Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Da Vinci

It wasn't worth it to me to stay up for a midnight showing, but I did eventually go to see The Da Vinci Code with some friends last week. For all the fuss that's been made of it, I guess I expected something more. I expected something more original than a religion-based rendition of National Treasure, but I also expected something that would come across more controversially to me than it did (of course, I am the one who's been saying it's a piece of fiction, get over it).

So anyway, the film had definite similarities to National Treasure, with a little bit of blood and gore in the style of the Passion. It won't be making its way onto my favorites list, but it was far from the worst I've ever seen. The cinemetography was well done, the soundtrack was awesome, the acting was decent, and the story was slightly lacking. All in all a good piece of entertainment for the night.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?

So as I was driving this past Saturday I was listening to KTIS, and then I happened to see a song title by Larry Norman on the little XM box: "Why Should the D". I figured, hey, that must be the old song, "Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?". I've heard a lot about it before, but I've never actually heard it, so it's about time I listened to it.

Because I think it's just an absolutely awesome premise for a song, I've sort of propped it up very highly in my mind, so actually hearing it for once was a bit of a let down. It's still a great idea for lyrics, but I'm not a fan of the more classic 60s / 70s-esque piano jazz stylings. It was worth listening to once, but this is one that won't be making it onto my favorites list. Well, at least now I can say I've heard it.

Friday, May 26, 2006

XMen 3

Without giving away details, great movie! And worth staying up for the midnight showing. I'm inclined to say it's not quite as good as X2, but still, very enjoyable, well-written, and well produced. The characters' struggles seemed quite genuine, making the story seem real, even if it is Sci-Fi. Everyone faced some very difficult and real emotional challenges, but it was scripted authentically, allowing the audience to feel the characters' pains alongside.

My movie watching experience would have been greatly improved had the people sitting next to me not been making comments and obnoxious gasping noises throughout the film the whole thing. And then there was the guy in front of me who answered his phone in the middle! At least he was relatively quiet about it, but still, people astonish me.

Skipping to the end, the people seated in front of me made a number of comments that the chess scene immediately preceding the credit roll is a perfect setup for the producers to make another sequel.

I disagree: Hollywood does setups like this all the time to keep the audience hanging, especially after finishing a trilogy - It's more just a gift to the audience, letting them make up their own continuations in their minds. The actual sequel never happens.

HOWEVER, after the credit roll, there is a scene that quite solidly set the stage for another film. While the chess scene wasn't compelling enough for me to have high hopes for more X movies, this final cliffhanger is definitely worthy of a sequel.

It was a pleasant, unique experience for me to see so many audience members stay to watch the entire credit roll - they must have known to expect something at the very end. Because I do work in the film industry, I now always stay to watch the credits, but I'm normally used to being the last one out of the theatre. It was nice that so many others got to stay to enjoy the names of the people who worked so hard to bring us this film, even if the ulterior motive was simply the special scene afterward.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Home Again

School is over! And summer is here! Time to relax, right?

I wish.

After tearful goodbyes to some very dear friends, hours of packing, and hours of loading the van, I moved out of Larson hall Tuesday night, and arrived home too tired to even think about unloading. It's now Thursday, and just today was I able to finish unloading the van, no small part of which made its way into a new mini-storage space we rented for my college stuff. The remainder has made its way into the house, or, more specifically, onto the floor in my room, where it is sitting until I have a chance to deal with it.

Of course, when I move my life home from college, I can't do it without saying, "hey, why don't I rearrange my entire room?" So that's how the process started - moving shelf contents across the room, resorting papers, pulling some stuff out into the middle of the floor to make room for other homeless books and equipment, etc. Of course, the benefit is obvious: now things actually have some semblance of organisation about them! Well, at least the things that are sitting happily on their shelves - my poor closet is another matter. Anyway, that's my weekend project.

But room cleaning, no matter how much fun it is (and yes, I do consider it to be fun), will have to take a back seat to callbacks for Harry Putter this Saturday! We had so many wonderful people come to audition last week that I'm now faced with the pleasant problem of having too many good choices.

And then it's back to work! Yes, starting next Tuesday, I'll once again be picking up my employment in the Technology department at Minnehaha Academy. I really do love the job, and it'll keep me pleasantly busy this summer in between friends, filmmaking, and vacationing. I'm really aiming for a good mix of those - we'll see how well I've learned from summers past.


It's been over a week since Grandma's funeral, so it's about time I finally buckled down and wrote some of my thoughts. This will likely be fairly scattered, just warning you in advance. I'm also writing as if it were last Tuesday.

