And it felt good.  Left to my own devices, chances are slim that I would have ventured out and been productive.  But, having a responsibility this week to care for someone else’s garden is a great motivation.

Life without cable television is quite good, actually.  Anything I have a firm desire to see I can usually find on the internet.  Have spent more time with music, which is always a good option.  The owner of the small company for which I work lent me his copy of the biography of John Adams by David McCullough.  Excellent read.  And movies… catching up on movies: Red (funny – especially John Malkovich), The Town (Outstanding), True Grit (the Coen Brothers’ version, which I already like better than the John Wayne film) and, today, 13 Assassins, which was excellent in a way only a fan of movies about samurai could truly understand.

My ex-fiancee and her son are still on my mind.  This week they seemed to be there a little more often.  There is still guilt there, but it is not as acute.  Sometimes they appear vividly in a dream, or a familiar song, or a smell, or a memory just floats to the surface for no reason.  I hope they are doing well.

Yesterday, my dear friend and her sister were in town on a fundraising bike tour – raising money for MS research.  It is always a treat seeing her.  It meant an early morning getting them back to the start point for today’s leg of the ride, but was totally worth it.  I don’t know how they ride 50+ miles per day for a week.  But they do!  And for a good cause, as well.

Oh, and the rain.  Apparently 5 inches of the stuff came down in a monsoon-like deluge yesterday.  Believe me, I was out in it briefly and I think the collar of my shirt is still damp.  My heart went out to the MS Tram riders who were camping out at Lake Park!

It’s also intriguing how often my mind wanders to thoughts of her.  Yes, she returns tomorrow after a week away.  Not many moments went by without a thought of her.  Is that ridiculous or pathetic? I’m sure she thought little of me while enjoying a break from her busy life.  Everything is moving very slowly (sometimes painfully slowly, especially for someone as impatient as I) but there is something new and interesting about that approach.  Once upon a time, this part went by in a blur, and we all know how that  turned out.  Maybe I need the slower pace to grow and develop… to come out of this cave and cage which I fashioned and find a way to be a man.  But my heart does ache sometimes.  Incorrigible romantic.


Alan Rickman as Severus Snape

***SPOILER ALERT – this post contains specific spoilers concerning the plot of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  If you have not seen the movie or read the book and would like these important plot points to remain a surprise (unlike my experience with The Sixth Sense) then PLEASE STOP READING NOW!!***

Alan Rickman is brilliant.  I honestly believe the performance he gave as Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 is Oscar-worthy.  We’ve seen his acting chops many times over the years.  Of course, his career breakout role as the deliciously evil Hans Gruber in Die Hard is a resounding favorite.  I’m rather fond of his over-the-top Sherriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood:Prince of Thieves and his prickly Elliott Marston in Quigley Down Under.  I thought he was excellent as Dr. Blalock in Something the Lord Made, was perfectly cast as Metatron in Dogma, and was hysterical as Alexander Dane in Galaxy Quest.

But in this film, he is a revelation.  It is Snape’s story that ultimately ties all the strands together, and Rickman pulls it off flawlessly.  He commands the screen every time you see him.  He begins the film as the headmaster of what has become more “Workcamp” Hogwarts than the Hogwarts we know and love.  Rickman shows off Snape’s icy, precise personality.  But it is all deception.  When Voldemort summons Snape concerning the Elder wand, you see his facade rustle, but never crumble.  It is only when he knows it is the end that we see the real Snape.  And Rickman shows why he is one of the most amazing actors working today.

We discover his love for Lily Potter, Harry’s mother.  The film, unfortunately, rushes through this revelation at a breakneck pace, but thanks to Rickman’s mastery, the tragedy comes through clearly.  We see the pain in his face and hear it in his voice when he confesses Voldemort’s original plan to kill the infant Harry, and becomes a spy and confidant for Dumbledore.  You can feel his desperation to protect Lily.  And you understand the conflict of being tasked to protect the son of the man who married the only love of Snape’s life, because Rickman SHOWS it – he is at turns concerned and defiant. The scene where he finally shows his patronus and reveals that his love for Lily Potter has not faded is beautiful and even touching.

