Friday, November 20, 2009


I want to wish a very happy birthday to my son, Max, who turns one today. It has been an absolutely wild, bumpy ride this past year. But the result is one of the sweetest, happiest, most intuitive toddlers I've ever seen. He's the joy of our lives. Watching him squeal with glee and run to the bedroom and bathroom when he knows it's bedtime is one of many such things he does that makes us laugh every time. We love you, Max, with all of our hearts and wish you a very happy first birthday.

On a side note, I understand I've been away from the blog for two months now. On the dot, actually. I'll post an update early next week explaining my absence and what will, hopefully, be in my future.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I now have a Toddler - by My Fair Lady

It seems as if Max's baby days are already over. At 9.5 months he started walking much to our surprise. However, as any parent knows, the first days of walking are filled with much more crawling than walking. Well, today he turns 10 months old, and now he walks more than he crawls :( While I am so happy that he is happy, healthy, growing and advanced for his age, a little part of me is so sad that my baby is already growing up. It is a constant push - pull - wanting your child to succeed and grow - and wanting your baby to be your baby forever.

In other news, along with the walking comes many more bumps and bruises. At Gymboree this week, Max took quite a tumble before I could catch him. He was walking across the carpet trying to get to a inflatable ring and caught his foot on the edge of the playmat and fell on the play equipment. However, after some love and affection from Mom, along with an icepack for his poor little cheek, he was up and running in no time, ready for more action. I think Max recovered much more quickly than poor Mom. I know he will have some falls which will include bumps and bruises while he explores his new world, but as his Mommy, I hate to see him hurt.

But, along with his toddling comes great fun as soon he will be able to run everywhere giggling and squealing as he goes with me running after him :)

Sunday, September 6, 2009

And now my phone has a blog

Coming to you courtey of my iPhone which has several blog apps. Booyah.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


So My Fair Lady and I are sitting on the floor playing with Lil Max when he stands up. Not entirely out of the ordinary as he'd been doing that off and on for the past few days. But then he walked and our mouths dropped in shock.

He and I were playing a game where I held out a glass of water and he would try and get it. So I raised it up and he balanced off my knee to try and get it. Then he let go and stumbled forward a few steps. We were stunned. Then he stood up again, went for the glass again, only this time made a hard left and walked to the fire place.

We were stunned. So much so we just had to have him walk between us again and again. Then later that night we got video of it, sort of, and it's hilarious. I'll see about posting it some day. In the meantime, we have to batten down the hatches because by this time next week he'll be running.

A week after that he'll be driving and then all bets are off.


The other day while I was looking for a job, an ad popped up in my Gmail for a literary agency out of NYC. I clicked it with the intention of keeping it for the future when I have stacks of completed manuscripts and need an agent to sell them. As I happen to have a script ready to go, I scrolled through their site to see if they had a screenplay agency. They did. I clicked it and filled out their form, dropped in my logline, and fired it off. The form said they'd get back to me within 48-72 hours.

Lo and behold, I received an email from them today. They wanted to see my script.

That loud thunderclap everyone heard this morning was my brain exploding with glee. I wrote back to them answering their questions (basically a get-to-know-you email telling them a little about myself and so forth), and attached the PDF. BAM! Screenplay is off to an agency, and a solid one at that. It's small, relatively new, and they are looking for COMMERCIALLY VIABLE material (it was in all caps in the email). This tells me a few things:

1) They're hungry and want a solid script that delivers on everything producers want at any given moment.

2) Since they're based out of NYC, they have a work ethic lacking from the California lifestyle. Agents in NYC will kick down the door and threaten people for their clients. Agents in LA schedule a three hour power lunch and talk to you about five minutes while talking on their iPhone to their other clients the rest of the time.

3) They don't take 4-6 weeks to reply with a one sentence message saying they're interested or not. 48-72 hours for the initial response, and 7-10 days after receiving material they let you know whether they like it enough to move forward.

So I'm in a good spot emotionally right now. Because an agency, even a small one, said "Yes."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

And now that's broken

In other news, unrelated to the post below, the second set of blinds in the office is now broken. Tried to lower it to keep the sun out of the office while I'm working in here, but it only got about halfway down before stopping altogether. And now I can't raise them either. Fabulous.

But this in no way, shape, or form is related to me taking out my anger at Ninja Gaiden II on a pair of helpless blinds.

Now Playing: Ninja Gaiden II

Seriously? Screw this game. I mean screw it with a drill and stomp on it for good measure. My Fair Lady commented that she was under the impression gaming should be relaxing, and shouldn't cause my veins to buldge and my fury to explode into Hulk-like rage.

I'm strangely conflicted though with "Ninja Gaiden II" because while there is literally no end to the staggering amount of frustration, the other end of the spectrum is present as well. The ways in which you can just kill the ever loving crap out of evil ninjas is astonishing. Your character, Ryu, starts out as a badass and continues from that lofty perch up to the level of furious monster that will kill you so hard. But in between these moments of blood drenched bliss are so many sequences of frustration that will literally cause you to blow all of your fuses at once.

Take these examples of both ends of the spectrum:

1) When fighting ninjas, the ways in which you dispense the pain are countless. When decapitating a foe is just the beginning of you killing them, then you know you're in for a good time. It just melts your brain when you pull off a combo that results in 15 dead ninjas and 60+ body parts. I'd start swinging swords, flails, or this big ass scythe and all around me body parts and gore are flying. And when you think you've killed someone enough, Ryu stabs them in just the right way and really tears their body apart. It's tough to beat that.

2) Then you have boss fights either in the middle of a level or at the end of it that make you want to literally kill the development team, resurrect them, and kill them again until you get bored. Or you can hit the level I did last night (Ch. 13) which funnels you down a long series of tunnels packed to the gills with monsters, all of whom can hit you constantly, and there are no save stations in sight. Also, it doesn't help that the camera is glued to Ryu's heavily muscled ass. I don't mind fighting a room full of bad guys, but when half of them are off camera and able to hit me without me being able to at least judge the distance between us, I get frustrated.

On any given playthough, I scream in fury at the game. Not helping matters is the fact that 95% of the enemies are cheating bastards. Oh no, I shall not be replaying this game, Team Ninja, not now or ever. But at this point I'm one chapter away from the end and I'm going to soldier on and complete it just to say I did it. Screw this game. I'm going to beat it into the ground and then I may stomp on it for good measure.

Monday, August 31, 2009

A long walk, a short pier, and much more

It never fails - I sit down to finally blog after so long and my mom calls. And then My Fair Lady wants me to proof her email correspondence. Hahahahahaha.

Let me start off by saying in the grand scheme of things challenging Yours Truly, My Fair Lady, and Lil Max, keeping up with "Now Playing At" hasn't been real high on my priority list. In fact, looking down at the floor I'd it's closer to if not under the stack of "must do now" items that have piled up. At the top of that pile?

Find a job. Like, right now. Right this second would be helpful too.

Basically, we've in a major bind since the first of the year when I was laid off. Two days later, My Fair Lady was hired in a contract capacity as a real estate attorney and has done a bang up job for her employer... who has kept her on contract. I signed on in February with a non-profit start-up as a writer/project manager and they're funding dried up in July. In the meantime, we've had to deal with an infant, an inability to afford daycare, and massive amounts of juggling as one will take him while the other works and so forth.

So here we are at the end of August when things have, in theory, started moving again. I've applied to practically every writing job I can find (four today if you can believe it) and I've even had a few interviews. Actually landed a quickie contract job for a company out of Florida last week where I rewrote all the text on their website. The worry here is we're majorly up against the wall, massively stressed out, and feeling more than a little terrified over what's going. I've applied to so many jobs I've had to start a Word document to track them all so I don't get confused.

In other words, the blog has been on hold for a while now due to market forces strangling the holy hell out of me.

I'd love to get back into doing this on a regular basis, I really would, so I again must hope for the best. In happier news, I've completed my screenplay and sent it off to a horror script contest in LA, and have a few friends hunting for agents that will take my call. I've also continued outlining and actually started a book, as well as outlined three new scripts that someday I hope to actually write. I strongly believe that in the next few weeks, good things will happen but it's the waiting game that is absolutely killing me.

But enough about that. How's Lil Max? In a word, exhausting.

Earlier in the year, he would lay on the floor like the blob a three month old is and just whine and whine some more. We'd feed him, try to play with him, but he'd just whine. Strangely enough, once he figured out how to do the Army Man Crawl™ he stopped whining. Why? Because then he could follow us. He quickly graduated from Army Man Crawl™ to Man In The Desert™ to finally Full Contact Crawling™. But a few weeks ago, he made two bigger discoveries:

1) Sleeping all the way through the night means Lil Max is even happier during the day.

2) Standing up and cruising along Mommy and Daddy's furniture is nine kinds of nifty.

When I say he's a handful, or he's exhausting, or both, it's because there's more energy and joy of life packed into this little nine month old than anything I've ever seen. From the second he wakes up, his grin is ear-to-ear and he's excited to play.

Then he does something way advanced like he did last night and My Fair Lady and I fall out laughing.

We have a large box (courtesy of buying diapers in bulk online) and since he prefers playing with random household items instead of his toys (for the most part), he uses the box as a climbing tool. Yesterday I decided to try to chase him around it so I dropped to all fours and threatened him with tickles. He giggled loudly then squealed with glee when I moved after him. Around and around the box we went, laughing all the time.

