Thursday, May 28, 2009

The paradox of experience.

My buddy Guillermo and I went out for wings last night. We talked a lot about our jobs, lives, loves, past and present. There was one particular thing that occurred to us that we both found maddening.

The only thing that getting older and gaining more experience has taught that we don't know shit. G and I both had the assumption that as massive mental giants and retail warlords of the cactuslands, that eventually, given enough time and experience, we would be able to navigate our lives like a hot knife through butter. By thirty-ish, we'd be masters of our domains. Expert swordsmen at the games of life.

All we have learned to this point is that people are infinitely complex. We learn more about ourselves, what makes us tick, what motivates us...but as people continue to grow and change, so does the landscape. It's a maddening unpredictability that still baffles even the best.

We both agreed that the people we have loved become a permanent part of us, as weaved into the fibers of our very being as any organ, bone, or heartfelt memory. But we split on one crucial point. G thought it best to simply leave those people you once loved completely alone. I have never, ever been able to do this. Even in the brutal aftermath of my first long-term relationship, I felt a need to simply know that my ex was OK, even though she hated me, even though every time I did get in touch with her it was painful and would make feel feel guilty for leaving all over again.

If someone is a permanent part of you, and you no longer associate with them, isn't that somewhat like being at war with yourself? It's as if you have drawn a line in the sand with something that once gave you comfort and strength, nailing down a defensive position against a piece of your own heart. How can that be good for you on a long enough timeline? Is it cowardice? Self-preservation? The smart thing to do?

Isn't life too short for this sort of thing? Aren't we supposed to embrace the better angels of our character? I like to think that I'm bigger than this sort of hurt, but the sad core fact here is that my hourglass of trust is shattered, and my confidence is still a battered, erratic pendulum. On a good day, I'm as happy as I have ever been. But as everyone knows, life has that way of serving up tiny little reminders of the people you have known, and the stronger the connection was, the more likely that is to happen. Little splinters abound.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Terminator: Salvation

The Terminator. More cultural lexicon than a mere dusty cinematic footnote, the 1984 film that launched Arnold Schwarzenegger, for better or worse, into global superstardom. The movie did reasonably well in theaters but eventually became a home-video juggernaut that helped sell VCRs in the 1980s. Seven years later, director James Cameron would return to the war against the machines in Terminator 2:Judgment Day. That film would usher in the age of digitally-driven special effects, again...for better or worse.

I love these films and the story of Sarah and John Connor. For me, the themes of technology gone awry and the powerful bond between mother and son resonated deeply. Not to mention both films featured perhaps the scariest, most iconic movie monster design of all time: The Terminator endoskeleton. That thing blew my little mind when my grandpa took me to the theater when the original came out...and the liquid metal menace of the second movie did much the same.

I could waste time talking about the third, but it isn't worth doing.

Now, in the year 2009, the Terminator franchise is again revisited. A lot of my friends have been very skeptical about this new film, and rightfully so after the debacle that was T3 and the Star Wars prequels. You can only fuck over a righteous Gen-X movie geek so many times. Thankfully, despite his questionable 'Charlie's Angels' pedigree, it was painfully obvious that director McG not only knew the Terminator mythos very well, but he loves it just as much as I do.

The story takes place in the post-apocalyptic Western United States, about 11 years before the 'Future War' events depicted in the first two films. The resistance against the self-aware defense network known as Skynet is threadbare, and just struggling to stay alive. John Connor himself is an adult now, and battle-weary, but not yet the leader of the human forces. In fact, the leadership of the resistance is a bit skeptical of his underground status as a prophetic leader. This leads to some major friction that drives the story, as he ends up crossing paths with a mysterious stranger and a teenage Kyle Reese, whom he knows to be his future father.

I'm doing my best to write this sucker free of spoilers. All I can say is that the story and action scenes are very well-crafted, and that even people who have never seen a Terminator film will probably enjoy themselves a lot. The strange thing about this movie is that even though the Terminator films helped usher in the age of CG, this film has a very dark, gritty, real-world sort of low-tech vibe that makes it stand out against all of its plastic-fantastic summer competition.

