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January 17, 2011
Boxing Day
Mood:  on fire

Terribly sorry for the hiatus in posting!  It's been a busy holiday season.  I'm taking a break from sculpting individual busts of Gerold out of cloudberry gelato for tomorrow night's dinner guests, to hastily check into the Grove and see what's doing.  (Actually, I've really been upstairs pulling gunk out of the bathroom sink drain, the pipe of which, judging from its propensity to dam up gross toothpaste water, has been reduced to the diameter of a ladybug urethra).

So, dearest Grovepudlians, how have you been?  Well, I trust; and I hope you all had lovely holidays.  2011 arrives with the enticing prospects of Killing Time (assuming the real-life trial wraps up soon) and Oranges and Sunshine.  It's been too long since most of us have seen David on screen, though we did get to hear him in Guardians of Ga'Hoole.  Here's hoping that Glenn Owen Dodds will circulate more widely, too.

Life proceeds as usual here.  This past weekend, I saw "The King's Speech", and I punched my company's founder and CEO.  These two events weren't causally connected, and yet both were kind of strangely satisfying.

The CEO-punching is a long story, which is best summed up by "office Christmas charity raffle".  You know, the kind where you buy a string of tickets, and co-workers donate prizes, and then there's a drawing.  I was hoping for the wine basket or the sailboat cruise on Lake Winnepesaukee, but instead I won "two minutes in the boxing ring with the CEO".  Our CEO is a passionate amateur boxer, all sinew and grit, and every year he donates ring time to a lucky sacrificial victim raffle winner.  It's not a genuine bout, of course; he doesn't do any punching.  He uses it as an opportunity to practice defending himself, while the raffle winner uses it as an opportunity to flop around like a fish, flail impotently against the CEO's washboard stomach, and network.

It wasn't as awful as you might think.  The gym instructor was very conscientious about wrapping my hands, showing me some basic punches, jamming gloves onto my fists and shoving me into the ring. Thanks to him, I now know five ways to incapacitate someone.  (I'd tell you, but then I'd have to incapacitate you.)  It all felt very sweaty and Mark Twight-ish, though I enjoyed bopping the punching bag to warm up.

I'll have to recount the full, exciting tale later, because it's really late, but here's an excerpt from my forthcoming rags-to-riches Rocky underdog memoir:

"Innnnn the white corner, weighing in at 215 lbs...The Executive!"

"Innnn the blue corner, weighing in at One-Dainty-Three-and-a-Half....The Proletariat!"


..."That's for not having an independent ISO-9000 certified quality assurance process!" the Proletariat snarled, driving her fist into the Executive's arrogant solar plexus.  "And that's for not sufficiently focusing on customer delight!"

Oh my.  That's enough excitement for one entry.  I don't want to overtax your sensibilities.

On a parting note, you probably heard the kerfuffle in the news last week about how they're moving all the Zodiac signs due to shifting of the magnetic poles, or some such.  The constellations no longer match the seasons.  Most people have to move back one sun sign and they've inserted a 13th sign into December called Ophiuchus.  People with Capricorn tattoos are understandably outraged at now having to be Sagittarii.  I didn't quite get the full story: are we expected to change our personalities too, to match our new star signs?  I don't know if I can handle being a Gemini, after all these years as a Cancer.  It's like having a birthday-change operation.  On the other hand, it would be nice to be a zodiac sign that isn't named after a deadly disease.

I seem to recall that under the new system, David would still be a Virgo.  Thank heavens some things in this world are consistent.

Posted by dessicatedcoconut at 11:28 PM EST
Updated: January 18, 2011 1:37 AM EST
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November 27, 2010
Hobo Thanksgiving
Mood:  hungry

Thanksgiving!   It's a great holiday.  No presents to buy, no cards to send, no carols to sing, no tree for the cat to pee in and knock down.  All that's required is to eat a delicious meal of turkey/ tofurkey/ turducken/ turcowshrimpporklomeinmooseburger, bask in the love of your family, and give thanks for all those little things that bring sunshine into your life.  Twinkle lights.  Ibuprofen.  Glee.  Your generous snowblower-owning neighbor.  The downside is having to wash 65,000 dishes afterwards, but that's your own fault if you have 22 people over and insist on eating off of real plates.  A communal metal trough is much easier to hose out afterwards.

I celebrated Thanksgiving Part One (aka Thanksgiving: The Stuffening) with my brother, his wife and two daughters the weekend before, at their cabin in Godforsakken, Maine (not its real name).  It's wayyyyyy up in the Great North Woods, on a high bluff overlooking the Penobscot.   To get to it, you have to bump several miles down a dirt logging road, then careen down a set of faint tire ruts through tangled overgrowth for another mile or two.  Normally they use it for summer camping, but my brother got the idea that it would be great to put on an entire Thanksgiving meal there.  The cabin has no running water, no electricity, no beds, and no kitchen to speak of.  No bathroom either.  There's nothing like peeing on frozen, leathery oak leaves and then realizing you forgot to bring along toilet paper. 