Then he ducked inside the box (it was on its side) and "hid." I was under the impression that a nine month old shouldn't be able to initiate hide and seek, yet there he was doing just that. He would "hide" in the box, and squeal when I "found" him. It was hilarious.

At the very least, watching Lil Max grow and learn every single day for the last several months has been a joy. It's been stressful due to the financial situation, but bonding with Lil Max has been one of the best things I've ever done. He's been down for his afternoon nap for about two hours now (he caught the sniffles last night) so it's time to wake him.

After I swing by the kitchen and hit the pan of brownies first...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Script #1 = Registered

This should have gone up on Monday after I did it, but better late than never. I registered my first screenplay with the WGA on Monday and I feel pretty dang good about it. This is a day that has been a long time coming and I'm excited. I have my feelers out there looking for agency names, and people who may have an interest so here's hoping things come to fruition sooner rather than later.

I'm also prepping to fire it off next week to a screenplay contest so we'll see. Right now I'm condensing a 108-page script into a single paragraph synopsis, which is tougher than it sounds. Oddly enough, condensing it down into a single sentence logline was simpler. Go figure.

As for the near future, I'm making notes now on a book I've been playing with off and on for the past year, as well as beginning to outline a script I wrote a rough draft for last year. Didn't really have an outline at the beginning of that one, which explains why it only runs 85 pages and sucks. But that one, since the first draft is done, should probably be my new focus so I'll at least have two scripts ready to go.

And yet again, this blog suffers from my inability to find time beyond Facebook status updates to let the world know what I'm doing. I'd get a Twitter account, but I feel stupid every time I go there so that's a non-starter. Even posting new GamingTrend reviews in our Twitter account leaves me feeling worried about the mental capacity of future generations. Though, in a hilarious bit of irony, ABC News last night commented at how John Quincy Adams essentially wrote journal entries of comparable length to Twitter posts, and he became president.

History may not always repeat, but it does often rhyme.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Life of the Party - by My Fair Lady

That is what I am now calling Max. I am constantly amazed at how social and easy going my baby boy is. It is truly amazing. Take tonight for example.

We met a couple for dinner at 7:00pm. Max is typically in bed by 8:30, so we thought, no sweat, he can handle it! Well, we haven’t seen these friends for awhile and of course we ended up staying at the restaurant until 9:05 pm. During which the WHOLE time, including after his normal bedtime, Max never fussed! He was happy, smiley, just having a great time! Makes Momma so proud!!

And, then he did what he has done before. We put him in the carseat to drive home (which was a 5 minute drive – maybe 8) and he cried the whole way home.

Why am I so amazed you ask? Because he ALWAYS keeps it together for company or social occasions. This baby learned his company manners when he was 3.5 to 4 months old. Sure he can be a little rough afterwards (he did go down after his bottle and bath immediately), but he is a dream while we are out with friends, at parties, etc.

I never knew a baby could figure out so young when it is time to be happy and have fun and when it is just Mommy and Daddy and I can tell them I am not so happy anymore. Now, we rarely (almost never) keep him out past his bedtime. But, it sure makes me breathe easy knowing that he will be a doll for the company, but may show me his frustration when it is just the three of us.

WOW!! I love Max for infinite reasons, and tonight is just one of the smaller reasons.

My baby is 7 months old! - by My Fair Lady

EDIT - This was written but not published when Max was 7 months old. So here it is now.

Max is such a good little baby. Although as everyone has seen, he doesn't sleep through the night consistently, that is a small price to pay for such an amazing baby. Max is so happy and I love to make him laugh. He laughs very easily and I think he gets that from me. It is so funny to make funny faces and get him going.

Tonight while Mitch and I were eating, Max was sitting in his high chair between us eating a rice cake, and he fell asleep while he was sucking on his rice cake. Too funny!! Of course we immediately started to take pictures of him to capture the moment.

Max is a very inquisitive baby and studies everything while we are out and about.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Time to dust this one off

Alright, so I was lied to when people told me I would still have time to do my own thing even after having a child. For all of you out there who still believes this, WAKE! UP! NOW!

Basically your life is consumed wholly and utterly and if you're a sort like Yours Truly who prefers to blog and write when I think up something funny, or want to moan about movies and games, then you're effectively in the dog house. I don't think I have ever been this exhausted EVER in my life, and that includes four years of college where I lived, on average, on three hours of sleep a night. But then a funny thing happened last week...

Little Max slept through the night. Then he did it again. Then he did it again. Then he screwed us by getting a bug of some sort that hurt his tummy and ruined all of our nights. But that wasn't his fault and despite us being frustrated, we'd picked up enough sleep from the previous nights to get through it.

Then the next night he slept through it again.

Now, for a little clarification on how Max sleeps through the night. He goes down around 7:30 p.m. or 8 p.m. depending on how hard he's crashing. Then he wakes up between 11:30 p.m. and midnight which is when we change his diaper then feed him an 8 ounce bottle of formula. Treat with Mylicon, burp him if possible, then put him back down. He's then out until 7 a.m.-ish.

After almost eight months of not sleeping through the night, this has been a divine blessing. Sleep. Blessed sleep. And here I am blogging again. Who knows how long this kick will last? But I can tell you this much:

Had a phone interview today for a part time writing gig where the writers are expected to burn out between 500 and 1000 words a day. Pffft. I can do that in my sleep. Should I get the gig, and My Fair Lady continue to work in hers, then our fortunes could turn around right quick. Not to mention that sort of constant adrenaline-fueled writing binge on a daily basis is EXACTLY what I need. Like any other skill, the ability to write is useless unless you write.

That's something I've not been doing a lot of lately, except on my script which is now on draft #4. I'm incorporating edits from my readers as well as from my own two eyes and the script is vastly superior now to my original draft. I want to get everything together by next week then start drafting out loglines and queries to the various agencies on my list. After all these years of talking about it, I'm finally on the verge of actually sending my script to Hollywood. It is difficult to understate how much of a personal accomplishment that day will be. Which reminds me - I'm going to shout for joy when I register my script with the WGA and the USPA.

And that day is coming very, very soon.

In theory, if I get this spot then it'll kick my ass hard enough that I'll write more here and for myself since I'll essentially be writing all the time. Since it's part time, that sort of intensive writing would be a perfect kick off for the day. More as it develops.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


So that's what it feels like to buckle down for three weeks and blow through a screenplay. And here I thought I'd be able to finish off this latest draft in no time flat. That train of thought left the station right around November which was, conveniently enough, the same time little Max was born.

I've been trying to finish the rewrite ever since.

Despite My Fair Lady giving me plenty of time here and there to write, it still hasn't been enough. The massive level of stress induced by a newborn (magnified tremendously by both parents working from home and being with him24/7) has pretty effectively neutralized my creative impulses. Not to mention consumed both of us more than we'd like. With newborns, you have to make a list of things you want or need to complete, then expect to get no more than two done a day. That's if you're lucky. If not, then nothing will get completed until (maybe) tomorrow.

With that in mind, I've spent more time in the last three weeks devoted to finishing this thing than was probably healthy. So I decided that I would have it locked by 5 p.m. 06/05/09. Setting a hard deadline was literally the only thing that would help me because I'd tried everything else. Finally, I just looked in the mirror, told myself that it was time and set that deadline. Completed it Thursday night at 11:30 p.m. But! .....

Factor the sort of lifestyle we're now living into trying to craft a feature length screenplay and make it good, and the challenge most closely resembles Mt. Everest. As an example, here's what happened the night I completed it.

Put Max down about 7:30 p.m. For the next 45 minutes I cleaned the kitchen and straightened around the house. My Fair Lady will think this reflects poorly upon our skills as parents. I disagree. I think it reflects that we're parents. Then I ate something quick and finally sat down at my computer around 8:20 p.m. or so. Cranked through the finale of my script and all was going well. I actually knew exactly where I was going at that point and the light at the end of the tunnel was brilliant.

At 9:30 p.m. I'm five sentences away from completing it when I hear Max wake up. If you're planning on having kids, I'd recommend this Safety 1st Baby Monitor set as the one to get. Great range + crystal clarity = win for America. I pick him up and try to rock him down. He's having none of it. I rock him some more. No go. I stare at my computer screen. Oh so close.

My Fair Lady was out at an event so this was entirely my shop for the night, just to clarify.

After a 30 minute power struggle, I finally get him back down. I drop back in my seat and it takes me a bit to calm down and then go back to finishing. By that I mean I played some Fairway Solitaire to soothe my nerves, then jumped out of that and opened my script back up. Where was I? Oh yes! I was....


At that point I was banging my head on the desk. Probably harder than I should have, to be honest. I checked back on Max, and believe it or not he was more awake than he had been previously. Bottle time!

Changed his diaper first, then fixed him a large bottle, followed by trying to rock him back down. My Fair Lady showed up then right as I was rocking him down, and she helped me get him into bed again. He was snoring by the time I walked from his crib to the door.

Once we were out of earshot I exploded in frustration. I wasn't angry at her for going out, nor was I angry at him being up constantly. Had I been screwing around on "Left 4 Dead" or "Ninja Gaiden II" I wouldn't have cared. But the fact I was five sentences away from completing this yet was stymied royally pissed me off.

