Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Big C

I just found out that my best friend's wife's cancer has returned. She went through chemotherapy treatments a few years ago for breast cancer, and they thought she was cured. But now the cancer has returned and spread to her bones, spine, and lymph glands. I don't have anything to say about it, other than it's awful to think about. Elden and Susan have four kids: two teenage boys and 5-year-old twin girls. Susan, if you're one of the three people who reads this blog, my thoughts are with you.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Favorite Malapropisms from The Sopranos

I was going to start this by talking about the significance of the humor in The Sopranos, about how the show's creators can break up intense scenes with light, humorous scenes, like Shakespeare does in his tragedies, and how they can even throw in some humdingers in the middle of deadly serious scenes, but I'm not going to get into all that. I just know that whenever Little Carmine is on the screen, I make sure I'm not drinking anything. You know, because I don't want to spit out the drink? From laughing? Nevermind.

Here are the best ones I can find. Let me know if you have others:

"Quasimodo predicted all of this." -Bobby

"She's an albacore around my neck." -Johnny Soprano, about his wife Livia

Christopher claims that Issac Newton created gravity after someone hit Newton in the head with an apple.

"I agree with that Senator Sanitorium. He says if we let this stuff go too far, pretty soon we'll be fucking dogs." -Tony, talking to Dr. Melfi about homosexuality

"Revenge is like serving cold cuts." - Tony

"A pint of blood costs more than a gallon of gold." -Little Carmine, ever waxing philosophical

"We're in a fucking stagmire." Little Carmine, who I predict will run for President as a Republican in the season finale

At the screening, Little Carmine's daughter points out the interesting juxtaposition of the crucifix with the creepy figurine, to which Little Carmine replies, "You're very observant: the sacred and the propane."

"I give him his present, this mellifluous box..." - Little Carmine.

"A guy like that is going out with a woman, he could technically not have penissary contact with her Volvo" - Tony

"There's no stigmata connected with going to a shrink" - Little Carmine

"Create a little dysentery in the ranks" -Christopher

"You know, Sung Tizzoo! The Chinese Prince Matchabelli!" -Paulie

"...what with the passing of Vito Sr., and all that entrails." - Tony, psychologizing about Vito Jr.'s adolescent difficulties (Thanks, Glen)

"I was prostate with grief." -Tony

"This alteration with Coco..." -Little Carmine to Tony, after Tony had kicked the teeth out of Coco's head. This is my favorite kind of malaprop, where the second meaning actually makes sense. There was an alteration during the altercation.

"You're at a precipice of an enormous crossroads." -Little Carmine

Let me know if you have any others. I'll be updating the list, and maybe adding a movie clip of my favorite Little Carmine scene. If I recall, he throws out about five malaprops in less than a minute. For now, here's a different treat:

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Great Movie Scenes - Taxi Driver

There are three main reasons I started this web log (aka, "blog"):
  1. Whenever I bust my friends' chops for not updating their blogs, they come back with, "Well, you don't even have a blog anymore." Now they have no rejoinder, so they can either bow their e-heads in shame or get back on their butts and write another entry.
  2. I love reading other people's blogs. Ergo, the Golden Rule demands that I try to contribute something entertaining to our little e-community. I'm not limiting myself to a tight format like Top 5 Lists, so the lack of gimmickry will inevitably make this less popular for reasons that I can only guess at. (By the way, here's an interesting stat. While creating a link from my old blog to this one, I discovered that the site I abandoned a year ago still gets 200 hits a week. It'll be a long time before this blog gets even that popular, if it ever does. It'll be our little secret.)
  3. Third, I want to write an ongoing series of entries called "Great Movie Scenes" by combining the power of YouTube with my acute cinematographic eyeball.