Since I wasn't doing any actual cooking, other than showing up with rolls and pie, I was more or less agreeable with this plan.  The turkey was roasted outdoors for 6 hours inside a 55-gallon metal drum, while we all huddled around it, shivering.  I felt like a hobo.  Potatoes, sweet potatoes, and squash were also boiled outside on the fire.  There might have been peas too - my memory is a little hazy due to smoke inhalation.  By the time the little plastic turkey thermometer popped, it had been dark for quite awhile and I couldn't feel my feet anymore.

The main point to this story is that inside the cabin, on the table, I discovered a copy of Guardians of Ga'Hoole "Guide Book to the Great Tree", an encyclopedia of characters and place names from the books.

"Ah!" I said to my nieces.  "You've read these?"

"No," they said.  "We just like reading about the characters."   (Did any of you ever see Metropolitan?  There was a character in it, Tom Townsend, who never read actual books, just literary criticism.  I think this is the situation we're dealing with here) .

So I flipped through to see what the Digger entry said. This is how they described him:

"Digger is quiet, the philosopher of the group...."

Now, I thought....I mean....wasn't that...wasn't Digger kind of hyperactive and talkative??    Or is it just the turkey smoke playing tricks on my memory?

I think it would be helpful to do the same thing for other characters David's played.  Some of these movies, it's probably been awhile since you've seen them, and at this time of year, with all that juicy tryptophan coursing through your system, it's easy to forget who's who.  So here's the expanded Grove edition of Misleading Character Summaries.

Neil Fletcher:  Unassuming.  Gentle. Wouldn't harm a fly.  He's the one everyone trusts to cow-sit while they're away in Darwin. 

Dilios:  Enjoys dressing in warm, snuggly layers.  Gets really upset if you wash his Pookie Bear or if any of his foods are touching one another on the plate.

Jim DoyleLoves banks.  Banks + Jim 4ever.  Can't get enough of those banks.  Jim's got a fever, and the only cure is banks.

Josh: Devoutly Shaker.  Also, gay.

Gerold: Totally shallow.  Addicted to "Farmville".

Mark Waldman: War profiteer.

By the way, if you hanker for owl pellets (and who doesn't?), there's a virtual owl vomit simulator that lets you dissect your own cyber-pellet and figure out what the owl had for dinner.  (Answer: not Stuart Little. And not those mystery metal flecks either.)  Go to KidWings and click the Virtual Owl Pellet button.

Hey, you know what?  Maybe the owls Spartans would have won the battle of Thermopylae if they hadn't kept breaking into slow motion in the middle of battle.

Posted by dessicatedcoconut at 10:47 PM EST
Updated: November 28, 2010 12:57 AM EST
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October 17, 2010
I'll have decaf, please
Mood:  incredulous
Now Playing: "Billionaire" by Travie McCoy with Bruno Mars

As another election season approaches, I'm starting to feel like the one townsperson in the zombie movie that isn't infected with the undead brain-eating virus.  All around me, people are intoning "" and putting signs in their yard in support of candidates from the planet Xkzlatoltl.

It isn't just Maine, although we're about to elect a governor who wants to teach creationism in schools, "eliminate literacy", and last week announced his intention to punch a PBS reporter.  Nationwide, we've been overrun by Tea Party candidates espousing the sort of lunatic paranoia that you'd normally see stapled to lampposts, or yelling to itself in the park.  For example:

* Christine O'Donnell of Delaware, who believes scientists have created hybrid mice with functioning human brains, has admitted to dabbling in witchcraft, and is an outspoken opponent of masturbation.  (Yes, America, that's your biggest problem right now.  It's not global warming, Afghanistan, or the recession.  It's the fact that you can't stop tickling the pickle.)  According to her, "It is not enough to be abstinent with other people.  You have to be abstinent alone.  The Bible says that committing lust in your heart is committing adultery, so you can't masturbate without lust."

So apparently, even daydreaming is off-limits, and all of you who saw 300 are going straight to hell.  My question is, isn't adultery only possible with real people?  Does it still count if your fantasies are populated with generic archetypes?  Like, the one about the fireman.  Or the one about the priest. Or the one about the Brawny Paper Towel Man.  Can adultery be said to have been committed if the other party is a completely fictional, cardboard character with sensational biceps and no name, who exists only in the depths of your filthy, filthy gutter mind long enough to see you through a boring wait at the dentists' office?

My other question is, who cares?

*Tim D'Annunzio of North Carolina, who claimed to be the Messiah, tried to raise his stepfather from the dead, believed God would drop a 1,000 mile high pyramid as the New Jerusalem on Greenland, and found the Ark of the Covenant in Arizona.  Not to mention heroin dependency and jail time, but those are just trifling details.  Next to this guy, Johnny Spitieri looks like a Rhodes scholar.

*Art Robinson of Oregon, an ardent proponent of something called hormesis (the belief that low levels of radiation are good for you).  He believes radioactive drinking water from California should be used to "enhance" Oregon's water, that public schools should be abolished, and that government regulations caused the BP oil spill.

In other words: Eddie Harnovey's worst nightmare.

* Glenn Urquhart of Delaware: "The exact phrase 'separation of Church and State' came out of Adolph Hitler's mouth, that's where it comes from. So the next time your liberal friends talk about the separation of Church and State, ASK THEM WHY THEY'RE NAZIS."

...Hey, you know who else used poorly fact-checked, eliminationist hyperbole? ADOLF HITLER, THAT'S WHO!!