So I took out those frustrations on a bad guy at the end. He was going to live. Not now. Oh no. Not at all. Originally he just learned a lesson. Now he gets shredded. Subtle? Nope. Satisfying?



I started this blog post at 1:57 p.m. and am finishing it at 8:16 p.m. If that doesn't pretty much spell it out for you what raising an infant is like, I'm not sure what else will.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


This weekend was a big one in terms of family because we had Max baptized on Sunday. This meant My Fair Lady's family was in town (staying with us, naturally) and my family hosted lunch. It also meant that Max had to be on his best behavior in front of a large congregation while wearing a dress and getting what he might regard as a bath.

So the challenge unfolded before us. Should we continue his training in the finer arts of adult-baby interaction? Or should we instead assume that he had reached the pinnacle of his training and was ready to go forth on his own? We opted for the latter. It was just a question of how would everything turn out.

We raced about the house that morning, frantic to gather our equipment and our wits. Little Max opted to forgo sleep the night before, instead deciding it best to psych himself up for his debut on the world stage. An unfortunate by-product of this was tremendous suffering on the part of his poor, beleaguered parents who by this point should be used to him not sleeping.

When he finally decided he was finished with his bed that morning, he let us know via a steady stream of babbling to his frog. We got him ready, fed him, and proceeded to wrangle ourselves and the in-laws into our vehicles. The mad dash to the church began.

Down the Tollway we raced, our hearts beating in our throats. Would we make it in time? Would Max throw up all over the minister? Would he do worse? Would the minister throw up all over him, either through illness or retaliation?

These were the thoughts that began to drive us mad with worry.

Once we arrived, we confirmed the location of both family parties then headed to the room specifically set aside for baptism babies. There we met two other couples, one of which was in our orientation meeting the prior month. The ministers arrived, said their pieces, and we paused for a moment of prayer. Which was the exact moment Max decided he liked his daddy so much he just had to deliver a slopping wet Baby Kiss right then and there.

Normally when we say "Baby kiss!" to Max, he turns and opens his mouth wide and plops it up against our heads. Recently though he figured that wasn't demonstrative enough of the love, so he grabs our hair with both hands, opens his mouth as wide as possible, then pulls himself to our faces.

Consider yourself warned if you're ever holding him and the phrase "baby kiss" is uttered in your vicinity. You then have about a second to make your peace with God before your face is mauled by an over-enthusiastic six month old.

As everyone finished their prayers, I was struggling to free myself from Max's surprisingly strong grip. The ministers left, I wiped my face down and pulled a chunk of hair from each of his little hands, then made sure he was ready. Away we were ushered to the sanctuary. We sat in the pews to the side, and I spotted Diva and Brother G waving at me from a few pews over.

Then the worm squirmed.

Maybe it was the choice of hymns. Presbyterians have an odd assortment of hymns, and the current reigning minister of our church has eclectic tastes to put it mildly. Or maybe he took after his old man. He'd also never seen that many people in one place so he started looking around, eventually smiling at and making faces for the elderly woman sitting behind us. Then the singing started and his little head spun around to say, "Wassat?"

Then we were called up for the sacrament and the three of us followed the other families to the front of the sanctuary. The child to our left was five months, Max was six months, and the other child was closer to 10 months old. We stood in the middle and the minister began prattling on in his usual way (I'm not his most ardent fan) when an odd noise echoed through the hall.


The 10 month old picked that moment to realize moving his finger up and down rapidly on his lips produced a funny noise.


The congregation busted out laughing. The minister tried to keep a straight face but to no avail. He picked up the first child and began delivering his spiel as he baptized the child.


Next up was Max who looked at the man more curious than anything else. He seems fascinating by elderly people, I guess because their faces look so much different than ours. He's with us almost 24/7 so seeing something new is fascinating to him. He smiled a little bit as the water hit his head, and then he was officially square with the Lord.


Next up was Blabbermouth who also handled the water well. Then the minister closed with a lengthy prayer (very, very lengthy) and we were directed to our seats.


Max decided at that point that he'd had enough of sitting on our laps, so we quickly made our way out and dropped him at the day care. Fortunately, he was the only one there and a grandmother roughly 354 years old was anxious to hold him. Unlike last time, he didn't take a nap in those petrie dishes they refer to as "cribs" so illness failed to find him again. The rest of the service was perfectly fine up to the sermon, when the minister figured a mixing of several different hymns would illustrate his point. After all was said and done, I had no idea what the hell his point must have been.


After taking several pictures outside (and the weather was perfect), we headed to my parents' house for lunch and more pictures. Max was a doll through this whole ordeal, doubly funny considering his behavior the night before. We can only hope that eventually he'll get to where he can be with lots and lots of people and not get stressed out.

But since he's apparently my clone, fat chance of that happening... ever.

The extra good news from the day's events though was getting a rare picture of both our families together. My Fair Lady has moaned for years that we never did that during our wedding, but fortune smiled upon us Sunday and granted her wish.

Oh, and Diva threatened to abscond with Max back home to LA due to his increasing adorability. Yes, he's adorable and grows more so every day. No, you can't have him Diva. Steal someone else's.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Now Playing: Star Trek

They finally did it. But first a quickie history:

"Star Trek" began in the 1960s, ran for three years, was subsequently canned despite solid ratings (an imprecise science back then), then brought back to great fanfare as "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" in the late 1970s. The film was meant to be the rebirth of "Star Trek." Yet for all the money hurled at it, and director Robert Wise's misguided, though bold, idea to make the film a genuine science fiction picture, the result is best summed up by comic writer Harlan Ellison's derisive dubbing of it, "The Motionless Picture."

A few years later, gold was struck. The budget was considerable slashed for the sequel, sets and effects were all reused, but it didn't matter. What mattered was the greatest villain of the series, Khan, was brought back and Ricardo Montalban delivered one of the single most legendary performances to grace cinema. Good villains are a dime a dozen but the great ones are near mythic in their infrequency. Khan was such a villain and that set the stage for the rest of the film series. There would be highs (parts IV and VI) and lows (part V and some of part III), and of course there would be new shows.

I wasn't as big a fan of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" as my friends were because I understood, even if I lacked the proper TV lingo, what a "reset button" was. Every episode would do something drastic then by the end everything was fine and on their merry way the crew went. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. But then came "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and suddenly "Star Trek" was dangerous again.

For the record, the show did not start well. It took a season and a half for them to find their footing despite some stellar one-offs mixed in. But once the show figured out what it wanted, it never looked back and by the end of it primary characters were dead, worlds left in waste, and half the Federation starfleet was decimated by a war that was so large it took two (almost three) seasons to cover. The show demonstrated that creator Gene Roddenberry's vision of a Utopian human society could be achieved while still bringing some awesome drama. Unfortunately, the staggering amount of lexicon developed over the preceding decades peaked here and all subsequent shows relied more and more on tech-speak and less on drama.

The less said about the "TNG" movies, "Voyager," and "Enterprise" the better.

JJ Abrams must have said "Screw all that!" because the first thing he did with his brilliant resurrection of the franchise is ensure that it is first and foremost a "Star Trek" for everyone. This new film is confident, swaggering, and filled with so much energy and passion and rich, rich emotional drama that I can scarcely believe I saw just one film instead of five. It brings back the original characters fans grew up with and reinvigorates them with an mission sorely lacking from the most recent shows.

In short, this film is filled with win front to back and I can't wait to see it again.

It kicks off with an event that brought My Fair Lady to tears - an attack on the USS Kelvin. Through an act of selflessness, the newly minted captain goes down with the ship in a last ditch effort to at least hurt their unknown attackers. The survivors include his wife who managed to give birth and leave enough time for the captain to participate in the naming of their son - James Tiberius Kirk.

That this singular event is what changes the whole of the "Trek" universe is genius. In the original storyline, Kirk's dad was his inspiration for boldly going through the Academy. So what happens if you remove the inspiration for someone whose actions later in life would literally shape the future of a galaxy? What sort of future would you be left with?

Oh by the way, this is indeed a time travel film in the sense that time travel is involved. That it opens with a game changer and throws another one at you roughly every 15 minutes or so is par for the course. You never know what to expect here and any film that can keep viewers this on their toes deserves all the accolades one can lavish upon it.

I loved the introduction of the characters (especially the hilarious throw-away line that describes where McCoy gets his future nickname). I loved how Uhura gets more lines in the film than the original did in the entire series. I love the awful and hilarious fate of the red shirt, as well as the entire setup for the joke. I love that Christopher Pike is not just in this film, but is a key player. I love that we get to see the test by which Kirk made his name, and it is every bit as hilarious as we'd hoped for with a punchline that left me howling. I love the advanced-yet-retro feel for the equipment and the costumes. And most of all I loved the way the cast absolutely nailed their characters.

Chris Pine is going to be the next Brad Pitt, albeit with more range. I think Pitt does brooding and crazy well, but the in between is where he repeats himself. Pine has the looks for sure, but he simply oozes confidence throughout which is exactly what he has to do as one of the biggest alpha males Hollywood has ever come up with. He's not playing Shatner either. He's playing James T. Kirk and he is note-perfect. Ignore how rapid his ascension to the captain's chair is for a moment, and stand in awe at how wonderfully Pine plays it. He's also got rock solid comic timing. All of this bodes well for future installments.

