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.

Now Playing: Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

I’m convinced that John Carpenter knows how to direct exactly one kind of movie – rip-offs of “Rio Bravo.” Having just seen his “Assault on Precinct 13” for the first time, I have to point at it and laugh at the gross amount of time we spend watching Not John Wayne survive an attack by Not Indians. Compare this to his later films and it’s like he’s been ripping himself off, while ripping off “Rio Bravo” at the same time.

It gets confusing when you analyze it too hard.

The setup involves the leaders of a gang called Street Thunder declaring vengeance on the cops for killing several of their members. They cross paths with a father and his little girl, which eventually leads to the gang assaulting the police station in the title. That may seem a stretch but I’m leaving out a few crucial details, some considered by the time as “SHOCKING!” Maybe it’s in bad taste, but I actually laughed. Go me.

The station in question is closing at the end of the night and only a skeleton crew remains. When a prisoner transfer bus shows up, more grist for the mill arrives. Their small band of cops/crooks must hold off a gang hell-bent on wiping them out and that’s pretty much all there is to it. No fancy tricks, no special forces to the rescue, nothing. Kill or be killed with a dwindling supply of ammunition and no way out.

What should be a tense stand-off is instead rendering fairly boring by Carpenter’s evident lack of pacing skills (at the time). It was only his second film so I can’t slag him too hard (though James Cameron’s second film was “The Terminator” so make of that what you will) but the film drags when it should speed up.

It doesn’t help that all of the actors show the emotional range of a turnip. The lead actress especially goes for Smoldering and hits something closer to Insincere. I love how her reaction doesn’t change ONE SINGLE BIT when she gets shot in the arm, and later complains that it she “can’t move it, and it hurts like a sonofabitch.” That would be one word as she pronounces it, not three, and it all manner of fail.

If you’re going for a Carpenter 70’s movie, stick with “Halloween.” Even 30 years later, that movie is still scary and for all the right reasons.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Now Playing: Kingdom of Heaven Director's Cut

It is an increasing rarity when my mind is completely blown by a film. I can count on one hand the number of times that’s happened in the last five years. When “Kingdom of Heaven” hit theaters I figured I might hit it at some point. It barely registered on my radar, in other words.

Then it trickled out how Fox butchered it because the suits wanted a two hour battle film in the same vein as “Lord of the Rings,” basically a highlight reel. Ridley Scott naturally balked but that’s the cut that hit screens anyway. So I ignored it figuring a more definitive cut would find its way to my desk eventually. By God’s will, so to speak.

Lo and behold, I burned through it recently and was knocked flat in awe. Wow. If you ever thought three hours could never fly by then watch the director’s cut of “Kingdom of Heaven.” It is spectacular film making across the board. Lush, vibrant, historically accurate, respectful, and engaging. Simply put, this is dynamite entertainment on the grandest scale.

All of my beefs with Ridley Scott (primarily that he focuses more on sets and costumes than on actors) somehow coalesced into a good thing. Normally, I watch his films (“Gladiator” and “Black Hawk Down” being the notable exceptions prior to this) with a sense of detachment. I’ve seen “Blade Runner” close to 20 times and I still don’t like it. I love the aesthetic and what it did for science fiction, but the hell of it remains that the story falls flat. Ditto “Alien” which is more of a ponderous bore than the haunted house film it’s made out to be.

I always get the feeling he’s more interested in the sets and the creation of worlds than in presenting a compelling story. Sure he’s had his fair share of duds (“G.I. Jane” anyone?) but for the most part he remains a film maker I respect, but whose films I usually am indifferent to. Then “Kingdom of Heaven” kicked me in the head and I sat there stunned wondering where the hell this Ridley Scott has been all my life.

Balien (Orlando Bloom) is a blacksmith in France in 1184 who finds himself swept up by a rogue crew of knights en route to Jerusalem. They’re a hardened bunch of badasses led by Godfry (Liam Neeson). Eventually, Balien winds up in the holy city only to find a political vortex inside as the leper king (a masked Edward Norton) has made an uneasy truce with the Muslim leader Saladin so that both Christians and Muslims may worship in the city walls. The Catholic church doesn’t care for that arrangement so they have their Templar Knights on hand to bring about war, one which Saladin may win due to superior numbers and experience at desert warfare.

Either way, the fate of the city will be God’s will.