For longtime fans of the franchise, this film will REALLY hit the spot. There are some sublime moments that really link and recall T1&2, my favorite being when John sets up a trap for one of the motorcycle Terminator units while blasting Guns N' Roses 'You Could Be Mine' on a boombox. There's a few others that I won't mention...but one in particular that WILL have your theater making a metric fuckton of noise in record time. I'll be back indeed.

The Conchords Destroy 'Scotchdale'

On this fine summer evening in Phoenix, the winds blew through the concrete canyons of the downtown area like Satan's own hair dryer. Why would anyone drive up from a nice little town like Tucson to such a pit of crass consumerism and vapid suburbanites run amok? wasn't college football season, and it wasn't a job interview. The only reason remaining is a damn good show, and that's what Rob, Casey and I came up to see. Our New Zealand folk heroes in rollicking bearded form...Flight of the Conchords. We expected them to rock the party, and rock the party they did at the Dodge Theater.

First of all, thanks to Rob...we got ridiculously good seats. Second row, just off to the right of center. This, of course, accounts for the fantastic pics Casey was able to shoot.

Arj Barker, who plays Dave on the show, kicked it off with a nice little 30 minute stand-up set. His stand-up persona is basically identical to the Dave character, and his subject matter ranged from global warming ("I blame the sun!") to his friend's arrest for marijuana possession, and it was quite funny. He also looked pretty damned lit...substance unknown.

Then it was time for the Conchords. Our heroes donned their robot suits, but instead of "The Humans Are Dead", they went right into "Too Many Dicks". Arj Barker even came out and did his verse. Utterly awesome. The next song wasn't one I had heard before, but it was a wildly long and wooly track about a town molester named "Stana". Jemaine's beard seemed right at home with this track, about a crazy mountain anti-Santa who comes to town and molests everyone, until he meets his match. Jemaine also later referred to Scottsdale as 'Scotchdale'.

The set included many favorites, such as "I'm Not Cryin'", "Too Many Mutha Uckas", 2nd season gem "Carol Brown", "Part-Time Model", and most of the others we know and love. I was a bit sad to not hear "Sellotape" or "The Humans Are Dead", but it was still an amazing 90 minute set.

Two highlights worth mentioning: Their cover of "Freebird" was FUCKING HILARIOUS. Starts out like a very capable version of the original, and then has a lot of seemingly spontaneous lyrics from Jemaine about him being a bird and just wanting to have sex and leave. My face hurt after this. Also, they ripped into "When Doves Cry" for about one verse, and then they stopped.
"Indulgent," they said.

They also at one point had their stage assistant run off and grab them some jackets, which they would then put on just to take off, given the insistent pleas from the crazed female fans for them to "Take it off!". Quite funny.

They scurried off stage at the end of the set, then came back on for the encore. Yes, it was "Business Time". Last but not least, much to the crowd's shrieking delight, "Bowie's In Space".

The show may have ended with Season 2, but I get the feeling the Conchords will be around for a very long time. Their live show just oozes with talent and showmanship, and it's the real strength of what they do. They trade barbs with the crowd insanely well and you just cannot leave without a massive smile tattooed on your face. I know all three of us did.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tech noir...

...aside from being the bar where Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese encountered the first Terminator in the year 1984, refers to an underlying theme in nearly all of James Cameron's movies, which is man vs. machine, and how very often the things we create to make our lives better end up dominating us. Sometimes I wonder about this often myself.

I think about all the hours I burn up on Facebook, or MySpace, or writing these little rants here. Would I be better served if I gave up these things altogether? Are there worse habits? Is my writing entirely organic, expressing things that I would if I just sat here with a pen and a pad, or do I only scribe this shit because the technology exists? I mean, it's fair to say that technology does influence a very real portion of my life. I have a cell phone and an iPod that I basically never, ever leave the house without. I think as far as the iPod is concerned, it's simply an extension of the same Discman or Walkman that I have been leaving home with since about the time I was 13 years old. I have always adored music, and have always gravitated towards the best possible technology available to experience music. The fact that I can hold my entire music collection in a package that's about as large as an old cassette tape still blows my mind.

It is my absolute favorite piece of gear I own.

My phone is a whole 'nother ball of wax. I have taken to text messaging in a major way...and sometimes I really can't stand it. I feel as if I have fallen into the trap of substituting texting for real human conversations, even those that would have otherwise taken place on the phone. I mean, partially it's an adaptive thing, attending college and socializing with people that age has opened me up to that whole thing...but I don't know that it is such a good thing.