But the scene that reduced me to tears was when Snape arrives at the Potter’s after they have been killed.  With every step you see the dread rising in Snape’s features.  When he discovers Lily lying dead, the wrenching pain on his face is heartbreaking beyond belief.  I wanted to wail along with him. In the hands of a lesser talent, it would have come off as melodramatic or cartoonish.  But Rickman has deftly crafted a deeply complex character whose reactions are organic and believable.

Rickman has developed and maintained one of the most interesting and complex characters in movie history over the course of eight films.  And he has done it with relatively limited screen time.   When I was reading the books, I always knew there was more to Snape then met the eye.  I was richly rewarded by J.K. Rowling’s masterful plot twist.  And Rickman works the same magic in this film.  He turns your expectations on their head so suddenly and convincingly that it makes perfect sense – because he has set you up to believe in this man. Yes, this is ultimately the story of Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived, but this movie  owes it soul to Severus Snape.

Breaking Elephants

It is not often a movie gives me insight into my own life, but curiously enough, there is a scene in Inception that does.

In the scene, they are discussing exactly how inception works.  They need to plant an idea in someone’s subconscious, but it has to appear to have grown there organically  instead of being inserted.  One character says to another, “For example, I tell you, ‘Don’t think about elephants.’ What are you thinking about?” The other character replies, “Elephants.”

The reason this scene strikes a chord with me is because of the many mind games I attempt to play on myself with great futility.  When I get excited about something, say an impending get-together with someone, I try and trick myself into NOT thinking about it, usually with disastrous results.   You see, I enjoy the rush of excitement and anticipation – my own low-risk version of being an adrenaline junkie.  But instead of pushing it from my mind, it becomes the center of my thoughts and suddenly much of what I feel and think revolves around the success or failure of the get-together.  See?  Elephants.

That kind of attention to one event is, well, not healthy.  The only way to avoid that is to keep my mind busy, not an easy order for someone whose life is marked from one period of rest to the next.  So, here I am thinking about something  a little too much and knowing I shouldn’t.  Elephants are almost as hard to break as bad habits.

Movies I Can’t Help But Watch

As an unbridled lover of the movies, cable TV is like an A.D.D dreamland for me.  At any time of day, I can happen upon any number of movies which, for one reason or another, demand my attention.  Lately, AMC has been running the Matrix series all… the… time.  And I just can’t look away.  Here are a few others against which I have no hope of resistance:

1. The Green Mile – it doesn’t matter when it is on or where it’s at in the story, this movie is like a drug.  From the stunning story, to the incredible characters (David Morse as Brutal is a particular favorite of mine), to two of the most despicable characters ever committed to film (Percy portrayed by Doug Hutchinson and Wild Bill portrayed by Sam Rockwell), to the stellar cast (Tom Hanks, Micheal Duncan Clarke, Bonnie Hunt, James Cromwell, Graham Greene, Patricia Clarkson, Gary Sinise, Harry Dean Stanton, Barry Pepper, and one of personal favorite character actors, Jeffrey DeMunn) it is a staggeringly fine work of art.  Directed by Frank Darabont, it is probably one of the most perfect movies ever made…

2. The Shawshank Redemption – …except that this is the most perfect movie ever made.  Filled with every emotion in the book, it’s one of the most complex, thrilling, touching, infuriating and inspiring movies.  Also directed by Darabont (is it any wonder I am also a huge fan of The Walking Dead?) it is as much a character study as anything, and that is what makes it so addictive and so very re-watchable.  Some of Morgan Freeman’s and Tim Robbin’s best work, but both are overshadowed by the most compelling voice-over scene of all time by James Whitmore.

3. Patton – As a history buff, this movie is immensely appealing, aside from the lack of historically accurate tanks.  As a fan of both George C. Scott and Karl Malden, it’s an absolute necessity to sit and watch this movie whenever I come across it.

4. The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly – Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach and Lee Van Cleef. Plus, a bunch of hilarious overacting by all the Italian actors.  One of those movies that draws me in for no good reason other than there’s just SOMETHING about it.

5. Open Range – For my money, the best Western out there.  Robert Duvall is transcendent as always, but Kevin Costner really shows why he belongs in Westerns.  Annette Benning and Michael Gambon are excellent as well.  There is no good reason for me to NOT watch this movie.

6. Tombstone –  Takes incredible liberties with history and simplifies a lot of what actually fed into the whole conflict with the Cowboys, but this movie is flat out fun.  Probably the most quotable Western ever. “I’m your huckleberry.”