This has to be the biggest film I’ve seen where God is front and center the entire running time. Both sides are right. Both sides are wrong. Both sides believe they are on God’s side, with only the ones in the middle understanding the nuances of the situation. Regardless of your beliefs, this is an epic film intricately detailing a defining moment in the world’s history. It may not be entirely historically accurate, but it is riveting entertainment that puts a human face on legendary events.

After watching this version, I consider the truncated option to be much more of a slash and burn than it probably is. An entire subplot was excised but it is a small one. It is not, however, an insignificant one and so much of what changes the characters during the back half of the film depends on this vital piece. I can see why people complained about certain characters taking a complete left turn from reality for the final 40 minutes because all reasons as to why were carelessly discarded in favor of siege towers. Seeing events play out as they were intended to, I’m left aghast at Fox’s decision to break it down to a series of large scale FX battles. Fox head Tom Rothman figured a three hour film wouldn’t play well. He must have forgotten “Titanic.”


If you have the chance to see this film, do so immediately. Bloom may not give the sturdiest performance, in fact he comes off as more emotionally distant at the end than his character should have been, but it is one among a great many fantastic actors who all step up and deliver. Jeremy Irons’ Tiberius in particular may be one of my favorite characters, followed closely by Alexander Siddig’s (go Dr. Bashir!) advisor and Neeson’s brief yet highly memorable turn. Also, the openness to interpretation of David Thewliss’ doctor character is magnified here. In short, I loved every frame of this film.

This is top notch entertainment.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Now Playing: Left 4 Dead

The setup for this game is simple - drop you and up to three of your friends inside a zombie film based on one of four scenarios. Simple. To the point. Refreshing.

It is also absolutely exhilarating and terrifying. The levels and maps may not change, but the developer Valve had a fiendish trump card. The zombie locations are different every time and also changes based on how you play. For example, you may get swarmed right at the start of one level by a horde of really fast undead. The next time you play the exact same level, you may only see a few stragglers for quite a while.

Then when you least expect it, the horde descends upon you and tears your team of zombie movie cliches apart.

It. Is. Glorious.

You play as one of four people: Louis the accountant, Francis the biker, Bill the ex Green Beret, or Zoe the college girl. For all of us who grew up with zombie movies, this is like playing a game taken frame for frame straight out of our imaginations. To up the ante, Valve also threw in a few "special" zombies that have talents for screwing you over right when you're the most vulnerable. The Smoker has a long tongue that constricts you and pulls you out of safety and into harm's way. The Boomer is a lumbering tower of blubber that vomits all over you and explodes when shot. The vomit, by the way, not only blinds you but acts as a pheromone attracting every zombie in the game to your location. The Tank is a tower of muscle that will resoundingly screw you and your team mates over.

As for The Witch, avoid her at all costs. Do not question me.

Thus far, I've blown through all four campaigns and hopefully this weekend will get some online time with fellow GT'ers once we return from West Texas. But I'll give you a few examples of the type of insanity coming your way:

The first level I guess is called No Mercy. Each section is setup like a horror film with four levels of progressing terror capped off by a siege finale that redefines insanity. On each level, you're essentially running from your initial Safe Room to another Safe Room on the other side of the map. During the No Mercy section, you're fighting through a city and then a hospital. The setup is for you and your team to get to the top of Mercy General then call in a news helicopter to airlift you to safety. We get to the roof, and call in on the radio. The guy radios back that it'll take 15 minutes to get to us. Then we hear the shrill roar of the zombie horde.

I start praying the 'copter guy didn't mean "in real time."

We get onto the roof of the radio shack and find a mounted mini-gun aimed at the center of the roof. I mount it and pull the trigger lightly enough to spin up the gun without actually firing. Then the three others start firing like crazy but not in front of me. I turn and see an endless wave of really pissed off zombies climbing over pipes and up walls on EITHER FREAKING SIDE of us.

I jump off the gun and start blasting with my automatic shotgun (an absolute must in this game). The upside to using it is it's a heck of a crowd pleaser and can down multiple zombies with one shot, but the downside is it takes a bit long to reload 10 shots. The four of us are blasting away for a minute before I even realize ANOTHER horde is charging, this time from the front. I leap onto the minigun, spin it up, and unleash the fury. Body parts, blood and gore spray in every direction before me.

I think at this point I was laughing so maniacally that My Fair Lady looked at me like I'd lost my mind before leaving with Max. I think she mumbled something about a bad influence. Couldn't hear her over the sound of the awesome on my TV. Then I notice the screen is shaking, which can mean only one thing:


Trouble is, I don't see him. He's kinda hard to miss considering he's 9 feet tall and about four feet thick of solid muscle. Not to mention he roars. Which he does to my immediate left at just the right moment. I drop off the minigun and spin around just in time to watch the Tank's fist connect with my face, which sends me flying right off the rooftop.