Zach Quinto has the toughest job in the film. Not only does he have to play a more emotionally conflicted Spock, he has to do it up against the actual Spock. Taking on a legendary character is one thing but doing so while the original actor is in that same character has to be terrifying, but Quinto is perfect. He even has the vocal mannerisms down pat, despite lacking the timber Leonard Nimoy adds to words like "fascinating."

Karl Urban has never left much of an impression on me other than "hey, it's that guy." But he resurrects the great DeForrest Kelly and gives us Dr. McCoy anew. He's older, been beaten down by life, and Starfleet is his only recourse. His banter with both Kirk and Spock is classic and I can't wait to see this trio continue.

The other actors do what they can, but they're limited in this installment. My one major beef is that Scotty shows up over an hour into the film and he's barely given enough time to breathe. That being said, when he's on screen he kills and the way he fits into this universe is perfect. Of course, the only question regarding Simon Pegg as how funny he would make Scotty and the answer is "very." Oh, and of course he uses one of Scotty's catch-phrases at exactly the right moment.

Despite a few things worth nitpicking (the entire sequence on the ice planet, for starters, may as well have been labeled "insert exposition sequences here") this film is so filled with goodies for movie lovers that it is worth seeing again and again. I haven't even spoken about the villain (who is functional but not memorable), or the references to past "Star Trek" lore, or the way there is no sound in space, or the genius of the entire space diving sequence, or the way this film fundamentally changes the universe and keeps going at the end.

They finally did it. They finally made a "Star Trek" film the eshews the problems that plagued the various shows. They finally made a "Star Trek" with an insane budget where every cent appears on screen. They finally made a "Star Trek" that my non-Trek fan wife can't wait to see a second time. The finally made a "Star Trek" with real danger and real consequences that pulls no punches and sets the stage where anything is possible.

They finally made a "Star Trek" for everyone and it is GLORIOUS.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day to My Fair Lady

My Fair Lady celebrates her very first Mother's Day this year and now is a perfect time to tell her thank you for everything she does:

1) She keeps me grounded. I have the attention span of a flea and historically jump from one project to the next to the next without finishing much if anything. As much as I hate it when she reigns me back in by reminding me about project X, it ensures that I maintain focus and ultimately complete it. I've become infinitely more productive since meeting her.

2) She's fun to mess with. She's a genuine sweetheart but sometimes lacks a sense of the obvious. This combined with me having a solid poker face means I can usually pull the wool over her eyes regarding something that may obviously be outrageous. The trick is to see how long I can string her along with an ever-increasing series of bogus claims without her figuring it out. This usually provides remarkable entertainment.

3) She's dedicated. When she decides she's going to do something, she attains it no matter what or when. Her path to becoming an attorney would have made lesser men and women quit in disgust but she persevered. It is a testament to her determination and will serve notice to Max and #2 in the future that she won't back down from them, regardless of how unruly they become.

4) She's a sweetheart. I've never met anyone so enamored of the "can't we all get along?" side of life. She's a genuine, honest, and forthright person that always has to do the right thing because to do otherwise is simply unacceptable. Even skirting a gray area gives her considerable pause. You don't find many people like this in the world and the ones who exist should be cherished.

5) I still crush on her. We've been together seven years, five of which are married years come August, and I still have a crush on her. I like the way she walks, and the way she holds herself, and for some bizarre reason I enjoy her refusal to ever "reveal anything." This sometimes includes anything that even remotely hints at cleavage, of which she has an ample supply. I find this endlessly funny, but hey - more for me. :)

6) She's the mother of my son. The fact I can say that I have a son continues to astound me, especially as he rolls on the floor while I type this. It's wild and terrifying to be a parent, and the journey we've already taken with Max has been a game changer for me. I love him dearly, and I love her for giving him to me.

7) I love her. I do. Plain and simply, I do.

Happy First Mother's Day to My Fair Lady, and I hope that you continue to enjoy all the rest to come. Now if you'll excuse me, Max is grunting with such gusto that he's either passing his body weight in poop or is more in need of a laxative than anyone else ever.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Mom's Musings Part II

Bear with me - I don't bring the funny like other contributors to this site - but I am a numbers gal (despite the fact that I am a lawyer) and my dear sweet hubby is the wordsmith.

Anyhoo, I need to blog more - enough said! Max is now five months old. He has evolved from a tiny baby who would lay about and sleep most of the day to a very active baby. Gone are the days where you put him in one spot, walk out of the room to get a drink, and return to find he hasn't moved an inch. Now, we put him in the middle of our big living room, I walk out to get a drink, and he has moved five feet from where I put him. Oh, the joy of baby proofing begins!

Max and I enjoy reading alot. I read to him every day however, not at bedtime. I find him more engaged and interested when I read to him during the day instead of at bedtime. He turns the pages of the book and has since he was three months old. His Tootsie thinks this is amazing. I just thought it was typical. I recently bought him some soft books so that he can turn the pages and chew on them at the same time. :) So, hopefully I am turning him into a lifetime reader like me. I have read all my life and I hope he does as well.

I am so excited about this coming summer! I love to be outside and go on picnics and whatnot. Max, being the outdoorsman that he is, should have so much fun this summer playing outside. We took him to the Arboretum for their annual spring flower festival and he was such a happy camper! I have scheduled quite a few outings for this summer including the Fourth of July parade. Yeah!! We also recently acquired a very nice jogging stroller to take him for walks. I run 5ks - and will be doing one in four weeks - but I think he is too small for me to run with him. When he gets bigger, I will jog with him for the 5ks, but for now, his Daddy will watch him while I run. There will come a day when I hope to run with him. We can start on one mile fun runs and work our way up. :) It is funny - part of me thinks he is growing up WAY too fast and the other part of me is so excited about what the future holds when he is bigger. I guess that is why everyone says that your baby is always your baby no matter how old he is.

Mom's Musings

Mom's Musings. Max is now three and a half months old. WOW!! Time flies! Every day he is becoming so much more fun to play with. Max recently discovered his toes and now seems fascinated with the fact that he has feet. His pediatrician told us that first babies realize they have arms, then hands, then fingers - I assume the same holds true with the discovery of hey - I have legs, to hey I have feet - then WOW I Have TOES!! Imagine that! Max is such a joy and I love how he coos and talks. He also is starting the process of learning to crawl - two weeks ago he started putting his cute baby butt in the air and then trying to scoot forward. I am still trying to explain to him he needs to put his weight up on his arms to move. I can't wait to see what happens next! :)

Progress of sorts

Last night was an odd one. For us at least. Our tale starts as Max began a full fledged meltdown at 4 p.m. that turned into a baby laughing fit and ends with a remarkable amount of sleep for both him and for My Fair Lady while I was unable to sleep due to a massive rain storm for only the second time in my life.

Two weeks ago we had three trees cut down in our front yard. Piles and piles of large branches were lined up behind our fence per the city's instructions on where to leave such refuse, but there was still a massive collection in our driveway. The city tagged it and moved on expecting us to call out a cherry picker, or I could take a few days and cut down the pile myself.

I chose the latter.

As I chopped and hacked and slashed my way through the better part of Saturday, My Fair Lady reorganized the garage while Max sat very patiently in his stroller. He just watched us both very pleasantly and continued to prove that he's an outdoorsman. I swear, you take this kid outside and he's golden for three or four hours solid. Such was the case yesterday up to the point where it was time to feed him cereal.

We'd been inside and done with yardwork for about an hour when My Fair Lady reminded me that he needed his cereal. So I took him into the kitchen and put him in the Swedish Chair (his high chair) and that's when the meltdown began.


I yanked him out of the chair and he immediately stopped.

"What the hell was that?" I asked him. He just looked around. I put him back in the Swedish Chair and the result was the same. This time I finished the process of strapping him in and assembling the chair. Then I dragged him over to the kitchen sink so he could watch me preparing his meal. This whole time he's crying, by the way.

My Fair Lady walked into the kitchen concerned by the goings on and all I could do was shrug.

"He's fine," I argued. "One second he's good the next, this. I'm prepping as fast as I can."

Once his cereal was ready (two tablespoons worth of rice cereal), I slid him over to the table and used the crying to my advantage. He would rear his head back and I slipped the spoon into his mouth. He wasn't expecting that. He knocked it back and tried to cry out again. Again his mouth encountered my spoon, loaded for bear with cereal. This process went on for some time at which point it became increasingly clear that the amount was insufficient for him.

"Um... hon? How much should I feed him of this?"

"How much has he eaten?"

"About to clean his plate and he's still going strong. Thoughts?"

"Try another tablespoon and see how he does."

So I prepped another tablespoon worth of cereal. Again, he cleaned it right up. Again, he continued to fuss and cry though with slightly reduced intensity. So I made him round four which again he knocked back with ruthless efficiency. Desperate to fill the black hole that apparently my son has for a stomach, I snagged the remaining bottle of formula, slapped a nipple on the top and plugged it into his mouth.

"Snarf... snarf... snarf."

The formula began to rapidly disappear. My Fair Lady and I just watched mesmerized by how much this five month old being had consumed. But then his drinking began to taper off. With an ounce left to go in the bottle, he was finally sated. I withdrew the bottle and Max and I just stared at each other. Then, like the four year old I am, I made a farting noise with my mouth.