* Trent Franks of Arizona: "[Obama] has no place in any station of government and we need to realize that he is an ENEMY OF HUMANITY."

*Sharron Angle of Nevada, who at one time subscribed to the notion that HIV could be spread through water, wants to abolish the Department of Education, and bring back Prohibition.

*Carl Paladino of New York, who proposes to eliminate Medicare and has suggested that welfare recipients be placed in prison, "where they will learn hygiene". 

* Louis Gohmert of Texas on hate crime legislation: "You'd have to strike any laws against bestiality, if you're oriented toward corpses, toward children, you know, there are all kinds of perversions."

* Some guy I heard on the radio running for state senate in New Hampshire, ranting in ugly language against immigrants who come into this country to have "anchor babies".  I never know that was a problem around here, but yes, it seems millions of Canadians are sneaking over the Quebec border at night, lured by lucrative potato-picking jobs, for the express purpose of dropping babies and overrunning our native culture.  Next thing you know we'll all be laughing with a French accent ("honh-honh-honh") and saluting the maple leaf.

I, for one, welcome our new Tea Party overlords, and agree with them completely that fzxg glorn fleeble blurm SCARY SCARY PEOPLE WITH MORE MELANIN THAN ME dinklefwat bleeble SCARY GAYZ ffnord glapple glopple OBAMA WAS BORN IN A UFO zfx fxfzffx xfzfx.

It's easy to poke fun, but it's actually not that funny...these are all symptoms of a growing movement dedicated to turning us into a more brutal, less informed, less caring society.  The anger of average middle-class taxpayers is being misdirected against minorities and the poor, instead of against politicians who sell off our resources, our health, and our future to the highest corporate bidder.  The problem isn't big government; it's owned government.  Like Oz behind the curtain, it takes increasing amounts of twisted logic, inflammatory rhetoric, and campaign funding to keep people distracted from the genuine issues facing this country.  Meanwhile, corporations and billionaires quietly go on awarding themselves hefty tax breaks, dismantling regulation, stifling competition, shipping jobs overseas, and amassing obscene piles of wealth.  Thus, the recent proliferation of nutty-as-a-fruitcake candidates railing against masturbation and evolution, backed by millions of dollars from undisclosed donors and foreign corporations.  Without any common consensus regarding facts, history, or rationality, we are on the verge of becoming an ungovernable nation.

And now that our overseas readers are thanking their lucky stars not to be living in the U.S. at this moment in history, let's link to some cheerful, factual, reality-based, sciencey news:

Ancient DNA Reveals That Some Neanderthals Were Redheads

Ginger cavemen - how cool is that?  I should think they would have been worshipped as minor deities.

Posted by dessicatedcoconut at 10:11 PM EDT
Updated: October 18, 2010 2:05 AM EDT
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September 27, 2010
A Parliament of Owls
Mood:  lazy

Whoooo?  Whoooo?  Whooooo loved Legends of the Guardians?

Why, I did!

Yes,  yes.  I know all the standard raps against Legend of the Guardians.  It's too dark and violent for kids.  The plot is too complicated.  Not enough fart jokes.  Too much of a ripoff of (insert George Lucas space trilogy here).  Won't do well at the box office.  Blah, blah, blah, mwah mwah mwah Charlie Brown teacher mwah mwah.  We've all heard the objections.

Piffle, say I.  This film is visually beautiful - no, gorgeous - no, stunning.  And quite original.  That's no small achievement, in a world crowded with brightly-colored, frenetic cookie cutter kids' movies.  Legend of the Guardians doesn't elbow you in the ribs with its own cleverness, or jump up and down for attention, or bully an emotional response out of you.  I'd describe it as an intimate adventure.  It lets you breathe and relax and soar with the owls on your own terms. (I'm sure it's no coincidence that the main character is named Soren).   The dialogue unfolds naturally, without feeling rushed or forced.  Every feather is beautifully detailed and beautifully lit, every leaf meticulously rendered.  It's like Avatar Junior. Except with owls in gladiator masks.

Of course, the film retains many Zach Snyder touches.  There's lots of shots that abruptly brake to super-slo-mo (particularly when talons are within an inch of slashing nastily at someone's face).  Camerawork is heightened by a full chorus and a woman ululating along the Aeolian scale.  The color palette, particularly for the battle scenes, is "burnt somber", with slashes of red here and there.  Yet the message is the opposite of 300.  In 300, only the strong were worthy of survival, while the weak were left to die in the elements.  In this movie, the Guardians' stated mission is to mend the weak, heal what is broken, and vanquish evil.  (I guess the Spartans were all about vanquishing evil, too, but they did it with abdominal crunches).

So, the story, in a nutshell: Soren, a fluffy young barn owl being raised in a big tree, thrills to the bedtime stories his father tells him of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole.  After a gravitational mishap, in which Soren and his brother Kludd fall out of the Cute Tree and hit every branch on the way down, the two find themselves kidnapped by a band of evil owls called the Pure Ones.  They are taken to a bleak mountain lair, where Soren is put to work dissecting owl pellets and picking out flecks of metal which the evil owls are using to construct a humungous plasmatic gizzard-zapper.  (What these fragments of metal are, or why mice eat them, goes unexplained.  I just assumed it was cheese-flavored unobtanium, and didn't worry my pretty little head about it any more.)

