My Spider-Sense is tingling...
...for this weekend's movies. In case you don't have access to a television or computer and you aren't a fan of the genre, Spider-Man 2, purportedly quite superior to the competent original, is debuting tonight at midnight. Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, and that may be an understatement. Listen to the audio of Roger Ebert's review; he practically gushes over the movie, calling it "the best super-hero movie I have ever seen."

Needless to say there will be quite a few web-heads stalking the theaters this week. But how to tell the true believers from the spider monkeys? Perhaps one way is to take this quiz. See if you can indeed match my 100%. Admittedly, if you aren't at least passingly familiar with the comics, you will have little chance. All the better. Muhuahahha.

I'm actually contemplating seeing the flick at midnight tonight to avoid what is sure to be a Titanic (pun intended) crowd at the box office, but in case S-M 2 is sold out, there's always Before Sunset, also getting great reviews, the follow-up to a cult (and mine) favorite Before Sunrise. I think I'll have to see both right away.


The Guy with the $10,000 hat
Cashing in on as many two-cent opportunities as he can before his kicks the bucket (a bucket which, by all accounts, has been placed on a football tee for some time now), the Pope declares that war is bad and vaguely pushes Catholic party lines. Later on he sainted a potted plant.

Perhaps he could suggest something like the Children's Crusade to solve this problem!


Magical Endorsement
As most of you know, I'm a fan of Walter Chaw's scathing, learned, and intelligent reviews over at Film Freak Central. Nowhere else have I so enjoyed reading his verbal scythe run through movie bile, or his praise for film genius. In short, I value his opinion more than most, although I always reserve my own as final say.

That said, many of you are eagerly awaiting Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban's release this Friday. I thought I heard the other day on the radio that some critic called it one of the best movies ever, at which point I thought myself hallucinating.

Well, apparently that may be the case. If you read Walter's four-star review of the film, you'll happen across this little bit of praise:
    This third film is this juvenile epic's The Empire Strikes Back. It's hard to imagine the series ever besting it.
That in itself, as Mr. Chaw knows, is enough in itself. Translated for you non-Star-Wars followers, this movie may define the series, which has got to be exciting, since it isn't even the best book yet.

Harry Potter fans should pray that Alfonso CuarĂ³n does not leave the ship.
West Wing Marathon
Thanks to the miracle of video recording technology, I was able to watch the top 5 episodes of the West Wing marathon on Bravo in 4 hours on Tuesday night instead of on Memorial Day. What an achievement, I know, but I need these little victories. In any event, their viewer's choice list of best episodes were as follows (links for synopsis):
  6. NOEL
I only remembered the ranking for the top six. All of these episodes were excellent, but now some ME time for my personal favorites. Although I'm not sure if I would rank them higher than the above mentioned, I am particularly fond of the two back-to-back episodes introducing and featuring the Republican adviser, Ansley Hayes, entitled IN THIS WHITE HOUSE and AND IT'S SURELY TO THEIR CREDIT . To me, this is what confirmed The West Wing in my mind as a great series. Aaron Sorkin, the brilliant writer of the show, was able to create a likeable, articulate opposite-party character to give intelligent counterpoint to the often unchecked liberal regulars. It's what in debate class we used to call the ability to present both sides. It's a sign that the orator (or writer) has done his/her research and is knowlegdable about both sides. Also known as 'walking a mile in the other person's shoes'. Sorkin gets a lot of respect from me for that. Not to mention both episodes are snappily written.

I'm also particular about THE PORTLAND TRIP, if only for Bartlet's continued hilarious harassment on an Air Force One trip of C.J., who made some ill-conceived remarks about Notre Dame football. Also, any episode featuring LORD JOHN MARBURY is a hoot, thanks to Roger Rees' wonderfully charming boozing ambassador.

P.S. One little current political analogy: "IN THE SHADOW OF TWO GUNMEN: PART I". The most interesting thing (to me) about the episode was the flashback to Josh's days when he worked for (then) Senator Hoynes' campaign. He has a disagreement with another on Hoyne's staff and then confesses his gut feeling to Hoynes outside:
    "Senator, you’re the prohibitive favorite to be the Democratic Party’s nominee for President. You have 58 million dollars in war chest with no end in sight, and... I don’t know what we’re for...I don’t know what we’re for, and I don’t know what we’re against. Except we seem to be for winning and against somebody else winning."
My immediate reaction is that someone needs to show this episode to Senator Kerry, and soon.
Questions of travel
As I estimated long ago, I'm very bad at long distance relationships, whether it be with family or friends. I am hot and cold when it comes to communication, and there are very few who get a relatively constant dose. Naturally, those nearest get the most (or brunt) of it, for they are the ones you see all the time. Like a radar, you can accurately chart the frequency of communication as distance grows larger. However, my 'contact map' also has element of topography, where a couple of hills rise out on the horizon for a few individuals. Of course, I'm talking monthly contact, if that, for a few, and the methods are different.

Of all the people I've encountered, the list of exceptions hasn't changed at all over the past decade or so. Jaquandor and I have been friends for the longest, and our method of choice has been writing. This medium appeals to both of our scribing sensibilities and tastes, and has only changed resultant from technology and not distance.