That cracked him up. So I did it again. He cracked up again. Oh, we had a happy baby again and yet more proof that when he cries or is fussy, feed him. This is something we seem to be reluctant to accept or comprehend for some bizarre reason. My Fair Lady, of course, snagged the video camera and captured the extent to which a dad will go to amuse his baby.

In my case, that would be 10 minutes of farting noises. I assured My Fair Lady that at no point in the future will Max ever grow out of laughing at this. We men are a simple folk.

After that it was a matter of playing with him until he went down. We've really nailed his night routine and now he's adopted a morning routine as well - which is great except on the days when we have to blow it on account of circumstances.


Last night we put him down no sweat by 6:45 p.m. My Fair Lady nursed him, patted him, put him to sleep - nothing out of the ordinary. He wakes back up shortly after 9 p.m. at which point we feed him a 6 ounce bottle of formula (or a Baby 40 as I call it) and then he conks right back out. He wakes back up at 10 p.m. but puts himself back to sleep. He wakes up again at 11:45 p.m. and for 15 minutes coos in his bed as he tries to soothe himself back down. Ultimately he was unsuccessful so I went in, picked him up, patted him on the back for five minutes and he went out again.

He woke up again at 4:30 a.m. Almost made it through the dead of night and went over six hours between feedings. This is a win for America.

Last night we had a major rain storm in the Dallas area, so much so that minor flooding was a genuine threat. Instead of sleeping peacefully through it as I used to do, I couldn't sleep at all due to constant panic that the storms would wake Max up. Yes, I can't wait for him to sleep through the night without worries.

But baby steps is what it will take and our progress continues.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Now Playing: Igor

Maybe its because I'm getting older, but some movies I can't sit through. I try. I do try. But some of them are literally so bad that I just can't do it. I've seen enough movies in my time to peg the good ones and the bad ones and the mediocre ones all right from the start. I'm up for giving anything a try, but when all it does is try my patience then I shout, "Out with thee!"

"Igor" definitely tried my patience before finally exploding it.

The idea for it is great. An entire country worships a collection of mad scientists who try to one-up each other with ever increasing means of destruction. These scientists compete every year to see who is the baddest of the bad, and each scientist has an Igor for an assistant. So the question is, what happens if one of the Igor's decides to try for the title himself?

The results are scattershot to say the least. John Cusack voices Igor, and he has his own motley assortment of characters around him. One of them is a demented bunny voiced by Steve Buscemi who is, apparently, unable to die and quite bitter about that. He tries continuously to kill himself but always heals back up, which leads to some morbid running gags.

But like the rest of the film, those gags run out of steam after the second time.

Eventually Igor decides to build his own monster, and when it decides to become an actress I tuned out completely. No child is going to understand any of the "Sunset Boulevard" references let alone get why repeated suicide attempts are funny. The film (as much as I saw) is about as lifeless as the corpses Igor tries to reanimate, and the less said the better. Skip this one.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Now Playing: The Foot Fist Way

This is a thundering dud of unfunny that I turned off about half an hour in to. It stars the great (and I mean that) Danny McBride as a martial arts instructor who may have suffered one too many blows to the head in his career. McBride is normally hilarious (he easily stole many scenes in Tropic Thunder and that sounds impossible considering the level of insanity in that film) but here, in his debut, he sort of clunks along.

That's alright, because the film is one of those indie flicks that I have developed a sense for. It's the kind that is poorly written, shot, directed, and acted yet there are fans. Ardent fans too. The kind of fans who have difficulty understanding why Serenity is a schlocky, brutal slap in the face for everyone who loved Firefly. Different digression for another day.

My point is that if you've seen one bad indie film you have honestly seen them all, including this one. They include the same level of weak-to-awful acting, unenthusiastic staging or camera movements, comedy that lacks quality timing, and characters you have strong feelings for. Doesn't matter if you hate them - you at least feel something.

The only thing I felt after half an hour was ripped off and I got this via Netflix. Skip it.

Thoughts on Fallout

It was announced this week that the next installment in the Fallout series will take place in Las Vegas. But that's not what has the gaming world jumping for joy. The stand alone (i.e. not a sequel to Bethesda-developed Fallout 3) is in development at Obsidian.

Most of the crew at Obsidian came from Black Isle. Black Isle developed the original Fallout and is renowned among us long-timers as one of the best houses ever. They stand alongside BioWare and LucasArts (in their golden age) as one of the development houses that could do no wrong, and Fallout was their crown jewel. Knowing that they get to take another crack at the universe they created fills me with joy.

I have never played Fallout 3 but I have very little interest in doing so. For starters, I don't even remotely have 100 hours of my life to sink into a game anymore. Just doesn't exist for me. Second, Bethesda developed it. I've tried both of their last role playing games (Morrowind and Oblivion) and found them both lacking narrative cohesion and soul.

What they DIDN'T lack was a robust engine that the mod community could go wild on, and in both cases it was six to eight months post release when that same community added a crucial element to both games: Fun. This is the reason why I think Bethesda and id Software both should lay off building games and focus on building engines. But if members of the original Black Isle team were let loose in the Fallout world again, then that might be something genuinely special.

My Fair Lady and I can't discuss games. I mean she'll put forth an effort to banter with me about the latest LEGO game, and she's grown accustomed to my late night gaming, but she doesn't have the history with it that I do. Nor do I have the history with marching band that she does. She played the bass clarinet, and when we were at a concert recently she was stunned that someone was switching in mid-piece between bass clarinet and contra-bass clarinet. A thousand years from now I still wouldn't have the slightest clue what the hell that means. But the Fallout universe means a lot to me, more so than I have ever let on to anyone and here's why.

I didn't go crazy for the original Fallout when I played it. I had a complete and revelatory emotional experience throughout it, and I only played it once. Just once. I put it down after that and never went back. I skipped the sequel a few years later because despite picking up 80 years later, I just couldn't bring myself to go back into that world. Why? Because the story was finished. More than that.

It was complete.

Your character starts out in an underground Vault built before the bombs dropped. At some point, nuclear holocaust struck the world and it did so during the 1950s. Technology advanced with that mindset and the results were simultaneously strange and hilarious. Fallout's now legendary opening cinematic established a tone that combined gallows humor, optimism, and a shocking level of sorrow and pathos all in a single shot.

Once you've established your character's stats, you leave in search of a replacement microchip for the Vault's water supply. This part of your quest is ultimately resolved sooner rather than later, but it opens your eyes to a post-apocalyptic world filled with as many possibilities as there are corpses.

During my playthrough, I first encountered a mangy dog aptly named Dogmeat near a decayed border town. Dogmeat joined me on my quest and the two of us set off across the desert. Eventually we entered another town where a firefight ensued. This resulted in another companion aiding us, though his name escapes me. He was a tall man in a black leather jacket. Those are the only details I can clearly see through the haze of memory. But the three of us journeyed across the land, eventually coming into contact with a race of super mutants.

These things were massive. You have to, for a moment, bring your mind back to the world of graphics in the late 1990s. When I say "massive" I mean in terms of the isometric viewpoint of the world. These things were twice as big as a man, and four times uglier. They were large, green, vicious creatures who routinely carried heavier artillery than would fit in my backpack.

We came upon a burned out settlement. The rusted and ramshackle buildings, the ones left standing, were missing entire sections of roof. You could see just enough hallway to get a feel for the building, but in my gamer youth I failed to understand that it wasn't what I could see - but what I couldn't see.

A couple of mutants exited the buildings and came right at us. The way combat was handled was via allocation of move and attack points. We could move X amount of spaces but that might deduct from the Y amount of attack points, thus affecting range and amount of damage. Fallout was my first genuinely tactical game, in more than one sense, and you really had to invent a new strategy for each encounter.

For this one, the three of us made short work of a mutant we caught outside the buildings. I sent the man in black ahead to check out another building while Dogmeat and I fended off a mutant on our right flank. We brought down the beast, but both of us were dangerously low on move points. It was then that the man in black reached a long hallway that was missing a section of roof, thus allowing me a perfect view.

It was then that I realized I couldn't see the end of the long hallway that the man in black stood in the middle of.

All of a sudden a large mutant wielding the biggest flame thrower I'd ever seen stepped around the shadowed corner. He locked on to the man in black and squeezed the trigger. In my dreams that night I honestly heard the man scream as the flames engulfed the hallway. Dogmeat and I only had enough move points to retreat. My last save was an hour or so previous. The man in black stayed where he fell.

Eventually Dogmeat and I encountered a long-buried outpost in the desert that was a previous nuclear research facility. From what I recall (keeping in mind it's been over 10 years since I played) it was where one of the missiles launched from. It was filled with cutting edge technology - powered suits of armor, heavy artillery, laser doors, and a heavy amount of radiation. We dared not linger. It was close to the finale (play enough games and you can always sense when the final battle draws near) and I was anxious for my adventures to come to a close. Too anxious as it turned out.

I moved through the facility trying to exit in a hurry and that's when we came to a laser door, the last one on the way out. I moved when it was open and could see the light of the exit. Dogmeat's move points, however, were just enough to land him in the doorway as the laser closed cutting him in half. Again, my previous saves were useless. We'd braved an evil and deadly wilderness together and in my haste I'd managed to kill my most loyal companion inside a pit where no one would ever find him. I pressed on to the end. Alone. Openly grieving.