After his capture, Soren befriends a tiny elf owl named Gylfie.  Together the two of them resist the indoctrination ritual known as "moonblinking", in which the owls stare up at a beautiful object for hours until they forget who they are and where they came from.  In certain circles, this is known as "davidblinking".  The sensation will be familiar to viewers of Pope Joan.

Meanwhile, Hugo Weaving secretly teaches Soren and Gylfie to fly and then helps them escape.  On their journey to Ga'Hoole, they meet a pair of owls called Twilight and Digger, and this is where the film gets really interesting.  And it wasn't just me - the rest of the audience perked up noticeably when Digger arrived and raised the energy level.  Digger is just the cutest lil' thang ever, from his white eyebrows to his spotty head to his hoppy, nervous personality.  He's a bit exhausting to watch, but I suppose burrowing owls (Squeeus caffeinus) do have a tendency to twitch around a lot and act agitated.  And boy, can he ever dig.  I'd love to hire Digger to plant some rosebushes.

It's a testament to David's skill that when he first spoke, I didn't even recognize his voice.  I'm not sure what I was expecting - an owl with an eerie Spartan relish for violence, maybe - but Digger's voice fits perfectly with the character and the tone of the movie.  He doesn't sound like a child, but he sounds childlike, if that makes sense.  He also had great lines and got some of the biggest laughs from the audience: "Just because it's sound, doesn't make it music.".  The little girl behind us whispered "That owl is my favorite, he's the cutest one!" and I thought, "You don't know the half of it, my small friend".

Unfortunately, Digger sort of disappears for the remainder of the movie, which focuses on the relationship between Soren and his mentor, Owlby-Wan Kenobi - er, Ezylryb - as the young owl learns to "trust his gizzard" to fly through windstorms, lightning,  and blizzards.  There's a climactic battle scene, Guardians vs. Pure Ones, in which Soren uses a flaming teapot to disable a winch that shuts off the electrostatic plasma lamp which is paralyzing the Gahooligans' gizzards so they can't move....or something.  OK, maybe the plot isn't the strong point of this movie.

Digger, being a burrower, isn't exactly at home in the sky, so he doesn't feature hugely in the battle scenes.  But at the end, along with the others, he is rewarded for his valor with a Purple Hoot medal.

Oh sorry, that was really bad.  Even Digger would be ashamed of that pun.

Posted by dessicatedcoconut at 7:29 PM EDT
Updated: September 27, 2010 10:29 PM EDT
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September 21, 2010
Owls well that ends well
Mood:  hungry

Y'know, I'm pretty excited about Legend of the Guardians.   I'd love to splurge for the 3-D version, but the theaters around here are fairly diffident about new-fangled innovations.  Heaven knows, when them fancy talkie pictures came out, it cost a pretty penny to install all the tin cans and wires and such.  Next they'll be wantin' popcorn an' seats with backs.

But flat 2-D owls shall not stop me from glorying in Digger's rich Dolby voice.  Only three more days to go.


I've been helping some friends with garden renovations, and it turns out that Pink Floyd lied.  All in all, you're just another brick in the patio.

Posted by dessicatedcoconut at 1:21 AM EDT
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August 2, 2010
Unfortunatley, insurance doesn't cover any of these
Mood:  smelly
Now Playing: "Taylor the Latte Boy" - Kristin Chenoweth

So the other day, at the gym, I whimsically challenged myself to do an 8-minute mile on the treadmill.  "Pish tosh," said I to myself, dismissing imaginary naysayers with an airy wave while hiking up my leg warmers and setting the iPod to Extra Bouncy, "I routinely did this in under 7 minutes in high school.  Eight minutes should be a breeze."

Oh, how I do love to laugh.

The next morning, while googling "owwwwwwwww" and "alarmingly swollen knee", I came across an ailment known as Theater Knee.  At first glance, it sounded like an actors' affliction - too many genuflecting "Alas, poor Yorick" scenes on unforgiving hardwood veneer - but no, it turns out to be an affliction of  critics and specatators.  Theater Knee is the result of too many hours spent at film festivals, crammed into uncomfortable seats, legs bent at an acute angle, patellas jammed into seatbacks and whacked askew by people climbing over to get to the restrooms.  And boy howdy, it can really hurt.

My next thought was "well then...surely there must be disorders specific to David fans".  Every day, countless lives are disrupted by ailments such as Lukemia, Gingervitis, and Huangnail, to name a few (the latter caused by eagerly ripping open the newest DVD arrival, and cutting a finger in your haste.  Even though you know David isn't in it all that much).  Don't you know people who've nearly died of a Doug Overdose, Josh Palsy, or Spartan Vaporlock?  This is a serious crisis, people!  I've got an icebag going right now to subdue my Killing Time Anticipation Tic.

Speaking of Killing Time. Which we were not! But I couldn't think of a graceful way to change the subject.  Didn't you love the trailer?  OK, so it's evil David this time, but refined, elegant, Porsche-and-coke, succumbing-to-temptation evil David, as opposed to Jerky McOutback, the Outback Jerk.  (Yes, if I saw that action figure in a store, I would totally buy it.)   No flies, whips, or lizardskin boots here - instead, it's a world of police corruption, maximum-security prison, and vicious criminals.  And David gets to wear one of those Monty Python judge wigs.