For instance, even when we were side-by-side in a classroom in Chemistry 11, we would pass each other notes, composed kind of like a questionaire, topics ranging from local gossip to the hot subject of how could he embarrass the character of "Captain Senoj" in the latest rendition of his screenplay. When I moved away, we switch to letter writing, resulting in some of the most lengthy prose one could imagine. I keep every letter I receive -- I still have a folder dedicated to this particular correspondence. With the advent of email, our exchanges converted to electronic form to take advantage of the convenience and ease of merely typing out your message and hitting 'send'.

(Of course, I don't keep these exchanges in a file; there is something aesthetically pleasing about a hand-written note or letter that the most beautiful font will never capture. Although communication is quicker and easier, I miss the days of writing letters. Being a sentimentalist, I write my girlfriend letters now and again.)

Next, came the Instant Messenger -- instant chatting and discussion as fast as you can type and read. No need for paragraphs, introductions or summary sentences. Just typing whatever comes to mind. More like a phone conversation really, except that you don't need to explain (necessarily) when you go "away". Jaq and I have had quite a few IM battles in our day. Finally, our last stage had become communicade-bloggo, really just chatting through essays, links and comments. I guess it's more like talking AT someone then to them, and really a lecturer in a room full of students. Nevertheless, there it is.

Another friend I've had since college has been Dave, a.k.a. Lisa (her nickname 'Dave' is far too silly a story to relay here). She and I often used the medium of the telephone most often. She moved around a lot and we are both (or can be) talkers and gabbing on the phone was how we best expressed ourselves. Dave is no slouch in the letter-writing department, but we just always seemed to enjoy verbally communicating more. She and I can fill up an hour on the phone, no problem.

Lastly, and both the most personal and impersonal communicatee, is my friend Gary. We don't chat on the phone, we don't write, we hang out whenever we can. Although this can be sometimes 6 months from time-to-time, it's how we relate. The phone is used to arrange meetings, email used to ask when the next golf outing will occur, letters (these days -- when he was in Korea, there were letters, I assure you) to congratulate on being alive one more year. However, he and I are like antic goofballs when we are in each others' presence. We goad each other on and I never laugh as much as when Gary's around. We have fun together, and talking or writing just isn't the same.

Three old friends, three mediums. Three people I'm fortunate to still have in my life. Thanks.


Marriage, Maturity, and Meaningless Babble
My girlfriend's friend from high school is getting married in a few weeks. Apparently, both bride and groom are 23, which strikes me as a particularly young age to get hitched these days. I thought that getting married that young was not only not in vogue anymore but not good in general. Naturally, expressing this opinion to an equally youthful woman sparked some disagreement. It seems that I am prejudical against getting married young.

After frustratedly hitting a wall in attempting to express my views correctly, I started searching the internet for some factoids to back up my assertion. I was first led to a place called divorcemagazine.com. (Why in the hell would someone want to subscribe to a magazine about divorce is beyond me.) Their 2002 Statistics page wasn't all that helpful, except to curiously note that the median duration of first and second marriages for both male and female is about 7 years -- right on time for the 'itch'.

The second place I looked was here, which shows the mediam marriage age over the last 100 years. Of course, this backed up my contention that the median age has skyrocketed (going up an average of 5 years in the last 30 -- prior to that it hadn't changed much at all going back to 1890), but did little to do with validating my contention that this meant getting married young was a bad idea.

Age (ha -- I speak of '33' as if next year I'll be Buddha on the mountaintop) has tempered some of the fierceness and youthful whimsication (I made it up, but it works!) and given me tastes of, dare I say it, wisdom. I'm not the same person I was 10 years ago. Not so much overtly different that you would exclaim, "I don't even know who you are anymore!" (as I'm wont to do), but a little smarter, a little more reserved, a little more refined. I like who I am today, no more and no less than the person I was in college. But, if I were to compare the two and give odds on who would make a marriage last, I'd save us the trouble and shoot that 23-year-old horse (I might shoot the 28-yr-old one too, but my time machine runs on plutonium and it's not as easy to come by as it was in 1985).

Luckily for me, I was blessed with self-awareness, at least enough to desire to nosce te ipsum, as Neo might observe. Though I may not have been marriage material, at least I knew it, and didn't pretend otherwise. (Of course, we will never know if I was right or wrong on this, but call it a hunch.) Unfortunately, dumb-present-tense-me hadn't realized that his opinion on this was, well, just an opinion (like assholes, you know) based mostly on his own experience. Instead of making statements that sound like fact, I shall next time begin by saying, "In my experience..." or "From my perspective..." or even "In the town where I was born, lived a man who sailed the seas...". Aghast at my own culpability, I find that I have breached my own pet-peeve of presenting opinions as facts. Egad.

Of course, this will come up in conversation again only because I can't LET ANYTHING GO. This has not changed one bit since 23. Yay me.

Bourne to run
Two years ago, the remarkable Bourne Identity, starring Matt Damon, hit the theaters with a bang. Despite hardly following more than a few pages of Robert Ludlum's novel, I was impressed by the direction and feel of the film, enough that I find myself viewing it time and again on a rainy day. Underrated and often overlooked, this action flick has nearly reached "cult" status as an underhyped gem.

This summer, sneaking into the moviehouses on July 23, The Bourne Supremacy looks to deliver a capable follow-up. The trailer has whetted my appetite. Just around lunchtime... how convenient!