Only to encounter a relatively weak-ass ultimate boss that you can basically talk into self destructing. It's more complicated than that, but not by a whole lot. It didn't matter. Even with the world saved, my friends were dead and at least one I felt genuinely responsible for. Their deaths hurt, genuinely hurt, me. Then I returned to the Vault, my expedition a success in terms of goals accomplished.

It was then the Vault Leader turned me away. I was told my exposure to the world outside the Vault would doom its inhabitants, or some such nonsense. I could barely contain my rage. All of it was for the Vault. Everything I'd done, all the lives I'd saved or ended, all of it was so my character could return home and this bureaucrat stood there and had the audacity to tell me no. I was livid.

Then an in-game cinematic kicked in. The Vault Leader turned his back to me to re-enter the Vault. My character calmly drew out my shotgun and fired, blowing the pin-head in half. My jaw hit the ground in utter disbelieving shock. The game faded into a minor epilogue selling me that my character went west and established another settlement, but my mind could only focus on the bloody remains of the Vault Leader who denied me at the exact wrong time to do so. I've come to find out that this ending is not exactly rare but pretty darn close.

I've never played it sense and all others are pale imitations. But if Obsidian can deliver even half of the absorbing drama of a world without rules, a world filled to the brim with ghoulish humor, unexpected scenarios, and one emotional wallop after another, then I'm in.

Even if it takes 100 hours. I'll find a way, because an experience like this comes along once every so often. People have questioned why I'm as hard nosed a critic as I am, and I explain it is because I've played everything and nothing surprises me. This is only half right. The other half I can't explain because I would go through a story like I just told for Fallout and Planescape: Torment and Baldur's Gate II and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and have to patiently explain why each and every one rocked me to my core for different reasons.

But I may just do that in future posts devoted to those games individually that genuinely captured me. Stay tuned...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Achievement Unlocked - Foulness

I opened Blogger just now and was struck by the realization I didn't have much to say. I planned to start blowing through my movie reviews, then I heard my name shouted from the other room. I burst into Max's room and he's laying on the changing table with his butt up in the air, My Fair Lady is changing him, and WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?!?!?!

We have officially unlocked "Foulness" - baby's first more or less solid diaper. It is exactly as the title suggests.

When you have breast fed babies, their diapers are usually non-events. They don't smell all that bad and even at their messiest only take a few moments to clean up. Their little bodies absorb all the material from the breast milk quick as you please.

Introduce solids, however, and their diapers become some new (or I guess you could make the claim for "old") form of WMD. Had Max been able to wiggle out of this diaper and run around the house, there would have been a trail of epic foulness across my carpet, sort of like a Yellow Brick Road of the Damned.

And it is only going to get worse from here. Wheeee!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Different Strategy

One of the things that I've discovered is vital to new parents is getting on a schedule. Any yahoo who says that children don't need schedules and need to be allowed to grow on their own is, pardon my language, a fucking tool who doesn't know what they're talking about. Max was a nightmare for the first few weeks at night. We introduced him to a schedule at 8 weeks and POOF! Nightmare gone.

Then it was time to get a day schedule which regrettably proved more difficult for us to establish due to a host of reasons. Among them is the work situation which finds both myself and My Fair Lady working from the house. It is great in the sense that we don't have to pay for day care and we can raise Max right from the start all by ourselves. This has led to an increased amount of bonding between the three of us, so much so that now when we leave him for a bit he knows we'll be right back and is surprisingly calm.

But the lack of a day schedule was killing us. Max was cool with it but neither of us were getting enough work done. Then My Fair Lady had a great idea:

"What if we get up when he does, at 7:30, and then one of us takes him for five hours while the other works? Then we trade off at lunch?"

It was so simple and yet so radical an idea it just may work!

We put it into practice this past Saturday, again yesterday, and again this morning. Thus far, it seems to be working like a charm. Both of us have been able to get the work we needed to do completed (or in my case, I was able to blow through Wheelman and most of GTA: Chinatown Wars as well as five more pages on my script) and Max has been a gem to deal with.

And it only took us four and a half months. We're slow learners, clearly.

So my plan of attack is as follows - use the first hour of my daily five for blogging, then the other four are allocated for work, scripting, whatever else. I'm looking forward to catching up on my reviews as well as finally sitting down to write some things about Max for a change. Here's hoping this schedule goes well until we can afford day care.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Crook

Astute readers may have noticed an earlier reference to "the crook" which is what I have dubbed the manner in which I sometimes carry Max. It is a slight bending of the elbow which forms a small nook that Max is quickly inserted in to. He sits in "the crook" quite contentedly and looks around as I walk through the house doing chores with my off-hand.

This is essential to fathers: get "the crook" down at an early stage. It makes life easier. I would use flow charts and diagrams on how best to form "the crook" but with my drawing ability you'd wind up with a paper crane and a crick in your neck.

And wake up in Morocco.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Cutting the Cloth

A few weeks ago, My Fair Lady and I decided to begin the arduous process of weening Max from his Miracle Blanket, which is great for newborns. But as soon as they start wanting to stretch out and move, it becomes an ever increasing challenge to get them back into it. Plus, Max's legs were beginning to scrunch up inside because he was getting too long.

Yet we were not ready to go all the way and break the swaddle, i.e. let Max sleep the night away with his arms out.

So there we stood in his nursery at 1:30 a.m. arguing loudly about the best way to go about this. Max, meanwhile, just stared at us from his changing table. I don't quite recall who said what exactly, but these were some of the more memorable quotes:

"Just cut it!"

"He needs to not be swaddled anymore!"
"You want to start completely right this second? We haven't slept in three months and you want to ensure we don't sleep for three months more?"

"I don't want to ruin it! What about the next child?"
"Hey look! They have a website from which we can order more!"

"What if we cut it so his feet go through but his arms are still swaddled? Is that a good middle ground for you?"

This last was asked of Max and he just blithely smiled up at us. He was fine with it. So we cut off the bottom portion of the Miracle Blanket and re-swaddled him thus conking him out immediately.

I recommend for future parents that discussions like this be held during the daylight hours when your body knows instinctively that it's supposed to be awake, even if it feels like sleeping.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Achievement Unlocked Again

3 a.m. Casa de Skim. Slight rain falling outside. Everyone in the house asleep.

/sound of "Law & Order" duh-duh!

"Wait! What time is it?!?"

My Fair Lady was awake in a panic. I groggily opened my eyes, looked at the VCR which had yet to be pushed forward due to that $%^#ing time change, and swore at having to do the complicated math of adding two and one.

"Uh, three o'clock I think." I turned to go back asleep. My Fair Lady would have none of it.

"But he hasn't been fed! I never fed him! Is he alright?"

"Uh, I presume so. Haven't heard anything through the monitor yet."

This is where My Fair Lady grew persistent. Bear in mind - me asleep in the dead of night is the wrong damn time to persist in anything with me. Were the house on fire, I'd mouth off about busting out the marshmellows depending on how restful my sleep up to that point had been. And I assure you I'd had at least three hours worth of restful sleep.

"But I haven't fed him! When did you put him down?"


That's when my eyes went open as it finally registered that lil' Max had been asleep for six hours solid. I immediately leaped out of bed and raced to check on him. He was sound asleep in his crib. I stumbled back to our room.

"He's fine."

"Well I'm sure not! I'm swollen like you wouldn't believe? Dammit! I wanted to sleep through this!" With that, My Fair Lady grumbled off to go lower her excess levels. I went back to sleep.

For exactly one hour.

At 4 a.m. Max awoke for his first feeding of the night. If he does the same thing again tonight we will be so happy it boggles the mind. But you never, ever get something for free. Today he's been a pill for the most part and we think he's beginning to teethe.

But at least he's making progress on the sleep thing. Maybe at some point we will too.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

That's better. Kinda.

So I post the story about Max on Monday. Tuesday night I start feeling a sore throat coming on and a general malaise begins to sink in. Wednesday it kicks into high gear and I feel horrible. Thursday (my birthday) I wake up, throw up, lose my voice, hack up both lungs, and stay in bed most of the day. Friday, Saturday and Sunday were all exercises in frustration trying to get my voice back.

Monday morning I woke up feeling like a truck had run over me. Twice. Then backed up and did it again for good measure. But as the morning progressed, I felt better. Much, much better.

Today when I woke up, it was sans the sensation of being roadkill. Tonight I'm having another round of coughing fits but they lack the sheer intensity of the ones that have ravaged me the past week. I'm guessing at this rate I should be back to full strength with only a recurring dry cough by Thursday of this week. And my voice has started really coming back so hopefully I'll have that by tomorrow or also by Thursday at the latest.

This year's version of the cold should be avoided at any and all costs. If you hear someone coughing, run for your life.

Monday, February 16, 2009

It Goes Without Saying

I'm washing Maxs clothes tonight while My Fair Lady recuperates from not feeling so well and I double checked a label on one of his outfits.

"Keep away from fire."

Thanks for the warning there, chief. I'll make sure little Max isn't roasting smores at the ripe old age of three months while in this particular jammy. The one with the frog head for a cap though bears no such warning, which means when we go camping next week and try to slay a bear with our bare (zing!) hands I'll know what outfit to pack.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What's this? What's this? There's something in the air!

1) Normally I don't quote musicals while blogging but that one line was all that floated through my brain this morning.

2) Verizon FIOS has a nasty habit of resetting their boxes whenever a power surge or anything even flickers.

3) Max hit 12 weeks today.