One of the interesting things about Fraser, it seems, is the way in which he keeps reinventing himself, setback after setback - from small-time lawyer to high-profile criminal attorney to disgraced drug addict to prisoner to author to public speaker to comedian (yes, he has a comedy show called "High Sus", which was featured at the Melbourne Comedy Festival last year).  The guy just keeps on moving from role to role at a dizzying pace.  Next he'll show up on Dancing with the Stars.  Or he'll announce that he's putting out a CD of hardscrabble roots music.  I wonder if that chameleon-like quality is what interested David in portraying him?


Stupid Idea of the Day:  You know how 3-D glasses leave dents in your nose, and make you look like a Buddy Holly impersonator operating a bandsaw during a racquetball match?  Movie theaters really should offer 3-D contacts as an alternative.


Quote of the Day (from my 10 year old nephew):  "Oh yeah, I've heard of 300.  It's a movie about men.  It has a lot of men in it.  I think it was made for men."

Posted by dessicatedcoconut at 8:55 PM EDT
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June 29, 2010
Pope Joan: The Review of the Movie of the Book of the Legend
Mood:  cool

This week, one of my very dear friends from inside the computer loaned me Pope Joan for home viewing(Thank you, thank you, thank you!)  At last I have joined the ranks of the lucky witnesses who have Seen The Gerold.  (Was anyone else surprised to find out that his name is pronounced with a hard "g"?  Oh, I was.  I jasped out loud.)

Pope Joan is like a big loaf of raisin bread studded with plump juicy flecks of David, buttered with medieval costumery, and served with a steaming hot cup of other actors.  There's enough raisins in the loaf so you don't feel deprived, but five minutes later you're hungry again.  We fans are insatiable that way.

Before tackling the movie, I suppose we should get the inevitable Faramir-Gerold comparison out of the way first.  At first glance, of course, the two look very similar.  The long ginger mane.  The similar fashion sense (though Gerold prefers fishscale Mylar jerkins to leather).  The reluctant-soldier/closet-intellectual streak.  The similar hobbies, namely: 1) riding sadly out to battle over cobblestone streets while women stick flowers in their saddles 2) engaging in frustrating military conversations with stubborn-idiot superiors.

However, in personality the two are quite different. Gerold is far more self-assured and far less haunted than Faramir.  He's not weighed down by constant exhaustion or Daddy issues, and physically he's a little sturdier, a bit rougher around the edges.  He's a man accustomed to getting his way.  From an acting standpoint, I really enjoyed David's confident, mature portrayal.  He moves easily around the role of a Frankish nobleman, without any strain or hesitation.  One of the best moments for me: the smoldering, seething look he gives Lothar after being summarily dismissed and told to go tend to his "black sheep".  GO DAISY.

Gerold's gentle nature also shines through very well, particularly when contrasted with the loathsome specimens Joan has to deal with for much of her life, from her violent sociopath of a father (played brilliantly by Iain Glenn) to the sneaky, conniving Odo, to the backstabbing Anastasius.  Unfortunately, we don't get to see much of Gerold mentoring Joan and gradually building up their relationship.  Instead we get conventional plot shorthand, delivered in a few quick strokes:  Gerold offers to take her in, his wife hates her, then they're at the fair, then he's wowing her with the old Greek Door Trick, then he's smooching her in the brook.

As wonderful as it was to see David doing love scenes again, this was where the movie fell a little flat for me.  It pains me to say it, but there just wasn't much chemistry between Joan and Gerold.  I don't know if it was the dialogue, the washed-out color processing, the water, or Johanna Wokalek's arctic portrayal, but watching them kiss made me feel a little chilly.  In the book, this is the point where Joan's heart blossoms for the first time as she falls in love with her kind friend and mentor: the first man to answer her burning, fierce intellect with a passion of his own.  In the brook, as Gerold kisses her, Joan's eyes fly open with a sort of puzzled, thoughtful expression, like someone who's trying gefilte fish for the first time and isn't sure she likes it.

Later on, we get another water scene with full backal nudity, but unfortunately not of Gerold.  (For further research on this subject, I would refer interested readers to Better Than Sex.)  To borrow a phrase from Shane Maloney, there's warmth between Joan and Gerold, but no heat.  If I hadn't read the book, I wouldn't be sure exactly what it was that attracted them to each other, other than the fact that they're the only two normal adults in the entire movie.

In adapting the book to the screen, some of the energy and momentum gets lost.  There's little sense that the plot is building inexorably toward a terrible and tragic ending, and Joan's sacrifice is muted.  Instead of having to make a truly painful choice between fulfilling her mind's potential and a lifetime of safe domestic happiness, she gets to have it both ways.  After Joan becomes Pope, Gerold hangs around as consort, visiting her room after hours with a torch once she's finished poping for the day and is ready to knock some pontifical boots.  (I still think it's absolutely freaking hilarious, by the way, that David's curriculum vitae now includes "the pope's lover").  Later, it's mentioned in passing that Joan is with child, but we don't see her trying to hide her pregnancy from the Vatican advisors.  There's no running out of the throne room with dry heaves when someone mentions bacon, no visiting the Holy Chamber Pot nineteen times a day, no sudden craving for roasted lark with pickles.  Maybe it was the world's easiest pregnancy, but I felt there needed to be at least a little drama to call attention to the precariousness of her situation.  After all, Joan is surrounded by ambitious predators who would tear her apart if they suspected even a whiff of womanhood.

