Hey there, guys!
The weekend was pretty good! Friday night I went to Brick Oven with Ryan and Jamie and had some pizza and hung out a bit afterward. We watched some tube at their house. We watched a little bit of Whale Wars, which I have to admit fascinates me a bit. Whale Wars is a sort of documentary style show that follows the exploits of Paul Watson and his Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. They have a big boat called the Steve Erwin (named after the famous Crocodile Hunter), and they basically sail the waters near Antarctica with a mission of interfering with and harrassing Japanese whaling boats which are trying to harpoon and process whales. International law generally protects most whales from commercial whaling, but the Japanese have continued to engage in the practice, citing exemptions in international law which allow for limited whaling for the purpose of scientific research. The Sea Shepherds claim that the Japanese are actually just engaged in commercial whaling, but are carrying out those activities under the false pretense of research (since international law allows for the commercial sale of whale meat and other products which are obtained after an animal has been killed for research purposes).
Anyway, Watson and the Sea Shepherds do things like throwing stink bombs (balloons filled with putrified butter) and other foul products onto the decks of the Japanese ships (to make it hard for the Japanese sailors to work, and to contaminate the whale carcasses so the meat can't be used) and sailing directly into the paths of the Japanese whaling boats.
I respect Paul Watson's agenda, and I support his goals (not financially- I've donated to several animal protection groups, but the Sea Shepherds have never been one of them), but I seriously question the man's methods. He seems fairly negligent to the point of being willfully reckless in issuing orders to his crew. He regularly puts them in harms way- ordering essentially untrained personnel to pilot small, inflatable Zodiacs through icy Antarctic waters in order to board Japanese ships full of angry sailors so that they can serve self-styled "warrants" that cite U.N. whaling treaties. He mocks and sort of berates his crew when they express what sound like perfectly appropriate safety concerns (he is fond of citing an agreement that he makes his crew sign in which they state that they understand that their lives will be put at risk during the Sea Shepherd's mission to protect the whales), and he engages in grandstanding and spin doctoring that seems to undercut his own credibility and the credibility of his cause (toward the end of last season's campaign, Watson claimed to have been shot by the crew of a Japanese whaling boat- a bullet proof vest having supposedly saved his life, but it seemed pretty clear to me that the supposed shooting was a staged, fictional event meant to garner sympathy for the cause and to turn public sentiment against the Japanese fleet). All of this on top of the dangers posed by Watson's propensity for sailing his ship through dangerous ice fields which the ship's hull simply isn't designed to withstand).
On the one hand, I think Watson just might be taking the kind of steps that are actually necessary in order to prevent people from fraudulently violating international whaling law (i.e., since the Japanese seem willing to take advantage of loopholes in the law, Watson is retaliating with different legal loopholes- harrassment of Japanese whaling ships and interference with their operations in ways that aren't designed to get anyone hurt). Honestly, though, having watched the show for awhile, there's part of me that thinks Watson sort of wants someone to get seriously hurt or killed because that would help to draw much more media attention and public awareness to his cause.
So Whale Wars is a strange show, but one that I can't help but feel fascinated by.
Saturday I got up and took Cassidy down to Auditorium Shores. She did some hopping and some swimming until she tired herself out. Then Saturday morning I went to see Drag Me to Hell. It was a good horror movie, and fun in a way that we just haven't seen in a while. Drag Me is a very straightforward, traditional horror movie. It's definitely got some scariness to it, but this movie is Sam Raimi, amusement park, haunted house style horror- not the kind of horror that we've gotten recently from a lot of directors where the overall goal seems more about making disturbing and troubling films as opposed to the more scary type of fun that I grew with as a kid
[spoiler alert] Drag Me to Hell is filled with gypsies and hauntings and possessed animals and lots and lots of gross out scenes that are scary but border on the silly. This was a welcome change from some of the recent trends in horror movies. The last Halloween remake that I saw, as well as the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, both had some very disturbing scenes (the rape scenes were what really bugged me)- I ended up fast forwarding through parts of both of those films- and then there's there's all of those movies that just pass off situations with hopeless victims being tortured and killed as horror- Hostel, Saw, The Last Door on the Left, and so forth and so on. Those sorts of movies may be genuinely horrifying, but they're often not very fun (it seems like there's some kind of weird machismo involved in recent horror movies in which directors sort of challenge their audiences to see how much awfulness they can sit through. Either that or people are just so desensitized to violence that this sort of junk is the only way directors feel like they can get a reaction out of their audience. Either way, those movies really annoy me.)So I've been waiting a while to see a horror movie that didn't have either: a) bizarre, nonsensical, Japanese ghosts (e.g., Shutter, The Ring, Dark Water, The Grudge, etc.) or b) torture as entertainment.