So here we go. Taxi Driver. Travis Bickle. It's hard to call anyone a loveable psychopath, especially in light of the misfit who recently went on a killing spree at Virginia Tech, so let's just call Mr. Bickle likeably unstable. Upset about all the scummy low-lifes he sees on the streets, he's helpless, hapless, and utterly alone. In one great scene, Travis makes a stab at fitting in by taking a Senator's campaign worker on a date. Unfortunately, his idea of charming her – taking her to an X-rated movie – is pathetically unsuccessful. You don't know whether to laugh or cry. This leads to my favorite scene in the movie. Travis is sitting alone in his apartment watching American Bandstand while idly holding the barrel of a handgun near his forehead.


The loneliest character in the history of movies is not only watching television alone, but he's also watching young people dancing together to the Jackson Browne's song, "Late for the Sky." The American Bandstand clip is perfect, from the pan & zoom to the empty shoes lying on the floor to the black men dancing with white women during the racially charged 70s to the song's lyrics:

Awake again I can't pretend and I know I'm alone
And close to the end of the feeling we've known
How long have I been running for that morning flight
Through the whispered promises and the changing light
Of the bed where we both lie
Late for the sky

You know, there's just no place for a weirdo who despises weirdos. It's a perfect scene.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Belated Answers to My Parents' Questions

Now that I'm almost 45 years old and I have two sons of my own, I think it's high time to answer some of my parents' questions.

1. If your friends jump off a bridge, would you jump too?

I'm going to need a little more context to answer that question. If my friends were jumping to their deaths as part of a suicide pact, I like to think that I would find a way out of the arrangement. If a herd of rhinoceroses are charging my friends and me, I may very well follow my friends over the bridge railing. How tall is the bridge? Does it span water?

2. Don't you know that children are starving in Africa?

I compartmentalize my willingness to eat lima beans and my desire to contribute money to African food programs. I think you should do the same.

3. Do you want me to pull the car over?

That won't make any difference. I'm still going to pinch my sister when she claims Jimmy Carter would be a better president than Gerald Ford. I can take whatever something you give me to cry about.

4. Isn't it about time you started taking some responsibility around here?

This answer hasn't changed. No.

5. Were you born in a barn?

No, I was born in a hospital, but you already knew that. I think this was a rhetorical question designed to make me feel silly for leaving the door open, so let's address that issue. Frankly, I don't mind leaving the door open. If flies come in the house, we can catch them and convert them into ants. If you're worried about excessive climate control expenses, I don't mind paying the bills with the money that grows on trees.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

"24" or "Why Don't You Just . . ."

Many people have been recommending the show 24 to me. I've been curious for years, ever since networks advertised the new show starring Kiefer Sutherland. At first I thought, Wow, Kiefer Sutherland's career must really be in the dumps. What's next? A Lifetime movie? But he's entering his sixth season of a popular, Emmy-award winning show. Go figure.

My brother-in-law and nephew are obsessed with the series. In fact, Michael went out and bought the DVDs. That's something I admire. If I'm interested in a TV series on DVD, I'll work my way down a list: A) the library B) cable reruns C) Netflix D) the video store. Notice that "E) purchase at Best Buy" doesn't even make my list. I'm genuinely unable to spend $75 a pop for a single season of a TV show that I only want to see once, but I admire anyone who can. Instead of fussing around, Michael wants something and gets it with little fuss.

Anyway, I watched a few episodes of season 5 over the weekend, and I can see why people are riveted. The show moves quickly from intense scene to intense scene. And even if the scene isn't really intense, the drum beats in the background or the fact that Kiefer Sutherland (Jack Bauer) is always either whispering or yelling makes it intense. It seems like good mindless television for late-night viewing. OK, we're in. Michael agreed to loan us his DVD collection.

But then I saw a couple of episodes last night that may have turned me off forever. Jack Bauer hijacks a plane so that he can obtain a confiscated tape that records the current President of the United States admitting that he assassinated the previous President of the United States. So far, so good. Jack knocks out the flight marshall with one punch (no one notices), knocks out another guy and drags him down to the baggage hold (no one notices). Again, fine with me. I was drinking beer and scratching nuts, willingly suspending the big D. Then, after a flurry of exciting scenes that force Jack to break into the cockpit, he obtains the tape.