The ending was altered to be more deliberately cinematic, as well.  The papal procession scene is cut in such a way that every nasty blow and stab to Gerold appears to make Joan cry out in pain.  I know it's meant to signify a deep psychic link between the two, but I kept thinking "voodoo doll".  Except when Gerold got skewered through the chest.  Then I thought "potato-headed orc from The Two Towers".

More than that, I didn't quite understand the decision to have Joan die alone on the steps of the Via Sacra.  Of the few "facts" we know about Joan's life, the most often repeated is that she died at the hands of a frenzied mob after giving birth.  Not that I wanted to see dirt-caked peasants bashing her with rocks, but the tableau of Joan crawling slowly away from a semicircle of frozen onlookers and collapsing in a trail of blood wasn't what I was expecting.  It ended with a whimper instead of a bang, and if you were unfamiliar with the legend and missed that she was pregnant, you might have wondered what was going on.  But I did like the framing device of the little girl that followed in Joan's footsteps, grew up to become a bishop, and narrated the story.  Stay in school, kids!

There were many delightful little moments.  I loved the expression on Gerold's face when the Super Door Trick was being played on Lothar's army.  I also loved the look Gerold and Joan exchanged when the cardinals interrupted their tender moment by bursting into the room and informing Joan she was Pope.  *awkward*  John Goodman was wonderful as Pope Sergius, and Lotte Flack was spectacular as the 10 - 14 year old Joan.  I expect we'll be hearing more from her in the future.  The music was also very well done.

Overall, I'd give it a B-.  It's a great story, great message, and wonderfully cast, but the cinematic execution isn't quite lavish or sweeping enough to qualify as a massive global epic.  It has more of a small-scale, Lifetime Movie kind of feel to it.  Nothing wrong with that, of course, but it may explain the reluctance of US distributors to pick it up.  It deserves to be seen by a wider audience; certainly there are many readers around the world who loved the book, and there's always an appetite for movies that yank the Church's chain, a la "The Da Vinci Code".   Controversy often breeds interest.  I wonder if one of the cable networks would be interested in showing it?

Posted by dessicatedcoconut at 9:34 PM EDT
Updated: June 30, 2010 1:32 AM EDT
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June 13, 2010
What would you do for an Apollo bar?
Mood:  suave

In their efforts to contain the Deepwater oil disaster, BP has so far tried a cement underwater containment dome, a million gallons of sludgey mud, several thousand gallons of unregulated toxic oil-breaking-upping chemicals, and robot submarines.  None of them have worked.

But I bet the giant oil-eating dragon will do the trick.


I have to say, I was a tad disappointed that the David Wenham who slid through goose poop in pursuit of a kickball catch was not our David Wenham.  But I think he does have that same level of commitment, focus, and dedication to his craft.  Directors haven't asked him to slide through waterfowl flop (yet), but he has endured plenty of weird and uncomfortable situations with good grace while filming.  I seem to recall he had to slather his legs with meat tenderizer, or something, during the filming of "Crocodile Hunter" so the guard dogs would go after him with conviction.  There's also been heat, flies, makeup, helicopters, freezing water, and plastic Stay-Puft Marshmallow Armor, to name a few.

I once spent two hours sitting in duck poop at a local park just so I could get a promotional "Apollo" candy bar (as seen in Lost).  I really, really wanted that bar.  Love bears all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love is patient.  Love does not worry about avian-flu-coated grass.

If it came to it, I'd pick my way through a minefield of horse apples just to see Pope Joan.

Posted by dessicatedcoconut at 12:31 AM EDT
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May 1, 2010
I Got The Horse Right Here
Mood:  d'oh
Now Playing: The Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Minefields

Last night, during a tavern debauch with miscellaneous friends, I placed a drunken bet on a Kentucky Derby horse.  I don't really remember the circumstances which led to this, but a five dollar bill was handed over with instructions to "put it all on #3 to finish!"  (I think the technical betting term is actually "win", isn't it?).  I know as much about horse racing as I do about neurosurgery, maybe even less.  I could probably tell which end of a patient is up, especially if it was inscribed on their forehead during surgery prep, but I'm not so sure with horses.  They all look alike to me.

And thus, for the first time in ages, I found myself eagerly tuning into the Kentucky Derby to emit a lusty farrago of cheers for my randomly chosen horse.  Before the race started, the field of 20 did an introductory lap around the muddy track, the jockeys in their crisp colors, the horses looking magnificent and eager, the crowd looking elegant, the mint looking julepped.  One of the horses was named Line of David.  I wish I could report that this was my horse, and that Line of David beat the rest of the field by a mile, and that I won $10,000 with which to start a foundation to introduce David films into developing nations.  That would have made a swell story for today's Grove post.  But no.

No, #3 turned out to be a horse called Noble's Promise, with odds that were approximately the same as a basset hound writing "Hamlet" in Yiddish.  Since Denethor was played in the LOTR films by John Noble, I took this as a sign that the horse, rather than galloping along with the other charging warriors around the track, would have a natural inclination to hang back and nosh on cherry tomatoes.