Drag Me to Hell draws from a more traditional form of horror movie, although one which feels like it may be kind of dying out. Drag Me relies upon aspects of popular Western mythology (curses, demons, fortune tellers and seers, mystical gypsies, etc.) combined with lots of symbolism (Rami's a master at using things as innocuous as a single housefly to begin building a sense of decay and dread) and a sort of twisted sense of moral justice.
So Raimi has a lot of classic horror movie elements in this movie, and he executes them well. He does a really good job here (as he did in the Evil Dead films) of balancing scary with outlandish absurdity and fun- a weird combination of scariness with comic effect.
The only minor issue that I had with the film was one that exists as the flip side of the "good traditional horror movie" praise. The movie wasn't very innovative. It told a very traditional story using techniques which Rami's fans have seen several times before (once again- if you haven't seen the Evil Dead flicks, go rent them tonight and check them out. They're really fun). There's really not much wrong with sticking to your guns, I guess, especially when you're as talented at making a particular kind of movie as Raimi is, but I had just seen the film get such extremely strong reviews that I thought I was going to be walking into a really good movie which would also somehow be something different that I hadn't seen before- the curse of raised expectations.
Anyway, Drag Me to Hell is worth checking out if you like horror movies. I think it'll probably become at least a cult classic favorite (if not a mainstream one) in the horror movie genre.
Saturday night I hung out with Chris Griego. We ended up eating Mexican food (and having some margaritas), watching most of Apocalypse Now and playing some Resident Evil 5.
Sunday I got up and went to Barton Springs. It was good. Ryan and Jamie showed up after I'd been there a little while, and we had a late lunch at Shady Grove after swimming.
I also found at some point during that morning that the Shaw family had welcomed a new baby into the fold! (this is my drummer and longtime friend, Reed, along with his wife, Jen, and their daughter, Meredith) Sloane Julianne Shaw was born Sunday morning around 8:30, and it sounds like everyone is happy and healthy. So welcome to the world, Sloan!! And congrats, of course, to the entire family.
(Ryan, Jamie, and I were talking about the name Sloane at lunch. I like the name, but haven't heard it many times before. Jamie pointed out that it was the name of Ferris Bueller's girlfriend, though, so maybe Reed and Jen were paying homage to their love of eighties movies. Wonder if the name would have been Ferris or Cameron is this had been a boy...?)
Sunday evening I had a brief chance to talk to my mom, who just returned from a church trip to Kenya where she worked with an eyeglass clinic, helping to get people fitted for glasses. It sounds like Mom had a good trip, and she said that she plans to go on a return trip, either in the fall or in May of next year. She said that the people were very warm and friendly, and it sounds like she enjoyed having the opportunity to interact with people from other cultures and places. I've said it before, but I really am proud of her for going, and, of course, I'm happy that she's back home safe and sound!
Sunday night I went with Ryan to the Alamo Drafthouse to see a screening of the 1927 silent movie Metropolis which was accompanied by the live performance of an original soundtrack by The Golden Hornet Project (the GHP is an Austin group which composes and performs independent classical/jazz music). It was a really cool, enjoyable experience. I had seen Metropolis before, but it's been years. It's an amazing film to look at, and I thought that The Golden Hornet Project provided a score which was really powerful and interesting. Metropolis is a movie that involves Marxist class struggle, robots, exotic dancing, mad scientists, lots of art deco, the angel of death, and Biblical parables. It's a pretty amazing movie which still remains thoroughly enjoyable and fairly accessible, despite having been made in 1927. The show was totally sold out. I really mean it when I say that I'm glad I live in a town where you can barely get a seat to a screening of a silent movie from 1927 which is accompanied by a live performance by local musicians (and at the Alamo you can get yourself a turkey sandwich and some popcorn while enjoying the show!). The whole thing was a lot of fun.
And that was it. I hope you guys had a good weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed mine!
p.s.- I heard some stuff this morning on NPR about Obama gearing up for a big push for health care reform over the upcoming months, but I don't really know enough to post on it yet. Sounded really interesting, though.
p.s.s.- Check out this little bit about Stephen Colbert's trip to Iraq to visit the troops. Apparently he's already shaved his head to show his solidarity with them, and congratulated them all on having so much fun in Iraq that many of them have come back to visit multiple times. He's taping shows and sending them out during his trip to visit the troops. I think tonight's show is the first one that will be broadcast.