This is the second time this year that I've had the honor and privilege of pallbearing, as well as driving in the funeral procession. The service itself was nice, though in all honesty it seemed a might bit short. But then, any time that you try to condense a person's life into a short speech, it's going to seem inappropriately short, so I guess it comes with the territory.

I drove our van in the procession, chauffeuring mom and dad in the same vehicle in which I drove out of town relatives for Grandma Sue's procession not too many months ago. This time we had the honor of being placed as the first car, leading the line as we followed behind the mortuary van and the hearse. While the events are inherently down beat, I'll admit I derive some amount of enjoyment from having a police escort and being allowed to completely disregard traffic laws (though I did gladly and humbly yield to the ambulance that needed to pass through - their needs are obviously greater than ours).

The grave side service was short and sweet, as it ought to have been, but because it was such a beautiful day (the only nice day of the week without rain), the family stayed for a while to visit before wishing each other goodbyes and safe travel (there were two vehicles in town from Chicago area).

And now we can move on. Mom and Dad can plan more than one day in advance, and I can step down my guard from the expectation of middle of the night phone calls. This is the fifth funeral I've been to in the past year, and I'm hoping it will be the last for a while.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Grandma Ruth

Nineteen years after her husband (my Grandpa Stan), and over two years since she began fighting her own battle with cancer, Grandma Ruth went to live in heaven Saturday morning.

When Grandma asked on Thursday if someone could start staying with her all the time, that was her way of asking for permission to leave us. Grandma never did like making plans, but she wanted to know that someone would be there in case anything happened, and this finally gave her the blessing she needed to go to sleep and not wake up again.

Plans are an awesome thing to have, but the true beauty comes in seeing them in action, working perfectly. My parents and I had talked at great length about what to do when things with Grandma started to change: I made it clear I wanted to be called at any time, day or night, and that I'd be on my way immediately when that call came. And I told Mom that, if it was the middle of the night, she should try my dorm phone first, since it rings loudly and would easily be able to wake me up.

There is really nothing quite like a phone call at 5:35 in the morning to get one's adrenaline going, at least, given that I knew exactly what that ringing meant for me and for the day ahead:

J: Good morning
M: Hi.
J: Should I get in the car now?
M: Yes, you should.
J: Okay, on my way. Talk soon.

I was out with friends the night before, so I didn't get to bed until 2:00 AM that morning, but the change from peaceful sleeping to adrenaline rush was instantaneous, and I was on the road by 5:49 (keep in mind it is a 5-8 minute walk from my room down to Skoglund where I have to park). Once I was in the car I called Mom back: Should I hurry, or is it too late? Yes, I should hurry.

I put my speeding skills to the test that morning, and, on a side note, discovered that, even flooring my gas pedal, my car can only accelerate up to 60 mph on the I35 entrance ramp from Hwy 19, though a cruising speed of 83 miles per hour was achieved shortly thereafter. Your deep thought of the day - when you see those wackos racing by you on the freeway, always in such a hurry like they have to get somewhere half an hour ago, consider that today, that was me.

5 weeks and 12 hours after moving into N C Little Hospice, Grandma breathed her last at 6:04 AM under the loving watch of her family. Mom called me at 6:11 to let me know I could slow down to posted speeds, and I arrived safely at the hospice at about 6:25, fittingly parking facing the wrong direction on the street.

Though I had thoughts of "why didn't I try to get going even sooner?", the reality is that I did not physically have time to get there between when I received my early morning phone call and when Grandma died. But this is okay - I got to say my goodbyes on Thursday when she was still alert. Even more, my parents and my plan for phone notification came through exactly as we'd discussed, and, though I didn't make it in time, that's all I could've asked for.

So now I ask myself, are these tears of sorrow or tears of joy? Grandma is gone from this world, and I like to imagine her soul was busy flying towards heaven, escorted by angels and flying towards the One who holds His arms wide open. He greets her, telling her "job well done", and standing next to Him is Grandpa Stan, who's been waiting for Grandma to come Home for 19 years. Yes, I will be doing research this summer to try to figure out a more theologically sound approach, but for now, I know that cancer is no longer plaguing her, and I like this imagery just fine. I guess they're tears of joy. Welcome Home, Grandma.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Jeremy's Vocabulary

It may seem like a strange thing to write about, and yet, because these are the words I love to use in daily life (and really love to slip into my papers), you'll probably see them a lot in my other writings, so here's where it all comes from:

"Accost" - Used by some friends of mine while gathering to go to the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert 27 December 2005 to describe the feeling of being asked for money by beggars downtown, and how it is usually best to try to avoid getting into that situation.*