Now, what do these three things have in common? Max almost slept through the night last night. That's what they have in common.

As all new parents know, no baby sleeps through the night right away. People who claim their child magically does are, pardon my language, fucking liars. To. A. One. Doesn't matter if your baby has colic or not. It ain't sleeping through the night for the first month, maybe not even the second. It may sleep through long stretches, but by and large those stretches are going to range between one to three hours.

Max hit almost a full 11 hours last night. I say "almost" because he was up three times but it wasn't so bad. New parents look for the good in literally anything because they want their child to mature (not grow up mind you) enough so that all of you can sleep through the night again.

Here is Max's normal nighttime routine we've established:

6:30 - 6:45 p.m. = Bath time. We strip him down, put him in the bath, and wash him every other day so as to not dry out his skin. Other days we just let him splash around. As a result, he's really taken to enjoying being in water which is a far cry from his mother.

7:00 - 7:30 p.m. = Feeding. This is his "final" feeding before bed time. Then we change him, and wrap him in the Miracle Blanket. One of us then walks him while burping him and works to put him to sleep. We lay him down in his crib, turn on the sound machine (set to White Noise) and close the bedroom door. He then sleeps normally until about 10 p.m.-ish when he'll wake up hungry. From that point on we feed him, change him, put him right back down. This last part involves rocking some nights, no rocking other nights.

Last night here's how it went.

6:45 - 7:00 p.m. = bath time
7:00 - 7:30 p.m. = feeding time
7:30 - 8:30 p.m. = me walking while holding him trying to get him to go to sleep while my dinner grew colder by the second

For whatever reason he did not want to go to sleep. He wasn't fussy at all though. He just calmly looked at me while I held him, yawned every now and then, but otherwise was wide awake. Then I put him in The Crook* of my arm and it was like a light switched off. Out he went and out he stayed.

I'll explain The Crook* in a separate post.

I put him down and went on about my night. He woke back up about 10:30 p.m. which was fine. My Fair Lady fed him, then I took over changing him and rocking him. The catch was he was so far asleep and completely limp that there was no need to excessively rock him. So I laid him down and he went back to sleep. Since I was still awake and needed something to put me to sleep, I went and played "Assassin's Creed."


Max woke up again at 2 a.m. for his nightly feeding. I told My Fair Lady that I would change him and put him down after the feeding and to come wake me up after she was done. She agreed and I went back to sleep. Fast forward to this morning.

I hear Max crying via the baby monitor and immediately snap half out of my stupor. I look at the time on the Verizon box and it says 141. "Dammit!" I shouted, loud enough apparently to awaken My Fair Lady. "Wait a sec. Weren't you supposed to wake me when you were done feeding him?" I asked.

"Yeah, he went right down though so I just did it myself," she replied. "What time is it?"

"I have no idea." Max cried out again. "What the hell is the time?!?!"

"Oh my God," came the response from the other side of the bed. "It's 7 a.m."

We just looked at each other stunned. We got out of bed and I fetched Max while she up the feeding station. I brought him out and he immediately latched onto her. Meanwhile she and I just stared at each other and at him in complete shock. He'd actually slept and woken up at clockwork intervals, specifically ones we could handle. We needed to get up at 7 a.m. anyway and we went to sleep around 10 p.m. anyway. One time in the middle of the night is no big deal. Not a bad way to start off his 12th week.

"What's this? What's this? There's something in the air!" blared through my head at full volume.

Here's hoping there is more joy to come. Oh, and he's an incredibly happy baby right now and his parents both feel more alive than they have since November. Amazing what a decent night's sleep can do for you.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Now Playing: Run Fatboy Run

I’m an ardent fan of Simon Pegg. “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” are hilarious, surprisingly deep films made by geeks for geeks. But rather than be tribute films chock full of references to the exclusion of plot (looking at you, “… Movie” uh, movies), they were smashing entertainments all their own. That they spoke the language of their respective genres fluently was almost incidental.

“Run Fatboy Run” is not up to either of those. It’s amusing for the most part, and laugh out loud funny a few times, but on the whole is a surprisingly toothless affair. It isn’t like Pegg is incapable of going dark (witness the battle in the bar at the end of “Shaun”) but here he’s just going through the motions. Granted, several of those motions are damn funny.

Pegg plays a guy who literally ran away from his pregnant fiancĂ© (Thandie Newton) on their wedding day, and he’s more or less been running from life for the subsequent five years. He’s stuck as a security guard for a clothing store, he’s behind on his rent, and he’s not setting the best example for his son. He’s happy with life though, despite not going anywhere at all. But that changes when his ex brings home a dashing and successful money man (Hank Azaria) who can offer her and their son all the things that Pegg can’t.

Pegg winds up deciding to run a charity marathon against Azaria and a large chunk of the film is his hilarious training. A few of the running gags killed me, like his repeated failure to set his alarm clock, but the charming story sort of runs out of gas right before the marathon.

The good news is it picks back up again in ways I wasn’t expecting once the marathon begins, and the result will leave a smile on your face. Especially the way they depict “The Wall.” You’ll know it when they come to it. So to speak.

First time director David Schwimmer of all people manages to keep things moving but overall lacks the lively touch of frequent Pegg contributor Edgar Wright. Wright brings an energy and focus to his films that is sorely lacking here.

“Run Fatboy Run” is a charming film, but far from a top notch one. Pegg is great as usual and has earned enough cred with me that I’ll see him in whatever he does. If supporting him means more films like “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead” then I’ll even go see him in next summer’s “Star Trek” not-a-reboot.

Now Playing: For Roseanna

This is the gem I whip out whenever someone demands to know why I can’t stand “Titanic.” At least I did back when James Cameron’s magnum sudser was the de facto standard for love stories aimed squarely at the tween demographic.

In the intervening years, it’s become more popular to use “Titanic” as the punching bag I always knew it to be, but one thing needs to be clear right from the start – I called it an Epic Fail opening night and have never wavered in my judgment.

So when the inevitable “you just hate romance movies, don’t you?” lines would start up I would use “For Roseanna” as my “nuh uh!” ticket out of the conversation.

Jean Reno, favorite fanboy heavy of “The Professional” and “Ronin” fame, goes way against type as the frantic Marcello. He and his wife Roseanna (Mercedes Ruhl) lost their daughter some time ago, and Roseanna wants more than anything to be buried next to her when her time is up. Roseanna has a weak heart and could go at any time, so Marcello sees it as his life’s mission to keep everyone in the village alive long enough that Roseanna can safely secure her grave spot.

Sure it may sound morbid on paper, but the heart of it is the extent to which a loving and devoted husband will go for his wife. “Titanic” was all flash-in-the-pan affair-driven lust. “For Roseanna” is about what it’s like 20 years later, and what can happen when two people are genuinely devoted to and love one another. The passion, joy, and fun that everyone aspires to when they say “yes” followed 3-24 months later by “I do.”

That’s why I hold this film up, because it celebrates the very thing that the real world has over Hollywood – the heights that genuine, true love can reach.

Plus, the film is damn funny. Reno is simply hilarious as he juggles his wife’s illness, their restaurant, Roseanna’s sister (who lives with them), and the lives of literally every one in the town. Of particular note is his reaction to the climax of a subplot involving an ex-con that literally leaves me gasping for air each time I see it. It’s a shame I haven’t seen him in more roles like this because he imbues Marcello with an honest and bottomless heart.

Ruhl is equally dazzling as Roseanna. She masks a deep sadness regarding the loss of her child by trying to take care of everyone but herself. She knows her clock is counting down, and intends to make the most of it before the final chime sounds. Ruhl is a rock solid counterpoint to Reno, and the two of them make beautiful music together.

Hollywood is invariably focused on the here and now. That comes from 100 years of marketing to the 18-32 demographic. But “For Roseanna” aims higher and goes about it in a smaller, quieter manner. As such, this little gem remains solidly in my Top 10.

Before anyone brings it up, yes my Top 10 tends to hold anywhere from 15-30 films at any given time. Step off.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Achievement Unlocked

Max just rolled over onto his left side for the first time. Then we put him on his stomach and he did it again right away. For those keeping track at home, that's called scoreboard.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Now Playing: Logan's Run

The Internet Movie Database issued a challenge directly to my brain without even intending to. I found a feature on their site that when you register (free, though I imagine my inbox will shortly be deluged by spam) you have access to something called MyMovies. This nifty gem lets you add and sort all manner of films you’ve seen into whatever categories you feel like creating.

Want to create a list of all the romantic comedies you’ve seen, or only the ones you would recommend? It’s great to have options, but I took a different plunge:

I wanted to know what I’ve seen, period. In total.

Those who know me just read that sentence and laughed saying a variation on the following sentence, “Good luck with that chief, you’ll never finish that list.”

I would agree even though I blew north of 300 listed films right off the top of my head. If I really worked at it I’m sure I’d probably climb closer to 1,000 without too much of a struggle. But then I found a link on Wikipedia that lists every single film that was released in every single year since the late 1800s.

Oh yes, I found my Holy Grail™. I’m up to 1940 or so now, and I’m already dreading when I hit the 1970s. Why you ask?

Because I realized courtesy of this list that there are a few GLARING holes in my extensive cinematic knowledge. I’ve seen virtually everything under the sun, or so I thought. But then I found this list and went down the rabbithole and when you combine this with Netflix I’m able to plug those holes with gleeful abandon.