But wrong again!  This horse was a goer.  When the bell went off, he sprang out to the front of the pack.  Halfway through, he put on a little burst of speed, and was out in front with 75 yards to go.  I was on my feet yelling COME ON NUMBER THREE COME ON COME ON COME ON when suddenly!  a pack of other horses surged forward, swarmed past Noble's Promise, and pipped him at the tape.  (See: Tragic Middle School Track Meet Story from the previous entry. You know what? I bet the trainers forgot to floss that horse.)

So, five dollars that could have gone towards, say, a movie ticket for Legend of the Guardians, instead spiraled down the drain in a counterclockwise fashion.  But you know, it was worth those 45 seconds of excitement, and the brief fantasy of being a hundredaire.


In the past month, Maine has had two separate topless protest marches by groups of women protesting the inequality of females not being able to take their shirts off on a hot day like men do.  Yes, you read that right.

It's actually legal for women to go topless in public in this state.  I guess the state legislators felt safe in passing that law, since most days of the year the temperature is about 83 degrees below freezing.  Portland used to have a topless donut shop, but it closed down after a fire last summer.  (Breakfast seems a tad early to be surrounded by ta-ta's, but maybe guys think differently.  I would certainly avoid a bottomless donut shop, at least before lunch).

Anyway, the female protestors, in an attempt to draw attention to the cultural inequalities of shirtlessness, took off their tops and marched down the streets of the city.  It is true that there's an imbalance in what's culturally acceptable. I can think of several roles where David went shirtless, but I'm trying to remember if any of his female co-stars bared it all.  I guess Susie Porter did (from behind).  In gym class, the boys get to be Shirts vs. Skins, but we girls have to put on those smelly mesh fungus-factory jerseys that never get washed.  It can get pretty darn hot under a sports bra.

While I admire their bravery, it's not a right I feel the need to fight for tooth and claw.  Without going into too much detail, I prefer my girls to remain snugly accounted for, in a supportive atmosphere.  But, can you imagine sending a platoon of topless women into battle against the Spartans?  I bet it would have totally freaked them out, not to mention confusing the producers of The Deadliest Warrior.  Here the Spartans are, thinking their bare chests and leather Speedos are psyching out the enemy, when over the hill comes a jiggling army led by their titular ruler.  Paralyzed by equal parts distraction and shock at their failure to keep abreast of this warfare tactic, the Spartans would end up feeling like the biggest boobs in recent mammary....

....whoa, I'm getting carried away here. 

Sorry about all the puns.  We've spoken firmly to our quality control department and nippled it in the bud.


Uh, that should read "nipped".


Have you noticed that in virtually every article about Killing Time, Andrew Fraser is referred to as a "silvertail solicitor"?  In fact, if you google "silvertail solicitor", you can see several articles that use this same phrase.  It's like a little virus that infects every press update that comes into contact with it.

I don't even know what "silvertail" means.  I'm guessing it's Aussie slang for a senior citizen with a mullet.  Either that, or Andrew Fraser was in the habit of putting on pinstripe trousers and sitting in metallic paint.

Come to think of it, Silvertail Solicitor would be a great name for a Kentucky Derby horse.  We'll get a topless jockey to ride it.

Posted by dessicatedcoconut at 8:47 PM EDT
Updated: May 1, 2010 10:48 PM EDT
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April 17, 2010
Drab Gray Birds of the Desert Southwest
Mood:  caffeinated

Today, we have two completely unrelated stories.  My segue kung-fu is not powerful enough to link them together, though I tried mightily with the Sword of Smooth Transitions and the Hammer of Non-Non Sequiturs.  There's just no common ground, I'm afraid.  Except for the casual David film references.

Story #1:

One of my favorite scenes in "Return of the King" (besides Oil-Soaked Faramir) is the beacon lighting sequence.  In the theater, it was such a thrill to see those gorgeous, swooping helicopter shots, those sparks of light leaping up out of the blue dusk one by one to carry the message to Rohan.  Gondor Beacon Guard must have been a fairly boring job, the sort of low-level duty assigned to cadets who flunked out of White Guard of the Citadel School.  Years and years of inaction, punctuated by a sudden panicked scramble to find the Middle Earth Safe-T-Strike matches and get the pile lit.  What are the odds of being caught napping on the job, staring off in the wrong direction, off in the woods taking a whizz, or staring at a termite-riddled pile of wet firewood when the Big Moment comes?

In the early days of Prohibition my maternal great-great-grandfather, Charles Neeley, was in the habit of riding horseback fifty miles up into the Arkansas Hills for mineral hunting and recreation.  It was a rough area, notorious for moonshiners.  One weekend he was visiting a friend, and they were on the back porch testing a box of cigars.  As darkness fell, Great-Great-Grandfather Neeley noticed little lights springing up on the tall mountain peaks all around.  Everywhere he looked, another light appeared.  Within half an hour there wasn't a single peak that wasn't dotted with light.

It creeped him out to see all those fires twinkling in the darkness.  He asked his friend what the lights meant.  His friend said "I'll tell you in a little bit."  The friend then went into the yard and proceeded to build and ignite two enormous bonfires, about 100 yards apart.