"Assail" - A word originally employed by my psychology 125 class at St Olaf, but made all the funnier when used by our wonderful teacher, Gary Muir:
"See, the trouble with babies is they can't communicate. You can't ask them things like 'Do you see a doggy?'
'Do you just hear a buzz?'
'Are those entrails you're being assailed with?" - Gary Muir

"Context" - It's a legitimate word in and of itself, but it entered my vernacular as a tribute to my love for Apple computers. How on earth do those relate? The presenters in more than a few of Apple's online publicity videos for various software products like to use phrases about keeping workflow items in context (the specific example I have is the demo for Shake). Also, with the introduction of Mac OS X "Tiger" came the advent of Apple's "Core Data" system, in which managed objects are maintained within a "managed object context". Yes, it's a stretch, but after writing an Objective-C program using the Core Data backbone, words like that tend to seep into my vocabulary.

"Core ____" - No, it's not an apple core. When I use the word "core", it's most often in the context of referring to a basic underlying set of pieces (be that principles, values, beliefs, courses, or anything else that might be considered a building block of something larger). This, like "context", comes as result of my exposure to Apple's Objective-C programming environment, in which one comes across words like "Core Foundation", "Core Data", "Core Image", and "Core Audio". And then there are the "CoreServies" in OS X's system folder. Yes, I'm a geek.

"Homegoing celebration" - I'd never heard this combination of words until just a few days ago (added early August 2006) when one of the KTIS hosts was talking about his friend's funeral. It really resonated with me; I've long believed that funerals are supposed to be times to celebrate a person's life and accomplishments, especially when concerning someone who has lived a full, long life, and also to celebrate the beginning of their journey heavenward - this new phrase seems to aptly fit that aspect of my theology.

"Howdy" - When I first started in retail at the age of 14, I commonly greeted customers with a mere "Hi", but that didn't have enough syllables for my liking, so I gradually progressed into the more formal "Hello". That's okay for in-person encounters, but it's way too formal for the intrinsically impersonal email, thus I stole the word "howdy" from friend and former co-worker Peter Jerde.** (I also use the greeting "Hey!" or "Hey there!" [not to be confused with "Hey ya!"] because it is even more informal than "howdy" yet still maintains a higher respectability than a mere "hi").

"It went" - For when something has not gone particularly well, though not necessarily as badly as possible; this phrase is most often used in reference to tests to show a certain level of exasperation, the effect being something similar to: "the [test / event] is over, it didn't go as well as I'd hoped, but I don't think I completely failed, either".

"Simplistically put" - Stems from a now infamous quote in one of the books we read for my first-year religion class at St Olaf. This phrase is generally used in a sarcastic sense, the reason for which you will understand after reading the original quote:

"Simplistically put, reality is composed of an unending stream of transient, constantly changing, unreliable, contingent, and conditioned entities/forces, which are seemingly oppositional in nature, yet simultaneously harmonious, inseparably unified, and interconnected with their opposite and with all other reality in an interdependent, interpenetrating web of existence." --Lyn Bechtel

"St Mattress" - A term I use to describe my mornings on those Sundays when I just need to sleep in a little bit more. Rooted in Catholic tradition of praying to the Saints (I first heard this phrase from my my best friend Matthew Feeney, himself a Catholic), the most likely phrases are along the lines of: "I worshipped at the Church of St Mattress this morning" or "I was practicing my horizontal prayer to St Mattress."

"Sufficiently awkward" - Used by the wonderful math teacher in one of my favorite movies, 'Mean Girls', to describe her out-of-school encounter with some of her students.

"Y'all" - I use "y'all" partly because I work with a southerner in the theatre at MA, but primarily because I have long held to the belief that English should have a separate and distinct plural version of "you" like so many other languages."Y'all" fits this description nicely, and it's distinctive enough to make my language stand out slightly (at least amidst my normal midwestern surroundings). As an aside, I also think English should have a respectful form of "you" (like "usted" in Spanish).

*This is not an endorsement or ridicule of the spoken viewpoint, merely a factual retelling of the event that brought this word into my often-used vocabulary

**Peter always used "Howdy there" because it has three syllables, and can thus help cover up the fact that he had most often forgotten the person's name whom he was speaking to.

A Prairie Home Companion Premiere

Let me preface by reminding the reader that I spent the better portion of a month working in the extras casting department for this film, so when I heard that Prairie Home was having it's huge premiere screening in St Paul, I was a little dismayed that I hadn't yet received an invite. But my worries were unfounded, and I finally received my invite letter on a Tuesday afternoon in late April. Ah, but the catch: I was only allowed a single guest. Crum. The hard decision (which really was without question) - take Matthew (my best friend and film business partner, also the one responsible for getting me involved in films in the first place) who would likely not be receiving his own invite, or find someone pretty. Okay, so friendship won out without much of a mental struggle.