Oh, crap, right back at the start of the final level. That's when I found out the hard way that there are no check points. Die somewhere in a level and you will start back at square one, which is a gargantuan pain in the ass when you're on the longer levels. Sometimes the game cheap shots you too by placing a Witch right in front of the Safe Room door right at a levels end (had this crap happen twice).

So I get back to the rooftop with my team, only I count two others plus me. Where's Zoe, the college girl? I spin around and don't see her. Then I catch her shadow on the other side of the roof and realize she's been tagged by a Smoker. Trouble is I can't get to her. So I get to watch as she's slowly strangled by a special zombie I can't shoot and we three are left helpless. We turn and run to the control room and radio in.

Then we hunker down to endure the horde.

Basically repeat what I said above only this time when the tank shows up, he comes in behind us. We manage to take him out, along with about 500 horde, before the helicopter swoops in. All three of us are bleeding out and on the verge of death. The helicopter lands, and we make a break for it. Right away, Louis is vomited on by a Boomer and the horde tears into him. We're all so low on health that trying to save him is pointless, so Francis and I make a break for it. We're blasting away through the horde in front of us trying to make it to the helicopter.

Naturally, when you're so focused on what's in front of you, little things like what's behind you tend to be ignored. Which explains my literally gasping in surprise when all of a sudden something grabbed from behind and started pulling me away from the helipad and right through the horde. I realized instantly a Smoker got me, and I was pretty much done for because the only way you get free from those things is if a teammate frees you. With two down, and the third somewhat busy I resigned myself to going out with a bang.

Then I get pulled over a ledge into a pile of broken concrete. Then the Smoker explodes and Francis jumps down to help despite his bleeding out. I'm incapacitated and pinned to the ground. I whip out my two pistols and start firing like crazy. Doesn't matter what I hit, just that I hit something. If those.. things... were gonna take me, then they were gonna die trying. Again. Francis and I pretty much went out at exactly the same time and as the screen faded to black I saw a Tank land on me, which pretty effectively ended my campaign that night.


The following night, I tried out another campaign which culminated in a siege at a boat house. Oh, it's as awesome as you might think considering the house is small, the odds long, and the ammunition dwindling. Three of us were on the roof holding our own when a Tank hit. It came in downstairs and trapped Francis on the stairs at the exact moment when several waves of zombies attacked. I blasted swaths through the zombies with my M-16 and alternated clips - one on the horde, one on the Tank that was pretty much sitting on Francis. We managed to kill the Tank, but Francis was incapacitated and none of us could get to him before the horde did. He went down fighting, that much was clear.

The three of us were slowly being flushed towards the water which was not good. Our range of motion was decreasing faster than we could reload so we were pretty much good and screwed. Then the boat came. Trouble was, it must have blown its horn somewhere on the cape because every zombie in, I think, the world came with it.

I threw a pipe bomb away from us (this gem attracts zombies away from you before exploding) and ran for the boat. I got to the pier then turned to see the horde take down Zoe. Louis was trapped at the start of the pier and I was blasting away from the boat. Then Louis went down, and the boat pulled away. Mission complete.

As the credits rolled, there was a special shout out to the deceased, and I about fell out of my chair laughing at the spectacle of it all. I have about a dozen more stories just like this (including a doozy of a war story set at a farm house) and that's the beauty of this game. Every time you play through it, you experience a new version of hell. Strategies change on the fly on both sides. I haven't even played online with flesh and blood players - all the above was just with the AI.

Oh, and online you can also play as the zombies including as specials. If you have any love for the zombie genre you owe it to yourself to play this. Just do it at night with the lights out and the sound cranked. You'll be glad you did.

Laid off

So I go into work on Jan. 5 and work for roughly an hour. Then I get called into the finance gal's office, wherein I discover her, my boss, and the head of research (this was a commerical real estate firm). Pretty much knew what was coming before anyone said anything.

I sat down. Was told my position was being eliminated and that blah blah blah blah. Tuned out pretty much all of it. I thanked them for having me on board, reminded the head of research that he had to defend our scavenger hunt title later in the year, then picked up a few things at my desk. Said goodbye to my co-worker then headed out.