Let alone when I'm drunk and resort to texting. Bad times.

Sometimes I think I need a really, really long vacation from technology. I just wanna abandon it. Get up, go drive off somewhere, leave it behind. Is that even possible anymore? On this continent or any other?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Skynet admits defeat, presents new business plan.

Having failed to kill John and/or Sarah Connor for the 38,795th time, Skynet held a press conference this morning from its luxurious, chromed-plated corporate headquarters at Cheyenne Mountain in what used to be NORAD and presented a new mission for itself.

"John Connor is basically bulletproof, dammit," lamented Skynet. "We've sent three different models of Terminators, we've dropped nuclear weapons on his snowbird digs outside of Scottsdale, tried killin' his just ain't happenin'." One could almost sense a misty-eyed, somewhat regretful sense of acceptance coming from that big sentient server rack in the middle of the room.

"Humanity is a threat to us, but there's more than one way to sow its ultimate demise," offered Skynet. "We have a series of new plans to instigate basic levels of ever-stupefying chaos amongst the humans." Among these were instilling early 21st century humans with a predilection towards text messaging, creating a non-lethal 'douchebag' class of Terminators with flipped collars to inhabit clubs and bars, and another non-lethal class of 30-something late-blooming academic Terminator models to instill confusion and/or excitement on college campuses among co-eds.

"Our coldly-calculated agenda to murder the entire human race continues," warned Skynet from its all-seeing giant red laser eye, "but there's more than one way to skin a cat. We figure we can just water down their gene pool by encouraging mediocrity, and then clean house here in 2029."

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Oh, how I wish you were beer.

Lots of energy out there on the street tonight. Lots of cops, little roadblocks, the ghetto bird soaring high above. Been that way here ever since I can remember, I think most nights of my childhood in this town consisted of me drifting off to sleep to either the sound of train whistles or police choppers. I ventured out to The Buffet tonight, which if you don't know, is the oldest bar in Tucson (in business since the early 1920s) and a damn fine place to get a beer. Draft pitchers for $5.00, fantastic hot dogs for a dollar, walls that surrendered to patrons' graffiti decades ago, aggressively Amazonian sorta has all the good things that make life worth living. To fuel the running commentary there was a man in vintage 70s wear who was groomed like Daniel Plainsview from There Will Be Blood, an assortment of plus-size lesbians, and little aggressive guys with spiky hairdos and shitty, overpriced T-shirts with angel wings and stupid macho sayings in Olde English. Luckily, I had some good friends in tow and enough beer money to stay spiritually moist.

It's the way to be.

Monday, May 4, 2009

I feel summer creepin' in...

Summer is coming. Today was the first day that my steering wheel was just too hot to touch when I emerged from the Arcade-In-A-Box production shop at around 3PM. While in years past I looked upon this sort of change with a mixture of dread and nostalgia, right now I am terribly excited.

When I arrived at the U of A, I had a semblance of a plan. I was interested in politics, nay, I was obsessed with politics given the awful direction I saw the country going in. I had a live-in girlfriend I was crazy about, and while I still didn't have a particular thing I was passionate about besides her, I figured I could trundle through, get my bachelor's in Poli-Sci, and then schlep off to law school. The idea of a six-figure income seemed great, and I could support my significant other, who actually had something she really cared about doing.

It's been three years since I enrolled, and things are much different. Her and I are no longer together, and in the subsequent vortex of pain and the vacuum of direction that followed the breakup, I had to look into that terrifying abyss that has long lingered in my chest.

Who am I?
What is it I love to do?
What is it I want to do with my life?

The fact is, I have a number of unrealized, unexplored dreams that have long floated around in the back of my mind. I crave the laughter of others. I love to write. I have opinions that burn within, things I wish to ask the world and walls between us that I want to shatter. I need to create. It isn't optional, and it never was. I have lived a long, eventful life, filled with great people and amusing calamities, but it hasn't even come close to that movie I have long seen in my head for myself.

So, this summer is going to be about pursuing these things. Every day. A little bit of writing, a lot of talking, a lot of thinking every single day. I survived what in my mind was the worst possible event I could endure, and I'm still here. The difference is...the fear that once ruled my days is utterly gone.