The big day rolled around - Wednesday, May 3. Classes ended, I commuted home, and we did dinner before the show. Now, to my slight disappointment, we weren't invited to the "real" premiere at the Fitzgerald where all the producers and cast were going to be, but still, I was happy to be at the event at all, even if we were only at the 'overflow' theatre. And it was okay, too, since many of the others in our theatre were familiar faces from this and other film projects. The slight disappointment - there were a whole bunch of seats left open at the start of the show, and there wasn't any ticket checking just to get into the theatre... so, we probably could have snuck other friends in to see the film (and enjoy the free drinks and popcorn), but there was no way to have known that ahead of time. Plus I'm an honest person.

Okay, so the movie itself - I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I guess it fit my expectations. It was funny, with a lot of great one-liners, and it was just so exciting to see the scenes on the big screen after seeing them coming together behind the scenes. It's always fun to be able to say, "hey, I remember this scene, and I'm just off camera to the right". And the best part: I am clearly visible onscreen for about 10 seconds! So, when this film comes out in theatres (June 9), watch for me about 15 minutes in when Dangerous Woman (Virginia Madsen) is first introduced (Kevin Kline's line is something to the effect of "Her hair is what God had in mind when he said, "Let there be hair") and is walking along the balcony behind the seated crowd - that's me in the center wearing khakis and a really ugly sweater (I was wrangling that day, and hadn't expected to actually be in the scene, so I had worn a really bright white t-shirt - this is a no-no for being on camera).

Okay, so more about the film itself - it's fun, it's more or less family friendly, though, as is noted with its PG13 rating, it does have a lot of "risque humor". The camera never stops moving, kind of like the show itself, but this isn't particularly distracting, and actually helps keep the story flowing. The cast is amazing: Meryl's fake midwestern accent is very well done, Kevin's Clouseau-esque detective character keeps you laughing, and Virginia''s thoughtful questions keep you thinking. Highlights to watch for include the duct tape advertisement, the cowboys' "Bad Jokes" song, the hallway scene right after the cowboys discover Chuck Akers is dead, and, of course, Lola's (Lindsey Lohan) song at the very end.

The movie ended and everyone hightailed it to the after party. We arrived to find a huge security detail, news trucks, limos of all sizes, and, my favorite: searchlights. The party offered free drinks (it's an awful thing being underage) and very elaborate hors d'oeuvres, along with live music, all in the very crowded first floor of the Landmark Center.

For me, the party was actually a bit of a disappointment, primarily because I didn't know anyone: the people in this group were more or less foreign to me, completely opposite of the crowd at the Fall Into Me premiere party. They weren't friends, they weren't even acquaintances, they were just faces. No, I didn't meet any stars, but that really wasn't my goal going in at all (what's the point, really?), but I did literally bump into and exchanged "excuse me"s with Garrison, if that counts for anything.

The party was redeemed at the end, though, by the distribution of Prairie Home promotional bags with tons of stuff in them (I grabbed 3) - my favorite items are the Best Buy gift card and the PHC promo CD with three great tracks from the soundtrack (the real thing comes out later this month).

So that was my adventure at the PHC premiere, though I don't think the reality hit until a week later when I saw the trailer in another theatre: "Wow", I thought. "I worked on that film and it's actually going to be shown nationwide in theatres. Cool!"

Friday, May 05, 2006

The return of the blog

Before my site redesign last year, I had, to some degree, maintained a weekly posting of my life and adventures (a so-called "blog", I was told). But then, life got busy, and I stopped writing. Part of it was that I just didn't feel a need anymore, part was that I didn't want to make the time, and part was that, whatever small readership I may have had, there was no open channel available for communication.

But things have changed in the world - with the advent of the internet in seemingly every household, a new, special kind of information flow has been created in the form of blogs, the obligatory communication method not only of geeks and other computer nerds, but of the common user! Even better, sites like this one offer these services to their users for free. Hmm, said I. The intrigue had begun.

And now I've come to several conclusions. Firstly, 'everyone' has a blog, and I actually consider myself a bit of a non-geek for not having one. Well, we couldn't have that, now could we? Secondly, for the one or two people who may read this, there's all those built in features for comments and feedback. Nice. And thirdly, selfishly, writing here will allow me a journal of sorts in which I can log important and not so important events in my life. This seems like a better solution than trying to keep track of the various bits of electronic scrap paper I have lying around my computer.

And with that, we have the return of Jeremy's blog, and an incentive for me to hone my mad writing skills. Welcome ~