I made it all the way to the car before melting down. I was the sole source of income and insurance for the family since My Fair Lady was laid off while she was several months pregnant. Since no one was ever going to hire a pregnant woman, I was it. The subsequent meltdown in the car was not a pretty one, but it was mercifully brief. I decided not to call My Fair Lady and instead figured I'd drop the news on her in person.

Having a meltdown at 75mph while on the highway is not recommended.

I managed to regain my composure enough that when I walked in, I was calm. My Fair Lady knew instantly what had happened, and I confirmed it a second later.

"I was laid off."

Four words I never, ever intend to have to say again.

We talked about it for a bit while trying to keep it together. But there we were both unemployed with a six week old. So we both had a mutual meltdown while trying our hardest not to involve the little one. But then a funny thing happened.

Ten minutes later I was fine. Not angry. Not sad. Fine. Good to go. Amazingly enough, I was unfazed. I think that must be a new record. A personal best. Regardless, I was ready to apply for work elsewhere and find what else was out there.

Then we had a conversation that started innocently enough: "What do you want to do?"

In truth, I've always known - be a freelance, well paid writer. The "well paid" aspect tends to be mutually exclusive unless you're one half of a successful writing duo in Hollywood. Short of that, most freelancers only sometimes make enough to get by and I wanted more than that. I want to be able to support myself and my family by my writing skills alone. But I lacked the discipline necessary to force me to work day after day on this. At least I did prior to Max's arrival. Once he made it into the house, I vowed to do what I could to make him happy. Once the initial insanity of having a newborn in the house wore off.

My Fair Lady agreed with me.

We decided that if I could make enough as a freelancer then I should do that. I contacted my dad and told him I'd been laid off. He told me how sorry he was then had to go to a meeting. He called me back a few hours later with two addresses. I was to gather my resume and clips and mail them off post haste to those addresses - clients of his who had openly complained about the lack of quality writing in their print materials.

Two days after I was laid off, My Fair Lady gets a call from her legal support services firm. They have a gig for her with the Watchmen. It's a contract job that turns into a permanent one, providing she survives the freshman hazing from the Comedian. We were ecstatic. Literally jumping up and down for joy. This gig pays a heck of a lot for only 20+ hours to start and a lot of it can be done from home.

A week later, I got a call from one of the two guys I sent my stuff to. He wanted to meet. Dad forwarded me two of this guy's PR pieces and yeah, they were fairly weak sauce. So I rebuilt them in Publisher, rewrote the copy, and sent those along with my resume. Apparently, he approved enough to schedule an interview.

The man was a fast talker to say the least. I wasn't there more than 15 minutes but he told me he wanted to do business and that I would be the guy. Oh, and there were several other clients he would recommend me to for this very thing.

Thus far, 2009 is shaping up pretty well for Yours Truly and My Fair Lady. She starts her job week after next and I have another meeting next week with my client to discuss what all I can do for them.

"Ka!" And might I also add... "Ching!"

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Update on Max

Wow. So we have a new president, the first African American since the second season of "24." Wow.

Alright, I'm past it. What are his policies? All the ones I've seen scare the hell out of me and for those of you that voted him into office, I'm going to laugh hysterically while Rome burns should he turn into Jimmy Carter II. He could be a great president. He could be an awful one. What is undisputable is that he was the best marketed president ever. Hopefully he won't turn out to be the New Coke of presidents, but that's what I've pegged him as for a long time now. I won't argue that I'd love to be proven wrong. I just don't think I will be.

And with that you will not see another political comment here unless it's in the comments sections under certain posts. Forthwith, on with the real show.

My Fair Lady has been hounding me of late to blog about Max and what he's been like, but honestly I have had neither the time nor the inclination. I'll be candid here so if I say anything that boggles the mind, believe me it won't be the first time I've done so by expressing either my opinion or my experience. Max was afflicted with colic for the first several weeks and this is where the brutal honesty comes in and could sting all prospective parents - life is pure hell for that first month.

I snicker now thinking to all those who said, "Oh, your life is gonna change in ways you can't imagine." No kidding. Try holding a three week old infant in your arms as they're screaming at the top of their tiny lungs for no discernable reason. Then have that start every single night between 8 p.m. and midnight for four weeks straight. You come to actively dread nightfall, as if your baby will suddenly morph into Mr. Hyde once the clock strikes 8 p.m.