This is when it all fell apart for me.

The President is desperate to get that tape, so he agrees to shoot down the plane. Jack has the tape in his hand and he's talking to various people on his cell phone to work out a way to evade the F-16s. Here's what I said aloud: Why doesn't Jack just call someone and play the key part of the tape over the phone? More excitement, more drumbeats, more whispering/yelling. Emergency landing on an L.A. freeway. Daring escape. Why don't you just save everyone trouble and play the tape on an answering machine? So Jack gets back to safety and announces a big press conference, but . . . some bad guy sneaks in and erases the tape before he could play it in front of everyone! No one made a backup copy! This causes Jack to alternate between whispering and yelling.

I can take that kind of frustration in a bad horror movie, where people are disappearing and the last woman in the house hears a strange noise in the basement. The why don't you just get in your car and drive like a bat out of hell aspect adds to the horror as you watch the woman light a birthday candle and descend the stairs. But Jack Bauer saves the world regularly. He should know better. Of course, that's not how I process it. When I'm frustrated by the why don't you just... angle, I move away from the characters and think about the writer. That's no good. I think I'll play online Boggle while Wendy watches 24.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Preliminary thoughts on the Leadville 100

I signed up to do the 100-mile mountain bike race in Leadville, Colorado this August. The race starts at 10,000 feet and tops out around 13,000 feet. Have no fear -- this will not become a training journal for the next, gulp, five months. No, dear fans, this is Bob's Web Log, and I am committed to writing an entry on practically any topic at least once a month.

Leadville is my favorite race for three reasons:

  1. The belt buckles. If you finish in under 12 hours, you get a belt buckle and a sweatshirt with your name and time on it. Personally, I'd prefer the sweatshirt without my name and time on it, because the name and time are dorky in a Hey, look at me, I'm kind of a mediocre jock way. Still, it's a trophy that you can earn. In most races where you finish in 352nd place out of 630 riders, there's no reward. You lose. And for the fast, fast guys who train year-round wearing heart monitors but aren't quite fast enough to vie for overall victory, they can win a bigger belt buckle by finishing in under 9 hours. My friend Elden even hired a personal trainer so that he can break the 9-hour barrier. It's a simple strategy, but as far as I know Leadville is the only race that offers goal-oriented rewards for the masses. I don't even know where my belt buckles are from previous races, and no one really cares whether I finish, but when I'm training for the race, I need that buckle. I don't even wear belts, let alone big ugly buckles. They don't go well with my stretch pants.

  2. It's a big event. Leadville is about 20 miles from Vail, but it's basically an abandoned mining town (they used to mine lead there). It struggles to make it as a resort town. Riders have to be there the morning before the race, so the town fills up with giddy cyclists wanting to eat pasta and drink beer and chit-chat. And this year, Lance Armstrong signed up for the race but had to drop out, probably because Floyd Landis also signed up for the race. The three of us account for the last 8 Tour de France victories.

  3. The unrivaled support. When you're struggling like a little camper, volunteers try to buck you up. There's an odd sense that you'll let people down if you don't finish.
Back when I was in my 30s, I did the race a couple of times. I was never in any danger of not making it in under 12 hours, but I was thinner, younger, and in way better shape back then. I weigh 184 pounds now (down from 189), I rarely ride my mountain bike, and I've been on exactly two rides this year longer than 20 miles. And here's the worst part. When I push it to get in better shape, my body breaks down. I can't just do a few hard 50-mile rides anymore to top off my training. I'm not sure if this point has ever been brought up, but getting old sucks.

So here are my goals. I want to weigh no more than 170 pounds by race time. I want to be in good enough shape so that if I ride well under good conditions, I can finish in under 12 hours.