Back on the porch, his friend said "You see all those different lights on those different points?  They can be seen by every citizen for miles around.  They are a signal that a stranger is in the neighborhood, and for everyone to be on guard until it is known why he is here, and who he is.  My two fires are a return signal to notify the neighbors that the stranger (that is, you) is known to me and under my protection.  The Revenue officers have been giving them a lot of trouble.  Several people have been arrested and had their stills destroyed.  The lights show that, although you may not have seen anyone when you entered this locality, someone saw you."

The next day they went for a hike in the hills, and came to a large stump.  The friend said "See that stump?  Leave half a dollar on it and see what happens".  Sure enough, when they came back, the half dollar was gone and in its place was a pint bottle filled with "mountain dew", or "H___fire" as Great Great Grandfather Neeley decorously referred to it.  To be polite, he tried a sip, but decided it wasn't worth going blind and risking jake leg, so he left the bottle with the friend and rode back home.

After that trip, he never saw the bonfires again.  News travels fast in the mountains.  But it does make me wonder - did they all keep huge woodpiles on their lawn, and keep vigil like the Gondor beacon guards?  Weird.  And what was Gondor's obsession with big piles of wood, anyway?  Bunch of pyros, if you ask me.

Story #2:

Last week I was notified that a former classmate, Jill Sellers (not her real name) had emailed me on  You have to sign up for a $15 membership to read anything anyone sends you, so I don't know what the email says.  At first I was  stumped as to why she would be contacting me, considering that one of her high school hobbies was making fun of my sweaters.  If little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice, the Jill I knew in high school was made of jalapenos, napalm, scorpions, PMS, and Portuguese man o' wars (men-o-war?), all baked into a permanent orange cheerleader glare.  Picture the meanest mean girl from your high school.  Now picture someone even meaner making fun of her behind her back.  Now picture someone even meaner making fun of her behind her back, and so on all the way to the edge of the universe, where the laws of physics bend, and nerds attract and jocks repel.  The person at the very end of the line would be Jill.  She could make Chuck Norris cry ("OMG, you wore that to battle The Claw and Super Ninja?")

Why she would be emailing me, I have no idea, unless it has to do with our upcoming high school reunion.  Apparently, when the number of earth orbits around the sun since graduation is evenly divisible by five, you're supposed to gather with your former classmates and get weepy drunk to Joy Division (or Culture Club, or Elvis, or Mozart,  whatever was in style that year).  Eighties music, with its skinny ties and synthesizers, is not well suited to maudlin sentiment.  "Safety Dance" does mist me up a little, even though that dance really wasn't all that safe. 

But back to our story.  In seventh grade, at the annual middle school track meet, Jill Sellers tried to get me to throw the 440-yard dash and let her friend Kristin Lahti win (a snooty cheerleader who smirked when I broke my ankle playing basketball).  "She deserves it so much more than you," Jill told me.  My response: "Hell no".

Jill's eyes narrowed.  She glared at me with the white hot hatred of a thousand suns, hissed "You have food in your braces," and stormed off.

I was seethingly furious.  So angry I could barely see the track.  When the starter's gun went off, I did what every track coach tells you not to do:  I took off like a bat out of hell (a bat who had just dined in it), fueled by pure adrenaline and hatred.  By the time we reached the halfway mark, I had a lead of about a dozen yards on the rest of the pack, and there were scorch marks on the track.

When we hit the three-quarter turn, my lungs began to burn, there was a maroon mist swarming in front of my eyes, and I could feel my legs running out of gas.  I prayed that the lead would hold.  If only...I didn't... have food.... in my braces....    less...wind...resistance.... 

Footsteps pounded behind me.  I wasn't sure whose they were.  I hoped it wasn't Kristin.  Gasping for air, I willed my legs to keep moving forward, to stay in front.

At the last minute some girl I'd never seen before, a recent transfer from another town, streaked past and nipped me at the tape.

I didn't even care, because I'd beaten Kristin Lahti.

You know, I'm really tempted to show up to the reunion with food in my teeth.


Postscript/random thoughts:

* If you watch 300 in 2x slo-mo, does that make it 600?

* Proposed ending for Lost:  Father Damien suddenly shows up on horseback.  Turns out they were on Molokai all along!

Proposed Lost ending #2:  We find out the whole thing took place inside a snowglobe in the Cosi mental institution.  The last thing we hear is a nurse's voice saying "Time for your medication, Doug," and Hurley saying "Dude, are you gonna finish those Cheetos?"

By the way, the lovely Emilie de Ravin, who plays Claire on Lost, is voicing a character in Legend of the Guardians alongside David (possibly Eglantine?).

And for those of you who watched Lost last Thursday...without giving too much away, did anyone else wish Fake Locke/Smokey had yelled "This...Is...Spartaaaaaaaaaa!" during the scene with the well?

* I keep having to google "Legend of the Guardian" because I'm never quite sure if it's "Guardian of the Legend" or "Legends of the Guardians"or "Garden of the Legs" or "End of Ian the Laggard".  All will become clear in time, no doubt.

Posted by dessicatedcoconut at 10:17 PM EDT
Updated: April 18, 2010 3:13 AM EDT
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