So no, I haven't had the inclination before now to write because I knew if I did all I would do is vent and seeth and rage and come off as someone who actively regretted the decision to have a child which is not true at all. It felt like it at some points, but that's when you pass the child off to your spouse and go somewhere else to calm down for an hour. If nothing else, my belief in the strength and fortitude of single parents everywhere has gone to the sky because I honestly don't know how either My Fair Lady or I would have survived without the other.

But then a funny thing happened - he started getting better. Then one day he actually smiled. Not only that but he looked at the two of us as we changed him, our eyes bleary from another exhausting night battling the dreaded colic and having our own emotional meltdowns, and then smiled. Ear to ear, all we saw was this gummy baby smile. Then he cooed.

We felt the pain and the anguish melt away. I mean that literally too. It was like an 800lb. gorilla finally climbed off our backs and left the building. That one little smile, followed by a coo was exactly the sort of inspiration we needed. As night approached, we hunkered down in preparation. This was war, we decided, but our happy son was in there and we had to save him. So we decided to try to feed him until he couldn't feed any more and see what happens. Prior to this we'd tried to stagger his feedings to every three hours like in the hospital.

He woke up and started screaming. We fed him a lot. He calmed down. He cooed. We changed him. He cried. We fed him some more. He passed out. For the next three hours, we actually had peace. One cannot begin to imagine the sense of calm and serenity that passes over you under such conditions. Outside of a war zone, I'd be hard pressed to find a scenario more stressful than the first month of parenthood.

Over the weeks, he's grown and gotten much better. He doesn't meltdown at night anymore, and the closest he's come lately is wanting to stay awake at the 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. feeding. But aside from that, he's modestly fussy but only when he's either tired or hungry. Outside of that, he's begun to smile regularly, coo when he's happy, and he recognizes us. He actually tries to find us with his eyes now when he hears our voices, which is something more joyous than words can describe.

My parents are particularly fond of their first grandchild, and watching my mother repeatedly exclaim how precious and beautiful he is makes us both proud. We definitely did good, as they say.

But holy Mother of God the diapers. It's like an A-bomb of poo explodes out of his rear end whenever he's relaxed. Oh, and for all of you who are expecting a baby boy - buy three of these right now. Do not question me. You think you have your baby covered, then you look away for a split second. You turn back and a stream is arching across the room and into his crib.

On the other side of the room. Just wanted to repeat that in case it wasn't quite clear the first time.

The other day I changed what had to be the worst diaper ever. It smelled like death. I no longer fear walking into a morgue for I have smelled death and it lives in my baby's ass. What I am afraid of is when it comes out to play. When I changed his diaper, he decided to wait until I had strapped on a clean diaper before he went #1. Then for good measure he spit up all over himself. Then smiled up at me as if he felt so much better.

"Are we all done now?" I asked.

"Guh." I took that as a yes.

I cleaned him up, then handed him off to My Fair Lady for a minute, then went and set fire to my hands to properly santize them.

We took him to the doctor today for his two month check up and he's now 12.4 lbs. and 23 inches long. He also got two shots (one of which was a three-in-one cocktail) followed by a sugar water innoculation against rotovirus. If you want a first hand account of the havoc rotovirus can wreck on your child, check out the stories at Dubious Quality right here. I guarantee you won't be able to finish reading them before deciding to get the vaccine for your child.

But Max handled it like a trooper. He seems to have inherited My Fair Lady's unusually high pain threshold (which explains how she's stayed married to me. Zing!) so he didn't even blink at the first shot. The next one got his attention though and he screamed then cried for all of 30 seconds before calming down. After rocking him for a bit in his car seat he was fast asleep. He spent most of the day alternating between My Fair Lady's arms and mine. She was watching the inaugural events. I was playing Left 4 Dead.

Sort of like the Republican party after this election. NO! BAD MITCH! NO MORE POLITICS!

We're anxious to watch Max begin to take shape as a person. It's already been decided by my parents and My Fair Lady that he's my clone, right down to the crooked smile and the way he curls up when he sleeps. I warned her for years that a mini-me would be a bad idea based solely on how much of a hellion I was growing up. Apparently, I get to witness first hand (again, sort of) what I was like to my parents.

God save us all.

In the meantime, I'm already organizing the coterie of films I plan to introduce him to. This child will have a healthy appreciation of cinema as he grows up and will understand the wonder that is "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" and know why it is the greatest Western ever made. I don't think My Fair Lady will let me pass off "300" as a children's film about coming together for a cause you believe in, but you never know.

I plan to start posting more frequently about Max, especially now that I have more time on my hands. An explanation as to why is coming up in the very next post.