Such was the case with “Logan’s Run” and I honestly wish that hole had remained.

This film is an awful, cheap-ass 70’s sci-fi clunker with some of the dreariest dialogue, horrid costume design, and virtually no sets to speak of. Not that it lacks for imagination. Anyone trying to pass off a hotel or conventional hall lobby as the town square of the future deserves kudos for chutspaz. Even the famed “Run runner” line is poorly delivered by an emotionally constipated Michael York. Speaking of which, let’s talk motivation.

York and his pal Richard Jordan play Sandmen, futuristic hit men who execute people that would rather run instead of facing mandatory execution once they hit the age of 30. So let’s see here. I can be killed when I hit 30 by a machine called Sanctuary or be killed by a guy with a light pistol calling himself a Sandman. Hmm. How about Door #3 where I get the hell out of this place when I’m 18?

York’s Sandman is tasked with tracking down all escaped runners and destroying their hidden refuge. Since he can’t tell anyone what he’s doing, his friend goes berserk immediately when he sees York behaving strangely. This in no way implies a man-crush or unrequited love between the two. Oh no. It practically shakes you by the shoulders while screaming it in your face.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

As odd and under-financed as it appears, the movie deserves major kudos for wanton 70's nudity, which is always welcome in my DVD player. Another snicker comes from seeing the Fort Worth Water Gardens at the end as a futuristic water recycling... something. Plus I think I've been in the building they used as the primary city hall or some such, because the layout and architecture remained exactly in tact through the 1990s. I would imagine it's still there, but beyond pegging it somewhere on the Plano/Richardson border, I don't recall where it is. A shame, really.

Oh, and what’s with the weak fight at the end? The bad guy gets three love taps from a pole and rolls over? What the hell is that? THIS was a giant hit in 1976?!?!?!?!

At least Star Wars came out the following year and showed what genuine science fiction is. This film is so horrible I’m stunned it wasn’t the lead off picture of MST3K.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Now Playing: Get Smart

EDIT: Due to the clever use of his eyes, NPA reader Nathan was kind enough to point out that Alan ARKIN played the Chief. So replace Alda with Arkin when you're reading this and we're good to go.

I was surprised I liked this as much as I did. I grew up on the Don Adams series and the hilarity of each episode guaranteed by small butt would be glued to the TV every time I heard the classic theme music.

First of all, Steve Carrell is spot on as Maxwell Smart. He nails the stoic nature Adams had even as events surrounding him evolved into ever increasing levels of insanity. Carrell also takes seriously the world Smart is a part of. Death and mayhem are no small element of the spy world, and there was always an undercurrent of violence in the original show. Nostalgia may prevent some from seeing that, but a cursory review of the original series hints at, when it doesn’t outright show, significant danger in the battle between KAOS and CONTROL.

One thing I hated though was Anne Hathaway’s 99. In the show, 99 adored Max. Here they have 99 loathing Max and considering him as beneath her. True, there needed to be some tension but it’s not until right at the very, very end when she even begins to crack. It’s like the film makers realized at the last second that 99 was a bitch and needed to be thawed by Max RIGHT THIS SECOND. It is highly annoying even though by the end, Hathaway does manage to capture some of Barbara Feldon’s warmth and charm.

Alan Alda’s Chief is hilarious. I loved the fury his bookwormish exterior holds at bay. Alda kills whenever he’s on screen. He respects Max for his work as an analyst but doesn’t want to lose that skill. As such, he tries his level best to keep Max chained to his desk. But once events spiral out of control (so to speak), Chief does his best to help out, usually with genuinely funny results. His confrontation with the Vice President left me gasping for air.

The film is a giant bag of silly filled with strong supporting characters like The Rock as Agent 23, Terence Stamp as Siegfried, and that fat guy from “Borat” as Siegfried’s right hand man. Other cameos abound with the funniest one saved for the very end. Oh, and everything that happens to David Koechner’s agent is side splitting. Period.

And for the record, I initially disliked how they did the infamous Cone of Silence but the second everyone started speaking I fell on the floor laughing. The movie does manage to capture the humor of the show while taking things a bit darker than the show ever could. Whether that’s your cup of tea or not is up to you. As for me, I liked the heck out of it and am ready for the sequel.

Achievement Unlocked

Max just rolled over for the first time. That would be two weeks ahead of when he should, for the record. Booyah.

Time to Wash Dishes

How do you know when it is time to wash the dishes? When you are down to only two spoons, and they are both sugar spoons. Then you realize you are about to use both of them. One for the soup you're having with lunch.

The other is for ice cream afterwards.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Now Playing: Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium

In the extras of “Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium,” there is a behind the scenes video of people clowning around on the set. At the end of it, co-star Jason Bateman sits in a chair while someone off-screen pelts him with a Nerf gun. Bateman refers to the guy by name then says, “He can write, direct, and shoot a Nerf gun.”

I turned to My Fair Lady and said, “Yeah, but he shoots the Nerf gun like he writes and directs. Poorly.”

“Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium” is an absolute disaster, a cornucopia of elaborate special effects meant to convey wonder yet fail utterly to do anything other than distract (briefly) from the limp script and razor thin characters. Natalie Portman (who I’m convinced will still look like she’s 10 even when she’s pushing 60) plays Molly Mahony, the store manager for Mr. Magorium.

The big M (Dustin Hoffman) is a 200+ year old toy maker with wild hair, an odd not-quite-a-lisp, and a child-like view of the world. He makes magical toys and wonders to amuse children and has a giant silent guy living in his basement who builds the books of Magorium’s life. Oh, and no one in NEW YORK CITY thinks it the slightest bit odd that all this goes on in a small store sandwiched between two skyscrapers.

If that sounds odd, then let me state one thing right off: That’s all the odd there is in the film.

I watched as this beast lumbers along once the emporium grows surly following Mr. Magorium’s announcement he’s leaving. His departure requires him to bring in an accountant (Bateman) to get the financials in order so he can pass the building on to Mahony, despite her heart being set on a life as a concert pianist. There’s also a kid named Eric with a hat fetish and an annoying narrative voice.

Which brings up a point that made me want to set fire to the film. It’s called “SHOW, DON’T TELL!” Basic screenwriting 101 states this message very clearly at the top of the chapter called “How to write a screenplay,” and when an amateur film maker feels the need to have a voice read off text that’s clearly visible on screen, in addition to spelling out details that are RIGHT IN FRONT OF OUR EYES, it hacks me off. Every. Single. Time.

You want an example of how to use narration to amazing effect? Watch “The Shawshank Redemption.”

You want an example of how to do childlike wonder and “pointless but it really does have a deeper meaning” philosophy? Try “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (the Tim Burton version, not the awful 70’s version).

My Fair Lady commented after it was over how the film was ultimately pointless and I agreed. This is a mountain of suck that’s a waste of talent and, more importantly, your time.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Now Playing: Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension

What the hell is this?

When I decided to fill in the gaps in my extensive movie knowledge, I figured there would be some bumps along the way. Then I got to this and I think my brain literally froze. I’ve heard it described as “a comedy with all the punchlines removed” which bears asking a simple question:

“What’s the point?”

In a comedy, saying something funny does not necessarily require the use of a punchline. For Exhibit A, I present “Raising Arizona” which in my view is one of the five funniest films ever. Nary a punchline in sight, but rip-roaringly hilarious all the same. It comes from character, you see.

The more invested you are in the characters, the more tuned you become to their particular rhythms. Not once did I care about a single character anywhere in the film or what they were doing. As such, “Buckaroo Banzai,” though ballsy in ambition, has now been consigned by Yours Truly to the bin of awful throw-away 80’s comedies.

Witness Peter Weller’s delivery in the prison. He asks his buddy, Perfect Tommy, to give his jacket to Buckaroo’s girl, Penny Pretty (no joke).

I think the only thing that works is John Lithgow’s utterly unhinged performance as Lord John Worfin. If you thought you’d seen him go over the top before, and “Cliffhanger” and “Ricochet” are pretty far out there, you’ve seen nothing. He goes berserk here and hilariously so. But it’s like he’s performing in a different movie, nay universe, than everyone else. The only thing missing is a mustache for him to twirl as he makes Snidely Whiplash look like a den mother for the girl scouts.

So this was a glaring gap in my film knowledge? Pfft. I’ve now seen it. It sucks. As such, I’m moving on.

Headed to Lubbock for the weekend

The three of us are headed out west to see My Fair Lady's family this weekend, which means three full days of people I don't know oohing and ahhing over the baby. Which is fine because it gives us something more to talk about and do than just sit around and "visit." I love her family but they have a personal love of sitting aroung the kitchen table and talking about family.

Traditionally, I know only two or three people they discuss. Such is what happens I suppose.

What this also means is that Max gets his pilot wings today since this will be his first plane ride. Somewhat momentous actually considering my mother was (and remains) so deathly afraid of flying that she has a panic attack whenever she drops us off at the airport. It's fun to mess with her though.

"Be safe you two!" mom would say.

"Hope so!" I reply.

"DON'T SAY THAT!" she would shout. Then she'd sweat bullets all weekend. It's a cheap form of amusement for me though.

But I want to apologize in advance for all those traveling on the plane today. We'll try to keep him calm but now we're officially one of "those people with an infant." Should be interesting.